Welcome OYS Friends!

Hello and welcome! You probably just found me through a link from Organize Organize Yourself Skinny 5 Strategies ebookYourself Skinny! I am excited to have recently become a regular team member at OrganizeYourselfSkinny.com! I was lucky enough to meet Tammy Kresge a little over a year ago. Soon after, I had the privilege of working with her to layout her ebook and create the image featured on the cover.  Now I help with managing some of the social media communication. I will also be helping with photography related projects, but I can’t confirm or deny if there will be more ebooks on the way…

Tammy also inspired me to push forward with an idea I had been kicking around for awhile.  I wanted to start my own blog. (Here you are!) She helped me clarify my ideas and gave me the gentle kick-in-the-pants I needed to get started. If you want to learn a bit more about me and what to expect here, please check out my About Cheryl page. A post that Tammy has on her site made me realize that the potential I believed a blog could have was really possible. I have discovered that it is not easy. There is a lot of work involved in making it happen and I find that challenge exciting!

While looking at all the delicious recipes on OrganizeYourselfSkinny.com I keep finding ones I have to try! My little boys and husband have liked every one!

So far we have tried Buffalo Mac and Cheese, Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers , Stuffed Pepper Soup (I used the leftovers from the Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers in it too) , Broccoli and Quinoa, Chicken Parmesan Casserole  and Turkey Taco Meatloaf.

Basically I just have to tell the kids “this is Mrs. Tammy’s recipe” and they kind of already love it – before the even try it! It is just the magic I need sometimes!

I have also started making Overnight Oats more often (we loved the chocolate banana recipe). I even devised a pretty delicious Chocolate Raspberry Overnight Oats recipe myself. They make mornings so much easier because I have a filling, healthy and yummy breakfast ready for my kids and me as soon as I wake up.

Banana, peach, mixed berry green smoothie recipe
Can you spot which ingredient I forgot while taking these photos?

We have also been enjoying a lot more green smoothies. I have my own “recipe” and even though I’ve found so many others that sound good I just always go for this one. I don’t measure (Okay, I did just this once so I could share it with you – it is my way of showing you how happy I am to have you here!) and sometimes I run out of one thing or another so it doesn’t always taste exactly the same, but it is always delicious. This is what I use (and I layer it in this order – it seems to make a difference with how easily it blends up):

1 Tablespoon Chia seeds
Soak Chia seeds in 1 cup of water
1 cup spinach
1 cup kale
I use  frozen fruit for convenience and to give the smoothie the cold, thick consistency
½ cup frozen strawberries
½ cup frozen mango or peaches
¼ cup frozen raspberries
¼ cup frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 TBSP flax meal

Banana-peach-mixed-berry-green-smootie-recipeUsing an immersion blender (like these) I blend it up and add more water if it is too thick. That is it! I drink about 14 oz and split the rest between my two boys. I have been known to make a bit more than we really want at one time and I have found (at Tammy’s suggestion) that it will keep well in the refrigerator. The texture does change a little, but it still tastes great. I think the flax meal and chia seeds help keep the texture pretty thick, which I like. I can’t tell you how long you can safely keep it because ours never last more than a day before it disappears!

I add a lot of greens and you can NOT taste them. You can see green specks, but the overall color is not green. We enjoy knowing we are drinking something really good for us that tastes great too. It is an awesome way for us to amp up our fruit and veggie intake. Everything Tammy says in this article, I say ditto.

Although I am not trying to lose weight, I am always trying to eat better, exercise more, drink more water and teach my children to eat a healthy variety of minimally processed foods. Working with Tammy and reading her posts are inspiring to me to create better habits. Her strategies for meal prep, make ahead meals, meal planning and incorporating exercise into every day are incredible tools for everyone to make it easier to eat healthy while taking some of the hectic rushing out of your day.

Thank you for visiting me today at TypicalCheryl.com. Find me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Please look around, come back again and sign up for my email list!

How Did I Get Here?

This is the first photo in a self portrait personal photography project I just started.

Before it was completed I shared it with my (almost 7 year old) son and began discussing it. Yes, we discuss photography often. In fact we love having ChromeCast scroll through images and we talk about them. He has been able to identify images created with a slow shutter speed and say how he can tell for a couple of years!

Back to the point though, as I talked about how I created the sky and water scene then I continued saying “I placed the rock there…” and he said “So you wonder – How did they get there?” (Gasp!) This amazing little guy understands me and my thought processes completely!

The inspiration to try something like this came from the wildly enchanting, surreal and magical images of Josh Adamski.  You can see his work on Facebook , Instagram or on his website here. Also, I am beginning to work on an “Inspiring People” series where I am sure he will be featured. Although (I think) I figured out the premise behind his methods, my attempt at the technique fell far short of the beauty he creates. This experience has once again “shown me how I can soak up their [other artists’] work, digest it and let it flow back out of my mind and hands in altered way that makes it mine.” Find out more about the book that brought me to that realization here.

I attempted this image to complete a photography challenge using a “Creative” technique. Before I added the white drawings it seemed to lack something. The path to adding the drawings started because my entry was to be shown projected on a black background and I thought it would be interesting if the edges weren’t just straight. So I began creating some elements in Adobe Illustrator. As I worked, the vector graphics grew and dominated the image. For me it changed the message of this image. My original title (without the white graphics) was “Future” where it seemed that we were looking at that person in an open vastness looking forward to a future of opportunity. Now the title is “Dream Your World” and I feel it makes that little person much less passive and gives her the power and control to create the world where she wants to live.

So, how did I get here? I have always enjoyed making, creating and sharing ideas. In college I studied Marketing and Advertising and began my career copywriting. Working with Graphic Designers lured me to try my hand at that side of the creative marketing process. Later, as a stay at home mom I began to explore my interest in photography. Now that my youngest child is almost old enough to be in school for a full day I am searching for a way to be able to financially contribute to supporting my family while still being home on sick days, snow days, school vacations and during the summer. I am working to create my own work-from-home, “sharing creativity” dream world. I truly appreciate your interest and support here at TypicalCheryl.com.

Please take a moment to leave a comment below and sign up for my email list here. I look forward to sharing creativity with you!

ON ASSIGNMENT: a challenge that brings growth

We all have those days or weeks (maybe – months?) when we don’t know what, how or why to create.

Maybe we try and get frustrated or just don’t feel motivated to try at all. I’ve been there and I know many creative people who experience the same thing. So if you’re wondering why this happens to you… I hope it helps you to know that you are not alone with this. It was comforting to me when I realized it, so I hope to share that with you. I’ve even read the theory that being creative is a cycle and a period of creative drought is part of the process.

Broken-Hearted Still Life
Open your heart of glass and ice spills out: the world of the broken-hearted. Black and white still life image created by Cheryl Belczak with a window light challenge.

Part of the process or not, it brings me peace to notice, understand and choose my own ways of coping with it. I try to find things to occupy my time and thoughts in an effort to work toward busting through the grip of unseen creative barriers.

Sometimes it is not glamorous. A massive cleaning/organizing/decluttering initiative puts my hands to work, making progress I can be proud of, while leaving my mind free to wander, imagine and scheme. Never underestimate the power of a freshly organized desk to put your mind in the right creative mindset! Yes, some may call this procrastinating…

Flower Dream. Photo taken while "ON ASSIGNMENT" with an in-camera double exposure challenge.
Flower Dream. Photo by Cheryl Belczak taken while “ON ASSIGNMENT” with an in-camera double exposure challenge.

Other times I turn to alternative projects. I read an article titled “What to Do if You Can’t Find Your Passion” by best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert, where she shared “I temporarily ease off the pressure by exploring something new, some completely unrelated creative endeavor—something that I could find interesting, but with much lower emotional stakes.” She speaks of passions and curiosities. This was familiar to me because I had been doing this. Yet I was doing it without the realization and intuition that this is helpful and perhaps part of the process. For me my passion is photography. Aside from that I explore other things that somehow benefit my photography. Activities like reading, gardening, writing, crocheting and other things. [Check here for more information about a quick, inspiring and motivating book that will get back to your work.] I usually try to incorporate some level of creativity into everything I do. Even getting dressed!

cosmos_sparkle_Angelou_quote copy

Another method that seems to be more proactive, related and relevant is to go “ON ASSIGNMENT.” For me, it helps to limit my technique or subject in photography in order to explore one concept more completely. It also motivates me to *just shoot* without so much pressure.

Usually the images I am most proud of are the ones that I carefully set up, compose and light. This leads me to resist using my camera if I don’t have the time, energy or patience to be that involved and engaged. These are the times when an assignment or challenge gives me the freedom to not be so serious and just shoot to see what happens.

I participated in an online monochrome challenge with the Digital Photo Mentor, Darlene Hildebrandt where she suggested setting the camera to record in monochrome. I did not like that idea for many reasons, but I took the leap anyway and learned a lot. I learned enough to fill another post and to recognize all my “reasons” as excuses. Check back for the link to my thoughts about it.

Currently I’m involved in a “Black and White Working Group” where we meet once a month for four months to explore the concept of black and white photography including what makes a compelling black and white image and how to create one ourselves by making and talking about our own images. At each session we are also challenged with a subject and/or technique. My current assignment is to use window light only. Often I shoot at night with artificial light at night. This challenge forced me to find time during the day to work and it seemed like it would be less complicated to set it up, but the ultimate benefit is that this assignment pushed me to experiment, take photos and learn from the experience.

Now I know that the next time I’m feeling unmotivated or intimidated by using my camera. I will look for an assignment. If you would like to try the same thing you can find ideas or challenges online. I find it’s best to find a buddy or community AND a due date to make it happen. Many people find daily projects (the 30 day or 365 day shoot-every-day type) to be a great learning experience. I’ve tried a few times and haven’t been successful yet. I’ll try again, but I feel that if you choose a large project like that it could be awesome… And it could completely backfire! I felt lousy that I couldn’t keep up. Also if you are trying to ride out a productivity slump, this may not be the best time to dive into that kind of project. You know yourself best if you can handle it, but I would suggest something a little different. Try just limiting one aspect of your photography. Some ideas include:

  • Shoot Double Exposures in-camera
  • Commit to a tripod
  • Set your camera to record in monochrome
  • Take photos inside using only window light (modify however you like by diffusing or reflecting it – just don’t use any additional light sources)
  • Use only one lens
    • A prime (fixed focal length, non-zoom) lens makes it most challenging by forcing you to “zoom” by moving your feet
    • Try a specialty lens for an artistic look. You could choose
      • Lensbaby lenses to create selective focus images
      • Fisheye lenses with unique distortions
      • Holga lenses offer a low fidelity, imperfect look of a plastic lens with softness, edge vignette and even some light leaks for a vintage-style look

These are just a few of many possible ideas. What other “ON ASSIGNMENT” ideas would you like to try? What other resources and communities inspire and motivate you? We’d love for you to share in the comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback!  Wishing you much creativity and motivation!