A New Year/ A New You…ReBooted.

For our family vacation this year we chose Los Cabos, Mexico.  We stayed in an all inclusive resort where our 3 children could still be around us, but also independent of us.  This seems to work as they are now 21,18 and 13 years old.  It was a great vacation, one in which, little did I know, I desperately needed.

This past holiday season was a complete blur.  It was the first time I styled a photo shoot in the season we are actually in,  Which was both convenient and crazy-busy at the same time.  The entire month of December I felt as if I was unpacking and packing in preparation for something.  I did have the added treat, however of was seeing how Melissa Roper Newbould of The Bake Shoppe and Cafe works under the same pressure.  When in Texas I did a creative ride-along with her, as she was styling a photo shoot for a couple of local photographers and their Christmas photo sessions.  I got to see that we work in similar ways and that some of our props just don’t fit into nice convenient boxes for us to haul.   I also got to teach a workshop in her Cafe and even experienced a quick, but awesome visit with my friend Liz of www.thejunktionalley.com After returning home, and borrowing some of Melissa’s inspiration I created a dome “snow globe” effect with my cake platter and its lid for my table this year.  Thank you darlin!

As always the New Year begs reflection for me, its one of my favorite holidays and not for the staying up to midnight and the all that clammer.  Its the looking back, assessing, setting new goals, making changes and the call to action that I love so much.

So this year, being in Cabo, I was unable to share my New Years theme with our friends the Snokes and “Getter-Done Bob”, in fact, I even decided not to have a theme this year.  Last year I set one, and it seemed as if the Universe laughed and said to me, “Oh silly girl…sorry this years theme is going to be LOSS ,so put on your big girl panties on, because you are heading into the storm shortly.  Buckle Up!”

To sum up 2016 would say it was bitter-sweet.

The loss of my Uncle Bob, devastating, but getting to know my adult cousins and aunts better and on a much deeper level…beautiful.

The loss of my dear friend Wendy Perkins… heart breaking.  Seeing her husband and children grow and move on with integrity and grace…heart WARMING.

Watching my dog suffer from mouth cancer and slowly lose the ability to walk…well that just sucked.  Having the choice to put him to sleep peacefully and see that he is no longer suffering…so sad, but grateful.

Then toss in the successes of working with amazing editors as I expand into the world of magazine styling.  Using my creative skills to decorate a room to evoke a feeling of HOME and having my editors love what I contribute…Priceless.  Heading to Texas and meeting the Junk Gypsies as they are launching their first book…amazing.  Falling in love with Texas and making life-long friendships… icing on a delicious cake.

2016 was also the year of binge TV watching.  I seemed to heal through marathons of On Demand and then later Netflix.  I was even tempted to put Christmas lights throughout my living room to see if others from another dimension needed to communicate with me.  Thankfully I didn’t hop on that crazy train.  Nope  I simply wanted a distraction from my very sad feelings.  You know you are sad when you burst into tears at the song “Flashlight” from Pitch Perfect 2.

As the year of Emotional Whiplash headed to a close and family drama decided to rear its holiday head, I began to look forward to our vacation.  One of the things I packed along with my essentials is my 35mm DSLR camera, my regular journal and I took a second “journal” by www.dragontree.com.  I’m not sure how this got on my radar and the fact that I was able to buy it in time and it arrived shortly before we left, has left me to think that it is truly by design that I should take it.  As it turns out it has been EXACTLY what I needed so thank you Eric.  You work so hard and sometimes everything hits you at once, but I am honestly and truthfully grateful that you are my partner in all of this.  These ARE my Monkeys and THIS IS my circus.

Carson paddle boards while Taylor and Moody take to kayaking.

So natural in her bikini, some have never looked so stunning.


While our grown kids are kayaking and paddle boarding Eric takes time to make a quick phone call.

So here’s to ReBooting my system.  To get rid of the things that no longer work for me, embrace the things that do and to finish each task I undertake to its completion.  Happy New Year…Happy New and Improved You… A journey worth taking.

Image Transfer Workshop in Texas!

michelle-e-blacks-workshopThis new adventure was based on a gut feeling and a leap of faith that proved to be “spot on” as my kiwi friends would say.  I knew when I met Melissa Roper Newbould of the Bake Shoppe and Cafe at the Junk Gypsy Book Signing in Roundtop, Texas, that our paths would someday cross again.  As soon as I met her I had that deep down feeling  of childhood friends reunited.  As she set up her “biscuit and butter bar” with such cute staging and not to mention delicious biscuits (throughout the day I lost count as to how many I ate!) I hung around the table taking it all in.  As the day progressed I found our humor to be well matched. I then told her I intended to visit her shop in Cypress the next time I was in Texas.  She told me she would pick me up at the airport and I could stay with her…

I then warned her, “You better be sure…because I will take you up on that offer!”  With enthusiasm and a generous heart, her response clinched it for me, she was on my next bucket list adventure.  As we said our goodbyes I gave her my “Jill of All Trades, There’s No Jack About It” sign.  It now hangs on the back wall of her amazing shop!

What an awesome room to have a party in!  My sign is on the back wall over the table on the "porch".

What an awesome room to have a party in! My sign is on the back wall over the table on the “porch”.

Fast forward a few months, and accepting friend requests on Facebook, a few comments to one another via Instagram I come across a post from her on her business page about a Paper flower Making Workshop at her cafe….like a lightening bolt I immediately message her.  “You do workshops!  I teach an image transfer workshop!  Does that sound like something you would be interested in doing?”  From there we worked out the details and before I knew it I was booking a ticket for Houston, Texas.  It turns out Cypress is a suburb of the Houston only 20 minutes from the “Bush” airport.

Having Melissa picking me up and being her ride along for the weekend I got to see a day in the life of what a hard-working woman she really is.  The plates she has in the air on any giving day have consist of managing her bakery, her catering business, or working as a stylist for local photographers.  That doesn’t include redecorating her home and being an active participant in her teenage kids lives.

Creating a cute Christmas back drop for a local photographer

Creating a cute Christmas back drop for a local photographer’s Christmas shoot

All one has to do is walk into her Bake Shoppe and Cafe www.thebackshoppeandcafe.com and one can see her creativity is off the charts.   Her stylist skills with her creative clustering of the old and the new, are everywhere in her shoppe and her home.  She has a way with glitz and glamor that is balanced with rust and tarnish, complimenting both sides of the masculine and feminine aesthetic.  To some it may seem cluttered, but I guarantee you in those clusters are a lifetime of subliminal positive messages that can get anyone through a challenge.  Words and images have the power of transformation.  You put the word “Dreamer” on the wall and you will feel validated for being so.  Then couple that with a good meal and you have truly found your happy place!  Melissa is known for her handmade ding-dongs and Chicken salad throughout Eastern Texas.  Her food is simply mouth-watering and a decadent experience.


Taken after hours just before its filled with my workshop attendees!

Seriously how clever is this! Who thinks of using a bathtub upside down as a lighting fixture accent?!  Melissa Roper Newbould does!

Seriously how clever is this! Who thinks of using a bathtub upside down as a lighting fixture accent?! Melissa Roper Newbould does!

Just some of the goodies one can get when you stop in!

Just some of the goodies one can get when you stop in!


I’ll have one of EVERYTHING thank you!

Not only can you have showers here at the Bake Shoppe but they also cater weddings!

Not only can you have showers here at the Bake Shoppe but they also cater weddings!

Our workshop was a success.  The ladies were sweet, funny and great to work with.  They delighted me with their accents and all around lovely disposition.  They got my jokes and were great sports.  It was one of my favorite workshops thus far and I intend to return in the spring.  Thank you ladies for participating in my workshop and becoming apart of my adventures in creativity.  You were a true delight!  “Bless Your Hearts” in a good way!

What a great group of ladies to share this workshop with!  Thank "Y

What a great group of ladies to share this workshop with! Thank “Y’all” for coming!



If you are ever in the Houston area you will also have to go to www.blackmarkettable.com restaurant!  I had the Grilled Shrimp with Cheese Grits and the chef’s S’mores…

What a fantastic evening!  So delicious!

What a fantastic evening! So delicious!

It was sooooo good!  Plus the tables and decor is out of reclaimed barn wood and the meat is provided locally by www.yonderwayfarms.com.  Layers of awesomesomeness that place!


So glad to see my dear friend Liz…although much too short a visit, better than none at all though.  Thank you for coming and seeing me off!  See you again in the Spring!!



Magazine Halloween 2017 Photo Shoot

You can make your own rustic sign by repurposing a cupboard door and some fallen branches.

You can make your own rustic sign by repurposing a cupboard door and some fallen branches.

That’s the thing with magazines, you are often working on what will appear in the future. In this case, not until the Fall of 2017, will the magazine Cottages & Bungalows feature our photo shoot.  We were delighted however, to be working on something we were actually in the season of.  That is something rare in the land of magazine production.

Our location was at my friend Jen Boulle’s home.  It’s an adorable Craftman cottage and she already has an earthy, cultural aesthetic that I’ve always admired so choosing her house was a no brainer.  When I pitched the idea of having a Halloween photo shoot at her house, it was perfect for her.  As fate would have it, every year they would have a Halloween Open house, but as her children were getting older the need to do so was less and less.  As time shifts forward so do some of our most treasured traditions.  This will be her omage to some of their favorite Halloween memories, the gathering of friends of family, yummy pumkin soup and a decorated porch in which to greet the trick or treaters.

Creating believable spider webs is an art.  As Jen says, "You just don

Creating believable spider webs is an art. As Jen says, “You just don’t want to see them bunched up, you have to pull them all out to make them believable.”

Being the stylist in this photo shoot I came up with a Witches theme.  For weeks I have been working on my calligraphy on tea stained paper, writing Witches spells and labels for my potions.  I made and designed several signs on salvaged wood you will see in the magazine aritcle when it comes out. What is so rewarding to me is seeing my ideas that were once scribbles in my large notebook I are brought to life.

From the painted crow to the caligraphy witches recipes I think we nailed the Halloween

From the painted crow to the caligraphy witches recipes I think we nailed the Halloween’s Witch theme!

What was an added bonus was my Aunt Lainy, who is a family lawyer by day and a talented creative by night, was visiting from Oregon the day of our shoot (look for her crow paintings throughout the house!).  She sat drinking her tea, seeing what goes on behind the scenes in person.  Lainy also has an amazing design aethetic herself in what was once my grandmothers home, so this was a treat for her as well.

On the day of the shoot Jickie Torres, the editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine arrived with a smile, gorgeous flowers, more pumpkins and some other decorative details that she would add to what we already put together.  She loved what we had put together as I knew she would.  She gave me the greatest compliment of, ” You make my job so easy.”  Soon after Bret Glum, the photographer arrived and we were set to roll!

Having worked together for so many years they are seemless with their approach on the details.

Having worked together for so many years they are seemless with their approach on the details.

I am often asked, “Why don’t you photograph those shoots?”  I suppose if I set my mind to it I could get in there and do that, and who knows in the future I might try that hat on.  It is not where my passion is right now.  I see things with a photographers eye and love putting together vignettes to showcase whatever I want focus on however in photography I prefer natural light photography… candid photos, journalistic photography. That is where my natural, instinctive photographic style is.   Still photography uses a different skill set, the concentration of creating light where there is none, knowing what will print well and what won’t, reflecting and filling lighting, slow aperture and what angles work best.  Bret Glum is amazing at seeing the details and bringing them to life.

Its nice to see what the photo looks like from the cameras point of view.

Its nice to see what the photo looks like from the cameras point of view.

All in all it was an amazing experience.  Thank you Jen for opening your home to our “crew”.  For letting me drag in all of my witches chaos and transform your dining room table to a formal dinner for a witches clan.  The details you added once again show me you too are a natural and creative soul and have an eye for design for sure!  Thank you Boulle family for working around our madness.

So with that have a Happy and safe Halloween and I can’t wait to see what it will look like in the pages of next years Cottages & Bungalows magazine.


Junk Gypsy Book Signing in Roundtop, Texas

fayatteville-texas-by-michelle-e-black-copyLife can be so unexpected at times.  A spontaneous reaction to a call for applicants from the Junk Gypsies to be apart of a their first book launching team, lead to the honor of actually being chosen.  Once again reminding me of the old attige “Nothing Attempted, Nothing Gained”.  Once accepted I was invited to private Facebook group where many of us shared our giddiness for being apart of something so amazing.  We all had one thing in common we loved the Junk Gypsies.  A few of us were more vocal than others and I relished in their southern expressions and the sound their accent in their enthusiastic writing.

Soon on our page was this announcement…

Biscuits & Books          Before I knew it I was researching plane tickets and “Bless my husbands heart” he said Yes.  With his blessing I made plans to head to Texas for the first time in my life.  I was beyond excited!


Not shocking to my husband…I did manage to get a little lost in my rental car just after arriving.  Having just navigated through Houston’s crazy traffic and those disconcerting highways that go along side the highway where you have to pull onto and off to get to any food or gas I was soon on my way!  In full Michelle fashion it seems I actually Wander AND Get Lost!   You see, apparently there is a Fayatteville, Arkansas and I was three hours into my trip when I stopped for gas thinking I should be there already.  To my utter frustration I saw in the micro writing of my gps map on my phone I saw that my destination time was 12 hours away!!  Calling the sweet owner of my cottage, Maria Stein, I broke the news that I would in fact be a few hours late!  My husband did remind me when I called him next that I said I wanted to see Texas.    I pushed all of those Texas Chainsaw Massacre visuals that were trying to creep into my mind as the sun was setting!  Soon it was dark and I still had 2 hours to go.  Man, are those country roads dark at night!!  I got within a few miles and found my GPS trying again to pull a fast one, saying I arrived when clearly the address did not match.  So I called my sweet hostesses and Bless their hearts, they got in their truck (which btw most Texans own!!) and found me and I followed them to the cottage a few miles away.  Seriously there was an army of angels looking out for me with that!



ball-of-barbed-wire-by-michelle-e-black Their adorable cottage in Fayatteville, Texas  (www.rolling7cottage.com) was truly a home away from home!  Through happenstance we were able to book it during the peak of its season in what I can only attest to being a God shot for me.  The second or third or fourth by now, was having the BEST roomie and tour guide extravaganza I could possible ask for.  Liz Dujka (https://www.facebook.com/JunktionAlley)  She too was from the JG Book Launching Team and within minutes of meeting her in person I knew we would be lifelong friends!  She made me laugh and introduced me to the most interesting and endearing people, some of which she herself had just met in the two days before.  I soon realized that I had not discovered this jewel, but she had that effect on most she met.  To top it off she then showed me here jewelry line and I was blown away by her talent and attention to detail.  I have a few of her pieces now and will be getting more for friends!


My own quote and sign that was published in 2014 Somerset Studio magazine, Thanks girls for being such great sports!


Liz Dujka of Junktion Alley, The Junk Gypsy and me doing a kissy face because well apparently I’m 14 years old!


They were kind, loving and so grateful to all those that stopped by. These ladies deserve all the success they are given!


This woman has MADD cooking skills and her displays were amazing as well. Great food and awesome personality!

If you are local and by chance have found my tiny little blog please look her up.  My next adventure will be going to Cypress, Texas and visiting her cafe The Bake Shoppe and Cafe in person.  Until then I will drool over my computer at her www.thebakeshoppeandcafe.com. As for the Junk Gypsies they are just what I knew they would be.  They are embraced by their community, are kind and loving to all walks of life and their charm is authentic and from the heart.  It was an extraordinary event and I am so glad I got to participate it in it.  https://www.amazon.com/Junk-Gypsy-Designing-Crossroads-Wonder  This is their story of how their journey started long before their “overnight success” and that they were not discovered, but evolved by holding onto to their dreams, their freedom and defining THEMSELVES in the flea market fields of Texas and those “flyover states”.  It truly was a pleasure to meet them and those closest to them.   To them I say, “I miss Y’all already!”


Craftcation Conference

Sometimes we have to leave something in order to see what it is that we really want or, in my case to see that it was within my grasp the whole time but was too far-sighted to see it.  When it came to Craftcation that is exactly what happened with me.   I attended the first three conferences and loved each of them, growing leaps and bounds with the knowledge and support I received there.   Then I took a break and did not attend it last year.  I wanted to stretch myself and see what else was out there.  When I got there I found myself wanting more, expecting more, spoiled by the expertise and caliber of business people, artists and community that Craftcation attracts and nurtures.    Like a computer that sometimes needs to be powered off to fully reboot itself, I am returning this next year with a vengeance.  I will no longer take for granted the amazing workshops, the fun and thoughtful visuals that saturate the senses with inspiration or the amount of amazing artisans rubbing shoulders together, exchanging ideas and contacts, even the food is thoughtful and delicious.   I’ve missed my Crafty community and going there this next year will be a homecoming of sorts for me.  So join me if you can…

To Register for this next years conference go to www.dearhandmadelife.com/Craftcation-conference starting October 13 so mark your calendars!  It’s for next year April 27-30, 2017 in Ventura, CA.  If you are among the first 50 people to sign up you will in fact get $50 off registration!  If this has inspired you to go please by all means let them know I sent you and remember… Craft is not a bad word!

Black Out,