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  ( 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 (  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 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.  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 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,


Spike Our Gentle Giant R.I.P.

spike-looking-outsideFor some people they do not realize they like children until they have their own.  For me that was true but with how I felt about dogs.  Growing up I was deathly afraid of them.  Little dogs seemed more like annoyances, and big dogs… well fear would paralyze me and in my mind I could see even the sweetest of dogs, suddenly going rabid.  (Perhaps the movie Kujo had something to do with that perception as well.)

So when our son was 4 years old he began his campaign, begging us for a dog.  He knew the names of all the dogs in our neighborhood, asking if…he could go and ask our neighbors if he could play with them…the dogs… like most children ask if they could play with their friends.  I knew deep down I would lose this fight and as a parent I wanted my children to be happy.  So when my husband found a flyer of a breeder that had just had a litter of puppies, he talked me into it.   These were no small dogs either.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred in Africa to chase off lions.

These puppies were adorable however, and the mother so loving towards them.

Here their mama says goodbye to her pups

Here their mama says goodbye to her pups

Some were a little hyper, chewing on my husband’s laces with their ridges fully visible and tales wagging.

puppy-chewing-on-shoe The one we chose was what they described as the runt of the litter and did not have the genetic trait of the visible ridge .

That drive home I sat with this tiny creature on my lap, having just photographed his last moments with his own mother and realizing I was now his new mama.  He turned out to be the perfect dog for our family.  He was so loving, he grew to be huge but only once showed aggression and that was too a Great Dane that tried to bit him.  He rarely barked, except for at the mailman.  He was not perfect though…He did go through a phase of chewing on things, a few of my shoes were donated to this lost cause and some stuffed animals lost their battles having crossed him somehow.  He was mind you a puppy.  People would stop us and take notice of his paws saying that they could tell he was going to be a BIG dog because of the size of them. I would smile not fully realizing just how big he would grow to be.  He became 138 lbs in adulthood.

Spike A Member of Our FamilyWith this breed we learned that they are prone to hip dispacia (arthritis in the hips) and this could be problematic in his later years.   In these past few months we began to notice his hips start to give out on him and he would start to drag a paw when we would walk him.  For that reason we took him into the vet.  With that visit our vet suggested we also get his teeth checked at the next appointment.  The gums looked suspicious and were bleeding a bit from time to time.  That next appointment he had a biopsy and we got the devastating news…it turned out to be aggressive form of cancer.  He had maybe a month at tops.  I was stunned.  We were not expecting Cancer to take him before he could reach old age.

It seems 2016 has been the year of Cancer in my life.  From my dear friend Wendy, to my Uncle Bob and now my dog.  Within the two weeks I saw the vet we brought the girl’s home from college to say goodbye for a family weekend and I spent most of my time by his side listening to him breath and refilling his water bowl as his mouth progressively got worse.  I had to start sleeping downstairs, because he could no longer climb down the stairs and insisted on trying if I went up there to sleep.  After purking up to visit the girls by  Sunday evening he went downhill fast and I could no longer watch him suffer.


Taken the last week of his life.

As fate would have it, it would be me to take him to the vet and hold his head while he took his last breath before sleeping eternally.  My gentle giant was gone and no longer suffering.  His absence is felt in the most unexpected ways… in the gaps and in-between moments.  I never quite realized just how he filled up my life with so much love before and would turn back time to have some of the frivolous annoyances back in my life.  The memories seem to feel like a hollow echo in my home as I slowly learn to fill in the gaps and mourn his loss.

It is the smallest of details I miss.  Moments such as opening a can of food… waiting for him to come into the kitchen expecting it to be for him and saying, “Nooo it’s not for you.”  Or shooing him outside every time I made dinner, because his would want to circle the kitchen island to get a good whiff of what we were cooking.  And then watching him trying to squeeze his big old body underneath our dinner table undetected while we ate.  Hearing the thumb on the ceiling, whenever I would come home from an errand, because he was getting off Carson’s bed…something he was NOT allowed to do.  Or simply protecting my first cup of coffee, because for years that is when he too would come bounding in the room to say Good Morning to me… forever oblivious of what I was holding in my hand.  Even yelling at him to stop moving the couch with his body in his attempt to prompt us to pet him.  These are the moments I long for.

Sometimes there is this irrational desire to make this reality NOT be, the strong desire to rewind the clock because the pain feels so crippling and unpredictable at times.  Seriously do I need to cry at every Dog Food commercial?!

I do hope he is there to greet me when it is my time to cross over.  He was such a loving dog and I am sooo grateful I said yes to having him be apart of our family.   Oh how I would have shortchanged our lives by not letting him in.  Rest in peace Spikey…save me a seat.

Spike trying to help with homework



West Coast Road Trip 2016

Road TripEvery couple of years I take this road trip… leaving my driveway of a cookie cutter suburb of Los Angeles, CA and driving up to the state that raised me, my Oregon.  There have been years where I packed up our 30 foot RV with our 3 kids and I made the trek without their dad for he had to work. Sometimes a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do.   We didn’t want to shortchange ours children’s adventures because he couldn’t make it, so we just went ourselves instead.  Luckily there were a few years where my husband was able to take the time off and go with us.  Without question I forfeited the driver’s seat, reading magazines and a good book, glad to have him joining us.  As the kids got older however and more involved in their various sports those trips became fewer and fewer.  We still would fly up to see family and friends, but it wasn’t the same.  To me there is nothing like a good old-fashioned road trip.

Going by car (or motor home) has its advantages, its slows down the process for us to really see the changing of the landscape.  Stopping in various diners and exchanging chit-chat with locals, counters the constant negativity that is so prevalent in our various portals of communication these days.  Changing vignettes and a good road trip soundtrack brings a smile so deep,  your heart cannot help but feel it.  I wanted to share this with my son this year, he is now a teenager and soon will be driving on his own, just beyond my grasp.   The girls had experienced these road trips it at his age, now it was Carson’s turn.

Road Trip pit stop

“Fine take your photo MOM… but I’m not going to smile!”

This year I had many reasons for going North.  Not only to visit my eldest daughter soon to be a senior at U of O, I had also signed up for a conference called Startup Camp Summit in Bend, Oregon. (Ironically I had even told my Uncle about it weeks before his passing, sharing with him that I was worried he wouldn’t be around for me to see him after my conference.  He then told me it sounded wonderful and to go anyway regardless of whether he would be around or not. That was by far the most profound and loving conversation I have ever had in my life btw. Looking honestly at death and given the permission to live life fully in their absence…heartbreakingly beautiful!)  I had a high school reunion a few weeks after my conference so it was all coming together.  I also needed to see and check up on my grieving family and touch base with my life long friends.  Knowing that my son would not want to be carted around for all of my adventures, I signed him up for two weeks at YMCA’s Camp Silver Creek camp.

On the drive up Carson, my 13-year-old son would be my only companion this trip around and we were both looking forward to it.  The plan was to leave at dawn, drive up Interstate 5 and then cut over to the coast and by the afternoon stay the night in Fort Bragg, CA.  I had seen and heard of a beach that was full of natural sea glass and I wanted to see it for myself.

Fort Bragg, CA beach

Sea Glass

My son loving Sea Glass beach

That night we stayed in a quant hotel that had maybe a dozen rooms.  This was our view from our balcony…

2016-06-24 07.50.28-1

Northern California Coastline

This was a put on the brakes, pull off to the side of the road, run across the street and take a photo moment.

The next morning we headed North to visit the Redwoods, something in all of these years I had never experienced first hand.

California Redwoods by Michelle E Black

Sure, this part of the trip had winding roads and I had a hard time not stopping after each turn… for it was sooo beautiful!  I wanted to bottle it up, breathe it into every part of me and capture it for myself.  I needed to take a part of it with me, soak in every bit of its beauty it its vastness.

What was an unexpected gift of this portion of our road trip that I am grateful for was that Carson had no wifi. He was forced, not by me… to look out the window and let the scenery impress upon him and hopeful carve a memory for him.  As we drove with our windows down, breathing the air that only such massive trees can filter, gave us medicinally, and spiritually that for me at least I will remember fondly.Oregon Road Trip

The land of Christmas Tree farms

California now in our rear view mirror we are in the land of where most of the country get their Christmas trees from, my home state…Oregon.

At this point in our trip it became less about the journey and more about the destination.  We both were ready to see my eldest daughter who for the first summer was not coming home from college.  We couldn’t reach Eugene, Or fast enough and although exhausted when we landed on her front steps, we were so happy to see her.

My loves in Oregon

It’s a necessity to travel for me, its in my blood from the first plane ride I took at 19.  I’ve taken the Amtrak train, Greyhound bus, by car, by motor home, a tour bus, cruise ship and many airplanes in my adult life to get to and through my adventures.  I’ve done is cheaply, sticking to youth hostels and fast food and I’ve stayed in luxurious hotels and eaten in exquisite restaurants world-wide.  I even eaten an amazing Native American taco in the middle of the open prairie with a panoramic view of a lighting storm.  I’ve wandered far from the tourist ports into the streets of Puorta Viarta to eat the most delicious street tacos that beat the finest cuisine our resort had to offer.  Traveling and experiencing life to the fullest is essential to my well-being.  It has forced me to find the common thread from which we can all can communicate from and opened my mind to be less judgemental and more curious to our differences.  Hopefully I have passed this onto my children as well.

Next I will write about my journey IN Oregon becasue the destination was also amazing and heartwarming.

Black Out…in a good way.