Cheers to the New Year

I'm getting ready to bake and cook and clean with the family so we can celebrate the holiday in comfort and style. I guess I better start thinking of those new year resolutions, too. 

First, be more creative. I started Nifty Table to share my crafty adventures, but the blog is also supposed to prod me into doing things that are post-worthy. For the most part, I'd say it has been successful.There are several different things that I would have thought about doing but never done if it weren't for a forum to showcase the projects. But, I've also gone months without a post dedicated to some crafty endeavor. So, no more dry spells. (P.S. this post counts as a crafty project because I designed the graphic in Illustrator).

Second, talk to friends more. It's always embarrassing to start off a phone call with friends with "I'm sorry I haven't called you more." Living away from most of my family and many of my friends, I don't get the chance to run into people and talk with them. Sure, Facebook helps me keep up on the news, but it isn't the same as a nice talk on the phone with someone to catch up on the latest hopes and dreams. To make this one work, I also need to try to be a better listener. Oh, and I should send more cards in the mail for occasions other than birthdays and Christmas (see resolution #1).

Finally, I need to take better care of myself. This is a new twist on my regular 'lose weight' resolution. I want to want to go to the gym. I want to want to have a salad rather than a hamburger and french fries or a big bowl of pasta when I go out to eat. I want to cook more with a wider variety of locally-grown vegetables. I'm going to try to make living good a habit rather than something I do to lose weight.

Now that my resolutions are public, I guess that I will have to stick to them. One thing that will help is posting these resolutions where I can see them. I think that means some kind of sign or painting. Hey, that keeps me on track for resolution #1 already!


Christmas trees

I don't think that I've ever personally had a traditional Christmas tree. Every year, we pull the tree out of the attic and decorate with BLady's collection of Hallmark ball ornaments. Well, many of them are Hallmark, but that is a separate post. BLady had an '80s bottlebrush-looking tree until just a few years ago. I like the new tree, and the bottlebrush tree will always bring a bit of nostalgia.

But for me, I've done the non-traditional thing. Way back when I lived in the dorm, I made a Christmas tree out of construction paper and taped it to the wall. When I first moved to WI, I put ornaments on a piece of evergreen garland that I draped along the front of the counter. Then, I came up with my current tree.

That's right. It's branches. I drove down a country lane and picked branches from the brush along side the road. Luckily, the cows were the only ones watching. The vase came from Anthropologie. I ended up liking it so much that it lives out the rest of the year (minus the branches). I've stored the branches in my storage unit, although I may just toss them this year and get fresh for next Christmas. Or, I could do as I've meant to do since the beginning and spray paint the branches. I like either white or a bronze color. Any ideas?

Or, I could go down a different route next year. Here are some non-traditional Christmas trees that I came across this season. The post-it note tree would be great on my office door, although the division assistant may get made about the waste of post-it notes (which I would supply myself).

More Christmas cards

Megs asked me to put together their Christmas card again this year. Megs' man likes to send cards with pictures. This posed a problem. That would've been an expensive photo session if I'd've come down from WI. She thought about asking family when everyone (but me) was home for Thanksgiving, but that didn't happen.

So, they went and took pictures of each other. That's right, It looks like Megs and her man are standing next to each other. But, this was two separate photos. Megs did a great job of selecting a place that made it easy for me to blend the photos. By selecting a neutral background, I could easily overlay the pictures and blend away the differences. It looks even more like they are standing next to each other because of the line in the sidewalk that Megs is standing on.

Megs sent me these pictures late one Sunday. I told her that I wouldn't be able to get to the card before the following weekend because I would be traveling for work. But, I sat down to look at the pictures and to see what could be done. As I said, it was easy to combine the picture. Then, I started adding the additional holiday elements and sent it to Megs for her to tell me what she wanted me to do differently. This was the first time I think I've ever designed something for her that didn't need at least a little tweaking. Which made a liar out of me, since I said I couldn't finish until the next weekend.

I'm happy that Megs and her man liked the card, and I hope that everyone who got their's in the mail felt a little more holiday cheer for it.


Oh Tannenbaum


Well, there you have it, start to finish on my Christmas ornaments for Freshly Blend's Fifth Annual Ornament Swap

balsa wood
acrylic paints
two sizes of silver jump rings
plastic ornaments from target

First, I painted the balsa wood using almost every shade of green that I had. I tried to mix the paints to create a lot of interest in a small space. That way, when I next cut the pieces for the tree, the detail of the painting would still appear.

The hardest part was punching the holes in the balsa wood for the jump rings that articulated the tree. I used a pencil to poke the hole since the wood was so soft. But, several times, the jump ring tore the thin wood. If someone wanted to do a similar design, I would choose a little heavier balsa wood. I think there were a couple that were heavier but could still be cut with scissors.

Then, I added a larger jump ring at the top to attach the ornament and the ribbon. To package these up for the swap, I cut cardboard to sandwich the tree while the ornament was to the outside. I do hope that all the ornaments arrived intact.


Christmas Cards


Last year for Christmas, BLady and Megs gave me the Epic Six Letterpress. It took a bit to get it back to WI, but it was here in time to do my Christmas cards. You'll see in the Ornament Swap post that Christmas Trees were my theme this year.

Thank you, to Boxcar Press for this review of the tool and tips on using it. There were a few other reviews and tip sheets that I reviewed before getting ink all over my fingers, so thanks to everyone who has shared information.

I got the Speedball Brayer from Hobby Lobby instead of attempting to use the supplied one, which did look dinky. As you can tell from the picture, though, I didn't follow all of the tips. I used the foam guides, but I took my scissors and snipped them in half after they were placed. 

The one thing that did take some time to learn was how to get the correct amount of ink. That E in the picture came from one of my first cards, when I had way,way,way too much ink. It took almost a week for some of those cards to dry! But, I got better and the last cards were pretty good.

I used a couple of sets of the Everyday letterpress letters. The design that incorporated two different styles of letters came about because, well, Tannenbaum has THREE Ns! Each set only came with one of each letter. So, instead of ending up with three sets of the same letters, I decided to invest in a script set. But, I am pleased with the design overall. 

The one lesson I learned the hard way was this - make sure you have the proper cleaners before you begin. I had to drive to Ace Hardware in a snowstorm to get mineral spirits to clean off everything.

Oh, in case you're wondering - the cards came from Paper Source as did the spruce envelopes. And, USPS also obliged by having evergreen stamps this year.


Christmas shopping

So, the fam has decided to do something different for Christmas gifts last year. Rather than giving a present to BLady, one to Megs, and one to each of the boys, I only have to shop for a gift to myself. Of course, the same goes for them.

There are only a few rules:
1)  It has to be something you wouldn't buy for yourself on a normal day
2)  You can't use it until after Christmas
3)  You have to wrap it up and put it under the tree to be opened on Christmas morning when we're all together

I actually completed my Christmas shopping back in December. But, as the rest of the family struggles to come up with what they want, I realized why it was so easy for me - I want a lot of stuff! If I didn't have my present all wrapped up, I would be going after these beauties.

Starting upper left: Mixed media artwork michelemaule@etsy * Diamond stud earrings Better late than never @ Etsy * Into Midnight Ring Anthropologie * Fortune Cookie Coin Purse Diana Eng * Jute pouch DrikaB @ Etsy * Texas Pillow Love California @ Etsy * Wire Drop Shelf Urban Outfitters *  Baghead Print Renegade Handmade * Inside voice letterpress poster Rollandtumblepress @ Etsy * Bear Plush Renegade Handmade * Knock Knock wood ring Renegade Handmade * M.E.Y.K. Artist Kits West Elm * Recipe Notebook Anthropologie * Bird lights Uncommon Goods * Paper+Craft Renegade Handmade * George the Terrier Urban Outfitters

Maybe this list will help you decide what to give Bob the mail man or Norma Lynn sitting in the office next to you. Or, if you're still looking for a present to give me.....


Paper Ornament from Holiday Craft Lounge

Last weekend, I went to Holiday Craft Lounge hosted by Anthology. Here is one of the neat things I got - a kit to make my own paper ornament. I don't think this is going to just be a Christmas decoration, but may hang out in this spot for quite a while.

Oh, I also got a package of paper, out of which I got the nice piece of paper on the birthday card in the last post. 



Won't my mommy be so proud of me? I actually sewed up the holes in my jeans all by myself. Now, I love the look of distressed jeans, and I've been known to walk the backs off my pants until they reach that perfect level of disrepair, but I don't like cold air seeping through the legs of the clothing that is supposed to protect me from said air. Not to mention that there is a fine line between distressed and needs to be thrown away. So, I grabbed the interfacing and the sewing machine and patched up the holes in my jeans. Each  hole got a couple of zigs and zags. I may have to go back and reinforce further, though. But, the jeans are good enough to get me through the cold of December. January may be another story. 



What did you do for Thanksgiving? Well, in addition to cooking and eating, and preparation for Christmas crafting and decorating, I cleaned out my craft supplies and reorganized the way I had them put away. Now, the tools are in my dining room dresser, and the paper and other things are organized in the tupperware containers in the closet. I broke out the cards from the scrap paper from the colored card stock in an attempt to make it easier to locate what I need when I need or want to make a quick card. And, because one of the things that keeps me from crafting on long projects that take several days is that I either have to leave out the mess or put it away and get it out every time, I bought a little red rolling cart from Harbor Freight. I can roll the cart into my closet, or at least the bedroom, if folks come over. And, it isn't much taller than the table, so I can put stuff on it and keep it in the corner of the dining room but out of sight from the living room.


Turkey Day

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of all the accoutrements - family, friends and food. Even though I stayed in WI, I still got to be a part of the family madness back home, thanks to Face Time on the iPhone. Megs used her phone to take me around the house and see everyone in their PJs. After saying "Hello" to everyone, both Megs and I got down to cooking. We propped phones against bowls as she made the dressing and I cooked up the Squash Pie you see in front of you. I also made cranberry sauce using a new recipe to take to my friend's home, where we shared a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. 

You can get the recipe for the cranberry sauce over at Baking Bites blog

Now that I'm out of my food coma and past Friday's work day (I know, I know, but it's not a holiday for some of us), it's time for my favorite post-Thanksgiving tradition. It's not shopping (although I love shopping) but Christmas crafting. So, look for more posts about the fun I'll have this weekend.

Happy leftovers!



an you believe that I got to hear Jessica Hische speak, and I didn't even know that I have been following her work for a couple of years before I got there? I feel a bit of a failure for that. The whole time, I was thinking, "That looks familiar" and "I like that", but when she showed the C at the left, which I love, I knew that she was the genius behind Daily Drop Cap. This site is one of the beautiful gems that lives in my Google Reader.

Jessica came to Madison for a speaking event hosted by Design Madison. My friend from work is a member of the group. She shares with me a love of pretty things and design. While I dabbled in graphic design for fun and for the magazine I worked for, she studied and worked in industrial design.

Listening to Jessica's story and seeing her work, as well as talking to the folks who came to the event, made me want to come home and do something creative. And yet, it's taken me 36 hours to write the post to tell you of the wonderful time that I had. I'll make up for it this weekend. I already have plans to work on a couple of TS projects, but you'll get to see them soon enough.

Keep checking out Daily Drop Cap for updates. Jessica showed us the letter she did in honor of her trip to WI, so it should be posted soon!


Paper art

Okay, so cutting a couple of rectangles of paper may not really count as art or a craft. But, I want to take some credit for seeing the potential in these sheets of beautiful paper from Blick Art Supply when I was down in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if I can take credit for the way the swirls line up so well between the two different frames, though.

As you can see on the left, these frames from Ikea once held pictures, which I sometimes swapped out. I was looking at papers to put in the mat in place of a couple of pictures when I fell in love with the red marbled paper. I found the gold and black just a few moments later in the same drawer, and a plan began to form.

My friend and I made a trip to the outskirts of Chicago for an Ikea trip. As we were leaving, we saw the Blick art supply store. I just had to go. I'd only ever looked at their website. Turns out, they were having a sale on canvases, too, so I also got a couple of those that I'm hoping to turn into some kind of art in the next couple of months.

What I want to wear for the season

Jingling Boots

Fossil is having a Polyvore contest to design your wishlist outfit. Here is mine. Perfect for a day out Christmas shopping followed by coffee or dinner with friends. It's almost enough to make me hold off hibernation until at least January. Usually, I'm homebound after the first snow.

I sat down tonight to write another post for y'all and saw this fun contest hanging out in my inbox. An excuse to go Polyvore shopping. Wait, I don't need an excuse. So, y'all will have to wait until another day for my post on my new living room artwork. For right now, I think I'm going to continue making outfits on Polyvore.

And, I might just wear my cowboy boots to work tomorrow.

Jingling Boots by Schizi featuring a large tote
Annabelle Top
Lace tops »

Fossil Letter C Charm
$18 - fossil.com
Vintage jewelry »




Jingling Boots

Jingling Boots
Jingling Boots by Schizi featuring cowboy boots

What I would love to wear for a day of shopping turned dinner with friends.


Craft Night

Paper Source is hosting a Crafter's Night Out in their stores next Thursday. Too bad there isn't one in WI. I'm not sure that I can drive to Chicago for this event, but I wanted to let folks know who might be a little closer to one of my favorite stores. You can pick a store and sign up at their website Paper Source.

While you're in the store, make sure to take a look at all the pretty papers and stock up on supplies for your Christmas cards. I've started to plan mine. Last year, Megs and BLady gave me a Letterpress machine. After some technical and delivery issues, I have it in WI, and I'll be using it to make my Christmas cards. I like the holiday letter press printing plates they have at Paper Source. I'll keep those in mind as I think about what I'm going to do for the cards this year.


Merry Christmas tree!

It's that time again! I've done Freshly Blended's ornament swap every year since I moved to WI (this makes my 4th time to participate). I've already signed up for the swap, and you can, too, at the Freshly Blended's blog
I'm not sure what I'm going to make this year. Here is my ornament from my first swap. It is a bird made from cardstock and decoupaged with magazine clippings. To make more than just a piece of paper, I took two pieces of cardstock and stuffed the middle with a little filler to give the bird a tummy. A nice, messy project, but enjoyable. I worked on them over the course of a week, a couple each night after work. You'll have to wait until I get ready to decorate to see the ornaments from the past two years, and you'll have to wait until almost December 15 to see my latest. I tend to be one of the folks in the post office the last day you can mail the ornaments.
But, you should sign up. Maybe we'll end up in the same group!


And, here's the recipe

For the banana jelly.

It's courtesy of Cooking Light. I thought as much, but I couldn't find the recipe in any of my magazines. Since I never through away magazines, I thought I might be crazy. But, I had ripped the page out and put it by my desk to write this post.

To make the banana jelly:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 medium peeled and sliced overripe bananas
2 tablespoons butter.

Combine the sugars and juices in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add bananas and reduce heat to medium low; cook for 45 minutes or until slightly thick, mashing banana occasionally with the back of a spoon. Stir in butter. The mixture will thicken as it cools


Happy Halloween

To all the ghosts (me), goblins, trolls, princesses, glitter fairies, Chilean miners, Kardashians, et al.


A chance to see Hatch Show Print

I hope that, if you're interested, you found the link to the Fossil Hatch Show Print contest entry before I did. Actually, I found it the other day when going on about Fossil's blog. But, I didn't take closer look at it until this morning.

It has been a standard Monday, which means this is the first time I've had to sit down and finish out this post. If I hurry up, you'll have about one hour to register.
So, why even bother writing this post (besides the fact that I had already started it before heading to the gym)? Well, I love Hatch Show Print! I first came across them at World Market, when I saw these awesome wine labels. I bought the wine for the label design, at I time that I was always looking for western graphic design inspiration, and ended up enjoying the wine. I really recommend it!
The picture comes from this site, which also has a history of the wine and Hatch Show Print.

I think that Hatch Show Print sparked my love of letterpress. So far, I have admired their work from afar. I check out eBay every so often for vintage posters, and I keep the Hatch Show Print book in my BN wishlist. I hope that I win the Fossil contest so that I can go visit the shop!

available at Barnes and Noble


To BLady

To a wonderful mother, confidante and friend. 


Two hobbies in one

So, my online shopping has become a bit of a hobby. Which as fine as long as it doesn't lead to online buying. I'm on an online buying diet right now, but that doesn't stop me from online shopping. I just had a shopping trip in my winter clothes storage bins, so what I'm looking for are new ways to put what I have together into seasonally-fresh outfits.

One of my favorites for outfits is Anthropologie. They always have new little features on outfits by a theme. Often, they are a little over the top or designed for someone the size and shape of a toothpick, but I usually pick up a trick or two. Their new feature seems to have outfits in their appropriate Saturday activity locations. I was already thinking of a bike ride on Saturday, but I bet I wouldn't look this cute.

Now, two of my other favorite go to sites have also started blogs that I just love.

What inspires the editors at this blog inspires me. I love the cardigan look. Tomorrow is perfect cardigan weather, too. There are a lot of photos of classic style alongside landscapes and art. I also like the tagline. Too bad its taken, now.

This blog won me over with the pictures of Round Top and Warrenton the first time I checked it out. It made me homesick. I've missed seven different chances to attend the semi-annual antiques/junk/crafts/art show spanning the stretch of highway 237. This one definitely made it on to my google reader list. The only problem is that I don't get to see the cool header. I like the graphic a lot.


Beaker terrarium

Yes, that is a really big beaker. Actually, an Erlenmeyer flask. Still, it was pretty cool sitting on the sales table in Anthropologie a couple of months ago. Alas, it is no more. Saturday, I stopped by the office to pick up something I left in my bag and bumped into the tray that was sitting next to the terrarium on the window sill. It came crashing to my desk, luckily avoiding any electronics and only breaking into a couple of big pieces.

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but I've been putting it off. And, not just because I've been a bit slow at letting y'all know what I've been up to. This picture was taken a few months ago, a couple of months into the terrariums life. On Saturday, when it came to its end, the tall little plant was shooting out of the top and had choked off the fern down below. I was going to change out the plant in my terrarium and then post new pictures for you.

I was inspired to make a terrarium by instructions in the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Almost at the end of the magazine was a couple of pages of craft projects in the better family section. It says that is perfect for young kids, which I took to mean easy to do on a Saturday afternoon without making too much mess. The flask at Anthropologie helped me with the first on the list of the things I needed, and a trip to the greenhouse provided the rest. 

The folks that said this would be good for younger kids didn't mean for you to choose a flask for your glass container, and here is where the difference between a flask and a beaker becomes more important. Getting those plants into the flask was difficult and getting them planted even harder. I resorted to using my knife sharpener to help poke the plants around the base, and I tried to use it to shovel dirt. It worked pretty well. 

I am sad that my Beaker terrarium is no more, but I still have the instructions, pebbles, activated charcoal and potting soil needed to start another one. Maybe this time I'll choose a real beaker.