December 25, 2013

Mappy Christmas - II

Got one more Christmas gift project cranked out from the ever-abundant atlas. This time a special request from mom for a map flower like this one I had made for myself a while back:
This is on a 20x30 canvas with petals cut from the atlas with no regard for location...
only concentrating on colors and shapes within each petal.

To start the custom gift for my parents, I bought a two-pack of smaller 16x20 canvases from Hobby Lobby during their 50% off that came to $4 for two or $2 for one. I used three coats of acrylic on the canvas: first burnt umber, then ebony, then a final coat with burnt umber. 

Went to the trusty atlas and chose the map pages for Wisconsin and Florida 
for their custom flower.

Starting with the center or "eye" of the flower, I punched out a 1-1/4" circle 
from the map showing their location...
and then started laying out the petals which I had cut free-hand from the map pages, taking care to highlight the more visually pleasing parts of the map and, at the same time, including cities and areas of significance to them. In an effort to keep the design balanced, I kept an eye on the "movement" of the patterns and colors within the layout as well.
I continued to work outward, using smaller petals the toward center and building to larger at the outer edges. I could see immediately that because of my focus to use maps strictly for Florida and Wisconsin, the colors weren't as vibrant as in the original map flower, which used map pages showing topography and oceans.

Nonetheless, I continued with my "personal meaning" approach to the flower rather than going for a more colorful flower.
Using ModPodge, I again worked from the center out gluing the pieces down, doing my best to keep my layout intact as I went along. If you haven't used ModPodge before, let me just tell you it's a joy to work with as it's very forgiving. No matter how you slop it on, it dries with a nice, clear finish.

In the end, as hard as I tried to keep my original layout intact, I lost a bit of the shape of it during the gluing process (why didn't I just look at the photo I had taken of the unglued layout? arrggghh), but I think mom was generally happy with her personalized map flower canvas.

Merry Christmas world!

December 23, 2013

A Frosted Day

This is what it looked like across the lake, outside our window this morning:
A pretty frosty and snowy start for the day, so it seemed like a fitting backdrop for frosting the cookies Maia and I baked up last week:

We started with Grandma Hallmann's recipe, which she baked every year and we kids loved.
Grandma's White Cream Cookie Recipe
Written in her own hand...mine never seem to taste quite the same as hers.

                           Mix                                              Chill                                          Roll and cut

"It's good, Gigi!"
"Yes, and even better that you're baking and tasting cookies from a recipe that your
great-great grandmother used as far back as 85 years ago!"

After they were all baked, they went into the freezer...where they stayed until today.

I tried this Sugar Cookie Icing recipe from

1 Cup Confectioner's Sugar
2 tsp. Milk
2 tsp. Corn Syrup
1/4 tsp. Almond Extract

I liked the consistency of the frosting but not the flavor of the Almond Extract (it seemed to overpower the cookies) so I substituted Vanilla Extract in the next batch. It was perfect. The corn syrup gives a nice glossy finish too!

I hastily decorated some with additional frosting and sprinkles but then thought to leave some just with the "base coat" so anyone so inclined to do so can finish decorating them at my just-now-thought-up Cookie Decorating Contest during the Christmas Eve family get-together tomorrow!


Why should I be the only one who gets to have all the fun?

December 22, 2013

Mappy Christmas!

The beautifully illustrated atlas I scored free-for-the-taking at our recycling center just keeps on giving. First, it gave me lots of map envelopes which make nice stocking stuffers.

And now, it provides the foundation for a lovely and meaningful stitched map gift to mark the journey of my traveling parents. 

To begin, and to my good fortune, I found and selected a page from the atlas showing the eastern half of the United States that includes their home state, Wisconsin, and their destination state, Florida!
Next, I traced in red pencil the route they take, then punched holes along the route using my needle to guide my stitching. I used two strands each of two colors of embroidery thread (total of four strands) and began to stitch along the traced line with a simple backstitch. 

I wanted to include a sentiment on the map and, at the same time, provide a "key" so I added a stitched "Home is where the heart is." Sometimes I just don't know when to leave well-enough alone.
Accckkkk! Did I just ruin this whole project? No...where there's a will, there's a way...

On a random atlas page, I  PRINTED my intended text and added an embroidered heart.

I then "erased" the bad, bad stitching with Elmer's glue...

And adhered the "bandaid" label (which I trimmed with a pinking shears) to cover the boo-boo and was left with this good-enough-for-me fix.

I hope mom and dad think of us when they look at this map in Florida while Jack Frost is nipping at our noses in Wisconsin!

PS: Notice the ribbon and bow... also made from atlas page scraps! (it really just never ends!)

December 4, 2013

Merry "Cork"mas Tree!

While browsing around on Pinterest today I came across this pin and tutorial for a wine cork Christmas tree from the Vintage News Junkie blog. Since it seemed easy and fast - not to mention the fact that my wine corks are piling up - I decided to jump on it. A couple notes: I did like using the red-stained sides of the corks (particularly since only one of my corks had a design on the end of it to add interest) to hint of ornaments or lights and I also chose to set the "trunk" back a wee bit to mimic a real tree. 
So I grabbed some corks, fired up the glue gun...
did a bit of sorting and planning...

and within 5 minutes, I had diminished the cork stash and wound up with
a fast, free and rustic-y looking little Christmas decoration. 
Like, like and like!

November 23, 2013


Some time ago, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test and discovered that I am an ESFJ (that's Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) Personality Type.

"The Supporter"
Photo via PersonalityMax

Some descriptions of this personality type attach positive-sounding names to it like, "The Caregiver," "The Helper," or "The Supporter" to summarize our altruistic qualities. But, if these same assessors were to observe actual people who are identified as ESFJs, such as me, they'd probably assign us the more accurate label of, "The Pain in the A**" or "The Dream Crusher."

For instance, here's a positive-spun ESFJ trait:
ESFJs feel a sense of personal responsibility for other people's needs, and are usually eager to get involved and help out. Typefinder, ESFJ

Lovely! Who wouldn't want to know this person? I'll tell you who, the people who know this person:
"I'm currently helping my parents with some personal business - and by "helping" I mean stressing them out and dashing their hopes of achieving their dreams."

And another "positive" trait as outlined by Wikipedia, ESFJ:
They are serious about their responsibilities, seeing what needs to be done and then doing it. Generally proficient at detailed tasks, they enjoy doing little things that make life easier for others. 

Yup, that rings a bell with me, but I can tell you it doesn't always elicit the sunny outcome you might imagine:
"I've 'supported' my daughter and her husband on occasion by doing some unsolicited 'light' cleaning and rearranging 'a few' objects in their house with the intention of making life easier for them...and by 'making life easier' I seem to have meant...making them feel inadequate in their housekeeping and decorating skills."

To be sure, I don't intend for these negative outcomes to the time I'm dispensing my "services" I actually believe I'm helping these people I care about!  In fact, if I had to guess, I'd bet money that the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," was inspired by an ESFJ!

Oh well, they say the first step to recovery is discovery... wish me luck!

If you'd like to start your own journey of discovery, you can take this 98-question version of the test here at Typefinder to learn which Personality Type you are!

November 21, 2013

Watch It!

So...I found these watches that Grandma included in her piano bench gift to me...
Then, as I was rooting around through some old photos, I noticed that, in the picture above (c.1960s), it appears that Grandma and Grandpa are actually wearing these watches that I now have in my possession! I saw a cute little trick on Pinterest where you pop the backs off of old watches and insert a photo for a one-of-a-kind photo bracelet. So that's just what I did...
I had to enlarge the photo so Grandpa's face would fit in his watch frame and reduce the photo so Grandma's face would fit in hers. Maybe later I'll put Grandma's face in Grandpa's watch and vice versa...but of course any photo will do. All in all a pretty easy way to remember them and still find a use for those old watches!

November 20, 2013

The Top of Grandma's Dresser

Some time before my Grandma Hallmann passed away in 1998, she told me she was wanting to get rid of some of her things and asked me if there was anything I might want to have. Without hesitating, I shamelessly blurted out "Everything on your dresser!" I told her how whenever we'd come over to visit, that was the first place I'd run to see what new things had been collected there.

Grandma laughed out loud and was so surprised by this! (I was surprised that she laughed out loud because, though she was always a very loving grandma, she was also generally a serious grandma!) Nonetheless, after that conversation, I couldn't stop thinking about our talk and the things I remembered on her the point that I wrote a little verse* about it. Then, a few weeks later, I was presented with this:

It's a piano bench that Grandpa Hallmann had made. He had died in 1993 and, as sentimental a gift as this was, I couldn't help thinking of the talk Grandma and I had and wondered why she chose to give me this. I suddenly realized how terribly rude I had been to ask for my Grandma's personal things. I was truly grateful she thought to give me Grandpa's bench...I hugged and thanked her for it. 
Then Grandma said "open it..." (the bench opens?!)

There, inside, was everything from the top of her dresser; hankies, gum, necklaces, rings...she even included personal notes and cards she'd received from friends, just as I remembered seeing when I was a girl. Here were all her things, inside Grandpa's bench! The one difference now was that the school pictures from her dresser were not of me or my cousins, but of my own children - her great-grandchildren!
I was overwhelmed with love and memories of Grandma and her dresser. To this day, when I open that piano bench, the smell of the soaps that she included in it are as fragrant as ever and I'm just a little girl at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

*The Top of Grandma's Dresser
The top of grandma's dresser was wonderful to me.
There were so many things on top of it - I couldn't wait to see.
Each time we'd come to visit, I'd have to rush right over
To her bedroom to examine it - but I'd do it under cover. 

I knew I shouldn't be looking at my grandma's private things
So until the talking started, I'd have to wait to see her rings.

The top of grandma's dresser was first seen from mother's arms...
Then later, on my tiptoes, I'd behold the dresser's charms.
Sometimes my mom would catch me - she'd scold, "now don't you touch!"
But with all the candy, scents and jewels, this was asking way too much!

One day it finally happened, as I reached up for a look,
I knocked some things off - with a crash...was hauled off like a crook.

The top of grandma's dresser was like a treasure chest;
There were earrings, chains and bracelets...let me tell you all the rest:
There was Beeman's gum, some smelly rub, and pictures of me and my cousins...
And pretty soaps and lotions, and pennies by the dozens!

There was a hairbrush, comb and mirror, some cough drops - just like candy - 
(forget the honey lemon - the cherry's really dandy.)
Sometimes there would be hankies... or cards for different reasons, 
The top of grandma's dresser seemed to change right with the seasons!

The top of grandma's dresser was beautiful to see,
And because it was off-limits made it more mysterious to me.

November 17, 2013

Bookshelf Styling for Kids

Because of recent changes to my work routine, I needed to rearrange and reorganize my office bookshelves. Part of that change includes having a 3-year-old who visits frequently, so I wanted to dedicate four shelves for her use when she comes over and I need to do some work. She's always liked being in my office and we recently discovered she likes to play "office" for herself. I follow these four steps whenever I need to organize and/or arrange things in my home:

1. Identify Goals: The goal was to provide a place where Maia would have access to some of her books, supplies and treasures to play with in my office while I worked.

2. Gather Items:
Some of her favorite books...
Since I was going to have to see them a lot, I chose some of my favorites too!
...and some of her favorite toys and treasures...
Tea parties are routine!

3&4. Assess and Install

then arrange them on two of the lower shelves in the bookcase
in an easy-to-grab and aesthetically pleasing way.
The two baskets on the lower shelves make great storage for smaller,
less attractive items. In my office these are dedicated to my projects
but can easily be employed for kids' use if need be.

And Repeat...

For the other two shelves, I gather kid-friendly office supplies...
How many promotional notepads come your way? Kids love 'em! 
How about promotional mail labels, cards and stickers? Toss those in too!
Tuck them all in an easy-to-tote box and you've got a nice little office kit.
She can spend long periods of time putting "mail" together.

and arrange it all within her reach.
Include a small spiral-wire photo holder where smaller works of art
can be regularly updated and displayed!

Let's get busy!

Click here to see the full shelf display project.