Eleanor & Park (Discussion)

Eleanor and ParkHappy Saturday, everyone! Can you believe the month is already over?! I feel like February absolutely flew by for me (in a  good way). I actually didn't get around to starting the book club book until late last week. I was nervous I wouldn't make it through the whole thing before today because I'm often a fairly slow reader/don't have tons of time to read every week. But, Eleanor & Park turned out to be such a fun, quick read that I blew through it all during two long flights this week. Did you think it was a fast read too?

Before I share any of my thoughts on this book, I do want to warn: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! So if you haven't finished the book yet, I'd hold off as I'd hate to ruin it for you. :)

These are just a few of my thoughts. Feel free to use these as jumping off points for our discussion, or you can start talking about something totally different that you thought about while reading. 

1. DID YOU LIKE THE ENDING?! 

I feel super conflicted about it. I think my gut reaction was a mix of disappointment and slight confusion. I feel like it's fair to assume that those three words in Eleanor's postcard to Park are, "I love you", but I also think it's vague enough that I didn't feel entirely confident assuming this. So, although it is a happy ending in that Eleanor is safe, it sort of felt a little anticlimactic to me. Not that I necessarily think the book would be better had it ended in a wedding, that didn't seem likely to happen. But it also talks about Romeo and Juliet throughout the story, so I wondered if Rowell would at least leave us with some big final ending. But, maybe that's the point a little bit? What did you think?

2. Eleanor's family situation

For me, it's easy to forget that there are lots of people who grow up in very different family situations than myself. I identified more with Park's family. My parents love each other and love their children. I've always known my parents loved me even if they didn't agree with choices I was making growing up. We had regular teenager problems, but my parents were nothing short of awesome and supportive through it all. We ate dinner together. They taught me to drive a car and took me to get my license. All the "normal" stuff. But it's not normal for everyone. Park experiences this when he is faced with the realties of Eleanor's family. I had a very good friend in high school who grew up in an abusive family. Like Eleanor, she was often in danger but felt trapped because when you're a "kid" with no money, no car, and no one to listen to you, it's hard to get help. So many things that happened to Eleanor throughout the book reminded me of this friend and things she dealt with. I wish no child had to live through situations like that. It's completely unfair. It reminded me that I need to make sure to take opportunities to help others when they come up (and I should probably make them come up more). Sometimes there are opportunities through my church or other organizations, and I should do what I can to help instead of just thinking about it or assuming everyone else is helping so I don't need to.

3. Love is larger than the sum of its parts

Probably one of my favorite things from this book is how Rowell, in my opinion, does a fantastic job of showing how love is always more than the sum of its parts. Like, if you try to break down why you fall in love with someone, it never adds up, right? It doesn't entirely make sense. Watching Eleanor and Park go from two strangers on a school bus who are forced to sit near each other to falling in love and having to be separated by very adult circumstances was sort of amazing. It felt totally natural as you read, but sitting back and thinking how they fall in love, it almost seems too simple or doesn't quite add up. In my experience, that's actually what love is like. It's often awkward and inconvenient, but also inescapable when the real thing comes your way. 

If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this book. So glad we read it this month! I will for sure be picking up Rowell's other book sometime soon. Hope you enjoyed the read this month too. And don't forget, next month we're reading, All The Light We Cannot See, so be sure to pick up or check out your copy soon. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

February Favorites

Record frame instagram photo wallHappy Friday! February went by so fast, right? Before March rolls around we thought we would go through some of our favorite posts from the month. Ready for a recap? Let's start with Elsie's record frame Instagram photo wall

Easy homemade tomato sauceDouble-stuffed oreo jello shotsHomemade pepper jack crackersBest baked sweet potato friesWe shared some delicious recipes for you to try, including easy homemade tomato sauce, baked sweet potato fries, cheddar chive popoversbowtie pumpkin pasta with sage butter, double-stuffed Oreo jello shots, homemade pepper jack crackers, red velvet baked pancakes, and more!

Hand lettering tips with ElsieElsie's hand lettering tips was one of the most popular posts of the month.

Charleston travel guideElsie and Emma visited Charleston, South Carolina and shared a travel guide filled with their favorite restaurants, shops, and colorful homes.

Upgrade your handbag with colorful spikesWe showed you how easy it is to upgrade a handbag as part of our "Try This" series.

Make real silver jewelry with metal clayDid you know that you can make real silver jewelry out of metal clay? This is one of our favorite jewelry DIYs!

Cold weather photography tipsTry these tips for taking photos in cold weather to get some gorgeous shots during the winter months.

At Home with Kara HauptWe brought back our At Home With series and shared this cute apartment.

Piggy scrapbookElsie and Emma went to meet Priscilla and Poppleton in Florida for Emma's birthday. This scrapbook is the cutest thing ever! 

Graphic embroidered artStatement shower curtain DIYDIY faux stained glassWood burned photo framesWe showed you how to make graphic embroidered art, DIY lap desks, faux stained glass, macrame yarn garland, and wood burned photo frames. We also shared tips and tricks for marbleizing paper and how to make a statement shower curtain

Happy Mail february unboxingThere are so many fun cards and stationary in our February Happy Mail subscription. We have almost sold out this month, so be sure to sign up here if you haven't already. :)

We are so excited to announce that Messy Box is launching in March! Be sure to sign up here to get all the details. xo. -The ABM Team

Laura's Art Room (Before + After!)

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)   If you've ever bought a new house or had to redecorate an entire apartment from the ground up, then you know it can take a while to get the whole thing done. I totally understand why people make the joke that if you're renovating a space, you're usually ready to redo the first room you renovated by the time you get to the last room on the list. My art room has been kind of the most neglected space in the house since we moved in over two years ago. I just didn't have a vision for what I wanted in that space, so it kind of got left in "decorating limbo" where it was half done for the longest time—until now! Although it took me a while to compile all the components, I think I've finally nailed down the perfect "creative space" vibe I was looking for in my art room.

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)     I was excited about this room's potential when we first moved in mostly because of the giant window. The overall room was pretty, well, dull compared to what I knew it could be. The medium tan walls and brown carpet made it feel rather dark—even with that giant window! Once we switched out the brown carpet for a light grey carpet, painted the trim and walls white, and added this awesome sputnik pendant light, it felt much brighter and airier.

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                    Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)I love the fun and pops of color that my colored mat gallery wall adds to the space. The black frames looked a little heavy with the white shelves underneath, so I painted them white and I think it helps keep the space looking fresh and light. I was wanting some low shelving beneath the gallery wall, and I got lucky because Josh was building a custom record cabinet for Elsie and first built it to the wrong measurements (hey, it happens). So guess who's got two thumbs and stole the rejected first build?? Me (please picture both my thumbs pointed inward at myself here). It fits the space perfectly, so it was a very happy accident on my end. Also, how cute are the vintage telephone and kitty planters? I love flea markets.

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                I made that bench recently for our two cats to sit on so they can stare out the window as part of their "neighbor cat watch" program they are both enrolled in. Seriously? What is it with cats and looking out windows? I would say 99% of the time when we pull up to the house, at least one of them is looking out this window with intense concentration. 

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)    Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)    I had major debates with myself about what kind of storage I wanted to use in the art room, but I love when people use unique objects in unexpected ways. So I wanted something a little different. I thought maybe a locker room type of feel would be cool, and Elsie happened to have a set of lockers in her mudroom that she wasn't going to be needing anymore, so I scored on that one! After a coat of pink paint, they settled quite nicely into the space.  I cut pieces of wood to make shelves on the inside of each compartment (it didn't come with any of the original shelves) so I can stack bins, boxes, and my sewing machines in neat compartments. (Prints on the locker are from AlphonnsineGingiber, a vintage postcard, and a magnet I made with our mini photo magnet DIY).

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)      Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)        Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)        One of my favorite things that I've done in our house is this gold moon wall behind my art table. I'm telling you people, get a projector! Your list of DIY possibilities will explode. I grabbed a vintage office chair for my drawing table at a local flea market and just added the oversized architect lamp a few weeks ago. (I've been wanting one for years—finally!)

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                        Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                        Love that "XO" print and question mark marquee light. I'm always looking for ways to add a bit of cheeky fun to a space, it's what makes the room so much more interesting to me. Also, I'm a sucker for a black and white rug and the large cowhide is great for the space.

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)          Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)          Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)          Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                           I bought an old filing cabinet and painted it gold to hold all my spray and acrylic paints. Filing cabinets are such good organizational pieces and they look really cute in painted colors. Also, that Ric Rac Cactus on the shelf is one of my favorite kinds of plants. I buy one pretty much anytime I see them around.

Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                      Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)          Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                             Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                      Colorful art room transformation (before + after!)                             I can't believe it's taken me this long to get the room together, but I'm so glad that it's finally complete! It's been way too long since I've done more fine art types of projects, so I can't wait to get back into my pencil drawings and play around a bit. Thanks for taking the tour with me! You can see the rest of our home tours here if you're interested ;) xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Janae Hardy and Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Use the Sun to Print Photos onto Fabric!

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)         As part of my job, every once in a while I schedule some time to walk through craft store aisles to peruse what new products have come out or see if anything interesting jumps out at me. There's one product in particular that has caught my eye several times and I've always wanted to give it a try to see if it's actually as cool as the photo on the box tells me it's supposed to be. It's this photo printing kit that allows you to print a photo using (wait for it) the sun. I've seen sun-activated ink or fabric before, but I loved the idea of being able to "print" a photo rather than only use objects to block out the sun to make negative space designs. I was a little skeptical that the process would work well enough to be worth it, but it totally does! So we're teaming up with our friends at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores to show you how it worked.

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
-Lumi photo printing kit
-white cotton fabric
-8" x 10" canvas
-printer
-access to a washing machine
-staple gun
-glass from a picture frame bigger than 8" x 10" (optional)

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) First you'll want to pick the photo that you want to print. Try and pick something that is a relatively simple photo without a ton of pattern or busy textures happening (subjects against a light or white background look best too). Use a photo editing program to change the photo to black and white, increase the contrast so the image becomes more distinct, and invert the image so the darks become light and vice versa. Print your photo twice onto two of the transparencies that come in your Lumi printing kit (to get a really dense black that the sun can't get through, it helps to stack two transparencies on top of each other). Line up the transparencies and use clear tape to tape them together. 

Gather your cotton fabric, double transparency, and ink packet from the photo kit. I had the clearest photo transfer when I used a thin smooth fabric as opposed to a textured canvas type cotton, so keep that in mind when you are buying fabric. Use tape to outline an 8" x 10" area on your fabric, pin the fabric to the thick foam core board that comes in the kit, and take your supplies into a dimly lit area that has a window (if possible) for ventilation (the dye smells pretty strong). Break the dye packet in half, squeeze the ink onto the fabric, and use the folded ink packet to spread the dye onto your fabric (just stay within your taped border). As you can see in the photo, this method shows the brushstrokes around your photo, so spread the dye in a manner that you'll want to show up later. 

Once the dye is spread, blot the dye with paper towels to remove any excess (you just want a thin layer of dye), and position your transparency on top of your dye with the ink side of your transparency facing up. Either pin your transparency or place a sheet of glass from a picture frame on top to keep the transparency in place. 

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) Place your fabric board out in direct sunlight and allow the ink to be activated by the sun. If you don't use the glass on top, your photo can be done in about 12 minutes on a sunny day and about 30 minutes on a cloudy day, but you'll want to double (or even triple) your exposure time if you use the glass sheet. The best time to do this is during peak sun hours in the afternoon (from around 11-2), but if you miss those times, just leave it out there a little longer. I left mine in the sun during peak hours for 45 minutes. The exposure is done once the dye has reached it's darkest color (so pull it sooner if you want a lighter print).

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) Once your photo has been exposed to your liking, bring the fabric inside and remove the glass, transparency, and tape from the fabric. Immediately drop it in your washing machine on the hot/cold cycle with one of the detergent packets from the photo kit to wash off the extra dye from the fabric (otherwise your white areas will just keep developing).

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)       I would definitely suggest washing it twice as the kit advises. You can see the difference above from the print I washed twice (on the left) and the one that kept exposing a bit longer after one wash (on the right).

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)        Once your print is washed and dried, you can iron it flat, center it on your canvas, and use a staple gun to wrap the fabric around the edges of the frame and secure in place. That's it! You're done!


Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)
Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)            This was such a fun project to try and I'm so glad that I finally got to play around with this product. I like how the finished photo kind of has a bit of a vintage feel to it and the scraped ink lines around the photo make a cool printed texture as well. Obviously you could do this method on lots of other projects like t-shirts, pillows, or fabric to make into purses, etc., but I'm really happy with how my little canvas project turned out. Here's to trying new things! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection.

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