ABM Book Club Selection: November

Not that kind of girl book  Guys, I am stoked to announce what the ABM Book Club will be reading in November. Drum roll, please. Hurry up and pick up your copy of Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. I have heard so many good things about this book and I cannot wait to dive into it next month with you! Also, I (Emma) will be back moderating.

Don't forget that on Oct 31st we will be discussing this month's book, The Great Gatsby, with Elise from Enjoy It. Whether you read the book with us this month or read it years ago, feel free to chime in on the discussion. xo. Emma

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

Woodland Creatures Felt Masks

DoneshotOctober is here again and I'm sure some of you are trying to figure out that perfect costume for trick-or-treating. My children look forward to Halloween every year because we always put together a story with our Halloween costumes.

Last year, we did our own take on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," and we tweak and twist our story depending on what the girls want to be. My oldest daughter, True, wanted to be a detective, so we had to put a detective in the story. One of my other favorites was when my girls were a barbershop quartet together. They looked so cute! Anyway, we have this year planned already, but in case you don’t, maybe you would consider making these woodland creatures masks made from felt. Make one, two, or all three! 

Supplies:
- masks templates (bearfoxand owl)
- 1/4 yard of felt fabric (per mask)
- additional smaller scraps of felt fabric
- scissors
- 10" - 13" long piece of 1/4" braided elastic (per mask)
- embroidery floss in coordinating colors
- embroidery needle
- straight pins

OpenshotStep One: Choose the creature you would like to make (or all of them), and use the template to cut out all the pattern pieces from your felt fabric. Cut out each layer onto the felt color of your choice. The best way to cut out the pieces is to pin each pattern piece on top of the felt, and then proceed to cut out each piece. Don’t forget to cut out the eyes on the front and back felt mask pieces. 

OpenshotOpenshotStep Two: On the front mask piece, assemble the layers for that particular creature and pin in place. With your needle and embroidery floss, stitch each piece on using a running stitch.

OpenshotOpenshotStepfourbStep Three: Measure your elastic to be sure it will fit around the head snugly. For a child, about a 10” - 11” long piece of elastic should be sufficient, or a 12”-13” piece will do for an adult. Place the front mask piece onto the back felt piece (face layers facing up) and line up the edges. Between the front and back mask pieces, insert ½” of each elastic end in its designated locations (see template for placement) and pin in place. Join the front and back pieces together by stitching around the entire perimeter using a running stitch. After you have sewn around the perimeter, sew around the eye openings.

DSC_0032 copyYou can make your masks as colorful as you want, or you can stick to the tried and true colors of the animal. We opted for colorful, but if you’re child (or you) doesn’t want a light blue fox, well, brown or orange felt it is! Craft stores sell paper size craft felt sheets, which would work for the masks, or you can buy yardage of wool felt at the fabric store (you'll have plenty of leftovers), and both would yield similar results.

If you don’t have the time to hand sew the masks, you could easily put the masks together with a sewing machine by sewing each layer down. It would definitely take less time, but I do like the extra pop the hand embroidery gives. Also, if you want to go really fast, just get some fabric glue and glue each layer on to put together the masks. 

OpenshotEndshotI also share how to make a woodland gnome costume, so these masks would be perfectly paired with that. Besides Halloween, these masks would also make a cute gift set for a child, and you could even pair it with this book by the lovely Emily Martin. I think the two would make an extra sweet gift, don't you think? –Rubyellen 

Credits // Author and photography: Rubyellen Bratcher. Photos edited with Imogen of the Folk Collection

Homemade Candy: Salted Butter Caramels

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe)The holidays are just around the corner. But before they start to sneak up on us in full force, I vote we all take some time this month to make some homemade candy. In collaboration with Chronicle Books to promote Rachel Khoo's new cookbook, I made these amazing salted butter caramels! 

Did you know that making your own caramels is super easy? It is. Honestly. The only real trick to it is that you'll likely want a candy thermometer. I resisted buying a candy thermometer the first few years I got into cooking. But finally, I took the plunge, and you know what? It has turned out to be one of my more used kitchen items. Go figure. 

But, if you are still resisting the ol' candy thermometer, good news, you can still make caramel. 

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe)  These are not your average caramels. Oh no. These are salted butter caramels from My Little French Kitchen. Did you know that Rachel Khoo has another cookbook out!? I loved her last one, so I was super excited to check this one out as well. And if you like French cooking and beautiful photos, then you'll love this cookbook. You can see my copy in the photo below, and it's pretty full of Post-it notes already. To me, if I immediately start filling up a cookbook with Post-its (on pages of things I want to cook), that's a very good sign.

OK, let's make caramels (or caramel sauce... you'll see).

How to make homemade caramel  Salted Butter Caramels, 3/4 cup sauce or 15-20 caramels (depending how large or small you cut them).
Recipe from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.

3/4 cup sugar
7 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for the top is you wish)

Place half of the sugar plus 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan or pot. Cook over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves, begins to bubble then turns a deep amber brown. This may take 5-7 minutes depending on how hot you have your temperature turned to. It's best just to keep an eye on it so it doesn't get too dark or burnt. 

Once it turns that deep amber brown, remove from the heat and add in the remaining ingredients. Be careful as you do because the mixture may bubble up or spit at you (how rude!). 

How to make homemade caramelOnce you've added all the ingredients, return the pot to the heat source and add your candy thermometer. 

Now, if you want to simply make caramel sauce, you don't really need a thermometer. Just cook over medium heat for an additional 3-4 minutes. If you want to make caramel candies (like I did), you'll want to cook the mixture until it reaches 260°F or "hard ball" stage. 

How to make homemade caramel Once the mixture reaches 260°F, remove from heat and pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle on a little more salt (course grain sea salt is best) if you desire. 

Allow the caramel to cool for at least an hour before you cut it into smaller pieces and wrap in parchment paper.

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe) Easy, right? Another excellent use for this recipe might be to dip apples in the hot, liquid caramel, then allow that it set for 30 minutes to an hour. Caramel apples? Yes, please! Enjoy. xo. Emma

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

track

Storage Coffee Table with Acrylic Top

Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                   We needed a coffee table for the office's front room, and it was up to me to design and make one, which I was more than happy to do! This table has all the components I love in a project: it involved material I never worked with before (a clear acrylic sheet), geometric shapes, and compartmentalized storage. I wanted it to have an organic, found-material vibe, accented with the sharpness of the acrylic and triangular legs. I stressed tight and sharp angles while letting the sander wear down the layers of plywood in some areas. I left measurement ticks and marks unerased – I wanted the process of the build to be a part of (and apparent in) the finished piece. This coffee table is one of my favorite things I've ever made.  Let me show you how I did it. 

Coffee-table-with-acrylic-top---diagram-(click-to-learn-more)--------------------------------------Supplies:
-3/4" hardwood plywood (I actually used a couple different types of material I had lying around the shop to get the look I wanted. I used poplar hardwood, plain ol' sheathing plywood, some pine board, and 1/8" ply for the bottom.)
-clear acrylic sheet (The piece I used was about 3/8" thick, which was perfect.) 
-paint/stain
-wood screws
-3/8" dowel rod, pine
-wood glue

Tools:
-table saw
-miter saw
-sander
-Kreg pocket hole jig
-utility knife
-clamps

Coffee table with acrylic top - sketches(click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step One: Since I was building this thing from an idea, I made some sketches with rough dimensions. Once I had a good idea of the direction I wanted to head, I just went for it. I ripped some 1.5" pieces from a poplar plywood sheet and started forming the legs from those. Check out the diagram to see the dimension and angles I used. I pocket-hole screwed the pieces to each other. Once I had the pieces glued and screwed, I glued in 2" pieces of 3/8" dowel, which I trimmed off and sanded after the glue dried.

Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)
Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step Two: After I had the legs built, it was time to create the braces. At this point, several components had to be taken into consideration. The braces for the legs were also going to serve as the ends of the box, which was going to house the compartments, and which the acyclic sheet would rest on top of (with a lip, so it would be flush with the outer wall). Check out the diagram if none of this makes sense. I basically designed the table around the dimension of the sheet I had to avoid cutting it, plus is was a good size and fit the space perfectly. So the brace was made from two pieces of ply. I traced the legs where I wanted them to fit and cut them so that the legs could notch in snugly. 

Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step Three: After the sides/leg support pieces are made, it was just a matter of building them into a simple box, nailing on the bottom plywood, and adding some pieces in to create the compartments. I decided to paint the box before adding the legs since I was planning to just put poly on the legs.

Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top - clamping legs (click to learn more)          .Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step Four: After the paint dried, it was time to attach the legs. Since the legs and connecting wall were 3/4" thick, I cut eight 1.25" dowels. I measured to find the center and drilled two equidistant 3/8" holes on either side. (I put tape on the bit at 1.25" so I wouldn't drill through.) Once I had all four holes drilled, I removed the legs and applied wood glue. Then I put the legs back on, tapped the dowels in, clamped everything together, and waited for the glue to dry. Once both legs were on and the glue was dry, I sanded down the dowels so they were flush. Then I flipped the table and put a couple coats of poly on, except for any surface that the acrylic would come into contact with. I wasn't sure if it would stick.

The acrylic fit like a glove. One important, no-brainer note: I forgot to make the box square the first time and the acrylic, of course, didn't fit. Fortunately, my brain kicked into gear before I got too far (only had to remove the bottom ply) and I employed the square. Easy fix, but could have been avoided. I built the table to fit the acrylic sheet so I didn't have to cut it, but that stuff is pretty easy to trim down. You basically just score it with a razor blade or acrylic cutter against a straight edge, apply a bit of pressure, and it snaps nice and clean.

Using a 5/8" paddle bit, I drilled a hole into a corner of the acrylic so it could be lifted easily.

Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                       .Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)
Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                          Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                          I'm really proud of how this coffee table turned out—it's one of my favorite projects I've made this year. Thanks for letting me share. -Josh

 Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Joshua Rhodes and Janae Hardy.  Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Make a Family Photo Board Book

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Reading is kind of a big deal at our house, but as much as we value books, we love family most of all! I remember seeing this family photo board book idea on A Cup of Jo and thinking I would love to try making something like that for our kiddo. It turned out to be a great project that Lucy just loves! We enjoy looking at each page and watching her point at the faces when we call out the names. Pretty soon she'll be spelling the names, and then you know what comes next.... Ivy League college applications!

After a couple of tries, I figured out a quick and easy way to make this board book using common crafting tools and supplies. It looks pretty nice, and I think it'll hold up well too! Check out the simple instructions below.

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Supplies:
-chipboard
-5" x 5" photos & cover images printed onto matte/luster photo paper (I used Canon luster photo paper.)
-spray mount (permanent)
-X-acto blade replacements
-duct tape or clear packaging tape

Tools:
-cutting mat
-steel ruler
-X-Acto blade

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Step One: Cut 5" x 5" pieces of chipboard. It's important that each size is exact, or your final pages will be a little wonky. But if you don't mind the wonkiness, then I don't mind, and I doubt your toddler will mind either. Not all people need to be perfectionists!

Step Two: Cut your photos to the same size as your chipboard squares— 5" x 5". I printed two 5" x 5" photos with names on them onto each sheet of photo paper, and then trimmed them down to their exact size.

If you don't have a printer at home, you can take your 8.5" x 11" files to a copy store, or go to a drug store to get 5" x 7" photos printed, and then cut them down to size when you get home. It is important that your paper be photo quality though, so it can hold up to being handled frequently. Also— if you don't have software to add names to the photos, you can use a Sharpie paint pen to add white or black writing on the photos.

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Step Three: Use duct tape or packaging tape* to connect each page together. Leave a tiny bit of space between each page for the thickness of the photos that you'll adhere to them. Carefully trim away the excess tape with an X-Acto blade.

*For the first book I made, I used duct tape for this step, but I wasn't happy with how thick the tape was, so for the second book, I used clear packaging tape and found I liked how it turned out much better.

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!At this point, check to make sure you have enough chipboard pages for each photo you plan to put inside the book. Don't forget to add photos of family pets!

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Step Four: Arrange your photos onto a clean, disposable surface* and spray with an even coat of adhesive. Make sure the back of each photo is evenly coated (all the way to the edges), but try not to use too much adhesive or it will build up under the paper and goop will ooze out the sides of the page.

Carefully match up the corners of your photo to the corners of the chipboard piece it's going on. Starting at the outer edge of the paper, smooth the paper onto the chipboard with the back of your hand. For aesthetic purposes, I think it's more important that the outer edges of the photos match up with the chipboard than for the inner edges to meet up. If you cut them perfectly to size, it won't matter– it'll be a perfect fit!

*Do not lay new photos onto a backdrop that has already been used, or it will get adhesive onto the front of your photos.

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Step Five: Once all of the pages have been filled with photos, it's time to add the book's binding tape. I used white duct tape for this because it matches the background of the cover photo I used. Simply smooth the tape onto the front cover alongside the binding, then smooth it onto the edge of the binding, and then onto the back of the book. Trim away the excess tape.

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Step Six: Spray adhesive onto the back of the cover photos just as you did the inside photos, and put them in place, smoothing from the outside in.

Note about adhesive: When I first attempted this project, I tried using Mod Podge to affix each image to the chipboard, but it was wrinkling my photos and warping the chipboard— not to mention it took forever waiting for each spread to dry before continuing to the next one! I considered using an ATG gun (basically just double-sided tape), glue dots, or rubber cement, but in the end, spray adhesive won out because of it's durability. Spray mount, though less forgiving when placing each image, worked like a dream! I know from past experience with Scotch's Super 77 Spray Adhesive that it holds very well over time when the appropriate amount is used. (Do not— I repeat DO NOT cut corners when it comes to buying quality spray adhesive! It's not worth it!) The luster finish of the photo paper I used protects the images from sticky hands and will hopefully last for a long time!

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!Once I figured out the best method to use for making this board book, it was really easy and surprisingly quick! Taking the time to accurately cut each page was the bulk of the work involved, but it goes much better when you frequently change your X-Acto blade. Cutting chipboard will dull a blade pretty quickly.

How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!How to easily make a children's board book- perfect for learning family names!This board book was a fun little project, and simple enough that I know I will do it again soon. I think the next book I make will include photos of Lucy's favorite places and favorite things. She'll be spelling I-C-E--C-R-E-A-M in no time! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine of the Signature Collection and Pearl from the Fresh Collection.

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