Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Corners

Perhaps it is because Christmas is around the corner and I have approximately no dollars in my bank account, but when I came across these little goodies, I suddenly felt a lightening in my gift-giving step.

(Family and friends, please avert your eyes or you will spoil the surprise of what I got you and everyone else I know for Christmas.)

These cute book corners are adorable, easy, and cheap---my favorite trio (next to the Three Wisemen and the chicken platter at Carrabba's).  I also love that they are "writable" space for note-taking while reading library/borrowed books.

Here is an easy tutorial from Whatever Dee Dee Wants:

And here is another version--just as cute--from Fireflies and Flutterbyes:

I am in love with these vintage lovelies from Pixels and Paperie:

Or, for the kids (or the kid in you), here is a how-to from I Could Make That:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beatrix Potter Baby Nursery

You should never go to the grocery store hungry, nor should you browse online for custom, overpriced baby furniture when you are pregnant, nesting, and swelling at the ankles.  But I did, and it was then that I found this armoire.  I was all aglow in its storybook charm . . . until I read the price tag.  Apparently said charm costs as much as a small commuter vehicle.

But I had to have it.  I was in the thick of a Beatrix Potter obsession and my baby was ready to make an appearance.  So, I either had to sell a kidney or cash in my 401K to make it happen.  In a rare moment of level-headedness, I went with option C---spending hours in the classifieds, praying that someone would be selling a $4500 Peter Rabbit armoire for $7.  It didn't quite happen that way, but it was close.  I found a beautiful French country cabinet for $50 dollars.  It was dark brown and smelled a bit like my great-aunt Marie, but it had massive potential.  My husband hauled it home and we went to it with Lysol, Febreeze, paint and glaze.  It was closer to what I wanted, but it still needed some Beatrix Potter whimsy.  And that is when I called in my mom.

Ah, Mom.  She is the female, heterosexual counterpart to Leonardo da Vinci.  She is the truest "Renaissance woman" I know: she sings, she dances, she writes, she cooks, and she speaks with coyotes.  She also happens to be an artist.  A free artist.  And that is why, as I left my home at 5:30 AM for a C-section, I handed her my Beatrix Potter Collection and asked her to pick her favorite animals and paint them on the armoire (oh, and to feed and clothe my other children in my absence if ever the need should arise).

I came home three days later with our little Henry and found that my mother had "Beatrixed" his armoire with vignettes of Tom Kitten, Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, and Mrs. Tittlemouse.  I don't think any baby was ever a luckier boy. (I hope he still feels this way when he is 15 and has the same armoire because I'm not changing it.)

Linked up:

One more...

Here's one more- I can't seem to help myself.

Spooky Printable

Here's a more spooky option than the last. This prints as an 8X10.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Delicious Autumn

I love this quote!

Here's a link to download this free printable- it's an 8X8 square. Enjoy!

Halloween Books for Little Goblins

Before I had children, I sanctimoniously vowed that I would not lower my prim standards by reveling in pagan Halloween.  And then I had kids.  We have become that house that I always mocked---the one with the spider webs and orange lights and the door mat that makes scary sounds.  I do it for my little goblins, and they love me for it.  But I draw the line at blood, gore, zombies, scythes, and Necco wafers.  Some things just ruin the fun.  I have applied the same "no creeps" criteria to our Halloween book collection.  We like books that hint at mischief but don't go anywhere close.  For those of you on the same page as our lily-livered family, here are some Halloween favorites that you might enjoy:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Paper Wreath

I wish I were a crafty awesome blogger mommy. I do, but I am not. So to make up for my inadequacies, I will post the crafty exploits of my amazing Aunt S and Cousin S. for my birthday this weekend, they presented me with this:

And my poor, naked chocolate wall suddenly has jewelry! So if you want to make one of these yourself, you might want to look for another blog with real instructions, but here is the gist of what they told me:

You take a book, and antique the edges.

Now, you take a page and roll one end one way and the other end the other way, making an "S" shape.

And hot glue! I love hot glue. They used a green styrofoam wreath, and I added a ribbon to the back to hang it from.

I love this so much I could squeal. And I would like to make a suggestion to a certain other blog author: Maybe you hypothetically checked a book club selection out from the library that was, let's just not sugar coat it, lame. Now, if your hypothetical child hypothetically colored on a few pages with a pen, and a nasty librarian got snarky with you because she doesn't think you could possibly have not noticed a couple of small pen doodles. Now let's say she informs you that you have to shell out some huge amount of money for said lame book, hypothetically. Now this book is part of your permanent collection, and you neither want to display it (it would be a blight on your classy collection, after all,) Nor do you want to think about the amount of money you spent on it every time you look at it. THIS craft might be a good second life for that book. Hope that helps.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creating a Successful Book Group: Please Learn from My Mistakes

In Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Mrs. Allan tells Anne: "We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us."  I have taken this advice to heart (along with everything else from the Anne of Green Gables series, including the request I made of my husband to propose to me again, except this time standing on a bridge in trousers with his hair slicked to one side while mentioning sunbursts and marble halls).  Now I have made a lot of mistakes, but one of my all-time doozies has to be my first book club.  

Years ago, someone from church asked me to select a book and organize a group discussion for the women of the congregation.  Anyone with half a brain would have considered the audience and chosen something sweet and spiritual.  And short.  Instead, I panicked and picked the first recommendation that came my way:  The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.  For those of you who haven't read it, I'll summarize:  imagine an award-winning, post-modern multicultural treatise peppered with references to distilleries, nudity, and the occasional "hell" or "damn," written by a former Ku Klux Klan member (a little showstopper I stumbled upon while doing research for the discussion).  Now, to be fair, I really enjoyed the book.  And as far as scandal goes, Little Tree is about as vanilla as it gets it my opinion.  I guess I'm just rebellious that way.  But had I actually read The Education of Little Tree before choosing it, I might have anticipated the coronary that Sister S. would have while reading about a boy drinking whiskey and urinating in the woods.  

When the evening of the discussion arrived, I had compiled a list of approximately 1 1/2 probing questions to spark commentary, assuming that the conversation would spontaneously weave itself into a magnificent tapestry of wisdom and literary insight.  Um, wrong.  Half the room looked at me wide-eyed when I kept mentioning the word "protagonist" as if it referred to some sort of sexual deviant, and the other half of the room tumbled on top of each other in a confusing heap trying to get a word in edgewise.  I can only think of 60 minutes that felt longer than that first book group experience, and that was pushing a baby's head through my cervix.  

It shouldn't have been a shock to me when the church book group was disbanded as quickly as it had begun.  No one rebuked me or complained, they simply swallowed and politely passed me by.  I felt as guilty and humbled as I have ever felt before in church.  And all over a little book.  

But, as Sister Lucy Maud Montgomery would say, what are mistakes for, if not to improve our futures?  I am happy to report that my first book group failure has been redeemed by many book group successes ever since.  In fact, I now love book groups so much that I am a member in four clubs.  Excessive?  Perhaps.  But it is also a testimony of how compelling and enjoyable a good book group can be.  Heaven knows I've seen what a book group failure looks like, but I've also seen what a successful book group looks like.  So, as you take the plunge in starting your own book group (or tweaking one you are already a part of), take my advice and consider the following:

1.  10 is a magic number.  It worked for Moses.  It works for book groups.  If you limit your membership to 10 people or fewer, you will find that you have enough variety in personality and experience to keep the conversation insightful and exciting, while giving everyone an opportunity to share their ideas.  This doesn't mean that large groups aren't successful.  It simply means that you won't be able to achieve the same depth of individual expression with lots of people.  And that's okay.  There are some people that I don't care to know deeply.  But then again, you're probably nicer than me.  I've also noticed that the larger the group, the more casual the commitment is.  If you don't want to limit your guest list, then limit your expectations of how and when people will participate.

2.  Get on the same page.  I have seen two basic formats for book groups.  Option 1:  You agree on a list of books (like the classics, or Oprah's selections, etc.) and take turns hosting the various choices. Option 2:  Everyone picks a month and chooses their own book for the group to read.  Whatever format you decide on, make sure everyone has the same expectation.  Some people prefer the objectivity of going into a novel together sight-unseen. However, others feel strongly that the host should read the book before choosing it, both as a window into their mysterious person, and as a "screening" for potential problems in content that may be challenging to your audience (e.g. Sister "Coronary" on the third pew).  I've seen both work well, but your group needs to agree on the approach.

3.  Give homework and do homework.  As the host, you should know everything you can about the book--like whether it was written by a white supremacist or not, thank you Forrest Carter--to help fuel discussion and answer questions.  It's also helpful to have a thoughtful list of questions (more than 2) to guide conversation.  Some of my favorite book group experiences have centered around a book-specific assignment.  For example, when my friend Denise hosted a discussion on Sandra Dallas's Persian Pickle Club (a novel about a quilting group), she had us each bring a square of fabric that represented ourselves.  This "homework assignment" not only helped me to reconsider myself symbolically (apparently I'm a graphic red and white cotton stripe), but it also allowed me to understand everyone in the group on a whole new level.  It also solved that pesky problem of making sure everyone gets the same amount of air time. 

4.  Good Food.  And lots of it.  Preferably with a nod to the book.  (Unless you are reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy.)

It's not a comprehensive list of do's and dont's, but it will give you a good start.  Learn from my mistakes and enjoy the successes of your literary labors.  Good reads to you all.  (And that even includes The Education of Little Tree.)

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