Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3 Reasons Why You Should Read The Hobbit With Your Children Now

The movie doesn't come out until December, but now is the time to pick up this great read (or audio book) from your local library. Here are three important reasons why.

It should go without saying that I'm mostly a believer that the book is better than the movie: a movie is like a first date where everyone is trying to impress, but the book is a first date right on through to a bonding relationship between the characters/author and the reader. Unless the publisher has made major changes, there is no middle man between you and the writer. Reading the book before watching the movie can actually make the film more meaningful.

{1} A Family Adventure. Tolkien must have adored families, because The Hobbit has the power to take your entire family out of your home and into another world. You will have as much fun reading it as the children will have listening. Not up for the challenge? Snuggle up and listen to it with your children on audio.

{2} Preparation. Yes ~ when you read classics like The Hobbit with your children, you are preparing them for the required reading of high school and college, but more importantly, you are preparing them for life. 

It's a classic because you can't read it and not dive into discussions about the characters and challenges. Both your head and heart wrestle with the ideas tucked neatly between the covers. You'll continue to meditate on the themes long after the book has closed, and your children will never forget that you took the time to share this significant exploration with them. While reading a classic may feel at times like a luxury (or possibly a burden), it is really a necessity for overall growth

{3} Looking forward. Looking back. I know The Hobbit is considered a fantasy, but it has a heart that pulses both the joyous and heartbreaking truths of real life. When we read to our children The Hobbit or its sequel, The Lord Of The Rings, magic happens; we are stretching their imaginations forward while contemplating historic ideas of the brilliant mind of Tolkien.

The library shares all the books above and much more of Tolkien's work. I hope you are inspired to pick up a few today and share this meaningful wisdom with your children. 

xoxo Michele 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fabulous {Effortless} Photo Art

All you need to make this effortless photo art is a cherished photograph, PhotoScape (it's free) or your own photo editing software, your computer and a printer.

This post is completely overboard with photos and my mega-wordy attempt at explaining how I created them, so if you don't want to make photo art please stop reading now. Forgive me, but I'm hyped up on Summer Olympics and a dreamy visit with my smoochie in-laws (the Italian pastries they brought from Brooklyn hasn't helped, either). 

I wanted to add some large photos of the children to my in-progress art wall but didn't want to pay for printing. I started with photo close-ups of the kids.

Helpful Tip: I noticed for this project that close-ups of my children from a side angle worked better than photos looking straight at the camera. 

What is PhotoScape? A free on-line photo editing service you download to beautify your photos. I couldn't blog without it. After downloading, you will see this page. Click on "Page".

That will lead you to a page where you choose a photo from your files, your template size and type of template. I chose the template titled "layer base a 2" but I do not layer. When you drag your photo over from your file, drag to the white part of the template and ignore the part of the template that says "photo" because when you hit "edit" it will disappear (I'll be explaining that in a few more steps). Let's talk about template size for a second.

I like this template size, but you may want to adjust yours. You can also change your background color (I leave it on white) and you can add a frame (I love frames, but for this project I left it blank).

Drag your selected photo onto the white part of template, ignore the part that says "photo".

I love this photo, but I want John's head to be larger, so you can go to the edge of your photo and make the image bigger. 

Once you have the photo the size and centered the way you want, click on the "Edit" button.

This is the fun part. Locate the B&W button and click on it.

Your photo will change to a black and white and the threshold window will be open. This photo is too dark. I'm going to adjust the threshold from 140 to 114.

By adjusting the threshold I get the print I'm looking for. 

Now I'm ready to print. Go to the lower right corner and click on "Menu" and  then click on "Print". Sometimes I "save" first, but most of the time I'm just plain lazy and don't save at all.

I printed these as full pages - 8x10, but you can make any size.

Print and you're ready to frame and hang. 

How awesome is this - it doesn't have to be in black and white. By choosing a different template and adjusting the color you can create colorful wall art.

When you are adjusting the threshold, click on the the color bar for numerous color choices.

I'm having so much fun right now working on book art for framing. Ahab's Wife is unforgettable. Thank you, Natalie, for suggesting this great read. And thank you to Jeanne for inspiring my inner artist. 

Thank you library, for providing the transportation to everywhere we want to go.

What will you create today?

xoxo Michele

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our Favorite Heat Retreat

Our favorite place to quickly beat the southern summer heat? Blowing Rock, North Carolina. 

 Vistas to swoon over.

Castles of clouds to daydream under.

Hydrangeas that impersonate the cerulean sky.

Kilwins ice cream. Enough said.

An old fashioned park in the center of town overflowing with childhood wonder.

But my treasured highlight is the Blowing Rock Community Library. Great reads from their library book sale are affordable, beautiful, functional keepsakes. 

A Lake Norman sunset provides a final touch on a fabulous day. Where is your special retreat to beat the heat? Have you visited their library? Please share.

xoxo Michele

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Olympic Sized Reader In Training

My swoony favorite Olympic Opening Ceremonies, ever. They began with a reading of Shakespeare, and a short while later as they were celebrating British children's literature, JK Rowling read a bit of Peter Pan. After that, a host of Mary Poppins dropped in to rescue a child in the middle of a bad dream. 

It left an indelible impression on my children, not only because they were familiar with these bodies of work, but because reading was being celebrated as important.

Nick asked me later if I was upset that they didn't include some of our other favorite British authors: CS Lewis, Edith Nesbit, Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Dick King-Smith, and his personal fave at the moment, Robert Muchamore. Upset? How can I be disappointed when my boy is on his way to becoming an Olympic-sized reader? 

His training was established at the library; and his personal trainer is Bev, our local children's librarian. I hope you're encouraged to visit your library today, it won't cost you anything but time with your children. It has been my personal experience that there isn't a greater investment in this lifetime than spending time with our children.

Happy Birthday weekend, Nicholas. We are beyond thankful for the gift of you.

xoxo Mom 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Luckiest Girl: Library Love Pillows

Have you ever had so much fun with a project that you start wishing you could disappear with your sewing machine for like a week? I tried, but Travelocity doesn't offer such a holiday. They should. And I'm not crazy.

Library love pillows - my heart is swooning. Arielle adores all books by Beverly Cleary. Printing a favorite book cover and refashioning it into a pillow to hug is almost too good to be true.

I was a lucky girl and won a four week art e-course with Jeanne, thanks to Edie's giveaway last month. I'm in the middle of five projects right now - Edie's quote is so me - but the library love pillow required materials that I had on hand and could finish quickly. 

This type of project is dangerous for me; every bed, chair, and sofa runs the risk of five or six of these beauties. Jeanne has inspired confidence and knowledge to make art that is meaningful to me and my family, and I can't thank her enough.

I'll be taking a bloggy break until next week - Friday night is the Opening Ceremony for the Summer Olympics - will you be simultaneously glued to your sewing machine and TV like me?

xoxo Michele

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beauty And The Beastly Budget

Arielle is turning double digits soon and requested a bedroom makeover that reflects her growth. 

Sigh. I fair better with my own aging process than that of my children. 

My heart dreams in color but my head is wide awake in reality ~ the budget for such a project is nominal. What can you do for fifty dollars? The library provided plenty of inspiration, and if you are embarking on a similar economical enterprise, I can highly recommend these great reads:

Don't worry - I didn't clear out the library shelves - they still have hundreds of decorating books to choose from, but these were my faves. While hubby is cheering on the Yankees I snuggle up next to him on the couch, browsing through the pages and sketching out ideas.

We have been inspired to use what we have. The only items I've purchased are chalk board paint and spray-paint. 

Arielle's dreamy teaching wall is coming into focus.

The weather has been too hot and humid to use the spray-paint, but as soon as Mother Nature cooperates we will be painting chairs, lamps and frames. 

Old duvet covers have new life as chair cushions...

... and a backdrop/canopy for Arielle's bed. I've been crushing on fabric walls since my laundry library makeover.

I hope to do a big reveal by her birthday, but honestly, the process has been the biggest, bestest gift. Sometimes a beastly budget is really a blessing in disguise: the time spent with my beautiful daughter crafting, sewing, painting and giggling has been incalculable.

Live. Learn. Library with your children today.

xoxo Michele

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Like The Trees Were Hung With Ornaments"

Jonathan Franzen realized this after spending a morning birding in Central Park ~ he was invited by his girlfriend's relatives and politely accepted - you know how it is when beginning a budding relationship. This was the same park he had strolled through daily for twenty years, and yet he was seeing as if for the first time. That solitary expedition made him a birder. It gives deeper meaning to his book cover choice for Freedom. You can watch Jonathan and fellow birders in the astounding HBO documentary playing through July 31st, Birders: The Central Park Effect. I can't recommend it highly enough, even if you aren't into feathered creatures, but you will be after viewing.

The children and I have been reading in Genesis that birds were one of the first creatures God created, and they are the last migrating species to share our outdoor space (at least here in Davidson, North Carolina). We arise each morning to their cheerful singing, share the same desire to nest, nurture, and raise our young; and yet I know very little about them. 

I'm thankful for the library sharing their vast abundance of birding books, movies and audio cd's to help grow my newest outdoor passion. I can brush up on our common backyard birds now, and have time to become familiar with the migrating birds of spring and fall that pass through the Carolinas.

Are you local and interested in becoming a birder? Consider joining the Carolina Bird Club - I just did and am looking forward to their upcoming fall meeting in Greenville, SC. 

How are libraries like birds? Their shelves resemble tree branches and are adorned with ornaments of borrowed beauty: books, music, magazines, movies and more. Books have the power to help you soar from your normal daily life into new adventures of your own choosing. All you need is your library card. I hope you'll visit them today. 

xoxo Michele

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Library Living At Home: Writing Nook, Library Style

My writing nook is coming together. A few simple ledges from Ikea, plus books and magazines from the library, divinely define my motto of spending less and sharing more.

I can display library magazines and books rather than hide them on a shelf. Nobody puts baby in a corner, but I put books there, and the results are stunning. 

Details has been priceless in helping me see my house differently, and I've borrowed it so many times you'd think I'd just buy it already. But my experience has been that most often, borrowing is better than buying. Sharing is contagious, and leads to finding more treasures, like Ruby and Begonia's Decorating Style, which I'm majorly crushing on right now.

Has the library inspired you to create a reading and writing nook at home? Or just a new way to display library beauty? Please share.

Library books add an exciting essence to my kitchen. I may have to break down and buy The Flavor Bible. Awesomeness times infinity, sweet readers. I say that about most books, just ignore me on the buying part.  

The shelves were another inexpensive Ikea find, but all the books are from the library.

Library beauty plays a key role in my home design and serves a dual purpose; adding a continual mix of new knowledge and stylish variety.

I can constantly change up the feel of a space by replacing the books and magazines without having to move furniture or take on big projects. My back (and husband) are thankful. Borrowing more and buying less prevents storage space issues as well, which I know intimately from living in a 1200 sf house.

I buy a few books online (mostly required reading for the children) but most of my purchased books come from the library sale table; five paperbacks for $1.00 and hardbacks for fifty cents. Variety at a tremendous value, another reason that the library is my fave. 

In fact, sharing movies, music, books, and magazines from the library is how I found the budget for flowers from the Farmer's Market and shelves from Ikea.

A sincere thank you to sweet Jeanne at Perfect Imperfections for the Versatile Blogger Award. I'm working on several home projects and will be taking a mini-vacation until next week. There is nothing like having out of town guests to inspire slightly panicked, massive domestic activity.

You can find more posts on Library Living At Home here.

xoxo Michele