Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilLast month the ABM book club read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Did you read it? Did you watch the movie version? Both? As some of you may know Joy The Baker is moderating for us this month. Take it away, Joy:

Joy the bakerI moved from easy, beachy, traffic-congested Southern California to the heart of New Orleans, Louisiana exactly one year ago.  

Moving from the land of Pilates, kale, and beach vibes to the Deep South was all kinds of shocking. The Deep South is an amazing place to visit. History oozes from nearly every building in places like New Orleans, Louisiana and Savannah, Georgia. Every building has a story to tell, every street is full of character, and every local you meet is more than willing to share that story… and maybe even embellish just a bit.  There’s a mixture of pride, history, and downright salacious stories to tell. The South really is a world of its own.  
 
As a visitor to the South, I heard the stories and saw the buildings, but actually living in the South (in the oldest part of New Orleans) has taught me that I know so little. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the South is, the people that make it up, and the real, nitty-gritty history that makes it up.  
 
Enter: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. The quintessential Southern Gothic novel. Berendt weaves a tale of murder, mystery, and the strangest Southern characters you can imagine. The story revolves around the 1981 murder of Danny Hansford, the sometimes assistant, handyman, and lover of Jim Williams, an internationally recognized antiques dealer. Was it self-defense or was it murder? More importantly, how much wealth and influence does it take to get yourself out of a murder conviction in Savannah, Georgia.  
 
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a true crime novel at its roots, but really, it’s a story about Savannah and the characters that give pulse to that city. There’s Emma Kelly the extravagant singer, Lady Chablis the 100% outrageous drag queen, Joe Odom the questionable though very charming musician, and perhaps my favorite, Luther Driggers, the man who has enough poison to kill the entire city of Savannah. All of these characters weave through the city and the story, making it a truly Southern tale.  
 
So now, the questions remain:
 
-  Did Jim kill Danny? And while we’re talking about Jim, is he a sympathetic character at all? Is he funny and charming, or more deceiving and dark? 
 
-  Do we have a sense for what is good and what is evil in Savannah? My eyebrows are raised, and I’m not sure what’s what. 
 
-  Do you wonder how much Minerva really knows?  
 
-  This story makes Savannah seem like such an insular and closed city. Could this story have taken place anywhere else?
 
-  Lastly, how much do you wish that Luther Driggers' glow-in-the-dark goldfish worked?  Such a good idea!
 
Thank you so much for reading along with me!  I hope you got a big deep breath of the South. Let’s talk about the book together! -Joy
 
Credits // Author and Photography: Joy Wilson. P.S. Don't forget that in February we're reading Eleanor & Park, so pick up your copy this week!

Charleston, South Carolina Travel Guide by A Beautiful MessHi, friends! Due to many requests, we are so excited to share with you our travel guide to Charleston, South Carolina. Emma and I recently enjoyed a long weekend in Charleston and fell quickly in love with this colorful, charming city! Now, I admit, four days is not nearly enough time to try all a city has to offer! For that reason, in addition to the places we tried and loved, we'll also share with you some recommendations from our trusted friends who are local to Charleston as well as those spots that were repeatedly recommended by you, our readers! 

Fair warning, you will want to book some tickets and GO by the time we are done here today. This city is magic

Places we visited and loved: 

Let's start by sharing the spots that we personally visited and really loved! 

Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Hominy Grill Southern food perfection. We went for breakfast after countless recommendations and enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere. Emma ordered the Salmon Potato Cakes and highly recommends them! 

Black Tap in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Black Tap We really liked this adorable coffee shop. We spent a few hours there sipping coffee and coconut tea and working on our computers.

The Daily in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)The Daily We enjoyed this coffee shop (located right by Butcher & Bee). It doesn't have much seating, but for coffee and treats on the go, it's perfect! 

We also visited Butcher & Bee (right next door) for lunch one day and loved the menu. It's really creative with a lot of vegetarian options. 

Shepard Fairey mural in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)In the parking lots by The Daily and Butcher & Bee, there is this awesome, giant mural by Shepard Fairey.

A stroll along the water near Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)A stroll along the water near Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)A stroll along the water near Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We enjoyed taking a long walk along The Battery and looking at the beautiful homes and then seeing Rainbow Row. Charleston has the highest per capita of pink and pastel houses I've ever seen in my life, obviously a very good thing! 

Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)One of the things that surprised us about Charleston was how many things were within walking distance of downtown. And when we drove, most of the places we went to were about five or ten minutes away. 

Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We enjoyed Mac & Murphy, a cute local stationery shop. We spent way too long in there picking out cute cards and journals. It's extremely well curated and fresh!

Sugar Bakery in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Right down the street from Mac & Murphy is Sugar Bakeshop. The treats are delicious, but the thing we loved most about it was the beautiful courtyard inside where we had a chance to sit and chat with our friend Erin. It's beautiful! Also on Cannon street is Indigo & Cotton, a super nice shop for dudes. I picked up a few gifts for Jeremy there. 

Redux in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We loved visiting Redux and seeing the studios of some artists we admire including Lulie Wallace, Tiel Duncan and Raven Roxanne. It was inspiring to see so many amazing artists working so closely together in this shared space. We have a studio tour with Lulie coming soon!!

Saint Alban in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Our favorite coffee shop we visited in Charleston is actually brand new. It's called Saint Alban. It's a beautiful atmosphere with a really great menu plus lots of space to hang out with friends. 

Husk in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)The best lunch we had in Charleston was at Husk. Their menu is fresh, local and changing constantly. Vegetarians beware, EVERYTHING has bacon in it unless you ask for a vegetarian option (which they are very cool about). What really impressed us most about Husk was their awesome cocktail menu. They have a little bar next door, and next time we visit we might just drop by for drinks because they were that good. 

Folly BeachOne morning we drove out to Folly Beach and had breakfast at Lost Dog Cafe. It was a fun, chill spot with good surfer vibes. We drove up and down the beach house streets to look at all the colorful beach houses. They were seriously incredible. Our local friends say this is their favorite beach, but since we visited in January, we didn't do any swimming. 

FIG in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We got a lot of recommendations for FIG, and since it was right next door to our hotel, we knew we had to check it out. It was one of the fancier places we tried, and we thought both the dinner and cocktail menus were really great!

That night we also tried Gin Joint. They had the best cocktails we had on our trip to Charleston. It has a really cute atmosphere too. We loved it so much, we wanted to go back another night, but it was closed the other nights we were there. Perfect happy hour spot! 

Indigo Inn in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Speaking of hotels, we stayed at The Indigo Inn. We liked that it wasn't super expensive since we stayed four nights, and it is in walking distance to lots of food, shopping, and the water. Super nice people too. 

Taco Boy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Taco Boy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!) On our last night in Charleston, we wanted an un-fancy dinner and a lot of people recommended Taco Boy. It was delicious and the outdoor patio is SO cute! (I think there is a Folly Beach location too, but this is the one in Charleston). 

Taco Boy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)  Emma got a frozen screwdriver. It was fun. 

Xiao Bao Bisquit (Xiao Bao Biscuit photo via Map & Menu) 

Xiao Bao Biscuit was probably my favorite meal we had (although the competition was clearly very stiff!). I can't stop thinking about it. Next time I am in Charleston I'll be there first thing! Order the cabbage pancake to start. Obsessed! 

That same night we went to The Belmont for one drink. I had an apple cider cocktail that was some kind of black magic. It's very cute too. 

Places that were highly recommended:

Since we only visited Charleston for a long weekend we didn't get to do everything on our list, although I think we made a pretty good dent in it! :) These are the spots that we got multiple recommendations on and will definitely visit next time! 

The Commons Handmade goods for the home. 
Flowershop A beautiful local flower shop. 
Glazed Gourmet Donuts Next time! 
Edmonds Oast One of our friends, Erin's, favorite spots. 
• Waterfront Park There's a cool pineapple-shaped water fountain there.
Sullivan's Island We really wanted to see some cool houses there, like this one called "the eye of the storm", but we just ran out of time. 
Eye of the storm home(Image via Monolithic.org

Your turn! Do you have a favorite Charleston spot you want to recommend? Leave us a comment! We want to hear what you love.

And Charleston residents, I hope we did you proud! We love your beautiful city and we'll be back soon! xx. Elsie 

ps. A HUGE Thank you to our friend Erin for making us an amazing travel guide before our visit! Check out her weaving shop, SunWoven

Credits: Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman (unless otherwise noted). Photos edited with Stella and Jean of The Signature Collection

Oink my goodness! It's a piggy scrapbook! Click through for supply listIf there is one thing I am learning about scrapbooking, it's that working on present day books is WAY more fun for me than trying to go back in time and scrapbook memories from five years ago. I do still aspire to be "caught up" someday, but for now I've resolved to kind of do both. So even though I'm still slowly chipping away at my archives, I am beginning to make new books about stuff that's happening now as well. This strategy feels good to me. I'll keep you updated as time goes on. 

So, this past weekend I took Emma on a birthday trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The surprise element of the trip was a little day trip down to Florida to play with Emma's and my favorite piggies from good ole Instagram @prissy_pig (they're also on Facebook!). Emma spent all of 2014 dropping hints to me about how badly she wanted to play with these pigs. So, like any good sister would do, I set up a play date. 

Here's a couple photos that their kind owner, Melissa, took of us. 

Piggy play date! Piggy play date! (Yes, they are even cuter in person!) 

Oink my goodness! It's a piggy scrapbook! Click through for supply list     As soon as we got home from our trip, I knew I needed to make an album for both our piggy play date and our trip to Charleston while the memories were still fresh! 

I realized that the coral 4x4 mini book we carry in our shop would make a perfect little piggy. I just used a little hand cut coral and black felt and some glossy accents adhesive to attach it to the cover to create a peachy pig face! It was about a ten minute project but I was "squealing" with joy by the time I was done. I mean, look how freaking cute! 

Oink my goodness! It's a piggy scrapbook! Click through for supply list     My favorite detail is the back! I used a crop-a-dile to punch through the bottom center of the book, and then added a little piece of hot pink rope to create a tail. 

I fully realize how cheesy this book is, but it's cheesy in my favorite possible way. I can't even wait to show my niece, Penelope! As soon as I completed the cover, I started brainstorming other ways I could alter the gray and mint 4x4 books. 

Oink my goodness! It's a piggy scrapbook! Click through for supply list On the inside of the album I kept it ultra simple and finished in just one sitting. I used my PIXMA iP8720 printer to print all our cell phone photos (plus a few favorites from their Instagram account) at 4x4 inch size. Then I made one page inside with journaling. 

Oink my goodness! It's a piggy scrapbook! Click through for supply list  Supplies used: Peach 4x4 album, Pink Alpha Stickers, 9x12 Ledger Paper (cute down to 4x4), extra 4x4 page protectors, and my favorite PIXMA iP8720 printer. All our photos were taken with the iPhone. 

Oink my goodness! it's a piggy scrapbookThanks for letting me share my little personalized album. It's a really pig deal to me. :)

In other happy news—I am amassing quite a nice collection of 4x4 albums between Scrapbook Sunday and all the books I made for our new e-course, Capture Real Life In 52 Weeks! (Yes- early sign up bonus kits are still available they include a mini stamp set, a mini ink and a mini journal. You can see photos on the product listing slider. Shipping is included.)

As much as I LOVE traveling, I'm happy to be back home catching up. Cheers to an awesome week, you guys!! xx. Elsie 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Special thanks to @Prissy_Pig for letting us be your biggest fans. Album photos edited with Stella and Jean of The Signature Collection

Use a plastic mesh canvas to create a decorative embroidery piece.In the wintertime, I like to cuddle up with a basket of yarn and settle in for a Netflix marathon. The yarn isn't just there as a cuddle buddy, though. No, no! The yarn gets put to work. Normally I like to crochet the yarn into a blanket or maybe a hat for a friend, but lately I've been all about the embroidery. I might not have the patience of a colonial woman when it comes to practicing my stitching with an embroidery hoop and fine linen, but the use of a handy dandy plastic canvas and yarn made this embroidery project pretty easy.

Use a plastic mesh canvas to create a decorative embroidery piece.I love the warmth of the yarn as wall art combined with the fresh appeal of a modern design. You can create your own embroidery design or stick to basic geometrics when it comes to embroidering your own plastic canvas. Check out my tips before you get started on making your own!

Use a plastic mesh canvas to create a decorative embroidery piece.Supplies:
-plastic canvas (aim for the smallest opening that will work for your embroidery needle and yarn— mine was labeled "10 mesh" and can be purchased in a pack here.)
-#18 embroidery needle
-yarn in various colors
-empty frame
-scissors (not shown)

Use a plastic mesh canvas to create a decorative embroidery piece.Step One: Using yarn, block out a space of your canvas according to the opening of your frame. You want the space you're working in to fill the frame perfectly without the frame covering up any embroidery, because in the end, you can't trim away the embroidery if you've made the piece too big.

Step Two: Create the main design of your piece, tying off the ends of each color of yarn on the back of the canvas. After I created the design shown above, I filled in the areas with neutral yarn to create a background (as shown below).

Tip: Be careful not to string the yarn across too great of an area, or the design will become difficult to control. If you pull too tightly, it will bend the canvas, and even a small amount of bending will not be corrected by the stability of the frame when mounting the embroidery piece.

Use a plastic mesh canvas to create a decorative embroidery piece.Step Three: Trim away the excess canvas so it will fit inside your frame. Be sure to remove the blocking yarn from step one. Pop this puppy into a frame, and the project is complete!

Problems to Avoid: I made two big mistakes when working on my embroidery. I began with a 7 count mesh and the holes were too big, making the plastic canvas visible behind my design. I had to rip it out and begin again with a finer 10 count mesh.

Also, I pulled too tightly when making my long strands of black diagonal lines because I wanted to make sure they stayed in place. I ended up having to rip them out at the end because the warped canvas wouldn't straighten out inside the frame. I strung them again, and even though it seemed too loose at first, by the time I got the white diagonals in beside the black, and the whole thing was inside the frame, I could use my fingers to straighten out the lines and put them perfectly in place.

Use a plastic mesh canvas to create a decorative embroidery piece.There you have it— Embroidery art made easy! Change up the style and you can add the perfect little touch of textile art to any wall in your home. -Mandi

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

Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks FAQsAs many of you already know, earlier this week we launched our latest e-course: Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks. This course is geared toward documenting your life through photo prompts and mini album challenges. You can read more about the course in our announcement post. Many of you have already signed up (hooray!), and we've been getting lots of questions from you. So, today we thought we'd answer some of the most commonly asked questions. If you don't see your question below, feel free to leave us a comment and we'll get back with you.

Are the kits sold out yet?

Not yet, but we're getting close. So, if you're thinking about ordering, do so ASAP. As of yesterday at 4pm CST, we only had 190 left—so order now if you want one!!!!

But, because we are selling out of the kits so fast, we are thinking about ordering a few more. If we do, we'll let you know.

Will I be charged shipping for the kit?

No. Shipping is included in the $36 price. Our goal was to make the kit feel like a free bonus (while supplies last), so you will not be charged extra for shipping.

How many sessions are geared toward making photo albums/scrapbooking?

Twelve sessions are designed to inspire you to make a mini album with all your printed photos, while 40 sessions are photography challenges. The course is designed so you get the option to make a mini album every month of the year. But, if you're more of a photo enthusiast, you'll be happy to hear there are LOTS of sessions (40...to be exact) on taking photos of your real life.

Is this course self-paced?

Yes! We've created the course so there is a session to complete every week for a whole year, but if you find that life gets busy, it's OK! You will continue to have access to the course so you can work at your own pace.

Do I need any special equipment or supplies to complete this course?

No! Other than access to a computer and any kind of camera you're pretty much good to go. We purposefully crafted the photo challenges to use different kinds of cameras, including smartphones, so you can follow along no matter what you have. And the mini albums use different supplies every month, so you can hopefully use up supplies you have on hand or get inspired to try something new. 

Thank you SO much to everyone who has already purchased the course—your support means the world to us. We can't wait to see what you create this year as you capture your real life! xo. The ABM Team.

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