Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!  

What a special year this is when it comes to things for which I am ever so thankful.  I don't think I properly gave due thanks on Thanksgiving Day, and I'd like to take a moment to be thankful.

I am thankful for the simple things in life that make you stop and enjoy the moment, like the crackling of a fire in the fireplace, the smell of coffee, the sweetness of our playful pup galloping around the backyard, a little kick in the belly from my unborn baby girl reminding me she is there and a simple good night kiss every night from my best friend (well, both of them, my dog and my husband).

I am thankful for my family, their patience listening to me babble and their confidence in me.  I am so lucky to have such a wonderfully supportive family and to have married into such loving in-laws as well.  I am so thankful for my husband and our big sweet pup, and most thankful that we are expecting a new member to our immediate family this spring.

I am thankful for my friends, and the bonds that we have that only grow stronger over the years as we face challenges, set backs, loss and triumph together.  I could not be more proud of them all.

I am thankful for laughter.  It is my medicine.  I am also thankful for tears.  They heal.

I am thankful to be doing something I love as my "job" (if you can call it that).  I love being creative and using my artistic right-brain.  I love working with my friends and friends of friends, and helping them to express themselves and their businesses through visual communication.

Lastly, I am thankful for this outlet.  My blog has allowed me to express myself and share my interests, and has forced me to reconnect with my creative self.  I am really thankful (and amazed) that someone besides just me actually reads my blog.  Thank you!

I could go on and on, but this about covers my general thanks.  What are you most thankful for this year?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

DIY Holiday Treats

I am not a food blogger, I know, nor do I claim to be a top chef, BUT this easy cheese straw recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Shutterbean, is SO easy and delicious.

Here's a fun DIY project if you are one to give holiday gifts to friends or neighbors.  I will break it down for you and make it really easy (hopefully).  If you have a grocery store, a party store and an office store, you can easily find everything we need to make this fun edible holiday gift.

First of all, head to the grocery with this list:

2 Sheets Frozen Puff Pastry
Flour (just a little bit for dusting, so you probably have all you need at home already)
1 Egg
Hot Sauce
Extra Sharp Cheddar, Grated/Shredded (enough for 1 cup)
Fresh Thyme Leaves (1 tbsp.)
Fresh Rosemary (1 tbsp.)
Kosher Salt (1 tsp.)
Ground Black Pepper
*You probably have a lot of these ingredients in your kitchen already

Egg Wash, Preparation...
Slicing the puff pastry

Ready to go in the oven!

Final Product.  Mmmm.
 Next step is to head to the party supply store or Paper-Source for cellophane baggies, and ribbon.  Another option is to use mason jars or small cookie jars (but you might have to make more straws to fill up one of these).

The last thing you need is stick-on gift tags so you can put a custom sticker on each of your bags.  If you go to Paper-Source, they may even have the 8.5 x 11 sheets of stickers that you can print with a template on your home printer.  If not, then you can head to the office supply store for the sticker label sheets (there are all different sizes and shapes you can use, and most of them come with template instructions that work in Microsoft Word).

If you're intimidated by this, then you can also just buy or cut out some small cards in a thick pretty card stock and punch holes in them and write a note in a pretty pen.  This takes a lot of the fun out of it for me, being that I love printing and I love custom designs, but friends will be impressed that you are giving them homemade treats regardless.

Then all you have left to do is prep, bake, bag 'em and deliver!

Photo Credits: Photo #2, Shutterbean; Photo #1 and #3-7 came from my own kitchen!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holiday Cards, Part III

Here are a few more cards to round out the sample collection. Working on some custom cards now for several folks, and would love to help you too if you want to get yours going.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Calling" upon a more genteel time

One of my (many) favorite things is a well-done business or calling card - the tiny size, the endless layout possibilities, and the simplicity of condensed information.  I do love looking at well-executed business cards, but I really love the individuality that only a social calling card can express.  Why hand out your business card when you're out at parties with friends?  Let your hair down and get some personalized calling cards.  I decided that I should do some research on the validity of the calling card today, and whether it still has relevance and practical use.  I found some fun information on the history of the calling card, interestingly enough, on a site called "The Art of Manliness".  According to The Art of Manliness...
In the 19th and early 20th century, social interaction was a richly cultivated, well-mannered affair. The tool that facilitated these interactions was the calling card...The calling card...served as a way to brand your social identity. The way your card looked and felt or the way you handed it to someone communicated your standing and relationship with the receiver. While the calling card had gone the way of top hats and knickers, they’re starting to make a comeback...men today can resurrect this tradition to create some stylish panache in their social interactions.

Read more: http://artofmanliness.com/2008/09/07/the-gentlemans-guide-to-the-calling-card/#ixzz14nP0vGg0
To paraphrase the history of the calling card, there were all sorts of distinct social nuances involved with the art of "calling" upon a family or person.  How and when the card was presented, with what information on the card, the size of the card and whether the card was engraved, beautifully hand-written or simply printed all gave off information about the purpose of a gentleman's visit and his social stature.  Using a business card for a social call was considered impolite, so there was a necessity for the social calling card if you were to be considered a gentleman.  It is actually really interesting to read about if you want to go to the link above to read more.

Moving forward to the present, wouldn't it be so much more personal and civil if people still used social graces like the calling card, rather than some guy "poking" or "friending" a girl on Facebook to make his interest known?  Well, that's probably not going to change, but here are some traditional and some more fun options for the calling card that can be used in today's world - for men and women:

This is a fun contemporary take on the traditional calling card, while still maintaining the overall simplicity.  If you want to correspond with someone socially, why hand them a business card with only your business contact info?  This is the perfect alternative to awkwardly entering your cell information into someone's phone, or trying to remember someone's email address or blog from a conversation.

This is very much how the traditional calling cards are laid out, and I love this.  I am all for keeping the tradition.  The only modern nuance here is actual email addresses and phone numbers, rather than just a name and address.

I love this for a lady.  It has a vintage feel, and is more of a correspondence card than a calling card.  Correspondence cards are still widely used today with gifts, so are probably more useful than an actual calling card if you have to choose between one or the other.  If you could do the lace detailing and name in letterpress, it would really stand out.

Here is another example of what we now refer to more as a correspondence card, made for a couple.  This is a very standard traditional style, with dark grey or black ink engraved on an ecru card.

This is a fun example of a two-sided card for a woman to use as a personal calling card, or for use while in between jobs.

Here's another fun take on the calling card.  This is one way to make the calling card personal.  I think this card would be fun if you were a writer, school teacher or student and wanted to have a calling card that reflected that.  My personal recommendation is to try not to get too cooky with your calling cards, but definitely express yourself.  These are for sale on Etsy.
This is an example of a family calling card.  This can be useful to hand out at school, among parents, etc.

And last, but certainly not least, is the funny calling card.  I witnessed this card being handed to a lovely but chatty girl by my hilarious Uncle Joe, and it was truly amazing!  There is a time and place for this, but when the time is right, it is quite a card to play.

Let me know if I've convinced you that you must now create your own calling card.  I'd love to help you establish yourself as the true gentleman or woman that you are on a tiny little card.  Or alternatively, I'd be more than happy to help you come up with something funny and creative, like the STOP TALKING card.  Correspondence cards are always good to keep in stock with just your name (or you and your spouses name).  And the calling card might just make a comeback, so get ready!

Image Credits: Image 1 - The Art of Manliness, Image 2 - The Stationery Studio, Image 3 - The Mandate Press, Image 4 - The Art of Manliness, Image 5 - Dempsey & Carroll, Image 6 - Red Stamp, Image 7 - Crane, Image 8 - Etsy, Image 9 - Set Editions (Stop Talking)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Holiday Cards, Part II

Here are some holiday card samples to follow up on my last post.  These few ideas should help to get your creative juices flowing, or maybe you just like one of these as it is, and want to add your own personal touches.  Let me know, and I would be glad to work with you on your holiday card design.  I love custom design, and would love to help you create something fun and special to send out this holiday season.  Act soon, though, before things get too busy.  Or if December passes you by, you can always do a New Years card, which can be a fun late surprise for others in their mailboxes.

Holiday Cards!

It's that time of year...when Moms all over the country are shouting, "SMILE!"  Getting that perfect holiday card photo is the first step.  Some people are ahead of others, having taken a glorious picture of the family all dressed in white sitting on the sand dunes from their summer at the beach.  Others of us have not yet gotten that perfect shot, and are still trying to round the troops (in my case, our playful and rather large black lab).  The next step in the process is to choose a card (and get your address list updated - which can be daunting).  Holiday cards are so fun to receive, and if you're like me, you will save the best ones year after year, and there will always be a few people whose creative, beautiful or whimsical cards stand out each year.  Well, folks, that person can be you, if you start planning early and come up with something fabulous and make it your own!  There are a few steps in the process, and here are some fun things to think about as you plan yours:

1. Photo or no photo: I am all for the photo, because everyone wants to see how you are doing, how your little ones, pets, and, yes, even you are doing.  An alternative to a photo would be a drawing, painting or sketch by you or one of your children.  That can be a fun option.  If no photo or drawing, you can focus on the next few steps below.

2. What do you want your card to say?  Do you want it to be whimsical and say something fun, like "Fa La La La La!" or "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"  Or funny, and maybe even with a funny or silly picture.  Or warm, with kind words, like "Wishing you love and peace this holiday season."  Or religious, saying something about the holiday you are celebrating.  Or even more personal, if you have something specific to celebrate this holiday, like the birth of your child or a new pet for example.  Or maybe you've relocated, and you can combine your holiday card with a "We've Moved" card.  I personally love a holiday song quote, something fun that might even give people a chuckle.  Or a beautiful thick card with gold or silver foil engraving or print on it, with a warm simple message and a great picture.

3. Style and colors.  Make it your own.  Do something different, fun, creative or simply beautiful.  Make it stand out, and give it a personal feel.  Red and green are easy go-to's, but try thinking outside the box and think of other warm holiday colors or fun cool wintery blues. As far as style, holiday cards are a fun way to represent yourself to your family and friends.  You can think about things like quantity vs quality as well.  If you want to send out a truly elegant and beautiful card, but you can only afford to send that dream card to 25 people, then maybe think about something more fun and creative that will make up for the expensive craftsmanship, so you can send it out to more people.

4. How do you want to sign your card.  Do you want to have your names printed, or sign them with a pretty pen?  I love seeing that someone has taken the time to hand-sign their cards, but if not, try to write a quick personal message on the cards of those closest to you.  This will make them feel special.  Obviously, the holidays are busy and not everyone has time to do this, so if you don't, at least you know your card itself is fun and reflects your taste and the holiday message you want to send.

5. Envelopes:  Be sure you have your address printed on the envelope.  Whether you have the address printed on the envelope to match the card, address label stickers or one of those nifty embossing stamps or ink stamps, it is really important that you have your return address on the cards somehow.  Otherwise, you may not get a card in return.  I hold on to all of my envelopes until I've had a chance to cross-check them with my current list and make sure that all addresses are up-to-date.

Here are a few of my favorite cards I've saved over the years for one reason or another (my apologies for the striped curtain backdrop behind these cards - didn't quite work as I imagined)...

 Love this one for it's simple elegance.  Just colorblock of pale blue and brown.  Also note that the sender picked a matching brown felt tip pen to sign each individual note.

 Love this one for it's simplicity and beautiful craftsmanship.  It is one-color ink thermography in red on a beveled edge ecru note card.  The picture is pasted on.

 Again I loved the simplicty of this card.  Red and black ink printed on a linen textured card stock.  The texture of the card feels very rich and soft.

 If you have great photographs, this card is printed proof that you don't really need anything else to make a card great.  These photos are incredible!

 This neat card belongs to my friend Annie (of Byrdhouse PR).  She always picks fun graphics and takes great photos.  She and her hubby are even color coordinated with the card!

 These friends have made the card their own by putting fun pictures from their travels on the folded note.  The inside has even more pics, and a shout-out to their bun-in-the-oven (which is another fun personal touch).

And I love this card "FROM MUSIC CITY".  It is so Nashville!

 This cute card is a beautiful wintery light blue, which I liked.  Just simple and cute.

 And here is an example of someone getting a good laugh out of Christmas...this folded card, with the cute Shark costume, and the have a "Killer" Christmas note is hilarious!
And finally, I loved this sweet little card because of the wording, "Not a Creature was Stirring...".  Perfect with the cute little pic!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Making Note-Writing Fun for Kids

There is nothing more personal to me than a sincere handwritten note.  It is so easy to send emails and texts and make a quick call to say thanks, which are all fine in certain situations.  But there is nothing as meaningful as a thoughtful note on personal stationery.  This is something I hope to instill in my own children from an early age.  I love beautiful stationery.  I love engraving.  I love letterpress.  I love blind embossing.  I love a thick textured card.  A beautiful folded note.  A delicate envelope liner.  Basically anything personalized with beautiful craftsmanship.  I could write a whole post on engraving and letterpress and another entire post on the importance of paper choice, and its thickness and texture.  I love when people recognize the importance of beautiful stationery, and how it can reflect your own character.  People are given stationery as gifts, and often don't even pick it out themselves.  It is a shame, because stationery can be so personal, and it makes the whole process even more fun when it is something you have picked out.  Ok, so I am getting off track a bit here, but this leads into one of my first points in the process of teaching your children about the beauty of hand-written correspondence:

If you are purchasing stationery for a child old enough to participate in the selection process, allow them to have a say in the appearance of their stationery.  Children's stationery is allowed to be fun and have character.  Involving your child in the selection process makes note-writing all the more fun for them.  If you are purchasing stationery for a baby or toddler, think of toys or colors that they are drawn to, and think of what reminds you of them when picking out their stationery.

When your child receives a gift, you want them to think immediately of thanking the person who gave the gift.  This must be taught, just as you must teach your children that a thank you note is a necessary and important part of the gift giving and receiving process.  You can teach your children that a thank you note is important AND fun by talking about the gift and thinking of how you have used it and enjoyed.  Then you can put that on paper!  Another way to make it fun is to have your child draw a picture of themselves using the gift.

Kids love taking part in grown up tasks (well, some of them anyway).  And if you make it fun, they will look forward to it.  So, a trip to the Post Office should be a fun activity for you and your child to do together.  When he or she has written a note, let them put the note in the mailbox, or buy the stamps.  Then they can learn how mail works and learn to enjoy the process.

Hopefully these three quick tips will help you as you work with your children to instill the importance of the hand-written note.  Hand-written correspondence can help to develop your child's writing skills, their ability to articulate and also simply teaches the importance of appreciating the things they are given.  Here are some more tips offered on the Emily Post website for teaching your children about writing thank-you notes.

Children's stationery does not need to be engraved, but if you can afford to spend the money on it, engraving can make for a beautiful note.  Printing or letterpress are equally good options for children's stationery.  Here are some more fun samples of printed children's stationery I have designed.  Let me know if you have a need for any.  I would love to work with you and your little one.

CREDITS: I hate that I did not hold on to the free clip art info to give credit for some of the images and motifs used in a few of these samples.  Next time I will definitely pay attention to the site so I can give proper credit where it is due.