Hope your Valentine's Day is especially sweet!
During one of our many recent snow days, we had a little Valentine photo shoot in our living room to get some decent pictures for this year's Valentine cards...
Ayla wanted to make bookmarks for her classmates, so we went with a photo booth style design and had them printed on photo paper. She was then adamant about taping a heart-shaped sucker to the back of the bookmark. Works for me!
Just to keep it simple, we went ahead and used the same style for Paxton and his friends while we were at it...
I was proud of him for writing each of his friend's names on the back of the bookmark, as well as signing his own name on each one too. That's a lot of writing for a little man.
We couldn't forget our family! Grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles got a bookmark featuring both smiling faces. :)
Hope your day is sweet and lovely!
PSS. And in case you thought every picture of them was super-adorable and think I have cooperative little models, let me set that record straight:
Our 2013 has been a good mix of seeing new places, trying new things, reaching big goals, and keeping up with the day-to-day family routine. In as quickly as I can wrap up an entire year, here's how we've been keeping busy:
AYLA: Ayla is in 2nd grade, loves to read, has been practicing swimming this fall, and is giving cheerleading a try this winter. She still enjoys activities with her Girl Scout Troop and this year, her Daisy Troop bridged over to Brownies. Some highlights from her year were the Father/Daughter Sweetheart Dance, Girl Scout Day Camp, losing several teeth, and learning to ride a bicycle.
PAXTON: Paxton is in 4K preschool and begrudgingly goes to school four mornings a week. This year he's learning to write all the letters of the alphabet. When he plays, he's really into costumes, trucks, and Lego "guys." Some of his favorites this year included his first experience on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, going to weekly story time at the Hoover Library, feeding the "exotic" animals in Texas, and playing with Ayla - his BFF.
ANDREA: I spend most of my time managing the family calendar and making sure everyone is where they should be at the right time, with the right tools. That translates to a lot of driving around, constant texts & emails, piles of laundry, shopping, and a whole bunch of paper management. I also continue to work from home, painting signs for customers across the US. With all that going on, my regular exercise routine is more for sanity than vanity!
BEN: Ben had a busy year of home improvement and physical labor--including new carpet, lots of painting throughout the house, and a ton of moving furniture to accomplish all of that. Plus, he managed to run in a 5K, a 10K and a 1/2 Marathon this fall! He continues to stay very busy managing several website endeavors -- and taking care of all of the household things Andrea doesn't even have on her radar--there are plenty!
TRAVEL: We had several memorable trips this year. Ben went on a trip to Colombia with Compassion International in January. We took a family trip to Texas over Spring Break. The kids and I spent another fantastic fun-filled month in Chicago over the summer. All of the extended Steed family relaxed at the beach in August, and Ben and I had an amazing trip to Israel for a family wedding this fall.
We hope your family has had a wonderful year too! Happy New Year!
Looking for a last-minute "special" gift? Look no further.
No traffic, no lines, no problem!
At my painted wood sign shop, "SignsByAndrea", I'm selling a few styles of my scrap wood tree this year -- but they're only available until November 18th and there is a limited quantity of them that I can make.
They may go fast!
So...if you would like one, be sure to order it right away! It's a decoration you'll pull out year after year after year.
I'll have them finished and shipped to you to arrive by Thanksgiving.
Each tree is 3ft tall by about 18in and is personalized with your family name on the bottom "trunk".
The boards are attached to the vertical back board with industrial-strength velcro, making them easy to disassemble and store flat.
And they look SUPER cute on your front porch during the holidays. :)
Inspired recently by the really cool white pumpkin w/black lettering trend, my sisters-in-law and I had a girls night and made our own versions.
Here's how we did it:
Peel back the excesss vinyl, leaving the lettering and design.
Then press the transfer paper to the design so that you can place it easily on the pumpkin. We used large artificial white pumpkins (purchased at 50% off from Michaels.)
Gently peel back the transfer paper and press the vinyl onto the pumpkin, revealing your design.
We decided to add a thin coat of matte Mod Podge over the design, to be sure it stayed put (since the adhesive vinyl didn't seem to be well adhered to the pumpkin. Plus, we thought we might display our pumpkins outside and wanted to help keep them from peeling.
I was so happy with how they turned out, and amazed at how easy it was to do! Here's a look at all three of our creations:
We aren't the only ones with awesome black and white pumpkins. Here are some versions around the web that inspired our evening:
I don't do much seasonal decorating around the house, but when Halloween and Christmas roll around, I am willing to pull out my bucket of decorations. The kids have a blast seeing all the little goodies that have been boxed away for a year, and it's a nice transition into the holiday season. So, even though our little plastic pumpkins and homemade decor are pretty basic...we do make an effort. :) And I say "we" because Ayla and Paxton were VERY involved in the process...they even helped me clean the house so that we could bring in the decorations.
Here's what we ended up with for our fireplace mantle in the playroom this year for Halloween:
My altered halloween house is my favorite decoration for this season, and the glittery pumpkin and "boo" garland is definitely a kid-favorite - especially since Paxon's favorite color is orange right now (he points it out everywhere).
I framed my "Being a Family" poster and included it on the mantel too (it & the other photos sit there all year).
In the kitchen, we went for a more subtle decorating technique -- but I LOVE the element of surprise. Check out our gallery wall and all the little masked friends! I saved the black cardstock masks I used from last year so that all I had to do was find a photo that fit and stick 'em to the glass.
Plus, I made this trick or treat sign and have a special place in mind for it on our front porch (pictures coming soon!):
Since the weather finally cooling off this week, it's definitely starting to feel a little more like fall around here! Might as well look like it too. :)
Except now Ayla and Paxton think Halloween is MUCH closer than it is. They don't really understand that it's still a whole month away...They've been walking around the house carrying little pumpkin bags, knocking on each door and saying "trick or treat" and handing each other toy cars and pretend candy. Silly kids.
I believe they've all been delivered, shipped, and opened, so I can share this year's handmade holiday gifts:
First -- What else, but Holiday Signs!
These 1ft x 4in signs hung with twine made fantastic gifts for teachers, nursery workers, and friends.
Next, bags of Aunt Dora Cookies for our neighbors:
We put these tiny cookies into sandwich-sized ziplock bags and folded a piece of Christmassy patterned paper over and stapled it together over the zipper. Easy--and tasty!
And finally, Picture Pebble Magnets:
These were wonderful grandparent and aunt & uncle gifts since they featured all the grandkids/cousins, each on a magnet of their own. We made them for both sides of the family. Ayla was a great helper when it came to putting the patterned paper and magnets onto the metal plates.
Some tips for making these:
- Use flat, crystal clear pebbles. Iridescent ones don't look very good.
- E-6000 glue is perfect for gluing the photos to the pebbles & the pebbles to the magnets. Just beware of the fumes!
- Get strong magnets. Otherwise, why bother? :)
- Check the hardware store for metal plates with holes already drilled. I found these 4 1/2" x 2" metal plates at Home Depot for only $0.53 each and used the holes already drilled to thread ribbon through.
Photos worked great for these, but patterned paper and my Bic Mark-It markers made cut little sets too that a few of my friends received:
All this year's handmade presents seemed to be well-received...or else everyone we give presents to is really good at faking how much they love a gift!
It took several days - one to take the stuff out, one to open the boxes, one to put a few things out & set up the tree, one to put stuff BACk in the boxes so Paxton didn't destroy it all, and then finally a day to decorate the tree - but this weekend we managed to get our house decorated for the holidays:
And in our house, it makes perfect sense to light the Christmas tree & the menorah on the same night. :)
Receiving holiday cards from family and friends every year is the highlight of the season to me. Even in the new everyone's-connected world of Facebook, Twitter, smart phones and blogs, it's still nice to get a card, especially photo cards, in the real-deal-snail-mail mailbox. Don't you agree?
Every year, someone (or several someones) ask me where I get my holiday cards printed, if I'll help them make their family's card, etc. So, this year, I want to do a little holiday card tutorial and show you what I do to get our holiday cards DONE every year:
Get a good family photograph. Not an easy task. But essential, I think, to a great holiday card. Not that I don't appreciate the pretty greeting cards, (because I use those too) but mostly I want to see how much everyone has changed each year. And as you may have heard me say before...I strongly believe the WHOLE family should be included in at least one shot that you share. Because, yes, your kids are cute, but I was friends with YOU first so I want to see your smiling face too!
As far as what *kind* of photo? The sky is the limit. I like posed portraits and smiling faces, but candid pictures of a memorable event from the year (like a graduation or wedding) can give a fun little peek into your world. I also get a big kick out of the silly holiday photos - you may remember some of our past photo cards:
And a silly outtake from our 2010 photo shoot:
Establish a list. If you haven't already, start making your list and checking it twice. Who are you sending cards to? How many do you need? Are all of the addresses up-to-date? I keep a spreadsheet on my computer and update it each year, adding new people, checking addresses for people who I know have moved, and adding in the names of new babies, new spouses, etc. That way I don't have to start from scratch with a new list every year and risk forgetting someone. I also use this same spreadsheet later to import into a Word document to print the addresses directly onto the envelopes, which makes addressing the cards a breeze.
Pick out a holiday card design. We use Zazzle.com for our photo holiday cards. They offer great quality, a good price, and TONS of selection. Plus, you can design your own card if you don't like the designs you see online and are so graphically inclined. Personally, I like the long cards that leave plenty of room for a full photo and a greeting, but they have lots of sizing options and styles to choose from and they all include envelopes. My favorite designer at Zazzle is "The Spotted Olive." Such cute designs.
This was our card in 2009:
And here's what we settled on for 2010:
As a side note, buying through Zazzle also helps support our family directly. Ben's company is an affiliate marketer for Zazzle, so if you buy anything at Zazzle.com through a link from my site, you'll be helping support his business and our family.
Here's a little extra savings from us to you if you buy your cards through Zazzle this year:
a 50% off Cards: ALLCARDSSALE, good until at Zazzle.com until 11/27/12.
Add your greeting and text. Since our family and friends celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas, we usually stick to something along the lines of "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays." I also highly recommend including each of your names, first & last, as well as the year somewhere on your card. Yes, everyone you send a card to should know this information already, but not everyone will remember that you named your 5th kid "Brutus". A reminder never hurts.
Place your order. Make sure to order your cards in plenty of time for them to ship to you, and then for you to address them and add postage before you put them in the mail. I usually like to have our cards mailed out in early- to mid-December. So, by the first week of December 2011 (if not sooner) I hope to have placed my order. Also, if you're feeling really snazzy, you can add Christmas postage stamps to your order and really dress up the envelopes! Cute, huh? Especially if you ordered the photo cards to match...
Don't forget to use your 50% off cards code: ALLCARDSSALE
Write a letter while you're waiting for your order. (optional) Oh, I LOVE when people include a little update about their family! Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. It just depends on how much extra time I have when I'm getting these together. We've written top ten lists, made up songs, and done person-by-person updates. But last year I took the easy route and just included a url for my blog.
Admire your work. Whoo hoo! The mail came and there they are! A whole stack of photo cards, ready to be mailed to share with all your friends and family spread throughout the world. You did good. Pat yourself on the back. Okay, now get back to work.
Assemble the envelopes. Create a mail merge (with that spreadsheet of addresses you made) and print your envelopes. Don't curse at your printer or hit it with anything. That won't make it work better or faster. If it doesn't work to print them yourself, you can always hand-address each envelope, which is kind of old-school nice anyhow.
Stuff each envelope with your snazzy photo cards, adding that note or holiday letter if you wrote one, and then have your kids or dog lick the envelopes to seal them. No, maybe let them use a damp sponge instead. I don't want anyone getting sick over holiday cards.
Finally, stick your Christmas stamps on each envelope and they're ready to go! Be sure to separate any international addresses so you can add the correct postage for those cards. We send at least one card to Israel every year. Hi Medina family!
- Mail 'em! I think you can handle that. Especially if you've already added the postage. Then you don't even have to stand in line at the post office! Just stick 'em in a mailbox and go.
So there you have it. A holiday card from start to finish. I guess I better figure out our photo and card for this year now that I've raised all kinds of ridiculous expectations with this post...
*edited in 2012
I have so many talented and crafty friends. And just like me, many of them are working hard to use their talents to help bring in a little extra income for their families. I wanted to share some of their business ventures and crafty products with you and ask that you give each of them a quick look. Some of these great gift ideas might be *just right* for someone on your shopping list this year!
Elizabeth Bailey is a photographer who specializes in newborn, children, and family portraiture in the Birmingham, AL area. She is available for on location and studio sessions. She blends traditional and contemporary posing, by taking cues from the personality of each child. She wants each session to be fun and enjoyable for everyone involved. You will enjoy a gallery full of carefully edited images that are a reflection of your child's true personality. Elizabeth offers a variety of prints options, as well as albums, storyboards, custom cards, gallery wrapped canvases, and digital collections.
Join her on Facebook to get the latest information!
Andrea's Blog Special
For the month of November: Contact me and mention that you saw this post on Andrea's blog and you can purchase a gift certificate for a session fee and enjoy $50 in print credit. That is a $125 value for $75. Gift Certificate will be good through December 2011. Give as a gift or keep for yourself!
Contact Elizabeth to purchase your gift certificate or schedule a session:
Brina Bujkovsky / The Younique Boutique, inc.
Brina makes all sorts of heirloom quality hand painted ceramics, photo gifts, personalized name prints and more!
Rebecca Falkins / Lia Sophia Jewelry Advisor
Rebecca is a Lia Sophia jewelry advisor and loves holding jewelry parties in ladies' homes! It is a fun night of games, trying on beautiful jewelry and eating yummy snacks. Lia Sophia jewelry is coated in rodium and gold so no allergies or tarnishing. All of their jewelry has a lifetime guarantee!
To book a party, just visit her website at www.liasophia.com/rebeccafalkins! We give so much to our hostesses as a thank-you for letting us enjoy your home.
Sara Lohse / Purpose Driven Creations
Sara makes Sanity Sacs. A "Sanity Sac" is a hands-on discovery pillow that has many little treasures hidden inside of it, making it a self-contained toy perfect for traveling, waiting at the doctor's office, church, etc. These 5" x 7" fleece pillows have a clear viewing window, allowing the child to see the items in the bag... they are hidden amongst small poly-pellets. A laminated reference tag is attached (which includes pictures & a list of the items to be found). Great for ages 3-103!
Libby designs digital scrapbooking supplies that can be used to create layouts digitally or printed to make paper layouts or altered art. Her collection includes a range of products including papers, alphabets, element sets, templates, etc.
The calendar template shown on the left can be used with your choice of digital scrapbooking kits. This is perfect for month in review pages, monthly "to do" calendars, or even calendar Christmas gifts. The Advent Calendar on the right is pre-designed and can be simply printed and assembled!
Shirley Ross / Close to My Heart Consultant
Shirley is an Independent Consultant for Close To My Heart stamping and scrapbooking supplies - and loving it! She is a self-proclaimed addict to all things papercrafting and loves to share what she learns with others. Her favorite Close to My Heart project uses a bleaching technique with stamps:
Brittney makes and sells these cute personalized envelopes and notepads that make perfect gifts for teachers, friends, and family members.
Also, if you are thinking about a Walt Disney World Vacation or a Disney Cruise, she's an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner through Main Street Memories, and can help you book your vacation, make your reservations, plan your days, and give you some GREAT inside tips on how to make the MOST of your vacation! (No-Cost Service!)
Andrea makes personalized, hand-painted, weathered, wooden signs. Each sign is made-to-order, so it can say and look however YOU want it to look. Popular choices are last names, monograms, and favorite quotes. - Gallery of Signs - Sign Ideas - Win a Free Sign!
* Also check out her "Crafter-for-Hire" page of other personalized crafty products!
Lisa makes fun, glittery decorations for your tree, your front door, your mantel - where ever!!
For those who are local in Alabama, you might want to check out the By Hand Boutique market next weekend - November 12 & 13th at Community Presbyterian Church in Moody, AL. Several of my favorite friend/artists are going to be showcasing their work and selling all kinds of fun goodies!