valentines 2010

To be honest, I used to loathe Valentine's day with it's overpriced roses and tacky pink and red color scheme. But now that I have little children, Valentine's day is fun again. C is in kindergarten this year and needed to bring 32 valentines to school, so we needed something relatively quick and easy. I always try to think of some way to involve the kids, either by including their drawings or having them help with the assembly.

For this years cards, I printed out plain red hearts with white circles for eyes. I made a sample for the kids showing them how to draw the face and arms and legs. Then the kids took black pens and made their own. Attach some candy to one or both of the hands and you're all set. Here is a template you can download.


a little valentine

The folks over at have put together a nice collection of handmade valentines and valentine treats to make for your loved ones, inclduing my little matchbox valentines. There's even a PDF you can download with the patterned paper, so all you have to do is cut it out and wrap it around your matchbox. (And don't miss the cute cards designed by Sally Shim and Nice Package.)

Note: I've heard from a few concerned folks who don't think you should be putting candy in matchboxes, as they could possibly contain traces of chemicals leftover from the matches. If this concerns you, other options would include lining your box with patterned paper, using wrapped candy, or making little cards to fit inside instead!


this week's library book

Library books! Oh, how we love them! Especially new ones we have never seen before, like this one.. A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry with illustrations by Marc Simont. Winner of the Caldecott Award in 1956.

The book alternates between black and white and color illustrations and explains all the reasons why trees are nice. They fill up the sky and make everything beautiful. You can have a picnic in their shade, or jump in the leaves when they fall.

"A tree is nice because it has a trunk and limbs. We can climb the tree and see over all the yards. We can sit on a limb and think about things. Or play pirate ship up in the tree."

I found this lovely quote from the author, which only makes me like her more. "Someone has said that not all readers are writers, but all writers are readers. I believe this is true. And a lot of reading in childhood often leads to a life time of writing. I love good books for children today as much as I did when I was a child. I probably appreciate them more now." I couldn't agree more.


nina's book

Part of the festivities honoring my grandmother on her 90th birthday was a book full of all the things we love about Nina. Of course I forgot to take any photos of the book before I handed it over to my grandmother, so you'll have to make do with my PDFs. The cover was simply green with a big 90! on the front.

After checking out several printing options, we decided to go with blurb. I have made photo books with Shutterfly in the past, and have been pleased with the overall quality, but Blurb allows you to print directly from a PDF. Because I design books for a living, I can create the book using InDesign (a program I am very comfortable with) and then just upload the final PDF, instead of using one of their available templates. This gives me a lot of freedom with the design. I give Blurb a big thumbs up!

My grandmother has 10 children, over 30 grandchildren, and over 40 great-grandchildren so I wanted to do a book that counted from 1 to 90. I figured between all of us and our spouses, we could get 90 different memories or thoughts gathered. Luckily, several people contributed more than one memory.

Some comments were short and sweet, others went on for several pages. Some talked about a favorite memory (like my Aunt Penny above, remembering a trip she took as a newlywed with her mom and dad). Others talked about something they admire about grandma: the way she always makes Christmas special, or what an efficient household she ran, or how she makes the best strawberry-blackberry jam.

It was a pleasure to put this book together (though I admit it took longer than I thought!). It gave me a chance to see my grandmother in a different light. I now can see her as a young mother, trying to make ends meet. Or later in life, as a devoted wife taking care of my grandfather. I see her making dinner in the kitchen with her young daughters helping. I see her dancing with my grandfather to the music they loved. Or double checking that all the Christmas gifts for each of her children make it under the tree.

Of course I also still see her as my sweet grandmother... the one who sends out a family letter to each person in her large extended family each month. Who crochets a blanket for each new great grandbaby and never misses a birthday. She still makes it to the cabin each summer for our family reunion (she's the one passing out the toffee nut bars and making sure the great-grandkids have enough Otter Pops.)

90 years and going strong. Happy Birthday Grandma! I have no doubt we'll be celebrating your 100th birthday in no time at all.


nina is ninety

This is my grandmother, and this is my favorite photo of her. It also happens to be the photo she gave my grandfather when they were dating. "To Bob: With all my love, Nina"  He liked it too. They were married for over 60 years. My grandfather passed away five years ago, but grandma is still chugging along.

My aunts decided to throw grandma a big party for her 90th birthday. We sent out save the dates, using another favorite photo of mine, back when she was a young mother of three. Somehow she still managed to look amazing (I'm loving the dress, the necklace, the hair.. so beautiful, my grandmother).

The invites featured three different photos of grandma, when she was a young girl with her pixie cut, when she was in high school, and on her 25th wedding anniversary (still gorgeous, and that was while raising 10 children!).

We decorated with more old photos, with paper circles in different sizes and shades of green. Just punch a hole in each side and thread onto some embroidery thread.

Instead of a guest book, we printed out cards with different photos from grandma's life.. (there are so many beautiful old photos of my grandma, this seemed like a nice way to showcase them). As people came to the door we asked them to take a minute and write a quick note to Nina.

And then we hung them from green embroidery thread with paper clips. It was fun to watch the wall grow as the party went on and to see all the photos there together... a life in pictures. We'll make these into an album after the party so grandma can read through them whenever she likes.

My favorite note, from a boy who grew up with my grandmother. "Nina - If I had been five years older, Bob wouldn't have had a chance." (Bob, of course, is my grandfather. And yes Don, I'm afraid you missed out!)


happy friday

Alt Summit is in full swing today, and I woke up a little sad to be here in California and not enjoying the snowy slopes of Utah. I had hoped to take part in one of the panels, but couldn't make it this weekend due to a family event. (A rather big family event.. my sweet grandmother is turning 90! And my family is gathering up in Sacramento to throw her a big party and take her out for a fancy dinner.. how could I miss that?)

A full report when I return. Have a lovely weekend!


a new years card

I love sending out holiday cards and each year we try to come up with something new and different. I have to give credit to my husband for the idea for 2009. "We should do some kind of decoder - like in The Christmas Story." I knew exactly what he was talking about, Ralphie holed up in his bathroom with his secret decoder trying to figure out the message from Little Orpan Annie.

For our card we came up with a series of four statements for each person in our family, for example "Was Bee Captain Hook for Halloween?". (As always, I have changed my children's names to protect their privacy, my 5 year old son goes by "C" and my 3 year old daughter goes by "Bee") Some of the statements are true, and a few are false.

Each statement has a green number at the bottom of the box. If the statement is true, you grab your decoder and set the arrow on that number, and then write down the letter that appears in Bee's circle. (If the statement is false you won't see a number, but a red dot to let you know you have that answer wrong.) After decoding all the statements, you end up with 13 letters. The letters are in no particular order, so you still have to figure out the word jumble to figure out the four word message.

Figuring out the exact placement of the dots and how to perfectly place each letter of the alphabet was a feat in itself. Thankfully I have a very patient husband who worked out all the logistics of how this card worked, and then I just had to make it look good.

I really like the idea of making a holiday card more interactive, and it's just made it more fun to hear back from our friends as they solve the puzzle and email us to share the answer. John really wanted it to be difficult, he wanted people to have to take a little time to work it out. (Although several of our friends have told us that we made this a little TOO hard..) The puzzle is a bit of news about our family and what is to come in 2010, and we are still waiting patiently for several of our friends to solve it.

I'll share the answer with you in a few weeks, I don't want to give it away just yet!


a healthy new year

I had a few too many balls in the air this year come Christmas, so a couple of things had to get bumped to the week after Christmas. The Christmas cards became New Years cards, the gifts for the teachers were delivered after the holiday break instead of before it, etc. It was actually a nice change of pace since that week between Christmas and New Years is usually a pretty quiet one around my home: the kids are happily playing with their new gifts from Santa, there's nothing on the calendar besides visiting with family and taking down the Christmas tree.

I'm new to having kids in school, and I'm still figuring out what makes a nice teacher gift, but I did see what the other kids were bringing before the break: lots of candy and sweets. Now I enjoy those things too, but I get a little overloaded with sugar during the holidays, and by January..  I'm ready for something nice and healthy.

Which brings me to this delicious recipe for Granola. A few years back, my friend Katie hosted a brunch at her home and made this granola. Even though her table was filled with delicious breakfast treats, I kept going back for more granola. It's that delicious! And now we make it all the time. This recipe makes a big batch, so we share some with our friends and keep the rest in the fridge. Topped with a few big spoonfuls of  Greek yogurt, a splash of milk, and a big pile of berries, it is the perfect breakfast.


countdown to grandma's birthday

It's my mother-in-law's birthday at the end of the month, and there is nothing she likes more than photos of her children and grandchildren. We usually put together an album of some sort, but after seeing this post over at The Crafts Dept. blog by my friend Silke (stylist, extraordinaire.. and one of the nicest girls you will ever meet), I was sold.

First, you have to buy this photo holder. It will set you back about $20. Then you need 28 assorted photos, half vertical and half horizontal. The photo holder comes filled with plain white cardstock when it arrives, pull those out and insert your photos.. one in each spot. To save a little paper (and the hassle of cutting my own) use the paper the holder came with for the numbers (I just inserted mine into my inkjet printer, which can handle 4x6 sheets).

When you're done, each spot has a photo behind a number card. And on each day of the month, Grandma will pull out the number card to see the photo. Every day she'll have a new photo to unveil. And at the end of the month, a whole panel of photos to enjoy. Grandma's birthday is on the 26th, so we had two extra spots where we said "Happy Birthday Grandma" and "We love you!".

I know my mother-in-law will love seeing all the photos of her smiling grandchildren each day, and then after her birthday she has a nice little photo holder she can swap photos into and out of as she sees fit. Happy birthday Grandma! (and thank you Silke!)

Note: You can download the number files I used here and here. The photo holder only holds 28 numbers, so you're out of luck if your birthday is on the 30th!


a collection a day

You may remember my love of collections. I especially like odd collections of things people usually don't collect, like playing cards found on the street, produce stickers, found leaves, etc. When I guest blogged at Black Eiffel last year, I shared some of my little "Collections of Nothing".


So you can imagine my delight when I saw one of my favorite artists Lisa Congdon has started a new blog this year, called A Collection a Day, where she'll be sharing her own collections. So far her collections have included erasers, paintbrushes, and pencil lead cases. It's only the 5th of January and I can't wait for the rest of 2010!