off to alt

I'm off to Alt Design Summit in the morning! I hear it's freezing in Salt Lake, so I'm digging out all my cold weather clothes and saying goodbye to my family for a few days. If you're headed to Alt too, please stop and say hello... I'll be speaking on the Work/Life Balance panel on Thursday morning. Wish me luck!


new years eve kit

I always have big plans for christmas deliveries.. something nice to take around as a family to all our friends and neighbors. So many of our friends have great traditions they make each year. My friend Gwen bakes delicious Challah braids. Our old friend Valerie has mastered homemade caramels. My mom and dad make wonderful candied pecans. We haven't quite figured out one thing we want to make each year.

JR sometimes reminds me of the year I decided to make gingerbread cookie families for about twenty of our nearest and dearest (a big gingerbread dad and mom and small gingerbread children to represent each member of the family we were delivering it to). I was about 8 months pregnant at the time and spent about three days working on my gingerbread dough, rolling out the cookies, cutting and baking and then painstakingly decorating each gingerbread person, and packing them into boxes. It was a little crazy and added much to the holiday stress at our house.

Since then I have tried to think of things we can give that are thoughtful, but maybe don't demand quite as much time and effort as those gingerbread cookies did. This year we made New Years Eve Kits. Most of our friends have small children and won't be out partying too hard. We know most of them will be home watching movies and playing games and trying to make the night feel festive (while still tucking their kids in by 10!).

We bought a few 4-packs of sparkling apple cider, then hit the local party store for noisemakers, balloons, blowers, poppers and some sparkly confetti. We packed everything up in a clear party bag and delivered it with a bottle of Martinelli's.

Happy New Year!


the family gift swap

Both JR and I come from large families (there are six children in my family and five in his) so buying Christmas gifts for each and every sibling (and their spouses, and their children) has never quite worked for us.

The past few years in JR's family we have had a theme for our gifts, which has worked out really well. Two years ago we all gave each other board games (some of our family favorites are Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Settlers of Cattan). Last year we were inspired by the Favorite Things party I had just attended, where each person brings their "favorite" thing. Each family was to gather some of their favorite things and send it to their assigned family. You can see our gift from JR's older sister in the photo above. Each little package included some favorite thing from each person in their family (minty M&M's are a favorite of Dad's, mom loves scented candles, etc.) The kids had a great time unwrapping each one and learning about their cousin's and aunt's and uncle's favorites.

For our Favorite Thing, we shared our ritual of Tea Time, something JR and I were trying to do every few nights. We had gotten into a bad habit of putting the kids to bed and then retreating to our computers, to finish up emails and catch up on work. Some nights we would watch a show, but we both felt like we weren't really spending time together in the evenings (even if we were both in the same room). Tea Time was our solution.

The note read: After the children are tucked in bed and fast asleep, we take turns boiling the water on the stove and getting out the tea bags. We fill our mugs with hot water and let the tea steep, then stir in a little sugar. Tea takes some time to cool, so we sit and talk at the table while we sip our tea and discuss the business of our family. Sometimes we take the time to play a game. After a busy day, it's just nice to sit down together and talk for a minute. We hope you'll think so too.

We included two nice shaped mugs from Pottery Barn (perfect for sipping tea) and a pack of our favorite tea (our new favorite is Tazo's Wild Sweet Orange Tea.. it is delicious!) and our favorite card game (Coloretto).

How do you handle gift swaps in your family? Do siblings buy for each other? What about cousins? Because we now have about 18 children between us, we have the cousins do a swap too. We've tried different things, like the year we had everyone make cards for each other (not as big a thrill for the kids as we had hoped!). But the past few years we have done a book swap, each child picking out a book they think their assigned cousin would enjoy. So far, so good.


inchmark holiday cards

I know I'm late to the party, and you're probably one of those people who has already written, addressed, stamped, and mailed your cards off. (I aspire to be you one of these days, but alas, it hasn't happened yet!) But if you are a procrastinator like I am, I wanted to share the holiday cards I designed for Tiny Prints this year... there's still plenty of time to mail out some cards to your loved ones.

I feel pretty strongly about sending out cards. I know that they cost money, and it's just one more thing to do when you're already so busy. And in this digital age, I know you can just say "Happy Holidays" on your Facebook page and consider yourself good (though I consider that cheating). I don't write family letters (like the funny ones my dad used to write), and we don't always include a picture (sometimes that's the hardest part of getting a card together) but we send out SOMETHING each year. Some are more elaborate than others. And some years they get there a little after Christmas (whoops!). But I think my friends and family understand.

Those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite of the whole year. I love getting cards in the mail each day, I love seeing how my friends have changed and how their kids look so much like them. I love reading the sometimes cheesy letters that detail each big event of the past year. I love cards in every form: letterpressed, foil stamped, homemade, or bedazzled. I just love that someone took the time to send me a card in the mail.

Do you agree? Or do you think cards are an aniquated tradition? Are emails and digital PDFs the new way to go? What will you be sending out to your friends and family this year? I'd love to hear. 


Links to my cards on Tiny Prints:

Silent night, Holy night card

Joy (4 child option)

Christmas Tree family

Joy (3 child option)


a fall wedding

The leaves are finally changing here, just in time to make it feel a little bit like Fall right before Thanksgiving. Their pretty colors and shapes reminded me of my brother-in-law Justin and his darling wife Sarah's wedding, which happened two years ago this very week.

They asked me to design a simple wedding announcement, and we thought the fall leaves were a nice starting point. Three different colors of leaves with the text in a nice brown. I also printed some matching stationery for them to use as thank you cards.

Sarah was a strikingly beautiful bride. I loved her short pixie cut (she looked just like a young Mia Farrow).

It was also super windy and really COLD, and it had been snowing off and on all week. But what bride wants to wear a coat? Sarah is a dancer and naturally wore knit leg warmers.

My favorite part was instead of having traditional wedding cake, they had a tower of creme brulee. The day before the wedding the bride and groom made batch after batch. I loved how they stacked them up so it still felt like a wedding cake (though much more delicious in my opinion!).

Happy Anniversary Justin and Sarah!


dad turns seventy

My dad recently turned seventy (!) and my mom and I wanted to do something special for him. Dad didn't want a big party, and he and my mom were going to be out of town on his actual birthday, so we decided to give him a gift that would continue all month long.

I printed 70 postcards on thick cardstock (110 lb.), each with a different number between 1 and 70. My mom helped gather addresses for seventy of the important people in my dad's life: family members, old classmates, dear friends and all his grandchildren. Included in the envelope was a card explaining that it was dad's birthday, and that they needed to send the postcard back sharing their funniest memory of Skip. To make things easy, I pre-addressed and pre-stamped the postcards so all they had to do was write a quick note on the back and toss the card in the mail.

When my dad got home a few days after his birthday, there were a handful of cards in his mailbox. He was surprised and delighted. And then the next day there were a few more cards, and the day after that, a few more. This continued on for the rest of the month until he had quite a stack. I hadn't asked people to stagger when they mailed their cards, that just happened naturally. Some of the notes were heartfelt and quite moving, others were funny, bringing up memories my dad hadn't thought about in years. I especially loved reading what his grandchildren wrote. All in all, a pretty inexpensive gift (postage was our main expense) and one I think my dad will remember for quite some time.


gumball machine

When I was in New York a few weeks ago, my friend Sara Clifton was telling me about her daughter Lucca's request to be a gumball machine for Halloween. Sara had no idea how to turn her daughter into a gumball machine, but Lucca was adamant, and I was not offering any helpful advice (balloons? a plastic bag?).

Here is her brilliant solution:

1. Make a red skirt.

2. Add gumball machine components (like a coin plate, knob and hole) made from felt.

3. Buy a couple plastic bowls and plate from the dollar store. You'll need one large clear bowl to make the gumball bowl, one plate with the same diameter as the large bowl, and one smaller bowl.

4. Hot glue the small bowl to the center of the plate. This will help eat up some of the space in the large bowl, so you don't have to fill the entire thing with gumballs (which would be too heavy for a little girl to wear).

5. Fill the larger clear bowl halfway with gumballs, and then press the plate (now glued to the small bowl) on top like a lid. Hot glue them together.

6. Glue some red ribbon around the bowl and attach ribbon to help support the weight of the bowl. 

7. Add a red beanie for the lid of the gumball machine.

As you can see, Lucca was quite pleased with the final result. Hooray for handmade costumes! (And thank you to Sara, for sharing her how to with us.)


why we love halloween

Friday night JR and I were busy sewing Halloween costumes for the kids. It was late, too late, and we were tired. A few times I looked over at JR as he was taking measurements and cutting fabric, and thought.. Why do we do this to ourselves each year?

I guess it's just become part of the tradition of Halloween in our family. Some people go all out with lawn decorations. Some people bake delicious pumpkin treats all October long. But for our family, we make our costumes. We try to use things we have already, or will use again after Halloween. And we try to keep the sewing (and cost) to a minimum. We think a clever costume is better than an elaborate one. And we try to convince the kids to be something unique (though we often fail).

There's just something great about homemade costumes. I like rummaging through our drawers and seeing what we can come up with. I love that the kids get to pick what they want to be and mom and dad make it happen. I know they won't always want to have us make their costumes, so we are enjoying it while we can. And when I look back at pictures from Halloweens past, I remember why we stay up late sewing and glueing and tinkering. Is it worth it? Oh yes, and then some.


the bowling trophy

JR's family lives far away from us, so we only get together once every year or so. And when we do... we bowl. No one is very good at bowling, but bowling is an easy-to-organize, not-too-expensive activity that most everyone enjoys. kids and adults alike. We take over a few lanes, usually in the morning mid-week when the place is empty. You jump up to bowl when it's your turn, but the rest of the time is spent talking and helping the kids knock down some pins.

There are great bowling alleys in small towns everywhere. I especially like the old school ones that haven't been touched since the 1970's. Orange and white booths. Color blocked leather shoes. League scores for the past 20 years posted on the walls. A few old arcade games in the corner. (The photos below were taken at one of my favorite places to bowl: Holiday Lanes in Heber, Utah.)

About 10 years back when JR and I were first married, we stopped by a trophy shop and made a Reynolds Family Bowling Trophy. I think it cost us about $10. The trophy is awarded to the person with the highest score, and the lucky winner gets to proudly display their trophy all year long until we bowl again. No one will admit that they actually want the bowling trophy, but I think it makes the game a little more exciting. Uncle Troy was the winner this year when we played in Oregon, but we think we can take him down the next time we play.


a beehive for bee

It was "Crazy Hair Day" at school a few weeks ago, and I remembered this cute story we did at Martha Stewart Kids with a beehive (which seemed appropriate for Bee!). I know some schools don't allow costumes on Halloween, but maybe you can get away with some fun hair?

The hair gets divided into 5 ponytails and braided with yellow yarn. (I found this video tutorial very helpful). One tip: Don't skimp on the yarn, it says you need 50 pieces, but I got tired of cutting and only used about 30. As a result Bee's beehive was not as tall as it should have been, the yarn is adding color but also volume to the hair.

Then you pile the braids on top of each other to form the beehive, securing them in place with bobby pins. (a LOT of bobby pins!)

Add some paper bees attached to pipe cleaners (or make your bees out of pom poms if you happen to have some around) and you'll all set. The whole thing took about 20 minutes from start to finish, and made Bee a very happy kindergartener.