the finished product (and what to do with your old christmas cards)

Okay, I’ve mentioned I geek out a bit every year over Christmas cards.  Case in point, this is a video I made last year, talking about the way I curate all of the Christmas cards we get every year.  Please to be amazed at my crafting skills and the quality of this video:

Disclosure: I am two years behind on this project and currently have two boxes full of Christmas cards I need to glue to the scrapbook pages.

I did finally order and receive all of our Christmas cards, which I’m pretty stoked about, because most years it is something I am frantically doing on December 22 in the hopes that by some Christmas miracle I can drop them at the post office and have them arrive at the homes of my friends and family before Christmas Day.  I’m determined to get them off earlier this year so I can save the frantic late nights leading up to Christmas Eve for OTHER crises.

I’m also opting out of writing a Christmas letter.  I’ve been writing a satirical Christmas letter for the past ten years, and while it has been a lot of fun, it’s also always been a source of stress.  In many ways, the feedback about that letter every year was what finally pushed me into starting a blog.  But I found that writing one funny thing for the entire year was much easier before I started blogging on a regular basis.  The well is dry, people.  So, there will be no funny Christmas letter this year.  And I’m okay with that.

I think.

Until certain people announce on facebook how they can’t wait to get my annual Christmas letter.  And then I feel like I should just suck it up and write one.  And then I have a talk with myself about boundaries and people-pleasing.  And then I watch Sister Wives to take my mind off it all.


Here is the finished product:

pear tree finished

pear tree purple christmas card

I just couldn’t choose between the great photos Trever took, so I loved this card that had a collage feel.  I also loved that it had room for a photo of each kid individually on the back, and several customizable text areas where I could write a short note, record the kid’s ages, and point people to my blog to keep up with us.  These cards are from Pear Tree Greetings– a newer company that reached out to me and offered to try some cards for free.  I’m so glad they did because I really loved their selection, and the fact that I could change the background colors and add so many pictures (you can see that the final card colors are a bit different than the ones I was playing with above). 

 Pear Tree Greetings also has flat cards and folded cards in a variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary.   Also – there is a great selection of cards made of recycled cardstock.  The pictures really don’t do them justice.  I’m thrilled with the quality and I feel like these are just our style.

Mark and Kristren Howerton Christmas Card 2011

I’m curious – what do you do with the Christmas cards you get?  How do you display them in your house?  I need some ideas beyond taping them to our sliding glass door.  And what do you do when the season is over?  Do you (gasp) pitch all the cards you get?  Or do you have a system for curating them?

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let’s talk holiday music

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, and officially broke out the Christmas music.  I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music. It makes me feel all warm and glow-y for about a week, and then I grow totally sick of it and don’t want to hear it again for another year.  I think a part of this is the fact that, really, it’s pretty much the same 25-30 songs being recycled into different versions and genres every year.  Growing up, my parents listened to the same couple of albums each Christmas: Manhiem Steamroller, Sandy Patty, Anne Murray, Statler Brothers, and Handel’s Messiah.  If you are guessing those are not on repeat play in my adult years, you would be correct.  Last year I discovered some great Christmas channels on Pandora.  This year, I’m geeking out on Spotify and trying to come up with the ultimate Christmas playlist.  Here are a few on our rotation right now:


This is my favorite.  It’s quirky and different, with a lot of old hymns sung in an alt-rock style.  Mark finds it annoying.  But then again, Mark typically listens to John Denver and Jim Croce.  So I think he’s shot his credibility on calling out annoying music.






I have no idea where I got this album initially (Urban Outfitters?), but I’ve had it since 2002 and it’s the one Christmas album I could listen to year after year.  It’s a random mix of artists from Coldplay to Ben Folds.  And it’s not on Spotify which makes me very sad.


I do realize that Glee is an acquired taste but my kids and I loved their Christmas album last year, and I’m thrilled they made another one this year. Of course, I would be happy with an entire album of just the Warblers doing covers of holiday fare. I’m with Wita on this one.



This is a nice album that has mass appeal and classic Christmas songs.  Good for dinner parties or family gatherings.  If you don’t think Josh’s voice is dreamy you may not be human. 



I’m excited stoked to check out Megan’s playlist of holiday classics, and Tracey’s got a great (free!) indie-rock Christmas playlist on her blog.

What are your favorite Christmas albums?  What do I need to add to my Ultimate Holiday Playlist 2011?

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gifts that give back 2011

In a season marked by giving, I love the idea of giving back to our community and our planet. A few years ago, my family decided to forego gifts for the adults, and give donations in each person’s name instead. It’s been so fun thinking of each family member and finding ways to honor each of them with a unique donation.

Here are some great ways you can do your Christmas shopping and give back at the same time.


Ever/After Clothing


Ever/After is a casual lifestyle clothing brand for kids and adults.  They’ve paired simple, modern design with super-soft premium fabrics.  My kids love their t-shirts and cozy leggings and yoga pants.  Best of all, the company will donate 25% of the net profit from each garment you buy to the cause of your choice. We've partnered with charities that share our vision of creating powerful & sustaining change in the lives of children in need. We believe helping others can extend to all areas of our lives, even the clothing we buy. Every garment comes with a change the story card that holds the value of this donation.  A huge aspect of ever/after is to get the children involved in giving back. Our goal is that children wearing our brand realize that helping others can extend to all areas of our lives, even the clothing we buy. So when you are entering your scratch off code online, take your daughter, son, niece, nephew, and cousin, whoever it might be, take them with you. Have them enter the code online, and show them how they are helping to change the story.

ever after clothing


SlowColor Scarves

Slowcolor is a fair-trade company allowing weavers in India to work using traditional weaving techniques for a fair wage.  Their scarves are soft, beautiful, and made of non-toxic dyes.




Krochet Kids

krochet kids

I am so in love with Krochet Kids.  Not just because their hats are perfect for hiding my unwashed hair at school drop-off.  And not just because my friend Sarah and her husband Blake are pioneering their program in Peru.  What I love about Krochet Kids is that it’s a company that is empowering impoverished people to earn an income for themselves.  Krochet Kids offers 3 year programs to women living in poverty. In this program, the women learn to krochet hats to earn an income and be able to fully support themselves for the first time in their lives. Based in Uganda and Peru, the hats are sold in the US, on their website and at most Nordstroms.


31 Bits

In addition to being cute and fashion-forward, 31 Bits Jewelry is made out of 100% recycled paper, posters, and magazines by internally displaced women in Northern Uganda. Each piece of jewelry is unique and hand-crafted by a woman in the community of Gulu, Uganda

31 bits


Not for Sale

The NOT FOR SALE store generates enterprise & employment to prevent human trafficking and create new futures for survivors. Every purchase you make is an action to end slavery --- because no one should be for sale.  Journals, bags, and scarves that give freedom.

not for sale


Haitian Creations


Haitian Creations is a program of Heartline Ministries. The bags and purses from Haitian Creations are handmade by women in Haiti, who are a part of a sewing program that is giving these impoverished women lifelong skills. The ability to earn money gives these women the ability to be self-sufficient, to support their families, and to have the independence they need in a society where this is often difficult.  Each artist's name is on a tag in the purse that she made. Soon, you will be able to look up the artist of your purse on the website and see her picture and story.


Heart for Haiti at Macys

heart of haiti

The Heart of Haiti line at Macys allows artisans in Haiti to produce beautiful handcrafts that are then sold in department stores throughout the US.  Partnered with Fairwinds Trading and BrandAid, artisans receive half the wholesale price of every item in the collection.


Rescue Gifts

Rescue Gifts help refugees and others who have been impacted by war and natural disaster. Holiday shoppers can choose a gift that inspires them and dedicate it in honor of a special person in their lives. The IRC will send gift recipients a beautiful acknowledgement card with the gift giver’s personalized message.


There’s a perfect gift for everyone: for a mom: A Safe Delivery ($24) can ensure critical supplies for the safe birth of a child in a crisis zone.  For the foodie or friend with a green thumb: A Community Garden ($60) can provide tools and seeds to refugees who have been resettled in the United States, so that they can grow their own fresh, healthy food in an IRC community garden.   For a teacher:  A Year of School ($52) can supply the tuition, books and other materials for one year of a child’s schooling in a country recovering from war.  

Rashida Jones for IRC Rescue Gifts from International Rescue Committee on Vimeo.


Leakey Collection Jewelry

The Leakey Collection was founded in 2002 by Katy and Philip Leakey.  Their work includes the design and manufacture of contemporary jewelry that is hand made by the Maasai women and men of Kenya from environmentally sustainable materials.


The flagship item of the collection- Zulugrass.  Zulugrass is light weight, durable and versatile. Depending on the color and amount of strands worn the look can be as subdued or as colorful you want. The Leakey Collection is available in over 1200 stores nationwide or online.


World Vision

World Vision has an amazing gift catalog where you can buy a number of innovative and sustaining gifts for people living in poverty. Their website even allows you to purchase and print a card letting a loved one know you have donated in their name. You can purchase medical attention for a pregnant woman, a goat that can provide milk to a child – even a grove of fruit trees!



Whipped Body/Hair Butter

Kiara makes homemade whipped body and hair butters as a fundraiser for their next adoption.  Not only is it a great cause, but the body butters are a product you will probably order again and again.  These butters are homemade with organic, unrefined ingredients, for maximum nourishment for skin and hair.  They are wonderful for all skin types, but especially for children of color with dry skin or eczema.  We use these lotions exclusively for our kids, and they also work nicely to keep African hair moisturized.  My boys are partial to the chocolate peppermint scent.


Give Prints

Give Prints is a for profit company working to give financially to various non profits (501c). Just as one values the beauty of a print, Give Prints values the beauty of lives changed, and gives 50% of their profits to help love people around the world.

The heart of Give Prints is to help people send love to others through the purchasing of ohoto prints. It was born out of a photographer's desire to help fellow photographers publicize their work while helping worthy organizations that are already reaching out to people all over the world. The photographers showcased on the site gave their talents to give to their charities.


Compassion International


Your gift will help provide clean drinking water, medical treatment, disaster relief, food supplies and much more for Compassion-assisted children and their families.Once you purchase a gift, you will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of complimentary greeting cards to send to your honorees. For a last-minute gift option, you can print a card at home or send via email.


Collaborative World Brand


CW-Collaborative World is a for-profit apparel company that exists to support the non-profit organization. We call it a "Co-Profit". We are founded on Extraordinary Giving and donate 50% of the overall profit from the sale of our clothing to Partners already doing good in the world. We exist to Amplify their efforts. Our Mission is to actively pursue new and more extraordinary ways to Give, while encouraging others to do the same. GIVING is the brand.



Punjammies are sari-inspired pajamas. Each pair of Punjammies are created in an after-care facility for women who have been rescued, released or escaped from a life of forced prostitution. Holistic aftercare involves quality medical care, emotional safety, education and the tools to create a new way of life for herself.



This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it can give you some ideas for gifts that also help others.  If you know of some other organizations that empower impoverished communities, check back next week . . . I’m hoping to do a link-up where you can submit your own ideas for ethical and charitable gifts.


occupy christmas

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occupy christmas

Well, folks, here I am again.  At your service, poised and ready to take the fun out of another holiday!

(Just kidding.  Mostly.)

Although, I AM planning on completely sitting out this Thanksgiving.  My kids whine and complain ever year about the traditional Thanksgiving fare.  I’m not really excited about cooking all day just to hear them complain about the food.  You know what I hate?  Whining.  You know what else I hate?  Cleaning my kitchen.  So we’ll be hitting the beach in the morning and then hitting a restaurant in the evening, so the kids can order chicken fingers with fries and I can eat a nice meal that I didn’t cook. Win-win.

Anyways, back to ruining holidays.  I’ve been a little fascinated with the Occupy Wallstreet movement over the past few months.  No matter your political persuasion, I think we could all agree that our country is suffering from a heavy dose of overspending and materialism, both at the corporate and the individual level.  I’ve seen some murmurings of an Occupy Christmas meme, and I really like the concept, because it’s putting responsibility back on the individual.  I compiled a list of ways that consumers can make a difference this holiday season (made pretty by the talented Heather Hamilton at Life Made Lovely):

occupy christmas

Pin It

I like the idea of taking small steps towards change.  I don’t think that anyone needs to forego Christmas, but in our current economic climate and with the fuzzy ethics of so many big corporations and banks, I do like the idea of wise spending.  I saw this video recently encouraging people to make just one fair-trade purchase this holiday season.  I really like seeing churches getting involved in fair-trade.  I truly believe that our willingness to pay a fair wage for goods is one of the best ways to address the disparity between those of us who “have” and those who “have not”.   And I’m not talking about the oft-referenced 99% right now.  Because regardless of what financial disparities we experience here in the US, 99% of us are still wealthier than most people living in third world countries, amIright?

Over the next week, I’m going to try to give suggestions for this whole Occupy Christmas thing.  I’m working on a holiday gift guide.  I do this every year, and while I will still highlight some mainstream products (finding unique developmental toys has always been a focus for the gift guide), I’m also trying to add in some gift ideas for fair-trade items, as well as toys and gifts that are from smaller businesses or handmade in the US.  I’m also going to do another gift guide solely comprised of gifts that give back, which I’m excited about.  If I get my act together, I will also host a link-up where you can submit some of your favorite etsy or micro-enterprise gift ideas, because there is no way I can cover them all.  Hopefully this can be a resource for taking some small steps towards showing big businesses that consumers really do care about the ethics behind their purchases.

Also, check out this post at the Exceptional Man – Caleb makes a compelling case against shopping on Black Friday Eve.

Now go on and have a great Thanksgiving!!  Hope that turkey was free range.



(not really)

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cultivating gratitude with our children

Keeping a perspective of gratitude is a hard lesson in life – one that many adults have not even mastered. But instilling the practice of being thankful in our children is a habit that will benefit them throughout their life: people who hold a worldview of being thankful tend to report more contentment and also tend to cope better with life’s challenges.

There are several tips for teaching your children the art of being grateful, but the most influential (and perhaps most challenging) method for developing this habit in your children is by example. Cliché as it may sound, children are keen observers of their parents’ attitude and outlook. If they hear more grumbling and complaining than appreciation, they are likely to develop this pattern themselves.


Thanksgiving is a great time to introduce traditions around being thankful, but I would encourage you to look at this season as a jumping-off point. Think about incorporating some of these ideas into the rest of the year. A child will not learn about being thankful by a couple rituals that they take part in once a year. It will need to become a part of their daily practice in order to really take root in their way of thinking.

1. Serve others – try to find ways that your children can take part in helping others. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless, or sponsoring a foster child for Christmas are all great ways to teach your child about perspective.
2. Affirm each other – Children (and adults) have a hard time being thankful when they are running on empty emotionally. Make sure that you are building them up each day so that a lack of self-esteem does not hinder their ability to be thankful. Consider doing a short round of affirmations for your children at every meal.
3. Take a perspective-building service trip. It can be easy for kids to lose perspective living in Orange County. We live in the land of privilege, and even those of us battered by the recent financial storm are still some of the wealthiest people on earth. Just several hours from our country’s borders, people are living in abject poverty. When your kids are old enough, take them on a house-building trip, or get involved in a service project in a place beyond the “orange curtain”.
4. Make your children earn things. Children who are given everything they want will have a harder time being thankful for what they have. Use age-appropriate techniques to allow kids to work for the things they want, whether it be a week of chores for a new game, or a part-time job to help pay for their car. Help your kids see the value in the things they have.
5. Regularly keep a list of things you are thankful for. A daily gratitude journal is a great habit, and something that your family could institute at the end of each day. Stopping to reflect on life’s blessings will help keep you and your children more positive and content.
6. Model saying thank you for the little things. Show your children that you don’t take the small stuff for granted. Thank your spouse for what they do each day. Thank the service people around you. Thank your child’s teacher. Give your child the example of a life that is led by appreciating others.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
- Melody Beattie

Tell me: Do you have any special traditions for highlighting an attitude of thankfulness at Thanksgiving?  How do you maintain this value throughout the year?

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check out these charity:water sponsors

The following individuals and companies made a generous donation to the Camp Mighty charity:water campaign.  I hope you will check out their sites! I’m honored to have such creative folks reading my blog and partnering with me in the effort to bring clean water to Ethiopia.  Camp Mighty raised over $25,000 to bring clean water to Ethiopia and I’m so thankful to readers who played a part in that!


Addie Talley Photography

Addie Talley is a lifestyle photographer living and working in Columbus, MS.  She specializes in children and weddings, but mainly loves to work with people.  She is an adoptive mom, and uses many of the proceeds from her work to help other families in the process of adopting.



Ever/After Clothing

Ever/after is a casual lifestyle clothing brand for kids, newborn to 12 years. We've paired simplistic design with premium fabrics in styles we would wear ourselves. We found the softest pima cotton available and designed the perfect fit. ever/after will donate 25% of the net profit from each garment you buy to the cause of your choice. We've partnered with charities that share our vision of creating powerful & sustaining change in the lives of children in need. We believe helping others can extend to all areas of our lives, even the clothing we buy. Every garment comes with a change the story card that holds the value of this donation



Giving Squared   

Giving Squared is a non-profit business where people can buy great gifts and have 100% of the profits going to missions.  Each gift purchased results in a gift to a mission….get a gift, give a gift! “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~ Matthew 25:40

Rewrite Beautiful

Rewrite Beautiful is a revolution to change with art how girls see beauty in themselves from the superficial to the concrete for the prevention of eating disorders.  Rewrite Beautiful  seeks to redefine beauty as an ACTION. Beautiful actually has nothing to do with the way you LOOK; it has to do with the way you ACT. Beauty is found in your actions of Creativity, Kindness and Strength displayed in your community. You can either go along with what everyone else thinks is beautiful, or you can be revolutionary and Rewrite Beautiful. Rewrite Beautiful creates this vision through Art Show’s, Beautiful Action Club’s and Street Art in collaboration with local schools, community groups and places of worship.

Our vision is to build a nation of revolutionary girls who don’t focus on their bodies. Instead, these girls focus on the gifts and talents they have been blessed with and figure out how to share those gifts with others. We want girls to focus on changing their communities instead of changing their bodies. Our vision is to see each and every girl say, “I’m beautiful, because I know I am creative, kind and strong. I don’t care what you think of my body, because I know I am beautiful in a way that can never be changed.” These girls would feel so confident they will step out and change their communities through kindness. They will use their creativity to bring awareness to non-profit organizations. They will use their strength to build others up by sharing their faith and their knowledge. These girls will lead the next generation of young women who also want to Rewrite Beautiful.



Girl With A Notebook      

I Val Sinclaire started blogging while coping with her husband's three year-long deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Deployments, childbirth, a gypsy life – has has lots of material for exploring some of the deeper issues of life. Which she does. . . with hope and occasional sarcasm.  You can check out her "About Me" page here.


Faithful in Flats

Arin Thompson is a paper pregnant adoptive mom, engineer/seminary student's wife, middle school teacher, Jesus freak, trying her best to navigating this narrow of following Christ. “With big dreams and a heart to change the world, all I can do is walk faithfully in my flats.”



Young, Not Powerless

Danielle blogs about the ins and outs of young married life.  “Entering my second year of marriage at 23 has proved to be as challenging as it is exciting. Since I work full-time and attend grad school in the evening, time spent with my husband is often limited. My blog, young not powerless, highlights the highs and lows of our lives together as we fight and love, make important decisions, and figure out what marriage really means.”

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what I want you to know: a plea from your single friend

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  This guest post is a cross-post Lemmonex, authored by Lexa who also writes with me at MamaPop.  She kindly let me reprint it here because I think it’s an important reminder.


Hey, you. Yes, you.

Look, I think it is great you are in a relationship. I would actually like to be in one too, so I am even woman enough to admit that sometimes I feel pangs of jealousy that you don’t have to scramble for a plus one or you talk about boyfriend/husband/family obligations while I sit around on Sunday nights and pluck out my grey hair.

But you see, you can be a bit high and mighty. And smug. And sometimes even hurtful.

I know you give me advice– advice I am not really asking for– because you mean well. You want to see me happy. And you have found happiness so you feel as if you are in a unique position to tell me how achieve bliss.

But here is the thing: It is your happiness. I don’t want your life. In fact, there are lots of things about your relationship that downright frighten me, but I don’t say anything. Because I have manners.

And that is really what this all comes down to, isn’t it? Manners. But you think you are in the superior position, that you have achieved more than me. So, you butt in and tell me who I should date or why this guy is wrong or when I should have sex and how I should behave.

But it would be rude for me to say that your marriage appears to be a trainwreck, that I think your boyfriend is a drain on society and your parenting seems subpar at best. See? Rude. If you broke up or got divorced, I would never tell you where you went wrong or admonish your decisions. My mother raised me better.

Oh, before you remind me: I know I cannot speak to your marriage or your childrearing because I couldn’t possibly understand. I got that memo, thanks.

I know, I know. This sounds angry. You know what? I am angry. Because I can’t snap back that your sex life terrifies me the next time you admonish me for texting that guy who did that thing that you didn’t like. Wouldn’t that make you angry? If someone made you feel that their choices and life were untouchable but yours was a playground for constant scrutiny?

I might sometimes need advice, but wait until I ask for it. I am going to make bad decisions. But I would really appreciate it if you stopped treating me like I am pitiable and treat me like the grown woman that I am. I assure you, I will make enough mistakes for you to rightfully criticize; maybe savor those instead of anticipating every little misstep.

Despite this rant, I am not bitter. I am weary, of course. I am tired of the dating game. I have moments of stifling loneliness that I hope one day are just a memory in the rear view. But this is my life. My crazy, wild life filled with first kisses and too many flirty emails and excessive amounts of late nights. I am happy. I am fulfilled. I like that I have time to pluck out my grey hairs and sit and chat with strangers for hours.

So, really. I appreciate what you are trying to do, but you know better. How about you keep your thoughts to yourself, m’kay?

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holiday gift guide 2011

Here are some fun gift ideas for the holiday season.  I tried to include a mix of item based on a few criteria: Some items I chose because they are unique and different (like a cardboard antler head or a gadget that makes guitar picks out of old credit cards).  I tried to include some handmade and fair-trade items (like handmade ceramics and fair-trade chocolate) and some eco-friendly items (like re-usable shopping bags and artsy dish towels).  I also included some things that I use every day (especially tech items) and a variety of children’s items that are either educational or that promote active or pretend play, as well as some fun activities for the whole family (like these free paper craft downloads or a monthly box of family activities).   In my next post, I will outline gift ideas where your dollars are used to give back.  Hopefully these can give you some new ideas and resources for gift-giving this season.

for the mamas

holiday gifts for moms 2011(1) Philosophy Grace Gift Set, (2) 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, (3) Tea Forte Ribbon Box Sampler,  (4) The Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond, (5)Pedipack Pedicure Set, (6) Epiphanie Camera Bag, (7) Manic Trout Eco-Friendly Necklace, (8) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben, (9) Taza FairTrade Chocolates,  (10) SnapSac Re-Usable Eco-Friendly Tote, (11) Wise Owl Wallet,  (12) Sony VAIO Pink Notebook PC, (13) Tea Forte Petite Warming Joy Ribbon Box, (18) Frownies Eye Gels, (14) Bubalina Organic Body Lotion, (15) Pretty: A Novel by Jillian Lauren, (16) Corkicle, (17) Luna-Reece Handmade Ceramics, (19) To Dry For Tea Towels


for the papas

best holiday gifts for dad 2011

(1) Meguiar's Complete Car Care Kit, (2) Sony High-Definition Handycam Camcorder, (3) Sole Hope Brown Leather Cuff, (4) Krochet Kids Beanie, (5) Bluetrek Car-Kit for Speakerphones, (6) Fish Eye Lens + Wide Angle Lens + Macro Lens 3-in-1 Kit For iPhone, (7) Glorious Mess by Mike Howerton


for young adults

best holiday gifts for young adults or college students 2011

(1) Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, (2) Cardboard Animal Head, (3) Guitar Pick Punch, (4) DB Logic Earphones, (5) Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, (6) Old School Camera Pencil Sharpener, (7) HTC Windows Phone, (8) The Hunger Games - Collector's Edition


for the whole family

holiday gifts for the whole family 2011

(1) A Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, (2) Wine Confits for Cheese, (3) Noonday Collection Handmade Soap, (4) Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption by Julie Gumm (5) Bananagrams, (6) HP TouchSmart 320 Desktop Computer, (7) Peanuts Christmas Pageant Nativity Scene, (8) Little Alloeutte Natural Wood Menorah and Little Alloeutte Wood Nativity Scene, (9) Macula Paper Art, (10) Gary Fong Tripod Adapter for i-Phone, (11) BabbaBox, (12) Fair-Trade Hot Chocolate


for the kids

best holiday gifts for kids 2011

(1) Angelina Ballerina Dance With Me Game, (2) Bla bla Kids Mini Violet Girl Doll, (3) Strawberry Shortcake Berry Café, (4) Crayola Color Explosion Glow Board, (5) LEGO Duplo My First Set, (6) Hape Build Your Body Layered Wooden Puzzle, (7) Hape Creative Peg Puzzle,  (8) Klutz Friendship Bracelets, (9) Road Rippers Monster Trucks and Rescue Fleet (10) Draw DC Universe: Learn to Draw the Heroes and the Villains, (11)Wonderstruck, (12) Darth Vader: A 3-D Reconstruction Log,  (13) Can You See What I See?: Toyland Express, (14) My Twinn Doll, (15) Red Balloon Time Teacher Watch, (16) PowerCapes, (17) Worx Toys, (18) My Kinda Style Tees, (19) Razor Kick Scooter , (20) Backyard Safari Base Camp Shelter and Backyard Safari Explorer Kit, (21) Mix and Match Drawing Studio, (22) The Tuneables: I Love Music! 2-Disk Set DVD/CD, (23) Toystate Dub Garage Custom Ridez: Ford Mustang 5.0, (24) Zillionz Talking Cash Register, (25) CAT Take-Apart Machines,  (26) This is Me - A Kid's First Keepsake Journal, (27) BuckleyBoo BuckleyMonkey 18" Brown

Some products were submitted to me for review prior to inclusion.  All items included at my discretion.

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family portraits 2011

Every year around this time I stress out completely over getting our family portraits done.  I obsess over the outfits, the location, and most importantly: how I can wrangle a bunch of small children into smiling and looking at the camera so I can get the quintessential tableau of the happy, carefree, perfect family that we are.  (Stop laughing). 

We’ve been through our horror days of bad Sears portraits (Exhibits A, B, and C):

A couple years ago we finally ponied up for a real photographer to take our pictures on location, and it is so worth it.  Unfortunately, our favorite photographer Drew B was totally booked by the time I called her to make an appointment (and I’ve noticed a few of my blog readers showing up in her blog of portrait sessions . . . all of you people who schedule your appointments with her in a reasonable time frame and therefore prohibited our snagging an appointment at the last minute?  You are now DEAD TO ME.) 

I finally got up the nerve to ask my friend Trever Hoehne if he would do our pictures.  I’m a fangirl of his work, but he usually photographs artsy things like album covers and fashion spreads and I didn’t know if he would relish the idea of honking a horn above his camera to get four squirmy kids to smile.  (He didn’t actually do that).  Lucky for us. he agreed to do a session.  I gave him lots and lots of warnings about how hard four kids would be, and how they might be a bit more challenging than the model-types he is accustomed to shooting.  I braced myself for a couple stressful hours of fake-smiling while uttering veiled threats under my breath to spank anyone who wasn’t looking happy. (I didn’t actually do that.)  Still, I was prepared for uncooperative children and lots of bribery.

I think we were all a little surprised by what happened next: the kids were all totally pleasant and full of smiles, and we finished the whole shoot in about 45 easy minutes.  I was shocked.  I’m hoping this is a sign of their budding maturity and not just the fact that I promised them a jellybean for every picture where they are smiling.  (It’s probably the jellybeans).

Anyways, I’m really happy with how they turned out!

THP-HF-0007THP-HF-0008  THP-HF-0014  THP-HF-0059

THP-HF-0030NTHP-HF-0065     THP-HF-0002   THP-HF-0089THP-HF-0063           THP-HF-0078THP-HF-0101   THP-HF-0092   THP-HF-0094THP-HF-0111THP-HF-0119 THP-HF-0142 THP-HF-0183THP-HF-0185  THP-HF-0133  THP-HF-0152 THP-HF-0062

THP-HF-0191THP-HF-0195 THP-HF-0201 THP-HF-0202THP-HF-0203 THP-HF-0204 THP-HF-0207THP-HF-0210THP-HF-0223

Now I just need to decided which family shot should go on the cover of the card.  Which would you choose?

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