Passing on Treasured Keepsakes

Passing on Treasured Keepsakes
The Holidays are now bearing down on us with all the speed of a jetliner.  My husband recently scaled back his Christmas cookie projections, which in years past have been pretty ambitious.  This year he’s going with what he considers to be the three essentials: chocolate chip (from the Fannie Farmer cookbook), Spice Cookies (the recipe for which, if the family lore is to be believed, dates back more than three centuries on his mother’s side), and linzer cookies (clipped from a magazine 30 years ago).

The recipes are easy to reference, as they’ve been framed and occupy a place of relative prominence in our dining room.  They were glued decades ago onto a sheet of typing paper (you can still see the watermark on the back if you take the time to remove the page from its frame), along with a recipe for biscotti and another for smoking bishop.  Smoking bishop, or just “Bishop” or “The Bish” if you’re talking to Andrew or his brother, is a traditional holiday punch.  Their recipe is (again according to the family lore) the same one prepared in the household of Charles Dickens.

It’s an acquired taste.

The frame is part of a set.  Next to it is its fraternal twin, which completes the list of his favorite family dishes.  The recipes for crumb pie and spaghetti and meatballs were both typed on a typewriter, and not a particularly pricey one from the looks of them.  The latter is stained with drops of ancient tomato sauce.  I like to wonder whether his Italian great-grandmother prepared the recipe for her husband (a mason) and their four children every few weeks, or whether it’s something his mom picked up decades ago from a friend or magazine and threw into the family cookbook.

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Lasting Holiday Traditions

I’m getting ready for Thanksgiving.  It’s my husband Andrew’s favorite holiday and he’s agreed to give me all the others if I give him carte blanche for that weekend.  It’s a steep price, but I’m pretty sure I come out ahead in the end.

I have a love-hate with the holiday.  First, the good part: Andrew’s brother arrives.  Morgan is an amazing chef (and conversationalist. Ladies, if you haven’t found a keeper yet…).

That’s not to say that Andrew isn’t.  He’s a fantastic cook, and I’m lucky to come home to a warm dinner most nights (and on the others I usually enjoy the leftovers).  But there’s really good food, and then there’s…well, Morgan’s food.  He probably should have been a chef.

Around Monday I start skipping lunch, hoping that come Thursday I’ll have saved up enough calories to justify participating in the upcoming meal.  By Tuesday I’ll doubt that it will happen, and by Wednesday I don’t really care anymore.  All I can think about are Morgan’s brined turkey, the stuffing (from a recipe that’s four hundred years old, if you believe the family lore) and Andrew’s indescribable apple pie.

Okay, I know the tradition, but he won’t hold with pumpkin.  If you want his reasons be prepared for an earful.

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What it means to be Heirloom, what it means to be something unique

We had our first official snowfall of the winter this week, which means that my husband’s garden has gone from being officially “on its last legs” to officially “dead.”  It’s been six weeks since our last tomato and although by this time I’m tired of eating kale and brussel sprouts, it still makes me sad.  Five or six months (at best) until our next fresh greens, which translates to five or six months of grocery store produce.  Not that our grocery store and local food co-op don’t stock the good stuff.  It’s just that once you’ve eaten straight from the garden it’s a hard adjustment going back.
Unique greeting cards

Andrew’s been taking the loss particularly hard.  We’ll talk while he’s cooking in the evening and without warning he’ll transition from chatting about how our days went to lamenting our lack of fresh apples and heirloom veggies.

I still don’t get his fixation with heirlooms, and it drives him crazy.

“What is there not to understand?” he asked the other night.  “You of all people should get this.”

I’m not a Foodie (though I’ve eaten enough meals to know his are better than average!), and I pointed this out.

“It’s not about being a Foodie or not being a Foodie.  It’s about having a love and a…respect, I suppose, for something unique.”

And he’s right.  I, of all people, should understand.

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Kids Birthday Party Ideas: Start Your Engines!

This year nothing was more fitting than a race car birthday party theme for our three year old son, Alex Archer! I was able to create the perfect invite and decorations for his party at Pear Tree, making for a memorable party, once again.

Here are all the printed pieces I used, and I will show you below, in more detail, how I used them at the party to create these fun kids birthday party ideas you can do, too!
Kids birthday party ideas

I love how the Race Is On Kids’ Birthday Invitations turned out. The checkered flags and race car details in the design looked perfect with the photo of Alex, and I thought it was really fun to put his stats and the year’s recap on the back of the invite.
Kids birthday party ideasKids birthday party ideas

I ordered two sets of the Race Is On Table Décor and it was the perfect amount for all the decorating ideas I had in mind. I used checkerboard-patterned duct tape to hang a set of table décor on the door to greet our guests. I also punched holes in the table décor and strung them up for another decoration!
Kids birthday party ideas

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Tips for Fabulous Pet Pictures

Pet pictures
Isn’t it adorable when your pet rolls over and is begging for a belly rub, or sits pretty with their tongue hanging out just waiting for you to toss their favorite toy? These are the moments that are worth capturing. Your pets are part of your family, and their irresistible cuteness deserves a special place on your holiday card this year.

My boyfriend and I have two pups, and I am constantly snapping pics of them with their sweet puppy expressions. This year my holiday card will be splashed with puppy photos, since my friends and family love seeing my pups nearly as much as I do. So here’s a few tips, from one pet lover to another, that will help you take fantastic pet pictures to accent this year’s holiday card.

1. Pick a location
Pet pictures
Find a unique building for your pets to sit in front of, a beautiful nature scene or some unique flooring that complements their fur color. Make sure your location isn’t so enticing that it distracts from your furry friend. After all, you’re taking photos of your pet, not the location.

2. Bribery is a must (a.k.a. treats and toys).
You know your pets will do anything for a treat. So when you need them to stop being their usual hyper selves and sit still, don’t be afraid to bribe them with a treat or a favorite toy. Just hold your bribe of choice up next to your camera or balance it on their nose (if your pet can do tricks), and you’ll have their full attention.

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Derby-Themed Bridal Shower Ideas

Even though California Chrome had already been in the winner’s circle of the Kentucky Derby a few months before, this bride loved her Lucky in Love derby-themed shower, complete with fancy dresses and big, floppy hats traditionally worn at the race. To set the tone and tie all the bridal shower ideas together, the bride-to-be chose Off to the Races Bridal Shower Invitations.
Bridal shower ideas

Before heading to the track, all of the guests met at a local restaurant for lunch and to shower the bride with gifts. The table was sprinkled with photos of the bride growing up, along with pink and gold accents using the Gold Faux Glitter Small Table Decor. At each place setting were small favor boxes adorned with a golden horse and a ribbon stamped with each guest’s name. Inside the boxes were strawberry, chocolate and pistachio flavored French macarons and lucky two-dollar bills for betting.  Continue reading

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Thank You Gift Ideas: A Special Gift for a Midwife

Like many families can attest, when you have a baby, you are so thankful for the people around you who help to ensure the safety of the birth experience. After a lot of research and discussion, my husband and I opted for a homebirth, which means our reliance and trust in our midwife had to be strong. Erika Urban of the River Valley Birth Center was amazing – she arrived at our house at 1am and little Justin Morgan Bottner was born at 6am.Thank you gift ideas

I don’t know how she does it, helping moms birth babies at all hours of the day and night, running her own midwifery business, raising four children with her wonderful husband…AND building a birth center!

Yes, this woman is truly amazing and such an inspiration. She purchased a very old home on auction and began renovations. They had to tear out walls, floors, bathrooms, everything. Yet clearly the house-turned-birth-center was coming along beautifully.

After Justin was born, we wanted to do something for her that would be meaningful, something she’d treasure for many years to come. But that’s a tough gift to buy! There are tons of thank you gift ideas out there for friends, sisters, moms, husbands, but what about midwives?! That’s when it dawned on us that the best thing would be something that reminded her of how far she’d come.

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Photo tips for creating your birth announcements

I have to say, I have completely enjoyed becoming a mother of three! Of course there are moments where life is complete chaos, but I’ve found it to be a good chaos. I think the main reason is not so much the new baby, but the realization that this is okay. I can now accept that there will always be toys on the floor, five more loads of laundry, and dishes in the sink. As a mom of three now, I’m cool with that!Photo Tips

Of course, the transition wasn’t easy….I remember the day my 3-year-old pulled frozen peas from the freezer and stomped each one into the floor. I also remember the day my 5-year-old got so mad, she put a hole in the wall from slamming the door. Ha! We definitely had a “transition” but hey, what family doesn’t? Imperfections and all, I’m loving this life.

When Justin was born, I was pretty excited to be able to send birth announcements, but you’d think I would’ve been all prepared with my favorite designs well before the baby was born…not so much. That’s the problem with working for a company like Pear Tree – there are ALWAYS new designs, and it was nearly impossible for me to narrow it down.

The most important step for me, besides choosing the design, is choosing the right photos, so I thought I’d share my process and a few photo tips for organizing and editing them with you.

First, I copy all the photos that I might use to their own folder – this keeps everything separated and easy to navigate. Then I start the editing process. I use Picasa, a free service that is really simple to use. There are tons of free systems online – I like this one because it helps to organize and identify the people in the photos. For each of the 10 or so photos that I really like, I do the following:

  1. Brighten with Fill Light. I love to do this because it removes the imperfections easily and adds a glow to the photo.
    Creating your birth announcements from photo tips to birth announcement designs #peartreegreetings
  2. Contrast with Shadows. Depending on how dark or light I want my photos, I’ll play with this until it looks right. With the original photo here on the left, you can see that adding a bit of Fill Light and Shadows really enhanced the image. I don’t do any Cropping at this stage because I may need some of the outer edges of the image for the card.
    Creating your birth announcements from photo tips to birth announcement designs #peartreegreetings
  3. Next I might try making it a Black and White photo, which is as simple as a single button. Sometimes there I’ll play with the Fill Light and Shadows again to make sure the photo looks perfect.
    Creating your birth announcements from photo tips to birth announcement designs #peartreegreetings
  4. And last, I add a Blur photos to really draw the eye to the moment of the photo rather than the patterns and textures around the edges.
    Creating your birth announcements from photo tips to birth announcement designs #peartreegreetings
    Creating your birth announcements from photo tips to birth announcement designs #peartreegreetings

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Boy’s Birthday Party Ideas: Shark Party!

This year for my boys’ joint birthday party we went with a shark theme. The boys didn’t really have their hearts set on anything special (okay, my oldest would have done another superhero party like last year, and my youngest would have done something construction related…but I wanted to do something new :)), so we sat down at the computer and browsed through the birthday party invitations on Pear Tree’s site for inspiration. They immediately loved the mask designs and especially the shark theme! And so, the planning began…

Although the Shark Mask Kids Birthday Invitation didn’t require any photos, I still wanted to do a mini photo shoot with the boys so we could have photos displayed on the day of the party. I found the perfect shirts and we were set!
Shark birthday party ideas from #PearTreeGreetings! #kidsbirthdaythemes #birthdayparty #kidsbirthday

Once we had our theme, the décor and party items came together pretty quickly. I ordered matching ‘Shark’ table décor and posters, then pulled the red and aqua colors from the invite into the serving pieces wherever I could.
Shark birthday party ideas from #PearTreeGreetings! #kidsbirthdaythemes #birthdayparty #kidsbirthday

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Winter Warm Up Birthday Party

Winter Warm Up Birthday Party - hot chocolate bar #peartreegreetings #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday
With the winter we are having in Minnesota, an outdoor party is out of the question. My niece has a March birthday and every year we struggle to come up with indoor birthday party ideas. This year for her 6th birthday we decided to embrace the cold. Our theme was “Baby, it’s cold outside,” and we decided to stay indoors and have each guest create a canvas craft project. We emphasized the theme with snowflakes on our invitations and a hot chocolate bar for the birthday treat!

Winter Warm Up Birthday Party - the theme begins with the kids birthday invitation #peartreegreetings #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday
Pear Tree’s Snow Day Vertical Christmas Cards with white snowflakes printing over the full photo made perfect winter birthday party invitations. We added Avery’s photos and changed the text to spell out the party details to invite everyone to the celebration.

Winter Warm Up Birthday Party - hot chocolate bar #peartreegreetings #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday
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