Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Christmas Cards Sent Thanks to MyPublisher!

Everyone knows the third kid gets slighted. I remember the episode of Roseanne where DJ finds out that he doesn't have a Baby Book. Sad to say, neither does Princess E, yet. For both H&R, I made a photo album for their first birthday party chronicling the first year of their lives. In this day and age, nobody prints out photos. It has become especially difficult because you take 20 or 30 or 100 photos a time on any particular occasion because you can. The digital camera, the SLR, and now the super fast speed of the iPhone 5. So the thought of sifting through all the photos was so daunting, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Sorry E!

Boys are not amused
I thought, ok, I don't have a photo album from her first year, but I'll make a photo album out of all the great photos that will come out of her first birthday party. It was a great party but E was so exhausted she slept for 60% of it. The rest of the time, brothers H&R were jealous of all the attention E was getting so they were not cooperative with regards to photos. So no pretty photo album from her first birthday party.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas Cards? Well, I got it in my head that if I had a professional photographer (Christine Szeto, check her out!) take photos of our family, she would be able to get smiles out of my kids and some great shots which I could use for our Christmas Cards and to make a photo book for E, finally. The first time we scheduled the shoot was for the day before we were to drive 12 hours to Portland in August. I don't know what I was thinking! The day before the shoot, I called Christine begging her if we could postpone because I had a million things to take care of before our trip. Thankfully she understood and we agreed to rebook after we got back from Portland. We got back from Portland and, with Back to School activities and some crazy family drama, it was November before I got back in touch with Christine. The only date she had left was November 17th. November 17th-the Saturday before Thanksgiving. If you know that I was head manager of our college football team, then you understand what that morning means to me. The Game-the one game played by my alma mater that is televised every year, the Bulldogs vs. our hated rivals, the Cantabs. Anyway, I digress. I gave up watching The Game this year for the sake of the family Christmas photos.  I know, what a sacrifice!

My heels are covered in mud! Photo credit: Christine Szeto
Oh, but it gets better. It's raining. Just a few drops at first, but then downpour. Hey, I missed The Game for this, we are doing it! We're standing in the rain, smiling and praying that none of the kids slips in mud. Luckily Christine is standing under an awning surrounding our complex clubhouse so she doesn't get her $$$$$ camera wet. If the awning weren't there she would have had to turn back since a wet camera doesn't take very good pictures! But she's a pro and manages it. She got some great shots and we have the photos for our Christmas photo. Ok, the hard part should be over, right? No! Now I had to figure out where to get the cards done. There are so many online card services now and some of them have upwards of 200 different designs. Sometimes, more is not better. Especially when that increased choice means increased cost.

I finally decided to go with MyPublisher because it was one of the few that could get our card turned around within a week and because the prices of the individual cards were lower than that of the company we went with in the past.

Using MyPublisher was really easy, I picked the template that would go best with the photos I had in mind, uploaded the photos and then placed the photos into the card. When you place the photo you can crop and edit to make it what you want it to be. I really liked the fact that you could choose whether it would be a glossy photo or a matte card, which seems to be the trend these days. I don't know of any other site that gives you a choice per design.

MyPublisher My Projects View
I ordered the card on Monday, we received it on Saturday. We had one hour for Stewart and the boys to assemble everything and get it to the post office before it closed. So if you get a card from us before Christmas, please know that a LOT went into this card. If you don't get a card from us until afterwards or you don't get one, we were in a rush to get the addresses on so we may have missed you or made a mistake with your address, sorry! MyPublisher does offer the option to send them for you, but I knew that there were some that I needed to add things to (like H's 1st grade photo and R's drawing of a camel party) so that wouldn't work for me this time.

I'll be using MyPublisher to take the remaining photos from our family photo shoot and turn them into a memory book. I had asked Christine to take extra photos of E so she would know later that we did this mainly for her. Hopefully that will make up for the fact that she doesn't have a baby book! If you are looking for a site to create a 2012 yearbook for your family, MyPublisher currently has a promotion for new customers offering 2 for the price of 1. If you have a mother with a birthday in January like me, that might come in handy!   

I did not receive compensation for this post. I did use a coupon from MyPublisher that I received at BlogHer 2012 to facilitate my review. Founded in 1994, MyPublisher was the inventor and first marketer of high quality, single-copy, custom books at an affordable price. Since then, MyPublisher has evolved as a leading internet retailer of personalized Photo Applications to enable consumers to creatively customize, share, print, and preserve digital photographs.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Laundry Love Initiative: Christmas Gift

I asked my friend Charles Lee if I could reprint his blog post about Laundry Love, and his affirmative response is the explanation of what is below. I just wanted to share my two cents on this as well.

Do you like smelly people? Do you like homeless smelly people? Probably not. You want to get away from them as quickly as you can, as the saying goes, "smell ya later." If you think about it, yes homeless people can go to homeless shelters where they may be able to take a shower. But where can they go to do their laundry free of charge? I'm sure you don't like wearing dirty clothes. When my kids throw up on me, the first thing I want to do is change my clothes. Think about how you would feel about yourself if you had to go around smelling like that without a way to do something about it. Helping that homeless person feel confident by not having to worry about turning off people by his smell can make the difference of whether that person eventually stops being homeless.

Another story of a family that was greatly helped by Laundry Love was that of a family whose primary breadwinner lost his job. While he was searching for work, some weeks it was pay for food for a day or pay for laundry. If you haven't been to a laundromat lately, it can be pretty pricey. I was shocked when our washer broke and I had to go to the laundromat to do laundry. It was $3 for one load! (Drying was less but since our dryer wasn't broken, I don't remember exactly how much.) A family of five can easily pay $12-20 to do 4 loads of laundry. So if you have any capacity in this holiday season to give to a worthy cause that is easily overlooked, please consider donating to Laundry Love. You will really be helping Laundry Love become a force to help those who need it desperately.

Here is the text of Charles' post below (references to I = references to Charles):

A few years ago, a good friend of mine (Greg Russinger) and I launched a new organization called JustOne. It was designed to be an idea-generating organization for initiatives that would spark tangible acts of human care. One of these initiatives is called Laundry Love.

Laundry Love (LL) is an initiative of JustOne in partnership with individuals, groups and local laundromats throughout the U.S. The LL initiative helps to wash the clothes and bedding of individuals and/or families living in poverty. From the infant to the aged, and across a broad spectrum of ethnicity, culture and personal story, LL seeks to nurture the health, hygiene, economic, and relational well being of each person through intentional networking and friendship.

This Christmas season we are launching our 1st ever financial campaign for Laundry Love nationally. With the growing number of Laundry Love efforts to help resource (over 130 currently) with tools and support, we are in need of updating and expanding our web platforms so more and more people living in poverty can find a local Laundry Love effort closest to them.

We will do this by updating our mapping option on the website, but also designing and launching, a national website strictly focusing on the laundry love efforts throughout the U.S. Also, we hope to add a “laundry love app” for mobile devices in 2013.

We know that you have many charitable options this Christmas Season, we do hope you would consider partnering with Laundry Love, allowing more people to have access to clean clothes. It’s amazing to see how this simple act of providing resources for clean clothes can change the outlook, demeanor, and sense of self-dignity in the lives those who benefit from our efforts.

We hope to reach $5,000 by Christmas morning, please join us in supporting Laundry Love by clicking here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have a Good Play Kitchen Rec?

I thought I was pretty good about being non-gender specific about toys. I got my boys a doll stroller pretty early on and traded one of their little toy cars for a baby doll. They loved the stroller, more as a racing vehicle than anything else. The baby doll, not so much, they ripped off her clothes and I had to put it away so it wouldn't lose its head. The one thing they really love that is not cars or trains is pretend play with food. They would play supermarket, they would restaurant, they would do tea party, you name it. But I didn't take the plunge and buy them a play kitchen.

Now that I think about it, I really don't know why I didn't. Maybe the fact that the train table took up half the room so there really wasn't space for it. Maybe subconsciously I thought that was a "girl" thing and didn't even seriously consider it. But now that I have a little girl, I am bit ashamed of myself for depriving my boys years of play because I'm going to buy one for Toddler E. I'm sure they will all enjoy it and have fun playing chef and everything else.

If you would help me by recommending your favorite play kitchen set, I'd really appreciate it. As you know, I've been working with Wikets for over a year now. I've really enjoyed sharing the things that I love with the community and finding great things that others recommend that I never would have discovered otherwise. My boys still devour the National Geographic 2013 Kids Almanac every night. They love finding out new facts and looking things up on the phone through QR codes. I'd never even have thought to get it if I didn't see another Wikets user rec it. Wikets has just come out with a new web feature so that even if you don't have an iOS device, you can still recommend things for your friends. If you click on my wiket widget on my sidebar, you can share with me what you think would be the best play kitchen for my kiddos. You do have to join Wikets to make the recommendation but the process is easy and secure!