pixie on the shelf

There's an elf on my shelf? He better keep those books in alphabetical order!

Some of my favorite Christmas decorations have been with me since childhood. Leather reindeer, a very worn out Santa Claus container (for secret stashes of candy), and an elf or two. Some favorites have not made it through the years. One unfortunate toy was an inflatable Santa Claus that I often used as a punching bag when I was small. There finally came a Christmas when my father could not patch him up, but he graced our home well into my teens.

This Christmas, I've decided to take some shots of a few of my favorite things. This pixie is one of my favorite decorations / childhood playthings and has been around long before the current "elf on the shelf" craze. He's been on the mantels of cardboard and brick fireplaces, under the tree, in the tree, at the breakfast table, on the desk, and just about everywhere in between. This year, he decided to hang out in front of some Harry Potter books. Hopefully, he will not get into too much mischief there. As far as I know, he has never tattled on me to Santa. He doesn't roll like that. My father, who had a great sense of humor, picked up that wonderfully shiny MJ glove somewhere, and then placed it on Pixie's hand. Stylin! He has not taken the glove off since.

Toys and decorations that have a history bring back wonderful memories. Just seeing this Pixie's smile reminds me of how exciting the Christmas season can be, and how extraordinarily happy a child's heart can be over the simplest of things. Must be a little of that Pixie dust and that old Christmas magic.

christmas card time

xmas card front
I’d advise any business person who plans to send holiday cards to think about card design well in advance of the holiday season. Sending cards can be fun. Scrambling to get them designed at the last minute — a lot less fun.

I seem to recall saying last year that I would take more holiday photos so I had more choice for a photograph this year for my holiday card. Well, although I took lots of family photos, I never did take a lot more photos that I felt comfortable using for this project. I experimented with a few of them — and a few different designs — but decided to save them for another day. I opted to get away from the photo card again this year and designed this year’s card using text and illustration.

xmas card inside
The two things I did accomplish this year were to set aside time early on to create a card and to create the illustration myself for a change. I am happy to say, I hit my deadline of sending my cards off to print before Thanksgiving. I may even have them in hand before Thanksgiving! (With a little more planning, I may get them done before Halloween next year.)

adding artwork to a design

At the beginning of November I decided it was time to get cracking on my own Christmas card. In last year’s card, I took some of my random photos and placed them into an accordion fold template. This year, I wanted to do something different and toyed with a few ideas. Initially I had an idea that would have required many photos that I did not have in my own archives.

So I turned to istockphoto.com which is a great, inexpensive source of photographs and illustrations. You can purchase credits and then use those credits to purchase artwork or photographs that can be used when designing marketing materials. (Some work is available, at a higher price, to place on products to resell.)

I was reluctant to use stock photos for all the obvious reasons, so I soon turned my focus to Christmas illustrations and found some that I loved and that fit in well with one of my ideas. I opened up the downloaded document (which contained 13 major icons plus a flurry of snowflakes) in Illustrator. This allowed me to make some color adjustments, pull out the desired Christmas icons, or alter parts of the icons to suit my purpose.

Since I’m more fluent in Photoshop than Illustrator and could easily send a Photoshop file to my destination printer, I opted to create the entire card in Photoshop, although I could have created it in InDesign or Quark and then placed the artwork into the layout.

My first step in Photoshop was to create a nice blue background based on my PMS color (reflex blue) for the front and back of the card. Back in Illustrator, I changed the color of the snowflakes from a pale green to a light blue and then placed them into my Photoshop document on several layers, resizing some of the original flakes to fill in.

Turning my focus to the back of the card, (bottom half shown above) I pulled in the North Pole icon onto a new layer. On subsequent layers, which I then placed behind the North Pole layer, I created a few snowbanks with the Pen tool, using the gradient tool to add some shading to the snow banks. I made sure to leave the card mostly white towards the left and bottom and added my logo and information there so it would stand out best.

I reversed the colors on the inside of the card, leaving it mostly white with some blue accents. The red and green colors of the icons set against the blue and white backgrounds gave the card contrast and punch.The process of designing the entire card took some time, but I had a lot of fun putting this together. And this Christmas, I plan to take more pictures so I have my own, more varied stock of Holiday photos for next year should I choose to use a photo or two on a card!

all i want for christmas...

underwear on head
Sometimes all a kid wants is her Scooby Doo underwear and a soft toy to hug. I love taking pictures of kids, because you never know what they’re going to do next.

After an afternoon of shooting more posed photos, and in the aftermath of opening presents, this cutie chose to run around with two of her favorite things: Scooby Doo underwear which, as you can see, makes for interesting head wear, and her recently acquired Lily the talking frog (a gift from me).

After 100 or so recitations of numbers and ABCs, apparently Lily the frog can prove to be annoying to her mother, my goddaughter, in both English and Spanish, or so I’ve been told. Hey, I could have bought a drum set...

Hope the holidays are happy for you and all your dreams come true!