Monday, November 29, 2010

The history of Christmas Cards

One of the most enjoyable parts of the Christmas season is receiving greetings cards from friends and relatives. This British custom quickly found its away across the "Big Pond" and this time-saving sentiment has grown from selling a thousand copies in 1843 to untold millions today.   During the Civil War a familiar opening was, "I seat myself to drop you a few lines" and those early messages usually bore the Christmas salutation "A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You" much as ours do today.

Many of the early mass produced cards were of a floral design or seashells and butterflies and later religious themes and Santa began to appear on covers.  That tradition of eye-catching high quality continues today with your cards from Belle Announcements printed on cards of quality stock and the finest of printing standards.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow Babies!

As a mom of a winter baby, I understand the limitations on what you can do for your child’s party. You can forget the giant bounce houses in the backyard, the barbeques or the pool parties; you are having an indoor event!
Yikes! Does the idea of 15 kids running around your house make your hair stand on end? No worries!  We just need an action plan.
First, make sure you put an end time on the invitation.  Not only will this insure parents collect their children at a reasonable time, it will be your guide on how many activities to plan.  For a child’s party I would suggest a 2 hour limit, less if the child is under 5.

Assume the first 15 minutes of the party is going to be occupied greeting guests and allowing for late arrivals. You now have an hour and 45 minutes left to go.
I’m a big fan of theme parties.  It gives me a spring board for all my planning.  So for the sake of showing examples I’m going to plan a winter festival for a 5 year old.
I like having the table set up for a themed craft right off the bat.  Not only does it corral the kids, but it gives them a take away from the party.  For the next 15-20 minutes the kids will be making Paper Plate Snowmen.  You now have roughly an hour and 25 minutes left to go.  Plenty of time to let that glue dry!
The kids have been sitting for a while and getting restless, time to stand up, stretch and play some games.  Pin the carrot on the snowman, frozen snowball (hot potato) and snowball toss (bean bag toss). Depending on how many kids you have that should eat up about another 20-30 minutes.  Yay!!!! Just about an hour left!
It’s time to sing and eat some cake. Now I’m not delusional, I’d like to say that will take a bit of time. However, I’ve seen how fast a 5 year old can inhale a piece of cake. We’ll be lucky if it takes 20 minutes.  Counting down, I still have 40 minutes to fill. 
Let’s hope that opening presents will take a bit longer!  Probably about 15-20 minutes.  OK, that’s not so bad. It’s only about 20 minutes left.
There is something to be said for letting kids be kids. So I leave the last 20-30 minutes as unstructured play time. 
That’s it! They all go home and you reclaim your house. But you now have a very happy birthday girl\boy.  Makes it all worth it, doesn’t it?

Monday, November 22, 2010

3 Ways to a Greener Christmas from Little Green Bits

1.     Ditch the boxes and wrapping paper.  Purchase festive colored reusable bags or try holiday fabric instead of wrapping paper.  Or if you're crafty, make your own gift bags!
2.     Follow the three R's:  reduce, reuse and recycle.  Reuse gift bows, recycle cardboard and reduce the amount of waste you produce.  It's quite an eye opener to save all the cardboard from Christmas.  Try it and see how much lighter your trash bin will be!
3.     Choose a recycled Christmas card!  Belle Announcements offers recycled cardstock on all of their Christmas cards.  Better yet, ask for your chosen design in a postcard format.  You'll save lots of envelopes and some 'green' on your postage as well! 


Learn more about making your Christmas a Green Christmas with Holiday Postcards!


Little Green Bits

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Portrait Tips from Marissa Laurence Photography

We contacted Marissa Laurence Photography and asked for the inside scoop! Here are her top five tips for capturing a gorgeous Christmas portrait whether you are setting up the tripod or hitting the studio.

  1. Shoot outdoors in the late afternoon for the best lighting.
  2. When considering attire, keep it simple! Marissa strongly recommends not wearing patterns or stripes. 
  3. Want to take a photo that is outside the box? Dress the family in your favorite Christmas PJ's and have a blast! This makes for a really unique, one of a kind portrait. 
  4. The kids are the #1 priority. Keeping them happy means a happy portrait. Photo sessions with small kids should not last longer than an hour because the kids are naturally going to get tired and restless. Consider bringing some small prizes such as stickers, a sucker, etc. to reward them for their patience. Also remember to have non-messy snacks and drinks for the kids.
  5. Bring a brush! It's easy, it takes a second and can make all the difference when it comes to your child's hair as well as your own!

Thank you Marissa Laurence Photography! Marissa is a natural light, on location photographer, serving the Alabama Gulf Coast including Mobile, Fairhope and surrounding areas. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Addressing your Photo Christmas Cards

Addressing those cards!
Everyone loves to get hand addressed letters and cards.  But what about the 40 plus Christmas cards you want to send?  That is a lot of writing; I’d rather spend my time penning personal notes on the inside of my card.
I decided to see what the United States Postal Service had to say on the subject.  I found a nifty little section on how to properly address your letters.  
“Proper addressing is the start of effective mail delivery.” USPS
The USPS recommends that you print (with a pen or marker) or type so that the address is readable from an arm’s length away.  Make note my friends; the USPS does not want you to use commas or periods, who knew?

OK, so if I want to insure that all my friends and loved ones get my beautifully designed Christmas cards, I should probably use my computer.  
What? You don’t have your address book transferred to your computer yet?  Just do it!  You will thank yourself for many holidays to come.
Now you can certainly print your addresses directly onto your envelopes, but it’s not my preferred method.  I like my labels!  Stick in one sheet and out comes thirty labels, nice.
Not sure where to start?  It’s not difficult, just go to  On the left hand side under quick links, go to Template and Software Advisor.  They walk you through everything, easy.  
So, I have my Belle Announcements Christmas cards, my labels, and stamps (which you can purchase online from USPS). Now all I have to do is wait until December 1st.  I still have a turkey dinner to enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quick, easy steps to snap photos like a pro

Christmas is right around the corner! Time to get that perfect photo for your Belle Announcements holiday card.  Now you don’t have to be Alfred Stieglitz or Ansel Adams to take a great photo.  Understanding a few basic concepts will have you snapping pictures like a pro!
Read the manual.
Well maybe not the whole manual.  But honestly, become friends with your camera.  Learn the different features it has and experiment.  Any camera can be a good camera if you know how to use it.
Show me the light.
Pay attention to the lighting around you.  Avoid shadows over your subjects.  For outside shots, try to keep your light source (the sun) behind you.  For the most dramatic lighting try sunrise, sunset, or when the sun is just peaking out from behind the clouds. Honestly, I’m not getting my kids up at sunrise so the partly overcast day is my favorite.
Flash Gordon!
Many people have their cameras flashes set to automatic or automatic with red eye reduction.  Basically, your camera is deciding for you if the flash is appropriate.  While that is fine for an ok photo, it doesn’t make for great photography. If you have an adjustable flash, try bouncing it off the ceiling. If you have a built in flash, consider using a diffuser. You can find how to make an inexpensive one here or here. Practice using the flash in different lighting; remember making friends with your camera.  
What’s your angle?

As a mom, I’m used to looking at the tops of my kids’ heads.  I don’t need to take a picture of it. Get down, I say! Bringing yourself down to the level of your subject is a must.  

Let’s focus, people. focus.
I use a basic point and click camera.  Love my auto focus, but it doesn’t always focus on my subject. Most auto focus cameras have a feature where you can hold the shutter release half way to focus. Focus on the subject you want then, while holding the button, recompose the shot. Voila! Your loved one’s face is in focus and not the tree in the back ground.
Keep It Simple Silly!  Props and dramatic backdrops can be fun, but don’t clutter your frame.  You want your subject to be what people notice first.

Lastly, here at Belle Announcements we can tweak almost any photo. Red eye, not a problem! We can crop, brighten and adjust, just give us your best shot.  
Jenna ~
Guest blogger for Belle Announcements

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Santa came early this year!! Welcome baby!

When we become new moms, whether for the first time or the sixth time, we often find our new families pressed for time. Eating with two hands is a thing of the past and sleep gets pushed to the back burner. Our lives are filled with work, school and play. On occasion we’re able to sneak out a few free seconds for a bathroom break, but sending birth announcements can be tricky. First you have to find time to snap that just perfect gorgeous photo of your new bundle, then you have to research the best deal and ultimately you have to address, stuff, lick and mail all those precious birth announcements.

Did Santa arrive early this year with that bundle of joy the Easter bunny promised last Spring? Now there’s birth announcements to go out, as well as Christmas cards this year! Maybe you just feel like there’s not enough time for all of it. Do your friends and family really care if you send these cards? They will probably say no, you're busy, we understand but would they love to receive the gorgeous photos of your baby? Yes and if those gorgeous photos are printed on quality cardstock, your friends and family will keep them on the fridge and in their memory books for years. 

Instead of running yourself ragged this year, combine that brand-new-baby announcement with your family Christmas cards! Introducing “Santa Came Early”!

As a doula, the number one piece of advice I give to all new moms is to accept help when it is offered. This year, sit back and let the designers at Belle Announcements take the worry and stress out of your announcement and card needs. With unsurpassed quality and attention to detail, the designer you work with will present a completely custom Christmas card announcing your new baby!  

So, remember that Santa Came Early and the designers at Belle are ready to help you announce your gift! If you see a birth announcement you love, the designers can turn that card into a Christmas card just like the sample above. Likewise if you see a Christmas card you adore it can become your birth announcement. Remember that you are getting a custom card design, you can have the designers at Belle Announcements transform any style with font, color, word or graphic changes and combinations of designs. 

Happy Christmas from

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Daylight Savings Time is here!

Dark Fall mornings make it tough for most people to climb out of bed feeling well rested. With daylight savings ending this weekend, waking up gets a bit easier, but everyone can always use some extra help.

1. Go to bed earlier so that your body gets used to the time change quickly. In the morning, resist the urge to sleep in; it will only make you feel even more exhausted! Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.

2. Eat a healthy breakfast packed full of energizing nutrients and vitamins. Think of food as fuel and choose something high in protein and fiber.  They metabolize slowly, thus giving you hours of energy. Peanut butter and bananas on whole wheat toast or a tasty, fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie are great meals to start the day feeling energized, and they keep you feeling great all day long.

3. Make sure you keep on schedule with your exercise routine. If you’re feeling drowsy in the morning, it might seem impossible to lace up your running shoes, but exercise actually helps boost your energy. Now that there’s a little more sunlight in the morning, get some fresh air and beat the blues with a bike ride or brisk morning walk.

4. Always prep for busy mornings before you hit the hay. Lay out your work clothes, pack your lunch, and set your coffee maker to turn on automatically so you smell the delicious aroma as you awake in the morning.

5. Don’t surf the web or watch TV right before bedtime. The glow from the computer or the TV might prevent you from falling into a deep slumber. To help you attain a restful snooze, take a warm bubble bath. If you can’t sleep because you’re thinking about the next day’s activities, write down any worries in a journal to ease your mind before finally drifting away to restful sleep.

Don't forget about Belle Announcements Savings time! 20% off your order by November 10th using the code post20!

What are some of your best sleepytime tips? Please share with us in the comments section!

Thanks for visiting!
Diana B.