Personalized Gifts: Photo Books

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, when it comes to gift giving, personalized gifts are my favorite.  There’s no chance of duplication.  The recipient hasn’t already seen it at the mall.  And hopefully opening a personalized present makes him/her feel loved and cherished, knowing the time and thought that went into the gift’s creation.

All year around, I enjoy taking pictures.  I always have a camera in my purse, ready to document a get together, reunion, or even just a relaxed, easy Saturday at the farmer’s market.  Having documentation of our everyday lives makes it easier to remember months and years later what normal was at another time.  So when the holidays and birthdays come around, I often like to choose photo gifts.  Whether it’s a homemade calendar, a picture on a mug, shirt, or ornament, I think I’ve done them all.  (I’ve used different photo websites over the years, but Shutterfly is my personal favorite.)

PHOTO BOOKS:  Once pictures have been transferred from the camera to the computer, a person can easily forget they were ever taken.  Since these days they don’t need to be developed, most pictures never meet photo paper.  That’s why I so enjoy photo books.  It’s cozy to sit down with a book of memories and flip through them on the couch.  Sure, I could pop open my laptop, but seeing a coffee table book of happy memories, invites me to linger over sweet days gone by.

Today I’m going to share a couple of photo books that I’ve made in the past, and maybe they’ll start your gears turning on photo gifts of your own.

After our honeymoon, I made two large 12×12 hardcover books for my husband.  We’d both written about our travels on MySpace.  (Yes, it was a while ago.)  And so I took those travelogues and joined them with the pictures.  I used different fonts for each of us, so that you could easily see which entry was a “she said” and which was a “he said.”  When I page through them, I’m in Europe all over again.

When my best friend was having her first child, I saved every email that she wrote to me about the experience and all of the photos she attached along the way of her growing belly, setting up the nursery, and the hilarious picture of her husband wearing the sympathy belly.  Then after her daughter was born, I put the emails into a book with the photos as a keepsake of her experience.  I know plenty of new moms plan to document every stage of pregnancy, but it doesn’t always happen with all of the other preparations going on.  I was so excited to give it to my friend, so that she could fully remember the experience.  Plus, when she had her second daughter, she was able to do a bit of comparison of what she experienced when.

In addition to a book for moms to be, a book from emails could be made for college students or couples planning a wedding.  Want to make a personalized cookbook for a friend or family member?  A photo book could be a cool way to do it.

I’ll be back with more gift ideas next week!

Today is the last day to vote in the HHL contest to win a trip for two to Napa Valley!  My husband is one of the finalists, and I’d be so tickled if you’d consider voting for him.  He’s #6!

Birthday Gift Idea: A Cookbook Care Package

A few weeks ago my mom was celebrating her birthday.  I love birthdays and gift giving.  They are two of my favorite things.  My mom has been getting into making vegan meals lately, and so I thought a couple of new cookbooks were in order.  I picked up two that I’ve enjoyed this past year – Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson and Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  I figured these books would offer two sides of plant-based cuisine.  One is indulgent comfort food and the other relies heavily on fresh produce for its oomph.

To personalize the books, I visited my favorite local stationery shop and found these sticky notes that were just perfect for the job.  On each of them it says, “Make it.”  Then I included little notes about the recipes I’ve tried – what I liked, what I changed, what I added, and omitted.  I also included ideas about what to serve it with, what I thought my friend might enjoy since I know her palate, and what I thought she could skip.  Then I stuck the sticky notes on each of the recipes I’d tried.

Next, I put together a package that included some specialty products I thought she might not already have in her pantry but that would be necessary for making some of the dishes.

  • Soy Curls for Smoky Curls from Vegan Diner
  • Vital wheat gluten for Vegan Diner’s seitan recipes
  • Garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour for AFR’s falafel and Vegan Diner’s seitan recipes
  • Nutritional yeast for Vegan Diner’s cheese, gravy, and seitan recipes and AFR’s Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce
  • Smoked paprika for Vegan Diner’s Smoky Potato Scramble, Jambalaya, Quick and Hearty Chili, Quinoa Burgers, Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze

I also included a little sauce dish that I made in my pottery class.  It’s just the right size for holding dipping sauces.

My mom said she enjoyed reading through the books and checking out my little notes.  I like thinking that in a way we’ll be cooking together.  She can add her own notes and scribbles, and she can fill me in on some new favorites (since there are still loads of recipes that I haven’t made from each of the books).  It’s a gift that’s also a conversation starter.

I’ll be back soon with more recipes using spicy black beans for my series on making several dishes from one core component.