Review: Basic Invite, Custom Photo Christmas Cards

We absolutely love the holidays at the Kladder House and if it weren't for Jeff putting a firm rule in place about no Christmas decor before Thanksgiving, our tree would already be up. However, despite his pre-Thanksgiving Grinch-like demeanor, I cannot be stopped from busily working behind the scenes on our Christmas cards! 

This year we teamed up with a new partner, Basic Invite, to create one of my favorite bundle of Christmas cards to date! The process begin in early October after we scheduled our mini photo session with our favorite photographer James Richard Fry: $150 for a 25 minute session and full rights to a gallery of 15-20 edited photos. Done and done! 

Within days of the shoot James emailed us our proofs and off to Basic Invite design land I went! With over 250 holiday design options and nearly unlimited color choices, you are pretty much guaranteed to customize your cards this year.

Full disclosure, we ordered our photo cards from Costco last year and ended up having the exact same card as two other families in our network of friends. Don't get me wrong, everyone survived this occurrence, however, who wants to be the same!

Basic Invite allows customers almost unlimited color options with instant previews online. The design tool is easy to use and actually kind of fun to tinker around with. Once you select a design you can change the color of each element on the card to over 180 different color options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail.

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And if you're worried at all about what the final product will look like before final purchase, Basic Invite is one of the very few websites that allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their card before placing your final order.

I also found the envelopes just as fun to sift through as I did creating the card design. Envelopes come in over 40 different colors so you can make your delivery stand out from the rest! Lets be serious though, I picked white. Call me consistent, call me predictable. I like what I like. And bonus... all envelopes are peel and seal which means no licking! Save that saliva for something with calories in it. 

Basic Invite also offers an address capturing service. I didn't personally use this part of the process simply because I enjoy handwriting the addresses on each card, however, the tool seems pretty nifty and if you're into automatic labeling, this would be your jam. You can upload all the addresses to their site and your envelopes will come already addressed, at no extra cost. 

After ordering our cards they arrived within 7 days of purchase and with this midwest gloomy/wet weather we've been experiencing lately it's likely the Kladder Christmas card will be the first to arrive at your house this season. Apparently, it's a personal goal of mine to plaster our family's faces on all of our friends and families refrigerator doors for as many weeks as possible! That is, until we're tossed out with the old cookies and uneaten candy canes at the end of the year. And if you're a procrastinator, no worries, you can pay a little extra to rush print your order. Boom.

Feeling behind on getting your photo Christmas cards or holiday party invites out this year? Don't, I'm weird and do things incredibly early. You've still got plenty of time and Basic Invite is now offering 30% off with coupon code: holi30. Happy creating!  



Kladder Update: Halloween, Thomas' Dedication & Crappy People

Kladder Halloween 2017! 

Kladder Halloween 2017! 

Last week we returned home from a week long family vacation in Palm Springs, California feeling refreshed and completely high on life. It wasn't until Thursday evening that we were abruptly brought back to reality... while putting the kids to bed our home was entered by strangers through our unlocked back door. They stole our wallets, my computer, my work bag and Jeff's watch. Outside of the back door being left open, their presence went unnoticed. I thought perhaps Jeff had accidentally left the door open after he took the trash out earlier that night. It wasn't until later, when I went to take out my laptop to do some work, that I realized my bag was missing. And so was Jeff's wallet. And his watch. And then it clicked - someone else had been there. We called the cops and they took a report and screened for prints. After searching the property they found they had also gone into our garage through the side door (also unlocked) and riffled through both of our cars where they didn't find much, thankfully. 

I've got tough skin and I'm not shaken by much, but this has certainly gotten to me. I'm having a hard time shaking the fact someone felt bold enough to enter our home while we were home and likely watched us as we moved about the house in order to time their move appropriately. I feel completely violated and angry that we live in a world where we have to lock our doors and close our blinds for fear of someone taking what's ours and infringing on our privacy. 

I'm very glad we didn't encounter them for fear something worse than stolen items would have taken place. The cops believe it was a pair working together. What if we would have surprised them in the act? What if they had a gun? What if Jeff had run after them? These are all things that have been keeping me up at night. Friends are suggesting we get a security system which is likely, but I'm sincerely upset we even have to consider it. 

We write about a lot of wonderful and fun things on our blog and I understand this story doesn't fit the usual bill. However, this is part of our world right now. I'm feeling challenged to continue thinking the best of people but will likely change my habits to lock all of our doors, all of the time. 

So that sucks. You know what else sucks?! Raking leaves in freezing temperatures! Jeff and I teamed up this weekend and did our first round of leaf raking for the season. However, our trees are still pretty full of leaves and I expect we'll be out there in snow pants here pretty soon. 

Just before vacation we celebrated Halloween with family at John Ball Zoo for their annual 'Zoo Goes Boo' event. This is the 3rd annual (read more about 2015 and 2016) Kladder Halloween gathering that doubles as Jeff's Dad's birthday celebration. Everyone dresses up in costume for the zoo followed by games and food back at the lake. Sure, the kids love it but it's possible the adults enjoy it just as much if not more. 

On actual Halloween Jeff and I hosted a few friends and my parents at our place for trick-or-treating. I made chili and the kids decorated Halloween cupcakes. We all took turns handing out candy on the porch to the approximately 350 trick-or-treaters. We ran completely out of candy and had to shut off our porch light 10 minutes before trick-or-treating officially ended. It was a good night. 

On Sunday, October 29th we dedicated Thomas at church. We did the same for Natalie in February 2016. Having both kids dedicated means our commitment to raising them to know God and to help guide them in growing their faith to the best of our ability. Together, with our parents and church community, we vowed our commitment to this. The dedication was naturally followed by a small celebration of cake and cocktails!

I'm chomping at the bit to bust out the Christmas decor and the only thing stopping me is tall, dark, handsome and goes by the name of 'Jeff.' I'm so envious of those who've gotten the jump on me! Come Thanksgiving weekend you'll find me baking cookies and hanging garland! Enjoy these next few weeks before the holiday season really kicks in. Till next time! 

POSTSCRIPT - Stuff we're into lately... 

  • Rocket Fizz - A soda pop and candy shop that I just discovered is a chain! There is one in Knapps Corner and we also checked out the one in Palm Springs last week! They have everything! 
  • City Built Brewing - Excellent new spot just north of downtown on Monroe. Extremely family friendly (there's a kid's corner) and surprising and fantastic menu of Puerto Rican food. 
  • Melissa & Doug Water Wow - Keep your kids busy for at least 30 mins. Great for airplanes! 



A Week in Palm Springs, California with Family

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The tie to Palm Springs, California goes back 3 generations with the Kladder family. It all started with Jeff's grandparents Peter and Arlyne who vacationed there with friends in the wintertime, some of whom still live there seasonally today. Now, Jeff's parents (Tom and Mari) and his Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob spend time there during the colder months, and his Uncle Steve and his partner Samuel live there year round. And lucky us, the kids and grandkids are invited to visit regularly. Needless to say, the tradition Peter and Arlene began still lives on today. 

And it was very clear to see why during our first family vacation there last week. I instantly fell in love the moment we stepped off the airplane... PSP is an open-air-airport which beautifully showcases Palm Springs most welcoming attribute: the perfect weather. We spent 7 fantastic days with Jeff's parents getting to know the city. Here's what we did... 

Our first full day in town we visited Jeff's Dad's favorite spot: The Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The gardens are incredibly maintained and great for walking with a stroller. But the show stoppers for us were the animals, especially the cheetah run. Twice a day the zoo keepers toss meatballs (for real) into the cage as a treat for the animals and also to display the cats incredible ability to go from zero to 60 mph in only seconds. We also enjoyed the giraffs, big horned sheep and the zebras (aka the 'horseys' according to Natalie). 

The zoo was followed by lunch at one of Palm Springs most popular hamburger places, Tyler's. Their burgers were tasty, their fries were fresh and their coleslaw was certainly something to write home about. I was super sad to miss tasting the potato salad - they were out! Next time. Nat shared a strawberry shake with Grandma and Thomas slept through the entire meal. We enjoyed every minute (and calorie). 

Sharing a strawberry shake with Grandma at Tyler's Burgers in Palm Springs, CA. 

Sharing a strawberry shake with Grandma at Tyler's Burgers in Palm Springs, CA. 

That same night Jeff's parents gifted us the night out solo to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. It's been 4 years of one fun thing after another and my goodness I love that man. We toasted martinis at Copley's, a great spot downtown with fantastic outdoor seating. They are known for their manhattans and they did not disappoint. After dinner we took an Uber to the Ace Hotel & Swim Club for a night cap. We sat poolside and enjoyed the night air from our corner table chatting about our kids and life and how quickly time has flown by.

Friday morning Jeff and his dad played 18 holes at Escena Golf Club. Jeff golfed his best score of the season and so it goes without saying, he had a great time. While the gents golfed, Mari and I went downtown Palm Springs with the kids for a little shopping. We mostly found souvenirs and sweets! Later we met up with the guys for lunch at the clubhouse for salads and sandwiches. The food was good but the view from our table was even better. There are no words that can describe nor photos that can depict the scenery in it's true majestic beauty - you just have to go see it for yourselves! 

That night Mari prepared the best steak dinner for everyone and Jeff's Dad opened a bottle of wine in honor of our anniversary. It was the best meal we shared together all week and I would attribute this to the delicious food and drink, but mostly to the conversation. The strength of their partnership is one to emulate and we are grateful to have the two of them as part of our foundation.

On Saturday we took our second field trip to College of the Desert (COD) which is quite literally, a college in the desert. But on the weekends a portion of the campus is taken over by the street fair. There you will find art, jewelry, produce and so much more. It's a flea market of sorts and excellent for treasure hunting. I found a dress and Jeff bought a wallet and some new sun glasses. Mari picked up some asparagus (you never can have too much!) and Jeff's Dad devoured an apple fritter. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday morning. 

That afternoon we laid by the pool soaking up the rays and playing in the water with the kids. If the photos aren't telling enough, the pool there is quite possibly what heaven must be like. After relaxing all afternoon we headed for Cabazon to the outlet mall. You want it, they've got it. In order to see the entire stretch of stores we stayed well past the kids bedtime which was well worth it because we made out with some great deals. 

Sunday morning we rose bright and early for the trip I was most looking forward to: Joshua Tree National Park. Approximately 45 by 30 miles worth of desert that reminds you of a mix between the surface of planet Mars and a Dr. Seuss book. I'm not kidding, if Thing 1 or 2 would have popped out from behind a rock I would have thought, "Oh, for sure, that makes complete sense." The rock formations were incredible and the vegetation was so starkly different than what we're used to here in the midwest. Jeff and I put the kids on our backs, Mari packed us a picnic lunch and we made a few hikes into the desert to get a closer look. It was a very memorable experience. 

That night we tried El Mirasol, a Mexican restaurant downtown, for dinner with the kids and it was terrific. Tucked in a small courtyard off the main drag we found cafe lights and endless chips and salsa. It was here that we realized Natalie is completely capable of fending for herself while eating out as we watched her, dumbfounded, order herself a, "Chocolate milk and a taco please." My heart melted with pride and I was half tempted to follow with, "Make that two!" But I really wanted a margarita. 

El Mirasol Mexican Restaurant in Palm Springs, CA. 

El Mirasol Mexican Restaurant in Palm Springs, CA. 

On Monday the guys hit the golf course again and Mari and I hung out with the kids by the pool. It was a true 'vacation' day as we did absolutely nothing all day long! We had plans to ride to the top of the mountain on the Tram but quickly decided we'd save that adventure for another trip in order to stay lazy by the pool for a few more hours. 

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Our last full day in Palm Springs Jeff's Dad took us on a walking tour of the Movie Colony Neighborhood. It's a mix of Spanish Style and Mid Century Modern architecture and stars such as Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope once called this neighborhood 'home.' They are massive estates including pools, tennis courts, putting greens and some of the most beautiful landscaping you ever did see. This walking route is part of Jeff's Dad's morning routine and he served as our guide. Thomas fell asleep and Natalie ate snacks. Fun was had by all. 

Our last evening in Palm Springs we dined out at one of my in-laws favorite spots: Al Dente's. It's an Italian place right on the main street with a great little private, outdoor room with a table that was perfect for our party of 4 plus a toddler and a baby. We enjoyed the seafood dinner special and vodka gimlets as our week in Palm Springs came to a close. 

I'm a Midwesterner to my core and always will be, but I'm starting to believe that a small part of my heart was left in Southern California. But just to be sure, ask me again when our temps are above freezing again! 

Palm Springs was a great place to spend time with family. We had 7 busy days there and left more on our list to see for next time. We'll certainly be back!