Getting a head start on the holidays

There are two things I thought we’d never do here:

1. Write a sponsored post.

2. Write a Christmas/winter holiday post before Thanksgiving.

I’ve gotten on my soapbox before about my dislike of holiday craziness (for example, in an early-blog post here), and one of my pet peeves is the way in which Christmas has almost obliterated Thanksgiving.

No Christmas before Thanksgiving is one of my mantras (much to the irritation of my children.)

This (sorta) Old Life: Celebrate a simple holiday

This post from last year outlined our less-is-more approach to the holidays.

And sponsored posts, well…I don’t much like them as a reader of blogs.

We’ve never said we’d never do one, but we always maintained that if we did, it would have to be for something we really like and would really use that we think some of you might really like knowing about.

So, when Minted, a paper products company, contacted us about doing a post on their holiday cards, we said, “no, thank you.” We don’t do holiday cards. (It’s not how we want to spend money, time, and natural resources.)


We really like their business model and values:

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 11.03.38 AM

Minted holds regular design challenges, in which artists submit designs and the Minted community votes for their favorites. Minted then produces and sells the winning designs. The artists are given a cash prize and a percentage of the sales.

We love so many things about this: promoting independently-produced creative work, giving underdogs an equal shot with more established dogs, paying artists for their work.

So I did a little looking around their site and discovered that they sell photo calendars.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Minted calendars

Every year, I give my parents a photo calendar of the kids for Christmas. In the past, I’ve used a standard, big-name photo company, and I’ve never been unhappy with the calendar. I was planning to use them again.

This (sorta) Old Life: Minted photo calendar

One of my favorite images from last year’s calendar. Teenage boys don’t like to smile for the camera!

However, Big Name Company is never going to notice if they don’t get their yearly photo calendar order from me. On the other hand, my order might make a big difference to some Small Name Artist, especially if I write about it here and send some of you to support the work of Small Name Artists.

AND, thanks to my online friends Alana and Katherine, both of whom have written recently about how doing some things this month might make next month less crazy, I have actually been thinking of doing some things in November to get ready for the holidays. (Please don’t tell my kids. I can’t take the “hahs!” I know I would get from them.)

So here I am, writing a sponsored post about a Christmas gift. In November, because this is one gift I’m going to take care of in November. Even old dogs can change their spots.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Daisy

(Speaking of old dogs and spots, the white one on Daisy’s rump has been expanding.

Because I haven’t yet placed an order, I cannot vouch for the quality of the calendars or the process of getting them. There are some things I do know, however, that would make me willing to order one even if I weren’t going to get one as compensation for writing this post:

1. I can customize the calendar. Within each style, it appears that I can add my own text to each date on the calendar, and each design offers some choices in terms of color and photo layout. This is important to me.

One calendar I’m considering is Pop of Color by Georgia designer Kelli Hall. As you can see here, there are 3 colors to choose from as a background for the dates, and the interface for uploading and customizing text looks pretty easy to use:

This (sorta) Old Life:  Pop of Color calendar choices

2. There’s a nice variety. There are 78 photo calendar designs to choose from. I prefer simple designs without elements that distract from the photo, and there are several I like.

This (sorta) Old Life; book shop calendar

This calendar, Book Shop from designer Alton Wise, is definitely in the running.

This (sorta) Old Life: moderne date calendar

So is this one, Moderne Date by Carrie Oneal.

My mom, however, might like something a little more sweet and decorative. Since the calendar is for her and not me, I’m thinking about this one, too:

This (sorta) Old Life: blooming grand calendar

Blooming is by designer Robin Ott–and takes me to the next thing I really like:

3. You can learn about the designers of each calendar. Although I doubt I’m directly related to Robin Ott, her last name is the same as my maiden name. I know that my parents would really like the idea of having a calendar designed by someone who’s connected to our clan in some way.

Designer considerations are a reason this next one is a strong contender on my list:

This (sorta) Old Life: earmark calendar

Earmark has the simple, uncluttered style that I prefer, but more importantly, its designer Jenn Johnson is the kind of designer I’d like to support. She’s from a small town in my home state (Snoqualmie, Washington), and this is one of only 3 designs that Minted offers from her.

I love the idea of supporting someone who’s just starting out, especially someone local.

4. The quality appears to be high. This screen shot of Jennifer Wick’s Day in the Life calendar includes information about the materials used in the calendars. (This is another one of my contenders. I like that you can add a caption to the photos in this design.)

This (sorta) Old Life: day in the life calendar

This screen shot also highlights the only drawback I’m seeing:  Price.

If I were going to go with my standard calendar company, I’d pay about half this cost for our annual calendar. I could do what I did last year, and order 2 (one for my parents and one for myself).

You know we love being frugal. It’s what allows us to do so many of the things we do.

However, we also believe in paying a little more sometimes for higher quality and for supporting businesses that do things in line with our values.

Being frugal so much of the time allows us to do that. Although I can’t vouch for Minted from personal experience (yet), I did a quick search for reviews and found that they are highly rated on both Wedding Wire and Trust Pilot. This company feels like one we can support.

I’d rather buy one calendar that supports a young, local artist and the company promoting her than two that support a large company that only gives me a calendar in exchange for my money.

So which one is it going to be?

Afraid I can’t tell you that!  My parents do read our blog, and while the calendar is never a surprise, the photos and design usually are. (Hey Mom and Dad–if you want to cast a vote, now would be a great time to leave your first comment! :-))

I will, however, share this photo that will likely make it into the calendar:

This (sorta) Old Life:  Calendar photo

As you can see, the nut doesn’t fall too far from the trunk of our family tree!

Feel free to weigh in with a calendar choice in the comments, and please let us know if you’ve had any experience with Minted. I’d also love to know if any of you are Christmas curmudgeons like me and if starting early is actually a path to greater (rather than less) holiday happiness.

(And, just in case we haven’t been totally clear and transparent:  We are being compensated for writing this post in the form of product from Minted. We were asked to link to the company early in the post, but no other content requests were made. All opinions are our own.)

Cow Photo Credit: Vincent_AF via Compfight cc