My Heart in San Francisco: Special Prize Winners

Announcing the special prizes for our My Heart in San Francisco Quickfire Design Challenge! In support of our first-ever Minted retail store located in Union Square in San Francisco, CA, we looked to our talented Minted community, for unique art and designs that bring a piece of California, and especially the San Francisco Bay area, to life. The best designs showcased local spirit that both tourists and residents alike can take home and treasure. We were blown away with what you dreamed up for this challenge. Congratulations to all the winners!

For the best Art Print design
Pacific Coast Highway by Denise Wong


For the best Customizable Photo Art Print
that features a San Francisco theme

Golden Grizzly by 2birdstone


For the best fabric design that features a San Francisco theme
San Francisco Toile by Surface Love


For the most innovative and original designthat best captures
the spirit of San Francisco, the Bay area or California in general

Flower Power by Baumbirdy


For the design that best features a well known San Francisco or
California icon in a different and innovative manner

Hop On! by Paul Berthelot


Click through for more special prize winners

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Recipe: Banoffee Pie

When my husband and I were first married, I found an intriguing recipe in the back of a cooking magazine for something called “banoffee” pie. It started with a regular pastry crust filled with toffee (caramelized sweetened condensed milk, essentially dulce de leche), topped with banana slices and whipped cream. Good, right? I made it and we liked it well enough, but I didn’t make it again in the ensuing dozen years. For some reason, though, banoffee pie has been on my mind so much lately and I started wondering how I could make the recipe unforgettable—a dessert that I’d want to make again and again.

Banoffee Pie

When I started doing a little digging, I learned that there are a couple of different ways you can go about banoffee pie. You can use a pastry crust like I did, or you can use a crust made of crushed cookies or graham crackers. Hmmmmmm. I also found lots of different recipes for the toffee layer. The one I ended up trying combined sweetened condensed milk with butter and brown sugar. Not only did it take less time to prepare than the other method, but also butter and brown sugar, c’mon! It took me a couple of delicious tries to get the recipe just right, but the end result is definitely a dessert worth remembering!

Click through for the ingredients and instructions

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How to Overcome a Total Creative Void

Written by Amy Fontes

In my dreams, I am a designer with never-ending creativity and one who has the artistic chops to whip out amazing designs one after another. In reality, I am a mom to two active elementary-age kids, a wife to a busy surgeon who works long hours and weekends, and a daughter to a terminally ill mother.

And while I mark down “graphic designer” as my occupation, in any given day I could be handling the management of my husband’s practice, running soccer practice for my son, discussing medical options with my mom, or just plain doing the things to keep our lives going. Nothing that is really unique or different from others, but things that have me wearing many hats with limited time for design.

So as much as I love design, truth be told, the creative process is often a struggle, and inspiration doesn’t always come easily for me. Sure, ideas would pop into my head here and there and was enough to keep me designing, but for all of 2015, I found myself in a complete and total creative void. The stress of life became so great that, in short, all creativity and inspiration just stopped.

While I was happy to focus on my helping my family, I was quietly growing more and more frustrated during this creative void because, in a way, design had been my therapy. This was the one thing that was mine and mine alone. I needed it. It was my place where I could escape for a while, forget about everything, and hopefully create something that brought me (and others) happiness. It was my balance. But the more I forced creativity, the larger the void seemed. I had to figure this out.

How To Move Forward

TURN OFF THE NOISE
The first thing I did was walk away from design. It might seem counterintuitive, but I was putting so much pressure on myself to “be creative and produce” that it only made things worse. I turned off my computer, stopped participating in challenges, tucked away my pens and sketch pads. I stopped “pinning,” swiping, scrolling, and following blogs and just left design behind. I needed to wipe my mind clean from what I thought I should be designing or what I thought would be the next big design trend.

Above the Las Vegas desert on one of my hikes

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How To: Get Great Family Photos (for Your Holiday Cards!)

It’s that time of year again—time to start thinking about family photos to grace this year’s holiday card. So whether you’re hiring a professional photographer or staging your own portrait session, these expert tips from talented San Francisco-based family photographers Katie Rain and Sarah Sloboda will ensure that you nail that picture-perfect shot.

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Katie Rain Photography

BOOK A PHOTOGRAPHER EARLY (AKA NOW!)
Reserve a session with your favorite local photographer as soon as you can. “October and November are always the busiest months of the year,” says San Francisco-based photographer Katie Rain. “Reach out early to ensure you get a session on the calendar.” Some photographers also offer shorter “mini” portrait sessions, so sign up for photographers’ mailing lists to hear about the offerings before everyone else does.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR
First, think about when you’d like to send out your holiday cards, suggests photographer Sarah Sloboda, who is also based in San Francisco. Right after Thanksgiving? Just as long as it’s before New Year’s? “Figure out the date you need to send them by, subtract a couple days for safety, and then subtract your card company’s turnaround and shipping times,” Sarah says. (Turnaround times can be found on the card company’s website.) Then, mark that day on your calendar with a big X—that’s your drop-dead date for placing your holiday-card order.

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Sarah Sloboda

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Most photographers will suggest some local photo-shoot locations, but you can also think of your portrait session as an opportunity to do something fun as a family. Visit that new art museum that opened recently and check out some exhibits together. Or, if your family loves the water, you could head to the local pier, beach, or aquarium. “My job is to help clients think in reverse—memories are something we look back on, but when planning a photo session, you want to look forward,” says Sarah. “What would be a special experience for you and your family? Documenting those moments will bring back more memories than just standing somewhere posing.”

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Katie Rain Photography

TIME IT RIGHT
Avoid taking photos at noon, when the sunlight is at its harshest. Instead, schedule your portrait session for late-morning, which is the ideal time for kids of all ages. “It’s when they’re most awake and their energy is still fresh,” says Sarah. However, if you’re going the DIY route and taking your own portraits with a camera and tripod, Katie Rain suggests timing it for “golden hour” —about an hour before sunset—when the sunlight is soft and most flattering.

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Sarah Sloboda

RESORT TO BRIBERY
“A photo shoot is a time for relaxed discipline and healthy bribes,” says Sarah Sloboda. Entice your kids with a reward after the photo shoot if they have fun and participate and pay attention. And during the session, remind them of the bribe. It helps if you keep everything positive—threats and discipline can really make a child stew, and then natural smiles will be hard to come by. A great photographer will develop their own rapport with your child, so encourage them to interact with them directly. Often children want to please strangers that they like, so if you refrain from too much reprimanding and give them space to listen to the photographer’s suggestions, they’ll often listen to them better than their parents (sorry, but it’s true!).


More from Katie Rain & Sarah Sloboda:
Katie Rain’s Portfolio
Katie Rain’s Instagram
Sarah Sloboda’s Portfolio
Sarah Sloboda’s Instagram 

More from Minted:
Holiday Photo Cards
2016 Top-Voted Holiday Cards
Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

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DIY: Rope Trivet

Written by Sara Albers and Melissa Fenlon of  alice & lois

Summer may be over but we’re officially saying hello to fall entertaining. Who doesn’t love fresh-baked muffins and mugs of hot tea with girlfriends or a homemade-soup-and-cornbread dinner with family? Our latest DIY project, an easy-to-make rope trivet, is the perfect accompaniment to those lovely fall gatherings—it’s a simple craft that’s both function and design-friendly (we love a good double-duty DIY!).

Make this simple DIY rope coil trivet.

Click through for the full how-to instructions….

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DIY: Stork Labels for a Baby Shower

Written by Kathleen Ballos of  Snowdrop & Co

I’m all about taking a store-bought item and DIY-ing it into a totally new project. That’s exactly what I did with today’s DIY stork labels: I found these adorable stork cake toppers at the cake-decorating store and fell in love. Aren’t they cute? But instead of using them to top a cake, I bought a bunch and styled this flock of storks as food and drink labels for a baby shower. I love the playful touch they add to the table!

DIY Baby Shower Food Labels | Minted DIY Baby Shower Food Labels | Minted

Click through for the step-by-step instructions … 

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Party Idea: Build-Your-Own Balloon Bar

A few weeks ago, I had balloons blown up for a get-together. At the end of the night, I sent all the kids home with a balloon of their own and they were thrilled. It dawned on me that balloons make the perfect party favors which means that a balloon bar is definitely in my future. Here are details on setting up your own:

kid's party favor ideas

Click through for details on setting up your own balloon bar

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New York Minted Artists Meet at Hit Factory Penthouse

Written by Laura Ricciardi

On September 13, New York area Minted Artists met at an exclusive NYC penthouse for an evening of bubbly cocktails, lively conversation, and a twinkling view. Eunice Kindred, who organized the meetup, invited Minted Artists to redesign the labels of their BYOB wine bottles. Stephanie Goos Johnson created a soothing landscape to complement the bottle of rosé she brought. Jackie Sherman of JaxRobyn designed a playful pink pineapple with hearts. Katalin Klecz illustrated a geometric, dream-like garden of flowers on a Pinot Grigio background. Belia Simm covered an entire bottle of champagne in a gorgeous cobalt and white brushstroke swirl — it was too beautiful to open!

Top row from left: Lauren Packard, Eunice Kindred, Petra Santaharju, and Laura Ricciardi.
Bottom row from left: Meggy Masters, Belia Simm, Jackie Sherman, Katalin Klecz, Stephanie Goos Johnson, and Dawn Jasper.

The conversation moved from art to travel to career choices to parenting to the quintessential NYC question of how to live in tiny spaces. Perhaps that last topic was sparked by the venue: a gorgeous two-story penthouse that The Prince Team of Town Residential generously provided. We spent most of the night milling around the apartment, but at one point, we realized that we had been so caught up talking that we hadn’t even gone out on the terrace. The sun was going down as the city lights were going up, and it was so beautiful.

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2016 Holiday Photo Card Challenge: Non-Foil 1st Place Winner

Today is one of my favorite days of the year — when I have the privilege of announcing the winner of Minted’s annual Holiday Photo Card Challenge, the most competitive stationery design event in the entire industry. In the ninth year of this challenge, we received 5,078 entries from artists and 2,021,056 votes from voters. Everyone who entered deserves applause for their accomplishments, their risk-taking, and their support of their fellow artists.

I’m thrilled to announce that the first-place winner, as determined by voters, of the 2016 “Making Spirits Bright” Holiday Photo Card Challenge is Susan Moyal, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for her design “Christmas Sprigs.” Susan is the first artist from outside the U.S. in Minted history to take first place in our Holiday Photo Card Challenge!

Susan won $10,000 and a VIP trip to San Francisco along with second-place winner Ann Gardner for “Winter Window” and third-place winner Angela Marzuki for “Freshly Framed.” All voted-in winners and Editors Picks receive an up-front cash prize and earn ongoing commission on every sale of their winning designs. Scroll down to see a video of the surprise and my interview with Susan.

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DIY: Colorful Candy Antlers

Written by Kathleen Ballos of Snowdrop & Co

Do you have a sweet tooth? I definitely do and I especially have a soft spot for gummy candies. When I saw these gorgeous wall vases, I was inspired to put a sugary spin on them. Instead of using flowers or branches as antlers, I put together some candy kebabs instead for a playful and colorful sweets display. I love the idea of setting up a bunch of these as a candy gallery wall where guests help themselves to dessert. Yum!

Colorful Candy Antlers | Julep Colorful Candy Antlers | Julep

Click through for step by step instructions...

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