Thursday, October 30, 2014

Home is Where the Art Is...

Several years ago, we were inspired by the movie "UP" to create a guestbook that used fingerprints as balloons, and thus the "Whimsical Balloon House" became our first ever balloon design.

While our Whimsical House remains popular, we've also worked with some customers who have asked us to draw THEIR house for a balloon guestbook. Many of these customers are having housewarming parties and want to celebrate a special new home. We're excited to show you some of these unique drawings we've done as a way to introduce our Custom House Balloon. For this product, send us a picture of your house, and we'll create a guestbook specific for your home!

As you'll see from our examples, we've drawn many different types and styles of houses, each with different texts underneath. Some customers choose to have their address or the family's name beneath the house; others have a sweet phrase like "Our First Home" or "Home, Sweet Home". We love the unique customization this product allows:

While this option works perfectly for a housewarming party, the guestbook can also be an ongoing project. For example, as visitors come by your house over time, each can leave their fingerprint, creating a record of all the special people who come through your door. Hilary and Josh used the Signature Conifer for such a project in their first home. Each new guest signs a branch of the conifer, filling in the tree as time passes.

We hope you enjoyed looking at these fun custom drawings. Contact us if you have any questions or want more details on how to turn your house into a piece of art! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Gatherings

Autumn is my favorite time of year: the season is a feast of amazing colors, and also the perfect time for actual feasts (I'll take pumpkin-flavored everything, please!). With Thanksgiving around the corner, we wanted to feature some of our favorite ideas from our Fall Fete Pinterest board.

From top left, clockwise: 1) Turn a pumpkin into a menu chalkboard! 2) Butternut squash lawn bowling, 3) Add gold and bronze glitter to fall leaves, 4) I've baked this Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake (Martha Stewart) and it's amazing.

1) Mixing plaids for cozy decor, 2) Traditional English beeswax candles are delightfully spooky, 3) An apple chair garland adds color and whimsy.

Many families will be reuniting for Thanksgiving; you can record the special gathering with a Bleu de Toi guestbook in autumn colors. The Seasonal Wreath is a perfect choice for a family get-together (in Christmas colors, it also works for the holidays).

For larger gatherings, like fall weddings, a Bleu de Toi tree decorated with autumnal inks captures the beauty of turning leaves.

Happy fall, everybody!

Friday, October 17, 2014

American Made Vendor: host and toast

Bleu de Toi started as a husband and wife team, and today we're highlighting another husband and wife wedding company: host and toast in Denver, CO. David and Carlen Arnold were both doing other things when they got the bug to start their own wedding design company: Carlen wanted a change from being a teacher, and David was making handmade custom frames. Carlen had started escaping to wedding-decor blogs as a way to wind down at the end of the day and one day, it occured to them: we have the skills to do this too!

host and toast specializes in accessories for wedding ceremonies and receptions, including signs, cake toppers, chalkboards, table pieces, and picture frames. What we especially liked about host and toast is their categorizing system: they divide their products by themes like, Romantic, Rustic, and Modern. No matter what kind of wedding you're having, there's something for you in host and toast's products. David and Carlen emphasize this diversity as a strength on their American Made site:

We both have a passion for different areas in design, so we constantly challenge each other to make our collections more well-rounded. David draws inspiration from masculine, industrial dark woods and metalwork, and I am inspired by anything soft, light, airy, and natural.

Below are bride and groom chair signs from host and toast's "Romantic" collection:

The "Modern" collection emphasizes clean lines and geometric shapes:

We love the "Rustic" theme with its woodsy cake toppers:

The tree cake topper reminded us of BDT's "Signature Conifer Tree", a favorite for rustic weddings:
We had fun imagining host and toast's decor at a woodsy event. For more rustic inspiration, also check out our "In the Mountains" Pinterest page. 

Thanks for the look into your company, Carlen and David, and good luck in the American Made contest!

American Made Vendor: Little Belgians

I spent my sophomore year of college living and studying in Heidelberg, Germany. (Hilary was next door in Lyon, France, going to school down the street from a little restaurant called Bleu de Toi...). While in Europe, I became enamored with this Christmas cookie called Speculoos--crisp, lighter than gingerbread, but still with a hint of spice: it was the most delicious thing I'd ever had. Every Christmas now, I search international food markets for speculoos, usually settling for some packaged cookies that don't quite hold up to my memory of speculoos magic.

Imagine my delight, then, when we discovered Little Belgians--a company out of Berkeley, California that hand-makes speculoos from quality ingredients: local butter and eggs and fair trade sugar. In fact, Little Belgians doesn't use any preservatives, which means I'm tossing out the packaged cookies I still have in my pantry and buying these fresh, real cookies for the holiday.

Little Belgians was started by Evy Ballegeer, a native Belgian who moved to the U.S. in 2003 to be with her boyfriend, now husband. They moved to the Berkeley area in 2009, where Evy noticed that all the coffee shops sold big, chewy cookies and muffins to go with the coffee. She missed Belgium, where a cup would come with a sweet-but-not-too-sweet and crispy speculoos cookie. So in 2013, she started baking speculoos, using traditional Belgian methods, and in 2014, her company was born.

On her American Made site, Evy notes that, as far as she knows, she is the "only artisanal baker of speculoos baker on the West Coast, maybe even the US." Sharing a kitchen with two other cookie makers in Berkeley, she crafts her speculoos using specially-designed molds with shapes that remind her of growing up in Belgium. 

As Evy mentions on her website:
Speculoos was traditionally made using wooden molds. In 17th- to 19th-century Europe, bakers would commission a carver to create a cookie board with images that reflected popular trends of the day. In honor of that tradition, our speculoos have custom-designed shapes.

The bird, for example, reflects the Belgian national sport of pigeon racing (who knew?!). And the house shape features the architecture of Evy's favorite Belgian city Ghent.

Evy currently sells her cookies in some specialty food stores in California, and you can also purchase them online. We loved the aesthetic of her website and her cute cookie packaging. If, like me, you want some holiday speculoos in your life, Evy is offering Bleu de Toi customers a special $5 discount! Enter the coupon code littlebelgians4bdt at checkout. Thank you, Evy!

Speculoos cookies are a unique holiday present for friends and family, and an ideal treat to snack on at holiday parties. On the Bleu de Toi website right now, we're also featuring special guestbooks for seasonal gatherings. We have Holiday versions of our Signature Conifer Tree (Check out our blog post featuring all the ways you can decorate the Holiday Pine). Our Wreath design, with the right ink colors, can also be perfect for the season.

Thank you again, Evy, for sending us pictures and for offering us the coupon code! Best of luck to your charming company!

Photography credit for Little Belgians:
©Lies Willaert 
©Erin Scott

Thursday, October 16, 2014

American Made Vendor: Crunchy Mamas

We were immediately drawn to the Crunchy Mamas, Ashley Kahl and Katie Newman, not only because of their amazing organic beauty and wellness products, but because they look like they are having so much FUN.

These two friends and in-laws got the inspiration for their company when, as they say on their American Made site, "Ashley got knocked up." (Ashley has four boys with her husband Steven; Katie is married to Ashley's brother Dustin, and they have two children.) Having children made the two re-evaluate the products they were using on themselves their precious little ones:

A vital part of having babies is making the best decisions you can for them on their behalf. Both of us agreed that we wanted to be as chemical free as we could for our children's sake and because those certain products were not readily available to us we began making them ourselves. 

The Crunchy Mamas first started by making lip balm, hand sanitizer, vapor rub, and toothpaste. Now, they offer a wide array of product for babies and adults: everything from diaper rash cream to deodorant to bug spray. Everything is organic and made with chemical-free, natural ingredients. Despite the company's growing demand, Katie still makes all the products and labels by hand in her kitchen.

What we especially love about the Crunchy Mamas is their sense of humor and their desire to be real and transparent with their customers. Their Instagram page takes customers into fun personal moments and also the process of making and marketing their products. These two women truly believe in what they are doing, and they want their customers to share in their mission to lead natural, healthy lives. 

And now to the best part! When we reached out to Ashley and Katie about featuring them, they awesomely offered to let us do a "Mama Basket" giveaway of some of their best products for mothers or expectant mamas-to-be! 

Here's what the basket will include (along with Ashley's explanation of the products):
Baby Lotion Stick - our lotion is amazing.  It's not water based so it is really rich and creamy.  This particular lotion is lavender-chamomile.
Hand Sanitizer - contains witch hazel, aloe vera gel, and organic lemon and grapefruit essential oils.
Scab Stick - our organic first aid ointment.  Comes in a stick for so it is easy to apply and easy for kids to use themselves.
Menth Head - organic vapor rub.  Also comes in a stick so that your hands don't get gross wiping goo.
Baby Butt Balm - organic {cloth diaper friendly} diaper rash ointment. What do you know, also comes in a tube :)  This is loaded with lavender, tea tree, and chamomile essential oils. It is by far my favorite product!

To win this incredible basket, simply LIKE or SHARE our post from the BLEU DE TOI Facebook page. We'll keep track of everyone and randomly draw a winner this evening. 

We think these products would make a perfect baby shower gift for a future Crunchy Mama. Here at Bleu de Toi, we have a wide array of fingerprint guestbooks that work especially well for baby. Mamas of the crunchy persuasion can feel confident that we use the best (acid-free, dye based) archival materials for our guestbooks. Also, a reminder that all BDT items are 17% off through October 19th for our anniversary sale. 

Thank you Crunchy Mamas for the peek into your company and for providing that awesome gift basket! We can't wait to try your products, and good luck in the American Made contest!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

American Made Vendor: Handcrafted Honey Bee

Today we're showcasing Handcrafted Honey Bee, a skin care company out of the small mountain town of Tehachapi, California. Founded by Stacia Guzzo and her husband Robert, Handcrafted Honey Bee offers body care products with an ingenious twist: you make the product yourself! The company provides you with a DIY kit for the product, be it lip balm, or facial cream, or deodorant (to name just a few of their offerings.)

Founder Stacia recognized a need for her company when she moved from the city to more rural Tehachapi and began experimenting with creating her own body care items. With two small children, she wanted "to learn a little more about what we were putting on our bodies on a daily basis." She learned to make her own soap and lip balm, and eventually began to teach classes about homemade goods. Realizing that demand for self-made products was high, she conceptualized a company where she could help customers get started with the process. 

Each kit is specially formulated with natural ingredients and comes complete with all the jars, labels, containers, and tools you will need. What we especially appreciated was how explicit Handcrafted Honey Bee is about the exact ingredients and materials that come in your kit. Take, for example, the "Just Face It" Nightly Facial Kit

On the page for this kit, Honey Bee lists each specific ingredient you will receive (Almond Meal and Rosehip Oil, for example), the four different products you will be able to make, and the approximate time each product will take to create. The company also lists possible substitutions for ingredients if you have a potential skin worry. In fact, this level of customization is one of the things Stacia feels is so special about her company. On her American Made site, she explains: 

I think there are two distinct characteristics of Handcrafted Honey Bee that set us apart. The first is the ability to completely customize the kit according to your skin type, to substitute ingredients due to allergies or personal preferences . . . The second characteristic that sets us apart is our emphasis on the educational component of making skin care. We believe that making skin care isn't just about learning how to follow a recipe or a set of instructions, but instead is an opportunity to learn a new skill set. This is one of the reasons that we include information about every single ingredient in each recipe, including its source and benefits. 

We were drawn to Handcrafted Honey Bee not only for its great products and mission statement, but also because we loved the concept behind the name. Just as honey bees work to create their own sweet and natural product, so we conscious-minded consumers can use nature's goodies to make our own balms and creams. The idea brought to mind one of our favorite Bleu de Toi prints: the Buzzing Honeybee Guestbook.

Stacia offers kits and mini-kits for gatherings like kids' parties and "Girls Night Ins". We especially loved the "Lava Lamp Lip Gloss" kit. For 9.99, you can make two groovy lip glosses with your girlfriends. We had fun envisioning the different kind of DIY-events you could host with your girlfriends: baby showers, bachelorette parties...maybe even a honeybee-themed gathering! 

As a special promotion for Bleu de Toi, Stacia is offering a a 15% discount on ALL products through November 15th. Use the discount code: BLEUDETOI

Thank you Handcrafted Honey Bee, and good luck in the American Made contest!

Photos courtesy of: Courtney Sacket Photography

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

American Made Vendor: AENDEE

In the spirit of "celebrating the maker," we're bringing you features this week on our favorite American Made contest vendors. First up is AENDEE, a company that "upcycles" old items of clothing into accessories such as neckties, pocket squares, and infinity scarves.

What we particularly liked about AENDEE was its focus on crafting "heirloom" pieces for its customers: taking a special item of clothing--grandpa's favorite shirt, for example--and creating a bow tie for baby out of it, or wedding cufflinks. These mementos carry cherished memories and connect generations of family together.

AENDEE is the brainchild of Ashley Dedin, a student in philosophy and studio art, who always loved altering and repurposing thrift shop finds. After receiving a commission for custom neckties in 2012, she began to sell her wares at a consignment store and local craft fairs. Since that time, she's opened an Etsy store, as well as a brick-and-mortar shop in historic downtown Fargo, North Dakota. You can read more in-depth about Ashley and her store on her American made site.  We especially loved what she had to say about the mission of her business:

AENDEE is really about giving new life to old materials. I don't just make upcycled accessories, I tell stories. I've crafted a necktie for a young woman's wedding day that was made from one of her dad's shirts (who had passed away). I've made a collection of heirlooms for a family from old neckties and jewelry that a daughter had held onto for many years. . . To me, that's priceless.

We were also drawn to AENDEE because of Ashley's custom work with wedding parties. She primarily does this custom work through her Etsy store, where she will plan with you to coordinate wedding party colors or utilize a special item of clothing. 

We love the rustic charm of these bow ties, and we had fun envisioning them at a country wedding, perhaps paired with our Mason Jar fingerprint guestbook. :) 

To see some ideas for a rustic wedding check out our Country Charm Pinterest page: 

On the top left, color-coordinated wedding ties from AEDNEE

Thank you, Ashley, for providing us pictures of your work, and best of luck in the American Made contest!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anniversary Sale!

Five years ago this week, Hilary and Josh were married under a splendid oak tree at Paramount Ranch in California. On the hot October day, guests sipped on Southern sweet tea, snacked on divine cupcakes, and enjoyed an array of handmade touches at the picturesque, rustic location (a film site for dozens of Hollywood westerns!). Read more about the wedding here.

At the wedding, guests left their fingerprints on the first (yet to be named Bleu de Toi) guestbook tree!

The original "Great Oak Tree" design!

 As we celebrate the anniversary of this wedding, we also celebrate the beginnings of Bleu de Toi. Out of this event came the "seed" of an idea--a seed that would grow into many trees, and a dream that would send us flying towards the sky.

To mark the anniversary, and as a thank you to our customers, we're offering 17% off all orders from October 14th through October 19th. This discount applies to sales made on both our website (with coupon code 5YEARANV) and our Etsy store.

We'd also like to thank you also for voting during the Martha Stewart American Made contest. Today is the last day to vote! Winners will be announced this Friday. We've really enjoyed being a part of this contest and seeing all the creative, handmade work being done across the country. In the spirit of the contest, we'd like to celebrate our fellow American "makers" by featuring some of our favorite companies we came across while participating. We'll be bringing you these features across the week, so be sure to check back in to the blog over the next several days. 

Happy anniversary to Hilary and Josh, and happy birthday to Bleu de Toi!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Baby Bundle: Scott and Leslie

At Bleu de Toi, we're lucky to share in our customer's most joyful moments. Sometimes, we even get to share in more than one, like when a couple has us do their wedding guestbook, and then a little while later, their baby shower book!

Scott and Leslie are such a couple. They celebrated their marriage three years ago with our Large twisted Oak wedding guestbook tree, which now hangs proudly above their fireplace.

And now it's time for baby!

Scott and Leslie chose the adorable Baby Bundle balloon guestbook to welcome their little one. We love this photo shoot with the antique truck--particularly the way the colors match perfectly with Leslie and Scott's BDT ink choices.

A baby guestbook is special because there are several opportunities for loved ones to place their fingerprints. Below is a picture of the Baby Bundle guestbook ready to go, without any fingerprints yet. Leslie and Scott requested "You Are Loved" as the text beneath the bundle, as well as their sweet bundle's future name: Audrey Grace McCoy.

Leslie first had a baby shower where guests left their marks. In order to keep the baby's name a surprise till after her birth, Leslie covered up Audrey's name. 

Then, a couple months later, the couple actually brought the guestbook to the delivery room and had the delivery nurses sign it! What a brilliant and poignant idea!

Now, the guestbook hangs in little Audrey's beautiful nursery. Family and friends who come to see her in her first months of life can also leave their fingerprint on the guestbook, creating an ever-expanding picture of the all the people who care for this sweet baby girl!

Thank you, Leslie and Scott, for sharing these gorgeous pictures with us, and for letting BDT be a part of your precious celebrations!