5 Tips For Holiday Cards #4: Does it Matter Where You Put Your Return Address?

Perhaps the most mundane and forgettable part of holiday cards: the return address. They are of course important in case a card needs to be returned to you (wrong zip code or forgot the stamp? Yes, I've done both). They're also really helpful for the recipient in case they want to send you a card as well, and don't have your address written down somewhere.

Does it even matter where you write the return address on an envelope? USPS requests return addresses be placed on the top, left corner of the front of the envelope. Many agree that the flap on the back of the envelope is also perfectly acceptable, but this isn't 100% condoned by the post office. The vast majority of people will have no trouble placing their return address on the back of the envelope, but you do risk not getting a card back if it needs to be returned to you (or it could be delayed). Most mail is machine processed, meaning that your return address might not be seen by the machines if it's on the back.

Still, the options for return addressing envelopes - whether on front of envelope or back flap - are many, and beautiful! I've curated a few Pinterest boards to help you browse the possibilities, from stamps and labels, to embossers, handwritten, and computer printed.

Return Address Stamps

Return Address Labels

Return Address Embossers

DIY Return Address Ideas - Printed and Handwritten

5 Tips for Holiday Cards #3: When in Doubt, Quote Someone Else

Are you putting off writing your holiday cards because you're stumped on what you should write? Try adding in a holiday-themed quote! Below are a selection of 11 quotes that aren't already completely overdone in holiday cards, perhaps with the exception of a quote from Frozen (can you guess which one?). Whether you're feeling philosophical, sentimental, or a little dark and humorous this year, there is something for everyone to pick from:

Feeling Philisophical
"One kind word can warm three winter months."  Japanese Proverb
“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”  ― Janice Maeditere
"Sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see." ― The Polar Express
Feeling Sentimental
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” ― Agnes M. Pharo
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
"Some people are worth melting for." ― Frozen
"May your walls know joy; May every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility." ―Maryanne Radmacher-Hershey,
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year." ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Feeling Funny
“I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery.” ― Christmas Vacation
“This holiday season, no matter what your religion is, please take a moment to reflect on why it’s better than all the other ones.” ― Guy Endore Kaiser
"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall." ― Dave Berry
What is your favorite holiday-themed quote?

5 Tips for Holiday Cards #2: When Should I Mail My Holiday Cards?

When is the best time to mail holiday cards?

It's really the thought that counts more than anything else. Most people won't even think twice if your holiday card arrives really early or very late. I know I'm happy with every thoughtful card I receive - even if it's from my cat's veterinarian; however, if specific dates are important to you, these guidelines might be useful:

1. General "Happy holidays" cards are good to be sent in November before Thanksgiving (that's the fourth Thursday of November if you're not in the U.S.). Many people are just not in the mood for anything Christmas/Hannukah/etc.-specific until after Thanksgiving. If you are mailing your cards to another country, then November would be just fine for any type of holiday greeting.

2. The first week of December is the perfect time to mail your cards! This will help you avoid the holiday rush of mail.

3. The second week of December is still a good time to mail your holiday cards, but remember: many people travel during the holiday season, and you may risk your card arriving too late.

4. If you want your card to arrive by December 25th within the U.S., the US Postal Service recommends a mailing date no later than December 19th for First Class mail, and no later than December 7th if you are mailing cards internationally.

5. Additionally, if you are mailing cards to soldiers or service members, USPS recommends send your cards out 4-6 weeks before the holiday

What if you're a serial procrastinator, like me?

Consider a "Happy New Year" card. You can still send your sincere wishes for the new year; include a family photo; and, bonus: it's a holiday celebrated by almost everyone. If early January comes and you're still not prepared to send your cards out, consider holding off until Valentine's Day.

5 Tips for Holiday Cards: To Apostrophe, or Not to Apostrophe?

Disclaimer: I am no grammar expert, nor do I want to shame you for your past apostrophe mistakes. We've all been there! As a stationery designer I'm here to answer questions for your seasonal greetings. I hope you enjoy this series.

The holidays are quickly approaching, and it's time to settle down to your desk with a warm cup of coffee and stack of beautiful greeting cards. You're ready to sign your surname, but might be unsure of one little detail: does my family need to add an apostrophe to our last name?

It's actually an easy answer: you don't need one! Even if your last name ends with an "s", you don't need to add an apostrophe. You want to pluralize your last name when signing a card, not make it possessive. An apostrophe would make your last name possessive.

Right: Merry Christmas from the Smiths (plural)
Wrong: Merry Christmas from the Smith's (possessive)

So, what if my last name ends with "s" or an "x"?

It's simple! Just add "es" to the end of your last name. My maiden name is Thomas, so we should have written, "Merry Christmas from the Thomases", not "Thomas's".

Right: Happy holidays from the Joneses (plural)
Wrong: Happy holidays from the Jones'/Jones's (possessive)

Right: Season's greetings from the Foxes (plural)
Wrong: Season's greetings from the Fox's (possessive)

Can I just avoid apostrophes and pluralization altogether?

Sure! If this whole thing gives you a headache, here are some alternatives:

  • Don't pluralize: Merry Christmas from the Thomas family
  • Skip the surname: Happy holidays from Ashley, Aaron, Madeleine, and Ellie
  • Use first and last names: Season's greetings from Jack and Rose Dawson

I hope this answered some of your questions, and if by chance you DO want to make your last name possessive (like "Santa Claus' list") check out this resource.

Free Printable Evergreen Patterned Paper


If you follow me on Instagram or here on the blog, you know that I've been hard at work studying local plants; watercolor painting; and learning to digitize my work. Everything is coming together now, and I have many new printables on the way, most of which will be arriving in my Etsy shop soon (and some are already available!).

Today I am happy to share with you a sample from my collection of printable watercolor stationery and gift wrap. This is my "Evergreen Pattern in White". These printables will come in many different patterns and colors, all from my hand-painted watercolors.

This sample is one full page PDF, and I will show you how to create everything from note cards to gift tags, stickers, gift wrap and more below.

Click here to download and print your free watercolor evergreen paper sample!

To make a set of A2 size note cards, print the PDF at full-size, with borderless printing, on sturdy white card stock. Choose standard to high-quality print settings.

After printing, rotate the card stock to a landscape position. Cut all the way down the sheet, so you have two halves that are 5.5 inches wide. You can now fold the halves in half for a 5.5" x 4.25" note card, or trim 1/2" off the bottom of each half, then fold, for a 5.5" x 4" note card.

For envelope seals, print the pattern onto paper or white card stock. Use a 1 to 2 inch wide circle punch to cut as many circles as you would like. Run the circles through a Xylon sticker maker (usually $10 at craft stores).

Gift tags can be made with a gift tag punch, or by cutting the shape of your choices. Squares and rectangles work wonderfully for gift tags and don't require a shaped punch. For gift tags, the sturdier the card stock, the better. After cutting your gift tags, use a 1/8" hole punch at the top of the tag. A 1/4" punch will work as well, but don't go any bigger than that.

Use your favorite string to loop through the hole of each tag. My favorite is natural colored twine, although bakers twine, yarn, cotton string, etc. will work.

You can also make folding gift tags for gift tags by cutting rectangles, either 3" x 6" to fold in half for a 3" x 3" square note, or 2.5" x 5" for a 2.5" square note. These can also be hole-punched and threaded with string.

Finally, this paper makes great wrapping paper! Print on a thin, white printer paper. This is perfect for smaller gifts such as jewelry, stationery boxes, etc.

You can also use scraps of the paper to make bands of wrapping paper around things such as jewelry boxes, tied with natural twine.

This is just the beginning of the paper goods you could make with one printable! Please remember that this printable is for personal use only, and no for-sale products can be made with it. If you have an idea for a product you'd like to sell using this pattern, please get in touch with me and we can talk about the possibilities!

Win a Copy of My New Book, Creative Cut Cards!

It's finally here! This was a big project of mine last summer, and it's a thrill to finally hold it in my hands. Creative Cut Cards from Lark Crafts features 35 paper cut greeting card tutorials, including 10 of my own designs! This book is such  rich resource for those who love making greeting cards. The beauty of these particular projects is that you don't have to buy expensive embellishments, stamps, stickers, etc.; most of these cards simply require card stock; paper; adhesive; and a craft knife.

Each of these projects includes full color photos; complete instructions; and real-size templates to help you get a perfect cut!

The best part? I'm giving away a free, signed copy to celebrate! It's really easy to enter:

The giveaway is on my Instagram account. You have two ways to enter, or you could do both to double your chances:

1. Follow me on Instagram and like this photo:
2. Tag a friend in the comments of this photo:

πŸŽ‰It's giveaway time!πŸŽ‰ You can win a signed copy of this book, Creative Cut Cards: 35 card-making tutorials with photos and templates! TO ENTER: choose one method, or both to double your chances: 1. Follow me @theashleypahl & like this photo; OR 2. Tag a friend in the comments below. To win, you must have a U.S. address and 18 or older. Giveaway ends at noon EST on April 5th 2016. Per Instagram rules, I must tell you that Instagram is in no way sponsoring, affiliated with, or administering this giveaway. . . #giveaway #instagramgiveaway #contest #instagramcontest #ashleypaper #CreativeCutCards #makersgonnamake #getcrafty #creativityfound #paperlove #papercutting #greetingcards #diy #win #instabook #creative #abmcrafty #lovetocreate #stationeryaddict #stationery #stationerylove #papercut #etsy
A photo posted by Handmade Paper Goods (@theashleypahl) on

The giveaway ends tomorrow, April 5th. Open only to U.S. residents age 18 and older.

If you don't win, check out Creative Cut Cards on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, now available!

Follow me on Instagram: @TheAshleyPahl

Watercolor Lilacs + More Floral Art

How about some fresh, spring colors to brighten up your winter day?

Lilacs are one of my favorite blooms. I have two lilac bushes in my backyard, and I just planted a third. When I started painting with watercolors again, the lilac bloom was my first muse.

From my backyard:

I ended up making a series of watercolor flowers. It started with a commission by my sister, who wanted some purple and gray flowers for her house. I already had the lilacs done, so I added allium and a dandelion puff into the mix:

Are you looking for some watercolor art for your own walls? The allium print and the dandelion print are available in my Society6 shop now!

DIY Nature-Made Watercolor Paints

Editor's note: I originally wrote this as a guest post for Skip To My Lou, and I wanted to share it with you here before summer comes to a close. If you give this project a try, please let me know how it turned out for you! Use #SheMakesAHome on social media.

My girls and I love painting. I know, it's so much easier to just buy a Crayola paint palette, but this project is really more about the process than the end result.

The mission in my creative career is to connect art with nature. Children can especially benefit from this as they are just beginning to explore the world. This project contains three educational elements: art, science, and nature. You can adjust the depth of these questions depending on the age of your kid(s); even toddlers can learn from this by simplifying the questions.

  1. Art: explore pigments with your child. Go online together to find out how historically, artists have made their own paints. Which artists preferred which type of paints, and what were they made from? When you are done with this project, observe how your own homemade paints dry. Have any of the paints changed color?
  2. Science: Why do different plants have different coloring? What creates the different colors in plants?Why don't blueberries stay blue? How is it that eyes perceive color?
  3. Nature: After you go on your hunt for plants (or take your plants from the fridge or freezer), how many natural colors could you find? How many shades of each color are there? After painting, are the colors on the paper as you expected? Were there any surprises? Which plant created your favorite paint color? Which plant had the most dull color? Which plants were the most difficult to extract color from?

Ready to get started? You will need:

  • 5 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 6 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 6 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • an assortment of plant material, from flowers to berries, tomatoes, citrus, leafy greens, beets, carrots, etc. Collect items for nature, or use what you have in your fridge, pantry, or freezer
  • a juicer; alternatively, a masher and/or fine grater; muslin cloth or a very fine sieve
  • a paint palette, ice cube tray, or clean egg carton
  • glass mixing bowl


Mix vinegar, baking soda, corn starch, and corn syrup together in a small bowl. I used to glass measuring cup to create easy pouring through its spout. Whisk the ingredients until lump-free and smooth. Pour into your paint palette compartments until they are half full; or, if using an ice cube tray, fill each “cube” with about a tablespoon of the mixture.

Now you can extract the juice from the plants. You will want undiluted liquid from these plants, and as little plant material as possible. If you have a juicer, you are in luck! Juice each type of plant separately. If you do not have a juicer (I don't), follow these steps:

Mash the plants or fruits with a fork, immersion blender, or potato masher for plants such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, black berries, tomatoes, etc. This will work for any juicy plant with a thin skin. Transfer the smashed material into a muslin cloth and squeeze juice through it like a filter. Allow juice to collect in a small container. Alternatively, you can use a fine sieve like those used for steeping tea or a reusable coffee filter.

Root vegetables such as carrots and beets require a different approach. Use a fine grater to create a mound of mushy root material. Grated root material can have its juice squeezed through muslin cloth or pushed through a fine sieve with a blunt object, such as the end handle of a wooden spoon or a beater (as pictured). I achieved great success with carrots this way, mashing them through the mesh in a mortar/pestle-style motion.

Leafy materials were the easiest for me. Spinach, tree leaves, and flower petals can be ripped up slightly, and firmly squeezed and massaged in a muslin cloth until the juice drips through the cloth and into a container. If using a fine sieve or filter, a wooden spoon handle will work wonders.

After all of your plants are juiced, add 1/4 of a teaspoon or less of the juice to each of your partially-filled palette trays. Stir the juice well into the corn starch mixture. Allow to dry completely, up to two days. My mixture took the full two days to dry, but it depends on the humidity in your area. Being made from natural juices, these paints should only keep for 1-2 weeks, refrigerated.

You don't have to let leftover juices go to waste! You can paint with the pure juice immediately. Just dip in a wet paint brush and get started.

I hope you enjoy this project. While it can be a bit labor intensive, it really is all about the process and learning together.

Visiting the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on the MSU Campus

Before the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opened on Michigan State University's campus in East Lansing, MI, I couldn't say that I cared much for contemporary art. I have been interested in modern art since my teenage years, but contemporary art never caught my attention until 2013.

Through the frequent changes in exhibition at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, I have grown to appreciate contemporary art; it has taught me to value the new ideas and commentary artists are presenting through their work, as it challenges me to see the world through a different prism.

Via the Broad Art Museum website:

" the Broad MSU is a contemporary museum devoted to the exploration and exhibition of significant art from around the globe. This international focus is also supported by the contextualizing of contemporary art within the history of art by virtue of our historical collection. The Broad MSU is a place where artists’ ideas, words, and actions create a vibrant center for questioning and understanding the modern world."

The outside of this museum alone is worth seeing. The architecture is completely unique on MSU's campus. While some people feel the building is an eyesore that doesn't blend in with the campus, I welcome the refreshing change in scenery. The museum is right on Grand River Avenue and can't be missed.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this building is that it seems to change shape and form depending on which direction you are coming from, or where you are standing.

This cultural gem in Mid-Michigan is free to visitors, and if you (like me) have children, there are monthly family days on Saturdays so that you can experience it with them. My girls have tagged along on a couple of these events, and there is plenty for the kids to do and keep them interested in the experience.

A Parade of Peacocks at the Potter Park Zoo

Over the weekend we visited the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, MI. One of my favorite things about this zoo is abundance of peafowl they have roaming the park. They're absolutely everywhere! We were treated to gorgeous peacocks giving us a full show of their feathers; albino peacocks; and lovely peahens. If you ever get the chance to visit this zoo in Michigan's capitol, make sure to bring your camera.