Monday, January 14, 2013

A mailbox full of cards

For my mom’s 60th birthday, I wanted to do something that incorporated her passion for photos and her love of family and friends.  So I sent 350 people a self-addressed, pre-stamped post card with a picture of my mom during sometime in her life.   I included instructions to write a birthday message, recall a favorite memory, or provide a quote and drop it in the mail between January 8 and January 10th.    Beginning on January 9th, my mom started receiving post cards.  The first day 15, next day 80, and the next day 65.  Hopefully if everyone sends them in, she'll get 350 post cards from family and friends wishing her happy birthday!

I enlisted the help of my aunt, uncle and grandfather to collect photos of my mom throughout her 60 years.  I scanned them at home, uploaded them individually to my favorite online web editor Pic and created birthday post cards.   

I did not create 350 individual post cards, I did them in batches of 10 and created 35 different cards. is a great site if you aren’t well versed in Photoshop.  You can add comic bubbles, labels, tags, write messages, and do different photo effects.  Most of it is free infact, everything I did was free on it.  Here are a few of my favorite post cards I created:    

If you are interested in replicating this project, here are a few tips for the post cards:

·         Scan the photo at high res (300 dpi or higher)
·         Edit the photo for size in Picassa.  You can set the size in Picassa and name it “post card” of 4.25 x 6.  This ensures you have it correct and when you create the post card, any writing doesn’t get cut off!
·         Upload and edit in PicMonkey, then when you are finished save them all to a folder that you can then upload in a batch.
·         Upload all of them as an album at 
·         Turn the photos into post cards using this product of theirs:

The most difficult and least fun part of this project is the grunt work labeling, stuffing, and stamping. This was hours and hours of work.  I used Avery Ink Jet Easy Peel Labels (model #5160) which come in sheets of 30 to print off sheets of her address for the self-addressed part.   I also used these labels for her address book, which I got her to send me a few months ago.   My father and I worked as a team here – I started off by peeling the labels off I knew I wanted to send the cards to, and then he checked off which other ones I should send to that I didn’t know.  Her address book had over 550 names!    He’s a very thorough person and came over a few times to help sort through all the names.   Since we were sending to so many people, it was also difficult to keep track of addresses that had changed or people had moved.  I recommend making sure your address book is completely up-to-date before you start labeling…

Molly was always interested in "helping" me with this project (though I never told her what it was because she is really terrible at keeping a surprise!)

When everything was all sealed up, I stamped my return address on all 350 letters with my PSA Essentials personalized stamp.  This is way cuter than the Avery labels!  I used my outer ring address and for the inner ring I chose a cupcake from PSA Whimsy Cake Peel & Stick pack.   I had a hard time choosing from our 22-inks but ultimately went with royal blue.

I also had a custom stamp made that said “60th Birthday Surprise – Time Sensitive Material – Response Requested ASAP.” I stamped this on the back of each of the envelopes to make it extra special and alert people to the surprise and that they needed to do something in a timely manner. 

The letters were mailed on January 1st and arrived to in-state people on January 2nd.  Out-of-state people received them between the 3rd and the 5th.   My father and I really labored over this decision.  Send them too soon and people forget about it and the post card (already postage paid!) gets lost on their desk.  Send them with not enough time and they don’t have enough time to write their note and send it back.   We decided that a week before their “due date” was sufficient.

We want to get an album for my mom so she can store all of the post cards and read them like a book.  I've been eyeing the Savannah Extra Capacity Album album personalized: “Post cards to Cynny on her 60th Birthday" on  With this album, you also need to purchase the individual pages (they’re sold separately.)  We're waiting for a good coupon, they generally have a one day only sale with 25% off. This seems like an optional part of the project and something you could eliminate to cut costs but think it will help preserve the post cards.  

The postage is really the most expensive part of this, and certainly you don’t have to send to 350 people.  I do think that including the pre-stamped card helps your return rate – not because people will gripe about the cost of a postage stamp (.32 cents each) but because people don’t usually have them on hand and they may be lazy getting them at the post office. 

Her reaction to the surprise was priceless.  She was thrilled.  She's been calling or texting me with thank you's abundant and I know she really appreciates it.    That was worth all the time and effort! What a fun project.  Happy 60th birthday, Mom! 


  1. This is so special that you did this, I love it!

  2. Libby, this is AWESOME!!! Wow! :) This is such a wonderful idea and maybe I'll be brave enough, to give this a try at some point!! Love it!! :)

  3. Fabulous project and such a wonderful surprise! I love that you got her an album to store them in so she can look at them for years to come!

  4. SUPER FABULOUS PROJECT, Libby!!!! Oh to have such a wonderful daughter as you!!! Cynny is truly blessed!!!

  5. Libby this is truly fantastic. This is so special and sweet. Such a wonderful keepsake.

  6. Wow, what a beautiful gift! I am sure she will cherish it forever. Happy birthday, Cynny!

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