We are the annoying people who come to your kid's birthday party with homemade presents. It's okay for now I guess, but in a few years, when your kid wants Legos and we bring hand-sewn madras shorts or something, it's going to be really embarrassing for our own children. For our daughter's best friend's fourth birthday birthday a few weeks ago, my wife hand-sewed a stuffed fox (sort of along the lines of the stuffed mouse she made for another 4-year-old last winter). The kid in question loves reading and watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox with his mom, so a fox was an easy decision and I decided to make a book to go along with the animal. The kids and I spent a beautiful morning wandering around the city taking pictures of the stuffed fox in places the birthday boy would recognize. The basic story we made up was along the lines of book/movie, with a Detroit fox who gets cramped in his tiny house, so he sets out to find a new one. This house was too big:

He eventually decides that he wants to live at the birthday boy's house, but he finds out he needs to bring the boy some chickens before he can live there. So he tries to catch a "chicken":

But he's just not fast enough, so he drowns his sorrows in a glass of cider at Slow's Bar BBQ (a restaurant owned by the birthday boy's family; we actually ran into him while inside and narrowly averted disaster by hiding the fox behind my back).

The fox returns to his neighborhood and sees his friend (the fox my wife made for our daughter) and she tells him he's been trying to catch pheasants, not chickens (and that chickens are easy to catch).

He can even buy them at Honey Bee Market la Colmena:

But instead, he chooses to follow his fox instincts and steal some chickens from the urban farmers of North Corktown:

With two chickens in hand, he makes his way to his new home. The last page of the book showed him on the boy's porch, and we hid the stuffed fox right by the door before reading the book to him.

Once we were done shooting the photos, we uploaded them to Shutterfly and used their software to quickly turn them into a gift book (full disclosure: Shutterfly has advertised on Sweet Juniper before, though this post and production were not undertaken as part of any advertising campaign or sponsorship---we just like the product enough to keep using it).

After less than an hour of taking pictures, we were able to create a really personal book where the character went to really familiar places like the birthday boy's favorite playground and even his dad's office (his dad, a realtor, is the one who helps the fox figure out where he's going to live). We were able to include a picture of his dad in the book, as well as get a small image of the recipient himself in there via the pictures on his dad's desk:

It involved some planning (the books take about a week to get printed and shipped) but it really didn't take that much time to get it all done. And the birthday boy and his parents were really appreciative. Wood highly recommends Kata Golda's book Hand-Stitched Felt for making these easy stuffed creatures.