Book 'em

Two local moms have created a uniquely New Orleans baby book to record everything from baby's first beignet to baby's first Saints game.

CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPH

The ladies behind New Orleans’ latest pint-sized trend, baby books with a local flair, know growing up in New Orleans is an experience unlike any other.

The authors and creators of the memory books are Kimberly Brignac Burgau and Renee Radelat Hemel. Burgau is a physical therapist at West Jefferson Medical Center, and she and her husband, Aaron, have two sons, Noah, 2, and Oliver, born just at the end of March. Hemel is a mom, too, and an early-childhood teacher at Louise S. McGehee School’s Little Gate. She has a husband, Jason; a baby, Jacques, about 8 months old; and a kitty named Saban (“named for Nick Saban when he was the head coach at LSU –– not Alabama!” she insists).

As if they weren’t busy enough, Hemel and Burgau started making their unique books about a year ago.

“This,” Hemel says, speaking of the business’ roots, “started out with a conversation over a glass of wine after a Mardi Gras parade and has grown into something I could never imagine.”

“This was an idea that we were going to do on the side,” Burgau agrees.

Noah’s birth, Hemel says, was the catalyst that pushed their idea into reality: “As she began to fill out all of his milestones and special events in his baby book, she quickly realized there was no place to record all of the wonderful activities unique to New Orleans.

New Orleans babies need New Orleans baby books because there is nowhere else that will allow you to record your first words as well as your first Mardi Gras in one place!”

Burgau and Hemel’s NOLA BABY books feature special pages with local significance. Themes such as “It’s Carnival time,” “I went on down to the Audubon Zoo,” “A ride on the streetcar,” “Café du Monde” and “When the Saints go marchin’ in” make local mommies and daddies smile.

Burgau says, “New Orleans is so rich with culture, and the baby books allow a family to capture all our unique events.”

Hemel adds: “Creating this book has brought back many happy memories of growing up in New Orleans … my first Plum Street snowball out of a carton, going to my first Tulane football game with my father and grandfather, and flashing back to all of my many Mardi Gras costumes. Wanting a place to record all of these memories for my son is my inspiration for the NOLA BABY books.”

“[The baby books] have been such a hit we are in the process of launching a version for all ages, NOLA FAMILY,” Hemel says. “Now, not only can new NOLA moms and dads record memories, but families of all ages can document Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, streetcar rides and crawfish boils for years to come.”

The NOLA FAMILY books will also feature pages for cataloging beloved local traditions –– even evacuation. (The “my first evacuation” page was added to the book by, believe it or not, customer requests.)

Although Hemel, as an early-childhood educator, has a great deal of crafting experience, the same can’t be said for Burgau, who says making the books is really her first crafting experience. The books, she says, have allowed her to try to use her creative side.

The books’ pages are printed locally at Pel Hughes in Mid-City; the handmade albums are purchased from Pulp Products
in Connecticut.

“We both wanted to keep the style of the book clean, simple and easy to fill out for a new mom with little time,” Hemel says. “We chose a three-ring-binder style for the fabric-covered albums. This allows pages to be added, deleted and rearranged at will.  We felt this was a way to individualize each book.”

Hemel says they chose the artist, “a close friend and another NOLA mom,” Emily Patron, because “we knew immediately that her style of drawing would be perfect for the book.”

Hemel says of Patron’s whimsical and brightly colored drawings, “We wanted the illustrations to appeal to both children and adults as well as highlight the activities in a bright and unique way.”  
 
Although crafting memory books has kept the ladies even busier for the past year, Burgau and Hemel agree that it’s been worthwhile.

“I have enjoyed all aspects of the business,” Hemel says, “from the birth of the idea to the brainstorming sessions to the first time it was printed and now seeing it sold in some of the area’s finest baby and maternity stores.”

The ladies’ memory books are available at Angelique Baby, Gentry, Little Miss Muffin, Baby Bump Maternity, The Baby’s Room, Lulu Bell’s and Mama Mia, as well as at various craft shows and online at lilsquirts.net.

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