Caselli family

The standard family-photo Christmas card didn't work out last year for Mike and Nancy Caselli of Land Park when their grown kids balked at the idea. Instead, they turned to son Bryan, an animator, who created this cartoon postcard.

Cathie Anderson: Her invention puts the frosting on the cake

Published: Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

If you haven't heard of "The Guilt Trip," the movie from Paramount Pictures starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, let Sacramento resident Tami Harris tell you all about it.

No, Harris does not have a part in the film. She's an inventor, and as it turns out, so is the character whom Rogen portrays in the movie. To promote the picture, Paramount has teamed up with product developer Edison Nation and HSN (Home Shopping Network) to search for the nation's next big invention.

Harris and thousands of others submitted their ideas for consideration a few months ago. She is one of six finalists. The winner will be announced at 9 p.m. Sunday as part of a "Guilt Trip" special on HSN.

What is Harris' big idea? It's a motorized frosting dispenser, something she found didn't exist when she hopped online to buy one in 2000. She wanted to alleviate the repetitive stress of squeezing a pastry bag.

"Sometimes, it would be six hours to decorate a cake, and … I thought to myself, 'Maybe if I got a motorized cake decorator, that would relieve my hand.' "

When she couldn't find a product, she created one that she calls "every cake maker's dream." She named it Frostingo.

Harris had amassed a library of decorating tips for her pastry bags to make different designs. With Frostingo, she can still use them. She also made changing frosting colors easy by creating interchangeable cartridges that load into the device. To ensure there are no problems with consistency, she allowed for continuous or intermittent flow.

She made a prototype but didn't know how to get it manufactured. She began entering various competitions to get her idea noticed.

Until now, her best finish was San Francisco finalist for Season 2 of ABC's "American Inventor." She laughed and cried as she talked with me about the HSN competition. If she wins, the network would help her roll out her product in 2013.

Smile, young Grinches

The all-American family smiles from the holiday greeting in your mailbox, the very picture of "peace on Earth and good will toward men."

If you're the parent who has to orchestrate this picture, however, you might still be feeling the stress of the intergenerational push-and-pull that it takes.

Sue Shellenbarger documented the struggle this week in her Work & Family column in the Wall Street Journal, explaining that professional photographers take classes in how to get children to cooperate.

As a younger generation asserts its voice, parents who snap their own shots also are having to show ingenuity, flexibility and creativity. Shellenbarger illustrated this point to the nation by sharing Land Park couple Mike and Nancy Caselli's story.

Their oldest, Stephen, works for the River Cats, Mike Caselli told me, while No. 2 son Bryan is a free-lance animator in Southern California and their youngest, Lisa, is studying at St. Mary's College in Moraga.

"A year ago, they were 25, 22 and 18, and they kind of just balked at the idea and said, 'We really don't want to do that,' " Caselli said. "So my wife just kinda said, 'OK, fine, Bryan, you need to come up with our Christmas card then.' She went to bed and woke up the next morning and there it was."

She laughed at the cartoon images of their family – Mom and Dad impeccably attired and the kids in ultra-casual attire – and made postcards to mail.

Not everyone has an animator in the family, though, so many parents are still calling on pro photographers. They're seeking ideas for relaxed greetings that can put a bit more ho, ho, ho in the holidays.

Coming Tuesday: Cathie Anderson shares the year's best quotes, many for the first time.

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