A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....
I Just Can't Help Myself - A Head Start on Holiday Ideas September 13th, 2000
In just a few days I will have my 60th birthday If you ever read stuff about astrological signs, even in passing, you may realize that as a Virgo I am supposed to be organized and efficient and that I like to plan. I don't know if astrology has anything to do with it, but it is certainly a characteristic of mine. Drives my kids nuts when I start asking them in September what they want for Christmas. I spent way too many years living from hand to mouth and getting paid once a month to put off gift buying till the last minute. Whether from practice or habit, I really do enjoy planning and getting things done ahead of time. This year is no exception. Half the gifts have been purchased and I am well into making my own Christmas cards and gift bags. I have determined the days I will give dinner parties and who will be invited.
What set off all this planning a bit early, even for me, is that I found out recently that by Christmas I will be supervising 40 people. That means 40 identical presents that I can afford. It also means gift wrap and tags for 40 gifts in addition to my family and friends. (No, I wouldn't even consider not giving my staff gifts, it is as much a part of my holidays as giving to my children.)
Since I really do enjoy the planning and preparation I thought I would share some of the web sites I found, talk about software that helps with the process, and even provide hints. I will touch on things of interest to both men and women so if you are a guy, don't stop reading here.
First the software. I did a review of Print Explosion in a column that ran in July of 1999. I actually had to review it on a friend's Mac because at the time I still had a 68K computer and this software will not run on a 68K. Print Explosion 1.0 is a Mac-only application produced by NOVA Development. It is available for around US$49.95. System requirements include a PowerPC-based Macintosh, a CD-ROM drive, and System 7.5.5 or better. Once I got my iMac (and an updated color ink jet printer) this past January I was able to really use the software. When I did the initial review I was completely entranced by Print Explosion and that opinion has only increased with frequent use.
The first thing I did this year was design Christmas and Hanukkah cards. I don't want to give the impression that designing your own cards can save you a lot of money because I don't think it can. For one thing you have to buy the card stock and envelopes and for another, it takes a lot of ink. You can buy card stock with glossy fronts or regular card stock fronts. Either makes a nice card. Here is an example of an outside, inside, and back of a card, taken with an inexpensive digital camera. Every kind of theme imaginable (serious, silly, masculine, religious, elegant) is available in pre designed cards or the graphics you can use to build your own from scratch. I have created several designs to match the personalities of the recipients.
Sample Christmas Card Made With Print Explosion 1.0
The next project harks back to those 40 gifts for staff. I found an affordable gift that is not large or heavy so I was able to use the crafts category of Print Explosion to create gift sacks. Again, there are pre designed bags for every holiday or event or you can create your own from scratch. The size bag presented by the software is 3 x 5 x 1. Here is an example of a completed bag that I designed from scratch.
Gift Bag Made With Print Explosion 1.0
This size is perfect for party favors, Halloween treats, or even filled with candy and used to indicate seating arrangements for a dinner party. They also could be used by a scout troop making tray favors for invalids or they are a perfect size for gifts of tickets or gift certificates. For my example I put "From Nancy G" on the bag which means I don't have to mar it with a tag. I completed the bag by trimming the top with a pair of paper scissors that cuts designs, similar to pinking shears. The pre made design is not tall enough to hold the gift I am giving, so I copied the template into a drawing sheet of AppleWorks and elongated it to meet my needs. Because I was not overly concerned about the weight, I was able to make my bags from plain 20 lb weight copy paper.
One final idea is to make your own cards with photo inserts. The concept of printing my own photos was a bit overwhelming for me when I first tried it. After all, the secret process of making pictures from film was pretty much an unknown to all but professional photographers when I was growing up. I even have pictures of myself that were taken in the early 40's that were "color" pictures because someone tinted them with a brush and paint. They were very expensive. Today you can purchase photo image paper in varying degrees of quality that you can use in your desktop printer. I purchased 50 sheets at auction for $7. At that price you can afford to experiment with the process. You can easily find precut card stock made for photo insertions at hobby and office supply stores.
If you have a professional photo or a photo with no unnecessary background all you have to do is scan it onto your desktop. Many scanners will let you print directly from the scan itself, but if yours doesn't or if you have to have it scanned somewhere else, then you may need to save the photo as a .gif or .jpg so you can open it and print it. Most new printers have several options for printing (card stock, plain paper, t-shirt patterns, photo image paper, etc.) For the best quality print you should set the printer for what you are doing. On my computer I choose options in the same window as I determine number of copies.
If you are working from a snap shot that needs some modifying try this. Scan the photo and save it to your desktop as a .jpg. Open it using Graphic Converter. (For information on using Graphic Converter check out the Computing With Bifocals Index.) Once in Graphic Converter you can edit the image to your heart's content, save the edited version, and print from there. You can also use Graphic Converter to cut and paste more than one image to a sheet.
The nice thing about printing photos is that you don't have to have a color printer. Black and white can result in beautiful images and if you want a decorated card you can usually find photo insert cards at card shops.
Print Explosion 1.0 has pre made designs for gift tags and labels also. Transparent labels are now available at office supply stores which allows you to make simple tags that won't clash with your gift wrap.
Greeting card stock is available on the web. I found good selections at the following:
You can also search the auction sites for card stock. I got some really good prices (30 cards and envelopes for under $7) the last time I bid on card stock at the auctions.
A gift that has proved more and more popular in recent years are cookies or cakes in a jar. One layers all the necessary dry ingredients to make a batch of cookies or a cake in a mason jar, decorates the top and ties on a piece of ribbon attached to the recipe for completing the project. I have seen books with directions for these items, but they have always been fairly expensive. The following web site contains dozens of recipes that lend themselves to this kind of gift.
If you have ideas related to using your Macintosh for the upcoming holidays that others would like, please take a moment to write me about them.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color,
covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.