The Gift of a Year

I think I’ve finally learned not to begin doing something unless I am willing to keep doing that same thing for the rest of my life.  About 7 or 8 years ago, I started a tradition that has me staying up late at night, working all weekend, and generally running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  A very stressed out headless chicken.  And yet, I keep doing the same thing every year — because my in-laws say it’s the best gift they get.

Each year, I pick out twelve photos of my in-laws’ grandkids, plus a group shot for the cover, and put them together into a calendar, one photo per month.  Because my brothers and sisters-in-law like the calendars so much, I began making ones for them as well, featuring group photos of all the kids from our annual family holiday together.  I work very hard to make sure that each kid and each family (there are a total of 6 families and 12 grandkids) is equally represented.  These too have become favorite gifts, expected and looked forward to by everyone.

Because I’m not very bright, I set up my own calendar layouts using a desktop publishing program and each year I manually copy all the birthdays, anniversaries, and relevant holidays (National Tap Dance Day, for example) from the previous year to the next.  It’s a long and laborious process but, because it is expected, I do it.  It is a lot of work, but when I’m finally done and have the finished calendars in my hands, I have to say that’s a pretty good feeling.

If you’re interested in putting together a family calendar, either for yourself or as a gift for family members, you certainly can do it the hard way, as I do, or you can use one of the many services that will do all the layout work for you.  Photo sharing and printing sites such as Shutterfly and Snapfish will print calendars from the photos you’ve already uploaded, if you use those sites, or you can upload new images.  Office supply stores such as OfficeMax (where I have mine printed), Office Depot, and Staples also offer calendars.  If you’re a member, Costco’s photo center is another option; they’re my choice for general photo printing.

In looking at these sites offerings, Staples and Costco currently have the lowest price at $10 for a 12-month, 8.5″ x 11″ wall calendar.  OfficeMax’s service is actually run by VistaPrint and offers custom text and icons for each date, as well as different date styles and free color calendars (rather than a color photo with a black-and-white calendar).  Shutterfly is more pricey, at $22 for the first calendar and $11 for additional ones, but it has been my experience that discount coupons for the site are plentiful.

Shutterfly allows you to put images on individual dates and would be very convenient if your photos are already stored there.  Costco has a very powerful and flexible calendar designer, allowing you to include photos on individual dates as well as adding text.  It didn’t work in my highly-customized copy of Firefox but worked fine in Internet Explorer.  At $10 per calendar, this would be my choice for calendars if I didn’t do my own layouts.

All in all, creating custom calendars with your own photos has gotten much easier than it was when I first started doing this and they sure are popular gifts.  Just be warned, however, that once you start, you may be expected to continue making them year after year.

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