Friday, November 21, 2008

Using Ancestry's MyCanvas Program for Creative Christmas Fun

Oh, my.

I can't remember the last time I've such fun with graphic design. Maybe a number of years ago, when I created my family tree website. Or when I purchased Paint Shop Pro and learned how to pixel paint.

Except when I was building my website, I was still new to HTML coding (which I taught myself, with the help of online tutorials like Lissa Explains All), and when I was pixel painting, I was trying to figure out how to create I-frames (what I did worked with Internet Explorer, but not with Mozilla Firefox--my browser of choice).

So my creativity was tempered with a lot of learn-on-the-fly and frustration.

Lately I've been hearing a lot about Ancestry's MyCanvas program in various press releases on blogs--a program in which you can create personalized items like family history books, recipe books, photo albums, posters, calendars and the like. I had tried out playing around with making a family history book a while ago, but it didn't really interest me. There's this hesitation I have about putting genealogy into print, knowing that a family history is never really complete or accurate (thus my preference for websites and blogs, where one can easily update, correct, delete or add information as it becomes available). I received an e-mail yesterday from Genealogy.com, a member of The Generation Networks family, of which Ancestry was also a part. This message was advertising several MyCanvas products--including calendars--at 20% off (they're $15.96 through December 24; order by December 11th to receive in time for Christmas via standard shipping or by December 16th via expedited shipping). Now for several years I've been envisioning making a family calendar to hand out as early Christmas gifts at our annual Robbins Reunion dinner the end of October, but do you think that I've been able to get on the horn and actually even attempt to create one? Oh, no...not procrastinating me!

So I thought I'd take MyCanvas out for a test drive with a family calendar...and all I can say is: oh, my!

Twenty-four hours later, I've already got three calendars in the works. The first is for my extended family, which will use the classic default holiday/seasonal background pages (I'm just a sucker when it comes to holiday decorations and the like!), each of which I plan to upload images from my PC of family members who celebrate birthdays or anniversaries that month. Another is for a family member that I know would appreciate some of the lovely designs of teapots that I purchased on CD this summer from Pats Web Graphics (I use my photo-editing program to convert images to .jpg files...MyCanvas also accepts .png files). The third is for my husband's family, featuring the postcards that his great-grandmother, Rena (Lerfald) Westaby received in the early 1900s from family and friends while she was working as a maid as a young single woman in the Midwest. Here are some screenshots from that project. Behold, the cover:

Here's the front and back of an Easter postcard, which I have stored in my online Picasa album (MyCanvas also works with SmugMug albums):





Now here it is featured on an April calendar page, using the wonderful digital backgrounds and embellishments of MyCanvas:


Okay, one more! I've got to show you the December page:


I've already got plans for calendars for the next few years: ancestral photos, documents (you can use the ones you view with your Ancestry subscription, too), recipes, you name it. The nice thing is, you can make a basic calendar with all your family's important dates, and then copy it, personalize the graphics, and add/delete events that are customized to each household. And what's more, it is a simple, one-handed easy-to-use project--perfect for someone like me, recovering from shoulder surgery!

Hello, my name is Miriam, and I'm addicted to MyCanvas. And no, I wasn't asked to write a post about this.
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