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, 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.


Mountain Mama said...

I found your site while looking for more Wyckoff data for my gen files.
I love how you wrote up your invitation to ancestors and I certainly know how you feel. I even had a dream about a great-great grandmother whom I had never met. It was so real that I feel as if I actually know her!
My Wyckoff line goes back to Pieter Claesen Wyckoff b 1624/25. Which Wyckoff are you descended from. I also have DeLongs in my ancestry.
Maybe we are cousins....

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

They look great! I can see why you're having so much fun with it :)

Kathryn Lake Hogan said...

Greetings Miriam,
Your calendars are beautiful! I was thinking of creating a calendar as a gift for my grandmother. Your post has really inspired me to go ahead with this project.
I had the opportunity of browsing through some of the sample books that Ancestry had at their booth at the Mesa Family History Expo. They are just gorgeous. I'm thinking about having a book done about my grandfather.
I can see myself gettings addicted to MyCanvas as well.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love what you did with the calendars. I can't wait to play with MyCanvas.

Unknown said...

Hi Miriam, I work for MyCanvas, and I absolutely love what you've done with your calendar. This is exactly the kind of creativity MyCanvas is meant to enable. Thanks for your kind words...I'm so glad you're enjoying using our service. - Stefanie Condie (MyCanvas brand manager)

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Miriam, all I can say is Wow! You've really got me interested in these calendars. What a great gift. I'm always looking for ways to share my family images. And I love the old postcards.

Julie said...

My mouth hit the floor when I saw the one photo posted to the event on FB...these are spectacular!!!!! I love the ides of using the postcards...may have to steal that idea for next year ;)

Miriam Robbins said...

Julie, feel free to steal away! I am waiting for the calendars to arrive any day now! I'm so excited!

Andrea Christman said...

I am catching up on my blog reading and I saw your recent post and this one on the calendar feature from My Canvas. I was just exploring that site earlier today and it is so nice to hear you say you are pleased. Your calandars look great and what a wonderful idea for family gifts! I think I am inspired! LOL