a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Dec, 2009

My solution to the annual Christmas Card dilemma

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

Last year I suffered through a grocery-store portrait studio session, bought cards, wrote and addressed 90% of them and never mailed them.

That bears repeating: I NEVER SENT THEM. Isn’t that awful? I was burned out before I even began. Just THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS CARDS MAKES ME TIRED.

I don’t like to put undue pressure on myself but the unavoidable fact is that I like beautiful cards. And beautiful paper. And I like it when my friends and family include photos in their cards and write more than just their name. I really cherish this effort.

I am acutely aware of the fact that if I want lovely Christmas cards I have to send lovely Christmas cards. I think the Christmas card tradition is one that’s worth keeping alive (don’t you?) but my motivation leaves me faster than a bat out of hell even before I even get started.

Well, I think I found a solution that works best for me.

1) With the help of a large cedar hedge, some clothespins and a big white bed sheet I rigged up an impromptu portrait background in the backyard. I bought the girls some Santa hats, dressed them in their finery, and took their photo.

2) I looked at a whole bunch of online Christmas card-making sites and decided that I would make a batch of photo POSTCARDS from moo.com. This meant that I didn’t have to a) have photos printed separately and b) envelopes get cut out of the equation entirely. Woo hoo!

The main reasons I went with moo.com was:

  • The price. It cost less than a dollar per card, including shipping.
  • The paper. I’ve ordered business cards from Moo before and I know the paper is good quality (this is important to me).
  • The variety. I liked the fact that I could upload as many photos as I want. I could, in fact, upload a maximum of 60 different photos and get 60 different postcards back. I should point out however, that the postcards don’t have a Christmas design. i.e. there are no graphics of candy canes or wreaths or snowmen. The “Christmas” is all in the photo.

I ordered a batch of 60 cards; 30 of which are three different different photos of the girls and 30 photos of squirrels and chipmunks eating peanuts. I was going to order them with a printed Merry Christmas message on the back (this is a free option) but I decided to leave them blank and just write the message in myself. I am inwardly calling these NEW YEARS CARDS and telling myself that it doesn’t really matter if I don’t get them in the mail before December 23 or not. Having them pre-printed with a holiday messages would have been too restrictive. (Although I guess I could have had them printed with “HAPPY WINTER” but then again I would have lost the opportunity to write something clever about chipmunks. Besides, I could use the chipmunks any time of year!)

3) This week I will refine my recipient list and buy a roll of stamps. I’ve resolved not to do them all in one go. I’ll dash one off here, another one there, and mail them as I go. It’s less painful for me that way.

We got our cards in the mail yesterday and they turned out really well. They’re glossy and gorgeous and the card stock has the right amount of heft (as I had expected).

BUT: if you’re going to go with an online printing service I have one suggestion …  make sure your photos are light and bright with a decent amount of contrast. Two of the pics I uploaded were on the darkish side, and the result came back even darker. They’re not so dark that I’m going to pitch them, just enough to make me notice.

One thing to strike off my to-do list. Yay!


19 Responses to "My solution to the annual Christmas Card dilemma"

1 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:04 am


It broke my heart when I found out that most people pitch cards once the season is over or birthdays for that matter. I find that so sad.

2 | Just An Ottawa Dad

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:05 am


I’ve always dreaded christmas card season too… Last year there were a bunch we never got out.

This year, I got a jump on it. Over two evenings I wrote and addressed them all. My wife can now sit down and put personal comments in those she wishes, and I’ll mail them next week sometime… If we don’t get around to the personal comments, I can still just mail them.


3 | Lee

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:09 am


Doing a few at a time is how they get done around here. International first, then US, then distant Canada and local.

Thanks for the tips on the online card printing!

(When we’re feeling ambitious, we sometimes use art or craft projects as the image on the cards.)

4 | Betsy Mae

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:18 am


I can believe you didn’t send the cards, I’ve done that so many times myself. We have good intentions and then the ‘season’ arrives and it’s fast and furious. I love the idea of cards arriving anytime in and around the holidays, who cares if it’s not in time for Christmas?

I made my cards this year (it’s my hobby) but I kept them simple so I could make them quickly. I still have to address them and write them! Like you, I enjoy the notes with snippits of peoples lives written in them or special messages so I want to do the same. I hope to do them this weekend but if they are late for Christmas oh well!

5 | andrea

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:25 am


Stefania: not us. We keep them! I can’t bear to throw them out.

6 | Rae

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:36 am


keep them and cut them up to make gift tags for future years.

7 | Ginger

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:38 am


Last year our Christmas cards doubled as the boys’ birth announcement and I spent a small fortune on them. I made them in iPhoto and printed them through Mac (which I think is Kodak). I was pleased with them.

This year I was feeling frustrated and rushed. I wanted to do a picture card with our recent family photo but the size of the photo was wrong and there wasn’t a “perfect” picture.

Then one night I was out doing a little shopping and I found the perfect cards. On the front of the card is a little separate piece that you can plant and wild flowers will grow. I love the message on the card and the cards are made from 30% post consumer waste greeting cards and the envelopes are 100% recycled post consumer waste envelopes! I will write more about them on my blog as one of my 25 Days of Christmas.

Now I have to decide if I am going to put a picture of us in them and what to write.

8 | Chantal

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:42 am


sounds like great idea for welcome baby cards! :)

9 | Susan

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:49 am


Certainly not apropos to cards, but I was sitting in a study carrel in a hallway at Algonquin College last week, doing homework between classes. A prof-type was walking slowly down the hallway, talking on his cell. As he walked by, he was saying “Yeah, there’s this influential Ottawa blog called Inside the Fishbowl or something like that…”

I resisted the temptation to run up and correct his misnomer.

10 | Christine LaRocque

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:01 am


This is a really great idea. Card making is a hobby of mine so I make my own, but this site has great ideas for other things! I’m the same, like to send a personal message in each card. Makes for a lengthy card making process.

11 | Lynn

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:07 am


I laughed out loud at your confession that you never actually sent the cards! That’s hilarious. Sounds like you’ve found a good solution for this year…I am usually a diehard card-sender but I’m having trouble getting motivated this year. I’ll think it over.

Which showing of The Nutcracker are you going to? I assume one of the evening ones? I’m taking our older two on Saturday afternoon at 1:30. You HOPE you aren’t sitting beside us :).

12 | andrea

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:11 am


There are a ton of applications for this, for sure.

Lynn, I emailed you!

13 | Siobhan

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:51 am


I always liked my mother’s approach. She’d just accept the fact that her cards wouldn’t get out in time for Christmas, and she’d send cards for whatever occasion it was when she got them out. Often she’d send Chinese New Year’s cards – we’re not Chinese, but end of Jan/early Feb was a good time for her to send cards. She found that people liked it – there’s lots of cards coming in December, but no one expects one in early February.

14 | Kristina

December 2nd, 2009 at 11:40 am


Oh my goodness….I do that EVERY. YEAR. I must confess a great deal of relief to hear that others do the same! :)

15 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

December 2nd, 2009 at 1:10 pm


I keep every card, including thank you cards for wedding gifts. Cards and letters are the only thing I hoard.

16 | Marianne

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:57 pm


My mother sends hers as New Year’s cards and letters … that way she has time between Christmas and New Years to write them.

17 | Cindy

December 2nd, 2009 at 8:48 pm


I found a solution that works well for me. I created a label file one year. It took some time to make my list of recipients, look up all their addresses, and enter them all in, but now every year I just have to make some minor changes to the file from the year before. I know the label file is less personal but it gets the job done. It serves as a reminder of who I sent cards to the year before (I save my label file from each year for reference). I also designed a pretty Christmas return address label. If you’d like me to send you my Christmas return address label file (Word document) please let me know!

18 | Brie

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:29 pm


I always call mine New Year’s cards. I like the sounds of that better. I sent them last year since there was a new baby. This year I didn’t even try to get organized.

19 | Josée

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:41 pm


I used to send Christmas cards (sans photo – that task would never get completed!) but the thought just overwhelms me this year… I love your postcard idea. I’ll keep it in mind for next year!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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