Ask Jo: Christmas Letter

Often times blog readers ask questions that I think others might be interested in as well.  I answer them on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

I recently got a comment from Shasta about our Christmas letter:
Merry Christmas Jo. I absolutely love that Christmas letter. What software do you use? I like how the words and pictures are interspersed.

Click on the image and it will open to full sized.

Here’s the answer:  NONE
I don’t use any fancy program to do this.  I did it in Publisher.  I went and did Google searches for coloring book pages or clip art for each item.  For example:  I needed two different nurses…one for our daughter Kelli and one for our daughter Kalissa.  I went typed “Nurse coloring page” into the search bar lots of images came up.  I copy/pasted the images into my page in Publisher.  I had to do a lot of resizing to make the images the size I needed.

I needed teacher images.  Male teachers didn’t come up when I typed in “teacher coloring page” so I added the word “male” to the search.

The Christmas images of the ornaments, the “Merry Christmas” and the “Come let us Adore Him” were all found in a search under “Christmas clip art black and white”.

I used text boxes to write the words.  Each blurb that I wrote is it’s own individual text box.  Part of the trick to making this all work is understanding “Text Wrapping”.

Image result for format text box icon

By clicking on the above icon you will get the following options.

Image result for text wrap image

For newbies:  When you do graphic designing like this you are actually working on layering things onto a blank sheet of paper when designing something like my Christmas letter.  Using these “wrapping” options allows all of the images to play on the same document.  I use the “in front of text” a lot.  Many of the images or coloring book pages that I used to make the design are actually square or rectangular.  BUT, in what I’m working on, I don’t want that to appear like it’s a square but look like like a floating image instead.  Using these “wrapping” features helps make them not be squares.

For the text: I use the “insert text box” option like this….Image result for insert text box

I type in the words I want to write…then format the box.

In the picture below I right clicked on the text box and then options came a I chose the one “Format Text Box”.


Then these options come up…


This allows me to take or add options to that text box.  For my purposes, I chose that the box not have an outer line and I chose that the box not have any color fill.

From there I just clicked on images and text boxes moving and resizing them until I ended up with the final Christmas letter.  I have a few people proof read it as you all know I am TERRIBLE at proof reading.  Once it was good to go I printed them myself with our printer.  It’s a cheap way to do a Christmas letter that’s a little bit fun…and a little more interesting than the Christmas card that comes and only has a signature on it.

These options are in Word and in Publisher….I’m sure other programs as well.  This is where I use them from.  I learned to do this when I was busy with my website, Making Learning Fun.  I created and put together ALL of the projects and resources on the website designed to help early educators have free and useful educational products for teaching young preschool aged children.  That was my main job for several years.  I’ve kind of let it go as my focus now is babies to three year olds and they don’t need that type of resource.  It’s there and will continue to stay there to help early educators all free of cost.

The site is organized by themes…Apples, Christmas, Polar Bears and MANY other themes preschool teachers need.  I also have a section on where I made activities that go with popular children’s books like the classic Eric Carle book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”.  Here’s a link to the at page if you want to see what I used to do.  Click on any of those categories and you’ll see reading or math type pages that correspond with the book.  All of the images I drew on the computer and used the formatting options that I explained above in order to make the learning activities.

The site is super popular with librarians, grandparents, home schoolers and preschool teachers.    When my kids were in college at UNI, ISU and UIU, they regularly had friends who were early education majors.  Many times, those early education students were putting together units for classes and my own kids would notice them using my website as a resource.  That was so fun for my kids to say, “Cool.  I see you are using my Mom’s website”.  The would ALWAYS start a big conversation!!

Well that explanation sure did get chatty…. But there’s the answer.  I don’t and never have used a “special” program for any of the graphic designing, drawing or images that I’ve made.  In fact, all of the quilts I’ve designed on the computer use this same exact method.  I’ve not used EQ.  I did buy EQ 7 but ugh.  I love my old way of doing quilt designing.  It’s hard to teach this old dog a new trick.  By the way, I do have a couple blog posts about how I did the quilt designing using Word.  You can find the first installment here and the second here.

5 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Christmas Letter”

  1. I’ve used EQ from the first version. I do the Block of the Month for my guild and the program makes it so easy! But, we all do what works for us. My niece is majoring in early childhood education; I’ll have to mention your website to her when she returns from running the Disney marathon this weekend.

  2. Thank you so much for this detailed explanation! I’ve made some newsletters using Word, but apparently never thought to use inline text. And I didn’t insert text boxes. I just used two or three columns. I really like the way this looks.

  3. Way back in the day of Windows 3.1, 95 & 98 I used a really cool card making program (maybe by Hallmark??? maybe not) that let you do anything you could dream up and it was super easy to use for signs, posters, letters like yours AND cards. Sadly it went away with Windows XP. I still miss it. I’ve used Publisher but can’t say I ever got good at it. Also have an old version of Photoshop I picked up somewhere along the way but any program that does so much has a pretty steep learning curve….and that’s why I miss that old program so much. It was so intuitive.

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