Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

Christmas Greetings – 2013

Posted by joeabbott on December 27, 2013

imageEvery year Suzy and I create our own holiday greeting cards. In the past we’ve done elaborate designs but find our time these days at a premium so we’re not able to put as much time into crafting our annual cards. However, there are still many hours of effort that goes into these and this year was no different. Let’s take a look at what putting together a card requires.


Sometime in early November we start to get serious about needing a plan. As with other years, we’ll have talked about it in September, then October, but as we hit November, we start to count off the days and realize we need to get on it ASAP.

This year we kicked around a few ideas that have been bubbling about, tossed in a couple others, and then Suzy suggested something that I liked a lot: let’s decorate the coop. I think she said something about putting a deer by the coop and I liked it a lot: what if all Santa’s deer took up residence in our coop?

Initial shots

We have something like 18 lighted deer, so I thought we could pull this off. Something along the lines of: we put up a wreath and a few decorations on the coop and, before you knew it, we had a flock of reindeer in residence. So, one day I pulled out all our deer, a couple lighted trees, and anything else that looked “Christmasy” and set it up by the coop. Suzy didn’t seem 100% onboard but she entertained me and continued to ask what the words would be that tied it together.

Sometimes we write a fanciful story, sometimes let our pets (the cats and chickens) star equally as mischievous pests or heroes that save Christmas for Santa. For this one we didn’t have anything solid yet. Which made it hard for Suzy to get behind. I was far more willing to wing it and see what came. I just liked the idea of Santa’s deer taking over our coop.

So we spent a couple hours snapping pictures, moving deer about, and trying to get a shot that looked good. Suzy was far more critical of the execution; at one time I’d pushed a white deer atop the coop but against a grey sky it just wasn’t showing up, so we moved the deer about. It took longer than I thought and, at the end, I believe I was delighted but Suzy was still dubious on a clutter of outdoor decorations in a chicken coop being able to pull off our annual (and in some cases, only) written greeting to friends and family.

imageRefining things

Over the years we have come to the assigned roles of Suzy doing the visual stuff and I do the written stuff. Being supportive and super-cool, even without understanding the direction, Suzy took the pictures and started pushing around bits on her Mac: sorting the various shots, adjusting color, and ensuring composition would hold up to printed cards.

I’d make suggestions and talk in abstract and vague terms about what we could say and how we’d use the space inside to send a card. As we continued to hone the various greetings and messages, she’d make different proofs.

Lighting strikes

In one proof she inserted our two cats, Trimble and Trasper, as larger-than-life cats looking over the fence. Brilliant! With that, things just seemed to snowball into a grand card! I liked how it looked a bit crazy or nutty. She also had a shot of me from our May skydiving outing coming down in the background.

As we’d talked about what we’d say in this year’s card, we centered on a few of the fun things we did. While climbing is a major focus for my life, we wanted to focus on stuff we did together and the fun times we shared with family and friends.

Suddenly it seemed perfect for the picture to reflect the words we were starting to build: our year was a manic rush of fun, from skydiving, to go-kart racing, to the carnival-themed family gathering we hosted in summer.

Final execution

The final card is shown above: it keeps the deer-around-the-coop bones, but includes a few highlights from the year for a nutty/fun air. It turned out good, mostly from Suzy putting in dozens of hours at the computer to perfect the visuals, pulling in the words, and putting a polish on it that reflected our year: just a lot of fun.

Wait, there’s more!

Suzy has kept a catalog of our cards from the many years out here: Joe and Suz Christmas Cards. Take a look if you have some time and want to enjoy some of the fun we’ve shared with our close friends and family in the form of our annual card.


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