Customizing the Year: Personalized Agendas

The reality might sit like a stone in your belly, but the truth is that it is not too early to be thinking about holiday presents, especially if you celebrate Christmas.  I am actually already regretting that I didn’t get my act together to opt out of some of the holiday excess – I’m pretty sure to do this, one must start much earlier than mid-November.

This holiday stress aside, along with any resulting irony, I’m going to suggest to you a holiday present that might hit the mark for some of the people on your list with vanishing targets.  Last Christmas, I created customized agenda books for my in-laws (who, probably like yours, have basically everything).  But they didn’t have a book that was filled with photographs of their eight grandchildren taken at the family cottage, and this is what I made.

I used the online book-making company Blurb, and can make a good, solid recommendation for them.   Basically, you download their software, upload your photos, and then use their navigation tools to create the layouts you want for your agenda.  There are various templates to choose from, and your photo page that accompanies each month can feature one or many photographs.  It’s not particularly expensive, considering customization:  I think mine cost about $20 or $25.

Since you are actually only creating 12 photo pages plus the covers, it doesn’t take long.  You choose paper quality and cover quality, and when satisfied with your agenda book, you send it to them online.   A couple of weeks later, your one-of-a-kind book will arrive at your doorstep, and you will be equipped with a gift that you can present with the pride of the virtual printpress.

Here are a couple of tips from she who has been around this block.  First, the agenda is not as thoroughly equipped with tools and features as you would find in an agenda you would pick up from Indigo.  There is no address section, conversion charts, lists of airline companies, etc.  I don’t miss these particularly, but I wouldn’t have minded a few extra pages for notes.  I missed that there weren’t dates on each day, but t; rather the dates of the week were just listed at the top of the page for that week (for eg., this week’s page would simply say “November 12-November 18”).   Also, the holidays aren’t identified.  Blurb sent out feedback on their agendas, which were introduced for the first time last year, so maybe there have been improvements this year.

Overall, though, these issues are pretty minor, and it really is nice to give someone special something that they can’t buy or create on their own.  And if agenda books aren’t your thing, of course you can create other kinds of photo books.  For those of you who keep blogs, especially personal ones that might interest family members, you can use Blurb to create a blog book, which is how I first discovered it.  This is truly a spectacular feat, as you don’t have to upload a ton of entries manually.  I was completely happy with the hardcover book quality that I chose, and I didn’t even opt for any of the fancy papers available.

For bigger projects and multiple books, it’s helpful to leave yourself enough time to create one book and then make a final edit once it’s physically in your hands.  You may have to pay shipping more than once, but after making something with Blurb, you’ll receive discounted promotions for future projects, and can use one of these to purchase additional books.

But I digress.  You don’t need a big project to make an impact.  12 photo pages, an agenda book, and a couple (or few, depending on who you are) hours can leave your loved ones with smiles on their faces with memories from the previous year, and with anticipation of the ones to come in the next.