December 2018 — Reach Out for the Holidays!

Christmas tree made of apple gadgets

Tech advances have made it easier than ever to catch up with friends and family at this festive season.

For Traditionalists

For some of us, especially those whose lives have moved them around and away from old friends, there’s just nothing like a greeting on actual paper that arrives in the mailbox.


Staples and Walmart offer cute holiday themed papers on which you can print out a holiday newsletter.  You can also buy festive colored envelopes to send them in.

Alternatively, you can use a holiday template from Google Docs and either print your newsletter or send it out via email.


There are lots of places which will create a custom holiday card for you.  I really enjoy sending a photo card, and have done this successfully from and Shutterfly  These places will also address the card for you, if you provide them with the necessary addresses.  This is sort of a pain the first time you do it, which is probably how they lock you in!  I just finished updating my list at Shutterfly and it took longer than it should.

It’s probably faster to export your contact list to a spreadsheet, and use that for telling a card company how to address things, but that gets fiddly too, unless you maintain a special spreadsheet with the people on your card list.

Walmart and Vistaprint and Walgreens all have offerings, as well, and they are generally more economical, but they are cards only, without any envelope printing services.

Alternatively, you can buy address labels that load into the computer, and use your contact list to populate them. This is a nice guide for how to do that: How to Print Labels in Word, Pages, and Google Docs

For Techies

There are a lot of creative ways to send greetings if you want to keep them virtual.


You do need the email addresses of your correspondents, and the reality is that if you use a virtual service to send e-Cards, you are handing off the email addresses of your friends to a company which may then resell them.  I don’t worry too much about that, now that spam filters are pretty good, but if you know people who guard their email addresses with their lives, well, maybe they should get a paper card!

It’s important to use a respected vendor for eCards, as scammy ones have been known to tuck viruses in with their greetings!

Here is TechRadar’s review of a few free eCard sites.  Hallmark, of course is a respected name in this business, and they also offer a line of eCards,   Hallmark’s are not free, they require a monthly subscription.  But you can do a 1 month subscription for December for $5, send a bunch of cards, and then cancel, so it’s not at all a bad deal, if you like their selection.

Video Cards

You can get very fancy and send video cards that dance and sing.  I found this review of vendors in this space

Or, go DIY, make a video on your phone and upload it to YouTube.  Then send the link to your friends and family in an email!

Get Togethers

The holidays are often busy with official gatherings for work, church, and school.  But they are a GREAT time to make plans with busy people for when things calm down a little after the first of the year.

Most of us know somebody who isn’t plugged into a lot of gatherings, and could probably use an outing. Making a plan to do lunch in some place that’s all prettified for the holidays can be a great way to bring some quiet meaning to what can be a frenzied time.  Ok, you may say, great idea, but what is the tech angle here?  Oh. Right!  May I remind you that we have dozens of technologies at our fingertips to facilitate this sort of gathering – you can call a friend, or email them or text them, or facebook message them! You can put the date on your calendar!


If you are planning a larger gathering, you can use the card printers mentioned above to print lovely custom invitations. There are also several eInvitation vendors. eVite is the 10,000 pound gorilla in this space, but I found a review of alternatives which might suit you better.

Hanging out – Virtually!

I was raised on the old-fashioned telephone call, in which one person called another person and carried on a focused conversation with that person until we hung up, or passed the phone on to somebody else.  I carried this approach into the new video calling technologies, until my son and wife were visiting and mentioned that his pal Ted and his wife Ruba wondered whether we’d like to “Hang out” for a while.  Ted was working for Google at the time and I half-expected that this was some sort of tech demonstration, but no.  We connected in a video chat and then went about our business, reading magazines, cleaning the kitchen, and chatting back and forth.  It was surprisingly delightful.

These days, my husband and son like to connect via FaceTime and watch football together.  It’s not the same as having son, who lives in Seattle, in our own living room with us, but it’s surprisingly close to that experience.

So if you know you’ll be cooking while someone you love far away is doing the same thing, you might want to fire up the tablet and do it together.  Or, you could watch a favorite holiday show together.   FaceTime and Skype are still the main ways we do this, and Google Hangouts lets you have multiple people in multiple places on the call.  I have some links on how to use these on my September 2018 page