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Page 6

MAKING PLANS

(PART 1)

by Eric McKinley-Brewer and Judy McKinley-Brewer

Summertime is family time. As your family spreads its wings and settles all over the globe, a family reunion becomes something to cherish. And from the party's initial planning stages right through to when the last guests pick up their keepsakes, your family computer can play a key role in the event. What's more, your family will have hours of fun at the computer before the party even starts.

For our family reunion we used our computer to create a logo, make invitations, organize the guest list, manage an online reunion, make a family tree, decorate, play party games, and make prizes. The 13 activities and projects that follow cover everything from advanced planning to reunion activities to ways to keep your family in touch well after the reunion is over. Of course, you may want to add your own touches to our reunion plan. No matter what approach you take, make sure you include your family computer on your reunion committee (see Recommended Software).



CREATE THE FAMILY LOGO

WHEN: One month before the event
WHAT YOU NEED: A paint program

A fun logo for your family reunion lends pizzazz and a common theme to everything from invitations to party decorations. Ask your kids to use their favorite paint program to draw a few (we did six) full-page caricatures or drawings of some of your family members (you'll also use these for party decorations later). Encourage your kids to include identifying details like hairstyle, glasses, and typical attire. Provide old photos or brief suggestions for people your children don't remember. Pets are OK subjects, too. Let the kids have fun, and don't worry about the particulars -- if lanky Uncle John turns out short-legged, that's part of the fun. Don't forget to save each caricature.

Next, sketch a well-branched tree for the logo, and then shrink down all the elements and arrange the caricatures around it. If you prefer, you can skip the tree and place the characters in a cozy circle. If you are using a paint program like Paint for Windows95, import the caricatures by selecting Paste from File on the Edit menu. In ClarisWorks, use File, Insert.... If your program has no menu choice for inserting pictures, you can always open the character file and copy it to the Clipboard, open the tree file and select Paste, and then scale the image. Repeat this process until all the characters are in place.

Make sure the logo is something you and the kids both like. You'll use it again and again throughout the party, so you and your guests will be seeing a lot of it.



MAKE AN INVITATION

WHEN TO DO IT: One month before the event
WHAT YOU NEED: Old family photos, family reunion logo, paint program

Use a paint program to import your family logo to a blank document, opened in landscape mode. Center the logo near the bottom margin, which will be the inside of your card, and use the scaling tools to adjust the logo's size to approximately three inches in diameter. The blank spaces to the left and right of the logo will carry your party details.

Select an old-fashioned font (such as Americana) or a casual handwritten font (Signature). In the space to the left, type in party particulars: "Come to the gathering for fun and chatter; Sunday, July 21..." On the right side of the page, indicate RSVP and request that guests bring along a traditional or favorite recipe, an anecdote to share, or a photo. Of course, include your email address and phone number for RSVPs.

Divide the upper half of a horizontal or landscape page into quarters lengthwise. When you assemble your invitation, you'll fold the top half of the page backward, and then the two ends will fold forward to create the front flaps of the card. These two flaps will create a barn door-style opening that will be the cover of the invitation. An old family photo is perfect for the cover.

Import the family photo to the top half of the card. Scale it to fit in the center two quarters, and save. Add your party slogan, "We've Been Apart Too Long, Get Back to Your Roots," or "We've Branched Out a Lot." Use the same font you chose for the inside message, in a larger size, and place the slogan under your photo. Make a duplicate of both the photo and the text by using the copy feature of your paint software. Now rotate one copy of the photo and text 180 degrees and move it to the left, so half the photo and text hang off the left edge of the sheet. Repeat the process with the other copy, moving the photo and text to the right. When the card is folded, the left and right halves of the photo will come together to make a complete picture. In a drawing or paint program, the edges of the photo will not print, even though you'll see them on the screen.

Print a sample, trim, fold, and make adjustments to your template accordingly. Print the invitation on heavy paper (about 60 pounds; make sure you check your printer's manual, because some printers require a manual feed for this weight). If you are having a large gathering (say, over 40 invitations), take the original to a copy service -- your old photos will look great in black and white, and it's a lot cheaper than printing in color. The invitations will fit in a standard card envelope, no. 5H, available in a variety of colors in large office-supply stores.

SHORTCUT
You can buy programs that specialize in making invitations -- for example, Hallmark Connections Card Studio (Windows CD-ROM, $50 street; Micrografx, 800-676-3110) and CardShop Plus Deluxe (Mac and Windows CD-ROM, $59.95 street; Mindscape, 800-234-3088 or 415-897-9900).



ORGANIZE YOUR GUEST LIST

WHEN TO DO IT: One month before the event
WHAT YOU NEED: A spreadsheet from a works program

If your reunion invitation list includes far-flung family members, consider setting up a spreadsheet to help you stay organized. ClarisWorks 4.0 and Microsoft Works both offer good, simple spreadsheets. Start with columns for name, address, phone, email address, and check-offs for photo, RSVP, recipe title, and anecdotal information.



SET UP AN ONLINE CHAT

WHEN TO DO IT: One month before the event
WHAT YOU NEED: An online account and email

A unique way to prepare for your reunion is to invite your relatives (or those who can participate) to join in an online family chat. It's easy to set up a private chat room on America Online just by going to People Connection and selecting Private Room. Tell everyone the name of your room and when you plan on "talking." Use the chat to plan the event and the details of travel. Roundtable chats are also an excellent way to keep in touch after everyone returns home.

While not everyone you're inviting will have an AOL account, they still may have some type of email account -- either at home or at work. You can go the simple route of emailing each other with messages and news.



CREATE A FAMILY HEIRLOOM TABLECLOTH

WHEN: One week before the event
WHAT YOU NEED: Iron-on transfer printer paper, ink-jet printer, cloth or bedsheet

The new iron-on transfer papers that work with ink-jet printers make it a breeze to add computer-generated artwork to items that don't fit into a printer, so you can create all sorts of unique items. To make a tablecloth, for example, use iron-on transfer sheets and an ink-jet printer to place the caricatures that you created for your family logo around the edges of your cloth or bedsheet. If you own a Canon printer, you can use TR-101 T-shirt transfers (a special paper available from Canon for Canon printers only). If you own a printer from another manufacturer, you can use the new Awesome Iron-On Kit from PrintPaks, which contains everything that you need to create iron-on images and will work with any ink-jet printer.

Size the images that you and your kids created for the logo, arranging them in pairs, touching hands, to fit sideways (landscape mode) on the transfers. Print several copies of each pair, and space them around the edges of the cloth. You can use these iron-ons for future reunions -- they are washable and made to last.

SHORTCUT
For a less permanent tablecloth than the one we describe in the main text, print your characters onto full-sheet label paper and apply the designs to a disposable paper tablecloth.



TABLETOP DECORATIONS

WHEN: One week before the event
WHAT YOU NEED: Foam board, 8 1/2- by 11-inch Avery #5156 label paper, digitized photo (optional), caricatures (from logo project), dowels for standing the dolls up

Print each of your favorite caricatures as large as will fit on a sheet of 8H- by 11-inch label paper. If you can, make your caricatures even more realistic by first substituting photographs for the hand-drawn faces you created for your logo.

Now use Flip (or Reflect, depending on your program) to make a mirror image of your character. Stick one of the images to foam board and cut it out with a craft knife. Cut and position the mirror image, and touch up the edges as necessary. Use colored tape or permanent markers to fill in the white cut-foam edges. Carefully make a hole in each foot for a pencil or five-inch section of dowel.

To substitute a face from a photo into your drawing, use a photo-retouching utility. Circle the photo face with the Selection tool and copy it to the Clipboard. Switch to your drawing program and click on Paste. Resize the photo face, and position it over the cartoon figure.

FAMILYPC TIP
An outdoor party is likely to have water and beverages flying about, so it's a good idea to seal all your paper projects that involve inks. We recommend Design Master Super Surface Sealer #656, available at craft stores. Make sure an adult does the spraying, in a well-ventilated area.