Projects – October Reruns/A Bit of This and That

I’ve blogged for years and some of the projects I’ve had fun making and sharing get lost in the archives. Here’s a rerun of reruns!

I came across this terrific display of Jack-O-Lanterns a few years ago and it will remain imprinted on my mind as one of the most creative Halloween decorations I’ve ever seen. If I ever have the time, money and help of many hands perhaps I will try to duplicate it.

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I love Jack O’ Lanterns. This big pumpkin devouring a smaller pumpkin was fun to carve and display.

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Several years ago after seeing an idea on how to make Oyster Jack O’ Lantern ornaments on Pinterest, I created several. They have held up for years and today I will be decorating my Norfolk Island Pine tree with these adorable pumpkins.

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You can find full directions here:
Jack O’ Lantern Tree Part I
Jack O Lantern Tree Part II

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These playful glasses were certainly a hit with my grandchildren and trick-or-treaters who came to our door.

My experience and the link to Martha Stewart’s directions for the glasses can be found at Martha’s Halloween Glasses

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Finally, although I didn’t make this snarky sign based on the Wizard of Oz, I love the quote. I only wish I could keep a straight face long enough to use it when someone “bugs” me, but I know I would dissolve into laughter before I could get out two words. Enjoy the season, and remember, “I have flying monkeys, don’t make me use them.” Teeheehee!

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Projects – Hydrangeas in Autumn

Autumn arrives today in New Jersey at 9:54 P.M.

Yesterday, I searched my gardens for a perfect botanical representative of the fall season. I chose this beautiful hydrangea blossom, still bluish in color, but changing over to maroons and greens.

If left on the bush, winter winds, rain and snow will knock some flower bunches to the ground. The flesh of the petals will wear away and leave in its place a gorgeous lace-like everlasting. I enjoy finding these skeletonized flowers in odd places when winter ends. They make good pressed flowers and can be used in bouquets too.

If you don’t trust nature to do the work for you, cut a few of the flower bunches and place them beneath the bush, held in place within the spines of the lowest-lying stems. Come Springtime, you just might find a few perfect skeletonized flowers to use in your crafts and art.

Project – Acrylic Pour Paintings

Youtube can be addictive. There is so much information it is mind-boggling. Recently I became entranced by acrylic pouring videos and using an easy and budget-friendly method created amazing paintings with my grandsons on a Sunday afternoon. We used a votive candle cup to pour over, but I’ve included an even easier Youtube video that shows how to pour paint into and out of a measuring cup. I think I will try this technique next.

I bought inexpensive acrylics at 3 for $1.00 at A.C. Moore. I had Elmer’s glue on hand and plenty of leftover squirt bottles from a tie-dying project. The canvas size is 12 x 12,  purchased in bulk at 7 for $10.00 by using a 50% off coupon. Buying materials when they were on sale kept the cost of creating seven canvases under $20.00.

Pre-mixing your liquids/paints is key for a successful painting. I pre-mixed 16 ounces of 1/2 glue and 1/2 water in a leftover ricotta container and stirred well until combined. I poured my acrylic paints into the squirt bottles, added an equal amount of the glue/water mixture, and shook well. Another helpful tip is to elevate the canvas by pushpins on the bottom. This allows the paint to flow off the edges. Cover all surfaces and wear old clothes, or do as we did and cover yourself with a large trash bag. Protective gloves are a MUST…unless, of course, you want rainbow colors under your fingernails for weeks.

Before we started we covered the blank canvas with a layer of the glue/water mix and squeegeed it around with a piece of cardboard until the surface was covered. Begin to pour your acrylics onto the canvas. We poured over a votive candle cup. It worked great. Grooves on the outer surface are key to creating the interesting design.

Pour the paint on top color by color. Keep adding color in varying amounts.

Add paint until the design is about an inch or two from the edges. Remove the votive cup (THIS CAN BE SLIPPERY) and let the paint run into the center before you begin to tilt.

This is me, Nanny, watching my grandsons have FUN!

The younger grandsons, ages 9 and 6, have smaller hands and so we worked as partners to tilt the canvas and allow the paint to run to the edges. Tip: It’s difficult for smaller hands to keep thumbs out of the way.

The twelve-year-old grandson has bigger hands than I do and was able to tilt his canvas on his own.

The thickness of the paint creates a 2 – 3 day drying time. I can’t wait until later in the week when I will have fun again creating a pour in PINKS with my grand-daughters. Happy Painting!

(There are so many techniques and products you can use for creating acrylic pours. I had a great time researching techniques and watching instructional videos on Youtube.)

Project – Driftwood/Project I/Gnarly Trellis

A natural trellis for a very unruly jasmine plant was my first driftwood project. I don’t know if I should title the activity a project, it was more of a planting. These taller lengths are the trunks of small trees with gnarly roots still attached. Because branches don’t have the same appeal to beachcombers as the smaller pieces, they tend to become very aged and gnarled, beautifully bleached by sun and salt.

I used four pieces and inserted them in the potting soil root end up. The longest branch was placed in the center, the three shorter branches support the center piece tripod fashion. The gnarly roots were pliable and easy to maneuver around the center branch for even better stability. I like the natural look this trellis creates. Now I need to work on replacing the plastic pot with an ascetically compatible container.

Projects – Driftwood Part I – Sorting and Cleaning

Goose wall-hanging created with driftwood and acrylic paints.

I love driftwood. I live near oceans and bays and enjoy beachcombing for driftwood, shells and sea glass. This year has been a boom year for driftwood. I’ve collected quite an array, and can’t wait to craft a few new projects.

Untreated driftwood must be cleaned and disinfected; the pieces can harbor germs and bacteria. Before I handle it too much or begin to create, I soak it in a solution of weak bleach. A few pieces are near three feet in length. Finding a way to fully immerse each piece is a bit of a quandary. I eventually soak the pieces in an under-the-bed plastic storage container. Once emptied, this gives me about four feet of soaking space…perfect!

After rinsing, I spread each piece on outdoor tables for additional drying and whitening.  A few pieces still have a bit of grayish, sandy debris in the crevasses. I’ll brush this out with an old toothbrush and soap in the next few days.

I’m excited about all the beautiful projects I can create with this gift from the sea. The designs and texture created by natural weathering would be next to impossible to duplicate. Through the coming weeks I’ll post a few photos of some of the projects I create.

Project & Phlutters – Butterfly Feeding/First Swallowtail Part II

Creating my butterfly feeder was quick, easy and inexpensive. I had much of what I needed on hand. A dollar store windchime with four attachments where the chimes hung was the perfect piece of mechanics for hanging a shallow container filled with Gatorade or boiled sugar water. (4 parts water to 1 part sugar)

No instructions needed, use what you have on hand. The secret lies in the wire and plastic container: a plastic dish scrubber. The butterfly can land on this and use his long proboscis to dine on the nectar. I created holes in the plastic dish with a hot ice pick.

When I added the wire for hanging I let the end curl upward. These make the perfect spear for rotting/old fruit. I was going to use a strawberry, but remembered they are heavily sprayed with insecticide. It is better to use fruit that is within a peel unless it is organic.

Project – Ivy Hanging Basket

One thing I have in abundance is ivy. My backyard has a dry area of ground beneath the pine trees and the only thing that will grow there is ivy…so ivy it is. Good thing I like ivy. Each year, two or three times during spring, summer and autumn, I must pull the ivy climbing the tree trunks away from the bark. This year I found a good use for the long strands.

I saved the cuttings and used the longer pieces to create a living hanging basket. I wove the ivy through the wire mesh of the basket, tucking the ends to the inside.

I cut the bottom off of two brown paper bags and lined the basket with them, carefully trimming away the excess paper level with the top of the basket.

A few petunias finished off the project. I gave it all a good watering and hung the basket from a hook beneath the crabapple tree.

The cooler weather and frequent misting with the hose has kept the ivy alive. I’m hoping the roots will eventually pierce the paper bag and the ivy will begin to grow again. I’ll update in a month or two.

Project – Tripod Birdhouse

Fallen branches create an easy and secure tripod for a bird house. The bottoms are stabilized by placing them about ten inches in the ground. The top of each branch leans against the others securely fastened with floral wire and leather ties. The bird house rests within the three branches and is secured with floral wire and leather through screw-eyes attached to the bottom of the house.

The bird house stands about seven feet tall. I’ll plant several vining plants around the bottom: Moonflower, Cardinal Flower, Morning Glories and Climbing Nasturtiums.

Plants & Projects – Throwback Thursday – Spider Plant Revisited

Two years ago, April of 2015, I shared a project involving a yard sale bird feeder frame and a spider plant. I love to find wiry, strange contraptions at yard sales and turn them into plant containers. This one is still growing strong. The photo above shows the growth the spider babies have made in two years. Spiders are great plants and easy to propagate. I thought this was a good post to revisit for Throwback Thursday since yard sales are beginning again with the warmer weather. The photo below shows the plant when it was just starting out.

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Project – Forcing Pussy Willows

I searched the creek banks near me several times in the last few weeks for pussy willows. There were once several stands of them, but that was before beavers moved into the creek, built a dam, and took down dozens of trees. The beavers have since been relocated to another area, but too late to save the pussy willow trees.

I decided my only course of action to have an Easter arrangement with pussy willows was to buy a bouquet of them. I did so, vased them up, placed them on the mantel, and waited for the catkins to burst through the brown buds. It never happened. My pussy willow branches must have been cut and left dry before they were sold. The twigs are not alive, their catkins will never burst out of the tight buds.

In the meantime, I read an article on preserving pussy willows. I didn’t know I could remove the bud case around the catkin by hand.

This is not as easy as it sounds…and creates a lot of mess.

Removing all the buds took about a half hour of time, but it was worth it. The arrangement looks better with catkins reflecting the light.

Planting & Project – Terrarium in Photos

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I chose a thrift store vase for this project. The bottom is heavy, a good choice since this will keep the terrarium from easily flipping over.

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A layer of pebbles…

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A layer of charcoal…

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A layer of potting soil…

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Moss and small garden cress plant dug up from outdoors…

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I rolled the sheet of moss into a tube to slip into the slender neck of the vase…

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A pencil tamped the plants in place…

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A bit of water from a slender tipped nozzle…a few seeds of alyssum…

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And a beautiful Block Island stone with a stripe running through it…magical! This post will be continued next week with a surprise upcycled stopper for the terrarium top.

Project – Valentine Heart

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Valentine posters are an inexpensive, quick and easy craft for children. All the elements in the poster were purchased at the dollar store: foam board, stickers and ribbon. An adult version could easily be created using old jewelry, beads, glass pebbles, etc.

The first step is to cut the foam board. Oh my, this is the part that gave me the hardest time. Foam board is notoriously hard to cut without shredding the edge. I had success by placing it on a cutting board, using a metal yardstick as a guide, and with heavy pressure cut through the board with a box cutter in one non-stop swipe. If you stop, the board will shred. (I know this from experience) Poster board is a good alternative to foam board and cuts easily without shredding, but it is not quite as stable. My finished backing measured near 18 x 22 inches. You can make this project in any size.

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Create a guide with a large sheet of paper. I have found gift wrap or tissue paper to be a good choice. I usually have some spare pieces lying around the house. Cut the paper several inches larger than your finished backing, fold in half and cut a large heart. Center the heart on the backing and wrap excess paper around edge to back of board, attaching it to the back with tape or glue stick. The front should be taut and smooth.

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Place the stickers on the exposed foam/poster board inside the heart shape. No need to be neat, they look great layered, sideways and even upside down. One caution however, don’t try to change the placement of a sticker once it is down, it will most likely rip the foam/poster board if you do. When the area is filled, carefully peel the paper guide away. We didn’t worry about the appearance of the back and easily attached the ribbon for hanging with duct tape.

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This project pleased everyone. We made two, one for each family to take home. My grandchildren range in age from two years old to ten, they all loved creating the heart and one of them pronounced the finished poster, “AWESOME.”

Projects – Snowflakes Panoply

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I have a brand new panoply of paper snowflakes on my window panes this year. Creating these inexpensive Christmas decorations is one of my joys. All it takes to make these lacy echoes of real snowflakes, is a bit of folding and snipping.

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You will need squares of paper. Computer paper is a good choice for snowflakes. I use different sizes, eight, seven, six, five and four-inch squares. All of these sizes are fairly easy to fold and cut.

Fold the square into a triangle shape by matching catty-corners, or in more modern terms, opposite corners.

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After the first fold is complete, using the corners on the long side of the triangle, fold the paper corner to corner once more.

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This next part is a little tricky. Let the longer side of the triangle face away from you. Bring up the right corner and fold it about a third of a way from the middle. Turn the paper over and repeat this step. You will have an accordion folded piece of paper with two bunny-type ears if you have folded it correctly. If this step is confusing watching the video at the bottom of the post will help.

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After I fold the triangle into this shape, I trim the ‘ears’ off leaving a cone shape. This does not have to be perfectly rounded, you will be cutting into it.

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* Important * You must always leave a bit of the folded sides intact to keep the snowflake whole. Don’t worry if you accidentally cut one and have it fall to pieces…it’s only paper after all.

Begin cutting your snowflake. Try to use both rounded cuts and straight snips. The combination of round and straight will give your snowflake a natural look. After cutting, open up, and prepare to be amazed by your beautiful handiwork.

I like to place the finished snowflakes in the windows of the house. Because the indoor heat causes condensation, the next step is especially important if you are using them on windows.

Iron the snowflakes between sheets of waxed paper. The layer of wax deposited on the paper will create a barrier against moisture. If you are using a good iron, protect it and the ironing board.  Cover the board with an old cloth and use layers of newspaper beneath and over the waxed paper before you begin. The heat of the iron will penetrate the layers of newspaper and melt the wax onto the paper. You might need to change the newspaper several times. I use the waxed paper only one time, use a new sheet, top and bottom, for each batch of snowflakes. * Important * Have a lot of newspaper on hand if you are using a good iron.

I remove the waxed paper immediately after ironing by pulling the two pieces apart.  The snowflakes are ready to glue to your windows.

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Glue??? Yes, you read right. I recommend Elmer’s Disappearing Purple School Glue. Unless you want to spend hours and hours peeling and scraping tape residue from your windows, use a washable glue stick. A glue stick does leave a bit of residue when you take down the snowflakes, but it’s easy to remove with a wet rag. A spray of window cleaner and you would never know glue had been on your windows.

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Project & Pinterest – Headache Salve and Tin

I kid you not…I have pinned thousands of items on Pinterest. If I live for another 300 years I still would never have enough time to do all the projects I’ve pinned.

Last night, through Pinterest, I came upon a recipe for headache salve from the blog Confessions of an Overworked Mom. Her recipe and instructions are easy and the salve turns out great. Combine coconut oil and a few drops of essential oils in a glass bowl and gently heat over a bowl of hot water. The gentle smell of the salve is comforting.  Massaged into your temples when you have a headache, or an overload of stress, would bring some natural, non-chemical relief. Check out Overworked Mom’s post for step-by-step instructions.

I combined making the headache salve with a project. I upcycled an old Altoid tin I had on hand into a pretty container for the salve.

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Before you make the salve, prepare your container. Wipe out an Altoid tin with a soft cloth or napkin. You will also need a thin piece of cardboard and a picture or design of some kind. I used a page from an old Mary Engelbreit calendar.

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Trace the shape of the tin top onto a piece of thin cardboard. I used a piece of an old tissue box.

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Cut out the cardboard, about an 1/8 of an inch smaller than the traced line. I wanted the pretty color of the Altoid tin to frame the finished picture.

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Trace cardboard shape onto the back of the picture or design you have chosen to use. Make sure you have half an inch of extra paper for wrapping around the edge of the cardboard.

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Clip the edges of this excess paper to the line you traced. I used Mod-Podge to glue the picture to the cardboard, wrapping the excess paper around the sides and gluing them to the back of the cardboard.

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I used non-toxic glue to attach the picture to the top of the tin, and applied a thin coat of Mod-Podge to the picture to waterproof it. Let tin dry completely before adding salve.

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I filled the tin with the liquefied headache salve. In the coolness of the house it quickly hardened. In the summertime you will need to store the tin in the refrigerator. Coconut oil liquefies in the heat of the summer.

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I’m pleased I finally got around to making use of one of my Pinterest pins. Give the salve a try. You don’t need to make a fancy container, any tin or jar will do.

The salve would make a nice Christmas present for someone who appreciates handmade gifts. One caution…if the coconut oil becomes warm it WILL liquefy again. Keep in a cool spot. A little dab is all you need to massage into your temples.

* Look up upcycling altoid tins on Pinterest if you want to be amazed and inspired. You will quickly realize why I’ve pinned projects by the thousands. Oh the fun you can have with what others consider a piece of trash.

Pheathers & Project – Feeding Station

After visiting Rocklands Bird Sanctuary/Feeding Station,  I was inspired to create a few new feeding stations of my own.

I found this comment by Tulani from an old post.

“Years ago, I had made a frame (picture frame if you will) & put legs on it 30 inches long….
then I stapled window screening to the frame….
this was my winter time bird feeder.
It’s very easy to make, & it does not have to impress anyone(except you maybe).
the birds will not care a bit what it looks like, they just want to eat their seed to stay healthy & alive.
I never bought the wood I used to make it….I scrounged around town, to find pallets & such, till I had enough wood for what I need….I still scrounge around town for any & all wood projects(woodworking is more of a hobby for me than anything else).
What you can do with this bird feeder after you build it, is limited only by your imagination. Paint it, stain it, leave it unfinished….or decorate it in any fashion you so desire…
Just thought I’d share…. 8 )” ~ Tulani

I followed Tulani’s instructions and scrounged around for some ‘found’ items, and created a frame for larger birds to feed upon.

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I also made use of an old swing with ropes still attached, and hammered a few small nails into the length to anchor down raisins, bread and fruits.

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I soon had my first visitor.

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Project & Plants – Growing a Sweet Potato

It’s time to begin a few indoor gardening projects. At the top of my list is growing a sweet potato plant with my grandchildren.

Growing a sweet potato is easy. Buy a good-sized sweet potato or yam from a farm or organic market; they are less likely to be  treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting.  Insert three or four toothpicks around the widest circumference and place the bottom in water. A flower vase with a slender neck is the perfect container to choose.

The tuber grows quickly and develops a large root system. In just over a month it will be ready for planting in a pot of soil.

I left a portion of the tuber above the soil line. I think it adds a bit of interest to the look of the plant. I also like the way the tuber mirrors the golden-orange brown of the pot’s ceramic finish.

Growing a sweet potato is a fun and easy project for Autumn or Winter.

Project – Halloween Masks & Bats – Spooky!

How much fun is this? The project was easy. I held black construction paper just below the eyes of each portrait, and lightly drew a mask shape to match each face. After cutting out the masks, I applied Elmer’s Glue stick…one of my very favorite craft tools, and attached the finished masks to the glass.  Elmer’s Glue stick (washable variety)  washes off and is easier than tape to remove. When Halloween is over I can easily pull off the paper masks and bats, wipe away the glue with a damp rag, and then Windex. Spooky and easy!

Project – Drying Cranberries

Cranberries are available again in the produce section. I love to use dried cranberries throughout the year, but I am very allergic to the sulfite preservatives sprayed on them. So…I did a little research on the Internet and dried my own.

First I sorted through the berries, keeping only those that were firm and dark red in color. I carefully washed them taking care not to bruise them. While I was doing this I boiled about two quarts of water. I placed the clean cranberries in a large bowl and poured the boiling water over them.

They started sizzling and popping right away. When it appeared that all the cranberries had at least one large crack in their skins, I drained them in the colander. I let them sit for about a half hour to dry.

I placed the cranberries on a cookie sheet covered with parchment, sprinkled them with sugar, and froze them for two hours. After their chill-down was complete, I put them into a preheated 350 degree oven for ten minutes, and turned the oven off for several hours as the directions instructed. The berries didn’t seem to be drying out though, so I turned my oven back on to the lowest temperature. It seemed to do the trick, within a few hours the cranberries had turned into craisins.

The directions I followed recommended freezing them on the same sheet and then bagging them for storage in the freezer. I can’t wait to make cookies, breads and muffins with my delicious and nutritious dried cranberries.

Check out this link for good directions for drying cranberries: In-Depth Article on How to Dry Cranberries

I was so pleased with my dried cranberry success, today I dried bananas. They were even easier, slice them, dip in citrus juice, I used lime, and dry them on parchment until they are dry. A good tip I found is store them first in a glass jar for 7 – 10 days. If condensation appears on the sides of the jar, you will know you need to dry them for a bit longer in the oven. Shake the jar every day while you are doing the moisture checking. When the time is up and the sides of the jar are dry, you can store them in plastic bags or jars in a cool dry place. They will keep for several months up to a year. I had one problem though…

Can you see all the empty spots on the parchment? That’s because I couldn’t stop taste-testing the delicious, scrumptious, delectable and tangy banana slices before they were even finished cooking. They are FABULOUS. My husband is a very picky eater, and even he likes them very much. Hooray!

Project – Shadowbox

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I recently put together a shadowbox of Boy Scout memories with books, scarves, patches and a National Council card dated 1943. These items belonged to my father-in-law and husband, and together they created a perfect assortment of memories to be treasured in a shadowbox.

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My first step was enlarging and printing out a cute photograph of my father-in-law as a boy onto a piece of cardstock. I cut close to the actual image on the right side, but left some of the background to the left. Cutting completely around a head in a photo creates a distracting helmet-like appearance. My father-in-law’s hand in the photograph was in the perfect position to hold an item, allowing me to cut around the outline of his hand and part of his wrist.

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To keep the photo upright I reinforced it with a strip of thin cardboard cut away from a piece of recycled cereal box. It worked perfectly.

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Shadowboxes can be expensive. I purchased this one at a local craft store with a 40% off coupon. There are also good ideas on how to create a shadowbox yourself on Pinterest and other websites.

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The shadowbox came with four pins in a velvet background. I’m glad it did for I found this was the perfect way to stabilize the items inside the box. I moved my memorabilia around until I was satisfied with the appearance, and then pinned everything to the velvet backing with long straight pins.

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I found that lowering the shadowbox frame onto the backing, rather than trying to fit the backing into the frame was the best way to fasten the two together without marring the arrangement. This step is easier with two people, one to hold the pieces, the other to fasten the bottom and top together.

Even though most of us are all grown up, a shadowbox of memories can immediately take us back to a happier time and away for a moment from the cares of the day.