Friday, December 30, 2011

Life Box

I am so excited about the project I'm sharing with you today.  I put a lot of time into it because I'm hoping it's something that will grow near and dear to me in the coming years.

If you're on Pinterest, you may have seen this "Line A Day" Calendar Journal:

I love the idea of this.  It's something small, simple, and easy to do each day to halfway journal/document your life.  I have kept this project in mind since I saw it months ago, and it remained something I wanted to do before the new year started.  I'm calling it my "Life Box" since it will really be a documentation of the most important and special highlights of my life.  Basically each card has a date on it, and at the end of each day you write down one thing you did, accomplished, learned, experienced, etc.   Something significant from each day.  The first year is probably going to be pretty bland and boring, but I think it will be fun and interesting to do this the second year and forward to see how much I or life has (or hasn't) changed in a year's time.  I was kind of getting butterflies in my tummy when I was making this, imagining the possibilities of what is now a normal date in my life to become something so significant.  This year, I may write, "took Akela for a walk" or "slept in until 10:00".  But someday, that same card might say "bought a house", "started a new career", "got married", "had my first child".  AHH!!  It's just so exciting to me, and honestly makes me think this is going to be something that motivates me to LIVE more and better.  It's that little bit of accountability to do something significant every day.  Just knowing that I need to have something to write on my card at the end of the day will, I hope, encourage me to do more significant things.  Make sense?  I also think it will challenge me to continue to improve and grow.  It would be a bummer if year after year a card got worse or less exciting.  So it will also be something that motivates me to make my cards (days, life) better and more exciting.  I'm pretty pumped about all the possibilities of this!  

My Aunt Sharyn gave me a gift card to Michael's for Christmas, so I headed out in search of inspiration for this project.  I found the perfect supplies, came home, and got started.  I literally finished a few hours ago, and couldn't wait to share!  

If you're going to make a life box of your own using the tutorial I'm giving, you'll need:
  • A wooden box
  • Acrylic paint (Colors of your choice, I used four different colors)
  • Brush on gloss glaze (optional)
  • Paintbrushes in different sizes
  • Pencil
  • 365-ish 3X5 inch ruled index cards
  • White cardstock (I used textured, but you could use whatever you have, even colored or patterned if you wanted to)
  • Rubber stamps...alphabet and numbers
  • Black stamp ink
  • Small screwdriver

I started this project by first making the cards for each day of the year.  When I was getting my supplies, I found packs with 180 ruled index cards at Kroger.  I bought three because I'm a perfectionist and knew I would mess up a few.  I also pulled out my set of rubber stamp letters (the plastic container I keep my larger ones in is from Dove facial cleanser wipes...perfect!).  

When I first started this blog, I promised to share all my successes and also misses.  Because any crafter will tell you that you almost never get it right the first time.  So I started testing out the different stamps I had.  By the way, the original tutorial on Design Sponge suggests using a date stamp.  If you have one of those, it would certainly be faster than what I did!  But I didn't have one and didn't want to try to find where to buy one or spend the money on it for just this project.  So I used what I had.  In the end, I'm glad I did.

After looking at my two options for letters, I decided the larger (capital) letters were too big, and I didn't like the way they were all spaced out.  I like the small (lowercase) letters, but it took a long time and didn't line up perfectly stamping each letter.

I tried to do it anyway, but still didn't like the look of the giant numbers.  At least not in this "font" just looked a little off to me.  

Fortunately, I was working on this project at my mom's house, and she has stamps.  So I raided her collection and found these!

I was psyched because the clear block and stamps meant each month's lettering would be uniform and perfect and OCD-friendly.  YAY!  So I started out with January 31, testing out the letters and two-digit date for spacing.  I used my notecard lines to make it straight.  I was excited!  


FAIL!  I loved the font and everything, but it wouldn't stamp evenly.  Since they were from different companies (and different quality), the number stamps were thicker and the letters weren't evenly sized.  I could NOT get the full month abbreviation to stamp and the ink from the numbers was bleeding.  So on to plan C, or J, or whatever it is by now.

I just used mom's numbers.  I liked this collection because they were all different and magazine ransom note-looking.  If that makes any sense why I would think that's cute.  Anyway...

I LOVED the way they turned out.  It seemed to go pretty quickly the way I did my stamping.  I started with the end of the month and stamped 8 cards with the 31 (yes, using the knuckle trick I learned in elementary school and taught my 2nd and 3rd graders to remember which months have 31 days).  Then, I took off the 1 and replaced it with a 0 and stamped 11 cards.  Once I got to 29, I stamped 12 cards for each number.  As I stamped them, I laid them across the desk in 12 different piles.  Doing this gave the ink time to dry before I got around to laying the next card down.  By the time I was finished, I had each of the twelve months stamped with dates and laying in the right order.

Then it was on to the month abbreviations.  I knew I didn't want to do the whole name for each month (how long would it take to get September done?!?!) so I decided on 3 or 4 letter abbreviations.  That, I can handle.  Sadly, the clear stamps wouldn't work.  There were a couple of important letters missing from my mom's set.  So, it was back to my wooden rubber stamps.  I opted for the smaller letters and decided to do the month on the other side of the card so it's more balanced.  I also decorated a couple of special days with stamps I had for holidays.

So at this point, all my cards were stamped with month and date, with a few decorated for holidays.  Time to start on the fun part!  The box!

I got this plain wooden box with a latch at Michael's for $2.99 from the wooden shapes aisle.  It wasn't my favorite...I was looking for something simpler, sleeker, something without brass hinges and latches.  But this was the day after Christmas, and this was the best I could find.  I'm so glad, because it ended up being perfect!

I didn't do anything to the box to treat or prepare's ready to paint once you bring it home.  I was originally going to just do two colors, a main color and accent color, but went a different direction once I spent some time in the paint aisle!  I wanted the main color to be something pretty neutral and basic so that it could easily sit on a shelf or desk in any room without being an eyesore.  But I also wanted it to be personalized...something "me"...something fun.  So, I picked out a color combination that made me happy.  If you're interested in using the same colors, the main color I used is Apple Barrel Gloss in "Dolphin Grey".  I used this color on the outside of the box on all sides and the bottom.  To help make sure I covered everything, I used a small screwdriver to first remove the hinges and latch and separate the lid from the base.

The other colors I used are all Americana and are called "Bluegrass Green", "Deep Midnight Blue", and "Vivid Violet".  FUN, fun colors (though the coloring in the pictures isn't quite the same as real life)!  I decided to write the word "Life" on the front.  No, I didn't perfectly scribe it the first time.  It took about 30 minutes to get the size and lettering I could deal with.  Use a light pencil to trace, draw, or write your design first.  You can erase and redo several times...the wood is very easy to work with and erases easily.  

When you do this, start with your LIGHTEST color of paint first.  I started with the violet lettering and painted over my pencil letters with 2-3 coats.  Then, I carefully went around it with the blue and filled in.  I did the green and violet border last.  For all the paint on the box, I used 2-3 coats, letting it dry between to get good, even coverage.  The wood soaks up the first coat really well, so you'll definitely want to do at least two.

I let my box and lid dry completely overnight, just to be safe.  Acrylic paint dries pretty fast, but I wanted to be SURE.  Then, I gave the entire thing a nice coat of this brush-on gloss glaze.  This can be found in the same place that you get your acrylic paint.  

I really only needed one good, even coat of this triple thick stuff.  It worked great, and made my box come to life!  It sealed the paint in, brightened the colors, and gave it a finished, shiny but not glitsy sheen.  I let this dry and cure for another full day, then re-attached the hinges and latch and put the box back together.

The final thing I needed to do was add dividers for each month.  This is where the white cardstock comes in.  I used textured cardstock that I found in the clearance section at JoAnn's a couple weeks ago.  I cut a card for each month that was 3.75" X 5" to fit the box.  If you have a larger box, you may be able to cut your cards a little bigger.  For me, this size worked out great because the dividers where the same width, but stuck above the date cards enough for the month title to be seen.  I used my rubber stamps with the capital letters and a centering ruler to get them straight and centered.

Then, I added something a little different.  I knew I would be pulling this box out daily, so I decided to write important dates (birthdays, anniversaries...) on each month divider for a quick glance of cards I need to send out that month.

And one final thing that I did, but haven't completed yet is a resolution card.  I decided this would be a good place to put a concrete, real, written list of things I want to accomplish for the next year.  I was just telling a friend the other day about how I think when we actually write down and/or share our resolutions, we are more likely to fulfill them.  Again, that accountability comes into play.  So I have a 2012 card that I will be writing my major goals on in the next week.  I plan to keep it in the front of my box, so I look at it daily as a reminder of what I plan to do.  I'm hoping to turn it into a checklist more than a "hope I do" list.  How awesome would it feel to be able to cross out/check off a resolution once you accomplish it??

So here is my finished box:

Look how perfectly those cards fit in!  I couldn't believe it!  

I'm loving this life box idea and hope that it's something I keep up with.  For now, I plan to put it on my nightstand to remind me each night to write something down.  I loved journaling in high school but don't make much time for it anymore.  This isn't quite the same, but maybe it will fulfill that itch in a small way.  I can't wait to see what it will be like in 5 years!

December Date - Volunteering

Christmas has come and gone.  :o(  I'm hoping to catch up on blogging soon because I am SO behind.  For now, here's the next in the series of the Dates for a Year Basket ideas.

For December, I had a lot of different ideas.  I could map out where they could drive around and see Christmas lights, send them to Opryland and/or ICE for the night, go get their picture with Santa, etc, etc, etc.  You get the idea.  There are a thousand and one things to do to celebrate the holidays.  I decided to go a different direction for a couple of reasons.  One, I find myself getting so wrapped up in the other fun events of the holidays that I forget to focus on the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.  Second, I knew that we would be doing a lot of those fun things together this time of the year, and didn't want them to be overloaded with that.  And third...I had already planned some stellar dates for the Spring and my budget was getting pretty tight. :o)

So, what I decided is to let December be another open-ended date that kind of just kick-started the process.  This date is all about volunteering and giving back!

Here's what was included in the December envelope:
  • Date Card
  • Two Packets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix

Here is the date card that was included in the envelope:

The cost of putting this date together was free (I already had hot cocoa mix).  I thought that using this month, when my budget and theirs was tight, was a perfect time to have them volunteer together.  I MEANT to include a list of ideas, but am just now realizing that I left that out (sorry, Kim & Larry)!!  However, it is really easy to find ways to volunteer.  You could go online and search your community's name and volunteering opportunities.  You could find a project that you can collect items for or make things for and send them off.  One thing that we did as a family this year was Operation Christmas Child.  This was something really easy and fun that we were able to do at home together.  If you belong to a church, they almost always have some opportunities for you to volunteer your time, money, and/or talents.  I'm sure you could search and find more than a handful of opportunities that interest you.  

So that is December's date!  It's certainly not the most creative, but I think it's one of the more sentimental and one that will create memories that will last a lifetime.  I'm hoping Kim & Larry found something to do this first married Christmas that means something to them and that they can possibly make an annual tradition.  This is date is number 6 of 13.  Fun and exciting dates are just around the corner!  Stay tuned!


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