I recently posted about using shadow boxes to make little collages of your kids’ collections.  The 6 year old made one with shells he collected on a trip to Hawaii.  The other day, the 3 year old collected a bunch of stuff from the yard, and we made a nature shadow box:

Two views of the shadow box with the nature collection

What’s great about these little projects is that they allow your child to keep the random stuff they’ve collected without cluttering up your space.  I can’t tell you how many rocks, sticks, pine cones, and other odds and ends I’ve had floating around the house until I figured out a way to corral them.

While we were outside, the 3 year old decided that he wanted to paint a pine cone.  And I thought, “What a fabulous idea!”  We spent some time collecting a bunch of pine cones and then determined which of them would look best painted.

And then we set to painting!  It was a great activity that was part nature, part creative indoor endeavor (although you could paint outside and then avoid the indoor mess, too).

getting to work

We just used simple acrylic paints that you can get at any craft store.  I bought these for about 79¢ each at Michaels.  We also bought glitter paint, but decided to hold off on this project.  You could also buy shakeable glitter and dust it on before the paint dries.

painting the pine cone

The final result was a fantastic improvement on nature.  And a nice little craft to keep in the 3 year old’s room, and he had a great time both collecting and painting.

the final oeuvre

Incidentally, a follow up  to the shadow box project: you can also use your collections to make a cute little frame.  The 3 year old made this one at preschool:

another idea for making a craft out of a collection

It would be adorable with a super cute photo from the outing or the trip on which the keepsakes were collected.


In the process of cleaning out various nooks and crannies, I came across a small bag of shells that the 6 year old collected when we were in Maui last spring.  When we decided to bring them home, I had the idea of putting them all into a shadow box.  We came  home, the shells got tucked away, and I forgot all about it.

It’s the new year, people, so I’m doin’ all kinds of new things and tying up those loose ends.  I got a shadow box at Michaels and got the 6 year old to work laying out his shells.

serious planning of shell layout

I chose a felt color as the background and hot glued that to the backing of the box.  Then the 6 year old laid out his shells. When his design was finished, I hot glued the shells in place.  I added a little title piece to the bottom.

Then I stuck it back into the box, and voila!  As I write, it’s now sitting on the 6 year old’s shelf as a fun reminder of our fantastic trip to Hawaii.

This is a project you can do with anything you’ve collected, really.  The 3 year old really wanted to make one, too, but we didn’t have any more shells.  So I promised him we could go out to the yard tomorrow and collect some pine cones, sticks, and what have you and make him his own collection.  I made one several years ago that hangs in our guest bathroom, with shells from a family trip to Florida.

I put a little more time and effort into this one– it was pre-kids, as you can see– identifying and labeling all of the shells we found.  It makes a nice little wall hanging for the guest bathroom and a nice memory of the trip.

Do you have any keepsakes/collections that would go well in one of these boxes?


Happy New Year, everyone!

We had a lovely day.  It doesn’t really fit the canonical description of a “lovely day,” mind you.  Except for in Remarkably Domestic Husband’s world, where sorting through things and cleaning stuff out would be a daily ritual.  He loves that crap.  There is something wrong with him.

Somehow, though, the thought of the new year gave me a huge energy boost this morning, so I decided to go through a few cabinets and drawers.  This project snowballed, of course.  The good news is that I went through every cabinet and drawer that really needed it.  Other good news: now I have a few empty cabinets and drawers, and the rest of them are much more functional.  Bad news?  Well, I’m not sure it’s bad news, but it’s 4 pm and I’m still in my pajamas, and the organizing is all I really have to show for myself today.  Truly, though, it’s kind of a lot to show.

There wasn’t anything ground-breaking in the organizing I did.  Mostly I got rid of stuff I haven’t used in years (or, in some cases, ever) and that gave me enough room to make things all efficient and purty-like.  Here are a few examples:

this is not at all efficient

You will notice that this is a big mess.  Not only do I have to dig through to get to a tool, but the anti-skid mat thingy that I put down on the bottom of the drawer is all cattywampus.  I got rid of a few unnecessary tools (my two cents on what are necessary tools in a moment), like the kiwi knife/scooper (really???), the bowl scrapers (every Christmas for several years one of these was in my stocking), and something I never used that looked like a pastry cutter but really wasn’t.  Out with the old, and stay out, will ya?

After emptying the drawer, I reset the anti-skid stuff.  But this time I got kinda smart about it– I attached it to the bottom of the drawer with double-sided tape.  (Is that totally obvious?  I’ve never done it before.)  To make it easier to lay in, I only peeled the backing off the double-sided tape an end at at time, so it laid in really cleanly and wrinkle-free.  Like this:

the front corners are taped, and I'm peeling the sides now to roll them in

I know, you are all thinking, “These are the sterling tips I expect on Remarkably Domestic.”  I do what I can, folks.

Then, I laid in all the tools, from least used in the back to most used up front.  Here’s how it looks:

is anyone wondering what on earth some of those tools are?

I do have a few things to say about my favorite kitchen tools.  I appreciate these kinds of lists on other blogs, like this one over at The Kitchn and this one over at Smitten Kitchen, and I thought my own was worth posting.  Mine’s a little more ecclectic.

1.  Microplane graters (far left of the photo).  The best for grating zest, chocolate, and of course, Parmesan cheese.

2.  Cherry pitter (next to the microplanes in the middle of the drawer).  I am the first to admit that I have a lot of tools that are one job deals– this cherry pitter does nothing else but pit cherries.  But I am unapologetic.  I heartily subscribe to Martha Stewart’s philosophy, the right tool for the right job.  It makes those jobs much easier.  If you have little kids like I do who have trouble getting around the pits in a cherry, this tool is miraculous.  How can you deny your little one delicious cherries?  I also use it, of course, when making a cherry clafouti or pie or whatevs.

3.  Ginger grater (the white round thing in the center of the drawer).  This is another one of those one job tools, but it makes a huge difference with ginger.  If you don’t like those woody strings in the ginger, this is the tool for you.  It grates the ginger, leaving the woodiness behind.  Since I use ginger in both savory and sweet dishes, the grater gets used pretty often.

4.  Needle-nose pliers.  These are indispensable for pulling bones out of salmon fillets.

5.  Garlic peeler (that blue cylinder towards the top).  This one’s from Martha, but I like it.  You stick the garlic inside and then roll it, and out comes skinless garlic.  Sometimes I do it the Jamie Oliver way, smashing the garlic with the flat side of a big knife, but this way’s fun, too.  So, not a totally necessary tool, but one that comes in handy.

Besides the drawer, I also tackled cabinets.  Like this one:

most of the things in here are totally inaccessible

The bottom of this cabinet gets used the most, obviously, since it’s the laundry stuff.  The other shelves are extra baking storage.  But things were organized so poorly that I never wanted to take things out– even when I had to put something away.  So instead of getting out the proper Tupperware and putting something away, I’d just pile it in there, promising I’d put it in the right tub at some point.  Guess what?  That point never came.  Until today.

The first thing I did was get rid of the bread maker.  It was a nice ride, Welbilt, and I loved ya for a while, but I haven’t used that maker in about 3 years.  And now I feel like I’d rather make handmade loaves.  Done.  That freed up some space, but mostly I had to just reorganize.  All the cookie cutters went into one bin, food coloring into a few others (who knew I had so much food coloring?), other baking supplies (pastry bags, sugar decorations, pastry bag tips, etc. etc.) into another.  And then I organized the tins.  What am I doing with all these tins?  I buy them when they are cheap so that when I give cookies or some other treat as a gift, I can use them.  But they were so hard to get to, I never did.  Now: piece of cake.

much better

I moved the cookie decorating stuff down to the middle shelf in the hopes that it will be easier to get to and get used more frequently.  Whether or not that is actually the case will remain to be seen.

So, that was my deal.  All in all, a very productive way to start 2010!

Incidentally, will you say “two thousand ten” or “twenty ten”?


We rescued a puppy a few months ago, and he was supposed to be a terrier/pug mix.  Not so much anymore– we think he might actually be a terrier/Irish Wolfhound mix.  He’s very cute.

Can you stand how cute that face is?

However cute he is, though, he is destroying my raised bed.  (My husband, who didn’t want the dog, loves to taunt me: “Ah, the epic question– what do you love more, the garden or the dog?”)  He already ruined one crop of seeds that I recently planted.  I knew I had to take some serious action, and it didn’t involve a $200 an hour dog trainer.  (Although I haven’t ruled that out.)

the dog, post-destruction, full of well-prepped dirt

I re-planted my bed with my swiss chard, spinach, beets and carrots, and came up with what seems to me a totally adequate if not highly aesthetically-pleasing solution.  The raised bed sits about 2′ high in the backyard:

I re-prepped the raised bed after the dog completely tore it up

I decided to make a kind of “fence” around the perimeter of the bed with bamboo stakes spaced at intervals.  I bought a few packs of long bamboo stakes at Home Depot and broke each one in half, so I ended up with a bunch of 3′ or so stakes.

well, this is off to a problematic start

The solution seems to fulfill my main requirements:

  • keep the dog out of the bed– really, I only needed a deterrent; as long as he thought he couldn’t get in, the barrier didn’t need to actually be strong enough to stop him
  • allow sunlight to get to the plants
  • allow me to get to the bed easily to tend the plants and harvest, and because the bamboo stakes are simply tucked into the soil, I can remove any number that I need to to get to the plants
  • not take too long to implement– it took less than 10 minutes to put the stakes in, and they cost less than $6 at Home Depot
  • not be an eye sore– not perfect, but blends in pretty well

project complete, and so far, no dogs in the bed

I’ll be posting as the plants begin to sprout and hopefully don’t get uprooted by a crazy canine.