A Boxful of Memories


I’ve spent the past several weeks sorting through boxes of keepsakes. I can’t believe some of the stuff I’ve kept over the years. When we moved three and a half years ago we made fewer and fewer decisions about what to pack as the days drew nearer to moving day.  Finally, at the end we just packed without much sorting—we were out of time.  When you have lived in the same house, raising seven boys for nearly twenty years, you accumulate a lot of stuff!

Then there’s the other issue – my mother died quite a few years ago and my father remarried and moved into his bride’s home.  Much of my mother’s belongings came to me since I was the only daughter and also the oldest. Some of her things were items she’d inherited from her own mother when she died nearly thirty years ago.

So now, I have all this stuff—photos, old glassware, postcards, newspaper clippings…the list goes on and on. Some of the items are quite valuable I would imagine, but since I’m not really interested in selling, I’m not compelled to have any of it appraised right now.  No, at this point I just need to figure out where to put everything. With a house full of active boys I don’t dare display the hundred-year-old ceramic plate but keeping everything in a box in a closet somewhere isn’t the best way to really enjoy these keepsakes either.

What I have finally decided to do with at least some of my treasures is to design shadow boxes. I think I’ll make one in memory of my mother first. My husband can build the boxes and I’ll choose some of her things that hold memories for me. I might include her nurse’s pin and her picture in her uniform.  I’ll probably include some of her jewelry, nothing terribly expensive, just items I remember were her favorites.

For my grandmother’s box, I already know I’ll include a pair of her glasses. Back in the 60’s she was quite stylish and wore those pointed rims with rhinestone decorations.  She also had a sequinned purse. I’ll probably do another box of items my grandfather brought home from his tour in Japan during WWII.

By making all of these boxes I can display at least some of the things that remind me of my family and what each person meant to me. I’m excited to get started on this project. I’ve found a few websites and books (listed below) to help get the creative juices flowing. Now all I have to do is get my husband to build those boxes… a pan of brownies should do the trick!

How to Create a Shadow Box

How to Display Keepsakes in a Shadow Box Without Gluing Them Down

Make a Keepsake Shadow Box


Box Frame MagicBox Frame Magic explains how to make the actual boxes to put your momentos in.

Making Memory Boxes has some great ideas for creating decorated boxes to keep the things you don’t choose to put in your shadow boxes.

Memory Keepsakes contains 43 different projects to make that help you preserve your memories.

Some Good Old-Fashioned Summer Fun

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for some fun things for the kids to do that don’t involve “screens” of any kind. By that I mean computer, TV, iPod, video game, you get the idea…

Here are a couple of books that are loaded with some of the fun things we did as kids and some new ideas that I can’t wait to try with my boys.

Summer Fun!Summer Fun! 60 Activities For a Kid-Perfect Summer by Susan Williamson is a great resource full of creative things to do.  Here’s a look at some of what you will find inside:

  •  chapter 1 – stilts, boomerangs, yo-yos, fortune cookies, and bubbles
  •  chapter 2 –  bug hotel, bats, and toads
  •  chapter 3-  strawberry jam, pretzels, and floppy hats
  •  chapter 4 – rain gauge, sign language, Morse code, and puppets
  •  chapter 5 – art projects, solar system supper, camping out, and  nighttime fun
  •  chapter 6 – redecorate your bedroom, drawing a floor plan, fun with string and yarn
  •  chapter 7 – learn a new skill, clouds, and sand painting
  •  chapter 8 – trees, mud, and beach fun

Also scattered throughout the chapters are sidebars entitled “Making a Difference” suggesting activities that involve doing something nice for someone else.  The author also manages to squeeze in segments with summer reading selections that tie in with the activities.

This book is a very practical resource aimed at kids ages 7-12. They will be able to complete most of the activities by themselves but a few will require adult assistance.

The Kids Summer Games Book
Another title I found useful is The Kid’s Summer Games Book by Jane Drake and Ann Love.  This is a book jam-packed with the instructions for all those old games we played as kids like Spud and croquet. There are games for groups or just one or two. There are games that you can make, like Pick-Up sticks and Bingo.  They have water games and games for indoors on rainy days. There are even instructions for setting up a miniature golf course with things commonly found around most households.   The only caution I would have is that the book does contain some card games including poker. If your family has strong feelings about card playing you might want to skip that section of the book.

Early Pleasures and Pasttimes
Finally, if you really want to step back in time and wonder how folks entertained themselves before all the electronic gadgets we have today, you might enjoy looking through a book called Early Pleasures and Pastimes by Bobbie Kalman.  This book has some delightful old-fashioned pen-and-ink illustrations and explores activities like hopscotch, marbles, farmyard games and jump rope.  There are great discussions of picnics and festivals, family celebrations and holidays.  It takes a refreshing look at times gone by when family and friendship were the most important ingredients to having fun.



A World View of the Family Meal

What the World Eats

What the World Eats

We just finished reading a fascinating book called What the World Eats.  This book is a photo essay with photographs taken by Peter Menzel. He also wrote a book back in the 90’s called Material World: A Global Family Portrait which is also worth your time, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

What the World Eats takes a look at 25 families from 21 countries and explores what they eat in a week’s time. The photos show the family together with their week’s supply of food displayed in the foreground. There is also a detailed list of the grocery items and the cost in both their country’s currency and US dollars. There are interesting facts about each country as well as a narrative about what life is like for the family. In addition, there are pages scattered throughout the book with statistics about life in the countries and how the individual countries compare to the rest. One page that we found quite interesting was the one that compared life expectancy.  There are also graphs that show interesting tidbits like how many McDonald’s restaurants are in each country and what the literacy rate is.

I read this book aloud with my two youngest boys covering one or two families each day. After we read we talked about the pictures and what life was like for each family. I was amazed at how quickly my boys recognized that we live in a very wealthy country compared to the rest of the world. We had many discussions about how spoiled we felt when we looked at what other families had or didn’t have.

There are several websites that go along with this book. And on this page, it shows several of the photos from an earlier book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. The website doesn’t include the informative text about the families.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

The other book I mentioned, called Material World: A Global Family Portrait, is similar in format but this time the focus in on what each family owns. The photos show the family outside their home with all of their belongings displayed around them. Again, it was sobering to see how people in other parts of the world live.   On the web, you can find more information here where you can see some of the families in the program NOVA developed around this book.  You can also visit Peter Menzel’s website for more information about his work.