Long-Distance Projects with Nana:
Deer Scene
December, 2002

I wanted Joseph's first long-distance project to be relatively simple, with as little help as possible required from his busy parents. I considered this first project to be a test and would adapt future mailings according to how this one came out.

Recently at the dollar store, I had bought two of these little framed shadowboxes, about one inch deep with paper-tole champagne bottles inside. I figured one could hang on his wall or he could prop it on a small picture holder.

With the extra cardboard bottles removed, there was just enough space for a small display.

My husband had been downloading some spectactular scenes, including snowscapes. I asked him to print this one out for me, since the rounded snow suggested snowmen to me.

I tried the frame horizontally and vertically. Vertical was better for the appropriate scale..

Using the backing as a guide, I cut out the portion that worked best for our scene, the upper right corner, leaving enough on the sides to glue to frame box ends.

I found this appealing tiny snowman among after-Christmas clearance items last year. He fit nicely in the narrow box, but looked too grimy next to the pristine snow of the background. On the other hand, maybe he was built several days ago! Anyway, if I used him he either needed to be repainted or I needed to warm up the blue-white of the snow in the picture's foreground.

Hmm, I need to think about this. At the least, he will need that wire pulled from his head!

In the meantime, I had found some little trees that might work and decided to cut them from their bases, since I wasn't sure if Joseph could use or would have access to wire cutters. Whatever I did about the snowman, with their wire trunks painted brown and poked into the styrofoam snow strip, the trees will help bridge the background with whatever kind of snowman we wind up with. By the way, I'm going to keep those little round bases. Who knows what they could be used for some time! (I notice I am mixing my verb tenses here, but what the heck ... as I write this, I find myself thinking now in present tense)

So, back to the thinking process ....

My grandchildren enjoy working with clay, so maybe a homemade snowman would be better. Yes, that's what we'll do. Maybe that little snowman can go in another scene.

Here's the way they'll make the carrot nose for the Sculpey snowman; just paint the tip of a toothpick orange, then cut it off a little above the paint and and poke it in. Now for eyes, a hat and buttons, and maybe a broom or shovel?

Well, when we next chatted, Joseph said he would like to do a scene with a house and Santa's sleigh in front of it.

So, change of plans.

Amazingly enough, among my own collection of Christmas-cards-that-I-had-bought-but-never-used-and-still-all-in-the-box, I found a Christmas card that looked as if it would be ideal for just such a small scene.

And, by gorry, it fit the frame, this time horizontally, with only a bit of cropping! Double serendipity!

Also among my stash, along with the snowman and trees, there was a deer that would fit in that tiny space. I knew there was some reason I was saving that piece of styrofoam, too; a strip of it should make a good little snowy base in front of that house where Santa has arrived.

After a trial-fitting, I learned there would be just enough room for the deer and a sleigh. Since there was already a snowman in the scene, another might've been redundant, anyway. So, grimy little snowman goes back into his storage drawer.

Among my old Christmas decorations was a little plastic sleigh that was originally in the center of a pine Christmas pick. It was the right scale for the scene and just fit in the shallow frame. Also, the hole in the center (where the pick stem was) was a perfect fit for a piece of round toothpick that could be glued and poked in place in the styrofoam snow. The sleigh had lots of gold glitter on it, which I removed as best I could. The color I decided to use was Tompte Red.

I experimented with two different colors of silver for the runners, but my husband, with his usual rational eye, pointed out that they would show up better against the snow if they were painted black. Well, okay, I'll paint them black! Sheesh!

Since it looked a bit blah when set inside the frame, I also thought it would look better with some gold touches added, particularly along the top of its frame.

Santa had to have someplace to sit. The seat was simple: a small piece of wood with the sharp edges rounded off a bit, and a back made of business card. (I use business cards all the time, you may have noticed.) A dilemma: Should I put a bag of toys in the back? But why would Santa have left his toys behind? Joseph is at that literal stage; he would ask questions like that.

Aha! Maybe Santa's taking a potty break? The house has two fireplaces, so that would also explain why his sleigh is in the yard, instead of on the roof. In case anyone wonders, we now have a logical explanation!

Now for our deer. This little guy had some whiskery edges and needed a more realistic look. I wasn't sure whether to tidy him up and re-paint him myself, or leave that for Joseph to do. The deer does have fur, so I didn't worry too much about the whiskery edges.

I had two of the deer, so I painted one just to see how it went. Since it was a bit tedious doing the eyes and hooves, I went ahead and did both. No point in sending him something that he wouldn't want to do. He did get a little frustrated trying to paint the crows, I remembered (Seasons: Glass Pumpkins).

Those deer sure looked a lot better after painting; not so shiny.

My husband looked at the harness I had worked so laboriously to make and commented that it needed something across the front or it would pull right off and trip up the reindeer! Oops! Well, shows you what I know about harnesses. Back to the workbench.

The deer now safely en-harnessed, next I wrote up step-by-step directions to include. All that was left was to mail it.

A stand was enclosed so that the scene could be displayed on a tabletop or a shelf. Here, also, is the bubble-wrapped frame, ready to travel. By the way, kids love popping the bubbles in that bubble-wrap!

Well, when the projects arrived at their new home, Joseph managed to do his in about thirty-five minutes, his day said when he sent this picture. I probably could have let him do more of the painting. Now that we had done one long-distance project, the next one could be more demanding, I realized.

I had written numbers on the back of the pictures so that he would know which piece went where in sequence. You can see here that he inserted the photo strips down each side in such a way that the inside of the frame is completely covered.

He also added the gold blanket that Santa uses to cover his feet. The styrofoam snow looks quite realistic, doesn't it? (The black sticking over the edge of the sleigh is the hat on the snowman in the picture. I was wondering about that, too.)

I was thrilled at how this long-distance project and Laura's White Kitten Box worked out.

My son Jeff was in town not long after that and reported that both of them did everything to the letter, following my written directions. When Joseph was about half-way through, his dad noticed him get up and go to the refrigerator. Jeff asked him, "Why haven't you finished your project?"

Joseph answered, "Well, in the directions Nana said I should take a break when I needed to, so this is my break."


(General Directions sent with this first project are in the Doing Long Distance Projects pages)

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