DIY Light Box for Less than $60 Dollars

As a self-proclaimed “Aspiring Minimalist,” I’m always amused at the “things” one must take-on in order to facilitate the purging of certain items. And lets be clear about those certain items, I mean a once-cherished-all-consuming toy collection. And for this collection of things to leave my house, I have rules. And, that is what this project is about; identifying, acknowledging and letting go. Another distinction, when I say, “Letting go” I mean physically. I still retain the story which is important to me. And, with my rules in place, I will gather my beautiful toy pictures into a photo book and in the process take time to say good-bye.

The actual “Collection” story will come later. For now, let’s build something to facilitate the purging of something else.

There is a Light Box @ the End of this Story

The whole purpose of a light box is to capture an image in a controlled manner that is exempt from all shadows and lit from all around. Light is diffused through the material which aids in shooting objects with minimal glare. It is essentially, a mini photo studio that results in pro-like catalogue shots seen on any online shopping site.

I found several online How To‘s about building a light box. Most were desktop size, too small. I definitely need something taller. The one that I liked most was a complete cube frame. My pre-photo thoughts were that the bottom crossbar would present itself as an obstacle.  I used the cube as my model and tweaked the design to remove that bottom crossbar – creating a more garage type structure. It would now have more flexibility of angles.

Additional requirements were that it be low cost DIY and that I utilize what I already have on hand, Duh! I decided at least 32″ tall would be an ideal size for my use. I would not use any type of glue in the construction and that it be durable enough so that I may dismantle it often, for future use.

Supply run, I originally designed with 1/2″ PVC pipe in mind. Why? Because all the other online examples used it. I knew from the research that the three-way (Slip-Slip-Slip) corner piece would prove to be the most difficult to find. It was not available at the first local hardware store I went to. I had a conversation with the handyman and he confirmed that they would be difficult to find. I spotted what I thought I needed on the shelf but, it was 3/4″ (Larger). He explained that my supply list was all available in that size (3/4″). A second to think, “hmmm only a few pennies more and I’m not married to the idea of 1/2″ and 3/4″ seems even more durable.” Viola! Command decision to size up. All PVC in one stop. I then swung by the fabric store for what I estimated to be 4 yards of material to drape the light box.

Supply List

  • 11 – 3/4″ PVC Pipe in 32″ lengths
  •  6 – 3/4″ PVC Pipe Corners (Slip-Slip-Slip)
  •  2 – 3/4″ PVC Pipe Elbows
  •  2 – 8 1/2″ Clamp Work Lights
  •  2 – 60 to 120 Daylight Bulbs
  •  1 – hacksaw
  •  4 – Utility clips (*optional for holding fabric to frame)
  •  4 yards white fabric
  •  Butcher paper or a large piece of craft board (and tape or something to secure it)

Supply Notes: perhaps your local hardware store will make the pvc cuts for you. If not, have some way to cut at home or purchase a hacksaw. PVC corner pieces are “Slip-Slip-Slip” not the more common “Slip-Slip-Thread.” You want all of you pieces to slide/slip together with ease. The utility clips are optional. I chose to sew a semi fitted cover myself.

Assemble: cut PVC polls to size (32″) and snap together according to drawing. Secure paper backdrop. Drape the frame and clip fabric to frame. Bulbs into clamp lights, plug it in and light it up

In the end, it came in at $58 and change. Just under my $60 dollar budget.

Lastly, I leave you with a few toy shots, with a little help from Photoshop. These were all shot with a simple point-and-click Nokia camera I bought a couple of years ago for under a hundred dollars mounted on a $12 Radio Shack tripod – and a light box.

Happy Snapping Kiddies!

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San Francisco, How I Love Thee – Let Me Count the Days


Eight days house sitting for friends who were off to Burning Man, I decided to do a lot of biking since I would be in a city central location. I procured a new bike that shipped to San Francisco AND helped a local charity for less than a hundred bucks.

I rode that bike everywhere. It was a Glorious 73° most of the Labor Day week; perfect for T-shirt and shorts or less the entire time. Post itinerary highlights following:

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En Route to the Airport



I seriously underestimated peak time traffic and then I boarded the wrong BART to Berkley instead of Oakland. Uhg! I stressed at every street light while on the shuttle. I unhappily cleared my specially selected security scan with eight minutes to make my plane. I’m running through the airport while being paged over the loud speaker. I was that jerk waving and yelling, “It’s me! It’s me! Somebody call someone!” I virtually tossed my ticket nonstop to the ticket attendant, I zoomed down the gangway where the stewardess, who was in the middle of announcements shrugged like, “Where have you been?” I stomp onto the plane where . . . wait for it . . . wait for it, where all the passengers proceeded to applauded and cheer for me. So Glamorous! Seriously, it could have only been funnier if it included a pratfall.

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How to Get a Bike to Your Vacation Spot AND Help a Local Charity for Less Than a Round Trip Taxi Ride from the Airport.


I decided for my recent house sitting vacation trip to San Francisco – I wanted to take my bike but, it seemed to be cost prohibitive at $195 dollars to ship my bike round trip and an additional $75 dollar bike box to ship it in (not yet counting taxes) – Yikes! That was complete sticker shock.

So my initial thought was, ok that’s off.
Then, a funny thing happened on the way to buying a bike for mom.

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A Sweet Hooded Baby Towel

I recently needed a gift for a good friend’s baby shower. They already had the baby, he was adopted so there was no time for a shower before he came. Instead they celebrated his court date when the adoption became official.

Since the gift was for a 6 month old baby, they already had all the essentials. But I wanted something useful, that still had that homemade touch, and I didn’t have weeks to knit a blanket (not that I can knit anyway).

I found a couple different tutorials online for versions of this sweet little hooded baby towel, and if you can sew just a little bit, you can make this!

You’ll need the following:

  • about an hour to assemble
  • a soft 100% cotton bath towel (not a bath sheet, those are too big)
  • a matching 100% cotton hand towel
  • a quarter yard of a cute coordinating fabric for the trim
  • some matching thread and your sewing supplies

Step 1: First things first, gather up your supplies. If you can see the tag, I used a 100% cotton towel that I picked up at my local big box bed and bath store – do pick the softest one you can find.  The trim fabric is where you can get creative or use your stash.  Small prints will be more effective if you want to see the pattern.  I found a cute boy-friendly whale print at my local Joann Fabrics. Don’t forget to wash and dry everything before you start.

Step 2: Start by cutting a piece of your accent fabric to about 3″ x 20″, and press about 1/2″ seam allowance so that your accent strip ends up about 2″ wide or so. Trim the edges of the hand towel just inside the woven stripes that it comes with, you want the square to have just a little more width than height at this point. Pin the accent strip at about 6″ from the edge of the towel piece.  (This is going to be the hood, by the way.)

Step 3: Sew the accent fabric to the towel with a 1/4″ seam allowance. No need to back-stitch as you’ll be sewing these edges up.

Step 4: Fold the hood piece like in the picture with the accent strip on the inside.  Sew up the towel sides as it’s folded now, just inside of the original towel seams.

Step 5: Invert the hood back around. This is just getting ready for step 6.

Step 6: Do a little towel oragami, and invert one side of the towel into the other as pictured. This one’s tricky to explain, I recommend just studying the picture until you get what to do.

Step 7: If you’ve done step 6 properly, it will be clear how to turn the hood to now make it look like this.

Step 8: Now take your bath towel, fold it in half to find the center of the long side of the towel, and pin your hood in place. It might be a little messy, but you’ll trim off all those raw edges after you sew it up, so don’t worry about it. You’re almost done, so go ahead and sew!  You may need to help all those layers through your machine, and do back-stitch this time since this is your final seam.

Step 9: Once the hood is securely attached to the towel, you can trim up all those raw edges.  If you picked a nice soft towel, the raw edges will be on the inside but they should still feel nice and fluffy and soft.  I had extra accent fabric so I sew up a little tie to wrap the whole thing up in a pretty package.

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. . . or How to Save a Cake Disaster

So I was making carrot cake and decided to do it jellyroll style. Unfortunately, the batter was too delicate. It cracked and nearly fell apart. I was devastated with the results.  And this is how I went from disaster to showstopper in three easy steps.

1. Crumble the cake with the frosting, add 8oz of room temperature cream cheese. Yes, I know it feels so wrong but it should be mush like Thanksgiving stuffing.

2. Roll into meatball sized cake balls – chill for 20 minute.

3. Dip in melted chocolate, place on cooling rack or wax paper

Viola! Cakeballs are the new cupcake.

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Gifts from the Heart :: Marshmallows & Maple Pecan Popcorn

This gallery contains 8 photos.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of homemade marshmallows. I was curious about the construction and exactly what they were made of. Doing a little research – sugar, corn syrup, gelatin – got it. Doing a little shopping – … Continue reading

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