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Aug 19, 2017 2:32am

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Love Letters

When a box of Russell Stover’s no longer registers appreciative oohs and ahs, offer this Valentine’s project as a token of your undying love. It says something special, pun intended.

What you’ll need for 1 box:
(See accoutrements, second photo from top)

  • Top-opening shadow box (available at most craft stores)
  • Red or pink spray paint (no-prime type, optional)
  • Metal name plate (available at most craft stores)
  • Glue gun
  • Plain paper (for name plate insert)
  • Scissors and/or paper cutter
  • Assorted ribbons
  • 3-ply cardboard
  • Velvet or other fabric scraps
  • Spray adhesive
  • Red or pink corrugated cardboard (or cupcake liners)
  • About 3-4 dozen small (2-inch or so) iced letter and heart-shaped gingerbread or sugar cookies (see related cookie recipes, coming soon)

To make:

1 | Dress up the shadow box.
Be sure to choose a top-opening shadow box, as it’s difficult to get cookies in and out with bottom-opening types. Spray paint the outside in Valentine’s hues, if desired, and let dry completely. (Note: A no-prime style paint will do a better job of adhering to slick metal or plastic boxes.)

2 | Personalize for panache. I’m all about attaching gift-getters’ names and faces to their gifts. No question about it: these added touches make their lucky recipients feel extra special. I affixed a name plate to the front of my box with hot glue after spray painting the plate and drying it first. Then I printed a name on plain paper, cut the paper to size, and slipped it behind the plate. I also jazzed up the top edges of the shadow box with coordinating striped ribbon.

3 | Line with love (optional).
To make a comfy bed for the cookies, cut a piece of 3-ply cardboard (the weight of cardboard that dry-cleaned shirts get folded around) to fit inside the box with about 1/8-inch clearance on all sides. Cut out a piece of velvet or other fabric to fit the cardboard with about 1/2-inch overhang. Affix the fabric to the cardboard with spray adhesive, and then tack the excess fabric to the underside of the cardboard with hot glue. If the cardboard doesn’t lay flat, press it between books for a few hours and the insert it into the bottom of the shadow box.

4 | Divide and compartmentalize.
To keep your cookie message from getting jumbled, cookie compartments come in handy. You could simply bundle like cookie letters into cupcake liners and set the liners inside the box, or you could do as I did here and craft grid-style dividers from corrugated cardboard.  Start by measuring the interior of the box and deciding how many compartments you need to convey your message. (Make sure to size your compartments to fit your cookies! As a frame of reference, the compartments here are about 2 1/2 x 2 1/2–inches.) For my 12-compartment grid, cut 2 strips of corrugated cardboard to fit lengthwise and 3 strips to fit crosswise. Cut slits partway through each strip at the points where the lengthwise and crosswise strips must intersect to make a uniform grid. Then join the strips together at these intersection points by slipping the strips into the slits.

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