WOOOHOOOOO! Can you believe John and I have already been dating for 2 years? It seems so crazy to me, but I’m also so excited. We are going to Atlanta for the day on our anniversary and I can’t wait to spend that time with him. So, last year I made John a scrapbook with pictures and memories from our first year together. This year I had a pretty big project lined up for his gift.  I love staining maps, as most people know. I normally make the world map on 3 panels of wood, but this time, I wanted to do something closer to home. I decided to make a large plywood board into a map of the United States on which we could post pictures of us in the states we have been to together. Fun, right? Thank goodness for Christmas break. I was able to get it done in a few days while I was home with no school or work!

I forgot to take pictures of some of the first steps so I’ll just describe them. I found this map on Amazon and used it as a stencil for the wood staining part of the project. Here are the steps for the project.

  1. I ordered the map on Amazon and when it arrived, I measured how much room I had on the borders so I could decide what size plywood I needed. The map online was 50″ by 32″. Because there was extra space, we were able to get a large 48″ by 48″ sheet of plywood and we had it cut to 48″ by 30″.
  2. I used an Ex-Acto knife to cut out the US (and Alaska and Hawaii).
  3. I then laid out the states to where I wanted them on the plywood. It was a hard decision because I knew it would look nicer, space wise, if I didn’t use Alaska and Hawaii on the bottom like most maps do. But I wanted the option of having those states for when John and I can go there in the future! So, the map may look a little left-heavy, but there’s a reason I did it that way.
  4. I taped down the states onto the plywood and traced around them with a pencil.
  5. I decided last minute to insert the individual state lines as well. To do this, I used the Ex-Acto knife to cut away one state at a time from the large US map that was taped down. I would cut it away and trace the edge with the pencil, and so on until all of the state borders were done. When I was finished, I had each state cut out individually which would help me tremendously later on.
  6. Then, I carefully stained the wood outside of the states. I made sure to wipe off excess stain often. This was probably the most time-consuming part of the project.
  7. I came back later to paint in the state borders with some dark gray paint and a small paintbrush.
  8. At this point, the board was ready to go. Using the individual states that were cut out from a previous step, I printed pictures to fit inside the states. For the smaller states, I was able to use one picture from out trips, but for Texas and a few others I had to piece a few pictures together. I used a normal inkjet printer with some matte photo paper to print the pictures.
  9. For the last step, I taped the state shaped photos onto the plywood! I used tape in case I ever want to change the photos. For example, Louisiana is actually a picture of our friend Will dressed as Gus Malzahn on the way to the Texas. John and I didn’t have a picture together in Louisiana, but we did stay there!
  10. (optional) I want to eventually add a frame around the map! I’d like to do picture framing boards from Lowes or Home Depot painted a rustic looking off white color.

Sorry about the low quality of the pictures. Next time I’ll be sure to use my SLR for nicer ones! Please let me know if you have any questions about this project!


Stained map and the state borders painted in.
The pictures cut into state shapes!
The finished product! (still awaiting a frame)


I also wanted to do a scrapbook-like project again for our anniversary along with the map. I whipped up my first “exploding box” last night. I used this tutorial from Pinterest and it was super helpful! I made a trip to Hobby Lobby and scored a Martha Steward Scoring Board for $6 and got the other supplies (paper and decorations). I’m really excited about how it turned out! There are loads of design ideas with exploding boxes, but mine was simple. Since it has 3 layers of 4 tabs each, I made each tab a month of 2016 and wrote summaries of what John and I did together in those months. I didn’t have room for pictures but I think it is still cute! I’ll probably add a little trinket or candy for when I give it to him. I tend to go Auburn-overboard, so I change my colors up a little for this scrapbook and did navy, light blue, tan and gold! I found some cute month of the year banner stickers that worked pretty perfectly.

The lid of the box, with a simple “2”. I will add ribbon as well.
What it looks like when you open the box!

Update: I gave John the exploding box early, filled with some Hershey kisses and tied with a ribbon! He loved it and thought the exploding box was really cool.

I hope you enjoyed reading!


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