DIY Family Tree – the good, the bad, and the downright crazies


IMG_4082It’s not easy being away from your family.

Years ago when Stephen and I left Hong Kong it was because we wanted to be closer to home. Traveling 15-plus hours on a plane just to be home for the holidays was excruciating. And to even think of what would happen in case of an emergency put us in panic mode.

We didn’t always think this way. In our younger years, being away from family wasn’t very difficult because, well, we were in our 20s, a decade that should be renamed the “Selfish Decade” for all intent and purposes. This is your decade. Your time to find yourself, to think of only yourself, to discover your hopes, likes, deepest darkest desires, talents, and all the other things in this wonderful world that make us unique. I think this decade is critically important. And I don’t just say that because I had so much friggin fun in it!

This decade is what makes many of us, us. But it is also in this space that there is very little room for others. Even family.

Now that I’ve waded into the mid-30s stream, things are drastically different. It pained me to leave Washington, D.C. in May 2012 after two short years in the U.S. capital. I had my family closer to me than I had in years. It was hard to leave. But we survived the transition, and though my family and I are on a different continent, we get to see each other a heck of a lot more than when I lived in Asia. So it’s still a win my opinion.

That said, I do worry about Aidan growing up without his relatives in close vicinity. We are an international family. Mine are in the U.S. My husband’s are in Ireland. And despite the distance, I want to make sure Aidan knows everyone in his family.  The good, the bad, and the downright crazies (That’s right, cool uncle Eric below, Mr. Hot Shot in the Sunglasses. Mr. I Cannot Believe You Taught My Son How to Pick His Nose on Skype Video. I’m talking about you…).


That’s where the idea of my family tree came about. This is a very simple project that your family can do together. The tree stump is a simple wall sticker from IKEA. Peel and stick, and be on your way. Oh, and it works as a height chart too. Double score!

The real fun begins once you start making the tree bubbles. To create these, I simply looked around my home and grabbed a few expendable items.

  1. Pampers boxes, cardboard boxes from your amazon prime deliveries, or anything else made of cardboard that is thick enough to hold a bit of weight and thin enough to cut with an x-acto knife.
  2. A round measuring tool, like this awesomely cheap placemat from IKEA. These were the perfect size for the cardboard I had available.
  3. decorative paper, about 5 to 6 large sheets, plus 3 to 4 smaller (A4 size) sheets of solid colours that match the decorative paper.
  4. Round heat pads from IKEA. Again, also cheap. And perfect for the inner tree bubble.
  5. Scissors, ribbons or photo border tape, glue, thumb tacs, and (optional) a handful of acrylic paint, colours which match your decorative paper.
  6. Your favourite family photos. The good, the bad, and the downright crazies.

Once you have everything gathered, start by tracing the cardboard with the round measuring tool, and then carefully cut out each piece using the x-acto knife. Be sure you have something underneath the cardboard to protect the floor or table you are using. X-acto knives aren’t x-actly forgiving (sorry. I couldn’t resist the pun). Cut out as many as you need to complete your project or fill the space on your wall (I used nine and have yet to fill them all with pictures, but they bring the tree together nicely).

Next, using the same measuring tool, trace the large sheets of decorative paper and also cut them out (scissors will do this time). Be sure to cut out the same number you used for the large cardboard bubbles. Glue the paper onto the cardboard, decorative side up.

Grab your heat pads (you should have the same number of heat pads as you do large bubbles), and using the solid colour paper, trace the shape once again. Cut out. This is the point where you need to decide if you want to paint the circular edge of the heat pads to match your decorative paper, like this one showcasing Auntie Adria and Uncle Tristan…


See how the edge of the heat pad is red? Just pick a colour that best matches, and put a coat of paint on it. Let dry, and then glue the decorative paper to the heat pad.

Now that both your large and small bubbles are done, it’s time to decorate your photo. Using either ribbon and tacs or photo border tape, start fancying it up! I put some simple edges on mine and secured them with tacs (with a spot of glue) and some decorative flowers using a Martha Stewart hydrangea flower punch, some leftover paper, and white thumb tacs. Be sure to have fun with this. In the picture below, I wanted to showcase the beautiful dress my mother wore to my wedding. She stands out in life without a lens, and so should she in a family tree.


Once your photo is the way you like it, tac it onto the heat pad with a bit of glue. Then glue the entire heat pad onto the large bubbles in whatever position you fancy. The final step is to make a ribbon hanger. Simply snip a small piece of ribbon (or string), and using a tac and glue, place the two ends on top of one another and secure to the back of the large bubble.

Let everything dry, and make sure the entire bubble is in its upright position before you nail to the wall. Viola. Family tree is complete. Hang them as you like, or if you need a bit of guidance, do as I did. Put the good in easy pointing vicinity, and the bad a bit higher up.

As for the downright crazies…just make sure they are wearing some pretty cool shades.



2 thoughts on “DIY Family Tree – the good, the bad, and the downright crazies

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