Autumn Cookie Box: Acorn and Leaves (Recipe Included) by Cindy Mann Vitale

Margaret Riley freebie projects recipe


By Cindy Mann Vitale

One of my favorite design challenges is to transform a cast-off item into a new treasure. In my search for inspiration to design a project to display homemade cookies, I came across this long-forgotten box. This little box has traveled many miles during the years I displayed my designs at conventions. The wear and tear of those years of hard use was obvious as you can see in the ‘before’ photo. This is a great project for those with the “farm house” home décor.

If I had to describe my feelings about art in one short sentence, it would be to say, “A lifetime obsession to create.” As a very small child, it all began with crayons. Through my years in school I worked with pencil, charcoal, clay and oils. As an adult, I continued with oils and experimented with watercolor. In the early 80’s, I happened across bottled acrylics and plunged into the decorative painting industry. My two daughters, Rachel and Malia, were an invaluable help to me for many years when I began this journey in 1993. For the past sixteen years my husband, Bob, has also been a constant source of support. Now, my grandson and granddaughter are expressing an interest in being involved in this endeavor!


Wood Box approximately 3-1/4” high x 5-1/2” wide at widest point x 9” long at longest point

Wooden finials (can obtain comparable ones at Cupboard Distributor…see below instructions)

Rusty Wire Bin handles 1-3/4” long x 4-1/8” wide (found at local craft/hobby stores). The distance this pull extends from the surface is approximately 7/8”.


DecoArt Americana paint:
Avocado DA 052
Burnt Umber DA 064
Charcoal Grey DA 088
Grey Sky DA111
Light Cinnamon DA114
Mink Tan DA 092
Olive Green DA 056
Oyster Beige DA 313
Warm White DA 239
Yellow Ochre DA 08

DecoArt Americana Multi-Purpose Sealer DS17
DecoArt Americana DuraClear Ultra Matte Varnish DS124
Americana Acrylic Spray Sealer/Finisher- Matte DAS-13 (optional)

Royal® and Langnickel ™ Brushes: Aqualon Series
Rounds: Series 2250 Nos. 2, 4, 6
Liners: Series 2595 No.1
Glaze/ Wash: 2700 Series 1”

Miscellaneous Supplies:
DecoArt Americana Wood Filler DS103
DecoArt Americana Wood Glue DS104
Pencil and eraser (preferably a mechanical pencil)
Scotch tape
Tracing paper
Transfer paper
Spatter tool or old toothbrush
Drill and drill bits of appropriate size, if screw on finials will be added
Permanent Black Ink Zig Millennium Pen .005
Emery cloth fine grit

Helpful Tips:

What may be the most important tip of all, is to encourage you to accept the fact that perfection is not necessary. So, whether you are a seasoned painter, or if this is your first effort, give yourself permission for mistakes and mishaps

For the inking step, there are times that my hands shake, preventing a ‘perfect’ result. I’ve found that making shorter, broken lines is much easier and mistakes are not as apparent!


If you want to add finials to create a footed box at this point, glue or screw in place with the wood glue.

To prepare the box for painting, fill the holes with Americana Wood Filler. Allow to dry.

Sand entire surface. Wipe away dust to ensure surface is clean.

To provide a more neutral base color for this project, paint over the black paint with a base coat of Grey Sky. Allow to completely dry. Adapt this step to fit the need for your surface if it’s already been painted.

Preparation and transferring design:

1. Apply an even coat of the Americana Multi-Purpose Sealer.

2. Allow to completely dry.

3. Lightly sand, if needed.

Transferring the Design:  Click >>HERE<< for the line drawing

1. Transfer the harlequin design and the oval inset.

2. Do not transfer the acorns and leaves until the inset background has been base coated and completely dry.


Box Interior:

Base coat the interior of the box with the color of your choice or a brown shade. After completing the inset design, re-paint the interior Olive Green.

Harlequin Design:

Base coat the white diamond shapes with Warm White. Base coat the dark diamond shapes with Charcoal Grey.

Float a little of the Charcoal Grey, which has been highly diluted over some areas of the Warm White squares to slightly shade.

Paint top rim of the box with Charcoal Grey.

Since the sides of the box are slanted, the harlequin design may not wrap around the box correctly. If this is happening to your surface, paint the edges of the box ends with Charcoal Grey for a break in the design.

Finial Feet:

Base coat the finials with Warm White.

Paint the stripes on freehand with Charcoal Grey.

Float diluted Charcoal Grey around the tops of the finials, leaving the bottom areas lighter or paint finials a solid Charcoal Grey.

Acorn and Leaves Inset Design:

Paint band around inset design with Grey Sky. Allow to dry. Shade lightly with diluted Charcoal Grey. (The lines are created later with the pen).

Paint the inset background with Warm White. Allow to dry. Shade around the background with diluted Burnt Umber. Allow to dry.

Transfer the acorn and leaves design.

Do not transfer the highlight, the design on the caps, or the linework details on the leaves.

Basecoat the body of the acorns with Yellow Ochre. Shade with Light Cinnamon.

Add a highlight on each acorn with diluted Warm White. The highlight can be applied before the antiquing process, for a more muted effect. Another option is to wait to add the highlighting after the antiquing has been applied. For a brighter result, add the highlighting before antiquing, and reapply after the antiquing application has dried to brighten.

Base coat the acorn caps with Oyster Beige. Shade with Mink Tan. Add an additional application of shading to intensify and deepen with Burnt Umber.

Basecoat the leaves with Olive Green. Shade with Avocado.




Varnishing the surface after all the painting has been completed is an absolute must and brushing on the varnish is a preference for this step.

1. Dilute the varnish in a 50-50 mixture with water.

2. Apply in a thin, even coat and allow to dry.

3. I suggest applying a second coat of varnish brushing in a different direction to ensure complete coverage.

4. Allow to completely dry in between coats.


For a slightly worn effect, sand the edges, here and there, with the fine grit emery cloth.

ANTIQUING: (Optional)

The antiquing process softens the finished painting and provides an aged effect. I create my own antiquing medium by mixing Burnt Umber with water in a ratio of approximately 95% water to 5% paint.

Fill only the tip of a 1” wash brush with the antiquing solution.

Beginning at the edges, working toward the center of the surface, brush on a light, even application of the antiquing solution.

Brush to work out all of the antiquing from the brush, keeping the effect soft.

Refill and repeat steps 1 and 2.

Allow to completely dry.

Repeat the process, if you prefer a darker effect.


Inking details are added after the varnish and antiquing have been applied. The surface must be completely dry before adding the inking details. Ink only the inset.


Use an old toothbrush or spatter brush (follow manufacturer’s instructions on use). If the paint seems too thick, dilute very slightly with water. Dip the tip of the toothbrush into the edge of the paint puddle, then test on paper to see if the consistency of the paint is correct before spattering the surface. Spatter very lightly.


Apply a final finish by brushing on a final coat of Americana DuraClear Ultra Matte Varnish as instructed in the Varnishing section above. Or, spray on a light, even coat of the Americana® Acrylic Spray Sealer/Finisher-Matte. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for best results.


If you have decided to attach the bin handles, or another handle of your choice, to embellish your project, measure carefully to center and position the handles. Mark placement with a pencil. Pre-drill the holes. Screw the handles in place.



If the intention is to use the box for serving food, then it will be necessary to use a liner so that food is not touching the painted surface. A linen cloth was chosen for this project.


An alternative finial is available at Cupboard Distributing (1463 S US Hwy 68, Urbana, OH 43078; 937-652-3338;

1-1/2” Maple Finials: 01-P620

Look for Cindy’s cookie recipe below!  For any questions, you may email Cindy at

Cindy will be having a blog site up and running in the near future for you to obtain more great ideas, recipes, and projects. So, keep the address handy and check frequently to view updated information.


Cindy’s Shortbread Sticks with Chocolate Icing

Preheat oven to 350 °

2 ½ cups unbleached flour
2 sticks salted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup sugar (for a sweeter result, increase sugar to ¾ cup sugar)
1 tsp almond extract (or use vanilla if you prefer)


Cream sugar and butter until well blended.

Add the almond extract (or the vanilla flavoring)

Mix in the flour one cup at a time, until well blended.

Form into a ball, place in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

For better baking results, chill the dough in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes.  Dough can be refrigerated overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator long enough so the dough can be easily handled.

Place dough on lightly floured surface.

Gently roll into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.

Dough should be approximately 3/8 inch thick.

Try to keep the dough the same thickness along the edges at in the center.

Also, keep the edges as straight as possible, trimming with a knife, or adjusting with your fingers.

Cut the dough down the center lengthwise, to create two strips 12 inches long and 4 inches wide.

Cut these strips into 8 sections, yielding 16 cookies.

Double the recipe for a higher yield.


Chocolate Icing:

1 stick salted butter (use real butter only)

2 cups of milk chocolate chips

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp almond extract (or use vanilla flavoring if you prefer)

½ cup of heavy whipping cream

Melt butter and chocolate chips in heavy saucepan over low heat.

When chocolate is completely melted, and the butter and chocolate is completely blended slowly

add in one cup of the confectioner’s sugar, stirring constantly.

Add half of the whipping cream, mixing well.

Continue alternating the sugar with the cream until well blended and smooth.

Add in the almond extract and mix well.  I used an electric mixer.

Lay the shortbread sticks on a piece of wax paper.

Spoon the warm icing over one end and press in the pecan half.

Chill the cookies to set the icing.

If the room temperature is exceptionally warm, store in the refrigerator.


Optional decorations:

Either almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, or macadamia nuts would all be good choices for this cookie.

I chose pecan halves for this recipe.

Fun, and more colorful decorations, for children would be sugar sprinkles or non-pareils.

This recipe was created by me and tested in my kitchen. My ‘taste testers’ (my husband and grandson) have proclaimed the result a success. I hope you enjoy the cookies as well!

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  • Margaret Riley on

    You can find Cindy’s email contact address in the project instructions for questions about the cookie recipe Karen. Thanks for your kind words! We are excited with every blog that we send out. And will have more in the future! For more great projects, you can subscribe to our magazine…one that is mailed to you via the USPS and can be held in your hands to flip pages with your fingers! :-)

  • Karen on

    Great blog entry. Loved reading it and inspired to grab an old box from the stash and revive it! For the cookies, how is the sheet prepared and how long to bake and cool before decorating. You guys are great. Thank you for sharing the joy.

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