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Thrifty Living: How To Make A Terrarium Ornament

30 Jan

As you may remember, some friends and I decided to make this year a Handmade Christmas. What gifts I gave were either thrifted or handmade.  While browsing my local craft store for Halloween decorations in September I found a bin filled with these empty plastic ornaments and immediately I knew I’d be turning them into terrariums come December.

If you’ve never made a terrarium before I have a beginner’s tutorial as well as an assortment of terrarium inspiration and information. Terrarium ornaments are simple to make and it was fun to give my friends the gift of something green and growing during the cold winter months. The medium-sized ornaments were a $1.50 at my local craft store, which meant that even I could afford a bunch to give as presents.

Materials:

  • garden soil, preferably damp, hold the gravel
  • plastic ornaments from a craft store, medium-sized
  • paint brush or chopstick
  • tweezers
  • weeds, moss, or other small plants
  • a funnel (or a piece of paper cut to size and rolled to make a funnel)
  • a small shovel

If making tags like mine you’ll also need:

  • decorative paper
  • glue or rubber cement
  • scissors
  • pencil

Instructions:

1. Take your soil and mix in drops of water (or use a spray bottle) until you have damp–but not soggy–soil.  Soil with good drainage works well, so look for the kind that has bits of Styrofoam mixed in or that is specially made for succulents and cactus. Valley soil is perfect because it’s so sandy, but you probably don’t live near me, so look into your local soil first to see if you can use it straight from the ground like I did.

2. Remove the wire topping of your ornament and fill the it a third of the way full of soil using your trowel and funnel. Make sure any rocks or gravel pieces aren’t going in. While they are useful for drainage they also add weight, which we don’t want.

3. Gently pluck some weeds from the ground (or from the fancy container you purchased your plants in) leaving the roots intact. Gently use your tweezers and the stick end of your paintbrush or chopstick to poke your plant through the hole and arrange so the root side is in the dirt. This is the trickiest part, but also why weeds are a good choice: they are used to growing in challenging circumstances and bouncing back even after they’ve been shoved in a jar.

4. Add a few (very few) more drops of water, replace the top, and there you have it–and awesome handmade terrarium ornament that took you all of fifteen minutes to make.

Let’s say you are giving these as a present and want to make a gift tag like I did. No problem, it’s easy! I used the tags that were already attached to the ornaments because they were simple and sturdy.

1. Leaving the tag on the ornament, trace its shape onto a decorative piece of paper using a very sharp pencil. Include a mark for the center hole.

2. Cut out and use that tracing to make two tags for each ornament you are making.  Cut them out.

3. In each tag, cut a slit and a hole for the plastic ring to go through. This is difficult for me to explain, so if you need a visual, click here.

4. Glue the decorative paper to each side of the tag. I used rubber cement and then set a book on top of each tag to prevent warping.

5. Finally, add the person’s name or a holiday message with a pen. A really good idea would be to include simple care instructions on one side of the tag as terrarium maintenance isn’t exactly a common skill. I did not do this because I only just thought of it, but I wish I would have.

I tried making these with both the larger ornaments and the medium-sized ones and it turns out that the medium-sized ones are far better. I wanted the large ones to work because they could hold more plants and maybe even some plastic toys, but the thin wire ornament tops wouldn’t support all that weight and the whole thing kept falling apart. Not a good sign. The medium size worked perfectly.

You can decorate these with plastic toys as long as they are small, lightweight, and will fit through the opening. You can adjust them with your tweezers and paintbrush once they are in. Ribbon would be a lovely way to accentuate and hang these ornaments, too, if you don’t like the look of the plastic ring or the tag. The fact that these ornaments are so simple is what lends them great potential and versatility.

This project was extra thrifty since I had all the materials on hand except the ornaments. If you try this, please let me know! I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

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Scrapbook: Home

29 Jan

Scrapbook: Home Harvest

26 Jan

I’m still catching up on photos and posts that should have run much earlier in year. At the time I was recovering from debilitating panic attacks so this post and a few others kind of got pushed aside. But I am really proud of my pumpkins and I want to show them to you! (That last sentence was not a euphemism. I swear.)

Aside from the herb garden, which I didn’t take a lot of photos of, we grew pumpkins, butternut squash, a sunflower, and marigolds. I count marigolds because they are a pest-repellant plant and I was specifically growing them for Day of the Dead decorations. Anthony accidentally cleared them out when he was weeding the garden at the end of the season (oops!) so I didn’t get to use them.

I’m really proud of our pumpkins. We were so infested with aphids that I was really worried we wouldn’t get any fruit but we managed to grow three fat orange globes. You can see the other two, plus a helpful PSA, here. Isobel was especially impressed with our pumpkins.

And the sunflower. Which was pretty magical for both of us. When I was thirteen I grew a patch of Russian Giant sunflowers that were easily 15 feet tall. My mom proudly took a picture of me standing next to them. I’ll have to show you someday. We only grew the one, and about half of the seeds are empty, but it was a really fun experience.

We didn’t even have to go to the pumpkin patch this year!

But of course we did, anyway.

The good thing about marigolds, besides the fact they are so cheerful and lovely, is that their petals each turn into a seed, so that by the time the plant has wilted you have enough seeds for a thousand plants. My friend Jake gave me plenty more seeds for next year.

Growing all of these plants was way easier than I thought it would be. Preparing the soil was most of the work done, and daily watering was a chore I had to do anyway. Plus Isobel loves to go outside. I can’t wait to start another garden this summer, but I’m not sure what we’ll grow.

Last Haul of the Season

24 Jan

Ah, summer. That magical time when I visited the Farmer’s Market each week and planned our meals accordingly. Now that the market has closed and the local fruit stands have boarded up their windows, I have only my memories and occasional trips to the local remate to tide me over. It’s tough to get there with the kid, and cold and muddy, too, and I have a hard time struggling to carry all those purchases the distance I have to walk back to the car. I can’t wait until May.

These photos are from the last market of the season back in October. This trip was extra special because I was able to fit some thrifting in that day, too.

The plates, bowls and hangers are all thrifted. Purchases that day included green beans, pea shoots, pomegranates, raw almonds, peaches, grape tomatoes, hummus, red pepper tapenade, and a butternut squash.

The sunflower seeds pictured here were actually grown in my garden. Earlier in the season Isobel and I checked out a local nursery’s booth at the Farmer’s Market and they had a display with soil, a little peat pot and seeds. We happened to run into my cousin’s family there, so Isobel and her cousin Victoria got to plant their own sunflower seeds. We watered it and placed it above the sink and two days later it sprouted. It was so magical for Isobel and I to watch. We watched it bloom and eventually cut it down. Isobel helped me pluck the seeds from the flower head. It was incredibly easy and required little more than water on my part.

The amber jar and wooden salt and pepper shakers in the background were also purchased secondhand that day, along with the Pyrex, mushroom cruets, and very awesome (but naturally, inaccurate) vintage dinosaur place mat. I picked up the letter sorter for Isobel and milk glass dish below for a song.

I miss you, summer.

Scrapbook: Little Icicles

23 Jan

I raise the blinds as I do every morning when I notice the entire yard is hung with crystals. Every branch, leaf, and blade of grass is coated in sparkly points of light. A hard freeze isn’t uncommon. But enough moisture for icicles is.

I pull on a sweater, scarf and coat and knot my tangled hair on top of my head. I pull rain boots on my feet that stop halfway up my pajama pants. My neighbors have seen me in pajama pants before. I decide not to worry about it. I grab my camera and shut the screen door so Isobel can see see and hear me. Absorbed in her game of tea all morning, I figured she wouldn’t miss me, but as soon as I step into the flower bed she starts to whine.

“Do you want to come outside with Mommy?”

More whining. A nod yes.

“It’s really cold. Are you sure?”

“I want to go outside with Mommy.”

I hurry back in. Already the morning is warming up. I have only a few minutes before the frozen diamonds melt and turn the ground to mud. Isobel is still in her pajamas, too, but I throw on some rain boots, a sweater and a coat before grabbing her hand to lead her outside.

“My pink purse!” she cries. We can’t forget that.

We step outside and I show her the icicles. The frozen grass crunches under our feet. We explore the flower bed and find unexpected bit of ice that sparkle like shards of glass scattered over the ground.

“The plants are coated with ice. Ice is what happens to water when it gets very cold. Water is ice and ice is water.”

“It’s pretty, mommy!”

“We have to enjoy it now because it won’t last.” I look at Isobel’s hand with her perfect, miniature nails, caressing a branch. I notice her expression, full of concentration. Her tiny body, engulfed by the jacket, little fist clutching her pink purse.

“We have to enjoy it. Because it won’t last.”

Scrapbook: Weekend

22 Jan

Fifty Thrifty Fun Things: Color on the Table

20 Jan

It sounds like a strange thing to say, but one of the best compliments I’ve ever received was from Anthony and it was about the thrifty and creative ways I’ve found to cheaply entertain Isobel. And it’s true: I pride myself on my ability to entertain her for minutes on end (precious, precious minutes!!–that sometimes add up to hours!) so I can do the dishes, drink a cup of coffee, or take a blissful dump in peace.

Many of you reading at home are parents, or perhaps spend some portion of your time with a young child. I’m willing to bet that readers here probably don’t have endless supplies of cash to spend entertaining your little ones, so this year I’m going to share at least 50 simple, accessible, and–most importantly–cheap ways to entertain your kids. Some of these ideas might give you a few blessed hours to yourself, and some of these activities you can revisit over and over again. If you’d like to share your best ideas for thriftily entertaining kids, I’d love to hear them.

50 thrifty idea, number one: cover your table with butcher paper, hand your kid a bucket of crayons and maybe some stickers and let them have at it.

The paper we used is actually packing material that came inside a package my mother ordered at Christmastime. She knows I collect paper like this to use for shipping items from my Etsy shop. That’s why it’s so crinkled. This time I spread  it on the table for Isobel to use instead of adding it to my shipping cupboard. It might end up there eventually, though.

The paper itself is like a very thin paper lunch sack. I like the way crayon and stickers look against the tan brown color. They really pop. I like it better than white paper, but it’d do just as good a job.

This activity bought me an hour. It probably would have given me longer but we had errands to run so I had to stop her.

When it was time to clean up I just rolled the paper up. It still has plenty of life left in it. I can rotate the side if she wants a clean slate to color on, or I can make it new buy letting her put stickers or water colors over the used areas. I just introduced her to the magic of stamps, so I’m sure this will be covered in ink pad markings and fingerprints before too long.

This is also great to save and pull out when she gets into Epic Coloring Mode. She can get so enthusiastic about coloring that she ends up going off the paper with her artistic zeal and then I have to scrub crayon off the table for the fifteenth billion time. She can color on top of this paper and I don’t have to tell her to slow her coloring roll.

Since the paper was repurposed and we already owned the crayons, this activity was free.

My sanity and a happy toddler? Priceless.

Thrifty Living: An Army of Ten Cent Jars

19 Jan

Little Big went quiet yesterday in solidarity of anti-SOPA legislation. I didn’t post any links simply because I ran out of time what with chasing a toddler and spending the majority of my time not chasing her with hacking up and sneezing various colors of fluids. Suffice it to say that this legislation could shut down my little ol’ blog just because I occasionally post something like this or this or even this. And that last one is especially important to me. When I was having my panic attacks it was your comments on this blog that really helped me feel normal. I will never, ever forget that. One comment in particular, from Anne G, has stuck with me and sustained me through some dark moments. It simply stated stated,

“I don’t believe that the person that wrote about Brian McPoopington will not be OK. Your positive energy will prevail.”

The fact that I have the freedom to share Brian McPoopington with you all helped me through a tough time. One of the toughest of my life. SOPA could end all that. Suck it, SOPA. Suck it slooooow.

I love fresh flowers in the home but I usually have to stick with flowers I grew in my yard or various plants Isobel and I find on our nature walks (which essentially boils down to “stroller time through the suburbs.”) I’ve collected a small army of ten cent jars and petite glasses while thrifting in the rare event that I have enough foliage to display.

Last summer my dear friends Jenn and Chris hosted a wedding reception that I was honored to be asked to photograph, and Jenn didn’t let me leave without taking home one of the stunning table bouquets her family put together. (It didn’t hurt that the flowers happened to be in my vintage mason jar.)

I enjoyed the blossoms in the jar as long as I could but once it started looking raggedy I tossed any rotting or dried-out blooms and stuck them in these thrifted jars instead. In true thrifty fashion  I always make my bouquets last as long as possible by whittling down the flowers, displaying on the freshest parts, for as long as possible in my thrifted jars.

They last even longer if your cats don’t chew on them. Not that I would know what that’s like.

The Thrifted Closet

8 Jan

While working on Life List item #11, I decided I’m going to share some of my thrifty outfits with you. This outfit features three recent thrift store scores: the sweater, the belt, and (my favorite) the skirt. Made any good clothing scores lately?

Follow Friday – OMFN

6 Jan

While rewriting my Life List I noticed that many (er, most) of my new items involve food. Even most of my travel items are food-related. I’ve had food on the brain and I can’t get it off, so this week I’m featuring photos of food that is OMFN.

And now, to announce the winner of the gorgeous, Vegan-approved handmade Inez Gill bow… Congratulations, Amanda! Please email me your address and tell me the size, color, style, and backing of your choice to receive your lovely bow!

What is Follow Friday? It’s a Twitter meme that I have taken a couple steps further.  Learn more about it in my FAQ. See my nomination for a Shorty Award for Follow Friday here. You can read more Follow Friday goodness here.

courtney_s I remember when james franco and I were querying our respective novels and I was like james you can’t just send them your headshot.

lord_voldemort7 They are making a Twilight MUSICAL. If the world doesn’t end in 2012 on its own I am going to have to do it myself.

pourmecoffee God, I don’t mean to get in your business but maybe you are telling the wrong candidates to run. Your call, of course.

MrWordsWorth Michele Bachman Announces Candidacy For A Fox News Show.

FarrenSquare Back off, every other girl, ever. I’ve loved Ryan Gosling since Breaker High!

sushi_goat Hey lets just do all political systems at once.

dejah_thoris Fanny Friends Hemherroid Cushion ad following Daria?! WTF?!!!

taralibrara Patron wants books on self motivation. Has me look up his number and wants me to pick the books for him. You decide he sez. #storyofmylife

MmeSurly Sometimes you have to take your 2yo to the post office dressed in a blanket & pink rainboots because he is pretending to be “Princess Girl.”

floatinglush Dear Words With Friends, I’d like you a whole lot better if you forked over some vowels. N lv, FltngLsh

joe_hill Michele Bachman pledges to continue running for president as head of the new Psycho Eyes party. Steve Buschemi is her running mate.

michael_J_m00n I gave a urine sample today but my cup was half empty. They said I was negative.

TheBlackStar Quick Poll: Lightening Bolts or Skull & Crossbones? #manscaping

ohcrys The more I think I’m alone in my craziness the more I realize the rest of the world is batshit insane right along with me.

alwysabridesmd Time to transform into my detective alter ego, nosy single lady taking out the trash.

sarcasmically Just introduced my son to beatboxing because I want him… to emulate these musicians and make noise ALL THE TIME? CRAP WHAT WAS I THINKING.

InfiniteChicken OH: “Well, after I saw my dad’s I knew I had to get a pair.” #IAm12

JLYoungsma “Ooooh, a new Katherine Hiegel movie!” -no one.

steenyweeny the complete works of tears for fears is inside my brain

papersquared @exlibris I’m just going to add beads to my cat’s and crochet him a beret. #buttdreds

SpaghettiJesus Everyone was so high from 1969 to 1989 that I vote on a do over.

allisonthemeep If I were a mushroom farmer, I’d start a side project rock band and call it “Loose Morels.”

AlmightyBoob DONT LAY DOWN WHILE LISTENING TO MORRISSEY! IF YOU FALL ASLEEP YOU’LL NEVER WAKE UP AGAIN

Smethanie It’s not that I LIKE spiders, I just save my helpless card for better stuff — flat tires, hard-to-open jars, people I need killed.

MassageByTed Aamco, Maaco, and Amoco should be forced to fight to the death and the winner called Ma’amMoCo

stevesilberman From a scientist friend: “Has any savvy amphibian biologist named a new species of salamander, Lisbeth? That’d be awesome.”

pnkrcklibrarian Because *I* know when I think of British television, I totally think of Star Trek, X-Files, Gangs of New York, and The Tudors. Totally.

JLYoungsma The sound of my vacuum sucking up stale raisins is equal to my heaven.

joeinverarity The baby made an atomic fart on my leg. I am now more powerful than the Toxic Avenger.

amazinqatheis tI ate the flying spaghetti monster

JillMorris Whenever I need to cry on cue I think of skanking.

writtenper New couch means no dogs allowed if they’re wet/damp from outside. Dogs’ reaction: WHY DO YOU HATE US NOW OMG WE ARE DYING.

Athenabee If my dog barks and wakes up Zofia, I will have him drawn and quartered. #realtalk

premmeridian Dreamt last night that mice were putting on a production of ‘Les Miserables’ at my workplace. At least, I think it was a dream.

JillMorris The LA arsonist set 55 fires in four days yet I lack the productivity to mail a thank you note.

LouisPeitzman I cackle a lot for someone who has only ever ridden a broomstick recreationally.

BeTheBoy Can’t believe it’s been 30 years since the discovery of Pac-Man Fever and still no cure.

NicLewis “The Towering Inferno” reminds me of every game of The Sims I ever played.

MightyQuinn72 An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An apple in bed gets me “do you have to eat that like a goddamn horse? I’m tryin to sleep”

noshwithme When they catch the arsonist they should play a loop of siren and helicopter sounds in his jail cell at night.

JerryThomas Somehow the cat wrestled the laser pointer away from me and now I’m exhausted and he’s having my suits retailored to fit him.

sushi_goat PROTIP: DON’T EVER THINK ABOUT THINGS THEY ARE SUCH A FUCKING BUMMER

ruthakers “I was born to run.” -Diarrhea.

BeTheBoyMy wife is asleep, my New Year’s resolution to use more chloroform is a success.

LouisPeitzman “It gets better.” – what I tell depressed gay kids who have just started watching Buffy

TheNardvark What’s your favorite TV show to listen to while you stare at your phone?

Toaster_Pastry Currently wasting precious daylight guessing Tweeters underlying emotional disorders.

HouseTalkN Researching puppy training – where is the one that teaches the pup to clean my house???

wordlust New Irish curse: “May you die, then be reincarnated as a little white girl, then die again, then be exploited by Nancy Grace!”

TheMostTender  I’m worried that the soul of the man I’m supposed to marry is trapped in my friend’s cat.

inktwice  Square…if you’re going to bring elements of older FF games, how about you: 1) bring every element of FF7 2) call it FF7 3)??? 4) PROFIT

jendenbrat  If I’ve learned anything from cartoons it’s that animals and inanimate objects are struggling with the same moral dilemmas as I am.

SpaghettiJesus I will never sell out bc I’m a man of principles and I’ve always got more where that came from.

mikeleffingwell “What I want isn’t on the menu,” I said as I eyed the waitress seductively. “Oh wait, yes it is. Can I have the buffalo wings?”

Disalmanac UPDATE: Santorum is surging in Iowa. Try not to step in any. Jesus.

MightyHunter Where my gerunds at?

LaurelKS The best way to start 2012 is completely hangover-free even though I was knee walking drunk last night. Winning!

sarcasmically Woke up and kids were gone. Silent house. SANTA CAME LATE THIS YEAR, BUT HE CAME.

sawaboof This needing to eat thing is really messing with my plans to stay on the couch all day.

sushi_goat YOU ARE MOTHER IS SO UGLY THAT I WOULD NOT PUT MY REPRODUCTION MECHANISM IN HER

RaeBeta Introducing my parents to @theisb‘s Tarot reviews, because it’s not Christmas until the whole family is yelling “Your vagina is haunted!”

joeinverarity Warning to all: if someone tells you an infant had a present for you, it isn’t a nice bottle of wine. Get the hell out while you can.

joe_hill Benedict Cumberbatch is so awesome in WARHORSE, his name ought to be Benedict Cumberbigballs.

MassageByTed That, sir, is an extraordinarily well-appointed cat box.

mwilliamrice SPOILER ALERT: Caillou is going to fuck it up.

slennonharris Sisyphus walks into a bar. Sisyphus walks into a bar. Sisyphus walks into a bar. Sisyphus walks into a bar. Sisyphus walks into a bar. Sisyp

trumpetcake If your motorcycle is louder than me reciting the alphabet to a child you are a butt.

jenniferweiner I’m okay with Linny and Tuck, but Ming-Ming’s kind of an asshole.

msbellows Cool! I’ve rcd an email naming me to the International Association of Successful Individuals! #NotClickingTheLink

mrteacup Marxist restaurant reviews: “Even though they’re plunged into the icy water of egotistical calculation, the waitstaff are SO NICE!”

palinode Don’t buy grated Parmesan! Simply rub a block of fresh parm gently against Matthew McConaghey’s face. #cookingtips

MightyQuinn72 Reading a paper manual this morning I put my finger on the page and swiped it like a touch screen. This is what’s called “natural selection.”

RideOrDiePudge WARNING: The Chris Angel Ultimate Mind Freak Magic Kit may cause wives, girlfriends and other female companions to disappear.

rstevens The distance between “buy cold medication” and “lose cold medication” gets shorter every time.

TristinaWright I love that my FIL’s status on gchat is always, “COOKING BACON” – I married into a great family.

PolyesterPony Does the world still exist? Asking for a friend.

apelad  Without spoiling anything major, can someone just tell me if the war horse starts or ends the war?

DamienFahey  I dislike children but I LOVE yelling, “STOP IT!” in public…so I’m having a kid.

dr_spidermanMD  A SALAD BAR IS A BINDING LEGAL CONTRACT GUYS STOP SHARING

TheMostTender  My littlest cousin just asked me what grade I’m in. He is now my favorite human being of all time.

C_Vilela  OH: “This stuff tastes awful!! How has Tim Horton’s duped an entire nation? It’s like North Korea!”

kevingchristy  the next time someone says to you “I don’t watch television” say “what’s television?” It’s the checkmate of pretentious lies.

palinode My new goal in Skyrim is to kill every living thing in it, except for the guy who sells me my arrows.

What is Follow Friday? It’s a Twitter meme that I have taken a couple steps further.  Learn more about it in my FAQ. See my nomination for a Shorty Award for Follow Friday here. You can read more Follow Friday goodness here.