Tag Archives: homemade

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.

Crafty: The Heart-Shaped Box

17 Jan

I am so excited to finally share this project with you. I really didn’t do much in the way of handmade gifts for Isobel this year. Focusing on thrifting, hosting Christmas, and just being with my family took up most of my time so I thought I really wouldn’t bother with handmade gifts for Isobel. She is just swimming in toys and things she carries around to play with that aren’t toys, and I knew she’d be getting piles of stuff for Christmas, so it was easy to justify not making her a bunch of gifts. And I’ve already explained my theory of thrifted gifts and why I’m an asshole anyway. But, when the Pixie and I stopped by the craft store a week before Christmas to pick up supplies for the gift I was making my friends, I couldn’t pass up this sweet little paper heart box for 99 cents.

Using craft paint I already had, I used time when Isobel was with Grandma to paint layer after layer of pink paint on the brown paper surface. I decided to paint the inside of the box red to make it stand out more, which I don’t regret but made the whole thing more complicated because each mistake meant waiting for paint to dry to apply another layer to fix the errant blotches.

The craft store also had these fantastic jewels for three bucks, and I can’t think of a more perfect treasure to fit inside. Isobel adores her heart box, and I’m so glad I took the time to make it. Total cost of the project was less than five bucks. Although I made this as part of Handmade Christmas, wouldn’t this be the perfect Valentine gift, or even project, if your little one was school-aged? It could be filled with chocolate and covered with doilies or modge-podge.

Homemade Christmas & Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

7 Nov

Working in the kitchen has been a balm for my anxiety. The chopping, the washing, the sauteing all help divert my scattered, restless thoughts away from anxious tangents. The inherent rhythm of chop chop chop chop has become my mantra. Cooking is my meditation. Dinner is my devotion.

We have so many seeds from the pumpkins we grew that I’m planning to roast them in batches with a different set of seasonings each time. In addition to the three fat pumpkins we harvested from the backyard my friend and gardening-partner-in-crime Jake gave us the pumpkin he grew as well. It’s an embarrassment of pumpkin riches.

After cleaning the flesh from the seeds by soaking them in brine overnight, I doused them heavily in tamari, the milder, more complex Japanese soy sauce. I roasted them for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. They came out a bit saltier than I’d like so I’ll need to adjust the amount of soy, but they have a robust, almost smoky flavor.

One of the reasons I’m testing out different spice combinations is because the holidays are right around the corner and I’m looking for gifts I can make cheaply and in batches. This year my friends and I have decided to have an exclusively Handmade Christmas. If it can be found in a thrift store (the only exception), cooked, baked, or otherwise handcrafted, it counts. None of us can afford an extravagant Christmas, and aside from a few stocking stuffers and thrifted goodies I’ve already set aside for Isobel, that goes for family, too.

Going down to one income in this economy is way harder than I thought it’d be. I don’t regret my decision to stay home for a minute, but I do have to admit I had unrealistic expectations about how difficult the financial transition would be. Finally, with two incomes in decent jobs we were making enough money to do more than get by when I quit my job. But I know things won’t always be this way. Anthony is still establishing himself in his career and I’m continuing to make extra money through photography and my Etsy shop. (Speaking of, stop by my shop during the holidays! I always include extra vintage goodies to customers I know personally.)

My friends are all in the same boat, most of them dealing with crushing student debt, lack of employment options, and the dreaded foreclosure. So, in the tradition of making lemons out of lemonade, we’re going the inexpensive route. Handmade can certainly be expensive, but I’m on the lookout for crafts that are inexpensive, easy enough for a novice, and not incredibly time consuming. I have some ideas I’ll share later (once I figure out what I’m going to make), but I’d love to hear any suggestions you have or click on any Pinterest links you want to send my way.

14 DIY Costume Ideas

26 Oct

Although I start dreaming up Halloween costumes way in advance (I mean months in advance) I sometimes still can’t decide until the last minute. For couple’s costume ideas go here.

If there’s one thing the internet has given me, it’s limitless amounts of inspiration.

COSTUME: ADORABLE LITTLE FIGHTER

I don’t even know this kid, but when I saw him several years ago at a Renaissance Faire I had to take a photo. This was before Anthony and I were even planning to start a family, but the idea of crocheted chain mail was something I wanted to file away for future reference. How perfect is that chain mail? Answer: completely! It looks like chain mail but without the weight. I have no idea how to make this, but it looks pretty simple. I was just going to ask my friend Susie when the time comes. I suggest you do the same. (Or if you don’t know my friend Susie, just Google it.)

Fighter Accessories: crochet chain mail, sword and shield, swash-buckling hat, cuteness of an eight-year-old

 

COSTUME: RACCOON MARIO

I know a lot of people who’ve been Mario for Halloween. It’s a great costume, no doubt about it. But Raccoon Mario takes it to a whole new level of Geek-chic. (It’s an awesome hidden level, BTW.)

Raccoon Mario Accessories: red shirt, overalls, yellow felt button covers, hat, felt M logo, raccoon ears and tail

 

COSTUME: SWASHBUCKLING FIGHTER


That’s my handsome husband right there. All kinds of ladies were swarming all over him when he wore this to work at the bookstore. I must have been feeling generous because I let them live. There are some very expensive items in this outfit: custom leather pieces aren’t cheap. That said, there were thrifty elements, too. The gray shirt and leather pants are from a thrift store, and the “boots” are from a cheap pirate Halloween costume: they attach to regular shoes to look all buccaneer-like. The sword was borrowed from David (we accidentally broke that sword later in the night while trying to slice a pumpkin in half—sorry, David!) and the bandolier belts were purchased at a yard sale. Since Anthony has used the leather braces and shoulder guards for many occasions in many different costumes I feel it’s a justified purpose. Many times Anthony will be some sort of fighter for Halloween and the years we can afford it we add another piece to his collection. The same goes with my faerie costume.

Swashbuckling Fighter Accessories: boots, leather pants, altered tunic/shirt, bandoleers, sword, bracers, shoulder armor, leather pouch with gold coins, thrifted belts, the good sense not to try to smash a pumpkin with a sword

 

COSTUME: THE FAIR FOLK

As I was mentioning above, the faerie costume is my default costume that I add to every couple of years. It’s worth spending money on it as long as I add pieces slowly. But not all of my costume pieces are expensive. The earrings came from Claire’s (you can see the earrings in this picture), the dress I had in my closet, the belt is actually a ribbon, the fan was a favor from a wedding I attended, and instead of a purse I carried a basket that I got at a thrift store. The headpiece I bought online somewhere and the wings I got at a Ren Faire.
Faerie Accessories: dress, headband, ornate necklace and earrings, fan, basket, dress, wings, aversion to iron

 

COSTUME: SEXY VAMPIRE

David was an OG sexy vampire in the days before the Twilight phenomenon. He darkened his hair with inexpensive, temporary dye,  put in red contacts, and dressed up in a sexy red shirt and charcoal-gray trousers. David looked so hot. It really made me feel awful for breaking his sword. (Sorry, David!) He also put on vampire “fangs” that you glue on top of your canines.

Vampire Accessories: red contacts, temporary hair dye, fangs, nice outfit, tolerance for flash photography

 

COSTUME: AUDREY HEPBURN A LA BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

Melynda channels Audrey Hepburn in this iconic costume. Plus, she just looks hot. I wonder where she got the cigarette holder…
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Accessories: tiara, necklace, glasses, gloves, black dress, cigarette holder, clutch

COSTUME: SEXY DEVIL

At Halloween the devil is always in style.

The Devil’s in the Details: sexy red dress, fishnets or tights, black lace gloves, horn hairclips, impish smile

 

COSTUME: RORSCHACH FROM THE WATCHMEN

John dressed as Rorschach from The Watchmen before the movie came out. There are probably commercial Rorschach costumes out now, but John’s was excellent and definitely easy to duplicate. I know John borrowed the hat, the trench, and maybe even the scarf from our friend Caleb, but I’ve seen similar items at thrift stores. John decorated an opaque white tight with a sharpie for the mask. He could see and breathe through it.

Rorschach Accessories : trench, scarf, hat, stocking, marker

 

COSTUME: QUAIL MAN

Did you watch the cartoon Doug growing up? Remember the super hero Quail Man that was Doug’s alter ego? Scott nailed it.

Quail Man Accessories: belts for headband, red towel for cape, underwear worn outside of pants, homemade “Q” sweater vest

COSTUME: EMO GIRL

My sister is hilarious. Her costume was “going emo” but when people asked her what she was she would make a huge, heaving sigh and say, “I don’t caaaaaaaare.” It was perfect.
Emo Accessories: pale make up, black eye make up, black satin trench coat, black tulle skirt, black tights, endless apathy

COSTUME: SILK SPECTRE

Laurel obviously purchased this costume after the movie came out, but how freaking cute is this?
Silk Spectre Accessories: costume, ability to look hot and frolic

COSTUME: THE JOKER

Doesn’t he look great? John does a really good Joker laugh. Unfortunately it woke a 6 month old Isobel up from her slumber and she screamed bloody murder. Great job, John! Your costume IS scary. To an infant.

The Joker’s Accessories: Dress clothes, purple shirt, cane, costume make up, hideous laugh

 

COSTUME: DR CULLEN FROM TWILIGHT


Anthony used to work at a large chain bookstore that dressed up for certain Twilight-related days. His manager, David, volunteered to be Dr. Cullen, the devilishly handsome vampire doctor. David just happened to have a real stethoscope. Handy.

Dr. Cullen Accessories: lab coat, hair dye, fangs, contacts, stethoscope

COSTUME: BARBARIAN GIRL

It helps if you have naturally long blond hair, but if not, you can braid a long, blond wig as well. This is my sister, and she braided her hair before winding it around her head like a Valkyrie’s halo. She’s wearing some thrifted fur. I don’t remember what she has one for pants or a skirt. This was a really long time ago, but I sure do like it, the thrifted fur especially. Very creative.

Barbarian Accessories: thrifted or faux fur, braided blond hair or wig, plastic battle axe, willingness to to ascend to Valhalla

COSTUME: CAVE MAN

Man, this costume looked really good in person. I should have gotten a close up of the faux fur vest he is wearing. Yes. You heard me. That entire vest is faux fur and was purchased at Macy’s as an honest-to-god serious item of clothing. When Justin recieved it as a birthday present from a well-intentioned family member, he decided to get Cro-Magnon with it for Halloween. Leopard pants were easily constructed out of fleece.

Cave Man Accessories: god-awful fake fir vest, leopard pants, tray of delicious flautas

Eight DIY Couple’s Costume Ideas

24 Oct

Sometimes it’s not enough to have a costume. Sometimes you need a costume that matches another costume. Here are eight suggestions to get you started.

COSTUME: VAMPIRE & VAMPIRE HUNTER

My husband decided to be a vampire hunter for Halloween the year I was pregnant with Isobel. I decided to be a vampire, not because I have a particular interest in vampires, but because I was not going to tolerate my husband hunting anyone but me. My options were still wide open since I was in the middle of my pregnancy still—my only caveat was that I needed a high-wasted, flowing dress. Which is easy enough.

We recycled parts of other costumes to create the Vampire Hunter look. He wore a pair of thrifted black leather pants, thrifted black combat boots, a simple black t-shirt, and some creative accessories. The he made the stakes himself by slicing up a wooden dowel into the right shape and covering the handle with black electrical tape. He borrowed a cross from my parent’s house and bought a plastic gun at the flea market for a dollar. A bandoleer found while yard saling and some garlic finished off the look.

I’m the first to admit my costume isn’t very convincing or inventive. It was actually supposed to be a lot better: I had ordered these lacy black gloves and matching kneesocks on etsy but the seller flaked out. Boo. And I bought some stick-on fangs that David recommended but the adhesive was SO FUCKING NASTY I couldn’t go through with it. I bought some knit black stockings at Target at the last minute and added a sparkly thrifted broach.

Vampire Hunter Accessories: garlic, steaks, gun, cross, bandoleer, combat boots, badassery

Vampire Accessories: cool gloves and tights from etsy, fangs, dress, sparkly thrifted broach, baby bump

COSTUME: DRYAD & WOODSMAN

Stef rocks the dryad costume with a thrifted green dress and her natural beauty. She added a “crown” made of ivy and berries and made matching wristlet and belt circlets as well. Dave has the beard and physique of a lumberjack, so this costume wasn’t a stretch. Add a piping axe made out of foam, PVC pipe and duct tape, and you’re good to go.

Woodsman Accessories: beard, hat, flannel, jeans, “axe”, stoutheartedness

Dryad Accessories:  ivy crown, belt and wristlets, green dress, natural beauty

COSTUME: PREGNANT PROM QUEEN & UNSCRUPULOUS SCIENCE TEACHER

Angela was very, very pregnant during Halloween one year, and when you’re 8 months pregnant it’s hard to find more than one pair of pants that fit, let alone a costume. But she and her husband Justin had a great idea: she would be a pregnant prom queen and Justin would be her lecherous high school science teacher/baby daddy. The funniest part about this scandalous couple’s costume is that Justin unzipped his pants and put part of his shirt through the fly.

Pregnant Prom Queen Accessories: giant belly swollen with child, fancy dress, tiara, beauty queen sash, vacant stare
Unscrupulous Science Teacher Accessories: corduroy blazer, glasses, dress shirt, tie, leering stare

 

COSTUME: ZOMBIE & ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE SURVIVALIST

My friends love a good zombie story and have often theorized about what it would take to survive an apocalyptic zombie outbreak scenario. Caleb dressed as a survialist prepared for a post-zombie world and equipped with a toolbelt, work gloves, and 2 liter of Mountain Dew. My husband enjoyed zombification via white costume make up and fake blood. He wore old clothes that he could rip and spill blood onto for effect.

Zombie Survivalist Accessories: tool belt with leatherman, bowie knife, first aid kit and firestarter, back pack, work gloves, hat, and ability to shotgun a can of Mountain Dew
Zombie Accessories: make up, fake blood, old ripped clothes, unrelenting appetite for brains

 

COSTUME: MICHAEL JACKSON & THRILLER ZOMBIE

Poor Melynda. She was really distraught the year Michael Jackson died. As a fan of his music she dressed as MJ in homage to his life for Halloween. Her boyfriend, Justin, dressed as a low-key zombie and they both did the Thriller dance together. A moving tribute.

Michael Jackson Accessories: one sparkly glove, hat, shoulder-padded jacket and MJ makeup–don’t forget the pasty skin!

Low-Key Zombie Accessories: ashen face, circles under eyes, halting walk

 

COSTUME: EPIC LORD OF THE RINGS EXTRAS

All the romance of a dime store novel! None of the sheepish embarrassment of purchasing it! Stef and Dave win the Most Epic award for costumes with this one. Stef purchased this Arwen dress online but similar dresses could be found by the conscientious thrifter.  Dave’s craftily-inclined mother made him the knight’s tunic. I’m not sure about the cape. Anthony had a very similar cape made by a seamstress friend of ours, but Cindy could have made this, too. I’m not sure if Dave borrowed Anthony’s or not. Either way? Epic.

LOTR Knight Accessories: tunic, cape, official LOTR merch leaf-pin, large hairy feet

LOTR Elf Accessories: princess dress, regal bearing, soft focus lens

 

COSTUME: JAPANESE HOUSEWIFE & ADORABLE PIECE OF SUSHI

Here’s a post about my daughter’s first Halloween costume: a piece of sushi. To complete the couple’s theme, I was a Japanese housewife. My awesome friend Valerie sewed up the salmon pillow and green nori belt for Isobel and we put her in a plain white onesie. I just happened to have a beautiful kimono and obi belt given to my by our friend Aiden who was stationed in Okinawa for a few years while serving with the military.

Japanese Housewife Accessories: kimono, obi belt, parasol, graceful manner (which I probably lacked)

Adorable Piece of Sushi Accessories: White onesie and leggings, nori belt, salmon pillow, excessive cuteness