Friday, May 25, 2012

Getting Crafty

I am so thrilled to see so many thoughtful, interesting, encouraging comments in Monday's post. Thank you for coming along with me on this crazy mission; it's wonderful to have such good company. I am thinking it makes sense for now to do a weekly financial update/discussion and then we can go from there. (FWIW, I also appreciate hearing the other features and topics you all are interested in seeing on the blog. I aim to please! You can leave those suggestions at any time!)

This Last* weekend was wonderful. Perhaps I should have been doing work, but instead I decided to tackle a few pending DIY projects in between brunch dates and barbecues.

* I drafted this post on Tuesday and then was immediately told I was being sent to the Midwest to assist with some witness interviews! Love those curveballs! (not sarcasm. I really do love curveballs.). So anyway, work has been kind of occupying me this week, hence the radio silence. I'm on my way back from Kentucky tonight!


As I mentioned a few weeks back, I decided to add some flair to my office with a bit of controlled greenery in the form of a terrarium. I found a great big vessel in a thrift store for a dollar, and then when it rang up as "vase" I realized that I had a second appropriate (smaller) vase at home. Two terrariums! Terraria! Whatever! I washed the vases to make sure no uninvited microorganisms found their way into my terrariums.

The equipment (following this tutorial): potting soil, active carbon, rocks, sand, vase, plants. I was able to find all of these things at my local gardening store. The cost was approximately $25 for everything (I didn't need to buy potting soil since I already had that on hand). You could potentially walk around your neighborhood and gather rocks for free, as long as you make sure to wash them to free them from bacteria.

You can read full instructions over at Apartment Therapy's tutorial, so I will just provide a few hard-learned tips here.

As far as plant selection, I found that shorter plants with interestingly-shaped leaves seemed to work out best. That big long plant in the bottom left of the crate was an effing waste of time, but I have a poor sense of spatial relations and thought it would fit easily fit in my large vase. Wrong.

Don't be like me, friends. Use a larger trash bag to protect your work surface. Dirt and carbon can get everywhere!

You start by layering, in this order: rocks, carbon, sand, soil. The trick, I think, is that your layers should be VERY thin. You will see later that there is not a lot of room for plants in either of my terrariums because the layers took up so much space. Use the bare minimum of your layering materials to leave room for plants. Because things get messy at this stage, it might be a good idea to use a funnell or some small cups if you have those accessible.

Not a lot of room to grow. Hyuk Hyuk.

One of the things I hadn't thought much about before starting this project was the fact that I would need to break down each plant into a small piece to preserve the scale of the terrarium. I started with somewhat bushy plants and had to pull them apart at the roots to leave myself with something small enough to work with. The jury is still out on whether these plants will survive this traumatic event, but I will keep you posted. It may be worth asking the experts at your local plant store for recommendations regarding plant heartiness.

Once you add the plants, your last bit of fun is to create some kind of scene. Adding plastic figures are optional, but I think it adds a bit of fun and whimsy. I added a plastic rabbit to one of the terrariums (a component of another not-yet-started DIY) (here).

Pretty sure that third plant on the right will be dead soon as I don't think it has any roots left. Can you just plant a stem in dirt and will it to take root? No?

For the second terrarium, I plagiarized a terrarium I saw on Fab and ordered this crazy little figure from (here):

This little lady is a ho.  And by that I mean that she is a "ho" scale model train figure and she is TINY. About the length of my thumbnail. I used double-sided tape to stick her to the rock, which is less noticeable in person than it is in the image above. Apparently there are a lot of very funny model train figures available online that you can use to make cool terrariums. The "Ho" scale figures are small, but some of the other scales may be larger. It seems like the Ho scale has the most variety, though.

Anyway, here's the full scene:

Yes, I have a flashing lady in my office. No, she's not visible unless I show her to you.

So, total cost of two terrariums was about $35. The cost of making subsequent terrariums, now that I have leftover rocks, sand, carbon, and soil, would < $10 for plants, $0.50-2 for a thrifted receptacle, and however much you chose to spend on figurines. Not too shabby considering how pricey these guys go for generally!

Also, and this doesn't really feel like a craft project, I spray painted a picture frame:

Cost: $1 for the frame (thrifted) and $6 for the neon spray paint (here). Subsequent frames would only cost as much as the thrifted frame. To pick a frame, I tried to chose one with a lot of texture and embellishment to create a fun contrast between the formal/ornate and the whimsy of hot pink. I used leftover tissue paper from an online Kate Spade purchase months ago to fill in the space between the photo and the frame edges.

Pro tip: protect the back of the frame, or else this:

I hope you all have wonderful long weekends planned!   I've done great with my shopping budget (I did not even tempt myself by clicking over to Nordstrom's half-yearly sale) but it looks like I'm going to Atlantic City this weekend and I'm sure I will play poker. I don't quite know where poker will fit into my budget. I don't want to give it up but I will clearly need to earmark some funds for it each month just in case an impromptu Atlantic City trip occurs.

I mean, of course, I always plan on winning tons of money every time I sit down at a table (like here), but other people don't always cooperate with me on that one. :-)

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