Crafting & Art

Oh Dear, Can He Breathe?

As a bunch of you saw on Facebook and Instagram, we went on a giant lumber run, which means there’s a whole lotta building that’s about to commence in the nursery. But first we have to paint the walls and ceiling, so we hope to knock that out today and tomorrow (and have an update for you guys on Monday). Three cheers for finally saying goodbye to those door-overspray marks on the wall!

And while we get our paint on, I thought I’d share a nice and easy “anyone-can-do-it” project (involving living things, ahh!). Most importantly: there’s a tiny deer living in a tiny glass house in our house.

And the good news is that he can’t die… but the plants nearby most definitely can.

So this is going to be one of those experiments to see if low maintenance plants really exist. Because we all know I don’t exactly have a green thumb. Remember when I begged you to help me keep my cacti alive? Well the good news is that they’re all still alive and kicking, over two months later.

Wanna know how I’m keeping them alive? By completely ignoring them. 100%. I’ve only watered them once. In TWO MONTHS! Everyone told me just to give them a drop when the soil feels really dry, so I have truly taken that to heart. And they love me for it. Well, at least they don’t hate me (and aren’t dying in protest). Some of you even noticed them still alive and kicking in last week’s chair post. Werk, little cacti. Werk.

So now that I’ve had a decent amount of success with that completely no-maintenance planting experience, as you can imagine I practically think I’m a top level botanist. Just kidding, I still have pretty much zero plant confidence (see those succulents on the shelf in the background of this pic? They’re fake from HomeGoods). But it did inspire me to try one more “it theoretically should take care of itself” situation on for size. Namely, a terrarium.

It all started when I found this awesome glass container at a lighting shop a few weeks back (The Decorating Outlet here in Richmond). The cool thing is that they usually sell this as a hanging pendant light like this, but this one wasn’t drilled to accommodate a light for some reason, so it was marked down to $16. It just sort of whispered “Fill me with a few green things and a tiny plastic deer. You know you want to.” So I thought, OK, let’s see if this black thumb of mine can create (and hopefully maintain) a terrarium. Like without any actual maintenance.

Here’s how I made it.

Step 1. Cut a hole in a box. Just kidding. The first step was actually finding a glass container that I liked (you could also try a big glass container like this or an apothecary jar like this).

Step 2. I googled around and read about 20 terrarium tutorials. There were a lot of different methods, but the ones with charcoal – like this one – seemed the most self-stable (meaning you didn’t have to open them and water them, because the charcoal theoretically should make them into their own little self-sustainable ecosystem).

Step 3. I wrote out a list of supplies I would need: gravel, charcoal, potting soil, and some small plants. I ducked out into the garage to get some bagged potting soil, and just stole some gravel from our driveway to fulfill that requirement. Then I went to Home Depot and grabbed two small succulent containers for around $5 and looked for charcoal (some plant stores sell it) but no dice. So I hit up a local greenhouse (Great Big Greenhouse here in Richmond) and got a tiny bag of charcoal for $1.

Step 4. I added about an inch of gravel to the bottom of the container.

Step 5. I added about an inch of charcoal on top of my gravel layer.

Step 6. I added 2-3 inches of potting soil on top of the charcoal layer.

Step 7. In went my plants into the potting soil…

Step 8. And then just for fun, I grabbed Bambi’s nephew Bob and stuck him in there.

Step 9. I gently misted the plants with water (ok, I dunked my hand in a bowl of it and splashed the inside of the terrarium a few times) and then I sealed everything up and called it good.

So far it has been over a week and my little guys have been troopers. No drooping (they actually look a little happier than they were in their plastic Home Depot containers) but not a whole lot of action either (there hasn’t been a ton of Titanic-esque glass-fogging or anything like that). The jury is still out on whether this will end up being a cold and lonely tomb for them to leave this world, or a happy little place for them to hang out. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime I’d love any and all terrarium tips since you guys did me right with those cacti.

Update: Hilariously enough, thanks to my Instagram feed I learned that Michael over at Inspired by Charm made a similar terrarium from a RedEnvelope kit for $79 yesterday! So you can check his out as a ready-to-assemble alternative. Also, his photos are amazing, and his dome is blinged out in gold. Me-ow.

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A Painted Pattern That Only Looks Complicated

It’s no secret that I love giving various paint treatments a try – like stenciling a pillow, two toning a chair, painting patterns on baskets, or even tracing raindrops right onto the wall – and I’ve been excited to share this one. Some of you eagle-eyes even noticed it in the background of Friday’s post and asked for details.

Now that Clara’s thrift store cradle is in heavy rotation (Captain Barnacle is often found being rocked, fed, or changed in there) and Clara has clearly established her love of red, blue, and pink, I used it to test drive a deceptively simple free-handed pattern. It’s probably the most “intricate” pattern I’ve ever freehanded, but it’s just a series of simple steps that anyone can do (it only took me about an hour to do all four sides). And this pattern could be added to the top of a table, the fronts of a dresser, the back of a bookcase, or even just a piece of wood (or canvas) hung on the wall as art.

The first thing I did was use a red Sharpie paint pen and a ruler to make a bunch of vertical lines (use a yard stick if your item of furniture is larger). I just eyed these because I didn’t really want them to be perfect – I was going more for the imperfect-by-hand-looking effect.

Then I connected those lines with some free-handed diagonal lines (I didn’t use a ruler or anything for such short lines) that went up in one column, and then went back down in the next column. I started from the left and worked my way across each side of the cradle (from left to right).

When I had diagonal-lined all of my columns, I was left with a nice red and white pattern on all four sides. Then I went back in and added some blue paint to a few random parallelograms with a small craft brush (it’s the same test pot of paint that I’ve had for years called Embellished Blue by Behr, which I also used for this project, this project, and this project).

I also painted the top lip around the whole thing in solid blue, just to add a little “piping” to the look. Oh and I recovered the green pillow that used to be inside with some pink zebra fabric from my scrap bin (since pink, red, and blue is the color trifecta for Clara).

The last step was adding a strip of fleece fabric that I had in my scrap pile to the bottom of each rocker on the underside of the cradle. When it was just bare wood it could scratch things up a little if Clara pushed it across the floor, so “felting” those with strips of fleece fabric (which I just crazy glued in place) did the trick.

I brought it back out for Clara to see on Christmas Eve day, which is also when she also got a few “real” gifts from us (that was a tradition in both of our families growing up). So along with some books and toys, she also got her “re-mixed” cradle.

The new pattern didn’t go unnoticed and she even said “I love your paintings!” and wanted to know what each of those shapes were called, which led to her saying the word “parallelogram” about 100 times, and me beaming like a maniac every single time. What is it about kids and five-syllable words? They just sound so dang smart and adorable.

So there you have it: a design that doesn’t call for a printer or a paper cutter or any decals or stencils – just a paint pen and an old test pot of paint. Have you guys ever free-handed an imperfect pattern like this? Was it surprisingly therapeutic? I was totally in the zone.

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