Monday, April 28, 2014

The Plant Recipe Book

My friends over at Artisan Books sent me a copy of Baylor Chapman's gorgeous book entitled The Plant Recipe Book so I could take a peek. (While they did send me the book for free, the opinions are my very own…just in case you were wondering). Now back to the book: it is filled with gorgeous photos, inspiring projects and completely do-able instructions. I was so excited about all the possibilities that I drug my family all over town hunting for unusual planters.

The book guides you in planting 40 popular, easy-to-find plants on their own, then proceeds to arrange that same plant type “With Company,” and then reveals some show-stopping “Special Occasion” recipesSome traditional vessels and methods are used, but so are less conventional ones, like window shutters, wooden boats, and planting under glass (perfect for coffee tables). The transformation of everyday household objects into containers is ingenious: think light fixtures and tote bags as pots, and upside-down jars as terrariums. And because they are living and durable, they can serve statement pieces that can decorate your home for months or even years.

One of my favorites is an arrangement that appears to sit directly on the table. Genius. I cannot wait to whip that one out for a dinner party centerpiece. I'm also going to try the living wreath that I've been intimidated by for years. This book definitely gave me a boost of green-thumb confidence. 

Now for a little show-and-tell. I was so excited by the book, that I created a few arrangements of my own. I definitely need some more practice, but for my first real try, I'm pretty happy with my efforts. I picked up this vintage coffee canister at a second-hand store for $2.00 and I think it makes a fantastic planter.

I stuck with mostly succulents and drought-tolerant plants, because I have a horrible track record with keeping houseplants alive. It's been over a month since I planted these babies and they're still alive (mostly). I've even had enough new growth on some of the succulents that I've taken clippings and re-planted them so I can have even more arrangements scattered around the house. I may be getting out of control.

I realize that using containers that are meant to be planters--like the cute wall planters above--isn't the most groundbreaking discovery. But I've never dared to decorate with plants because I kill everything I touch. And a wall full of dead plants isn't very pretty. But I'm giving it a go here, because I love the texture and dimension it gives the space. (This space is in my living room, and is part of a different project I'll be revealing later on this week).

Finding some plants listed in the book proved to be a bit of a challenge, but I have since discovered a few great local sources, which will make my next round of planting projects a breeze. When I run out of space to display my new creations, I'll just have to give some away. I think making a creative arrangement would make a fantastic hostess gift. So if you invite me to dinner anytime soon, just act surprised when I show up with a living arrangement.

The Plant Recipe Book would also make a fantastic gift, while we're on the subject. Perfect for Mother's Day, hostess gifts, housewarming, etc. It would also make a beautiful coffee table book. I'm still in search of the perfect coffee table…but once I find it, this book will definitely make the cut. Even better: give your mom the book AND make her a spiffy arrangement for Mother's Day. Chances are your mom is better with plants than I am, so she'll be able to enjoy her gift for a very long time. 


Dear Baylor: 
You are a genius. I love your work; and I'm sorry my sad arrangements are even in the same post as your beautiful work. I'd love to take a class from you next time I'm in the Bay Area. It's quite obvious that some additional instruction wouldn't hurt me. But until then, I'll keep trying. And next time I'll follow the recipes a little more closely. xo

Thursday, April 24, 2014

DIY Colored Thumbtacks

Cheap and easy. That's how I like my DIY projects.
And this one's the cheapest and easiest of them all. Honestly.

Both of my older kids have bulletin boards in their rooms; and I wanted some cute push pins for them to use. Besides being able to customize the colors, these push pins come with an added bonus: Little Brother's chubby two-year-old fingers aren't dexterous enough to pull them out of the cork boards (yet). So pretty much, they're toddler proof. Until I step on one in the middle of the night…then I'll be singing a different tune.
I'll stop blabbing--let's get to work. It's actually so simple I didn't even take photos showing you the process. Because there's only two ingredients and two steps.

Grab a box of thumbtacks. (And by "grab" I mean buy them, not shoplift them). I think they're about 89¢ and you probably have a box laying around somewhere. I did. Office supplies are my thing. Then grab some nail polish. I have a lot of that hanging around, too. It's kind of my other thing. 

Rummage through your recycle bin until you find an old box (a padded envelope would be appropriate too). I used an old cereal box. Rice Krispies…because I'm sure you were dying to know. Stick a bunch of thumbtacks into the box (or envelope) in a nice, tidy row. Now start painting. Just paint the thumbtacks, let them dry. Put on another coat or two if you need to. Don't be stingy. Wait till they're dry and pull them out of the box. Done.
I really love how the gold glitter ones turned out. And if nail art is one of your things you could do some fun designs on your thumbtacks, too. Dots, stripes, flowers, you name it. And I could be wrong, but I think Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up. Paint up a batch of these cuties and package them in a beaker or test tube and you've got a quick easy gift. 

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Easter Egg Bath Bombs

Here's an interesting fact: I rarely have ideas for holiday projects before the actual holiday. My best ideas come immediately after said holiday. But not this time, folks. I actually thought of and carried out a project before the holiday in question. It'll probably never happen again. Consider this the equivalent of seeing a unicorn in your backyard.

I've been wanting to make bath bombs with the kids for quite some time now. One morning I was plotting how exactly we'd go about this, when I realized that all those plastic easter eggs I've got sitting in the storage room are very similar in shape to the plastic ornaments everyone uses to mold their bath bombs. And I was even more excited that Easter coincided with my epiphany.

I researched all the different bath bomb recipes I have pinned on my DIY Crafts + Projects board to come up with the best possible recipe. All the recipes have the same ingredients: Citric Acid, Baking Soda, Epsom Salts, Cornstarch, Essential Oils, Coloring and some water. Simple enough, right? Except I had no idea where to get citric acid and the wide world of essential oils is completely foreign to me.

I ordered citric acid from Amazon, which was easy enough. Then I popped into Whole Foods to grab some essential oils because I thought seeing my options in person would help. Nope. That made it worse. I was surrounded by a mind-boggling assortment of little vials, and I had no idea where to begin. I quickly left more confused than before. So I turned back to Amazon and ordered some oils from Eden's Garden. Mostly because I liked the labels, and they were inexpensive. That's some informed purchasing, huh? Pretty labels, and good prices. Perfect.

Anyway, there are a bazillion tutorials for bath bombs out there. And some great YouTube videos, too. So I won't go too in-depth here. But here's the winning recipe:

  • 1C. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 C. Citric Acid
  • 1/2 C. Epsom Salts
  • 1/2 C. Cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. Essential Oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Safflower Oil (or any other light oil)
  • 3 drops food coloring
  • 1 tsp. water

You'll also need a glass bowl, a mini spritzer bottle (I got mine for 79¢ in the travel section of Target) and a whisk. Round up your old plastic Easter eggs and throw on an apron while you're at it, too.

  • Combine all the dry ingredients in the glass bowl. Break up any lumps with the whisk.
  • Combine all the liquids in the spray bottle.
  • Start spritzing the dry ingredients with the liquids…just keep whisking. You're trying to keep it from fizzing…so keep it moving.
  • I used all the liquid in the bottle, then had to add a little extra water. You want it to be moist enough to clump in your hand without crumbling, but not so wet you can hear it fizzing. 
  • When you've got the right consistency, start molding. I found it worked best when I packed a bit into each side of the egg, then scooped up extra and squished the two halves together. 
  • Give it a little shake for good luck, then gently pry the pieces apart. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it, but once you've got it down, you're good to go. 
  • Cover a soft towel with some waxed paper and lay the eggs there to dry overnight.
Wrap up a bunch and give them out as Easter gifts. They'd be great for friends, teachers, and I can tell you my kids are HUGE fans. We've got a big bag of eggs, but they're all ready asking if we can make more when they're gone. 

A couple more ideas: 
  • Add some sprinkles or glitter to add some excitement. 
  • Hide a small toy in the center so they have a surprise when the egg dissolves. 
  • Try different combinations of scents and colors
  • Use different molds. Cupcake tins, ice cube trays, tartlet tins, etc.

And here's what they look like when you add too much water to the mixture. They mold up really easily and you go to bed thinking you're a DIY rockstar. Then you wake up in the morning to find your eggs have "hatched" and you're not as cool as you thought you were. My daughter was pretty excited to see we've got some that are hatching, so she made a nest for them. Maybe she should make a nest for my bruised ego while she's at it.