Green Cleaning Products You Can Make At Home

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Ali, here, with some spring cleaning must-haves.

Spring definitely has me in that cleaning mode, but so does the fact that my youngest daughter has been sick lately. Not feverish sick, not throwing up sick, but nagging runny-nose-dry-cough-not-at-the-top-of-her-game sick. It isn’t the first time this has happened and when it does, my go to remedy is stripping her sheets, ditching old stuffed animals, washing her clothes + breaking out the cleaning products to rid her little habitat of anything and everything germ-y. But, we just can’t seem to kick it. We finally went to the pediatrician and her diagnosis was ‘allergies’. We went on a month long routine of allergy chewables, nose spray, etc. Her symptoms lessened temporarily, but recently came back with a vengeance.

I’m pretty conscientious about what goes in and on those little kid bodies. I’m not helicopter mom carrying sanitizer with me everywhere, but, I’m thoughtful about healthy eating habits, washing hands, natural ingredients, etc. However, after this recent bout of coughing and a blurb about VOC’s, or Volatile Organic Compounds that can cause nose, throat and respiratory irritation (an article I read in a magazine at the pediatricians office, of all places), I finally decided to give these oft talked about homemade cleaning products a try. Maybe there are things lurking around, even in a clean environment, that are agitating her.

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There are a plethora of cleaning products you can make at home ranging from dish soap to toilet bombs, but I simply stuck with an all purpose surface cleaner I found on a blog called Live Simply. Mostly because it said you can make it ‘right now’ with ‘3 ingredients’. And, hey, I had all 3 ingredients, so, sounded perfect. Here’s the details:

Castile Soap Surface Cleaner

Safe to use on any surface (always test in a small area first):

  • 2 cups distilled water

  • 2 TB castile soap up to 1/4 cup (based on how ‘soapy’ of a cleaner you want)

  • 15 drops essential oil (lavender, tea tree, orange, etc.)

Directions:

Mix everything together. Clean with it. Feel like you’ve done something good.

Seriously, there isn’t much else to it. Fill an empty spray bottle with the ingredients. Shake it a little to mix the oil and water and spray away. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there was literally no residue and that my hands didn’t feel like they’d been gnawed on by a colony of hungry fire ants when I was done cleaning. Castile soap is plant derived, so it is non-abrasive and essential oils are, well, oil, so you do the math. For this cleaner, I used Tea Tree Oil (for it’s natural disinfectant properties) and Lavender Oil (because it smells good…oh, and because that is what I had!).

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I don’t know anything about essential oils except that my mom uses them for everything + when my daughter was an infant my mom mixed up a tummy serum we lovingly called ‘belly juice’ that kicked my babies colic to the curb. I was sold at that point. Calming down a babies colic within minutes is hard proof that these things pack a punch and gives me even more reason to be excited that we are hosting a class with the amazing Lynell Garfield on essential oils and incorporating them into your cleaning routine. Lynell has spent the past 5 years working with essential oils and teaching others how to wrap their lives around natural health and wellness. I personally cannot wait for this. Stay tuned for class details.

All in all, I think this was a win. I’m left with a clean kitchen countertop that my daughter can run her tongue along if she wants. I hope she doesn’t want to, but 3 year olds are hard to predict. I’m also left with the hope that ‘greening’ my cleaning routine may help that little nugget kick whatever allergens or agitators are doing her in and allow us a little more ‘green’ in the pocketbook (those over the counter eco-friendly products I used to buy are breaking my bank).

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Updating a 1920's Art Deco Dresser

I’ve been itching to get crafty, lately.  To paint or build or make something with my hands.  And, it comes as no surprise that precisely when I’m in that mood, things start popping up in ads on my computer or social media with Pinterest boards of updated dining chairs, revamped vintage tables, etc. ( all that overboard, privacy-invading marketing that really freaks me out).  Now, I’m no Pinterest perfect crafter.  In fact, I’m no Pinterest worthy anything and I’m totally okay with that.  But, I’ve been eyeing these vintage dresser remakes with more than a little interest.  So, I’ve kinda sorta been scouring craigslist to see if I can find a total hunk of junk of a dresser that could use a fresh face. 

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I’m a Mid Century kind of gal, so I mostly look for pieces from that era.  These are never cheap unless the seller has no idea what they have on their hands.  That being said, Mid Century furniture never quite fits my DIY budget of well, $15.  So, when I found this ad on craigslist, I switched from Mid Century minded to 1920’s Art Deco and went and scooped this up out of someone’s yard 30 minutes before the trash haulers were going to take it to the dump. 

This needed ALOT of work.  Maybe, just maybe, I got a little too excited at the word FREE in the ad and ended up biting off a little more than I could chew. Needless to say, this dresser landed in my garage.  If anything, I could just put it right back on craigslist and make a couple bucks, right?  Right. 

What follows in this post is a few DIY triumphs and a lot of DIY snafu’s.  Hopefully you can learn something from both and don’t let those snafu’s bring you down.  I problem solved my way through every single one and learned a lot in the process.

1. Pick your piece

I got lucky and found a piece of history that was on it’s way to the junk pile.  I may have saved an old woman from rolling in her grave and I may have saved the planet from one more tree being harvested.  Can’t guarantee either of those, but I definitely saved the junk pile from one more item.  What’s one man’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

Some people loathe these 1920’s + 30’s waterfall dressers.  They were for commoners.  Every home, apartment or hotel had them in some fashion.  Some were fancier than others with chevron or tiger lined veneer + detailed corners and bases.   Some were unadorned.  Either way, they were practical.  They held your stuff. 

(And that’s what I intend on it doing in my house too.  And I like it, so poo poo on those who say waterfall dressers are boring.)

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I have a crush on pieces of furniture that have historic merit.  I look for items with good lines, interesting details and loads of character.  I picked this dresser because it was free and because I was totally in love with the waterfall front and the lion drawer pulls on the top drawer.  No other reason.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Pick something you need for your own home or something that ‘speaks’ to you.  Furniture really does speak, you know that, right?  Inanimate objects can take on very animate qualities when you let them…or when you have a 3 year old shopping with you and she says something like wanting to ‘save that dresser from being so sad’!

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2.  Assess your piece

Every piece of furniture will need something different.  My dresser really was in ‘sad’ shape.  

Which is where I hit Snafu #1: Desire vs. Ability

My desire to make something beautiful out of this old thing far surpassed my abilities to actually do it.  This dresser needed a lot of work, real work, not just a new coat of stain.  The drawers were totally warped, didn’t slide well, covered in multiple layers of contact paper and completely fell out when pulled; the frame was cock-eyed and uneven; the veneer on the drawers was badly chipped and the stain faded and worn.  I realized that I didn’t have the time or means to completely sand, refinish and rebuild despite how much I knew that’s what this piece needed.

So maybe step 2 and step 1 should be combined.  Go figure.

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3.  Map out a plan for your piece

Do your homework. 

Look up the history of the piece, ask Siri how to rebuild a drawer or fix chipped veneer.  There is a plethora of information on the internet for just about everything you want to do to a piece of furniture.  Figure out what you need to do and find the information you need. 

Figure out your workspace

My workspace was my garage.  However, my garage also doubles as a gym for my 16 year old football stud, our laundry room, my husband’s workshop, our ‘office’ with printer, files, etc., a playground for my preschooler and our storage unit for things I really need to be going through and purging.  So, it was a little cramped and I sorta pissed off the male side of my family when I cramped the already cramped space with a ratty old dresser, splaying my drawers and tools all over the place.

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Which brings me to Snafu #2:  Time + Space to get’er done

This was my project that now had to be everyone’s project because it required expertise I didn’t have and space that was not just mine, but shared.  I’m not a builder, but hubby is.  I thought I could rely on him to help me with fixing the drawers.  I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  He was super irritated that I took on the project and vowed not to help me with it, no matter how ridiculous I looked trying to figure out how to get the battery off the nail gun and no matter how much of a piecemeal, amateur job I did of getting the drawers to not tip out.  And the space issue, dictated in the previous paragraph just irked everyone, including me, because I had to completely clean up every time I needed to take a break to let things dry.  Pain in the, you know what.  And the time for things to dry?  Double the factory recommended time amount due to living in SoCal humidity.  This project took twice as long as it should have.

Figure out your tools. 

Being that we are still in remodel mode, we have a lot of tools around, including a battery powered nail gun (that I was super excited to get to use to give my drawers a little more stability) and also a plethora of leftover stains, paints, sandpaper, and other products from previous DIY’s or failed attempts at a DIY.  I thought we were all good on tools and shouldn’t need to buy anything.

Enter Snafu #3:  

The tools and products I did have were not quite the exact tools and products I needed.  The stain didn’t match the current stain, our sand paper was too fine, the refinisher I knew we had had evaporated since the last project and the wood putty had hardened due to a half opened can.  I spent close to $100 on new products.

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Prioritize your steps and workload. 

Items on my To Do list included: fix drawers, fix frame, clean out drawers, fix chipped veneer, strip, remove previous finish, sand, stain, apply topcoat, re-line drawers, polish hardware.  My only problem with this was that I changed my mind about a thousand times as to what I actually wanted to do with this dresser.  Completely restore it?  Paint it?  Do a less invasive refinish and stain?  I flopped back and forth so many times I ended up doing some things twice because I decided to slightly restore then stain with a gloss coat and hated it, so I had to then remove all the work I had done and re-do with other materials.  

Decide and stick to your decision

Or, like I did, end up doing and redoing and doing and redoing and finally just being done with the whole thing even though you should have done and redone it again.

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4.  Get to work

I followed my To Do list in no particular order and got to work on everything I thought I needed to do and everything I didn’t actually think I needed to do, but did need to do.  Sand, stain, paint, top coat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I painted the frame with GF black milk paint, which I really liked + stained the drawers with GF gel stain in Antique Walnut, which I also really liked.  However, I didn’t like my staining ability and realized that I would have done a much better job if I hadn’t rushed through everything and if I would have watched the ‘How To Stain With Gel Stain’ tutorial ahead of time.

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Snafu #4: Impatience

I decided I was only going to do a ‘less invasive’ refinish of this dresser, mostly because I’m impatient.  I didn’t want to completely sand, stain and refinish because I wanted it to be done and in my house immediately.  Instant gratification has it’s drawbacks, for sure, and I’m not super happy with my staining job on the drawers mostly because I rushed through the whole process.

Working with wood can be challenging, especially working with antique wood.  It is rewarding, but I think my dresser would have benefit from someone with a little more talent than myself.

I took the drawers out and fixed them to the extent I could without completely rebuilding them.  It was obvious that I was not the first person updating this piece.  There was previous wood glue and nails all over these things.  The drawers were really warped and the dovetail joints just exploding apart.  I used some more wood glue, some nails from that awesome nail gun and a some fingernail power to rip off that old contact paper.  Pretty much everything I did was in an unconventional manner, so you probably don’t want to copy my exact moves.  But you get the gist of it.

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The drawers were nasty inside so I had to line them.  I wanted to buy some super dope Art Deco stick on wall paper, but my pocketbook wouldn’t let me, so I tried some left over fabric I had laying around then craft paper (failed on those) + eventually decided to go with good ‘ol fashioned contact paper in a really bad pattern.  It worked.  I don’t really like it that much, but by that point, I was just really done with the whole thing.

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Being that this dresser is nearly 100 years old, the drawers were made to glide on side rails, which I’m sure worked at the time. Now, they stuck, tipped and got all wonky when trying to move them. I went to the woodworkers store and bought two wooden center rails and secured them in the middle two drawers. Still a little wonky, but definitely better then before!

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I filled in chipped veneer and holes from previous hardware with plastic wood. I didn’t do that good of a job and my patches stick out like a sore thumb. But I decided since I wasn’t doing a complete restore, I was gonna have to be ok with it.

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I polished those awesome lion drawer pulls with Brasso until they shone like the noon day sun. It was obvious that this was not the original hardware, the style that was on the dresser when I got it was from a different era. But, I liked the lions and had faux brass pulls I didn’t use for our kitchen cabinets left over in the garage. So, I drilled new holes for those and put those on. I’m keeping the floral looking ones that came with the dresser for something more feminine and fancy.

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And… the big reveal at the end of it all?! A very handsome and functional piece of furniture with a story to tell for the next few generations. The cool thing about this sturdy antique wood furniture is that it will continue after I’m long gone. Maybe the next owner will completely un-do everything I’ve done thus far and completely take it back to it’s original state. Or maybe paint it bright orange or something. Who knows?! But the fact that more and more people can still use this is a win in and of itself.


To my surprise (and quite possibly to yours, also), at the end of it all, I decided that the scope of this project was far bigger than I was prepared to take on.  I was totally unhappy with my work and decided to sell it instead of keep it. 

This dresser had issues to start with… I was ready to cancel my subscription to it’s issues.

However, I learned a ton and will definitely be taking on another dresser makeover soon. 

AMENdment to the Dresser DIY

Shortly after writing this blog and posting this dresser back on craigslist, I did a little more research on staining wood with gel stain. Yes, I should’ve done that research ahead of time. Resounding yes. That being said, I decided to give it one more go. I re-did the entire process one more time. Remove old finish, sand, patch, stain, top coat + reline drawers. Aside from my patch jobs (that stand out like a sore thumb on the lighter stain), I’m a lot happier with this version. The drawers are still a bit wonky, but I love the fabric in the drawers and the lighter stain is much more in tune with the original ‘blonde’ color of the veneer. Now that I’m happier with it, this one might be sticking around the house a bit longer.

I totally anticipate doing another one. Less invasive, for sure, but I love the manual labor of sanding, etc. Dresser therapy!!

Macramé Classes

Macrame Classes at The Nest

We’ve finally gotten our Macramé Class Series dialed! This will be a series of three classes. You may attend any one class or all 3 for a discounted rate! Each class will lay out the basics for beginners and then introduce more advanced techniques as needed. First timers are welcome to all classes. Space is limited to 10 people and includes all of the necessary materials plus a drink and treats.

(Click each header for a link to individual classes or the button at bottom to see all 3)

Macramé Plant Hangers

Thursday, April 18th. 6-8pm. (with Bryli Friberg)

Includes everything you need to make (2) Small macramé plant hangers or (1) large one plus a drink and a treat.

***SOLD OUT***

Macramé Plant Hangers

Thursday, April 25th 6:30-8:30pm (with Christine Adams)

Includes everything you need to make (2) Small macramé plant hangers or (1) large one plus a drink and a treat.

Macramé Wall Hanging

Thursday, May 9th. 6-8pm (with Bryli Friberg)

Includes everything you need to make a large wall hanging plus a drink and a treat. This one would be a great one to either make a gift for your mom or bring her along to get some good quality time in!


Price: $55 for 1 class. $50 each for 2 classes. $45 each for 3 classes.

*****Use code 2MACRAMECLASS for discount on 2 or code 3MACRAMECLASS for discount on 3 *****

Macrame Class at The Nest


How to Turn A Mid Century Dresser into a Bathroom Vanity

And other remodeling adventures…

Ali here, folks!

We are on the tail end of our second remodel.  The first, a mountain cabin by Donner Lake (that we still, 3 years later, have a punch list of about 100 items on, but that you can rent HERE on airbnb if you need a mountain getaway) and the second, a Southern California ranch house, originally built in 1959 and nestled into the coastal suburb of Point Loma (of which we intended on “updating” not completely remodeling). 

As elitist as all this sounds, the only way we are even able to buy a home in either of those places is by picking a ‘fixer upper’ and then ‘fixing it up’ ourselves, cutting the cost in half.  Or should I say, himself.  My husband is the ethereal workhorse of it all and, let me tell you, he is the most handy guy I know.  He can pretty much do anything.  Plumbing, electrical, tile, woodwork, knocking down walls and putting them back up; you name it, he can do it and do it well.  And has been doing it consistently for the past 3 years.  Quite honestly, (and maybe best said in a whisper) we are both just so ready to be done with it all. 

Upstairs loft with original built in bookcase and raw steel beam brackets

Upstairs loft with original built in bookcase and raw steel beam brackets

Living room decorated with vintage skis and trunk coffee table

Living room decorated with vintage skis and trunk coffee table

As good as he is in the construction side of a remodel, he is equally lacking in the design side.  Not that he can’t do it, but he just doesn’t really care about style or vibe or uniqueness.  He likes to pick something that is clean and nice and good looking (and in stock), install it and move on to the next thing.  

That’s where I come in.  I care about sticking to the bones of the original, preserving the historic, staying true to an era and keeping things inline with the original intention of the house or the surroundings it finds itself in.  As reluctant as I was on this second remodel to really dig into all the design elements, I cared about only one thing, preserving the mid-century vibe.  Unfortunately, what may have been notable 1950’s elements to keep, such as wallpaper or tile, had already been removed in a remodel years before we moved in and the remaining mid-century touches were in such disrepair that they were beyond saving.  I kept what I could, hardware from drawers and cabinets, the original front door and doorknobs, an entire wall of wood paneling, shuttered doors and the brass fireplace casing accompanying the whitewashed brick fireplace.  I resigned to refresh, update and renew by mixing the contemporary with the vintage and filling the house with as much of a nod to the 50’s as our pocketbook could accommodate, whether through actual construction touches, or simply in decor. 

1950 and early 60’s modern was full of rich walnut, brass, symmetrical and geometric design.  Being that I am already a fan of this era, I already had quite a few furniture and decor pieces wrangled from craigslist, garage sales or my local San Diego dealer, Alfonso, of Nok Nok Living (more about him in next paragraph) to move straight in.  The rest of it I filled with artwork created by friends (cactus print from Reno High School classmate + Reno native Matthew Lew of Silver State 98) or myself (desert photograph and black and white portrait painting) and little odds and ends from The Nest (blue ceramic pot and bird) or other local boutiques.  

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One of my all time favorite design elements was our master bathroom.  After much debate on how to restructure by tearing down walls, closets and moving toilets we decided on a design that was functional and beautiful.  I scoured the internet for mid-century furniture dealers and ended up in the storage unit of a local San Diego dealer (from whom I have now bought 4 pieces of furniture and who I also now call friend…amazing things happen when you choose to buy local from a small business owner, hint, hint) talking about all things old and interesting, his new baby and figuring out how to refurbish my newly acquired piece of history and make it into my bathroom vanity.  I definitely put a bit of elbow grease on this one, refinishing the top and cutting out a square notch of shelves on either side to make room for sink pipes, oiling the drawers and removing a built in utensil tray, but it was totally worth it.  We added a bit of elegant 50’s flair with hexagon tile and brass finishes.  All in all, it is the perfect mix match of mid-century modern and contemporary and well worth the attention we put into the details.

Master bathroom with refurbished credenza as vanity and his/hers closets with shuttered doors

Master bathroom with refurbished credenza as vanity and his/hers closets with shuttered doors

Hexagon tile (splurge) and faux brass mirrors (un-splurge)

Hexagon tile (splurge) and faux brass mirrors (un-splurge)

Remodeling can be daunting, draining and will pull on every last thread that is holding you (and your significant relationships) together.  Whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring contractors, remodels almost always take way longer and cost way more money than originally planned.  But, they don’t necessarily have to.  We chose to splurge on certain structural elements, like a new roof and new plumbing, but also chose to be thoughtful and unique about other elements.  I’m not ok with knock-off versions.  There are plenty of ways to pull off a vintage hack using things from IKEA or even break your bank by buying brand new ‘vintage looking’ pieces from high end decor stores.  But for me, the value isn’t just in the look of the item.  It’s in the quality of the piece, the history of what you are preserving and putting into your home.  I hold out sometimes, having plenty of bare walls and corners until I find the perfect thing I’m looking for…and it’s almost always something that is old, getting new life in a new way.

Needless to say, The Nest is The. Perfect. Spot. to find the old to turn into the new. From light fixtures and vintage hardware to incredible mid-century goods like this credenza with matching dresser. It is literally floor to ceiling full things to use for your next remodel or Spring redecorating project. I know it doesn’t really feel like Spring yet, but, I promise it is coming and freshening up with unique goods is in your near future! Heading into a bathroom remodel? This credenza would be a perfect dual vanity! Click the pic to take you directly to this item in our online store!

Flower Crown Class with Camryn Lane

Camryn Lane Flower Crown

If you’re like me, you’re jonesing for spring—or at least a little break in the weather! Let’s usher in warmer days with a handmade flower crown in one of our favorite classes taught by Camryn Lane. Gather your boho fairy princess friends and join us in creating your very own flower crown to take home while we enjoy drinks and treats to get us ready for a long-awaited spring.

WHEN: SUNDAY, APRIL 14TH, 2-4PM

WHERE: THE NEST

INCLUDED: ALL SUPPLIES NEEDED TO MAKE A FLOWER CROWN PLUS DRINKS AND TREATS

A DIY You Can Really Do Yourself

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Ali here with a DIY that I feel really good about!

For the record, I am not a DIYer.  I am the poster child for the proverbial ‘pinterest fail’ and end up with far more unfinished attempts than finished products.  You have my teenage daughter to vouch for that.  We have too many stories that begin with, “Remember when we tried to make that…” and end in a good natured grimace and a lot of laughter. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love every single thing about do-it-yourself projects from the standpoint of up-cycling, reusing, resourcefulness, cost efficiency, and a little roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done grit.  However, it’s the actual do-it-yourself part that always seems to be the problem.  I’m not very good at doing these things myself.  But, when the queen of DIY, Tessa Miller, comes over to your house and says in the middle of another sentence, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to make some of those” as she’s looking at your blue rhinoceros succulent holder you paid $35 for at a vintage boutique in Santa Barbara, the tables turn.  “You can make these?”  

Of course you can make them, she can make them, I can make them.  And thus began a new attempt at another possible failure.  But, as the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  So, here we are with a very unconventional DIY tutorial that is missing half of the steps because, well, I’m not a DIYer and because I have 3 kids and can never actually finish a project in one sitting and because I’m just assuming you, as the reader, have half a brain and can use it to fill in the blanks for the parts that are missing.

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1. FIND YOUR TOYS

This ended up being the hardest part, in my opinion.  They don’t make toys the same way they used to.  Toy animal figures used to be a durable and hollow, soft-rubbery-plastic type of material.  Most often now, the realistic looking figures are solid plastic or resin and nearly impossible to drill into (however, I would LOVE to know if anyone has a good way to do this).  That being said, you can find vintage toys at garage sales, eBay, second hand stores or even your neighbors house, especially the neighbor with grown kids.  They almost always have a box of old dinosaurs their kids used to play with that they are hanging on to for old times sake.

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2. CUT YOUR TOYS

While your setting up to make a mess, let your kid play with the animals for a few minutes.  When it comes time to cut them, each one will have a name and a personality and will tell you if they are in pain as you cut their back or if they like it.  Well, at least such was the case with us.  Grab a sharp razor blade or exact knife and cut a square out of the back of each animal.  Depending on how hard or soft they are, you may also be able to use scissors.  I think it goes without saying, but pay attention during this part.  I had to use quite a bit of pressure when trying to make the initial puncture.

3.  PAINT YOUR TOYS

This is where my resourcefulness comes in handy…I used paint we already had!!  We had a few cans of spray paint kicking around the garage from previous projects so we started with those.

I will say, though, I wasn’t super happy with the glossy look, which is what we had.  I went to the craft store and bought 2oz jars of chalk paint for $1.50 each.  I ended up liking the matte look far more.  With this paint, I primed each animal (you could use a spray primer, but I already had a paint-on kind) and gave each 3 coats with a sponge brush, allowing ample time in between to dry.  After curing for 24hrs I sealed them with a wax coat.

This step is completely personal preference.  Play with colors, sheen, etc. and see what you like.

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4.  PLANT YOUR TOYS

Now that you have a painted, empty toy, it’s time to make it functional.  Succulents and air plants are great candidates for surviving riding in the back of a plastic animal toy.  Plus, Tessa has some at The Nest right now! Before planting, put a small layer of perlite, tiny pebbles, rocks or gravel in the bottom of the toy to allow the soil to drain properly (you don’t want it to get moldy).  Pick a small succulent and drop it in with some cactus soil and you are ready to rock and roll!  My resourcefulness came in handy once again by gathering cuttings of succulents I already had growing in my yard and transplanted them into the new planter.  Succulents are beautifully hardy and can re-root quickly and with very little space to spread out.

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Voila!!  Quite possibly my first ever DIY that I succeeded in.  And, if I can do it, I promise, so can you.  Give it a try.  These are a fun and quirky way to add some whimsy to your home as well as bringing a little outside, well, inside!

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