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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