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Crappy Crafting Is More Fun

Updated on November 1, 2017
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--->Master's degree equivalency in Single-Momming, a double-decade career in HR, and 95 million certification hours in scrappy DIY crafting.

Work Smart, Not Hard

Should there be anyone within the sound of my keystrokes who wishes they had the time, patience, money or originality to jump on the creativity train, fear not.....I'm going to put on my craft blogger costume now and show you how simple, cheap and speedy a craft project can be. I'm a dedicated fan of shortcuts. I often have the unquenchable compulsion to redecorate a particular corner of the living room three days before payday when I'm millimeters away from my overdraft max. In these moments, I resort to using whatever I can find in my near-hoarder-status stashes cluttering up the house. These stashes are my typical "supply shortcut." It's like free stuff; no need to get sucked into spending countless dollars at the craft store. Allow me to demonstrate some delightful shortcuts from a recent project.

Succulent Garden of Crapola

This particular project originated when clean-up workers at my daughter's wedding (aka: random cousin kids sniffing around for more dessert) were given strict instructions to lovingly package up all the tiny succulents used in the centerpieces. Months after these little lovelies followed me home - the succulents, not the random cousin kids - the stars aligned one night. My 3-year-old was cooperative, the perfect assortment of crap was sourced, and a clear space on my kitchen counter beckoned. It was time to bring a darling succulent garden to life.

Now, the 3-year-old is critical to this plan. Kind of like a noisy little craft supply all his own. It makes Mommy look patient and kind to let the little one contribute. People have said, "You're such a cute mom making fun activities for your child." Yes, yes, I am wonderful. When involving the toddler, any resulting mess or ugly end result can conveniently be credited to the kid. Yes, wonderful!

Steps and Stuff

Step 1 - Container and Drainage To begin building the succulent garden, I used a cheapy, plastic bowl from the dollar store. Rumor has it the bottom of a planter should have some loose rocks for drainage. This makes no sense to me since water still can't drain out of the bowl. But if Pinterest says rocks, then rocks it is. It's at this point I spied the recently abandoned fish bowl tucked in a remote corner of the kitchen. This fish bowl once contained three fishies my teenage daughters bought on a whim one day, but lost interest in the next day. One rule I live by - I do NOT take care of fishies! My cat liked to drink the fish water, so it's possible he just ate the dumb fish, but it's more likely the fish simply ceased to exist. Can fish evaporate? At any rate, the fish bowl was filled with tons of pretty rocks and shiny glass beads. Shortcut in 3...2...1...

I nearly dumped all the fish rocks into a strainer so I could rinse them off in preparation for their new home. They were covered in fishy gunk after all. Then I laughed out loud at myself. Duh! They're just going to be buried under dollar store dirt. Why the heck do I care if the rocks are free of fish debris?! In fact, when I was growing up, my mom used to bury fish heads under the rose bushes in our backyard because they were supposed to be good fertilizer. It stands to reason the same concept applies here. So, into the planter bowl went the rocks, beads, and fishy goo. I have to say they were lovely. A shiny layer of slime added a surprising element of pizazz!

Step 2 - Potting Soil, aka: Dirt Did you know the dollar store sells bags of dirt? Sometimes I chuckle at the thought of anyone selling dirt, and I nearly peed my pants laughing when I bought myself a bag at a dollar store. What a find! Looked like regular dirt to me, but I imagine it's missing some critical nutrient that regular, full price dirt contains. Or maybe it was shoveled into the nondescript dollar store bags by small children forced to work for $0.07 per day with no breaks. Well, I employed my own small child to scoop dirt into the bowl, but for $0.00 per day. I let him scoop the dirt, he was thrilled, and I have a scapegoat for the mess. Win-Win-Win.

Step 3 - Transplant the Succulents My succulents were very excited. They had been warming the bench for months, and their time had finally come. The 'A' players were chosen carefully, using the exclusive criteria of "which ones are still alive?" I could hear their tiny cries of joy as they were called into the game! During this step, I'd like to spotlight my very favorite mini-garden tool: a shish-kabob skewer. It's long and pokey and just right for delicately moving dirt around the base of squatty plants, lifting little leaves that won't cooperate, and poking irrigation holes in the rock hard dirt the plants had been struggling in till now. Later, the skewers make neato flag poles or sign posts in the new mini landscape.

Step 4 - Schmancy Stuff With no particular plan in mind, I dipped into my re-found bag of tricks and let the creative juices flow. Pretty, yet strangely stinky, green-pebbly-stuff made great pathways, contrasting the dark dirt quite nicely. Pathways must be lined of course, which is where some decorative thumb tacks I bought years ago finally became useful. How about a random, turquoise, curly, sequin stick I found shoved in the hall closet; no doubt left behind three Christmases ago when I took down the cool retro silver and turquoise tree I made that year. Sure, stab that right into the dirt next to the skewer adorned with a tag and brad from my scrapbook supplies.

Rummaging through all my stashes paid off! I even had a perfect little gnome figurine who was ready to move in. He set up residence in the garden that also housed a mini apothecary jar that had been in my kitchen windowsill for who knows how long, a bead bracelet I made once upon a time in 2001 and wrapped nicely around the top of the jar, a metal heart charm that fell off my necklace the Sunday before, and a weird burlap and felt Thanksgiving turkey bobble that fell out of my mom's purse last time she visited. You can't make this stuff up, people, it's all true.

The Real Process

What Pins Don't Show You

  1. Clean dishes - A miracle in their own right, desperately trying to stay clean while the dollar store dirt creeps closer by the minute.
  2. Mud puddle - Dirt + Toddler + Water = Mud puddle.
  3. Watering Can - Okay, maybe it's a McDonald's cup doubling as a watering can tossed aside shortly after the mud puddle came into being.
  4. Tiny Doo-Dad Box - Beads, brads, paperclips, and even miniature puzzle pieces are spiffy additions to any tiny garden. Grab whatever suits your fancy.
  5. The Random,Turquoise, Curly, Sequin Stick Thing - It is as I described.
  6. Shish-Kabob Skewers - Never leave home without them.
  7. Decorative Thumbtacks - Bought at Target several years ago solely due to cuteness. I don't have a cork board. After years of patiently hiding behind a toolbox, they became the perfect solution for the pathway trim. I never forget a supply. It may take me years to find its purpose, but I never forget I have it.
  8. Corsage Pins - More goodies left over from the wedding; although we didn't actually have corsages or boutonnieres. Just a cliche thing to have in the wedding grab bag, I guess. Pearl top pins make adorable "lamps" in the garden.
  9. Pile of Colored Chalk and Screws - Completely unrelated pile of crap that happened to be dumped on the counter minutes before project inception.
  10. Blank Space - The ONLY clean inch in my whole house.
  11. Handy Dandy Scissors - No self respecting crafty person embarks on a project without the Numero Uno of tools.
  12. Needle Nose Pliers - Don't they look cute next to the scissors? They totally match, as if I have some organized set of tools somewhere. Nope, random coincidence. Used these bad boys to pluck the thumbtacks out of their plastic shell and smoosh them into the dirt. I still was a little leery of getting my hands too close to the fish gunk.

Happy Little Garden

Your Turn

You surely have just as much ridiculous crap lying around your house too. So gather it all up, don't think twice about it, and just throw it all together. You too can have a post-worthy masterpiece! Now, get cracking... and for sure share your results with me! Remember, shortcuts and messes should be celebrated. Crafting is just more fun that way!


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