We recently held our annual Advent Conspiracy DIY Fair, where a variety of people from our community gathered to exchange ideas on how to give more meaningful gifts to those on our Christmas list this year. We also, went through the Advent Experience, sipped hot chocolate, sat by a cozy fire and visited with friends. It was pretty wonderful.
Here’s a round up of my top ten favorites from the fair.
Since there were so many great ideas, I’m breaking this into a two-part post, so check back next week for the next installment. This includes all of the step-by-step instructions, so pull up a comfy chair and pour yourself a cup of joe, ’cause this is a lengthy post.
1. HOMEMADE BACON
What says I love you more than bacon? If you’re like me, you took a look at this idea and thought, “No. Way. No way can I make my own bacon. That’s way too complicated.” Well, let me ease your concerns. After talking with Zeph, owner of ——, I felt totally confident in my ability to make bacon. And think about how cool it would be to make this and gift it to the man in your life?!
-Pink salt (if desired)
-Various herbs and spices for your specific flavoring, if desired
-Large GLASS roasting pan (nothing metal)
-Space in your refrigerator to fit roasting pan
-10-14 days of refrigerator time
1. For every pound of pork belly, measure out 1 light TBSP of kosher salt, and 1 TBSP sugar (packed), and 1/8 tsp pink salt. *add more sugar if sweeter bacon is desired
2. Mix salt and sugar in mixing bowl vigorously until evenly mixed.
3. Add any extra seasoning for your personal flavor desired and mix thoroughly into salt/sugar mixture.
4. Put belly into roasting pan.
5. Take 1/2 of curing mixture and spread evenly over pork belly on all sides, making sure to really “rub” it in well.
6. Place in refrigerator for 4-5 days.
7. Remove, rinse belly and pat dry with towels.
8. Drain, rinse and dry roasting pan and take remaining curing mixture and spread evenly over pork belly again.
9. Put back in refrigerator for remaining days.
10. After a total of 10-14 days of “being on salt” remove and rinse belly and pat dry with towels. Drain, rinse and dry roasting pan.
11. Take a few wooden dowels and prop belly up in roasting pan so it can sufficiently air dry. (No metal should be used)
12. Let air dry in the refrigerator for a few days until the meat hardens up.
13. Take it out of refrigerator and hang it in your kitchen, basement, pantry etc. making sure to put something underneath the belly as it will naturally “sweat.” Slice and cut to your desired needs!
-If smoking is desired please consult me to get a full explanation of that process
**this is an organic process, nothing is set in stone. This is a guideline, not a hard and fast recipe.
Call Zeph (206-579-8606) if you have any hesitations. He’ll help navigate your individual questions to equip you with the eventual skill of making your own cured pork belly (bacon) completely on your own.
2. VINTAGE BUTTON RINGS
These are a simple and adorable gift for friends. We’ve all got extra buttons lying around (at least I do) and what a great way to purpose them.
-(Beads are optional)
1. Measure out wire to at least 16-18 inches and cut with wire cutter.
2. Take wire and wrap around ring sizer (or your finger) three or four times.
3. Twist the end of wire to hold in the ring size and take tweezer to squeeze the end to the top so the wire does not stick out.
4. Take button(s) and put wire through each button hole so it holds on top of the wired ring.
5. Pull down the button so it is tight and then start to wrap the rest of the wire around the bottom of the button(s).
6. When you get to the end of the wire, Take tweezers to pull the rest of the wire in then squeeze to make the wire hold.
True story: Last year, I decided to make a terrarium for a Christmas gift. I did a ton of research on how to make the perfect terrarium and a week later decided my thumb was not that green and I didn’t have enough green in my wallet to make this a reality.
After talking to Raeben, I learned just how wrong I was. Making a terrarium is very simple and if you follower her steps and tips below, you’ll have a sweet little gift in no time. Don’t fear the terrarium!
1. Glass containers – jars, bottles, vases, large wine glasses, fish bowls, trifle bowls, candle holders of various sizes and heights, etc. Goodwill, the dollar store and Ikea’s candle section also have different kinds of glass containers for a good deal.
2. Washed gravel – you can buy a bag of very inexpensive washed gravel in the gardening section or at a pet store. Don’t use gravel you just pick up from a parking lot.
3. Activated charcoal – you can also buy an inexpensive bag of charcoal in the garden section. Don’t use charcoal briquettes since they are too big and have plant-killing chemicals in them.
4. Potting soil or cactus soil – a small bag will be plenty
5. Sphagnum, peat, green or spanish dried moss – the cheap stuff, not the fancy colored moss. Also found in the garden section.
6. Plants – all kinds of succulents, hen and chick plants, stonecrop, aloe, cacti, small ferns, small tropical plants, carnivorous plants, air plants, etc. Most nurseries or garden stores will carry at least some of these. Portland Nursery and New Seasons sell tiny plants specifically for terrariums.
7. Decorative rocks, gravel and colored sand – colors and textures are up to you. Easy to find at the dollar store, Ikea, craft stores, etc.
8. Decorative moss and lichens – you can buy colored fancy moss but you can also just collect a ton of different mosses and lichens by looking on the ground after a windy day. you can scrape patches of green growing moss off of rocks and bricks – it transplants pretty easily.
9. Various whimsical items – shells, crystals, feathers, small figurines, glass beads, plastic animals, driftwood, tiny action figures, waterproof origami, googly eyes, little plastic dinosaurs, etc.
1. Pick your container. Make sure its clean – you can use rubbing alcohol to get stickers off of glass.
2. Put a few pieces of charcoal on the bottom – the charcoal keeps the water clean and helps keep weird mold and slime from growing on the bottom of your terrarium.
3. Pour a layer of gravel on the bottom – at least ¾ inch or more. This important layer is for drainage.
4. Spread a layer of your dried absorbent moss at least ½ inch to an inch – this layer holds moisture and releases it to the plant as needed. It also keeps the dirt from filtering down into the gravel level.
5. Choose the plant or plants that you want to use (and make sure to water them well beforehand) – don’t pair moisture loving plants like ferns with dry plants like cactus but do try to match up plants that like the same general growing conditions. Do try to choose a variety of textures, colors and heights to go together. Don’t try to fit too much stuff into one terrarium – some advanced terrarium builders can stylishly overcrowd but generally, terrariums work best with a minimalist theme.
6. Add a little soil on top of the moss layer but don’t fill it up – use the soil that will best suit the plants you will choose.
7. Start placing your plants, starting with the largest ones first. Add soil as needed to fill in the spaces and even out the terrain to your liking.
8. Optional options:
- You can add a top layer of decorative sand or pebbles over your soil
- Add patches of decorative moss or lichen in between plants
- Add a “grassy” effect to your terrarium by adding patches of live green moss (live moss loves moisture so pair it with other moisture loving plants though)
9. Water your terrarium – just enough to make sure that the soil is damp but not enough to flood the drainage pebbles on the bottom.
10. Optional – once you are pretty much done, choose one thing or a small group of matching things from your whimsical items to add a little focal point to your terrarium – when in doubt, aim for minimalism – usually a single plastic turtle or small group of shells will work better than some feathers, crystals and a tiny garden gnome all in one pot.
11. If this terrarium will be a gift, make a tag or card with instructions for care on it. Make sure to tell the recipient that terrariums generally require very little water. for tropical plants and living moss, they should just mist it thoroughly every week or two. most succulent plants will get soft and wilt and then mold and die if they are over watered but they are quite drought resistant – they should only be watered an ounce or so every 4-8 weeks or when they start to look really dry. Air plants are really popular in terrariums but they have special watering requirements – depending on the type (ask the person you buy them from) they will need to be removed at least twice a month from their terrarium and soaked in water for about an hour and then put back. Terrariums that are mostly closed, like in a bottle or tall vase, need to have the right amount of water to start out with and then not watered much at all until things start to feel dry or get a little wilty. Plants generally need sunshine but keep an eye especially on terrariums in very hot windows as the heat can quickly evaporate the water that would normally be stored in the moss and soil and the plants could die.
Tips from the pro:
-When deciding what to put in your terrarium, remember that odd numbered groups are generally more visually appealing than even groups, so three succulents will look better than two or four but two or four plants might be balanced out by the addition of one figurine.
-Getting good plants can be the most expensive part of this DIY project but you can also easily cultivate your own if you plan ahead far enough. when you are walking by a brick wall with some nice hardy hen and chick plants, you can break off some of the runners – the “babies” – and plant them at home in a pot outside. ignore them for a year and they will reproduce ten-fold! also, don’t turn down those spider plant babies or aloe starts that your grandma always tries to give you!
-For your friends who can’t manage to keep anything alive, consider making them a cool looking plant-less terrarium. use the decorative sand, some interesting clumps of moss or lichen, maybe a mossy stick, some bits of quartz and a little origami figure to create a dreamy little desk-top landscape. this works especially well with decorative containers that have very small openings that would normally make it difficult to get a whole plant in like light bulbs or clear Christmas ornaments.
-Use bamboo skewers to position things in hard to reach areas and paper funnels to get dirt and sand in the precise areas that you want them.
For more great terrarium ideas and instructions check out:
www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/21-easy-ideas-for-adorable-diy-terrariums or www.instructables.com and search for “terrarium.”
You can also visit these local places for terrarium inspiration and resources:
-Artemesia 110 se 28th ave artemisiaterrariums.blogspot.com
-Pistils 3811 N. Mississippi Ave www.pistilsnursery.com/terraria
-Birds and Bees – 3709 SE Gladstone St – www.birdsandbeespdx.com
4. PAPER ROSES
Paper? Check. Scissors? Check. Pencil? Check. Fun decoration for gifts, frames, cards, hair accessories? Check.
1. Begin with a piece of paper. You can use anything from a page from a dictionary (shown below), book or wrapping or craft paper. Use scissors to cut a spiral. Don’t cut all the way to the middle. Leave a little piece in the middle of the circle as seen here. You’ll need this piece for step 3.
2. Begin with the skinny outermost section and roll the paper towards the center of the circle.
3. Roll all the way until you get to the middle. You’ll have a little piece from the center left over as seen here.
4. Place a dab of glue on the center (left over) piece. Place the spiral down over it.
5. Hold in place for 60 seconds. Let dry for 12 hours.
Ta! Da! You’ve made a paper rose. Now, you can use it to decorate. You can event fasten it to a bobby pin for a hair accessory as seen below.
5. PENNANT BANNERS
Ilana had a very creative use of fabric and paper scraps. Pennant banners! One of my favorite ideas of hers was to find children’s books at the dollar store, or Goodwill and make a banner with cut-outs from the illustrations. Great idea for a friend with a baby. You can also use photos of a favorite place or vintage postcards.
-Paper or fabric
-Ribbon, string or yarn
-Use ruler to cut paper or fabric into even triangles
-Punch holes into two corners of the triangles
-Weave string through holes
Hope that gets your creative juices flowing.
Part two of this series is coming up next week, so stay tuned!