DIY: Cheap planter box ($25)

Since last week, I’ve caught up to speed on quite a few things. For instance, I live in growing zone 8; last frost is mid March; transplanting starts slightly before or after last frost, dependent on plant species; and making a planter box isn’t too hard for those lacking skill, aka me! Let me rephrase. It is difficult but manageable if you have a (more experienced) helper, but for the naturally crafty, it is fine.

Jake and I went to our local HomeDepot and bought some cedar and managed to fit all the lumber in my Yaris!

We purchased cedar fence pickets (5.5” x 5/8′ ‘x 5′), cedar squares (2”x 2” x 3′), and wood stakes (9/16” x 1 3/8” x 4’) and wood screws (3/4”, # 8 // 2 1/4”, #8).

Planter box 18” x 18” x 2′

6x cedar fence pickets (5.5” x 5/8′ ‘x 5’) @ $2.43
–cut into 2x 2ft sections 14.5 5 2
4x cedar squares (2” x 2” x 3′) @ $1.27
–cut to adjust height of planter box
1x cedar squares (2” x 2” x 4′) @ 2.27
–cut into 2x 17” sections
4x wood stakes (9/16” x 1 3/8” x 4′) @ $0.43
–cut into 2x 17” sections
Wood screws

Total cost: ~$25

90 degree clamp
wood glue
gloves/safety glasses


Jake cut all the wood because I can’t cut a straight line with a circular saw! It’s actually really heavy for my petite, out-of-shape body. I did prove useful, however! While Jake was cutting the rest of the wood pieces, I started on making the sides of the planter box. I assembled 3 cedar pickets in a row and overlaid one of the cedar squares on top for an overview of the design.

Pro tip: drill pilot holes before adding screws to decrease chances of wood splitting

1. After drilling pilot holes, I screwed the first cedar stake flush to the bottom of one picket. On the opposite side of the picket, I screwed a second cedar square flush in the same manner.

2. I repeated the same process on the other side of the wood stake and screwed the third cedar picket on.

3. The middle cedar picket was centered and screwed onto the frame. Ta da!

As a novice, it took me probably 20 minutes to get this first side piece done as I kept stripping the screws and having to pull them out, but the second, third, and so forth were much faster to finish. 🙂

4. Jake dabbed on some wood glue and added the uncut cedar square to one of the side panels to form legs for the planter box. Using the 2 x 1/4” wood screws, he screwed the two pieces together at a 90 degree angle. Btw, it was really important to keep this flush to the inside of the post!!!

5. From there, he attached another side panel on with the help of a 90 degree clamp and with the strength of my arms. NOTE: this time, he screwed at an angle as to avoid the other screw!

6. After 3 sides were on, we braced the inside of the planter box with the 17” cedar square piece, approximately 18.5” from what would be the top of the planter. We added screws to attach it to the panels as well as to the cedar square legs. We only added two to opposite panels, which will provide the support for the bottom slabs of the planter box.

7. We attached all 4 panels to form a square!

All that is left to do is to adjust the legs to the desired height, add the bottom slats, line the box with landscaping fabric, soil, and plant! Jake and I are planning to build another sister box to complete the set before we plant. I’m overall happy with the way it turned out at considering my woodworking skills are close to non-existent, though I feel like I’ve leveled up with this building experience. Maybe I’ll try more complicated projects in the future.

Hand Crafted Soap

Bubble Bubble Bubbles

I finally got around to making my very first batch of soap! I decided to go with a very basic recipe from TheSoapQueen containing 4 oils (coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, and castor oil), lye solution, and dried marigold (calendula) flowers. I didn’t add any essential oils because I wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t interfere with trace (basically how fast saponification occurs can change the quality of the soap) and to ensure that no one would be allergic to the oils within the soap.

Calendula flowers apparently retain their color in cold process soaps and so I opted with them.


Before I started mixing any oils together, I had to melt the palm oil and coconut oil! They came in bags that I could boil or microwave which was neat. I also mixed a 50% lye solution using filtered water. Dissolving lye into water is extremely exothermic (resulting from enthalpy of solvation of sodium hydroxide in water) and pretty dangerous in a closed space without a lab fume hood. My nose can tell you what it feels like accidentally breathing in some caustic fumes, but not to worry, proper goggles and gloves were worn to protect me from any other chemical burns.

 Two molds: acrylic soap loaf pan and silicone mini loaf pan

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 With the oils mixed and the lye solution prepared, I began mixing! I added the lye solution slowly to my oil blend and used an emulsion blender with a stainless steel shaft to stir everything together.


 Stirred until the mixture reached a light trace!


I poured this batch into the silicone mini loaf pan that I lined with some calendula flowers.


To another batch, I added the dried flowers directly to the mixture when it reached a light trace and poured it into the acrylic soap pan. I sprinkled the top with more flowers.

DSC_0707 Ta Da! I let the mini loaf sit for 24 hrs before I popped them out. The soap in the loaf pan needed an extra week to come out easily, and next time, I think I’ll line it with parchment or wax paper for easier removal.


The mini loaves took about 3 weeks to completely dry. Some soda ash (sodium carbonate) appeared on the outside as a result of sodium hydroxide reacting with carbon dioxide either in the air or dissolved in the water. As the soap dries and cures, the salt precipitates out on the surface. Since it’s just an aesthetic problem, I decided to keep it. I actually like the white coloring.


I sliced the soap loaf into small rectangles and allowed those to dry for 3 weeks. Luckily for me, only a little bit of soda ash formed on the top of the loaf which gave my soap a cute white topping. I think the sliced soap loaf soap turned out better than the mini loaves. Oh so pretty!

DSC_0816 So I used the soap for a week with no problems and decided to give them away as homemade Christmas gifts. I hope everyone is excited for the homemade gift idea I have for next year! 😉


Chocolate on a Stick

Stir Well

Last year, I gave hot chocolate on a stick from Etsy as small Christmas stocking stuffers and loved the idea so much that this year, I whipped up a batch of my own. All I used was chocolate (70% cocoa bittersweet), cocoa, powdered sugar, and flavors (cinnamon vanilla and peppermint). For the sticks, I used Wilton candy cane spoons, cinnamon sticks, and birch spoons. And I used square ice cube molds to divvy the chocolate into convenient individual portions.

Basically, all I did was chop up my chocolate bar (9.7 oz) and melted it slowly in a double boiler.

Then I added 1/2 cup of sugar, give or take depending on taste, 2-3 tbs of unprocessed cocoa, a pinch of salt and continued to stir until the chocolate was smooth. You can leave out the salt and the chocolate milk will still taste delicious. (I forgot in my first batch and it came out just fine.) To another batch, I switched out a tbs of cocoa for a tbs of ground cinnamon and added the scrapings of half of a vanilla bean to the chocolate. It was truly that easy!

I transferred the chocolate to a disposable pastry bag and filled the ice cube tray 3/4 of the way up. To remove all the air bubbles, I picked up the trays and dropped them a few times so that the chocolate set evenly.

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Then for the toppings! To the regular chocolate, I sprinkled them with more powdered sugar and topped them with either a candy cane spoon or birch spoon. The sugar looked a lot like snow which I think is a festive look for the holidays.

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It’s always difficult to get all the chocolate from A to Z, and instead of licking the remaining chocolate in my pastry bag, I let it dry and used it to top my second chocolate batch.

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I put them in the fridge for 10 minutes to set the chocolate quickly which really helps keep the spoons stay straight. After about 30 minutes, I used a butter knife to go around the edges and gently pulled out the chocolate on the spoons.

They turned out fabulously.

And tasted just as deliciously as they looked melted in a mug of warm milk.


DIY: Flower headband

Grocery flowers are pretty, too!

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I needed to make a flower crown for a photo shoot so I went to my local grocery store for some inexpensive flowers. For the base, I used 22AWG insulated wire that I had in my tool box, but of course, any type of malleable wire that holds its shape can be used.


I measured the circumference of my head and doubled that length when cutting the wire. The long piece of wire was then folded in half, and the two halves were loosely twisted together. Then, I trimmed down the flower steams leaving roughly four inches and threaded them through the small loops in the wire crown.

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With more wire, I wrapped the flower stems, securing them to the original wire crown, and I repeated the process with more flowers and wire. I ran out of time to fill the headband completely with flowers so the other half I quickly wrapped with purple ribbon. Ta da! It turned out pretty neat for a project that took only 30 minutes and cost under $15.

Thank you ZoeLifePhotography for this great picture!

Josh2 (1)

Taken from my iPhone.