Winter can get super depressing. The gray skies and cold air only incentivize building a nest of blankets and ennui and holing up all day to watch Law & Order on Netflix Instant. Sometimes I think about ordering one of those lamps that is supposed to improve your mood by mimicking the sun. It’d probably be a good idea, but in the winter I get so preoccupied with the gross weather that I usually can’t do much more than walk from my bed to the kitchen to refuel on snacks. This makes it hard to order the lamp.

Seasonal depression aside, I’m always a fan of things that make winter feel springy. A few years ago I learned about terrariums, which are basically little bundles of eternal spring that you can keep on your windowsill. Since then, I’ve been making them for everyone I know at every gift-giving opportunity. They are fairly cheap to make, and easy too. Here’s how I make them:

What you need:

1. An awesome-looking clear glass container with a lid. You can usually find some great ones at thrift stores. I was pinched for time, so I bought this apothecary jar at a craft store for $4.

2 Some smooth stones. I got a huge bag at the dollar store. How many you actually need depends on the size of your container. Buy enough to cover the bottom of the jar, with some extra to spare.

3. Soil. You won’t need a lot. If your parents have a garage, and they have a bag of soil in that garage, you can scoop like one cup out of there. Or you can steal some from any flowerbed anywhere. I won’t tell. Either way, you do not need a whole bag.

4. Tiny plants. Ikea and Home Depot are both good sources for terrarium-size plants. Obviously, you want to look for something that will fit in your jar. Succulents and cactuses are the kinds of plants that work best, because they don’t need to be watered too frequently. If you aren’t sure if a plant is good for a terrarium, ask someone at the store for help.

5. Doodads. I kept it simple and used a plastic deer that I got at the model-train store. Anything can work, though—dollhouse parts, Barbie shoes, dollar-store toys, things from those 25-cent machines outside the diner, etc.

How to do it:

1. Open the jar. (Duh.)

2. Throw a bunch of rocks into the bottom of your jar. These rocks will keep the plants from rotting. How many rocks you use depends on the size of the container. As a general rule, you want the rocks to cover he bottom of the jar and then some. This is more of an art than a science. Trust your terrarium-maker instincts.

3. Add a little soil to the jar. Again, the amount doesn’t really matter. Just cover the rocks so you have a nice little bed for your plants.

4. Holding each plant at its base, gently twist off the plastic pot. When you take the plant out of its container, the roots and soil will form a little compressed sandcastle thing. You don’t want this. Hold the plant over your jar and carefully loosen the soil from the tangle of roots with your fingers. Things will be looking less sandcastle-y at this point.

5. Place the plant in your jar. Fill in the space around the roots with some extra soil. You can tap the soil down a little with your finger to keep the plant standing upright.

6. Water the plant until you start to see water dripping down into the rocks. If watering the plant exposes its roots, sprinkle a bit more soil on top to ensure the roots stay covered.

7. Set the scene by adding decorations. If your plant is a cactus, you might want to use a tweezers for this part so you don’t hurt your fingers.

Water your terrarium whenever the soil starts to look dry. Wipe around the inside of the glass with a damp paper towel if things ever start to look foggy. If you plan on giving the terrarium as a gift, you can probably just tie a bow around it and be good to go. For bonus points, you can attach a card with some care info. There. Best gift giver. ♦