chalk paint makeover | a mini-tutorial

I have been dying to try chalk paint on a project for a while, and I was super excited when hubs finally gave me permission (he doesn’t like painted wood) to refinish an armoire we had bought used for Joelle’s room. This will be the single big piece of furniture in her room and multi-use so I really wanted it to be a focal piece!

After finishing up her stencil wall, I know I wanted a contrasting color and the light bluish/green we already had for the nursery walls was the perfect neutral addition. Shawna over at styleberry blog had just featured her new chalk paint project and between her tutorial and another I found on pinterest, I decided to make my own chalk paint for a fraction of the price!

I already had the paint and the wax (from a previous project the hubby did), so all I needed was plaster of paris and floetrol.

Most places I found did not mention their ‘amounts’ other than a 1 to 3 ratio of plaster of paris to paint, but I found that 1 cup of plaster of paris, 1/2 cup of water (mix with the plaster until smooth) and then 3 cups of paint was MORE than enough to do 3 coats on the armoire, inside and out, shelves, and drawers. I was left with about a cup of the mixture left. So judge how much you need by that, but I would say it’s better to have extra than not enough because it is difficult to ensure even color between batches.

Here is the armoire before, it was in pretty good shape and I thought the dark finish would look very good distressed against the light paint.

ce4e78d260ee11e2996722000a9f18fe_7After removing all the hardware, I used a combination of a roller for the larger flat parts and a brush for details. The brush obviously had better coverage than the roller. If it was a small piece, you could get away with two brush coats, but it definitely needed three roller coats. Here is after the first one.

000ffab260ef11e2bd3c22000a1faf7b_7I opted to do the inside as well because I will be using it as a changing table and it will be open at times. I felt the darker wood would stand out too much. This more than doubled the time the project took to complete, but I think it’s worth it!

1488876660ef11e2864822000a9f09cf_7Don’t be like me and realize at 10pm, after finishing all three coats on the armoire, that your forgot to paint the drawer front and shelves. Ugh. I have read several places to complete your project as quickly as possible as the paint tends to get lumpy and dry overnight. I discovered that as long as it is sealed well, it did last a few days without too many lumps. I was able to use it for touchups, but I would still aim to complete the project as quickly as possible.

6604bf0e611411e2a1bd22000a9f1361_7I then got to work distressing the armoire. I would say less is more at first, you can always sand off more but it’s annoying to repaint! I loved the way the dark wood showed through. In fact I wish I had done more and may go back to do a bit more later. The chalk paint really sticks well to an un-sanded surface but sands right off into a very fine powder. You will need to wipe down the project after sanding before waxing. This distressing combined with the chalk paint is very forgiving, so you don’t need to worry too much about coverage or small drips or brush lines, which is fantastic!

abadc5b0618611e2abce22000a1f96d4_7I then used my wax and a clean rag to wipe a coat of protection over the paint. Most places I read warned about using too much wax and it not drying. As a result, I used too little the first time and had to go back with a second coat. I would say using excess is better at first, as it is easier to wipe off the excess than do an entire second coat! After the wax has tried from tacky to just a rough feeling, use another clean, soft rag to buff the wax to a shine. If you look in the picture below you can see the line where I buffed the right side but not the left.

3d9dd87c61b711e2b2f422000a9f1255_7The buffing process can be slow and you want to do it in a well-lit area so that you can see where you still need more shine. Joelle’s room is not well lit (no overhead lights in the bedrooms, wahh!) so I have kept the cloth in her room and go in at different times of day as the light changes to look for spots I missed. It does create a nice hard finish to protect the paint.

7aafbe8c61d111e2adc122000a1f9ace_7I spent a couple of week shopping online and other places looking for come coral hardware to add a coordinating color pop on the armoire, but I just couldn’t find any that spoke to me. So I decided to be thrifty and used the existing hardware and the stencil color coral paint and a little distressing to add a pop. It’s not my favorite, but it will stay, at least for now!

1a87b5f8681811e2a61722000a1f9d6d_7And once again, sorry for the sub-par instagram photos, I will have more detailed photos of the armoire with my good camera once the room is all complete!!

I am now obsessed with chalk paint and I love it’s finish. I even used leftover stencil color to create another chalk paint project by refurbing an old doll rocker that I grew up with for Joelle’s room! This needed a good sanding because it had been outside and had some weathering. Two coats of the coral chalk paint and it was like brand new!

rockerIt was a lighter wood, so I found the distressing was not a prounouced as I would have liked. So I used a furniture touch up pen in dark walnut and colored in the areas I had distressed, quickly wiping off the excess with a paper towel. Because the piece had been sanded before, the exposed wood soaked up the stain but the paint didn’t, creating the perfect amount of contrast. A coat of wax later and it just needed bedding!

rocker2I threw together a quick ‘mattress’ and quilt and the kiddos now have a place to rock their dolls and animals to sleep. This will normally stay in Joelle’s room and it provides the perfect pop of coral to contrast with the armoire! I adore chalk paint!

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stencil wall | a mini-tutorial

I undertook a big project a couple of weeks ago, stenciling a pattern on one of the walls in the girl room! There are many, many tutorials out there and tips on how to stencil. I’m not going to do a full tutorial, but just share some tips and tricks I learned along the way!

I purchased my stencil from etsy and I was very pleased with their product. If you are doing your first stencil project, I recommend choosing a large pattern and a large stencil to make the process simpler. The more detailed, small, or intricate the pattern, the more difficult the project will be. You can do those patterns, but I recommend practicing some on a blank drop cloth or something first!

I would also recommend choosing a single wall and preferably one without a door or window. Corners and edges are the hardest parts, so keep that in mind!

Choose your colors carefully as the contrast will make your painting easier or harder and change the type of statement you make.

It’s important to carefully level your first stencil and check them occasionally as you go.  Some sites recommend starting in the middle of the wall with the pattern you like, but mine was so simple and repetitive, so I did not find that important. In this old house, the walls are not perfectly level, so I made sure to not base it off the wall but use a level. Be sure to tape off the walls and baseboard on every side.

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I found that I needed two coats to cover because my base coat was a satin rather than a flat. I chose to use a stiff foam roller and made sure to roll on a paper towel before applying to the wall. This is referred to as ‘dry rolling.’ I found that my second light coat dried quickly and I was able to immediately move the stencil and start on the next area without waiting. It took me about two hours to get the majority of the wall covered with this large stencil.

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Now believe me, you may be tempted to stop here and not finish the edges. My husband and I had a long debate about it, but it really does look unfinished without it done. As you can see in the picture above, the pattern did not go all the way to the ceiling.

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After the main areas are done, you are left with the hard part: corners. The more complicated your pattern is, the longer this will take and the more regret you will have for starting this project!! I found that since my pattern was so large, the plastic of the stencil would not bend well over 90 degree corners and it was nearly impossible to get it flat enough on the wall to paint. So I opted to create my own small template by tracing the part of the pattern I needed. Many companies sell a special edge piece for this specific purpose. Some people even cut apart their larger stencils to do this, but I wanted to keep mine for the future.

e09f4314601b11e2ac5122000a9f14f8_7Through trial and error, I ultimately decided that it is best to use cardstock and extend the paper over the existing pattern a ways to protect it.  This worked very well! I was only able to do one coat with the roller on the cardstock, so after it all dried, I went back with a small paintbrush and painted on a second coat.

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You will also need to take a small paintbrush and fill in any stencil gap caused by the corners or edges. This was along my bottom edge, and I just continued the stencil to the tape by hand.

d8d9ba6c600a11e2bd3c22000a1faf7b_7One side of the edges completed. You can tell it’s not perfect because of the single pattern nature of the cardstock, but from a distance it is not noticeable!

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I wanted to quickly mention bleeding. Depending on the type of texturing on your walls, type of paint, and type of application (roller vs blot brush), you will have some bleeding. Some sites suggest using a spray adhesive on the stencil to reduce that, but they also warn it can take off the base paint.  You can see a couple of levels of bleeding in the picture above. I went back and touched up any large spots like the one in the center of the picture. The other smaller spots are not noticeable unless you get close and are looking for them. Ultimately it’s up to you!

6ee90114601c11e28dc022000a1f8c21_7Completed! (sorry for all the instagram photos! be watching for some pictures of her room with my good camera once it’s complete!)

Have you done a stencil wall? Any tips or suggestions?? Would you do it again? I would! But I would be sure to stick with simple patterns!

unpaper towels & cloth wipes | going green

I’ve noticed a lot of people are making efforts to ‘go green’ this year, so I thought I would share one way we have!

We are about just about a year into this ‘unpaper towel’ journey, and I’ve had lots of questions! So I thought I would do a little blog on what shape/materials/uses/etc I have found work best for unpaper towels and cloth wipes!

It all started with these puppies: cloth wipes for my oldest! You can check out my cloth diapering post to find out more about how I use and wash these. I made them with two layers of cheap flannel baby blankets cut into squares about 5inx5in. They are turned and top-stitched because at the time I did not have a serger. You can google videos on how to do this, but basically you take two pieces of fabric, put them right-sides together, stitch all around the outsides leaving a 2in opening in the middle of one side. You clip the corners and pull the two fabrics inside out. You should now have the right-sides of the fabrics facing out and no visible raw edges. Now you sew all along the outside (fairly close to the edge) and close up the opening you used to flip inside out.  Need more? Send me an email or google for a video!

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After those cloth wipes saw much use, I decided to branch out into cloth paper towels, or unpaper towels. I used the same turn and topstitch method and two layers of flannel (this time bought by the yard) but I made 9×10 rectangles. I made 30 of these.

I use these just like paper towels- single use only. I wipe up a mess or clean the counters and then toss it in the dirty bin. They get washed with our clothes whenever we are running near empty. I use them as hand wipes, counter cleaning, dish drying, holding a quick snack, covering food when reheating, basically everything. I use them for everything when cleaning the bathroom except for the toilet, where I use harsher cleaners- for that I use regular paper towels. I also use regular paper towels for anything involving large amounts of grease (draining bacon, etc) because it is not safe to put anything that was soaked in grease in the dryer! If it’s just greasyish cleanup on the stovetop, these have worked fine.

They are VERY absorbent and have held up very well to lots of repeat use and washing. I have only had one fray and develop holes, and that was because my husband used it to wipe up bleach. Don’t do that 🙂 They are stained from various things like finger paint and food. We have tried vinegar washes and other natural things, but none of the stains have really come out. It doesn’t bother me that much because I KNOW they are clean, but if you want to avoid that, use a darker fabric.

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After making my set, I made my mom a set. We picked out Monk’s cloth, which look absorbent but it did not work out very well! It wasn’t very absorbent and the open weave of the cotton hasn’t held up too well to frequent use. I don’t recommend it.

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On a related note, we made the switch to cloth tissues as well. I did not make these but purchased them off of etsy. They are made from birds eye cotton and serged. If you wish to make your own of these, I highly recommend a serger as the single ply functions better as tissues than a double ply would! I purchased 50 of these, and that ended up being a bit excessive. I would say a normal household would be good with 30. I keep them stacked in a couple of areas around the house and the dirty ones go in the dirty unpaper towels basket. (I still keep a box or two around for company, but I find I rarely buy them!)

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Shortly before the twins were born, we found we were in need of more cloth wipes. This time I made a double ply wipe with one piece of flannel and one piece of minky. We have really liked this combination for cloth wipes. The minky is soft and washes very well and the combination of the two allows for an excellent cleaning option depending on what you need them for! haha!

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We have been using the blue flannel set of unpaper towels for a while and I decided to use some fabric I had laying around to make a new set! This time I went with canvas and minky. I like the absorbency of the minky and the canvas has some awesome scrubbing power! I chose NOT to serge these because I like the double layer and I feel turning and topstiching is the most durable for lots of washing. However, you could serge if you would like!

As far as our system goes, we keep a one wire basket with clean cloths and another next to it where we put the dirty ones. I have tried an enclosed bin but I found that they tended to get mildewed in there. An open basket prevents this.
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So the big question, is this worth it?? Depending on your household, your paper towel consumption, and the type of paper towels you buy, this will likely only save you $50-$150 a year. That may or may not be worth it to you. However if you factor in the plastic the paper towels are packaged in, by products as a result of production and waste created or tossed from production, you have to consider the impact on the earth and not just a financial impact.

Now before I go and get all hippy on you, going green to me is most importantly about sustainability. And in my mind, the more waste we create and pack into plastic bags that aren’t biodegradable and pile onto usable farm land, the less land we have to create food. It’s simple. We have not been able to get rid of all of our waste, and unfortunately recycling is oftentimes inefficient, but this is one easy way for me to reduce the amount I toss into a trash bag! (Another way- composting! But that’s another post on it’s own! coming soon!)

 So to recap, what you will use the unpaper towels for primarily will determine the fabrics you choose. We use ours for wiping little hands and faces as well as counters, so for now, minky and canvas are working out very well!

Need absorbent and budget friendy? Go with flannel
Need softness and absorbency? Go with minky
Need an ability to scrub? Go with terry cloth or canvas
Need them all? Try a triple layer with canvas, flannel in the middle and minky
Need something thin and flexible but absorbent? Go with birds eye cotton

Or grab any fabrics you have hanging around and give them a water test! Remember, all fabrics come out of production with a certain amount of chemicals and need to be ‘conditioned’ so give them a couple of washes before you expect to see full absorbency.

Any questions?? Best of luck going green!

girly-fied | room makeover

As I have mentioned before, I never really thought I would have a girl… and I still think she is it, so I am going full out in her room! I’m not a huge pink fan, but adore the deep coral that I picked out for her bedding! I hope to start painting her room this weekend, so I wanted to share my working board, as it stands right now… whatcha think?

(keep in mind these paint colors/pictures are not exact! the persimmon red matches the coral of her bedding perfectly- which is not as orange as it appears! manhattan mist is a gray with slight purple undertones)

working board, TWO

Trash To Tresure: Citrus Peels

Jace at the controls of the blog again, this time it’s to share with you an awesome cleaner, candy, and sauce all from something most people throw away: citrus peels! The best part is you don’t have to choose one of these things to make, you can do all three with the same peels.

The first step is to eat oranges, since we’re reducing processed snacks and trying to include fruit and veggies into all of our meals, this has become easy for us. Next of course is to save the peel! I peel into quarters, and then let the peels sit in the sunny kitchen window sill to dry out (I know this bugs Chelsea to no end, but sacrifices must be made!) You can also use lemon and lime rinds, but we don’t use nearly as many of them and they are much harder to separate the flesh from the peel. Actually lemon peels would be better for the cleaner because of their high acidity compared to orange peels, but I digress…

Window sill over flowing with peels: it’s been cloudy so they haven’t been dying out as quick

Once I’ve got a quart mason jar full of dried peels (really pack ‘em in there) I fill it to the top with white vinegar and cap it. I leave the jar in the window sill, hoping the alternating warmth from the sun and cool from the night air will draw out more of the orangie goodness (just a theory.) Once the color of the vinegar stops getting darker I pull it from the window sill, but the different places I learned this trick from said leave it for anywhere from 10 days, to as much as a month.
Next, pour off the liquid and save it, this is your cleaner, but we’re not done! Now refill the jar with vinegar again and repeat, mixing your two batches together for a more even product.
Place the finished cleaner in a spray bottle and use to wipe up tough messes. The acidity of the vinegar acts as a disinfectant (that’s why you pickle things in vinegar after all; too keep the bugs out) and the orange oils you extracted not only provide an interesting scent when paired with the vinegar, but also help cut grease and grime (think about all those orange powered commercial cleaners.)

Citrus cleaner ready to tackle tough jobs!

After you’ve used the peels to make your cleaner next, use them to make candied citrus rind! This is a candy and is not necessarily healthy, but it has a very similar taste and texture to orange slices like you’d buy at the gas station, but without the HFCS, and with natural orange, so it’s not the worst thing in the world.
To make the candy take your peels and bring them to a boil in a pot of water, this will help draw out the vinegar and any remaining oil which would make the candy bitter. Once at a boil I took it off the fire, and drained it, but if you are using fresh peels that haven’t soaked in vinegar, let them boil for ten minutes prior to draining. Boil and drain a second time, waiting ten minutes and doing it three times if the peels are fresh, but again, not if they were presoaked.
Next place your peels into a skillet and pour in three cups water and 2 cups (yes two cups) of sugar. Most recipes called for a cup of water and sugar for each cup of citrus peel, but I found this to be more than adequate for our ~4 cups of peel.
Next place the concoction on a low heat (just below a boil) and cook down allowing the peels to absorb the sugar. This will take several hours. Make sure you are stirring the pieces around and recoating them in the syrup as it thickens or else you’ll end up with an inconsistent flavor. Stirring also helps the water evaporate quicker as it gives it a higher surface area. Be very vigilant toward the end with stirring and reducing the heat or else your syrup will begin to boil and possibly burn. Once there is only about a half to a quarter cup of syrup just coating the bottom of the pan, kill the heat and start to take the peels out and coat them in sugar. I recommend placing the pan at an angle to allow the syrup to pool to one end of the pan and keep the peels on the other end. Work while everything is still warm or else the syrup will start to thicken and crystallize. With the peels rolled in sugar place them on a cooling rack to dry for a day or so. Enjoy.

Citrus candy in a jar awaitng consumption

For the final use, take the orange tinged syrup left in the pan, add some soy sauce, to taste, and thin with water. The thinner the sauce the more cook time it will allow, I ended up with about 1.5 cups if I had to estimate. As it is, the sauce will impart a very light orange flavor, but you can make it more intense by adding orange juice at this stage. Cook up some rice, and a few chicken breasts. Once the chicken is fully cooked add the sauce to the pan and let the chicken simmer, turning occasionally to coat. Remove when the sauce becomes darker and thickens to a syrup again, should take about 5-10 minutes. Serve using the remaining sauce in the pan to add to the rice if you wish.

Yummy orange chicken and rice!

I pieced this string of ideas from a number of sources, the citrus cleaner has appeared on multiple blogs and Pintrest, and I don’t know who invented it, the candied citrus rind is an old recipe I had never heard of until I saw a brief mention of it in this blog by the Green Cheapskate. Further research (simplyrecipes)showed that the candy often turned out bitter and with a less gummy texture unless the peels were soaked in salt water or alcohol. I thought that the vinegar soak might have a similar effect, and it did! Though I do plan to make that citrus infused vodka I heard mention of as an alternate precandy soak! Then the chicken I kind of made up on the spot when I saw I had left over syrup that I didn’t want to throw it out.
Now, go eat some oranges!

Jace