Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Kitchen Chalkboard Wall: A Tale of Self Loathing

I originally wrote the below as an Amazon review for Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint, just for the sake of venting after a disastrous DIY project.  I was surprised to discover that it has become the top review, so here it is in its entirety for anyone who might want to have a giggle at my expense.  And yes, that's really a picture of me covered in chalkboard paint dust.

Ah, chalkboard paint. Let's see, where do I begin? *insert maniacal cackling here*

So I recently had the super bright idea to paint an entire wall in my kitchen with this stuff. Wait, don't judge me yet- it wasn't like I'd planned to let my kids at it with a bucket full of sidewalk chalk. No, I'd envisioned a stylish wall filled with beautifully scripted holiday menus, cheeky quotes, inspiring verses, and other adorable things. I wholly blame Pinterest for this temporary lapse in sanity.

Armed with the creative vision of Martha Stewart and the home improvement skill level of my German Shepherd, I purchased two cans of Rustoleum brand chalkboard paint and some allegedly smooth(hahahahaha) paint rollers. I taped off the edges and got to work smearing this stuff all over my wall. Two coats and a few hours later, I stood back and admired my shiny new chalkboard surface. I let it "cure" for a few days as per the package directions, and then decided to take it for a test drive.

I found a cute chalkboard drawing of a pumpkin via Google image search, and tried to replicate it on my wall. Given that I'm about as much an artist as I am a pterodactyl (which is to say, not at all, just in case there's any confusion), my pumpkin looked more like a sad, partially deflated beach ball wearing a toupee. Oops, guess I needed to practice a little more. No biggie! With the determination of a newborn foal, I grabbed my kids' chalkboard eraser and cheerily wiped at my drawing. EXCEPT IT WOULDN'T.COME.OFF. The surface was rough and difficult to erase. There was now a permanent, poorly drawn, sad-looking squash emblazoned on my kitchen wall.

See, what no one tells you when you buy this amazing, fancy paint is that unless you've used a really thick primer, your walls need to be sanded before you apply it in order to get a smooth drawing surface. And that you should probably then apply it with a foam roller rather than one of those fuzzy ones.

Since I couldn't just leave my wall looking like the side of an overpass, I realized my options were either to paint over it with the wall color I'd used elsewhere in my kitchen, or try to sand it. Because I definitely didn't have enough on my plate with three kids, a small business to run, and a ton of housework, and because I'm clearly not firing on all synapses, I chose the latter. I returned to my beloved home improvement store and purchased several packs of sandpaper and some more paint. (Not a mask though, because that would have been just plain logical, and ain't none of that happenin under my roof!)

I returned home with a vengeance and attacked the stupid chalkboard wall with this sandpaper. Now, if you've never had to sand a tall, vertical surface, let me just tell you that it's probably right up there with being waterboarded on my list of "Awesome Life Experiences". Actually, being waterboarded is probably more interesting.

After ingesting enough black dust to develop Coalworker's Pneumoconiosis and looking like I'd just crawled out of someone's chimney, my wall was nice and smooth. I wiped it down with a damp sponge to remove any residual dust, and then broke out a new can of chalkboard paint.

I began applying the paint with a renewed sense of joy, back to imagining how great my chalkboard wall was going to be once it was finished. Oh man, it was going to be AWESOME! And then I accidentally knocked over the can of paint and spilled half of it down the side of my kitchen table and onto my floor. Looking back, I think this was probably the point at which I totally broke from reality, but who knows.

After cleaning up this giant puddle of thick black paint (dish soap and water, for all you fellow clumsy people), I had pretty much lost all interest in finishing this stupid bleeping wall. Actually, I hated it. I began flinging paint onto the wall much the way an animal rights protester might fling blood red paint at old ladies in fur coats. That said, eventually, I did finish painting it.

I'm pleased to report that after allowing it to cure again, then rubbing a piece of chalk allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll over it, then erasing all that chalk, then cleaning the entire wall with a damp sponge, it's working great! I mean I wasted hours of my life and probably sacrificed any chance at pulmonary longevity, but hey, I can write on my wall with CHALK now. So there's that.

(In all seriousness, the product itself works great. Just make sure you sand your walls and maybe even use a primer first.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Gifts of Kindness

It's October... you know what that means right?  The holidays are right around the corner!  Before we all get swept up by the consumer monster, I wanted to share some gift ideas that come straight from the heart.  Here are some sweet ways to pay it forward this holiday season!

  • Go play board games with residents at a local nursing home!  Why not brighten things up for someone who could use an extra dose of cheer?  Just be sure to ask permission from management before you go- because getting arrested while attempting a good deed would be lame.

  • Can you knit or crochet?  Make and donate a few warm scarves, mittens, socks, blankets, whatever you're up to making to your local homeless shelter.  Sure, a cozy, handmade accessory isn't going to change someone's life- but it just might warm them up and brighten their day a little.  Not sure where to go?  Contact your local police department via their non-emergency line and ask.

  • Volunteer to wrap gifts for an elderly neighbor, or to take them holiday shopping.  Sometimes all the hustle and bustle of the season can be overwhelming, and a second pair of hands can be a real blessing for someone who could use the extra help.

  • Animal shelters can always use donations, and many of their most critical staples are items you can pick up for pretty cheap.  Here is a great list from Apartment Therapy (love that site!) of items that animal shelters commonly use.  Be sure to give your local shelter a call before dropping off items, but most are more than grateful for donations.

    I hope you find the above list inspiring.  Now go do something nice for someone!

  • Tuesday, February 2, 2016

    DIY Laundry Detergent!

    I've been seeing recipes for homemade laundry detergent floating around the web for a while now.  I've seen several variations, some liquid, some powder, but these recipes generally seem to have similar ingredients.

    I whipped up a batch of my own DIY laundry detergent the other day and gave it a test drive.  I do have a front-loading HE washing machine, so I was a bit wary of trying any detergent that wasn't specifically manufactured for HE machine use.  I was pleasantly surprised though to find that my cleaning rags (what, you didn't actually think I would test it on our clothing, did you?!) came out nice and clean, and with a pleasantly faint "fresh" scent.

    First thing's first- PLEASE WEAR GLOVES!  While borax and washing soda are naturally derived substances, they are still chemicals that can harm your skin, and are poisonous when ingested.  As with any household chemical, keep these ingredients and the finished detergent mixture out of the reach of children and animals.

    Here's what you will need to make your own laundry detergent:

    - Borax
    - Washing soda (please note, this is sodium carbonate, and it is NOT the same as baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate.)
    - A bar of soap.  For this batch, I used Fels Naptha, which is a laundry soap.  (Update- since making this post, I've also used Yardley London Bath Soap. It works nicely as well and smells amazing.)
    - An old cheese grater
    - An airtight container for storage

    This detergent is extremely easy to throw together, and I chose to make powder rather than liquid detergent since the liquid seemed like far more work and a bigger challenge to store.

    Ready to get started?  You sure?  Okay!

    1.  Grate the bar of soap into fine flakes.
    2.  Combine the soap flakes with 1 cup of washing soda and 1 cup of borax in your container and replace the lid.
    3.  Shake, shake, shake the container until your detergent is well mixed.  Keep the mixture stored in your sealed container.

    And that's it!  I use 1 tablespoon of detergent per load, and because I always launder my clothes in cold water, I mix the tablespoon of detergent in a lidded jar with 1/2 cup of hot water and shake it until the soap dissolves, then add it to the dispenser in my machine- this is only because I've read some reviews of people having issues with the soap not dissolving well in cold water.  If you have a top loader, you may find that you need to increase the amount of soap you use to 2 tablespoons.

    Happy washing!