Follow us, as we journey through this crazy hectic life, crafting, cooking, raising our kids and just plain surviving.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chalkboard Sign Tutorial

As promised, here's a tutorial showing how I created the chalkboard sign for Meredith and Mitch's wedding!

As much as I love the sign as is, it doesn't really make sense in my house! So, to write this tutorial, I'm changing the sign to a Bible verse I love: "A happy heart makes the face cheerful" (Proverbs 15:13).

Supplies and Materials:
Frame and canvas or board to make into your chalkboard
Chalkboard paint (spray or brush-on)
Chalk (I used both sidewalk chalk and regular chalk)
Chalk marker
Soft cloth or paper towels
Your design to transfer

First, you need to make your chalkboard.  For mine, I chose a frame I already had, then painted a 16x20" canvas with two coats of chalkboard paint.  You could use a piece of plywood as well.  Let that dry 24 hours.  NOTE: When I went to "erase" (wash off) the chalk from Mer and Mitch's sign, it wouldn't budge.  But, Ridgley--my brother's GF and the awesome photog behind most of the pics in this tutorial ;)--had given me a can of spraypaint chalkboard paint, so I just gave the canvas a fresh new coat!

Then, you need to "prime" your chalkboard...which is a fancy way of saying you need to cover it with chalk. Rub all over the board with the side of a stick of chalk, then wipe off with a soft cloth or papertowel.

Now comes the fun part!  Create what you want your chalkboard sign to say on your computer.  Choose fun fonts, graphic, and curlicues.

The fonts I used in the Instagram sign were Handy George and Bergamot Ornaments. I found the Instagram logos online.  In the Proverbs sign I used those same two fonts, along with Clementine Sketch and Peach Sundress.
Now, you need to enlarge what you've designed to the size of your sign.  Because my computer and printer are stupid (yes, it's definitely the machines' faults, not user ignorance), it's easiest for me to do this by printing then using my printer as a copier to enlarge the artwork.
Cut your design into sections.  Lay out the sections how you want them to appear.

I taped mine down because I was working outside, but that's up to you.  Now comes the magic!!  Start with your top section.  Cover the back of the paper in chalk.  {{and ignore my nails that desperately need a mani!}}

Put the paper back where you want it to go, and using a ballpoint pen, trace over all your letters/graphics.

Make sure to press down firmly!  Once you have the whole section traced, carefully remove.

Your design has been transferred to your chalkboard!  Now take your chalkboard marker (or plain chalk, if you prefer) and trace.

Continue, one section at a time, until you finish your entire print.

If desired, add a bit more "real" chalk at the end (the chalk marker--while very user-friendly--is a bit too "perfect" looking for me).

And...drumroll...your chalkboard canvas is complete!

Now I have to decide if I want to leave it as-is or put it back in the frame, and figure out where to hang it.
We would love to see your chalkboard projects...leave your link in the comments!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chalkboard sign!

Of course I wrote a whole post including tons of pictures of my cousin's gorgeous wedding, aaaaannnnnd it got swallowed up in cyberspace.

So, for now, I just want to share the chalkboard sign I made for the burgers-and-beer lunch we had the day of the wedding.

I will write up a tutorial later in the week {I think I'll change it to hang in my house!} but I promise it's not nearly as complicated as it looks!!

- Posted by Lauren using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One of My Very Favorite Parenting Tools

"But the wild things cried, 'Oh please don't go -- We'll eat you up -- we love you so!'" --Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

In my house, it's more like, "But the wild things cried, 'Oh please don't make us go [to bed/to clean up/on errands/to get dressed/home from a playdate...etc...] -- We'll pitch a fit -- we love what we're doing so!'"

We started using this little gem of a parenting tool when W was little...and continues to be used multiple times a day!

It's super simple...a timer. More specifically, the timer on my phone.

Yup, a simple ol' timer helps bedtimes go a bit smoother, cleaning happen a bit quicker, and TV/iPads get turned off a bit easier.


I'm not saying everything goes perfectly...they are kids, and I don't expect that...but by giving a warning, being able to see it count down, and ok, hearing the firetruck siren (yes, I bought a custom tone on my iPhone for my child...worth.every.penny), makes "transition times" during the day a bit easier for everyone to handle!

For example: earlier today, the kiddos were watching LeapFrog Letter Factory on my iPad.

{and PS, C likes to strip off her clothes, and W really is this sweet to her...usually...}

I told them they had one minute left until we had to straighten up the den.

And guess what...the timer went off, and there was a quick, "Mamaaaaa, we're waaaatching this!" I replied with my usual, "I know, but we need to do some cleaning, and the timer went off!"...they put the iPad down and hopped up to put toys away.

We use the timer every night for bedtime, we use it when leaving playdates/the park/Children's Museum/daddy's office, we use it when we're getting dressed in the morning, etc.

I swear, the timer has saved my sanity, and also helps me...I can't get sidetracked myself if the timer goes off!

What simple "tools" or tricks do you always find yourself using?

- Posted by Lauren using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crockpot Veggie Chili

Today I made bread, muffins, cookies, rice, and veggie chili, and I only turned my for 25 minutes. I love days where my oven isn't on all day. I had the bread machine, rice maker, and crockpot all going at the same time. I love multitasking.

We have been cutting back on meat these days, so a few months back I found a recipe for Veggie Chili and tweaked it a bit. Keep in mind that I don't follow recipes for savory foods exactly as stated, so use your own judgement. I actually used to think that recipes were cheating...I watched way too many Jacques Pepin and Julia Child shows as a kid.

Sidenote: For baked goods I follow recipes exactly. My former Pastry instructor, Chef Jurgen (said with an Austrian accent) is still in my head reminding me to do so. Yes, he was scary.

Crockpot Veggie Chili

1-1.5 small yellow onions
1-2 cloves or garlic minced (I use the jarred stuff)
3 large carrots
2 celery stalks
1 bell pepper (any color will do)
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 **jalapeno minced and seeded (for mild chili)
1 can black beans
1 can white beans or garbanzo beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can of broth (veggie or chicken)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste

**this time I used a jalapeno salsa a friend brought me back from mexico, I only used a 1/4 teaspoon 
because this stuff is HOT and my 2 year old loves to pick the beans out of my chili.

Chop all veggies into equal size to ensure even cooking, but hey, it's going to cook all day so most likely it will be great no matter what.

Add all ingrediants to pot, turn on low and stir a few times. You can cook on low all day or high until veggies are tender, at least 4 hours. Adjust seasoning after tasting. Serve on rice, on potatoes, or alone! Great with sharp cheddar cheese, and sour cream.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Shout-Out!

This morning, I met Maygan from Fingerprint Charleston and she is such a sweet, warm person...and with her business partner (and bestie!) runs an amazing resource for Charleston area moms/families.  You should check it out!
And of course, I super-duper love people who give me gifts...which is the reason I got to meet her in the first place!  She presented me with this gift basket:

I won the gift basket through a giveaway over at A Work in Progress, a blog written by Courtney, who I know through church!  Courtney is another really sweet, inspiring mama.

So, because both of these women are people I think you should "know" (if only online!) I wanted to give them a shout-out!

You can also visit their Facebook pages:
Fingerprint Charleston
A Work in Progress

I hope y'all have a fabulous weekend...any fun plans?!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Family-Friendly Valentine's Celebration!

I hope each of you had a great Valentine's Day!
Personally, I've always loved Valentine's.  Not the lovey-dovey stuff, not the fancy dinners and desserts-for-two, not the grand bouquets of red roses.
No, I like the whimsy, the red and pink color scheme, the fun ways to tell friends you care about them!  Even  before we had kids, Wes and I celebrated with a fun movie (our first Valentine's was Shrek!) and a pizza.  He always rolls his eyes when I pull out the Valentine's decorations...he just doesn't get it ;)
Now that we have kids, though, Valentine's Day has taken on a whole new angle.  I have no desire to hunt down a babysitter and go out to an overpriced, crowded restaurant...I like to have a fun family celebration!  I think this year takes the cake...between Pinterest and my blog-crush Baby Rabies' brilliant Valentine's breakfast, it was about as perfect as I could imagine (ignoring the fact that our gorgeous chandelier in the dining room attempted to bite the dust as we were all sitting down to supper...but that's another post for another day...).
I'm sharing it with you now, though, because I think many of these ideas could make any celebration extra special...a birthday, the first day of school, celebrating a new accomplishment...and they weren't expensive or hard to do!

First, the decor:
Punched-out hearts hanging in the windows!
We made a combination of wax paper with crayon shavings hearts and what we call "dot paint" hearts, and hung them in the front windows in the days leading up to V-day.
For the wax paper hearts, I let W use a pencil sharpener (the cheapy plastic ones) to make crayon shavings that we put in between two layers of wax paper, which I then sandwiched between newspaper and ironed.   I remember doing this as a you?!  For the "dot paint" both W and C went to town on some cardstock (red and white) decorating both sides until their hearts' content!
They then used one of my craft punches to punch out hearts, and then I strung the hearts together by...get this...running them through my sewing machine.
They worked on the hearts over the course of a few days, whenever they felt like it...which turned out to be often!  I think they each made 75+ hearts (and W gave them to his classmates on Valentine's Day too!)

The Table:
I got this from Jill (Baby Rabies.  'Cause we're on a first-name basis, you know).  I mean, brilliant!!  1) Fun for kids.  2) Different than usual.  3) EASY CLEAN-UP!!
I had bulletin board paper stashed away, but like Jill said in her post, you could use the back of wrapping paper, craft paper, even just tape together regular old printer paper.

The Gifts:
I don't think of Valentine's Day as a holiday for major gift-giving.  So, W got a couple of games for his Leapster2 (which are no longer the games were cheeeeeap) and C got a Leapster2 (gently used from eBay...maybe she'll stop stealing her brother's...).
W was really insistent on picking out a gift for Wes, so off to Target we went.  He picked out Reeses Pieces and a Lego firetruck.  Works for me!
The kids each decorated cards for Wes, I wrapped the Legos with white paper and W decorated it with stickers, and we put the Reeses in a jar with a chalkboard lid...I wrote "♥ You to Pieces!"  Everybody together now...AWWWWW!

The Fun Stuff:
Cookie Decorating!  I figured (correctly) that the kids would have more than enough candy from school, so I thought it would be fun to decorate cookies instead of having MORE candy for dessert.  I went the easy route...I got cookies from the grocery bakery!  They didn't have any sugar cookies that were undecorated, so we went with chocolate chip.  I let each of them pick out sprinkles, then I got white icing and colored it.

And lastly...
The Supper:
Everyone in my family loves spaghetti.  We have it at least once every two weeks (and often more like once a week).  W and C especially love "s'ketti and eat-balls and salsa" (translation: spaghetti and meatballs with sauce).  So, I figured it was easy, and since were were doing other things to make the Valentine's celebration special, there was no need to go out of my way to make a special supper...when I know they'll eat spaghetti.
I don't do jarred spaghetti sauce.  In fact, the last time I tried to use it (after making my own for a year or so) I felt like it smelled funky.  I like making my own sauce because 1) it's super easy. and 2) I can sneak extra veggies in!  So...I thought I'd share my super-top-secret recipe with ya!

**this makes a lot of spaghetti sauce, but it freezes well!  And, if you haven't noticed before, I don't measure.  So all measurements are approximate...taste as you go and adjust if needed!

olive oil (a tablespoon or so)
garlic, minced (we like lots of 4+ cloves)
1 small onion, diced
Veggies you want to sneak in (I often do carrots, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, spinach...very, very, finely diced or run through the food processor so no one notices them)
2 boxes Pomi chopped tomatoes (I buy them at Publix)
Worcestershire sauce (a tablespoon or so)
Ketchup (couple of tablespoons)
Dried basil, oregano, and/or Italian Seasonings
Frozen cooked meatballs if desired

Heat olive oil over med-high heat, saute onions, garlic and any "sneaky veggies" until soft.
Stir in tomatoes, Worcestershire, and ketchup; allow to simmer at least 15-20 minutes.
Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste; continue simmering at least 10 minutes.
Add meatballs if desired, cook according to package directions.

See, easy-peasy I tell you!! question...I had one unfortunate experience trying to make meatballs from scratch years ago...and haven't attempted to make them since.  Caitlin says I should try again, but I'm scared!!  Anyone have a fool-proof, yummy meatball recipe I should try?!  I'd love for you to share!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I hope this post gave you a fun, easy, cheap idea for making a celebration with your family extra-special...
♥ Lauren