My First DIY Chalk Paint Adventure

I am probably the last person in America to jump on the chalk paint bandwagon, but I was finally convinced by the overwhelming cuteness of all the projects I’d seen on Pinterest and at our local “pickers” shop.  I had to try it!

The cost of the name-brand chalk paints, however, was not so cute.

My first inclination is always to try to do it myself, but I’m not completely insane, so I googled whether other people had already figured out how to make their own chalk paint. Had they ever.  Oh happy day!

There is no shortage of recipes out there using latex paint plus unsanded grout, plaster of paris, baking soda or chalk (or some combination of them).  I decided to try the one using calcium carbonate powder (found here), which is – you guessed it – chalk.  You can order this on Amazon for less than $10.

I didn’t have any flat latex paint laying around, so I bought a gallon of Walmart brand flat latex for $12, I believe.  Did you know that Walmart will color match paints just like the big home improvement stores?  Yeah, baby!  I brought them a swatch of a cute blue from one to the expensive brands, and they matched it beautifully.  I also bought a flat white, since I was toying with painting my dining room chairs white.  I intentionally bought the cheapest paint I could find, figuring that results could only improve from there using better quality paints.  Right?  Right.

I’ve had this sad little shelf since my single days.  It held my tv at one point and plants and books at another.  It was sitting, forlornly, on my brother’s front porch when I rescued it this summer. It fit perfectly on one wall in our sunroom, and I thought it would be a great piece to experiment on, being old and not valuable in it’s current state.  So what the heck.  Nothing to lose.shelf - before

I used an old salsa jar to mix the paint in.  It’s super convenient, because the jar is pre-marked with measurements (who wants to try to pour paint from a gallon can into a one cup measure and then into a mixing container?) and is wide-mouthed to make getting a paint brush in and out easy. Worried that the marks might have just been decorative, I doubled checked beforehand by pouring one cup of water in… and whaddayaknow?  The marks were accurate.  Just when you lose all faith in humanity, something comes along to restore it. 🙂

I first mixed 2 tablespoons of chalk powder into 1 tablespoon water and stirred to dissolve well and then added 1 cup of flat latex paint (I filled it to the 1 cup mark, figuring 3 extra tablespoons wouldn’t make much difference in volume).  I gave the jar a really good shake (top on, of course) to dissolve the chalk mixture into the paint and got to work with an old, narrow paintbrush.

paint mix

I don’t know how real chalk paint is supposed to feel, but this went on very creamy and smooth.  After the first coat, I noticed that some of the brown finish on the shelf was bleeding through, so I had to go back over it all with a primer.  I’ve read that one advantage of chalk paint is that you don’t have to do a lot of prep work, like sanding, but you’ll have to prime if there is this sort of “primitive” brown stain on your piece… word to the wise.  After that coat of primer, I put on another two coats of the blue chalk paint around the outside and decided to paint the inside white.

The cheap white paint did not cover nearly as well as the cheap blue paint, and the inside required 3 coats.  I honestly didn’t mind painting so many coats, because the chalk paint went on easily, dried quickly and cleaned up easily.  The shelf, as it was, had no backing, so I bought a pack of beadboard wainscotting at Lowes for around $9, painted the pieces white, cut it to size and tacked it onto the back to finish it all off.

There is much debate whether soft wax or water-base poly is best to finish off chalk paint (google it when you’re bored – tons of reading on that one!), and I decided on wax.  I wasn’t about to spend a lot of money on the name-brand wax any more than on the name-brand paint, so I bought a soft wax at Lowes for about $10 (?).  Minwax, I believe.  It’s pretty easy (if smelly) to apply, and you buff it to a shine after it sits for about 10-15 minutes.  My husband let me use the power buffer he has for his car, which made the job wicked easy.  Piece of cake!  I went over the areas the waxer/buffer thingy couldn’t reach with an old t-shirt and called it a day.

What do you think?  Much cuter, n’est-ce pas? (pardon the horrible photography – I use my cell phone for pics until I can afford a real camera… we make do around here, girls!)shelf  - after…and again (so cute!)

shelf projectThe entire project cost:

  • 2 gallons of paint ~$25
  • calcium carbonate (chalk) powder $10
  • soft wax ~$10
  • beadboard wainscotting for backing ~$10

I could not have bought the finished shelf for $55 where I live.  That might seem like a lot of money as-is, but the name-brand paints and wax would have come to over $100, I believe (at about $35 per).  I also have a ton of paint and wax leftover for future projects!  The Walmart “gallon” was 124 ounces (a real gallon would be 128 ounces, so it’s been hit by the Amazing Retail Shrink Ray), which would still leave paint for 30 more projects, and it can always be custom mixed (by me) to make different colors.  I only used about half of my original diy mix for this project, so a little goes a long way!

I’ve already started on another table.  I was curious whether I could use old satin and/or semi-gloss paints as chalk paint.  I can. Stay tuned…

 

 

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Easy Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken

One of our favorite dishes is a baked sweet and sour chicken.  It’s delicious but VERY labor-intensive – the chicken is dipped into cornstarch and then egg, then fried until golden and finally put into the oven with sauce for an hour (where it’s stirred every 15 minutes).  My fingers usually end up crusted with so much egg and cornstarch that I have to stop halfway through to wash them… and it gets under my finger nails.  Super gross.  I usually only go to the trouble every few months.

Yesterday, I tried something new to streamline the process, and it totally worked!

I simply shook the chicken bits in a Ziploc bag with some flour (whole wheat, because that totally cancels out all the sugar in this recipe, don’t you know?), dumped it into a bit of hot oil, fried until the outside was seared and popped it into my trusty crockpot with some sauce!  It came out a bit more watery than the oven method, but that may be because I only used two chicken breasts rather than the usual four.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Easy Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons ketsup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the sugar, vinegar, ketsup, soy sauce and garlic salt in a medium-sized bowl until well combined.  Put aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Meanwhile, put flour into a 1-gallon storage bag.  Add the chicken bits and shake until well-coated. Remove the chicken to a plate and discard any leftover flour.
  4. Fry the chicken in the pre-heated oil until the outside is lightly browned but the chicken is not cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Place the chicken into the bottom of the crockpot and pour the sauce over the top.  Stir briefly and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours or high heat for 2 hours.  If desired, before serving, add a little cornstarch and stir until thickened.
  6. Serve over cooked rice.

$5 Spice Cabinet Makeover!

 I love to cook.  Unfortunately, my collection of herbs and spices has gotten a bit out of control.  I’ve avoided dealing with it… sort of like avoiding the scale when you know you’ve gained a few pounds… but was forced to face reality when I bought my 3rd bottle of parsley flakes because I couldn’t find the one I already owned (a couple times, apparently).

So what to do?

I love those magnetic, cool looking metal containers… but I couldn’t afford as many as I’d need.  I’d pinned diy solutions, from reusing baby food jars to buying the metal containers and magnets online and creating your own.  I don’t have babies, and the metal diy project would cost me about $100.  So that’s a no.

I was walking through the Dollar Tree the other day and came across this pack of 10 (!) little plastic containers with snap-on lids (bpa free!) and a light bulb went off.  Would it work?  Would the lids stay on?  I bought the store out of their stock, figuring that at $4 + tax, I would risk it.

I took them home, washed ’em out and stacked ’em up! containers

I had almost 100 (!) spice bottles squirrelled away in the cabinet and had only 40 new containers, so I decide to leave the name brand mixes, such as Old Bay or Season All in their original containers.  Others, such as cinnamon sticks and bay leaves, wouldn’t fit in the smaller plastic containers and stayed in their original containers as well.

I got to work transferring all of the herbs and spices into their new homes.  I eventually want to get some cute labels but stuck to writing on each new container with a Sharpie for now.  I just wanted to be done!

With some, not all of them would fit into the containers and I had to hold onto the leftovers to use for refills later (tucked away in the pantry, where I won’t have to look at them).

With others, I discovered I’d been taking up all that space for a tiny bit of spice left in the container.  Seriously?

very little left

Overwhelmingly, however, the biggest discovery was the sheer number of duplicates I had.  I have what appears to be a lifetime supply of parsley, oregano, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, nutmeg and garlic powder.  This must be what hoarders feel like when the intervention finally works.  I am a spice and herb hoarder.

Whatever.

It turns out that the 40 containers I was able to get my grubby mitts on was enough… and they’re pretty tough too.  I dropped a couple in the process, and the lids stayed on.  Woohoo!

The best part of this project was what I like best about cooking – the smells.  Oh, the smells!  Fennel, sage and dill.  Apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg.  Curry, tarragon and cumin.  I’m convinced I could happily wear cardamom as perfume, all lemony and exotic.  It was sheer sensory pleasure to get up close and personal with all of them.

Oh, and speaking of smells, there will be sneezing.  Oh yes, there will be sneezing.  Have some tissues handy. 🙂  I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself if you have sensitive skin – my face was a bit burn-y after the cayenne pepper – but perhaps a simple face mask would cut down on both the sneezing and the irritation.  For me, it was well worth it.

Behold the beauty…

after2