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The Chalk Paint Challenge–painting an entertainment center

Some of you Pinterest fans may know that pictures of chalk paint furniture redos are hardly new to the blogosphere.  I’m late on the scene in the chalk paint (not to be confused with chalkboard paint) craze.  I read the reviews on the internet, saw other people’s shocking before and after pictures, but painting glossy wood furniture, laminate, metal, glass, and any other number of stubborn surfaces without sanding or priming first?  I was a skeptic, but intrigued, and had to see it for myself.  I decided I was going to try the stuff out, all I needed was a good piece of furniture to try it on.


Then, I stumbled upon this large oak entertainment center  at a local second-hand store.  It was exactly what I had in mind for hiding my wireless printer and unsightly office supplies in the computer area of our house.  The only problem?  The cabinet itself was a bit unsightly.  I’m not typically one to resist a good furniture redo challenge, and this was no exception, especially at the bargain price of $50.  This piece of solid wood furniture had the form and function I was looking for; all it needed was a couple coats of paint to bring it into the 21st century.  With a little help from A.T. and the boys (okay, a lot of help, this was a seriously heavy piece of furniture), I brought it home to face the Chalk Paint Challenge.

Before and after cabinet painted with chalk paint

I was not disappointed with the results.  The sweat equity I put into this project was minimal compared to the traditional process of painting furniture.  I could write a lengthy review and description of chalk painting how-to, but there are so many of them out there, I think it would be redundant.  With a good google, or Pinterest, search, you’ll find plenty of tutorials.  I’ll hit a couple of the highlights for you:

  1. I bought my Annie Sloan chalk paint online from Perfectly Imperfect.   I purchased one quart in the “Old White” and 4 oz of “Louis Blue,” then mixed them together 10 parts of white to 1 part of blue to get this very subtle light blue. 
  2. Did I mention no sanding or priming?  I just painted this stuff right onto that luscious glossy wood.  Brush strokes are minimal, so it’s very, very hard to mess this up.
  3. I didn’t remove doors or hardware.  Really, I just kind of attacked this thing with a brush and the paint, it didn’t know what hit it.
  4. I did scuff up the paint with a sanding sponge after I was done, to give it a worn look.  But, you don’t have to.
  5. I did this whole project completely indoors, with doors and windows closed because it was raining outside when I painted it.  There were no paint fumes, not even a hint of the smell of paint was in the room.  I was the most skeptical of the claim that chalk paint was low odor, but really, it’s true.  Of course, it can’t hurt to open a few doors and windows if you can.  But, if you start feeling a little light-headed while you’re painting with this stuff, blame the wine.
  6. The paint isn’t cheap.  Since I got the piece at such a good price, the paint wasn’t cost-prohibitive in this scenario, but may be for some.  After the cost of the paint, and including the cost of the cabinet, the total cost of the finished cabinet to me was $125, a very reasonable sum of money for such a large, and functional, piece of furniture.
  7. I did do one layer of Annie Sloan clear wax at the very end (after the sanding sponge step) to give it the durability I knew it would need with the kids going in and out of this cabinet a lot too.  I gave it my traditional fingernail test when I was finished by scraping it with my fingernail to see if if left any scratches.  I’m happy to say, with one coat of wax, it passed the fingernail test!

In addition, I hit up a local antique market I knew of that had bins of antique cabinet pulls.  With a little help from boy #2, and a few frustrating minutes digging through a lot of dusty hardware, we found these antique brass pulls to finish the look:

Here are some pictures of the inside of our reinvented printer cabinet, now storing our printer as well as office and  art supplies.  On the inside of the cabinet doors, we painted one side with black chalk board paint and on the other side, we attached cork squares for organizing loose pieces of paper.  Ultimately, I’d like to add another shelf above the printer, but for now, this works fine.

 There is something very gratifying about closing a door on a bunch of clutter.

If you have any specific questions about chalk paint, I’m happy to tell you what I know, which is very little.  I assure you I’m not getting any kick backs from Annie Sloan on this, I’m just sharing my humble opinion.  Shopping thrift stores for furniture opens up a world of possibilities when you consider what a little paint will do.  I have a lot of chalk paint challenges in tap for the future, I’ll be sure to share more before and after pictures when I do.  In the meantime, the picture below offers a sneak peek.  See the corner of that desk on the left?  I have big plans in store for that, so stay tuned…


Printable Fall Soup Recipes

Written by
Nov 12, 2012 | Printable Recipes, Topics |

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything here.  I started homeschooling my five boys this year and so it may not surprise many of you that blogging has gone by the wayside.  My business remains active, thanks to the help of my long time side kick and talented  friend, Becky (I really need to come up with a better title for her than that, she deserves much better).  I won’t speak on behalf of my sister, but I do know that her master’s degree classes and three-year-old daughter are really keeping her on her toes these days.

If there’s still anyone out there in the Tidy Tangle audience, then you are faithful friends, and to thank you I’m going to throw a couple fall soup recipes your way now.  I already shared the Creamy Tomato Soup recipe in the past, but just realized that I didn’t  offer it in a printable format for you.  I  try to offer my recipes as printable when I can, because we want you to have something with which to fill your rbt bags’ mini binder/recipe books!

These soup recipes are sure to warm you up this winter.  They’ve become great stand-bys in our house.  Both recipes are combinations of various ones that I’ve tried over the years; after a lot of trials, taste tests, and changes, I wrote these versions down and made them official.  The creamy chicken and wild rice is very versatile–you can substitute ham for the chicken and it’s a great way to use up ham or chicken leftovers.  You can also omit the cream from both recipes for a healthier option.

Just click on the link below the picture to view and print the recipes.  Each recipe also includes directions for making in a slow cooker.  I hope you enjoy!

Creamy Chicken (or Ham) and Wild Rice Soup

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup


Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes

Before I head out on a camping trip with the boys, and while I try to get myself psyched up about sharing a tent with five boys for two nights, I thought I’d divert my attention from packing for a few minutes and leave a quick post with some homemade salad dressing recipes that we love in our house.  I’ve included a printable version of the recipes at the bottom.

Homemade salad dressings in old coffee creamer containers

I’ve tried a number of different salad dressing recipes and narrowed it down to three that I’ve found to be worth the effort of making and notably tastier than their store-bought counterparts.  I’m not going to claim that any of these are healthy.  As a matter of fact, a couple of these are loaded with sugar, which I’ve actually reduced slightly from their original recipe.  But, they are good!

I’ve tried lots of different containers for serving homemade salad dressings and have had mixed results.  Then we discovered the usefulness of an empty plastic coffee creamer container–reduce, reuse, repurpose!  A friend of mine, and self-defined coffee addict, hooked us up with a few of the coffee creamer containers she’d held on to (thank you, Sandra!) and we now use them for our homemade dressings.

My caesar salad dressing was recently voted “best salad dressing” by A.T. and the boys, that was quite an honor, I must say.  Because it’s a favorite, it gets eaten the fastest, so I actually double the recipe when I make it.

Caesar Dressing

  • ¼ c lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ c oil
  • ¼ c grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1 tsp mince garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
Next is cream poppy seed dressing.  This recipe originally called for 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds, but we felt like we were picking seeds out of our teeth for  hours when we used that much, so I just use 1 tablespoon now.  If you really like your poppy seeds, and don’t mind the risk of failing a drug test (this article will teach you about the risks of eating poppy seeds in the event of a random drug screening at your work place, but I’m kidding, mostly), then you might like to keep it at 2 tablespoons.

Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

  •  1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup white whine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 T poppy seeds

I saved the best for last–Whatever Vinaigrette.  I adapted this from a balsamic vinaigrette recipe given me by my sister-in–law years ago.  It originally called for balsamic vinegar, but over the years have discovered that you can use nearly any type of vinegar and end up with an amazing salad dressing, so I affectionately named it Whatever Vinaigrette.  I make this every time we have company, and just use whatever flavored vinegar I have in the kitchen at the time, and always get asked for the recipe–it’s that good!  (It tastes especially good on romaine lettuce with shredded mozzarella cheese and toasted pecans.)

Whatever Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • ½ c sugar
  • ½ c red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white balsamic raspberry blush vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp white or black pepper

I could lie and say that I make our ranch dressing from scratch too, but Hidden Valley does it so well already, I decided not to reinvent the wheel.  So, I buy their ranch powder from Sam’s instead and mix it with mayo and milk according to the directions on the package.  But, if you’d like a made-from-scratch recipes, Smells Like Home offers one here.

I’m still looking for a good honey mustard dressing recipe, so if you have one, please share! And, of course, below are the printable recipes I’ve included to fit in my oilcloth mini binders.  Enjoy!

printable salad dressing recipes


Natural Flavoring for Snow Cones and other fun things to do with frozen juice concentrate

We love a good snow cone in the heat of summer, but we don’t love all the artificial dyes and flavorings in the versions that you can buy at the store.  So, we came up with our own, natural version of this traditional summertime treat.  The secret ingredient?  Thawed frozen juice concentrate.

Using some squeeze bottles that I found at the craft store, I keep a couple different flavors of thawed, frozen juice concentrate in the door of my fridge.  Using the ice function of my Ninja blender (which turns ice into snow in mere seconds), we blend up our ice and scoop it into some snow cone cups that I found at Walmart in the seasonal isle.  So, when we’re ready for a snow cone, we just pull out our squeezy bottles, pick the flavor of our choice, and squirt it right onto the snow cone.  Voila!  Instant natural snow cones that might even have a few vitamins and nutrients included!




Summer Reading Rewards

Summer Reading Book Basket

Every summer I’m stumped by the task of motivating my kids to read. So this year, I got creative. Since introducing “Tucker Bucks,” our new family currency that can be earned by reading books, I have five very voracious readers in my house. I’m excited to see them reading, but I’m hoping the runners off the starting block lose a little bit of steam here shortly or I might go broke sooner than I thought.

Our new reading reward currency

Every book is assigned a point value depending on the reader and his reading level (i.e. the same book might be worth more points for one of my younger boys than my older ones) and one point=one “tucker buck.”  When they’ve saved up some bucks, they can come shop at my “store”–a basket of goodies I’ve collected from clearance shelves and dollar stores. One tucker buck equals fifty cents in U.S. dollars–a slightly inflated currency, but it helps me keep my costs down a little and makes them have to work a little harder for their reward. Other things they can save their money for are iTunes gift cards and gift certificates to our local used book store (they must earn twenty tucker bucks to get a $10 gift card, of course).

My Store

I’ve already learned to set certain hours for my store, or I’ll be playing the role of store clerk all day. So, the boys have started to ask if my store is open, and when it opens, they very proudly show up with their “wallets” in hand, ready to cash in on their rewards. This is also a great lesson in math (counting money, making change).  Finding play money was a little harder than I thought it would be, so I made a small investment in Melissa and Doug play money from Amazon–it is more real looking, and thus a little better of an educational lesson anyway as they practice spending money that looks like real money.

My upcoming fifth and sixth graders have to fill out brief book summaries for every book to prove they read and retained something from it, and my younger ones have to either read to me, their dad, or one of their older brothers, or I ask them questions about the book, before they get their tucker bucks. I also created baskets for each boy with specific books that I want them to read each month of the summer–there is plenty of room for them to pick their own books as well, that just helps me be sure they are reading some challenging books.

My sixth grader's book basket

If it gets to the point where I feel like I have to refinance my house to keep up with the costs of this program, we can start to sell gift certificates for quality time with mom and dad too, like bike rides, fishing or games. There are many ways to get creative with it, we will just try to roll with it.

I always love to hear about other people’s reading incentives, so do share if you can!


Chocolate Chip Strawberry Muffins

I found a recipe for Chocolate Chip Strawberry Bread on Pinterest and was immediately intrigued.  I liked the idea of combining chocolate and strawberries, and banana bread had grown a little tiresome for me lately, so this seemed like a fun, new twist.  I adapted the recipe to be slightly healthier by substituting coconut oil for the vegetable oil and raw honey for the sugar.  I prefer to make muffins rather than bread as they cook faster, stay moister, and are easier and less messy to serve to kids than slices of bread.

I will not claim that these muffins are low fat, but if you wanted a lower fat version, I would substitute apple sauce for the coconut oil–I’ve had great results with that with my banana bread, just have found that it’s not as moist.  But, if you’re looking for an indulgent treat that has healthy fatty acids and is naturally sweet, this recipe with the coconut oil (can be found at Walmart with the vegetable shortening and cooking oils) and raw honey is for you.

If you take out the chocolate chips and strawberries, this could be a great base recipe for any kind of muffins.  You could make your own variation by substituting bananas, blueberries, nuts, raisins, apples, oatmeal and any other number of things–just have fun with it.

**A fun little tip that I’ve discovered for pouring batter into muffin tins without the mess is to spray a 1/4 cup measuring cup with nonstick spray and then use it to scoop the batter and pour into the muffin tins.  1/4 cup is just about the perfect amount for each muffin and with the nonstick spray, the batter just slides right out of the measuring cup.**

Here is my recipe, adapted from the original at Dash of East.  I’ve also included a printable version below for my oilcloth mini binders.  Enjoy! 

Chocolate Chip Strawberry Muffins

(Adapted from dashofeast.com Chocolate Chip Strawberry Bread)


  • 1 1⁄2 cup half whole wheat/half white flour
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking soda
  • 1⁄2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1⁄2 cup raw honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1⁄2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1cup strawberries, diced


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tin. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. In separate bowl beat eggs, then add oil, honey and strawberries and mix well. Add wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into muffin tins filling each approximately 2/3 full. Bakes for 15-18 min. till brown on top and a knife inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Chip Strawberry Muffins


Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese

Photo courtesy of macaroniandcheesecake.com

Good ole fashioned boxed mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, but in recent years I discovered that the made-from-scratch version is not only tastier, but dare I say, easier, to make than the boxed.  Okay, maybe not easier, but its definitely not harder, I promise.  With just three ingredients–milk, shredded cheese and noodles–you’ve got a wholesome, hearty meal in minutes flat.  Just keep a bag of shredded cheddar cheese in the fridge and plenty of dry noodles in the cabinet (I use whatever I have on hand, penne, elbow noodles, pasta shells or sometimes egg noodles), and a batch of hot, homemade, creamy mac and cheese is always just fifteen minutes away.  Of course we still keep a few boxes of the instant stuff around for emergency situations, but the “real cheese” version, as we call it in our family, is always a crowd-pleaser.

But, with the help of this pinteresting find, homemade mac and cheese just got even easier.  The secret twist?  Boil the noodles in the milk!  No need to strain the noodles.  The milk makes a nice warm, creamy base so that the shredded cheese instantly melts when added to the noodles.  We  just whipped up a batch of it for dinner and were not disappointed.  The added surprise of a little dijon mustard in this recipe is the icing on top.  I even made it with whole grain noodles and my kids didn’t even notice.

Below is the recipe, but be sure to head over the Macaroni and Cheesecake for the original post.  I’ve adapted it a little according to my experience with it.  I found that it didn’t take a full twenty minutes for the noodles to cook, and I didn’t let it sit for five minutes before serving–whoever suggested that didn’t have five “starving” boys breathing down their necks ready to eat! (:  Also, I borrowed their photography (been feeling a little lazy lately about pulling out my camera), so all credit for the beautiful picture above goes to my original source.  Enjoy!

Revolutionary Mac & Cheese
Adapted from: Macaroni and Cheesecake

2 cups dried pasta
2 cups milk
1 cup loosely packed shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dijon mustard


In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk.  Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until the pasta is tender, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.

Turn heat off, add cheese, salt and mustard and stir to combine.

Printable Version for your oilcloth mini binder below:


Cup ‘o the day coasters

This was not originally my idea.  It was “pinspired” by a pin I saw a while back, where somebody let their kids decorate their own tile, which they then turned into coasters.  They kept the coasters on the counter and each family member had to keep their cup of the day stored on their coaster.  The idea is that it helps to keep track of everyone’s cup, and reduces the amount of cups that are brought out everyday.  I know in our house, it seems like there are at least fifteen cups littering our kitchen by the end of every day–it’s a constant frustration for A.T. and me.

Enter the photo coasters that Laura gave me for my birthday.  (Check out her post on how to make your own.)  I lined them each up on our kitchen counter, and now the boys will have to keep their “cup ‘o the day” on their coaster.  We will see how it works, but I thought I’d pass along the idea in the meantime.  Laura had some other great ideas for these coasters on her post, check them out!


Blank Printable Recipe Dividers

I just had a customer request blank tabs for creating a recipe book with her mini binder, and thought that was a great idea.  So, I’m including them here for you  also so you can print and write in your own recipe headings.  These could also work great for organizing craft ideas, family planners, lesson plans, or whatever else you might want dividers for, since you can decide what to put in these tabs.  Just open these up, print them onto regular card stock paper, cut them out,  insert into mini page protectors and stick them in our oilcloth mini binders, or any half sheet binders.  My labeled dividers (pictured below) are available here.  Hope they are useful to you!

green blank tab

red blank tab

peach blank tab

blue blank tab

gray blank tab

purple blank tab

Our printable dividers that are not blank


Easy Peasy Homemade Ice Cream

It’s been fairly quiet around Tidy Tangle lately.  Since my last post on making skirts from old t-shirts using a sewing method called shirring, I’ve contracted shirring fever.  Yes, I’m in my sewing room these days shirring up anything I can get my hands on.  I love to shirr!

But, it seems cruel to wait till I recover from shirring fever to share with you this fun, pinteresting find–homemade ice cream that doesn’t require rock salt, an ice cream maker, or hand churning.  Yes, it’s true!  And, it works!  I was as skeptical about this recipe as I was about converting a t-shirt to a skirt, but the boys and I tried it and loved it!

With only two basic ingredients, whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk, and whatever add-ins you want, you can now have your homemade ice cream and eat it too.  I didn’t get any pictures of our first batch of ice cream, even if I tried, I couldn’t take pictures as beautiful as the ones at Kevin and Amanda’s website.  So, I borrowed their pictures to get your taste buds revved up and ready to try this recipe yourself.

Here’s the recipe (I renamed it, btw, this name seems more fitting!):

Easy Peasy Homemade Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • whatever add-ins you want (we did 1 cup of crushed mint oreo cookies)
Whip the whipping cream on high until stiff peeks form.  In a separate bowl, mix the condensed milk with your add-ins.  Fold the whipping cream into the condensed milk mixture and stir till combined.  Then, put in the freezer for at least six hours and it’s ready to serve!

We used a container just like this one, it was the perfect size

This is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make, I promise, at least try it once!  And, include your kids on the process, they’ll love it.  My boys are already thinking of different flavors they want to try next.  The hardest part is waiting the six hours for it to freeze.  I caught my boys peeking in the freezer many times, checking on it’s progress.  I had to convince them the more they opened the freezer, the longer it would take to freeze–that seemed to work.

For many different flavor ideas, visit Kevin and Amanda’s post.  Some of the suggestions they offer are Cinnamon Bun, Nutella, Krispy Kreme Doughnut, and Hazelnut Mocha Fudge Swirl!  And, their recipes are all printable–woo hoo!  I will say, they are highly promoting the Eagle Brand condensed milk on their site, but we used generic brand with no difference in results.  So, feel free to use whatever brand you want, I conclude.

Be sure to let us know if you make some, and share your flavor varieties with us!

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