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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

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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


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!


Salsa and Shirt Skirts

Boys #4 and 5 and I just finished reproducing the Easy Blender Salsa recipe to make a gallon of salsa–yes, you heard me right, a gallon.  Making the small batches that this recipe is for only lasted one day, so when I saw this 6 1/2 gallon can of diced tomatoes and Sam’s, and realized that it was half the price per ounce as the normal 14 1/2 oz can, I decided we were going to go all out this time and make enough salsa to last a week (or two??).  And, adjusting the recipe to be larger made a great math lesson for the boys!

Last night, with the help of this tutorial that I found on Pinterest (where else?), I turned this $2 goodwill t-shirt:

Into this skirt:


I know, that’s what I thought at first.  This was “sew” easy (pun intended) and so fun!  In fact, I had never shirred before last night, but I made three of these skirts before I went to bed–it was that simple!

Check out her tutorial, raid your husband’s closet for the t-shirts he hasn’t worn since college, and get started on one of your own!


Mother’s Day Gift – Photo Coasters

Side view of the coaster

Felt pads on bottom

Set of five coasters

I gave my sister and mother these fabulous photo coasters for their birthdays last month and my sister jokingly said “you should write a guest post on Tidy Tangle about how to make them”.   So here I am “guest” posting. I might add that I have been studying my little heart out and working hard with my web development business and spending one more minute at the computer to blog is less than appealing so I apologize for my silence, but it’s been a necessary evil to keep my sanity. Part of the battle of learning to juggle it all is dropping a ball from time to time so you don’t drop all of them and run for shelter!  But thanks to my sister for keeping the dream alive and providing some wonderful posts! (more…)


Easy Blender Salsa

I received the Ninja Kitchen System 1200 for my birthday.  The boys and I pulled it out of the box today and for it’s first test run we whipped up a batch of this salsa recipe I found on Pinterest.  If you’ve been around this blog long, you know that my family doesn’t just eat salsa, we inhale it.  It just so happened that A.T. came home for lunch today, so this one batch was gone in less time than it took to make it.  We didn’t have the ambition to do our salsa garden this year, so I was excited to find this recipe calling for canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones.

Going from my $15 12-year-old Oster blender to the Ninja 1200 was quite the contrast.  The boys and I all crowded around as I pressed the start button for the first time, and when we heard that purring sound as its blades cut through onions, diced tomatoes and garlic like a hot knife through butter, an applause broke out.  Perhaps the boys are mostly just excited to know that they won’t have to listen to their mom cursing the blender under her breath as she beats it against the counter and splatters food all over the cabinets anymore.  Or maybe they’re excited that they won’t find shards of wood and plastic accidentally incorporated in their smoothies when she tried to shove all the frozen fruit down into the blade with wooden spoons and plastic spatulas.  Mostly, they’re probably just happy to see their mom happy–they’re sweet boys like that.

The flagship salsa batch was such a hit that my 10-year-old actually thanked God for the opportunity to make it while blessing the food at dinner tonight.  Then, when A.T. went around the table at dinner asking everybody’s high-low for the day, several people mentioned the homemade salsa as their high.  Did I mention we like salsa in our family?  We definitely like this salsa.

Other things I whipped up in the Ninja 1200 today?  Two batches of salad dressing, one batch of chocolate-banana smoothie, one batch of fudge popsicles, and another batch of salsa for lunch tomorrow.  Hopefully those other recipes will come in another post.  I still haven’t done a frozen fruit smoothie in the Ninja 1200, so I can’t attest to its smoothie skills yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.

For today, I’m including the salsa recipe, courtesy of Mountain Mama Cooks (pretty fitting name, since I’m a mountain mama myself) and adding a printable recipe for my mini binders.  FYI: I omitted the Rotel, used a teaspoon of jarred garlic instead of fresh, substituted basil and parsley from my herb pot for the cilantro, use hot chili sauce in place of a jalapeno, used curry powder instead of cumin, and used the juice of a lemon instead of a lime.  So, in other words, I used this recipe more as a guideline, but it was just because I didn’t have all these ingredients in my kitchen.  But, now you know just how flexible this salsa can be and still taste good!  Enjoy!

Easy Blender Salsa


  • 1- 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1- 10 oz can orginal Rotel
  • 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno, seeded or not (depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • small to medium size handful of cilantro, washed
  • juice of 1 lime


Put all the ingredients in the base of a food processor or good blender and pulse to combine for 30 seconds or so until all the ingredients are finely chopped and salsa is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with chips or over tacos.

easy blender salsa printable

Check out this link for my printable recipe dividers that will work in any half sheet binders, including my mini binders.


Homemade Chocolate Pudding

It’s been such a busy week that I nearly forgot to share this recipe with you.  I’ve never embarked on making pudding from scratch before because I always thought that it required using raw eggs.  But, I stumbled upon this recipe last week and was intrigued because it didn’t use eggs.  The real name of the recipe is  Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding–I decided cornstarch isn’t an ingredient you want to highlight in a recipe, so I’m changing the name to Homemade Chocolate Pudding instead, it sounds much yummier.  The best part about homemade pudding to me is that it’s another way to cut packaged food out of our kitchen.  Once you try this recipe, I promise you’ll never want the instant stuff in your house again.

This takes about ten minutes to make and most likely, you have all the ingredients you need in your kitchen.  We chose to chill it before serving–it was a huge hit in our family.  Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe and enjoy!

Homemade Chocolate Pudding (from allrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 Tbs margarine or butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in margarine and vanilla. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.

Printable version:

homemade chocolate pudding


Whole Wheat Bread Recipes adapted for bread machines

We are taking baby steps over here to cut processed foods and preservatives from our vocabulary.  We haven’t started a chicken farm yet, and don’t own any goats or cows, but I’m trying to identify simple things that I can do to reduce our dependence on grocery store supply chains and  ingredients in our foods that I can’t pronounce.

Along those lines, I’ve found 100 Days of Real Food to be an inspiring website.  I’m not feeling as ambitious as her yet, but have appreciated some of her tips and recipes to taking the small steps towards processed-free foods.  One take-away I got from her was the idea of returning to the good old-fashioned bread machine.  I think when bread machines first came out, people appreciated them for the creative freedom they offered to experiment with yummy, homemade bread without all the sweat equity that traditionally went into it.  Recently we’ve also started to recognize the health benefits.  With only five minutes of preparation, you end up with complete control over the ingredients going into your bread.  I mean, I can pronounce the words flour, yeast, salt and water.  So, when my boys bite into a piece of bread with only those ingredients in it, I can feel good about what’s going into their bodies.



Making Mini Recipe Books

Now that I’ve been using my oilcloth mini binders for a while, I had some updates I wanted to share with you–also, I created some new recipe tab dividers that are now available to my Etsy customers.  For those of you just joining us, these binders are a unique, spill proof way to store  recipe collections. We will show you here some ways to use them for your recipe books. Please note, the following suggestions all include the use of mini sheet protectors–if you purchase one of our mini binders, you will receive six free sheet protectors with your order.



Slow Cooker Applesauce

I have so many Pinteresting finds to share lately, I don’t know where to start!

So, today’s pinteresting find is crock pot applesauce–or, I guess technically it should be “slow cooker applesauce,” because not all of us are using name brand Crock Pots.  All credit goes to All Things Mama for this recipe.  The only thing I did differently than her was to pull out my submersion blender (best $20 I spent at Walmart EVER) and blend it till their were no chunks–though I like a good, chunky applesauce, I was afraid my boys wouldn’t.  Maybe I’ll get more brave in the future and leave a few chunks here and there.

apples in the slow cooker

The boys devoured it when I made it for dinner last week.  I managed to salvage enough of it for A.T. and I to have a couple spoonfuls, but that’s par for the course around here–A.T. and I scrape plates to get our share of the food.  Yes, I added the sugar, but in the future I may slowly wean us off the sugar and see if my boys still like it.

I’ve included a printable recipe below, as usual, made to fit in my oilcloth mini binders.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to leave a comment if you print out any of my printable recipes, we love to hear from you!

slow cooker apple sauce

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