8.25.2015

An Honest Review of Homemade Chalk Paint

Homemade chalk paint sounded really easy, so I took a crack at it, and had an epic fail. I detailed my first go-around here. There were white chalky spots everywhere on this table. DIY chalk paint needs to be stirred A LOT.

Recipe for Homemade Chalk Paint:
1 cup paint
1/2 cup Calcium Carbonate


So I tried again. And I love it. This time I stirred for about 1-2 minutes and mixed it in a plastic cup instead of directly in the paint tray. This is what I started out with:




The beach picture frame started out 90's horrific and now it's chalky fabulous. I even painted the mat with it. The flat paint looks so good with just a few passes of the brush. Oh, and that "You make me happy" sign was my creation that you can read about here.

I am so happy that it worked out this time! It just took a lot of stirring. Good to know.

Paint all the things,

Crystal

8.24.2015

20 Freezer Meals in 4 Hours: Part 1


Since my hubby and I both work for a school, August and September tend to be more about survival than anything, especially now that both of our kids are in school. Freezer meals seem like it's something super organized, planning ahead types would do. But I went ahead and stuck it out, and recruited hubby to help. He was totally on board with less dishes, easy meals, and surviving the back to school season.

I used Mixing with Michelle's THM (Trim Healthy Mama) freezer recipes. She makes it so easy with a shopping list, prep list, and links to all the recipes. These recipes are LOADED with veggies and seasonings, spices, and herbs. Everything seemed very do-able for the average Joe. (That's me.)

First stop was Sam's Club, and let me just say, it was very hard for me to swipe that card. The total was way more than I usually buy at once. I decided to buy half the ingredients, then decided against it, telling myself, "If you're doing this, do it all at once." Best advice. I couldn't get very many of the veggies at Sam's and was very disappointed by the quality of bell peppers.


Next stop was Publix for the remaining seasonings and veggies I couldn't find at Sam's. I love Publix, but as frugal as I am, I only shop the sales and staples there. Meat and some dairy comes from Sam's.

Pros:
No excuses that you don't know what to make for dinner.
Eating whole foods, no processed, unpronounceable ingredients.
Save money with simple dinners.
Takes the stress out of planning ahead.
Save time with only one prep session.
Keeps things interesting, making food we normally wouldn't have

Cons:
Prepping that many ingredients at once was slightly overwhelming.
My kitchen was a disaster.
So much chopping! It was a lot of work.

Note: Many of the directions say to thaw and cook 4-6 hours. I put it in the crock completely frozen and cooked 8-9 hours since I work full time. They all turned out fine.



Here is a review of what we have eaten so far (link to all recipes above):

No Potato Beef Stew: A+ It was very good! One child eats most anything and one is extremely picky. They both ate the turnips thinking they were potatoes. They never even noticed. I didn't tell them later either. Muwahahaha.

Jambalaya: Very good, just wait to add the shrimp until the last 15 minutes. I read that tip in the comments and was skeptical. I added it and waited an hour, then it was a little rubbery. The soup is so hot that it cooks quickly. The kids didn't eat it. They picked out the chicken.

Easy Slow Cooker Moroccan Beef: Not a fan, but I think it just calls for waaaaay too much seasoning. It called for 2-4 TBS organic garam masala spices and I put in 4 because it smelled so good. I actually want to make this again just to try it with half the seasoning. The kids didn't eat it.

BBQ Chicken: Very, very good. I'm usually not a fan of sweet potatoes, but I really liked it. This was the only one where I just couldn't eat the leftovers. (We usually follow the "cook once, eat twice" method to save money, but didn't happen this time.) It made a huge amount, too. The kids liked it.

Pork and Veggies: Very good, pretty basic. Needs an exciting side, but I would probably make it again. The kids liked it.

Sausage and Bean Supper-pretty good. The kids were picky and didn't really eat it.


Placing a freezer bag into a large bowl, then scooping the ingredients into it helped the process go so much quicker. We chopped everything and then assembled. Be sure to follow recipes and measure, or you might get to the last recipe and not have enough veggies! I eye-ball recipes to a fault--no patience here!

Overall, it was a great experience with a learning curve. I can't wait to try the next batch of recipes. It feels good to know we are totally prepared for the busy season or if someone gets sick.

Happy cooking!

Crystal









8.20.2015

Thrift Store Score: Beautiful Chair Saga

My first huge project happened when four beautiful chairs happened to be hanging out in the thrift store. They were like a magnet, drawing me deeper into the back of the store. Look at that curved back!


They are so fantastically unique that I needed them in my life. I posted the pic in Instagram (@clearcutcrystaldesigns) and everyone said, "Yes!" So I bought them.

If I have learned one thing on this DIY journey, it's that you need the right tools for the job. DO your research, watch the tutorials, and buy the right tools. Don't skimp on this.

As you can tell, the chairs needed to be stripped, sanded, and restained. I watched several different tutorials on YouTube and started by using citistrip stripping gel. It's a green product and doesn't smell all that bad.

The seats were disgusting. They actually fit into the seat. There is a huge notch that made recovering them...fun.

I will say that stripping furniture is extremely satisfying. It feels good to take something neglected or worn down and bring it back to its former glory, or to make something beautiful that was once so ugly. So, yeah.

I used Minwax Polyshades Bombay Mahogany Gloss and have since learned that it stinks. There is a reason that stain and poly sealer should be kept separate. The poly sealer dries really fast, but the stain needs to be wiped on and then wiped off. You do get streaking if you don't work in looooong strokes and work fast. It took a little bit for me to get the hang of it.

They are still beautiful.


 I wrapped the seats like a present, cutting where needed to fit those wretched notches. They are so unique and the consensus seems to be they are from the 60's or very early 70's.

Let me know in the comments what you think. Have you ever recovered something before? I'm really intimidated by the whole process. 

8.18.2015

Gorgeous Tablescapes on the Cheap


Before I photographed my newly painted table, I was coming up short on tablescape ideas. As a relative newcomer to the blogging world, I've been studying the movers and shakers. Many of them seem to have one thing in common. They don't have 3 pillows on their couch, they have 10. They don't just have plates and chargers, they have lots of extra stuff. It's the icing on the cake. So think of a tablescape as the icing. A lovely layered cake with lots of icing.

I'm newly debt-free and now I'm in the icing stage of life. (Does anyone else really want cake now?? Sorry in advance...)

Here's how I created a beautiful tablescape on the cheap:

glass mason jars (I save pickle and pasta sauce jars too)
flowers cut from outside
pine cones from outside (baked as well)
an orange cut into slices (baked at 200* for 3 hours)
bamboo cutting board, bakery bread, olive oil, and seasonings
blue hydrangeas from Publix $3.99 (a grocery store here in the south)
woven chargers from IKEA (very affordable)
"butcher block" bowl from IKEA, fresh fruit (could use lemons or limes)
burlap table runner (I cut mine from an old coffee bean sack, fun project in the works!)

Once you look at my list of sources, you can tell I didn't spend much. My kind of price. My favorite part? Baking orange slices into decor! Easy and it smells good! Win, win.

Here is my Florida Fall table:


I switched out the summery flowers for greenery and the bird has been replaced with pumpkins. I layered one of my fave fall necklaces around the pumpkins for something unexpected and interesting.


As you can see, it doesn't take much and you don't need expensive decor to make an impact. One of my favorite things to do is shop my home, you can read more about that here and here and here. When I move items around, it keeps things interesting and will keep me from "needing" more decorations when I have everything I need right here...at least most of the time.

Happy decorating,

Crystal

8.17.2015

Painting the Dining Table: A Survivor's Story

A honest review of homemade chalk paint.

I'm the kind of gal that can walk through a store and talk myself out of every purchase. It's not a gift, let me tell you. I'll see a fabulous home decor something and think, "I could totally make that..." and then my mind starts racing through all the possibilities.

Usually all home decorating boils down to one of two ideals: TIME vs. MONEY. If you don't have the time, you tend to spend more money--and vice-versa.

So, naturally, when I saw a recipe for homemade chalk paint, I had to jump on that train. Enter the girl who is so very thrifty (<-------me). I ordered this exact bottle of calcium carbonate and bought paint. I was. so. excited. I followed this tutorial for homemade chalk paint and this tutorial for refinishing a dining room table. I learned a so many practical, helpful tips about furniture, refinishing, and what not to do.

Here is what my dining room table looked like before:

See all those grooves? That's where all the food gets mashed, smeared, and, wiped. Don't ever purchase a table with deep grooves.

First thing I did was scrub down the table with Dawn and a little vinegar. There is no going back from this because the vinegar ruins the table's finish. Next, I used wood filler to fill in the grooves. Normally you would fill it in, let it dry, sand a little, then fill again. I liked how it looked with slight grooves, so I skipped the last couple steps. The tutorial for refinishing said to sand like you've never sanded before. Dining tables typically have many coats of sealer on them and the paint will not hold up over time unless you do this. Do not skip this step.

The wood along the grooves was swollen from the numerous spills that we clean up around here. I sanded and sanded, but it was still a little raised in some sections.

Here is the finished table! You can see the slight grooves and that's exactly how I saw it in the my head.


At this point, I realized I did not stir the paint and the calcium carbonate enough. It needs to be thoroughly mixed together. Lesson learned. I thought I could maybe spot paint it to fix the white spots, but I wanted it done right. I LOVED the blue, but my living room is poorly lit. The next realization is that I wanted a white table. Ugh.

Shout out to hydrangeas for holding up to my black thumb. Longest lasting flower award.

I seriously loved the colors. But with the table not sealed, it was glaringly obvious when a cup had been set down. The rings were everywhere and it showed every speck. It needed sealed.

So I painted her. (Why are my furniture babies all "she"?) I cannot say enough good things about Behr Premium Plus Ultra in Antique Linen, eggshell. The more shine, the more durable the paint. The dining table is the workhorse of the house and needs to be sealed well. The white paint covered in 2 coats, but I did 3 for durability.


I added "grain sack" stripes to the side of the table just for fun. Because everything I do, I love to make it complicated. Or something. I'm sure there's some therapy I need. YOLO.


Here is something similar I saw in a thrift store.


I'm seeing the vintage grain sack fabrics everywhere right now. So I took a risk. I kind of like it, AND if I get tired of it, I'll just paint it!



Paint all the things,
Crystal

P.S. It's still August. Stop it with all the fall stuff on Pinterest.

P.P.S. Fall is my favorite season. But, c'mon.

8.11.2015

Vintage Nautical Sewing Table Update

When I originally posted about this sewing table, I couldn't find the original pic that I took. Well, I finally found it! I could see the potential in the lines of the table and the legs make me think mid-century. Just my kind of furniture!


The table wasn't in the best of shape. There was a lot of damage on the top, although, I had sanded the top at this point. Thankfully I remembered to snap a pic!

I sanded, painted, and distressed. Then in this post I detailed how I made a fantastic compass rose from the graphics fairy. I could seriously get lost on that site! So much inspiration on one space. I had originally planned to flip this piece, but I dragged it inside and styled the table. You guys! Seriously, I loved it so much I decided to keep it. I actually need a sewing table, but it looks so good in my living room!

Click here to see the tutorial for the sunburst mirror. 

Here she is. Is it always this hard to get rid of your furniture babies??!!

Paint all the things,

Crystal

I'm linking this up to Remodelaholic's linky party.

8.10.2015

Follow Me for Behind the Scenes Project Updates

For behind the scenes pictures of what I'm doing on a daily basis, follow me on Instagram. You'll see what projects I'm currently working on in real time. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Instagram @clearcutcrystal

Facebook Clear Cut Crystal










Twitter ClearCutCrysta1

Pinterest Clear Cut Crystal Designs

You'll see me post a pic and ask the Instagram community if I should buy these chairs. Everyone said, "YES!!" And so I did.

Or you'll see me paint a sign and frantically ask for help when my stencil slips and allows the paint to run. Someone suggested a Magic Eraser and it actually worked. Crazy.

I always respond, so leave me a comment! Thanks!

Visit Clear Cut Crystal Designs's profile on Pinterest.

8.04.2015

HUGE Art with HUGE Impact


After seeing a tutorial on printing HUGE prints, I was so inspired to find something for my living room. I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I can offer a few tips.

Don't accidentally use an Instagram photo because it's smaller. The pic needs to be as big as possible. The pic on the right holds special meaning to me and I didn't realize until later that that must have been the issue. It's a little pixelated but looks fantastic from a distance.

I wanted to use pics that had memories attached, not staged photo in front of a white board--which would have made editing so much easier. It took quite awhile to get the pics cleaned up.

I used Pic Monkey to edit, and while tedious, turned out to be really quite easy. What a cutie!! I adjusted the lighting, applied the black and white filter (there are several to choose from), and cleaned up the background. He looks like an English gentleman.

I would have used Staples to print, but they have been closing all around me, so I used FedEx Office, formerly Kinko's. The woman who helped me knew immediately what I needed when I asked for an engineer print, which I was totally nervous about. She tried to warn me that the resolution was not high enough. When it printed she was so surprised that it turned out OK. I'm thrilled with the results.

A couple tips: an iPhone 5 does not have high enough resolution. There is no way to increase resolution, but there are ways to make it better.
1. Resize the file to the size you need it.
2. Play with lighting and the black and white filter.
3. Use the best camera you have access to, not an iPhone 5, and not an Instagram pic.

I would definitely do this project again--but I'll use my nice camera next time.

Happy decorating,

Crystal