Saturday, 25 February 2012

DIY Chalkboard Craft (guest post by author & illustrator Hannah Holt

Author/illustrator Hannah Holt is favoring us today with a crafty post. She blogs about healthy kid's snacks and crafts over at her Lightbulb Books blog.

DIY Oval Chalkboard

Create your own oval chalkboard for under $10.

Hannah Holt Picture 1

What you'll need:

a 12” by 9” wooden board (sanded, about $4)
black acrylic or wood paint (to prime, $2)
chalkboard spray paint ($2)
a sheet of paper torn from an old over-sized book (free)
½ inch rickrack ($1)
white glue sponge brush
a plastic card a paper towel
this oval pattern (Click "download file" on bottom right.)

Step 1) Prime the wood by painting the entire surface black. Use the sponge brush to create a smooth finish. Let the paint dry.

Step 2) Spray a thin coat of chalkboard paint onto the wood. Let this coat dry and then spray at least one more coat. I recommend 3-4 thin coats. Let dry for 24 hours.

Step 3) Cut your over-sized sheet of paper to fit the board. Then download and print the oval pattern provided here and use this pattern to cut an oval out of the middle of your paper. Be sure to center the oval before you cut. Sadly the pattern is not perfectly centered within the page. My pdf writer was giving me grief today.

Hannah holt Picture 2

Step 4) Using chalk and the cut out sheet of paper, trace an oval on the center of your wooden board.

Step 5) Mix white glue with water in a 1:1 ratio. You'll need about 2 Tbl of white glue and 2 Tbl of water for this project. Paint around the outside of the circle with the diluted glue.

Hannah Holt Picture 3

Step 6) Place the paper with the oval cutout over the glue and smooth with the side of the plastic card. You'll want to remove ALL the bubbles.

Hannah Holt Picture 4

Step 7) Paint diluted glue over the top of the paper. Dab off excess glue with a paper towel.

Hannah holt Picture 5

Step 8) Put a stripe of undiluted glue around the interior of the oval, and press the rickrack into the glue. Let the glue dry overnight, and you're all done!

Hannah Holt

Along with being an illustrator, a writer, a blogger and a crafter, Hannah is also a mother to four.

Friday, 17 February 2012

DIY holidays for the whole family (guest post)

Today's guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email at It may seem a bit early for a post about DIY and budgeting for the holiday season, but the earlier in the year you plan and budget, the easier it will be to prepare for all your family's needs.

There’s no hiding that the holiday season comes as a stressful time for most people; big families can have an especially tough time managing the season with so many kids to consider. Whether it’s October or February, people jump from one holiday to the next with a zealous enthusiasm to decorate their houses and buy seasonal ornaments. And the procession of holidays is year-long: Christmas, birthdays, even the Fourth of July bring about high spirits in the family.        
Unfortunately, this season also marks a time of high spending for families who often stretch their budgets thin in order to keep pace with the expectations of each holiday tradition. Given the current rocky economic climate, it’s more important than ever that families safeguard themselves from further monetary peril by spending wisely during holidays. Consider some of these tips the next you’re your family participates in holiday festivities, whatever they may be.  
Budget appropriately       
First of all, you need to draft a realistic budget for the holiday. Some people try designing one comprehensive budget around all the holidays where they expect to spend the most money on their family. I advise allocating funds more towards the end of the year, as you’ll likely spend more money on gifts for holidays (Christmas or Hanukah, for example) than you would for decorations and food on Halloween or Memorial Day. You can set a realistic budget by assessing how many people are likely to be involved in your spending. For example, do you plan on spending the same amount of money celebrating the birthday of your two year old as you would for your seventeen year old? Probably not. Will you be buying gifts for people outside your family? Take them into account. Will you be hosting a large family dinner? Estimate the cost of cooking for many more that month. If you budget proactively then you won’t have reason to overspend!    
Recycle old items   
This rule of thumb primarily applies to the holiday decorations for your home. One of the great things about the holidays is that their themes don’t really change from year to year. Your decorations (unless they’re tattered vintage items from decades ago) will likely fit the bill for this holiday season just as well as they did last year. You can save a ton of money by forgoing the expense on newer and flashier decorations and save for items more deserving of your hard earned money. You can also recycle old costumes and holiday themed clothing from previous years rather than splurging on pieces that only have relevance for a single day.  
Do it yourself
If you’re really dissatisfied with your holiday inventory, try constructing new things on your own. A trip to your local arts and crafts store could cost you significantly less on decorations, trinkets, and baubles that can normally cost a fortune. Why spend tons of money to create the atmosphere for a holiday that will only last a few weeks? If you’re in a tight financial situation, some DIY holiday creations may be just the thing to prevent gratuitous spending this year. If the kids protest, invite them to make decorations of their own. You’ll be met with less resistance if the entire household gets a say in what you create for the house during the holidays.       
Spend only on those closest to you                                     
If you’ve decided to give gifts this year for any of the upcoming holidays, consider limiting your list of recipients. Draft a list of people to whom you want to give gifts, but bear in mind your financial limitations. Don’t be afraid to cross some people off that list. It may sound harsh, but frugality will go a long way to saving your family finances this holiday season. If you do give gifts, keep them modestly priced and practical. In these tough financial situations, no one wants to spend more than they have to; don’t feel pressured to spend extravagantly because it’s likely that others will be just as economical in their gift choices. Above all, keep you and your family’s financial security chief among all your concerns this holiday season.