Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chalkboard wine glasses

This is my first post on a Christmas gift project idea for the year.  I am okay with posting this one because it is for a family member, not a friend.  You see, my family DOESN'T read my blog ;-)

My dad and his wife love hosting parties and they love wine, as does much of my family.  However, they always have the problem of who set their glass where, and am I drinking someone else's wine?  There have been many solutions to this problem, like wine glass charms, different glass styles, and the like, but when you are at a particularly GOOD party, and are half in the bag, its hard to remember if you were blue or green or if yours had that funny flourish thingy on the stem.  One thing you are unlikely to forget is your name, regardless of how drunk you are.  You get that at keggers with those little red cups and a sharpie, but that doesn't translate well to the world of wine.  I needed a real wine glass that was writable, preferably rewritable, and elegant.

So I set about making some glasses with chalkboard paint on them.  I was kind of unconvinced that it would come out well, but I figured with some goodwill glasses and the multi-surface paint I already had, it was worth a shot.  They came out pretty well!

I will say that I don't think the chalkboard paint will last forever, but I can totally scrape it off and reapply.  It wasn't a terribly labor intensive process, so I wouldn't mind spiffing them up every now and again.  I wouldn't recommend washing them in the dishwasher or leaving them to soak, but a gentle hand washing and drying seems like it wouldn't be a problem.

Supplies needed:
all surface or glass Chalkboard paint (I used Martha Stewart paint, available at Michael's)
paint brush
Wine glasses - go to the dollar store or goodwill and save yourself some money!
Xacto knife
contact paper (the kind you use to line shelves)
a nice pretty template (I used 2 for fun, found here and here)

Step 1:
Find your template and print it out.  Cut it out and use the inside piece to trace onto the contact paper as many times as needed for the number of glasses you are making. Make sure to leave enough space between tracings for a good solid border.  You will need at least half an inch (preferably more) around each template to mask off the glass.  Cut them out into individually rectangles.

Step 2:
Carefully cut out the middle of each template using your exacto knife.  Gently peel off the backing and adhere each one to the glasses, trying to keep the top aligned with the upper edge of the glass.  I found that using four fingers one on each corner, and pulling taut was the best way to keep the shape even.

Step 3:
Carefully apply the paint to the glass.  I used a natural bristle brush because it was what I had, but it royally sucked.  I think a synthetic brush would have worked better.  Mine left awful streaks.  Let it dry thoroughly between coats (at least an hour according to the bottle).  I used 4 coats.  I think a good rule of thumb is holding the glass up to the light with the painted part facing away from you.  When you can no longer see light through the painted part, you have sufficient coverage.

Step 4:
After letting the paint dry thoroughly overnight, its time to peel off the contact paper.  BE CAREFUL!  If you have ever painted anything and left the masking tape on, you know that the paint will peel up just as easily as the masking.  First, take your exacto knife and score around the edge of the shape.  Then, use the edge of the blade to gently push away the contact paper from one edge.  Cut out to the edge of the contact paper, and use that point to start peeling up the masking.

Score around the edge,

Pull away one small section and cut the template to the outside edge.

Then peel off carefully.

Step 5:
There will be some small spots where the paint bled under the masking.  Use the exacto blade to scrape off any excess and clean up the edges (sorry for the REALLY bad photo).  Next, rub chalk over the surface of the painted portion (to prime it and make it easier to write on), smooth it out with your finger, and write something clever.  Voila!  You're finished!

Pretty simple, right?  And at a dollar a glass and about $4 for the paint, its a pretty cheap gift, too!  I will stress, be careful about the scoring and peeling part.  I botched one of the glasses, but I figure its not that big a deal since they wont last forever anyway.  But just to make you feel better in case one of yours don't turn out either, here it is :-)

Crap.  Well, lesson learned.  Be careful. :-)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Budget Friendly Living: Use less

Lately I have been a little fed up with the excess we are so used to (and EXPECT) in this country.  But really that is not what this post is about.  I am just taking a second to say that I will be hand making almost all my gifts this year, with a few exceptions that I got second hand over the summer.  I urge you to read my post about charitable gift giving if you haven't.  I know I posted it WAY earlier than people wanted to think about Christmas, but it corresponded with my birthday, so yeah. :-)

ANYWAY on to the meat of this post. My husband told me an interesting anecdote a while ago.  The Tabasco makers were trying to figure out a way to increase revenue by 30%, and all the corporate execs were totally stumped.  No amount of cutbacks, outsourcing, and the like would make that kind of difference.  They had no way to squeeze blood out of this turnip.  So they opened it up to all employees.  And lo and behold, a factory line worker came up with the surprisingly simple solution: make the hole in the bottle 30% larger.  WOW.

Aside from being a cute story (which may or may not be true), it exemplifies my point - businesses are in the business of selling their product.  So when it says "lather, rinse, repeat" it may be less for the health of your hair than the health of their bottom line.


Put simply, the manufacturers of soap, detergent, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, Tabasco, or any consumable good want you to go through their product faster so that you have to buy more.  Often the recommended amounts they give are way more than you actually need.  For example, your laundry detergent says "washes 100 loads" on the bottle.  But when you read the back label, it says that for normal loads you only need to fill the cup 1/3 full.  How many of us don't read it and just assume that 1 cup= 1 load?  Most of us.  Break that down further into what is ACTUALLY needed to get your clothes clean (and not have a ton of soap left in them after the wash cycle to boot) may be even less than the 1/3 cup recommended.  My advice to you today: Experiment.  Try using a little less of everyday things. I am not saying skimp and spread germs or don't get things clean, but do you have to have the water on full blast to rinse your hands?  Or even worse, when you are lathering up?  Do you need a full pump of soap to get all happy and sudsy?  I know I only use about a half pump of liquid soap and it is still plenty, plus I use less water rinsing off all the excess.  I know not everyone can get on board here, but I don't flush the toilet overnight.  It started when I was pregnant and I got up at least 3 times a night to pee and it would wake up my husband when I flushed, so I just washed my hands quietly and snuck back into bed.  And it kind of stuck cuz then it would wake the baby.  And now we save water that way.  I wash the toilets every week so it doesn't seem to make any difference in the cleanliness of the bowl, but hey, I understand if you're not on board.  Everyone has their limits.

And don't just do it in your home, either.  Think about how much soap and water and paper towel and toilet paper you use in public bathrooms (though I highly recommend flushing...).  I saw a "bumper sticker" on a paper towel dispenser in a bar in San Francisco once that changed me.  "Paper towels come from trees."  That was it.  And it totally blew my mind.  I think about it literally every time I see a paper towel.

So now my challenge to you.  I use less toothpaste, less soap, less shampoo, less water pressure, less laundry detergent, and less dishwasher detergent.  What can YOU think of to use less of?  I am totally up for new ideas to save both money and the environment.  It's SUPER Green (and yes, that was an obscure nerd reference.  Bonus points to those who caught it.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things... zester/grater

A zester beyond all zesters.
The Microplane grater; I love this thing.  It is SUPER sharp, pretty inexpensive at about $12, and is incredibly versatile.  It will grate Parmesan into fluffy mounds (bye bye Kraft cheese-like dust!), grate chocolate into a gorgeous powdery topping, grate fresh nutmeg (WOW!) or ginger (I hate mincing), and zest any citrus to perfection.  Take care when cleaning; the back is very sharp because it is such a thin piece of metal, so don't slice your hand open!