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Monday, April 22, 2013

Large Wall Chalkboard

When the boys found permanent markers and decided to decorate my daughter's wall, I decided it was time to finally give her the chalkboard wall I'd been promising. Problem is, when I started researching, I found out you need a smooth wall for a chalkboard and our walls are textured. We also have 10' ceilings and the wall is 13' long so that would be a a lot of paint and a lot of painting. But I had promised her a chalkboard wall, so onto plan B...A giant chalkboard on her wall.
Large Chalkboard
This chalkboard was pretty easy to make and it cost about $65, which is more than just painting would have been but way less money and time then de-texturing. I checked online and the cheapest chalkboard this size I could find was just under $200! And it didn't have a cute frame. 

* 8' x 4' Hard Board - $14 (Home Depot)
* 1 quart Chalkboard Paint - $15 (Walmart)
(you could also start with a Magnetic Primer if you wanted a magnetic chalkboard, but I didn't)
* 2 cans spray paint - about $1 each (Walmart)
* Paint Roller/Tray - most people probably have this but since I didn't $10 (Home Depot)
* 2-10'& 1-8' primed boards - about $5 each (Home Depot)
  Have these cut there...the 10 footers to 8' 3" and the 8 footer into 2-3' 11" pieces
* 4-5" corner braces - about $1.50 each (Home Depot)
* 16-5/8" wood screws (I think #8 about I can't remember so ask the guy at Home Depot what size fits the braces to be sure) - $1.18/dozen (Home Depot)
*a box of 1/4" or 5/8" nails -about $2 (Home Depot)

How To:
Buy your supplies 

Wipe down your hard board so you have a clean surface to paint

Stir your chalkboard paint and paint according to directions on the can. I think I did 3 coats. This picture is after the first coat of paint.
While waiting for paint to dry, it may be good time to work on the frame. Spray paint the top and sides of the boards your color of choice. I did 3 coats. When dry, assemble your frame by setting the board pieces out, unpainted sides up, in a rectangle (long on top and bottom, short on sides) and attach them using the corner braces. Be sure to leave about an inch of space from the center to fit the chalkboard in place.This picture was taken after the chalkboard was already on the wall, so it's not the best, but you get it.
After your frame is assembled and your chalkboard dry, fit the chalkboard onto the back of the frame, unpainted sides up. Then use your short nails to tack the hardboard into place all around the frame. I did nails about about 5 or 6 inches apart. 

This is IMPORTANT! Before you draw on it, you need to "prime" your chalkboard by taking a piece of chalk and rubbing the side of it all over your chalkboard. Then wipe if off and you're done! Chalk will now show up nice and bright.

To hang it, we used French Cleats ($15 at Home Depot)
I didn't hang it, but my hubby said it was really easy. There were instructions included. They are secure and do a great job of flush mounting without any hardware showing. The finished board was a little heavy and awkward so it's probably a good idea to hang it with help. 

So hopefully now the boys will use chalk on the chalkboard instead of permanent markers on the wall!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spiderman and his Amazing Friends Birthday Party

I love that Netflix allows our kids to enjoy the same cartoons we loved growing up. However, when their favorite show doesn't exist anymore, it does create some birthday planning problem. My 3-year-old’s favorite superhero is Fire Star. She was one of the Spider Friends on the cartoon Spiderman and his Amazing Friends. After multiple internet searches, I discovered that Fire Star now only exists in obscene fan art and a couple hundred dollar ebay collectibles  But I was determined to have a party based on Spiderman, Iceman, and Fire Star (aka Spider Friends). The actual party did not go exactly as I had planned, but the plan was great.
Poster-sized Spider Friends

I’m not an artist so I couldn't free hand it, but I found out how to print a large picture across multiple pages.
Find Coloring pages online; Open picture in Paint; Go to Page Setup; Set the “Fit to __ by __ pages” to however big you want your picture and print it
Then I taped the pages together and traced them with black marker before I colored them.
The trickiest part was finding coloring pages of Ice Man and Fire Star. I ended up finding a picture of Fire Star from the show and made my own coloring page of her, as well as Ice Man, but he was a lot easier. It’s not the best, but at least it’s not Sexy Fire Star, which is probably your only other option. 
I also printed smaller versions, make birthday posters, used blue and red balloons and streamers, and used the generic birthday decorations I already had.

The idea was to have a station with a game for each of the Spider Friends. I thought it would have been really cool to have a costumed character running each station, but that was a little too much for me.
Spiderman Station:
Silly String web shooting…have targets and practice shooting webs at them.
Ice Man Station:
Freeze Dance…when the music is playing you dance and when it stops you freeze
Ice Melting Game…you freeze a little toy or treasure inside an ice cube and the kids have to melt it to get it out.
Fire Star Station:
Hot Potato Suprise…instructions are here
Other Activities

I also painted faces as the kids arrived. I gave them a choice of superhero for their cheeks and they could choose a color for a mask. 

I would have liked to do red cupcakes with a spiderweb pattern in black BUT my 3-year-old wanted a chocolate cake. They have Marvel character figurines at Dollar Tree so we got Spiderman and The Hulk and just stuck them on top for an easy cake decoration.


I threw a 3-year-old party for 8 boys who were also 3. Parents did not stay. For most of the guests, it was their first friend party. IT...WAS...CHAOS. They didn't understand the games; I'm sure they didn't understand that there was even a theme. But the birthday boy had a great time and the now has Spider Friend's decorations for his room.

Baozi (Chinese Steamed Pork Buns)

When you think of Chinese food, you don't usually think of bread. But there are a few Chinese breads, and they are delicious! One of my favorites, that you can buy from street vendors in Taiwan, is Baozi. Baozi are steamed buns filled with all kinds of yummy things. Because the bread is steamed, it is light and fluffy. I'll never forget the day I rode my bike past a street vendor selling a Chocolate Baozi! Chocolate and Bread? I'm in! But Baozi doesn't have to be sweet to be delicious. This recipe is for a pork filled Baozi. Baozi make a great lunch (and they freeze well) but you can really eat them anytime. These aren't too hard to prepare, but because they are made with yeast dough, you have to start ahead. You can rush these if you need to (ask me how I know), but for the fluffiest Baozi, let them rise for the recommended times.

Start this recipe a couple of hours before you want to eat it. Mix the dough ingredients and then just walk away and let it rise. Go watch the latest episode of Once Upon A Time for me. Come back and divide the dough into little, somewhat equal size dough balls. Roll them out into thin disks of dough.

Add meat in the center and roll the dough in toward the center, pinching as you go.

Continue filling your dough with meat filling. Set aside and let rise for 20-30 minutes. Here are my baozi rising:
They will grow even more in the steamer, about doubling in size- be sure to leave room in the steamer.

(Chinese Steamed Pork buns)
recipe slightly adapted from
makes 16 buns
For the dough:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
8 ounces ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped cabbage or bok choy
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the yeast and allow to stand until bubbly, ab out 5 minutes.*
Add remaining dough ingredients and mix on low speed with the dough hook, until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is too dry, add water, a Tablespoon at a time until you see a ball form. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise for approximately one hour, or until doubled in size.**
Prepare the filling by mixing all filling ingredients together in a separate bowl.
Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and then use a rolling pin to flatten them out. Spoon a dollop of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the edges up around the filling and pinch together to form a bun.  Continue this process with the rest of the dough until all of the buns are filled. Allow the buns to rest for 20 - 30 minutes.
Cook the buns in a steamer (I use a pot and a steamer insert) for 12-15 minutes.  Depending on the size of your steamer, you may need to work in batches. You can cook the buns on parchment paper so they won't stick.
Eat! I love these with Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce, but they can also be dipped in soy sauce or enjoyed plain. 
*This is called proofing your yeast and is a great idea to make sure your yeast will do its thing and make the bread rise. 
**If you're in a hurry, a great trick is to put the bowl in the oven- with the oven turned OFF!- and it will rise much faster!