Thursday, August 30, 2018

Get Sharpie off of White Quartz Counters

If you looked this up because you have a disaster on your hands, I feel your pain.  Don't worry, there's an easy solution. 

(This isn't a sponsored post)

First, a quick story:  Twelve years ago we built our home, with the 3/4" red birch hardwood floors of my dreams.  Not long after that, our two and three year-old sons decided to surprise me one morning by sneaking downstairs and mopping the kitchen.

I woke up to two proud little boys beaming up at me, begging me to come see what they'd done.  They ran ahead shouting, "We washed the floor with the cups!"

I died.

I'm not exaggerating, there was a half-inch of water covering the entire kitchen.  There were plastic Ikea cups and bowls floating around the island -- which was LITERALLY an island.  

And here and there they'd left half-eaten hot dogs -- a nutritious breakfast, for sure.

I don't know how I managed to be calm.  It was miraculous.  With my heart breaking, I smiled at them and thanked them for trying so hard to do something nice for me.  Then I asked them in the nicest way possible to never wash the floor with cups and bowls of water again.

All day long, the popping sounds of warping wood stabbed my broken heart.

Why am I telling this story?  Well, it makes me laugh.  But also, because it's the reason we re-modeled our kitchen last year.  New floors, re-finished cabinets, and gorgeous new WHITE quartz counters.

And do you know what my kids did?  They decided to take some of my latex food prep gloves and make balloons of them.  Then they drew faces on them with RED Sharpies.  The marker transferred off of the balloons and ALL OVER the white counters.

These two boys are eight and eleven and I wasn't the miraculously calm mother I was the first time around.  This time I was an incoherent, crazed mess of a person.

We tried everything to scrub it off but it just made a big pink mess.  Magic eraser, Goo Gone, and white vinegar all failed me.

I was holding back tears and trying not to hyperventilate as I desperately searched the internet.  

Then I found a message board that suggested Bar Keeper's Friend.  I had some!  I use it for pots and pans.  With all the hope I could muster, I hurried to the kitchen to try it.  

I sprayed the spots with water and then sprinkled Bar Keeper's Friend all over it.  I almost bawled.  The white cleanser turned pink.  It lifted the ink right out.  With some very light scrubbing the stains were gone.  And it didn't hurt the finish on the counter.

Then I apologized to everyone for being a psychotic mess, and asked them in the nicest way possible to never touch a Sharpie again.

So there you go.  If your kids are anything like mine, tuck this away for later.  Or never buy anything nice.  Either way.

.   .   .   .   .

And I hear my mom's voice echoing in my memory, "This is why I can't have nice things!"

{ha ha} 

Sorry mom.  I guess this was karma.

Make Your Own Winnie the Pooh Hunny Jars

When I was a kid, my mom bought me the Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne.  I LOVED them.  They're full of everything that's magical about childhood -- innocent and kind, and full of imagination.  

So when I set out to style my new Bee themed table runner, my first thought was of Hunny jars (my kids keep telling me I'm spelling that wrong).  I have a tight advertising budget, so even if I could find exactly what I need at a store, I probably couldn't afford it for a photo shoot.  So off to the thrift store!  

I just needed crockery jars that were the right shape, and I HIT THE JACKPOT!!!  

Five jars, ideal shape, varying sizes, for a total of $9.00!!!!  I can definitely afford that.  And HOW PERFECT is that one on the left?!  I couldn't have asked for more.  They're a little chipped (and one a little more after I dropped it!) but that just adds to the charm.  

They were also icky dirty, which isn't charming, so they got a good scrub.

I tried spray paint first.  It was a complete mess.  It might have worked if I'd kept adding layers but it wasn't worth it to me.  

So I switched gears and went with glossy finish acrylic paint.  (If you're putting food in the jars, make sure your paint is food-safe!)
I only needed them for one-time use, so I didn't prep the surface or anything.  That would be wise if you want to keep them around.  It worked out great for me because my first attempt looked like garbage, so I just pealed the paint off.

This paint dries fast, so to keep it from looking messy and goopy (like my first attempt) I switched to a big house painting brush.  It worked beautifully.  It also covered better when I alternated directions for the second and third coats -- yes, it took three coats to cover the existing designs on the jars.

Each coat just took a few minutes, and I left an hour to dry in between.  So this could be done in an afternoon and still leave you time to get other stuff done.  

My kids begged to help so I let them take a stab at it.  If they made a complete mess I could always start over (and I did, don't tell!).

I wanted to hot glue some bees onto the jars but I couldn't find any at the craft store.  So I came up with an easy solution (see photo).  Each bee is one pom pom and a black pipe cleaner. 

I spent an hour trying to figure out the best way to get the look I wanted.  Of course I started with the most complicated way possible.  In the end, my favorite look also turned out to be the easiest {eye roll}. 

Just twist the pipe cleaner twice around a pencil to make wings.  Then slide it off and give the wings each a little turn to keep them from unlooping.  Wrap the pipe cleaner around your pom pom so the wings are snug against it, and twist the ends together under your bee's little belly.  Trim off the ends as close as you can and flatten them to the pom pom.  Your kids can even do it -- they'll love it.

I'm pretty happy with the final results!

PS:  I don't actually own fifty bazillion crayons to fill all of these jars.  Check it out:

A couple of dish towels are all you need ;)

PPS:  This is the jar I dropped.  The crayons covered that broken part very nicely.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Don't throw away that train table!

We love Lego's at our house, but we don't love Lego's ALL OVER our house.  There's nothing more vicious than a Lego lurking in the dark -- waiting for a bare foot to come along.
We've tried the bag. 

It's a nice concept.  Lego's stay in the bag, never to leave; it's a mat to play on; it cinches up.  I know it works great for a lot of people, but it didn't work for us.  

After years of getting sets for birthdays and Christmas, the bag was full.  We had no room to actually play on the mat so the Lego's still ended up all over the carpet.  It's also hard to tuck into a corner to put away -- and too heavy for a doorknob.

I realized they needed a designated spot to play in.

Enter the train table:
Image result for Imaginarium 55-Piece Train Set

This was such an easy project.  It only took an hour or two from start to finish.  If you can find second-hand Lego baseplates you could make this for next to nothing.

I'm not an expert, but I'll tell you how I did it -- and it's held up perfectly for almost a year.

For this table I used:
  • 4 large baseplates
  • box cutter
  • steel ruler
  • sharpie
  • strong all-purpose adhesive (2 or 3 tubes of Loctite)
  • damp rags for edge cleanup
  • moist cotton swabs for surface cleanup
  • and a plastic storage bin that rolls underneath (not pictured)

The gray baseplates were almost exactly the right size, but they did need a tiny trim.  We measured and trimmed the outside edges with a box cutter.  It shaved off the plastic like butter.  A rotary cutter might even have worked.

I numbered the back of each baseplate, with a corresponding number on the tabletop so I could piece it back together as they were when I measured them.

We trimmed them to exactly fit the two pieces of the tabletop -- so you can still lift one side or the other to wipe the Lego's off into the bin below.

I was GENEROUS with the Loctite.  

Lay the table top on a hard, flat surface and then glue all over and right up to the edges.  Press the baseplates on and then carefully clean up any glue that slipped out.

You need to make sure the baseplates are aligned perfectly.  Place the tabletop back on the table.  Snap some Lego pieces across the seams.  Trust me, this is critical.  You'll need to slide the baseplates into alignment until you can easily place pieces across the seams at every corner -- all at the same time.  I used flat pieces so I could leave them in place while it dried (really, make sure there isn't any glue where it shouldn't be).

Carefully remove the tabletop, leaving the seams connected, and place it on a hard surface to dry.  I weighted it with books for a good seal.

I left it for a week.

.   .   .   .   .

My kids and their friends play on it every day.  My little guy hums to himself for hours while he builds.  He even told me it's his favorite present of all time!

I love that they collaborate on their designs.  And everything they build has a story.  They combine their sets to make whatever they can dream up, and they keep adding to it.  They've had Star Wars battles, forts, towers...  Currently it's a hodge-podge of silly scenes.  

And for the first time ever, the Lego's mostly stay in their bedroom!  They do still get on the floor, but nothing like before.  

If your kids love Lego's, this is a fantastic project.

.   .   .   .   .

These baddies are playing poker.  They're about to get into a big fight.

 This is an arcade with endless lines.  The guy at the front grew a long gray beard while waiting for his turn.

They converted a raft into a scorpion attack vehicle -- to discourage those long lines.

There's a jungle where robots and octopuses live in trees.

And if you make Chewbacca mad, he'll make you walk the plank.