How to Stencil a Wooden Sign to Make a Cute Fall Door Decoration

Last fall I attended a mom’s retreat with some of my besties.  All I can say is, if you don’t have a group of like-minded women you meet with regularly, you need to find a group or start one.  A group like this might consist of women from your church, neighborhood, kid’s soccer team, or yoga class, but trust me on this one, a support group will change your life.  I did not not think that I needed a “support group”.  (I mean, it is not like I am an alcoholic.)  I guess I kind of thought I was good with my own busy life, but now that I have a group, I get it.

The group I belong to consists of about 30 moms from the homeschool co-op my kids attend on Fridays.  Every Friday, we get together for classes, and social time for the moms.  Some of us also get together once a month for a learning circle where we talk about a podcast we have all listened to, and we update each other on one of the best and worst things that have happened to us in the last month.  This is such a great way to bond!

Anyway…. so we were having an annual weekend retreat, and since I love crafts, I offered to organize a fun activity for everyone to do together.  I needed to come up with something super cute that would fill a 30 minute time slot (We are serious about retreats!).  I know some were skeptical that I could pull off something fun and relaxing in that time frame, but I totally did it!

I knew I needed something that could be prepped beforehand with minimal effort, since there were 40 people coming to this event and I didn’t have a million hours to get everything ready.  I also wanted the project to be decorative, useful, and inexpensive.  It needed to appeal to a variety of decorating styles, but be somewhat trendy.  I decided that a festive fall decoration best fit the bill, so I came up with these cute door hangers.  They were a huge hit!

So, in case you are crazy enough to sign yourself up for a group crafting project, or if you just want to make some fun door hangers, here is how this project went down.

I went to Lowe’s and honestly found the cheapest plywood I could.  They sell a sheet of 5mm Poplar Plywood that is 4ft x 8ft for only $15.98.  I love buying sheets of wood at Lowe’s.  Not only is the wood cheap, but they will also cut the wood for you.  Since I only own a handful of tools (and I don’t trust myself with an electric saw), this is so convenient.

I had the guy there cut the plywood into 12” plaques.  At my Lowe’s the first two cuts are free, and the rest cost $.20 each.  It took 10 cuts to turn the wood into 12” squares (sorry, not sorry for taking you back to math class 🙂 ), so it only cost an additional $1.60 to make 48 perfectly cut squares of wood.  Why would anyone do that themselves!  While at Lowe’s I also picked up some medium sandpaper, foam paint brushes, and Minwax dark walnut stain.  My total bill ended up being just over $30.

When I got home, I marked where I wanted to drill two holes in each plaque to be able to hang them.  The holes were 1 inch down and 4 inches from two sides.  Then I went to work drilling.  I find drilling to be very therapeutic.

Next I sanded the wood around the drilled holes and edges to get rid of the rough edges.  I also sanded the faces of the plaque making sure to work with the grain of the wood.

The last step was to stain the plaques of wood.  I quickly brushed the stain onto each of the plaques and the rubbed the excess off with a rag.  (Make sure you wear gloves for this step so you don’t stain your hands.)  After 24 hours of drying, the wood was all ready to go.

I selected 3 different vinyl decals that I thought everyone would like and I had the decals peeled in reverse so they looked like a stencil.  We could have put the vinyl designs on the wood directly and not painted, but in this case, I thought it would be nice to paint.  ( can send you the stencil version of any decal).

I bought white chalk paint and twine from Walmart.  Chalk paint is less likely to bleed under the vinyl than regular paint.  If you can’t find chalk paint in the color you need, use this tutorial here to make your own.

All the supplies we needed for this craft easily fit into one laundry basket.  Another huge bonus of this project!

At the retreat, each person transferred a vinyl decal to their wood using this method here and painted the designs, dabbing the paint on vertically instead of wiping horizontally.  When the paint was mostly dry, we removed the vinyl.  Chalk paint drys really quickly, so we only had to wait a few minutes.

I had everyone cut and add twine to the top however they wanted to.

Everyone’s plaques looked great.  Even the women who never craft and usually hate how their projects turn out liked doing this project.  The best part was that this project was simple to explain and easy to do so we were able to chat and relax while we made them.  We ended up with a fun memorabilia from the retreat, and yes, we finished this project in 30 minutes.

How to Make Chalk Paint

You may have heard a little about this new craze – chalk paint.  The fact is, chalk paint has become pretty popular around the DIY crown.  It is especially used for repurposing old furniture and decor items.  The reason it is so beloved is because this stuff sticks to just about anything which decreases prep time, and who would doesn’t want to get their projects done more efficiently?  In addition to wood, you can use chalk paint on metal and glass.  How awesome is that?  And when you are finished, you end up with a professional looking velvety finish.

So, without further ado, here are all the things I love about chalk paint.

Little or No Prep
You can paint old furniture and other items with chalk paint without prepping your work beforehand.  That means you can quickly get to work making something you love without all the sanding and priming you would have to do using a latex paint.  Seriously, chalk paint adheres to just about any surface, which is why you can use it on top of finishes.

Awhile back my mother-in-law gave me a small table that she had painted red for Christmas.  I decided to use the table in my house, but I wanted it to be white instead.  I painted the table with chalk paint and had a nice looking piece of furniture in just one afternoon.

Good for Stenciling
Chalk paint does not bleed as easily as other paints that have a higher water content.  That is what makes chalk paint ideal for painting using stencils.  This goes for traditional stencils as well as the vinyl stencils we sell.  When using a stencil, It is best to use a dabbing painting method instead of horizontal brushing.

Very Forgiving
Chalk paint is typically used to create a farmhouse style.  It is meant to be sanded and distressed after painting.  Because of this, chalk paint is very forgiving.  It is a great option for novice painters.

You can buy chalk paint online or at home improvement and craft stores, or you can make your own.  So, now that your interest is piqued, here is a tried and true recipe for making your very own chalk paint.

Chalk Paint
1 Part Plaster of Paris
1 Part Warm Water
3 Parts Latex Paint

Mix the plaster of paris and warm water together until dissolved, and then add the latex paint until smooth.  A little paint goes a long way.  This recipe with 1 1/2 cups of latex paint should be enough for one coat on a regular size dresser.

Let me know how you use chalk paint.  I would love to see your next project.

LDS General Conference Journals

LDS General Conference is just around the corner. I love conference and the peace that comes from the inspired messages. I especially love it when I can actually sit and listen to the speakers. With 6 kids 12 and under, that is not always an easy task.  I have tried several ideas to make conference more meaningful for my kids, and more relaxing for me. Some ideas have worked better than others. We have tried conference bingo, tents in the living room, and envelopes with a candy, just to name a few.

I am not a huge fan of the projects that take a lot of beforehand shopping and prepping, or of activities that get turned into a circus by my toddlers. Simplicity seems to be the key for us (and less sugar). I have loved coloring books and journals for my older kids.

Conference journals have been super effective for us. When we have them, my kids want to make sure they have something written or drawn for each speaker. Yeah!

Last week I saw the idea to put tabs on the journals and personalize them beforehand. I loved that idea, but could not find updated tabs for the current General Authorities, so I decided to made my own.

I showed my kids the idea and got out the scrapbooking paper, scissors, and glue. They spent hours laughing and helping each other on this project. Now even my littles have a book to color in during conference. They keep asking me how many days until conference because they are so excited.

We used 5×7 inch journals which were only 67 cents a piece at Walmart. My kids decorated the journals with pattern paper. They traced the journals on the paper and cut it to fit. We found that Elmer’s glue worked best to glue the paper to the covers.

We printed the prophet tabs on card stock and glued them on every other page with a glue stick. If you line the edge of the picture up with the edge of the page, the black tabs stick out perfectly and evenly.

My kids got a little fancy and laminated their tabs, but they look great even if you don’t.

I also found some cute activities from The Friend and online (including this site) and modified them to be current. We printed those on regular paper and put them in the backs of the journals.
Since my kids enjoyed this project so much, we also made these journals in Activity Days.

Now we are all set for conference. I am thinking we will have a bowl of trail mix to enjoy while we write. Let me know how your books turn out. What other ideas for conference do you love?

PDF Version of these files:

The Apostle Tabs:

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Conference Activities:

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Direct Sales Parties Lost Popularity Because of Internet Alternatives

The Demise of Home Decor Direct Sales Parties

Home Decor Direct Sales Parties No Longer Popular

If you’ve been doing home decor stuff over the last couple decades, you might remember a company called Home Interiors and Gifts, a direct sales company focused on craftsy stuff that women love. The former giant player in the home decor industry saw its growth peak in 2003, when it reached $615 million in sales on products that ranged from tea pots to decorations for holidays and special events. Over the years that followed 2003, direct sales and the party environment quickly weakened for companies like Home Interiors and Gifts. The next several years saw decreases in sales for Home Interiors and Gifts, which served as an index of the overall home decor party direct sales market. By 2007, their sales had dropped to less than half of their peak.  By 2008, the company declared bankruptcy. Home Interiors and most of its subsidiaries (its Canadian and Mexican affiliates along with one subsidiary, Dormistyle Inc., were excluded from the bankruptcy) were reeling, and the company would never recover.

So what happened to companies like Home Interior and Gifts and others who used the direct sales, home party format to promote their goods? The answer is pretty obvious. eBay happened. Amazon happened. Etsy happened. As these and other forums for selling products, especially hand made home decor products, became popular, the demand for direct sales parties quickly tapered off. It is common that home decor products (as with other MLM models) sold at direct sales parties are overpriced. When there were not abundant alternatives for finding that perfect centerpiece or that quaint rug available through direct sales channels, people were willing to overpay. However, as the general population became progressively accustomed to purchasing online, even niche products, it became harder for people to justify spending 30%,40%, even double the retail price at parties for products similar to ones they could find on one of the retail, auction, or niche shopping websites.

What About Retail Stores?

If the once-titanic home party market couldn’t survive the move to online purchasing habits, what about retail stores? Are they next?

Many retailers have had to adjust their strategies to compete with online offerings. However, brick-and-mortar retail have generally operated very different from home party networks. Prices at retailers have been kept competitive with other local retail stores. Home decor purchases made at home parties were often influenced by emotional impulses and peer pressure. Retail store purchases, although still generally more expensive than online purchases, are still often considered to be fair.

My wife has come direct sales home parties with a $50 pair of earrings, for example, that were probably worth half that much. Why? Because she felt empathy for the neighbor or friend who threw the party and invited her, and because she couldn’t eat the cheesecake and drink the hot chocolate served at the party and feel justified not purchasing something in return. There was a feeling of being “shamed” into spending more money than desired on products that at least filled some kind of jewelry or home decor need.

At some point in the early 2000’s, the balance of purchasing influence moved away from the void being filled by home parties and towards the easy, private, less-pressure environment involved with purchasing online.

Retail stores still have their advantages, including satisfying the impulse buy, need-it-now niche as well as fulfilling the demand for the local shopping “experience”. 

Hosting an Afternoon Tea Party

A couple of years ago, I decided that I needed to do something special for my daughter. She is the oldest of five, and the only girl in our family. I am not quite sure how she could ever get tired of her role as queen of the castle (the boys will do just about anything for her and listen to her more than their own parents), but somehow her unanswered pleas for a sister have left a void that I was hoping to soften with some girl time. After some thinking, I decided to host a mother/daughter tea party every spring. This event is now one of the highlights of each year. If you want to make some special memories with your daughter, I would highly recommend organizing your own tea party.

Here are some helps to get you on your way to hosting a successful tea party. I would recommend making a new plan with your daughter each year. You will be able to bond so much more with your daughter if you work together in the decision making and planning. First of all, you need to decide what kind of tea party you would like to have. There are a range of options from formal to casual and everything in between. The location of your party is a factor that will really influence this decision. For example, the first year, we hosted an indoor tea party. Guests did dress up some, but because we invited a large number of people and could not seat everyone at tables, the tea party was quite casual. The second year, we decided to host a garden tea party. For this one, we set up tables outdoors with place settings already arranged for the guests. This one was able to take on a more formal feel.

Tea parties are typically held in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. This idea dates back to the origins of afternoon tea in England. You may not know that afternoon tea began in England in 1840 when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, complained of being hungry in the late afternoon. At the time, people traditionally did not eat dinner until quite late. She started having tea and snacks brought to her to tie her over until dinner, and then began inviting friends to join her. Soon it became common as fashionable society followed suit. So, if you want to be traditional, you should have your tea party somewhere around 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. But, let’s be honest, a social gathering is fun any time of day, so don’t feel handcuffed by these time constraints.

Consider if you want a theme for your tea party. This is where you can really get creative and have a lot of fun. Maybe you would like everyone to wear a fancy hat, or perhaps you hope to adopt a mad hatter style tea time from Alice in Wonderland. Before you think about invitations or decorations, you will want to settle on your theme so everything will coordinate nicely. The first year, we chose a cottage theme. The second year, we opted for a Victorian style tea party. You can find a list of theme ideas here.

Next, you need to send out invitations. Remember that guests will look for clues on what to expect at the tea party by the look and feel of your invitations. Wording is important, but the style of your invitations should also make a clear statement about the type of tea party you are hosting. You will want to send out invitations to arrive about two weeks before the event. Not too late for planning purposes, but not so early that the party is quickly forgotten. You can verbally tell your guests about the upcoming event before then if you choose, but that should not replace a formal invitation. Now days, it is completely appropriate to send out electronic invitations by email or to select groups using social media. In fact, using electronic invitations is a great way to save on the costs of your party.

You may decide that you want your guests to follow traditional tea party rules, or at least a few of them. It has been my experience that little girls love to feel like they are doing grownup things the “correct” way. They will probably want to know how they should hold their tea cup and which foods to eat first. These little details add to the magic of the experience. If you decide that you do want your guests to use proper tea party etiquette, consider sending a list of rules you plan to follow with your invitations. You can also post these at your tea party. There are varying versions of tea party rules all over the internet. These are the ones we decided to follow.

Setting up for your tea party should be very fun, and it doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Just remember that little details make a good party great. Of course, your decorations and set up will depend on your theme. Pinterest is a good place to look for ideas. This year, we decided that for our formal style tea party that we wanted everyone to have real tea sets. I made a trip to our local thrift store and picked up enough tea sets so everyone could eat and drink on real china. This was just a little detail that made a huge impact. The little girls had so much fun and felt very special to be trusted with fine china. And since the dishes were all from the thrift store, no one had to stress about breaking anything.

An important part of the tea party is of course food. If you are serving hot tea, you will need to make sure you have enough hot water for everyone at your tables when the party starts. This can take a bit of planning for a large group, so it may be better to reserve hot beverages for a small tea party. Not into hot tea? No worries, try another drink such as iced tea. My daughter requested ice cold lemonade. Tea parties are typically characterized by finger foods such as finger sandwiches, quiche, fruits and veggies, eclairs, and petit fours. Not every dish has to be a finger food. You could, for example, serve dainty dishes of mousse, but, think small portions for afternoon tea. You may choose to prepare and set out all the food for the party yourself. This is of course a great way to make sure everything is beautiful and just how you want it when the party starts. Both years we have held tea parties, we asked our guests to each bring a dish to share, and gave suggestions of what to bring. We found that is worked out great! Since we have had 30 to 40 guests at our tea parties, pot luck style food has worked best for us, and our guests seemed excited to pick out and bring a creative finger food to share. I think it adds to the anticipation and excitement when all the girls get to take part in the preparation.

So, what do you think? Have you hosted or attended a tea party before? What are your favorite ideas? We would love to heard about your tea party experiences.