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Nest to Impress: The Very Best of Back to School DIY!

For Moms, Kids, Teachers, and Home Schoolers too!

What Exactly is "Nest To Impress"?
I'm starting something new here at Clever Nest! Each season or holiday I'll bring you a showcase of some beautiful DIY projects, party ideas, and recipes that rock my socks. I'd luuuurve to feature YOUR project! If you have a back to school project you'd like to share, link up to it in a comment (sorry not quite up on inlinks yet!). 

I've scoured this here internet for the very best (in meh humble opinon) that Pinterest, Martha, and the world wide web at large has to offer for Back to School DIY. Here's what I've found!

First Day Of School Traditions
Back to School Fairy from Happiness Is... This is so cute! A few days before school starts, the Back to School Fairy visits Hilary's girls. The package contains some school supply essentials, treats, and an encouraging note from the Fairy, wishing them a great year! I love it. Also visiting houses nearby, the Mommy Get's a Break Fairy.

First Day of School Pic Tradition from Happiness Is... This woman is full of good ideas. She has her girls pose for a picture of the first day of school, holding a sign with the date. This will be a great collection of pics, 12 years later!

Another option could be to have them hold a blank sign, and add in words later with a photo editor. Or how about adding comic bubble over their head that says, "Ka-Pow! I'm ready for Kindergarten!" ? :)

First Day Sign Printable from How Does She? If you subscribe via email, you can download these free printable first day signs from How Does She?.

First Day Cookie by Emily at How Does She? How about a GIANT FIRST-DAY-OF-SCHOOL COOKIE? Yes, please. I wish my mom had done this when I was little! Except for me things would have been a little different cause I was home schooled through 12th grade. It would have been a "happy first day sitting down at the dining table with our books and cereal in our pj's" cookie.

Emily is kind enough to share her recipe (from a creepy roommate none the less, haha love it), but you could also smoosh a few Pilsbury cookie dough rolls onto a baking sheet and call it in the bag. Don't forget to make one for yourself to enjoy in your quiet house when the kids get on the bus.

Bombing the Bus by Emily at How Does She? Speaking of bus, I can't believe she did this! Another great tradition Emily shared- bombing the school bus at the end of the day with water balloons. This sounds amazing! Maybe use some soaking wet Nurf balls too? Just be safe and make sure the kiddos don't run into the street!

Teacher Gifts
Funny to think that I've taught in one capacity or another for most of my life. Be it Sunday school, piano lessons, or music teacher at a Montessori school, I love kids and teaching, and having fun and being silly while doing so!

This is an example of all my universes colliding- music, teaching, and a diy cat costume!
I totally understand how teachers feel, wanting to give the best to their students on a limited budget. So let's show our teachers some love!

Classroom Supply Cake by What's Scrapping. A gift goes a long way with teachers, and just might be able to secure your kid an A this year! This "cake" made from Kleenex boxes, glue, glue sticks, and crayons definitely get's an A. 
I would have kissed the mom that made me this for me. On the cheek, obviously!

Candy Pencil from Cafe Mom. If you want your kid's teacher to love you, bring them chocolate. If you want them to be amazed and somewhat intimidated as well, bring them chocolate that looks like a fatty pencil! Or if you want the WHOLE CLASS to love you, make enough for everyone! It's well documented that chocolate buys friends. Teach your kids early.

Teacher Portrait Tote by Rachel at Sun Scholars. Teachers are always in need of more bags, especially ones as stinkin' cute as this. Mark out the lines in pen, then have your child draw their teacher's portrait, and trace over it with permanent marker. 

This is only a good gift if your kid is a decent drawer. You know what I mean. And no anatomically correct teacher features either. If in doubt, abort said tote and head back to the chocolate option.

For the Classroom
Here's some fun ways to personalize your classroom!

Mini Me Pencil Cups  from Family Fun. These are easy to do, inexpensive (a picture and wire) and will make the kids feel like they've got their own personalized space to learn in this year. 
Also, if you wanted to get classroom discipline off on the right foot, you could make these all with your head stuck on it, with a note reading, "I'll be waaatching you, ______ (insert child's name)." And refer to them as your Desk Patrolling Pencil Minions.

Welcome Handprint Wreath by Elizabeth at Twelve Crafts Til Christmas. A less creepy option for classroom decor is this awesome Handprint Wreath. Have the class do some bonding on the first day and create a piece of art you can leave up all year. Elizabeth at Twelve Crafts Til Christmas glued these handprints on a pizza pan so the magnet letters would stick to it! Nice, Elizabeth!

For the Kids
I get to say "kids" because I'm 27, and am, like so mature. Duh.
Chalkboard Lunch Box by Jen at Scissors and Spatulas. OK, chalk just gives me the heebie jeebies. Anyone else?? I don't know why. Whatever reason, this craft is cute enough to overcome my OCD phobia. Jen sprayed the inside of her son's lunchbox with chalkboard paint, and now she can send him off with his lunch with a sweet note inside! Brilliant :).
Contemplating Jason's response if I did this to his briefcase.

Notebook T Shirt from E for Effort. This is so fun and simple to do. Wouldn't it be cute to write something in the lines, a poem, song lyrics? I think mom might want one too. Check out E for Effort's site for notebook shirts, tanks, and stuff for the guys too.

Notebook Stick-On Pocket from Martha Stewart. I've seen these see thru pockets at office supply stores, but never thought to use them on a notebook. This would be a great way to keep track of homework and assignments, right on the cover of your notebook!
Also from Martha, this Rubber Band Note Book Trapper. She keeps it simple, but it's always a good thing.

Geo Book Covers from Suzy at Suzy's Artsy Crafty Sitcom. These look amazing! I'm new to her site, but her tag line cracked me up, "because life is a sitcom, covered in glitter, hot glue strings, and dog hair, isn't it?" :) She has an easy to follow tutorial to create these fabulous geometric 3D shapes.
There's a lot of uses for this craft besides notebook covers. Some eye popping tween bedroom art, birthday cards, paper Christmas ornaments...?

Apple Print Bag by Martha Stewart, using real apples as stamps! Classic and fun. I've never tried this technique yet, but now I might have to give this a try. Love the colors too.

Cereal Box Notebooks by Kristen at Mushki Loves. If I was a high schooler, I would definitely have a set of these in my backpack. Kristen shows how to make all those little holes in the box cover.

And finally, what are you going to do, now that the kids are back in school, you have an empty house, and sooo much more time on your hands? 

You can- spend the time on your hands! That was a good one, admit it. This would only take me 2.5 hours and half a gallon of nail polish remover. But it looks fun!

Don't forget to add a link to your back to school project in the comments. Happy weekend!
<3 Alyssa

More ways to keep up with my shenanigans:

Enter to be Featured! {Back to School Edition}

ANNOUNCEMENT: It's that time, Back To School! Though my Munchkin is way to young for the school bus, the teacher in me always gets excited for Fall :) and I love getting ideas for teacher gifts, first day traditions, and classroom decorating.


This Saturday, 8/25,  I'm hosting Nest to Impress: Back To School Edition- a feature event of your fabulous Back to School DIY! Have a Back to School project or idea? Send me a link for a chance to get featured. There will be 15-20 spots available. Entries close Friday, 8/24 at 7am Pacific Time.

How Do I Enter?
Option #1 Leave a comment on this post with a link to your project
Option #2 Add me on Pinterest and tag me in the description or a comment of your project
Option #3 Like Clever Nest on Facebook and share a link there.

Enter as many Back to School projects as you like ;)

Who Should Enter?
Anyone who would like a little extra lovin' from my viewers coming their way :). I'll encourage all my readers to check out your site!

Can I Share A Project That's Not Mine?
Yes, that's great too! If there's an idea you think is fabulous, let's give credit where credit is due! As long as you source the project so I know where it originally came from, I'd love to see it! (And I'll be sure to let them know if they get featured, too :)

This will be fun, time for some last minute inspiration!
<3 Alyssa
More ways to keep up with my shenanigans:


DIY: Repainting Bathroom Cabinets- Quick and EASY!

It's August. More than half of this year is over! That means we have less than half a year to accomplish everything on The List.

What is The List?

At the beginning of this year I shared my New Year's Resolutions for our house. I thought it would be interesting to put down on paper all the things I wanted to accomplish in our house this year. It was fun now to go back and read it, and see how much I've already checked off, which was quite a bit! Woo hoo!!

I knew I probably wouldn't manage to get to everything on the List, especially my **dream goals** like a total kitchen makeover, but it's been a great motivation to keep me pushing forward, staying on track, and feeling good about all I've done so far!

One big **Dream Goal** (which could just as well be called a, "Haha, Like You'll Ever Get To That!" goal) was refinishing all our bathroom cabinets. They've always bugged me, especially the one in our upstairs bath. It's our "kids" bathroom, and where I give Andrew his baths.
 This kid loves his baths! :)

The cabinet in here has got to be the worst of the bunch- flaking varnish, water damage, and smears of paint from poorly executed past paint jobs (not done by me, it happened before we moved in I swear!).

 Exhibit A: why Painter's Tape is our friend! : /
Basically a hot mess.

Well, I just decided this was the week! I did my research, threw on my painting pants, and gave that cabinet a fresh coat of bright white paint that they would never forget.

Here's a quick overview of the basic steps to any cabinet repaint:

Steps to This Project:
  • Remove Hardware 
  • Clean
  • Sand
  • Use Denatured Alcohol
  • Prime & Seal
  • Paint
  • Replace Hardware and Rehang

And here's what you'll need to get the job done-

  • Degreaser Spray + sponge
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • 220 Grit Sand Paper
  • Primer & Sealer Paint
  • Semi Gloss Paint
  • Disposable Foam Brush
  • Small Foam Roller
Step 1. Remove Hardware
I unscrewed all the hardware. My cabinet didn't have any handles, so it was quick work unscrewing just the door hinges.
 Then I removed the hinges from the backs of the doors.

Side note: I have decided that adhesive shelf liner is a big rip off. Mine always curl up like this! It doesn't seem to matter if I stick them down or just lay them flat inside the cabinets. Do you have this problem too?? I might need to try a heavier liner. Maybe in this case my cabinet is just so ugly even the shelf liners don't want to get anywhere near it.

 Step 2. Cleaning the Cabinets
I used a general purpose kitchen degreaser spray and a scrubby sponge to remove gross dirt, grime, and unidentifiable ickyness that had accumulated on the wood. Our house was built in 1983, that's 29 years of buildup that needed to come off.

Whatever you do, don't skip the cleaning part! If your cabinets have been in use for any length of time, there's bound to be a nice layer of crud all over that sucker, no matter how well you clean your house. The paint won't go on smoothly or stay on unless the wood is completely free of dirt.
 I paid special attention to areas that were frequently touched, like the corner of this cabinet door.

Step 3. Sanding (optional)
Once the cabinets and doors were cleaned, I could have skipped ahead to priming. The primer & sealer does not need sanding prior to painting.  I took a closer look at the doors, though, and could feel they were rough and rippling from the flaking varnish and some water damage. 

I used a 220 grit sand paper on just the rough parts until the wood felt smooth to the touch. 
And when I was done, wiped everything down with a wet rag.

Step 4. Wipe with Denatured Alcohol
Denatured alcohol works to remove any leftover dust or grease from the wood. I read that it had some pretty powerful fumes, and to only use it in a well ventilated area to avoid killing off brain cells. I had a fan going, but there is no window in this bathroom and I was preparing to have my nose hairs fried from the fumes. Thankfully it didn't seem any worse than nail polish remover. And there was enough airflow to protect and maintain my current level of brain cells.

I poured some on a paper towel and rubbed the doors.

Any residual gunk and dust came right off and onto my paper towel. Check out that paper towel!

Step 5. Prime
I prepped the area around my cabinet by taping off the edges with painter's tape and laying down a plastic drop cloth to protect the floor. I primed the cabinet with Behr Primer & Sealer using a disposable foam brush. The foam brush gives nice thin coat without any brush strokes. I applied 2 coats.
I'd buy at least 2 of these foam brushes. Mine didn't last for more than half the project before ripping. Perhaps I prime a little too vigorously.
I laid out the doors on my counter, elevated with cereal bowls :). I used the foam brush to prime them as well.

Step 6. Painting
To save money, I used some white semi gloss paint, leftover from other projects around the house. The color is Polar Bear by Behr.

On my first door I used the foam brush to spread the paint. It worked well, but it was a very light coat and didn't look like it was giving me the coverage I needed.

Then I tried a high quality 2" brush I'd bought. I'd heard they worked well for painting cabinets so I tried a coat using that instead. But after the paint dried, I could see I was getting some pretty gnarly brush strokes!
I headed back to the home improvement store and picked up this small foam roller for about $5. It did a great job, and gave me a super smooth finish. I used the disposable foam brush to work the paint into the grooves, then went over the whole door with the roller.

And now for your viewing pleasure, a video! Basically it's me trying to narrate while holding the camera and trying to see where I'm painting, haha.

Haha, maybe someday you'll get to see more of me on film than just my hands :). If you aren't able to watch the video, I was demonstrating my priming and painting procedure using the foam roller and disposable brush like I described above.

Step 7. Rehang the Doors
After everything had properly dried (24 hrs), I opened up my package of new hinges to begin rehanging the doors.
As I screwed the hinges into the doors, I dared to think, 
hey, this is easy! Famous last words. 

When I positioned the doors with the new hinges onto the cabinet housing, they just wouldn't line up properly. *scratches head.

And now, we get to play a fun game!! 

It's called, What's Different Between The Hinges? It's the game I played as I tried to figure out what the heck was the problem. I'd made triple sure I bought the EXACT same hinges to replace the old ones!  I fished out an old hinge from the trash,  and set them both down side by side.
What happened?? I was sooo careful to match the hardware! *head smack. Obviously not the exact same ones. So it was back to the hardware store we go.

With the proper hinges now (really this time I swear!) I tried again.
I learned a few things about the contents of a hinge packet during this project. I have no idea what the official term is for the plastic bag with the parts, so hinge packet it is! Besides the brackets, here's what else is in the pouch.

  • 6 Flat head screws- for attaching the brackets to the door backs
  • 4 Rounded head screws- for attaching the doors to the cabinet housing
  • 2 Foam Pads- for sticking to the corners of the doors

Screwy Screws
These screws are quite tricky. There was some trial and error before I even realized they were different! Turns out there's two kinds of screws in the bag.

The ones that go into the doors are slightly shorter than the others and have a flat head. The ones that go into the cabinet housing are longer and have more of a rounded head.
Flat head screws into the back of the doors.
Round head screws into the cabinet housing.
And foam pads on the corners of the doors, to provide some cushion when the doors close.

Closing The Doors On This DIY
I assembled everything back together. It's hard to take pictures when you're holding a screw driver in one hand and a door in the other. Since my hinges were exactly the same size as the old ones, all the holes matched up quite nicely. Tighten, tighten, tweak, tweak...

Done! Well, almost. There seems to be a problem with the doors closing. I think the alignment is slightly off. I'll have to have J look into that... lol.

How Much Did It Cost?
Here's my cost breakdown for this project.
$27= Gallon of Behr Primer & Sealer
$1= Foam Brush
$4.97= Foam Roller
$8.37= Three Packs of Hinges @ $2.79 ea.
$7.41= Denatured Alcohol
FREE= Behr Semi Gloss Paint (leftovers)
FREE= Sand paper (already had)
Total: $48.75

All said and done, that was one of the easiest diy's ever! Now that I know what 's involved, I'm totally up for repainting another one of my sorry looking cabinets!

How are things coming for your diy plans this year? Any cabinet redo's on the list? What else are you tackling?

Thanks for reading :), have a great weekend!
 <3 Alyssa

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