Chalkboard Paint Door

2015 went out with a bang. In the course of one month, Anne and I proposed to each other on our 7-year anniversary, drove from Philly to Chicago and back to spend time with Anne’s family for her birthday and Christmas, hosted my family in Philly for a post-Christmas/engagement/New Year’s party, and made delicious fried pork dumplings as a last hurrah of the year. Phew!

January is all about recalibrating and figuring out what is and isn’t working. What wasn’t working toward the end of last year was working long hours six days a week, not feeling focused on one task at a time, eating too quickly, being absorbed by social media, and generally feeling the holiday frenzy.

This year I’ve decided to focus more on uni-tasking (read an amazing article on it here), as well as taking time to cook, bake, knit, and continue teaching myself to sew. I’ve rearranged my work schedule back into five days a week (for now) so that Anne and I can fill our time off together with home projects and celebrating our engagement!

Our latest home project was revamping the inside of our front door. It was feeling pretty sad and overlooked, and I thought that chalkboard paint would be both practical and really fun. We didn’t need many supplies for this project, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to spice up a little piece of their home. Below is the tutorial!

Chalkboard Paint Door


  • 180-grit sand paper
  • TSP spray
  • Rag or paper towel
  • Washi tape or painter’s tape
  • 1 quart chalkboard paint in any color
  • Wooden paint stirrers
  • 2-4 foam brushes
  • Chalk
  • Eraser

Step 1: Take the door off of the hinges, and place it on a tall, sturdy table. Use 180-grit sand paper to thoroughly sand the side of the door to paint. Insure that the surface of the door is smooth and free of any large bumps.

Step 2: Use a rag or paper towel to spray TSP onto the door. This spray will remove all dust and debris from the door, creating a clean surface for painting. Cover door edges and metal hardware with washi tape or blue painter’s tape.

Step 3: Open the can of paint and mix it with a paint stirrer. (It is beneficial to keep the paint stirrer nearby to stir occasionally as you work.)

Step 4: Apply paint to a foam brush. Create even strokes of paint that go with the grain of the wood. Cover the door with one full coat of paint, and let it dry for 4 hours. (If the foam brush begins to disintegrate, discard and use a new brush.)

Step 5: After drying for 4 hours, apply a second coat of paint and let dry again. The door is now ready to be put back on its hinges!

Step 6: Wait three days before continuing this tutorial, as the paint needs to set. Then, prime the chalkboard paint by using the long edge of a piece of chalk to cover the entire door with chalk. Take the eraser and erase over the whole thing. This is a critical step for chalkboard paint so that the first thing you write doesn’t imprint. Your door is ready to be used! Leave important messages, write down a favorite quote, or lay out your week of meals. Having this board in our kitchen (where our door opens into) is going to be so much fun. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Reflections in the Kitchen

Something magical happened yesterday in a Like Water For Chocolate kind of way.  Rather than pass on a specific project or a certain recipe to you all today, I want to share an experience I had in the kitchen.

I set out in the afternoon to make minestrone.  I need something to warm my bones in this cold weather, and it is the first thing that comes to mind.  My family made “minest” a lot when I was a child, and it’s a dish that is incredibly comforting to me.  I call my mom to ask her for the recipe (which is always “a little of this, a little of that” — the Italian way), and when she doesn’t answer her phone, I have a moment of mild internal panic.  My grandmothers have passed away, and my great aunt passed away just two months ago.  Heavily reliant on my family’s matriarchs for culinary wisdom, who else is there to call?

Luckily, my mom calls back only a few minutes later.  She provides me with an outline of possible minestrone ingredients, approximately how much of each goes in, along with when to add the ingredients to the simmering pot.  I’m used to this by now, and find comfort in making it my own as I go.

I always channel members of my family when I am cooking or baking.  When it’s cookies, it’s Grandma Anne or my mom.  When it’s a hearty dinner, it’s Grandma Elisabeth.  When it’s drop-dead-amazing breakfast scones, it’s Grandpa Augie.  This minestrone recipe is Grandma Elisabeth’s.  My mind wanders and I begin thinking of what her house might have smelled like when she was a child.

These moments in the kitchen connect me to those who are no longer with me, and so I continue making these family recipes as often as I can.  Later, when I sit down to transfer my scribbled notes onto a recipe card for my new recipe box, I realize something.  I realize that I am writing down the recipe not for myself, but for others to read many years from now.  I am writing, without meaning to, a set of instructions that are intended for someone else — maybe for a child or a grandchild to mull over when they’re my age.

We have boxes and binders full of recipes from my grandparents, and I love nothing more than to flip through them to see their handwriting, read their stories, and see what types of ingredients they used to cook and bake with.  Grandpa Augie bookmarked his cookbooks with all kinds of pictures, drawings from grandchildren (myself included), party invitations, postcards, and other clippings.  It sometimes feels like he left a scavenger hunt just for me to someday find.

I lift the lid, smell my simmering minestrone after some time has passed, and cry.

My New Recipe Box

Happy Sunday!  Are you all having nice weekends?  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going to a 90th birthday party for my…well, I don’t know how we’re related.  That’s the thing about big Italian families.  It was a celebration for the books, though, that’s for sure!

For those of you on your computers and on my site directly, you will notice many new changes to the looks of Scissors & Sage.  For you loyal subscribers out there, visit to see my updates!  I’ve designed a new header logo, a much-needed menu of categories up top, and new social media icons that I coded myself!  Anne snapped some pictures for the updated sidebar and “New Reader?” section.  I hope you all enjoy the new layout!

This week, I thought I’d share my latest love: my recipe box.  Anne gave it to me for my birthday in August, and it was just what I wanted!  I had been eyeballing it on the Rifle Paper Co. website for about six months.  You see, I had a pretty good system for my recipes pre-recipe box — a binder with tabs and plastic sleeves.  But this, this is just on another level.  I stared googly-eyed at it for probably three or four days before starting to transfer recipes.

Some who know me might say that I’m neat or maybe organized.  Others, like my college roommates, might call me compulsively neat AND organized.  Everyone has their way and, needless to say, I like things in their place.

When I started my recipe transfer and looked more closely at the pre-written letterpress tabs the box came with, I started to wish that I could have decided on my own categories.  Where was the salads category?  And what about sides?  Does a quiche go under breakfast or eggs?  And why on EARTH were breads and pastas in the same category?!  As I’ve previously said, and as it’s written in my “New Reader?” section, pasta is its own food group.

I began breathing a little bit more quickly as my eyes darted around trying to put an order to all of this chaos (note: there was literally no actual chaos to be found).  Then it hit me: I could make my own tabs to supplement what the box came with!  I had recently picked up some thin chip board from Paper Source, and it was the perfect material.  I traced an existing divider and then cut it out.  I borrowed Anne’s alphanumeral stamp (the kind that librarians use), and it was finished!

A month or so into using my recipe box, I have to say that it is quite functional.  I use some categories more than others (do you see how big desserts is?) and others not at all (seafood).  The box also came with 24 blank recipe cards that I am really excited to start using.

I am so incredibly happy with how my recipe box turned out.  There are so many family recipes, so many stories, and equally as many happy memories spent in the kitchen and at the dining table.  This is my holy text.

Wooden Crates Three Ways

It’s been almost two years since Anne and I moved to Center City, Philadelphia, and as any well-seasoned renter knows, your apartment wish-list must be quite flexible when searching for a place to call home.  Maybe it’s that you find a great apartment, but it isn’t in an ideal neighborhood.  Or maybe there isn’t a whole lot of natural light, but the location is prime.  When it comes time to decide, something must (usually) be cut from the wish-list.  What are you willing to cut in order to find a home you love?  For us, it was our kitchen.

When Anne and I laid eyes on our apartment for the first time, two things sealed the deal: the natural light and our 20th floor views of City Hall and the Delaware River.  We were less then excited about our tissue box for a kitchen, but we agreed that we could make it work.  As we settled into our new kitchen, we tried out different set-ups and cabinet organization in order to maximize our limited space.  (Keep in mind that our countertops consist of about two square feet, kid you not.)

Enter wooden crates inherited from my parents and found in a thrift store.  These crates have been pretty important in our ongoing kitchen debacle.  We have used them in very different ways to maximize kitchen storage.  Here’s how we’ve used them:

Wooden Crate #1: Spice Rack

We hung this spice rack on the wall next to our stove for easy access when cooking and baking.  It holds everything from salt and pepper to DIY tea bags I made for Anne one Valentine’s Day.  Because we use our spice rack so often, I’ve found it important to reorganize it every few months or so.  It can start to look a bit jumbled from all its use!

Wooden Crate #2: Food Storage Organizer

Since our kitchen is so small, every inch counts here.  I wasn’t about to overlook our above-fridge space, so we found ways to work with the area between the fridge and the cabinets.  Next to our two OXO containers (holding granola bars and tea varieties) is our second wooden crate.  It holds our Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, wax paper, and saran wrap all in one place.  It’s easy to either slide it out or pull it down to see what’s inside.

Wooden Crate #3: Kitchen Linens Holder

One reason why Anne and I accepted our small kitchen for what it was is because the receded wall in the hallway allows space for a butcher’s block.  We inherited this from my sister, and I am eternally grateful.  The butcher’s block allows us to extend the kitchen into our hallway, which is great for entertaining.  We store larger items on its shelves like our toaster, ice cream maker, and colander.  The last wooden crate is used here to hold our kitchen linens.  It holds items such as our extra dish towels, linen napkins, and aprons.

These three crates have helped us overcome some serious frustrations with our kitchen.  When you have limited cabinet space, little to no countertops, and no pantry, it becomes time to think creatively!

Do you have a small kitchen in your home?  How have you overcome its quirks and difficulties?  Please share!