Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Gift from the Heart

I'm not very good with gifts. In fact, I'm a horrible gift giver. I go through this cycle. I decide I'm going to buy something for someone close to me. I go to purchase it and then I think, "What if they hate it?" This thought usually nags at me so much I will often never decide on anything and will give up." Well, this Christmas I decided I'd be a little vulnerable. Actually, really vulnerable. I've decided to share the biggest gift I could ever give.

For the longest time, I've always been hesitant about talking about certain topics just in case I hurt someone or offend them. Spirituality, or my religious beliefs was one of those topics. Even after I got back from a mission--where all I did all day every day was talk with strangers about the gospel of Jesus Christ-- I still never went there with friends.

However, I've decided the thought processes that have kept me from sharing and inviting friends to learn more about my faith isn't very logical. I hope that whether or not you are interested in accepting any invitations, or not, you'll appreciate that I'm just trying to share something that has helped me and made me extremely happy.

For example, a year ago my grandpa passed away. I lived close to him and built up a close relationship with him over the years. He was a father figure in my life and I loved him. Even though it was rough losing him, my belief that I'll see him again someday and that we're family forever really helped lighten the trial. My belief in eternal families has also helped my husband and I in our perspective about what marriage should be like. There are so many other examples I could give about how my faith has helped me through hard times, and made me a better person. 

I think most of us are trying to figure out what life is all about. What is truth, and what isn't. Even within my faith there are always questions that come up, and sometimes I've found answers that have been inspired from friends of other faiths--even some who were atheist. I enjoy understanding what other people believe and how they arrived to their convictions. It has caused me to question and rethink and even to further solidify some of my own beliefs.

So, whether you're just curious about us Mormons, you've been struggling with the meaning of life, would like to know about eternal families, or anything else I'd invite you to talk with the missionaries. There are plenty of them around these days: sets of two young men, or young women with the black tags.

And if by chance, you are a little annoyed when people talk religion, I hope you aren't offended by anything I've said and that you'll know I'm just hoping to add a little more to your lives. You can always just pretend you never read this if you're not interested.

If you would like to know more... here are a couple of options to look into:

  • Meet with our missionaries. If you click on this link and fill out some information you'll be able to meet with some missionaries who live in an area near you. 
  •  Come worship with us. Anyone is invited. Most people dress up a bit so it may be a good idea to come in a nice shirt and tie for men, or in a dress for women, but you won't be turned away if you're dressed casually either.
  • Or accept my gift of a free Book of Mormon. Just pretend it's gift wrapped and sent directly from me to you. Just know it's not a novel, or anything, and I highly encourage you talk with the missionaries while reading it so they can answer questions you might have.
I wish you all Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

DIY How to Make Hello Kitty Shirts with Freezer Paper

We just had a quiet little Hello Kitty Thanksgiving party here at home with family. While Daniel was busy cooking up a storm, and our youngest two were napping, the older girls and I had a blast making some Hello Kitty shirts. I did a free hand drawing on freezer paper and after getting approval and suggestions from the birthday girl, I cut it out.

Next time I'll be sure to not cut so liberally. If you notice how the freezer paper on the pink shirt is pretty thin on the outer edges? That made it very difficult to keep the paint from going beyond our Hello Kitty character. Especially with little ones doing the painting. As you can see, I got wiser when I cut out the blue one.

After everything was cut out, we ironed on the freezer paper and then painted Hello Kitty with acrylic paint. We'll definitely be making more shirts again!

Here's the end results:


Monday, December 16, 2013

Hello Kitty Thanksgiving Birthday Party

Yep. You read that right. A Hello Kitty Party with all the Thanksgiving trimmings. That's what our daughter requested for her birthday. It's not every day you'll get a request like that and I had a lot of fun with it! There were plenty of ideas on-line including this plush Hello Kitty that turned into a turkey:

You can get your own hello kitty turkey here

While I didn't purchase the cooked kitty, I did get quite a kick out of it. They even had a Kitty that turned into a hamburger!

I also enjoyed making Hello Kitty cupcakes with molded chocolate. I told my oldest daughter it was glorified play-dough. Only it tastes amazing! I'm not a fan of fondant. Bleh! However, this stuff is delicious and easy enough to work with.

I think they turned out pretty cute. I made the bows by squishing them in the middle like so...

Then I used a chopstick to make an indentation on both sides...

and pushed towards the middle to make a bow shape

I also just used a knife and scored it until I thought it looked cute:

The eyes and nose were just squished balls/ovals and the whiskers were thin sections of "snakes" I rolled out.

I'm telling you it was glorified play-dough!

Since my daughter wanted a "Thanksgiving" Hello Kitty party. It was only fitting that the cupcakes were pumpkin flavored. They were delicious and moist.

I also had some fun with food. Our mashed potatoes even looked Hello Kitty:

I used a sharpie. Our black one was dead, so I opted to use pink. And it all wiped right off using my nail polish remover trick. Although, I don't think I'd have used nail polish remover on the inside of a bowl. If you like the idea, but aren't fond of having to use a sharpie on your bowl, then you can use icing to draw the face. The website that I got the idea from seemed to have done just that. They made a fruit salad, so you definitely can use this with more than just potatoes. In fact, I put rolls in another "Hello Kitty" bowl.

While all the food was cooking, the girls and I made some Hello Kitty shirts. I'll share how we did it in another post.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

DIY How to make a personalized Embroidered Christmas Stocking

One of the traditions I've started for our family, is making a personalized stocking. The first three I made were ones I picked up at a local craft store. The design and all the material came in a pack and it helped me learn all the tricks of embroidery. After making three, I decided I would try designing my own and it turned out beautifully. The best part was including caricatures of our family, which made it more fun and meaningful. The first design I came up with and made included a scene where our family of four was singing Christmas carols and I gave it to our youngest (at the time) who loved it.

Somehow, I got a bit behind and wasn't able to make a stocking for our son before our last baby was born. Since the baby would be using our plain stocking I decided I better get to it and make one for our little guy. I decided to use a snowball fight scene and love how it turned out:

If you're interested in making your own personalized stocking, but don't have much experience with applique, or embroidery, then you could start out with a kit that includes all your supplies, and instructions (like Bucilla's stocking kits), or if you feel brave you could try it on your own (like I did here). There's so many good tutorials and guides on embroidery that you can find on the web. So you shouldn't feel completely lost. Here's a basic outline of how I made mine:

First, I got flannel as fabric for the front and then cotton gingham for the inside. I already had a lot of leftovers of felt for my scene. You can find felt in any craft store as well as embroidery thread, beads, and sequins. After cutting out the shape (make sure to account for the seam allowance and cut it out bigger than you'd like the finished product to be), I sewed another piece of fabric so the inside would look nice, and so the goodies Santa brings wouldn't snag on embroidery threads. Just put right sides together and then later it will flip over so you'll have a beautiful seam. Only sew the top. Don't finish the sides until your design is complete.

Then I drew what I wanted the scene on the stocking to look like and cut out the background first (a sledding hill).

Then  I pinned where I wanted other pieces of the picture to go:

I'd then start to cut out pieces of felt to make the characters. Here you can see I changed how my arm and the position of the baby with the felt versus where it was in the picture. When the top part of the body was done I started the hair.

For the hair I wound embroidery thread around a couple of times trying to make it a tad longer than I wanted the length of hair to be. I then would stitch the thread to the top of the head (I wasn't too careful about how it looked since I knew the hats would cover the hair).

Since I was making it for a child, I made extra stitches to make sure the hair was nice and secure.

Once I was done I'd snip the ends to the desired hair length and would add a hat:

Here's how I made the pom pom on top of the hats. Grab the color/colors you want:

Wind the string around your finger. Do it loose enough you'll be able to pull it off. Then take a needle to the top or bottom of all the strings and tie them together a couple of times. Make sure they're all secure then snip the top to desired length and fluff the strings.

You'll wind thread to make bangs as well:

Then stitch the bangs securely in place and cut to desired length (see the bangs on the side haven't been trimmed like the bangs on the right):

Here's a trick I'd keep track of all the small felt pieces I'd cut out: I'd baste stitch on top of my picture and would adjust to how I really wanted the pieces. I also pinned the pieces to make it all really secure:

Here's how you can make curly hair: Double up a long piece of string as shown in the picture. Then, begin to twist the tops and bottoms in opposite directions...

Then push your ends towards each other and the strings will wind around each other even more like this (except you will have two hands since you won't be taking a picture):

I stitched the curls to the head leaving extra to hang over side so the curls would stay. I actually didn't cover this girls hair and just sewed it in place...

After all your caricatures are pieced and sewn together, you can add stitches to make the face. You can also add thread and sequins to add details to your picture to make snow flakes, Christmas lights, eyelashes etc.You can also add a little stuffing to add depth and a more 3-D feel.

My kids all loved that Daddy was laughing about a snowball getting him really good. Who do you think plastered him?

I like adding thread to the bottom of the scarfs for detail. I also did french knots to make polka dots. I've used french knots to make eyes before as well.

After you're done add your child's name to the top (examples on stockings below) and you're done! While it takes a lot of time, these stockings will be cherished and much more special than a plain ol' one you can pick up at the drugstore.

Here are the first two stockings I made from Bucilla. They came with all the supplies and explained how to do all the stitches. So, if you need a more in depth tutorial, or don't think you can come up with a fun scene of your own, these are beautiful and fun as well. I found that my own design went a lot quicker though since it wasn't as intricate as these so if you want it done before Christmas I suggest you get started soon!

Should I Use Friesen Press or Lulu to Get My Book Published?

For the past couple of years, I've been working on writing a book. I really don't know if it will go anywhere. In fact, I really felt compelled to write this book for my kids, and maybe some friends and family. I thought maybe, just maybe, others might be interested (you know, like my grandma's neighbor, or mom's friend). I really have put a lot of time and effort into it though, so I figured I'd look into different publishing options. I sent an inquiry letter out to one company, and they actually offered me some advice rather than completely reject me. Because they showed a little interest, I decided to make use of their suggestions. I'm not naive enough to believe they'll be interested in the completed manuscript, but I figured since I wasn't completely turned away, I should also look into self-publishing as plan B.

My husband and I have a relative who used FriesenPress, and I was curious about the company. It was difficult finding very many negative reviews on-line. This made me skeptical. Their claim to have published Harry Potter made me even more leery. That's why I continued my search. I'm sure many others have also toyed with the idea of publishing with them. I really found these sites helpful and figured I should share. Here's one about Lulu. This woman blogged about her experience with FriesenPress and shared the last two links which I found to be particularly helpful. This one is about FriesenPress. Finally, there's a thread I found helpful here.

If I don't find a publishing company to take my manuscript right away, I might still self-publish, but I think I'll do it solo. I'm hoping this will be helpful to other real and wanna-be authors. For those who know a thing or two about publishing, what route did you decide to go, and if you're done...are you pleased? I'd love to know. I'm also curious if works the same way.

Anyhow, our relative seems pleased with FriesenPress for the time being, and just got his second book out through them. He's been working on a trilogy. I haven't read the finished results of his first book, but enjoyed his first draft and know he put a lot more work into it later sprucing it up. If you're looking for a book, why not buy a copy or two to help him out? I'm certainly planning on buying them to put under our Christmas tree.

By the way, if you're thinking about sending a manuscript/inquiry letter into a publishing company, I found a website with a list of publishing companies who you can send your stuff to directly, without an agent. I'll have to find the link and post that soon.

Top 10 Ways to Save So You can Put Your Husband through School while Your Family Grows

So in my last post I mentioned how we provided for our kids while Daniel was going through grad school and didn't have a full time job until just recently. We were able to pinch enough pennies so that we'll be debt free before he graduates! While not everyone will be able to do the same, there are a lot of tricks we learned that helped us be frugal. Here are some of the things that helped us stay afloat:

1. Couponing and price matching at Wal-Mart: We were able to do this while living on the West Coast much more then we can now. We used pinching your pennies' coupon website and price matched everything. If I ran into a sale on clothing for kids, I'd stock up on clothes for several years in advance. Now that we're in the East Coast, I've struggled to be as thrifty. Perhaps, it's just this particular area. Couponing isn't an option because I usually have three kids with me at the store. In other words, I have to move people! Otherwise naps, or meals, are missed and a hungry/tired toddler or baby times three is never a great idea at a store.

Price matching also isn't an option here since we don't have a store near us that does price matching. Needless to say, it's easier in some areas and circumstances to get better deals than it would be in others. If you can't price match, or coupon you can just pay attention to deals and stock up on things you use a lot. I've finally found a couple of stores where they have amazing deals and I plan our meals around what's on sale. We're also lucky being in the military because we get a food stipend which has also helped because the East Coast is not cheap.

2. I Have a Free Phone: Well, kind of. We had one cell phone between the two of us, that did not connect to the internet. Paying for one plan without all the unnecessary gadgets saves tons. My husband has the phone and lately I've been using my Ipod. Did you know you can use pinger/textfree to text and receive calls for free? That's what I use. People can even call and leave you a message! It's basically like having a cell phone. The downside is you can't call 911. However, if you have an old cell phone you can call 911. Did you know you can use an old phone without coverage to dial 911? You just have to have the battery charged, or have it plugged in. They have charities that collect old cell phones for battered women and other people in need so they can call police in emergencies. So if you have some old cell phones you're looking to get rid of, it's worth looking into some of these charities (just click on the links, or google more if you're interested).

Anyhow, as long as I have a connection to wireless internet, I receive calls free, and can text for free. Why pay for a second phone line? We likely will invest in a go-phone or TracFone so I can have something to call people back on just because it is inconvenient to have to wait to make calls with Daniel's cell phone, and in other situations, but you can have just one line/cell phone if things are tight. It's more than possible.

3. Car: Do you really need more than one car? We went almost eight years sharing one vehicle. We finally gave in and became a two car family this year because Daniel's commute to and from work took hours each day versus under an hour by car. We used our tax refund and paid for our commuter car in cash. Paying it off in full right away means we didn't have to pay extra from interest. We did the same thing when we had to buy a "new" old van after our first van's engine quit on us. I can't say enough about scrimping by as much as you can so you have money for rainy days while putting a spouse through school.

4. Credit cards: We don't use them. If we do, we pay it all off in full right away so we're not paying interest.

5. Christmas and Holidays: We've always given frugal gifts. Many of them were home made, or inexpensive. The average family spends almost a thousand dollars on Christmas! We'd spend $100-200, and our kids would have never known they were any different (especially since they were spoiled by relatives). There are also a lot of benefits of not going crazy during the holidays. My kids don't think about presents when they think about their birthday, instead they think about how they want to celebrate it (at least they do now). Often if they're asked what they want for their birthday they'll answer what type of cake they want, or how it will be decorated. In fact, our kids don't really make requests for what they want for their birthday, or Christmas and have always been thrilled with everything they've received, which is rare in the entitled culture we live in.

6. Food Storage: Being Mormon, we tried getting our food storage going right after we got married. Our food storage supply was used all the time. We stocked up on different foods we used all the time to make things like spaghetti, tuna casserole, BBQ beef, Costco's pancake mix, oatmeal etc. We lived off of our food storage for the most part. In fact, we still do. We had a huge supply of food we'd buy in bulk when we saw deals.

7. Dates and family activities: My husband and I couldn't have a babysitter watch our kids. We couldn't afford one. There were a couple of times we'd swap babysitting with another couple, but since going out usually meant spending money, we usually just had free and inexpensive dates at home. Our family also enjoyed doing free, or frugal activities. We would go on walks to the library, bike, watch free movies, visit with family and friends, and do other activities that were fun and free.

8. Television: Unless cable was free, we didn't have it. Instead, we had amazon prime where you can watch movies online. You can also watch shows free off on most major network's sites and we get free two day shipping on most items we buy through amazon. The best part was it was cheaper for us since Daniel was a student.

9. Instead of paying to get my hair cut, I'd donate it to locks of love. I'd go to Fantastic Sam's or Great Clips and would get a free haircut (although I did pay a tip) and would get to donate my hair to help make a wig for a child with cancer. I'd say that's more than a win-win. And with all my pregnancies my hair seemed to be four times as thick and grew very quickly which made my donations pretty substantial. There are some pluses to what those hormones can do for you.

10. Continuing to Live Like Poor College Students: We're lucky to have a housing stipend through the Army which has allowed us to live in a gorgeous home, but it's interior is filled with all of our beat up furniture and we don't plan on doing any interior decorating any time soon. Even now that we're being paid a full salary we haven't changed our spending habits so we could save up enough to be debt free. After we pay off loans and save enough that we'll have emergency money that will last a year will slowly start spending more, but it won't be much more. That means we'll be hanging on to all our hand me down furniture until we've got quite a cushion. 

By following these guidelines not only were we able to make it out of grad school debt free (with the help of the Army), but we'll also be able to provide for our family. I'll share more about how we have and plan to continue to provide for our kids financial needs later. While we are frugal I don't think my kids have ever felt poor or neglected, and we couldn't have done it alone.

In fact, I truly believe Heavenly Father was looking out for us. Looking back I feel like he provided manna and raiment/clothing as he did with Moses and his people (see here). There were times when things were so tight that first year that I wondered how we could make it through the rest of the month, let alone the next four or five years. Yet, when we'd get to the point where it didn't seem like what was left of our budget would be enough to cover groceries, miracles would happen: someone would randomly drop off groceries, or bring over produce from their garden, or do something else that would get us through to the next month. Every. Single. Time.

When we needed baby clothes, I'd happen upon an amazing sale where clothes were only $1, or people would randomly drop off their kids' old baby clothes. We even had people leave us a box filled with food the first Thanksgiving after Daniel began going to grad school and was unemployed. The next year Daniel's work decided to be our Santa that year. We were given tons of gifts anonymously. Every Christmas Daniel and I would discuss the small gifts we planned to purchase and how it would help the kids learn to appreciate the little things. When Christmas would roll around those few gifts would be lost in the sea of gifts others had brought for our kids.

Besides having countless earthly angels watching over us, there were several other miracles. When our van died we found out we had to pay out-of-pocket for our third child (remember this is also when I decided to stop using WIC). Not knowing how we'd afford all our new expenses we just continued forward in faith. We were saved from having to take out another loan by a large tax refund that came right in time to be able to afford buying a vehicle, and we were able to get a huge discount for hospital bills by paying in cash before the baby was born. After all was said and done, I was grateful I hadn't back peddled and gotten back on WIC and tried to get on medicaid. After such a test, I was even more sure that Heavenly Father would provide.

Those are just some of the ways we were able to stay frugal while Daniel continued his education and as our family continued to grow. What are some ways that have helped you provide for your family when finances were tight?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How to Afford Another Baby

I case you were wondering, this is NOT an ad. I am NOT selling my precious baby. I'm just illustrating the fact that babies DO cost money. They aren't cheap. In fact, I think one of the biggest question people have when they see me carting around four kids is, how we can afford it? Especially after they learn that my husband is finishing the tail end of grad school. He's done, but hasn't officially finished or graduated. He started his five year PhD program when our first child was a baby. I'm sure many people would be floored if they were to find out that three of our four kids were born while my husband was in grad school, before he was working full time.

At this point most people automatically assume we must have been on medicaid. We never have used medicaid. We did use WIC after I had our first baby, and up until I got pregnant with our third child. While we still qualified for help, I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of using WIC anymore. I decided that it wasn't right to use the program and choose to keep getting pregnant. If we were supposed to have another baby, and decided to do so we should be able to take care of them ourselves. I know others may disagree, but I feel that was the right choice for us. I realized that even though we weren't rich, that somehow God would help us out. He has. Other than WIC, we haven't received any other government aid.

Because I know you're probably curious, I'll share what our finances were like... When my husband, Daniel, and I were first married, I was doing an internship where I was teaching world civilizations to middle school students. My husband had graduated with a psychology degree and started working at a lock-down facility with juvenile delinquents. I had no debt at all, but Daniel had student loans and we still had to pay off our wedding rings. I've never been a spender and had insisted that I didn't want a real diamond, so I opted to get a moissanite diamond instead. My husband was really surprised by my decision, but I was able to persuade him I really didn't need or even want a diamond. So, there wasn't much we owed on our rings. We used my salary as a teacher to pay off loans and the rings. Before I was done with my internship we were debt free and had a pretty decent amount of savings.

That summer I found out I was expecting our first child and I decided to give up a position I was offered to teach and instead opted to tutor foreign Korean students part time until our daughter arrived. We knew Daniel was planning on applying for a PhD/Masters psychology program, so we continued to live like poor college students and saved up.

After our daughter was born, Daniel applied to and was accepted in a PhD program. His first year he didn't work at all--he wasn't allowed to. The following three years he worked part time. He is now finishing up his fifth year and is finishing an internship where he is earning an officer's pay through the military.

So, the first year we lived off of savings. Then the next couple of years we lived off of savings and what Daniel earned from work until we had to take out our first student loan. Soon after, Daniel applied for and was accepted into the military med core where he got a scholarship. This extra bit of help allowed us to make it through the rest of Daniel's program without taking out another loan. Because we saved and pinched pennies (and have continued to do so despite having much more cash flowing into our bank account now), we now have enough in savings to pay back all of our student loans, and Daniel hasn't even graduated.

I'm not trying to sell our financial plan to anyone, or to prove everyone can or should try to have more children. I think different things work for different people. I just wanted to share how having more children has worked for us, and how it's been a really good choice for us and our family. I'll share some of the ways we saved in a future post for those interested.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Four Tips on How to Stay Organized When Using a Whiteboard

Here are some tricks that may come in handy if you use whiteboards a lot for organization. I picked up on these when I was a freshman in college. My roommates and I used a whiteboard to divvy up chores and to write down messages for one another. Here are some of the tricks we used...

You can use a permanent marker on a whiteboard. Use one for lines and words you want to last for a long time. On my DIY calendar whiteboard, I used permanent marker for the lines and for the names of the days during the week.

Did you notice my lines aren't the straightest? I swear I used a ruler, but melamine can be a little slippery. You can also see a couple of extra lines on the bottom, and some lines that were erased. Also, notice how my Wednesday and Thursday have faded a lot. I've used this for months now, and it's ready to be fixed.

One of my most favorite tricks is that permanent marker isn't permanent on can erase it! All you need is an old dry-erase marker that is running out of ink and not working so well. You can also use a free one, but beware: the ink from the permanent marker will dry out a new dry-erase marker.

Notice how I erased and re-wrote Wednesday and Thursday and then fixed some of the bottom lines. The board still isn't sparkly clean, but I don't mind so much. If you do, nail polish remover is another way to erase permanent marker and will really get the board to shine.

Once you're done, fill in the month and days, or whatever else. You'll notice as you fill it in, you won't notice the not-so-straight lines so much, and if you do, you can always erase them and try again.

When filling in your calendar, you may want to use different colors for different people, or different tasks. For this month I'm using red for my husband, orange for myself, green for the kids etc...

We also have another whiteboard where I write everyone's weekly goal, things I need to pick up at the grocery store, daily responsibilities (aka chores) for the kids, and a daily to-do list. Each night before we get ready for bed Daniel and I update the calendar and discuss what we have going on the next day. Having these daily meetings helps us stay on top of things and try to maintain balance.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

DIY How to Make a Framed Whiteboard, or Picture Frame...

It seems like life has gotten more and more busy. When Daniel finished his dissertation, we all thought we'd have him around more. After a month enjoying having a husband around, and actually getting to have some one on one time etc., he was called as a counselor in the Bishopric. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka us Mormons), we have a lay church. What that means is we don't have a paid clergy. Different members are given a "calling," or responsibility so everything runs smoothly. Right now, I'm working as a secretary in the Primary (the organization over the kids and their Sunday school).

The Bishop is a man called to watch over a ward, or congregation much like a pastor (except he's not paid). His counselors are also responsible to do the same, to help shoulder some of the bishop's responsibilities. This means Daniel has needed to go to meetings and other activities with the youth. So he once again has a hefty load. While we would love having him home more often, we're grateful that Daniel is able to serve in this calling. It's not easy, but has been another stretching period of growth which we've already seen huge blessings from. It also has meant we needed to crack down and really get organized so we can keep our family, Daniel's work, and our Church responsibilities all balanced.

One thing that has really helped has been my new whiteboard calender. Have you ever noticed most whiteboard calendars are teeny tiny? I couldn't find one that would allow us to write our full schedule down. So, I made my own and thanks to this blog I was able to figure out how to frame it. The best part was all the materials cost less than it would have to have bought two already made whiteboards. Here's one of the two I made:

Want to learn how to make your own?...

First, you'll want:

-a mitre box saw, unless you already have more high tech sawing equipment. We aren't so lucky. If you don't have one, they really aren't too expensive.

-crown molding

-A sheet of Melamine/showerboard to serve as your white board. The sheets are huge
(about 4x8 feet), so you can make several white boards out of just one. I bought mine at Lowe's for under $14 and they cut it up for me for free. Just beware the sheets are flimsy and they can break when cut, but most likely you won't have any problems.

-wood glue

-picture hangers

-acrylic paint, or any paint you have on hand

-gloss (optional)

After you get your supplies, get to work. Take a piece of molding and make the first diagonal cut. You'll want a 45 degree angle and this is where your mitre box will come in handy. Just put the pegs where the wood will be nice and snug:

See how there are five lines in the middle on the top and bottom. You'll use the last line on the bottom (or first at the top). You can see how the cut will be a perfect 45 degree angle.

After you made your first cut make sure you keep it at the length you want it and then make a cut on the opposite side (so you'll use the first line on the bottom and last line on the top). Your molding will look something like this after it's cut:

After you have all of your pieces cut grab some rubber bands so you can glue it together. I didn't have rubber bands that were long enough so I doubled up the bands. You can also do likewise by sticking your rubber bands like this:

Flip one over and stick it under its' other side like so:

Then pull:

Make four sets for all four corners:

Put wood glue on the corners and secure with the rubber bands. You'll likely have to move the pieces around a bit to get it just right, so be generous with the amount of glue you use. You can wipe off any excess after it's all together.

Here's how it looks being held together with all the rubber bands:

You'll want to let it dry over night so it will be nice and secure. I put text books on top to keep the wood straight:

After the glue is dry, paint your molding, or stain it. I didn't sand it, but if you want a smoother piece you'll want to. I added a gloss to mine to protect the paint, but you could easily skip that step:

After your paint is dry, you're ready to glue the melamine to the wood. Make sure the top of the melemine is up far enough on the top piece of wood that you'll be able to attach a picture hanger. It doesn't have to perfectly fit underneath though.

After you add the molding, set books on top to secure it until it's dry. I'd let it dry overnight.

Once it's dry and secure, grab your picture hanger and put it on the back on top of the melamine and over the wood. As you can see my melamine wasn't perfectly lined up. No big deal, it will be against the wall. I was going to use my staple gun, but decided against it. I was paranoid it may split the wood molding. You're welcome to try if you're brave enough, but this has held pretty nicely with just wood glue (and I've had it up for a couple of months).

After you've got it all together, put it on the wall and enjoy! I'll add some more about how you can make it into a calender later... I'm also hoping to make more frames for some pictures.