I quickly realized after I started this blog that I had to start writing down the recipes I was creating. It’s all fine and good to go from memory if you’re making the dish yourself because you can fix any mistakes real-time. But forgetting a key step or ingredient when sharing a recipe with others can result in a ruined dish. I didn’t want disgruntled readers yelling at me in CAPITAL LETTERS if a recipe went awry because it was incomplete. Yikes.
Being a somewhat of a tree hugger, I usually use scraps of paper for notes and lists (although the inner organizational freak in me LOVES all forms of stationary and school supplies). And yes, even the back of envelopes.
In case there is any doubt, let me be clear – this is a horrible idea for writing down recipes in the midst of creating them. The pieces of paper are quickly smeared with ingredients wet and dry, often making it impossible to write on the paper and even if the pen works, my normally nice handwriting is unintelligible. Not to mention the countless cross outs and scribbles from changing the measurements of ingredients as I develop the recipe. On more than one occasion I have accidentally recycled the scrap of paper before writing down the recipe because it looks like trash (goodbye spiced pear jam… tear).
I’ve been toying with the idea of painting an entire wall of my apartment with chalkboard paint. But I realized that in a small studio apartment a black wall would look oppressive (and you’d get covered in chalk if you brushed by it). It also would mean leaving my kitchen to write notes while developing a recipe – not really a good solution.
I was standing in my kitchen doorway wondering what the fix was going to be when I saw it – the perfect little blank space on the side of my ice box (used for jars and not for refrigeration, but a very cool original detail of the apartment). It’s directly across from my stove and next to the counter I was already using to jot down my recipe notes.
I first searched for chalkboard decals, but google quickly informed me that the decals are really just black contact paper – and I could cut it to size. Genius – a contact paper chalkboard. Before ordering online, I thought I would check with my neighborhood hardware store, and wouldn’t you know they had black contact paper for $6 a roll – cheaper than what’s online (so if you decide to do this yourself, check there first!).
When I moved into my apartment earlier this year, my dad came and helped me contact paper all the kitchen cabinets and drawers. He’s such a great guy. While awkwardly trying to cut contact paper on the floor using a piece of cardboard to protect my hardwood floors because I didn’t have furniture yet (the man is a saint), he reminded me repeatedly that you should always, always measure twice and cut once. Otherwise you may start to lay down your contact paper and realize it’s the wrong size – no good.
So listen to my dad: double-check your measurements when you’re measuring the space and when you’re measuring out the contact paper.
Start to finish, the project took me under 20 minutes. It’s the same as applying contact paper is for cabinets and drawers, but I’ll spell it out just in case:
- Clean the surface – give it a wipe with some all-purpose cleaner to remove dust and grime.
- Measure the space and the contact paper (twice).
- Draw out the lines on the contact paper. If you don’t have a ruler like me, use a baking sheet as a straight edge (Seemed appropriate since I was doing this for the kitchen).
- Cut the contact paper along the lines.
- Pull back the liner carefully.
- Line up one edge of the contact paper with an edge of the surface and then smooth it down, trying to get it as straight as you can without air bubbles. This might take a few tries. Don’t get frustrated – it’ll happen.
- Smooth out the contact paper and try to push out the air bubbles as best you can. There might still be a few in there, but that’s life.
- Stand back and admire your craftiness.
I read that you need to “cure” the chalkboard by covering it with chalk and then wiping it off, but I found my chalkboard worked right away without this step.
I love the result! The black contact paper is a nice contrast and focal point in my kitchen, and it’s so much cleaner and easier to write down recipes than using scraps of paper! Plus I can easily erase and rewrite as I tweak the recipe.