DIY photo board from a door grille

DIY photo board from door grille {Heather's Handmade Life}

It was leaning in the corner of my client’s basement, and I recognized it immediately as one of those wooden grilles you’d see in a French door.

“Oooh! Can we use that?” — one of my favourite questions when I’m decorating a room for someone.

I didn’t know exactly what I’d do with it, but I knew I had to take it. It was the same oak as the doors and trim in her daughter’s bedroom, and I knew I could make something cool with it.

A photo board! Yes!

I could put fabric and batting behind it, and photos could be slipped behind the wooden grid. I was still fuzzy on how it was going to work, exactly, but I had the general idea.

DIY photo board from door grille {Heather's Handmade Life}

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home …

Want to see how this whole bedroom turned out? Check out these previous tutorials …
Custom desk + photo ledges >>> FULL POST
Navy nightstands >> FULL POST
Creative organizing ideas >> FULL POST
Filing cabinet makeover >> FULL POST
Kitchen chair turned desk chair >> FULL POST
Like this post? Don’t forget to PIN IT so it’s easy to find later …
DIY photo board from door grille {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this post!

 

The thing about theme days

The thing about theme days {Heather's Handmade Life}
I love a good theme day.

There was nobody as excited as me when I finally got to participate in my first Crazy Hair Day at our elementary school two years ago.

I was delighted in hot-gluing LEGO bricks to barrettes and turning our son’s hair into a LEGO tornado. Our daughter still talks about how much she loved the “cupcake hair” I’d made by tugging her ballet bun through a hole in a paper plate.

For my own hairdo, I wound a high ponytail inside an empty 2L Diet Coke bottle so it “poured” out the spout. I was really proud of myself until I saw a student who’d done the same thing, except hers even poured into a Styrofoam cup. She clearly won.

Read the full Crazy Hair Day post

The occasional theme day is fun for everyone. But do you know what is not fun for everyone? A new theme each week — especially when it’s for an after-school activity you’re paying to attend.

Ughhhhhhh.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene …

Sneaky DIY secret of dry-brushing

The sneaky DIY secret of dry-brushing furniture and accessories {Heather's Handmade Life}
It’s not that I’m lazy. I’m actually one of those people who is always doing something. I can’t even watch TV without also loom-knitting or quilting or embroidering or something.

But … I admit to being a little lazy (and sloppy) when it comes to painting. I love anything that speeds up the process of painting furniture or accessories or walls — ugh, have yet to find a way to speed up wall painting, unfortunately.

So, today I’m going to share the DIY secret that is … dry-brushing.

The sneaky DIY secret of dry-brushing furniture and accessories {Heather's Handmade Life}

I’ve talked about this a few times before, in passing, but it really deserves more. Dry-brushing is exactly what it sounds like: painting something with a dry-ish brush that has hardly any paint on it.

Wait, that makes it sound like it would make the painting process longer, doesn’t it? Less paint on the brush equals more time and effort to cover the thing with paint? That’s why dry-brushing is sneaky.

The sneaky DIY secret of dry-brushing furniture and accessories {Heather's Handmade Life}
DIY sofa tables: FULL TUTORIAL

Well, hang onto your paint-splattered project pants (Do they have holes? Mine have holes), because here are the three situations when I tend to break out the dry-brushing …

The sneaky DIY secret of dry-brushing furniture and accessories {Heather's Handmade Life}
Continue reading
Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home …

DIY Harry Potter costumes

DIY Harry Potter costumes | DIY Quidditch broom craft | Hermione Granger costume | Rita Skeeter costume | {Heather's Handmade Life}

And so, after spending a year feeling guilty about dropping waaaaay too much money in the stupid Halloween store — and coming to the conclusion that DIY costumes aren’t always cheaper — I present to you … our sorta-bought, sorta-DIY Harry Potter costumes …

DIY Harry Potter costumes | DIY Quidditch broom craft | Hermione Granger costume | Rita Skeeter costume | {Heather's Handmade Life}
C in her Hermione Granger costume, D in his “Quidditch Harry Potter” costume

Pretty cute, right? Here’s the breakdown of what we cobbled together for each costume …

DIY Harry Potter costumes | DIY Quidditch broom craft | Hermione Granger costume | Rita Skeeter costume | {Heather's Handmade Life}

DIY Hermione Granger costume

Read More

DIY Halloween costumes for kids

DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}

This is our EIGHTH year of going trick-or-treating with at least one kiddo, and we’ve had a lot of fun costumes over the years. Many have been handmade, but many have also been store-bought and maybe modified a lil’. (Er, some more expensively than others.)

Here’s a quickie photo-heavy round-up of what we’ve been each year, starting with the first “real” Halloween (a.k.a. our first with kids) when D was just four months old …

DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Garden Gnome + Pregnant Skeleton (there’s a baby C in there!)
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Farmer, Minnie Mouse, and Mama Minnie Mouse with awesome breastfeeding boobs
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Sir Topham Hatt, two Oompa Loompas, and a Wonka Bar
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Mama Bear and Sister Bear from the Berenstain Bear family + a “spooky ghost”
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Kira and Tori from Barbie: Princess and the Popstar (with duct tape boots) and a Green Power Ranger Dino Charge
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Red Lego Ninjago + Spongebob Squarepants
DIY Halloween costumes for kids {Heather's Handmade Life}
Slimer, a Ghostbuster (then a crappy homemade thing) and Draculaura from Monster High

Tonight we’ll be dressing up as Harry Potter (OF COURSE), Hermione Granger, Rita Skeeter (meeeeee!) and Dobby (Annabelle). Except only two of those costumes are done. Crap.

Getting kids excited about STEM

Getting kids excited about STEM {Heather's Handmade Life}

Disclosure: littleBits sent us a Base Inventor Kit* to play with so I could share this story. All opinions and irrational fears of science are my own.

***

I can’t imagine a future in which my daughter doesn’t think she can go to university to study math or engineering, but that was pretty much the case back when I was younger.

I was terrible at math growing up — science, too, actually — but I was pretty great at computer programming. I’d taught myself basic coding before I even hit puberty, and I really liked diving into the gobbledygook that made up a simple computer game or quiz.

For half a second, I thought about pursuing it in university, but I was spooked by the word “science” in “computer science.” I wasn’t good at science, therefore, I wasn’t cut out for computer science. End of story. Off to do an arts degree, then!

I don’t know if a single girl from my graduating class went on to major in math or engineering, though several did go for science degrees. Today, I know quite a few men, ranging from their 20s to their 60s, who are engineers. I don’t think I know any women who are engineers.

And it isn’t a matter of skill.

“Girls score almost identically to their male classmates on standardized tests through high school. Yet, boys demonstrate twice as much interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers as girls as early as the eighth grade,” says Elaine Khuu, senior product designer with littleBits*, an education startup. “Men then go on to hold a disproportionately-high share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering.”

How can you get your kids — especially your daughters — interested in STEM? Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 

Getting kids excited about STEM {Heather's Handmade Life}
Getting kids excited about STEM | FULL ARTICLE
Looking for a cool STEM Christmas gift? This is the littleBits Base Inventor Kit* we got to try …
Getting kids excited about STEM {Heather's Handmade Life}
Shop this littleBits kit*

DIY tall outdoor planter

DIY super-tall outdoor planter {Heather's Handmade Life}
Let me start by saying that I originally wanted two matching planters, one for either side of our front door. The fact that there is one lonely planter in the photo should tell you that this project did not go according to plan — and that I chose my marriage over a second planter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
DIY super-tall outdoor planter {Heather's Handmade Life}
One (planter) is the loneliest number

I didn’t see this one coming. Three years ago, I’d pinned a cool tutorial for these extra-tall wooden planter boxes. Georgia blogger Katie Bower had created the plans and they looked pretty easy. Lots of measurements and step-by-step photos. I ended up re-pinning the link several times over the years as a reminder to actually build them. (Katie’s awesome! If you don’t follow Bower Power already, DOOOO IT.)

DIY super-tall outdoor planter {Heather's Handmade Life}

After a lot of cajoling, my handy husband agreed to make me two for the front porch. I texted him the link to the tutorial (several times) and he went off to buy dog-eared fence pickets, as specified. We’d never used them before, but they’re very cheap (less than $3 each) and rough to the touch, but fine for rustic outdoor projects like planters.

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home … 
DIY super-tall outdoor planter {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this project to try later!

DIY costumes aren’t always cheap

DIY costumes aren't always cheap {Heather's Handmade Life}
Last week, I told you all about my epic Halloween mistake: bringing both kids into a Halloween store when I had a headache and caving to their pleas for ridiculously overpriced, cheap costumes.

This year, I was determined to do things differently. I wasn’t going to spend $100 again on pieces of junk and I wasn’t going to set foot in that annoying Halloween store again.

All I needed, I decided, was organization. As soon as they said they wanted to be Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, I hopped online to look for the one prop they each really needed: wands.

It wasn’t as straightforward as I’d thought. Apparently, Potter and Granger have very different-looking wands. These aren’t your standard white-tipped magician wands. They’re more like knobby twigs?

I wasn’t interested in the super-expensive cosplay options or the ones the size of key chains. But after a lot of Amazon searching, I found reasonably priced wands* for each of them: $18.99 each with free shipping. Done!

As soon as I’d placed the order, I realized I was safe. The props were on their way, which meant the kids couldn’t change their minds. For the perfectly acceptable price of $37.98, I’d guaranteed I wouldn’t be schlepping into that horrible Halloween pop-up store to spend $100 on cheap costumes. Oh, happy day!

But … oh no.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 

FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath

FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}

As much as I love my sewing machine, I also like having hand-sewing projects to do while I’m watching TV.

I go through periods of quilting — especially in the winter when it’s snuggly to be sitting underneath my “work” — or sometimes I’ll knit hats and scarves. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of cross-stitch (like these cat butts), and I got the idea for this latest project when I was surfing Pinterest for new ideas.

A wreath made from embroidery hoops? Genius. I stared at the photo for ages, trying to figure out how it was put together, but eventually had to watch a YouTube video. There was no real trick to it, just two regular wooden embroidery hoops that you can buy for a few bucks each at any craft or fabric store.

You just spread out your fabric and secure a small embroidery hoop in the centre. (I used a five-inch hoop.)

FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}

Then you flip it over so you’re looking at the back of the hoop …

FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}

… and secure a larger hoop around it. (I used a 12-inch hoop.) It’s a little tricky to centre the larger hoop around the smaller one, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life} FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life} FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home … 
FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}
I sewed on bits of felt and buttons to add different textures
FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}
It was fun figuring out how to make leaves
FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}
I can’t wait to make one of these for each season!
FALL DECOR: Embroidery hoop wreath {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this to read later!

Halloween costume regret

Halloween costume regret {Heather's Handmade Life}

I made a huge mistake last Halloween.

I agreed to take the kids to one of those pop-up Halloween stores. It might not have been a total disaster except … I was tired and had a headache.

They caught me at the ultimate weak moment. I was too cranky to put up much of a fight when they begged for overpriced costumes and accessories. I just wanted to get out of that store and away from the loud, animatronic zombies that kept startling me.

I ended up spending $100 on two cheaply made costumes! One. Hundred. Dollars! I stood at the register, disgusted with myself as I swiped my debit card, but it was too late to do anything. I’d said yes, they were overjoyed and I was thoroughly irritated. At least I was getting out alive.

But the Halloween costume regret was just beginning …

Halloween costume regret {Heather's Handmade Life}

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 
Halloween costume regret {Heather's Handmade Life}
Continue reading in my weekly parenting column

Skinny closet overhaul

Skinny closet overhaul: How rethinking its shelves changed everything {Heather's Handmade Life}

Thirty-four inches is not reasonable for a walk-in closet.

But that’s the width of the ridiculous closet in our basement. It came with two skinny wire shelves, and we added a third at some point. For years I loaded them down with craft supplies because the room was my home office.

Skinny closet overhaul: How rethinking its shelves changed everything {Heather's Handmade Life}

I loathed that closet and how I had to turn sideways to squeeze in to retrieve anything. Most of the time, I couldn’t get in. It was crammed, but there didn’t seem to be a way to make better use of the space.

Once I moved my home office into what used to be our family room/playroom — the largest space in our finished basement — this room became a guest room. Instead of housing craft supplies, the closet was where we stashed the kids’ “sometimes toys.”

But it wasn’t working.

Skinny closet overhaul: How rethinking its shelves changed everything {Heather's Handmade Life}

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home … 

Skinny closet overhaul: How rethinking its shelves changed everything {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this idea for later

Skinny closet overhaul: How rethinking its shelves changed everything {Heather's Handmade Life}

Skinny closet overhaul: How rethinking its shelves changed everything {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this idea for later

 

 

Easy dinner hacks for busy evenings

Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}

We’re a month into our new school-year routine, and it’s different than previous years because C and D now each have TWO after-school activities. (We used to always stick to one but, well, I guess those days are over?)

Luckily, our busy-ness is pretty much condensed into two days: Tuesday and Wednesdays. These are the two days we have activities — gymnastics, Lyrical, taekwondo — happening in the 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. window, which is a bummer for a family  (er, especially the mother) that LIVES for eating dinner at 5 p.m. sharp.

I’ve overheard other parents walking out of these activities musing “Hmm, what should we have for dinner?” I almost laughed out loud, I was so surprised! We just aren’t a family that can just wait and make + eat dinner when everyone’s back at home at 6:45. That’s late, yo! But we also can’t eat dinner at 4 p.m. and be done with it, because then they’re starving when we get home.

My solution has been to basically cook dinner during the afternoon (or even the morning) and have it ready so we can eat something quickly before leaving for the activities, and then eat a little more of it once we’re back at home. This is easy with something in the slowcooker — pasta with meat sauce, Sloppy Joe meat, meatballs, etc. — but I’ve discovered a new way to serve one of our favourites (Mexican) in a split-shift fashion.

Ready for a two-part hack I’ve been loving lately?

PART 1: Cook + freeze ground beef as soon as you buy it.

Some people think this is gross and you’re not getting the full flavour of the meat or whatever, but I’d rather something was easy than over-the-top tasty. *shrugs*

I HATE trying to peel the styrofoam off a hunk of frozen ground beef and stand at the stove for ages as it thaws and cooks. So we buy ground beef and unless we’re turning it into hamburgers or meatballs within a day or two, I will immediately brown it, fully cook it, and divide it into large freezer bags. 

Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}

Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}
I just dump a package of taco seasoning in, and usually some salsa, too.

It’s so much easier to deal with! Whether we’re making tacos (or something else Mexican, which is usually the case) or pasta sauce or Sloppy Joes, we can toss a frozen brick of pre-cooked ground beef into the slowcooker, add some spices/sauce/whatever, and walk away from that shiz. #cookingsucks

PART 2: Premake quesadillas/soft tacos and stick ’em in the fridge!

I just started doing this in the last month, and I’ve done it every single week because it’s SO EASY. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I cook up the ground beef (either from fresh, or from the slowcooker), spread out a bunch of tortillas on the counter, add a scoop of meat, some cheese, some salsa (and jalepenos on the ones for me + Darling Husband) and …

Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}

Boom! Instant pile of quesadillas, ready to go! They stack up nicely and fit into my big plastic containers … Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}

If I’m short on tortillas, I’ll just roll them up into tubes and call them soft tacos. I mean, really, what is the difference? Soft tacos are just rolled-up quesadillas, essentially. At least they are how *I* make them.Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}

Before or after an activity when someone needs to eat quickly, we just grab one of them and microwave it for a minute or so to melt the cheese. Sometimes the kids will just eat them like that, but I prefer to then toss mine into a frying pan to crisp it up a little. It’s still very fast.

Sometimes I make so many that we have more left in the container for the next day! Woohooooo!
Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}

I made these yesterday (Wednesday) and there was one left, which I *just now* ate for breakfast. How’s that for real-time blogging? 😉

Easy dinner hacks for busy weekday evenings {Heather's Handmade Life}
Mmmmmm