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

Homework nagging hack

Now that our kids are in Grade 1 and Grade 3, I’ve noticed this year feels a little different. They’re older students and with that comes more responsibilities at home.

Our daughter, who’s in Grade 1, needs to read at least one book every day and then we log it in her home reading journal. Not a big deal, yet somehow we’re having trouble making it part of our daily routine and she ends up reading all four or five books the day before we need to send them back to school. Oops.

Our son, who’s in Grade 3, has a more intensive homework lineup this year. He needs to read daily, practice his weekly words and count by twos and fours to 100 (starting on different numbers).

Because he’s in band this year, he also needs to practice at home for 15 minutes every day.

The reading isn’t a problem because he takes after me and loves to read. I read a chapter of Harry Potter aloud every night — we’re on book four now and totally obsessed — and then he’s so excited to find out what happens next that he reads ahead a couple of chapters before he goes to sleep.

But there’s more …

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 
Free homework/chore chart {Heather's Handmade Life}
Download blank PDF version
Free homework/chore chart {Heather's Handmade Life}
Grab an editable version (Click “File” then “Make a copy” to customize)
Homework nagging hack + free printable homework/chore chart {Heather's Handmade Life}
Pin this for later!

How I sew button-up shirts

How I sew button-up shirts {Heather's Handmade Life}

I talk a lot about the clothes I sew for our daughter — we all know she’s my life-sized Barbie baby — so today I thought I’d share some details about the button-up shirts I sew for our son.

While I have quite a stash of different dress and tunic patterns for our daughter, I’ve only ever really used two shirt patterns for our son. But by using different fabric, snaps, buttons, trimmings, etc. they all end up looking like very different shirts.

How I sew button-up shirts {Heather's Handmade Life}

When I first started sewing button-up shirts for him, he was four years old — maybe just turning five? It feels like ages ago. I was only sewing dresses at that point and a button-up shirt felt WAY TOO COMPLICATED, but I was determined to try.

Find a pattern and stick with it

I bought the Maxwell Shirt pattern from ShwinDesigns, and I must have made DOZENS of them before he outgrew the pattern. (It goes from 12-18 months straight through size 8.) I mean, really, you don’t need multiple button-up shirt patterns — just pick a nice easy one, and get comfortable with it.

How I sew button-up shirts {Heather's Handmade Life} Read More

It’s always scarier at night

It's always scarier at night {Heather's Handmade Life}
It’s always scarier at night.

This is what I try to remind myself when my anxiety is spiraling out of control in the middle of the night because one of the kids is really sick.

Throwing up is awful, but not worrying because I know it’ll usually pass within a few hours.

Sniffles don’t bother me and neither do colds. Nice, normal little coughs and the odd sneeze? Totally fine.

It’s when the coughing gets bad that I feel myself start to tense up. The tightness starts in my chest and gets worse each time I hear them start to hack across the hall. Then they’re silent. Can they breathe? Wait, another cough. Worse this time …

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

DIY ‘archways’ to separate open-concept spaces

DIY wooden 'archways' to divide an open-concept space and use different paint colours {Heather's Handmade Life}
I really wanted an open-concept house. Now I wish I had more walls.

I can’t say I regret buying our house — which doesn’t have a single dividing wall on the entire main level, other than around the bathroom — because it worked well for us when we had babies and toddlers. In those days, I needed to be able to watch the kids closely at all times — even when I was ducking into the kitchen to empty the dishwasher.

Now that they’re six and eight, I feel a longing for one particular house we toured. It was really old and had lots of little rooms, all separated by hallways and doors. I’d scoffed at the closed-off kitchen at the time, but now I think it would be nice to shut myself in there and listen to music quietly while I make dinner … without hearing the TV blasting from 15 feet away.

Anyway, the other issue with an open-concept house is that you can’t easily transition to different paint colours because the whole level is all connected. No walls. No doorways. Just … openness!

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

DIY wooden 'archways' to divide an open-concept space and use different paint colours {Heather's Handmade Life}

DIY wooden 'archways' to divide an open-concept space and use different paint colours {Heather's Handmade Life}

Five songs I find weirdly inspirational

Five inspirational songs you wouldn't expect {Heather's Handmade Life}
As a writer, I’m obviously a lyric person.

I’m always Googling lyrics to new songs I hear, and often the words are the entire reason I like a song — no matter how it sounds. (On the other side of things, Darling Husband likes songs for their beat, which is why he loves techno — what an adorable lil’ weirdo.)

I don’t write much about music, but I’ve been meaning to put together a post with some of the songs I find inspirational because of their lyrics. It’s a totally bizarre mix — Pitbull, Nickelback, and the TROLLS soundtrack?! — but I swear, it makes sense in my head.

Ready?

***

Rainbow by Kesha

And I know that I’m still f–ked up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can’t go on, hold tight, sweetheart
You’ll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby
Trust me, I know, life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight
You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and paint the world with me tonight 
***
WHY I LOVE IT … 
I’d never thought of myself as a Kesha fan — especially when she was spelling her name with a dollar sign — but I LOVE this song and listen to it on my phone all of the time. I shiver at the line “Darling, our scars make us who are, are.”

Read More

The after-school freak-out

The after-school freak-out {Heather's Handmade Life}
As happy as I am that the kids are back in school, there’s one really annoying part I’d forgotten about: the after-school freak-out. 

It happens almost every day, immediately after our daughter gets off the bus. She’s smiling, she’s running toward me, she’s hugging me — that’s all fine. But then she asks if she can play with so-and-so or do something when we have other commitments and I have to say no.

And she loses it.

Right there in front of everyone, she starts screaming or crying or throwing herself down on the sidewalk. It’s called afterschool restraint collapse and apparently, I’m not alone here, which is quite reassuring. But I am still so over it.

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

When kids have wedding jitters

When kids have wedding jitters {Heather's Handmade Life}

Our whole family was thrilled when my sister got engaged last August. She asked me to be her matron of honour — yay! — and she wanted our eight-year-old son — her only nephew — to be the ring bearer.

He immediately declined, explaining, “I don’t want everyone to look at me!”

Meanwhile, our daughter was already twirling around the room, happily shouting, “I want EVERYONE to look at me!”

She was born to be a flower girl. Undivided attention as she paraded down an aisle, beaming and holding flowers in a fancy dress? Yup, that’s our Charlotte.

We all joked she was going to do her best to outshine the bride, but as the wedding approached, I wondered if that was actually going to be the case. She certainly practiced a lot.

For months, it felt like the wedding would never, ever arrive and then suddenly, it was just a few weeks away. I was busily sewing the kids’ outfits, struggling with the slippery fancy fabrics I don’t normally mess with. It took two tries to get a flower girl dress, the first one was a hideous too-wide number drowning in navy tulle — but my first-ever bow tie came together nicely.

I had last-minute worries about how they would hold up, though — the kids, not the clothes (although my sewing is always a bit questionable). Would they be exhausted before the ceremony started? Would they freak out when they saw the crowd of strangers? Neither had been to a wedding before, let alone been a part of one …

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

When kids have wedding jitters {Heather's Handmade Life}
A special dance to Katy Perry before the flower girl had to leave!

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

Organized teen bedroom

Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
Framed photos. Loose photos. Clay Cafe figurines. Medals. Buttons. Programs. Notes. Ticket stubs. Drawings. Posters. Lanyards. Stuffed animals. Jewellery. Tchotchkes.
These are just a few of the items that might be cluttering up a teen’s bedroom near you.

I was in the process of redecorating the bedroom of a lovely 13-year-old, and I knew I wanted to keep her stuff corralled so it looked as tidy as possible.

Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
The “BEFORE”
I decided we’d build a beautiful custom desk along one wall and stack deep wooden ledges above it for storing everything in one spot. Most important of all, the desk and ledges would be on the same wall as the door, so when you walked into her room, you’d be looking at a serene bed and gallery wall, not a ton of “stuff.
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
The “AFTER” (yup, the very same wall) — read the full tutorial for this gorgeous chair
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
A bright and clean custom desk
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
I pinned her paper bracelet collection into a frame with fabric backing
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
DIY jewellery display made from old dresser knobs and a scrap of 2×2 lumber
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
Tiny treasures look cleaner when they’re corralled into a simple shadowbox
Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home …
… or pin this to read later!