Filing cabinet makeover

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}
You know I love nothing more than snooping around somebody’s house and rescuing something old so I can give it a new life. So when I spotted an old beige two-drawer filing cabinet in a client’s basement, I suggested we dress it up to use in her teenage daughter’s bedroom.

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

I think a lot of people have unused filing cabinets in their basements these days, like sad relics of a time before the convenience of cloud storage. (I own filing boxes and file-sorters, but not an actual metal filing cabinet . . . yet . . . much to the chagrin of my paper-loving bookkeeper. Those things are expensive.)

I knew I could paint the whole thing to make it cuter — it definitely couldn’t stay blah ’90s office beige — but I wanted to try out a new treatment by using fabric on the fronts of the drawers. There were so many cute options, but I settled on a fun doughnut print ($9 for two fat quarters).

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

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Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Kitchen chair turned desk chair

What Charlotte wore …

What Charlotte wore ... {Heather's Handmade Life}

It’s that time of year when I get *really* into dressing the kids for school in the cute new outfits I spent July and August sewing for them! I try to take a picture most mornings before school, at least of Charlotte (Dexter isn’t a fan of pictures these days).

So here’s a look at what she’s been wearing to school lately, along with a round-up on patterns, fabrics, upcycling, etc.

What Charlotte wore ... {Heather's Handmade Life}

This is what she’s wearing today!

  • Black and white top: A mishmash of fabrics in my stash + cut-up clothes, sewn with this T-shirt pattern (which is one of my most-used patterns)
  • Mustard corduroy jumper: I made this from one of my favourite skirts (worn back when I was in an actual office). I cut off the belt-ish band to make the straps and the whole thing is made 100% using just the original skirt.

What Charlotte wore ... {Heather's Handmade Life}

She wore this on Tuesday …

  • Black bodysuit: Actually just her dance leotard from last year, sewn by mimicking an old bathing suit. I love the low back!
  • Floral skirt: Pretty crepe floral fabric (Atlantic Fabrics) with a stretchy black waistband made from an old black T-shirt. Since the fabric was so thin, I doubled it up (leaving the fold at the bottom of the skirt) and gathered the waist before adding the waistband. No pattern required.

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That time I DIY-ed on TV!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job

Back in June, I spent a couple of days filming in Halifax. I didn’t say much about it at the time because I was waiting until it was on the air, and now it is — eeeek!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job

I was a guest on an episode of “Eyes for the Job.” It’s a cool DIY show on AMI starring Chris Judge — a kick-ass carpenter who is BLIND! — and Alex Haider, who’s new to DIY and used to do the weather on Global News so lots of people know her. They were both so kind and welcoming, and I had an awesome time with them.

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job
Yup, I sewed myself a tool belt the night before filming began!

We turned a dresser into a bench — right up my alley, since I love repurposing furniture — and I even taught Chris how to sew so we could make a cushion for the top!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job
My now-famous sewing machine

The workshop was full of tools and I even got to use ones that were brand-new to me — like the band saw (yikes!) and the table saw (which we own, but I have never used on my own).

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job
Me thinking “Please don’t let me saw off my hand on national TV.”

I’ve been on sets of commercials and videos, but never a TV show so it was fun to see “how the magic happens.” It took two full days of filming just for the parts with me, and I wasn’t even in the whole 30-minute episode. It’s pretty crazy how much time and effort goes into a 30-minute show!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job

I caught the episode on Thursday when it ran on AMI, and it’s airing again tonight at 9:30 p.m. Atlantic, and tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 18) at 9:30 a.m. Atlantic if you want to watch. AMI seems to be channel 65 throughout most of Nova Scotia. (Pls ignore my double chins during a few unfortunate angles!)

This actually wasn’t the end of my “Eyes for the Job” journey. I went back again in July for another episode, except I got to bring the kids with me! I’ll keep you posted when that episode airs — they’re VERY excited to see themselves on TV. Dexter took his “job” very seriously and I just know they got some amazing shots of his serious little face as he sanded away. Charlotte developed a full-on crush on Alex and never wanted to leave her side — it was adorable!

Andddddddddd I didn’t cut my hand off on national TV, so I’d consider that a huge win.

How to replace sleeves

How to replace sleeves {Heather's Handmade Life}

I actually did this project back in the spring and forgot to turn it into a post!

So I had a Silver jean jacket that I loved, BUT … there was a bit of buyer’s remorse happening. I’d bought a medium because it was the only size they had left and I REALLY wanted the jacket, like, immediately. The sleeves felt a titch too short, but I convinced myself they were fine.

And then ended up rolling them up 99% of the time … which led to them getting all stretched out … le sigh.

How to replace sleeves {Heather's Handmade Life}

So I decided to replace them!

I started by snipping them off at the shoulder seam …

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He’s with the band

He's with the band {Heather's Handmade Life}
I was never what you’d call musically talented and I’m almost certainly tone deaf, but I still really enjoyed my three years of junior high band. Well, everything except the itchy, royal blue and yellow polyester band sweaters that I can still feel on my skin all these years later.

I played percussion, which meant I got to learn the snare drum, bass drum, tympanies, bells (xylophones), triangle, wind chimes, tambourine, maracas, shakers, crash symbols — all of the fun stuff.

I liked the variety of learning different instruments. Percussionists were often envied because we got to whisk around in the back, moving from drumsticks to mallets during a single song, while the rest of the musicians were stuck in their chairs.

When I heard our children’s school starts a beginner band program in Grade 3, it brought back so many fond band memories, like smashing the bass drum as hard as I could — in front of the whole school — for the 21-gun salute on Remembrance Day. (Mr. Cormier swore I wouldn’t break it and he was right.)

It also brought up the embarrassing memory of playing the bass drum in a skirt at the Nova Scotia Kiwanis Music Festival, with one leg hiked up to support the drum, trying to angle myself so I wouldn’t flash my underwear to the audience.

Was our son ready for band? I only started percussion when I was in Grade 7, so eight years old felt young to be learning an instrument. But our son has always had natural talent in music — at least, according to his report cards — so he was eager to sign up …

He's with the band {Heather's Handmade Life}

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Nice ‘n’ navy nightstands

A magician always has a favourite trick, and I’ve decided decorators do, too. Mine is a simple one that never fails to amaze my audiences: sawing an end table in half to transform it into two nightstands.

How do I love this DIY? Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s inexpensive because you either already have a crummy old end table in the basement, or you can buy for a few bucks at a yard sale or thrift shop.
  2. It gives a new life to something that might end up tossed or ignored.
  3. It takes up far less space than full-sized end tables or store-bought nightstands.
  4. It’s easy to do, and takes nothing more than a circular saw or jigsaw — maybe even just a hand saw, if you’re into old-school tools.
  5. And, finally, it gives you a set of perfectly matching nightstands that make any bedroom look more finished.

So when I was working on a secret bedroom makeover for a client and she mentioned that we needed nightstands, it took no time at all to find a set of heavy wooden end tables in her basement …

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A day well spent at the Ex

Since our family spends one full day at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition every single summer, it’s something we all remember fondly throughout the year.

It’s also become a way to notice how very, very quickly time is passing.

Then … Now

This year at the Ex marked the first time my husband and I didn’t need to buy ride tickets or bracelets for ourselves — our petite six-year-old could go on every “big” ride she wanted, without an adult. She was so proud of herself.

(Technically she was a smidge under the line, but no one seemed too concerned about measuring her. It wasn’t like that scene in Big when little Josh Baskin is humiliated at the fair.)

So we didn’t ride. We watched and waited and patiently followed them to the next ride for more watching and waiting. Most of our friends were doing the same, and we all marvelled at how big the kids were getting. Before we know it, we said, we’ll be dropping them off at the gates!

The rides are mostly set up in the same spots each time, and we all have the layout memorized. The uneven dirt, the rubber mats covering the power cables, the clicking mechanical sounds from the ride motors, the smell of sugar mixed with grease — it’s all the same, every year.

C with her first candy apple, and D riding the Merry-Go-Round when he was too small to go alone

We have so many wonderful family memories at the Ex, and in a way, it was like walking back in time. Whenever I stood at the metal railings surrounding each ride, waving at the kids and taking blurry pictures as they zoomed by, I was overcome by how much had changed …

Big kids riding the Tilt-a-Whirl with their friends. No parents required.

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How to save money at a fair


Kitchen chair turned desk chair

Kitchen chair to desk chair {Heather's Handmade Life}

Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see the things you’ve stopped noticing in your own home.

I was recently standing in a client’s foyer, discussing what to pick up for the bedroom I was decorating for her daughter. We needed a desk chair to go with a beautiful new custom new desk we were building.

She was more than happy to go buy a new chair for the room, but my instinct is hardly ever to run to a store and buy something brand new, unless it’s project supplies like fabric, paint or lumber. (In any of those categories, I turn into a crazed shopping fiend.)

“What about one of those?” I asked, pointing into the next room at a couple of dark green kitchen chairs sitting around her daughter’s craft table. They were slightly battered, but very solid looking. Surely she didn’t need three of them at her craft table, and we could steal one?

The green had to go, but this chair had potential.

My client looked surprised, but told me I could certainly take one if I thought it would work. So I trucked it home with me, brought it into my studio, and got to work painting it a beautiful light cream colour. (Plaster by Fusion Mineral Paint.) But the paint was just the beginning …

It needed a comfy cushion!
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Kitchen chair to desk chair {Heather's Handmade Life}
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10 tips for a smoother weekday routine

The following is a sponsored conversation with CLIF Kid Zbar Filled. As always, all opinions and weird routines are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Heather’s Handmade Life.


Attention please! School starts ONE WEEK FROM TODAAAAAAY!!!

*parents cheer*
*my teacher friends cry*

Yes, its going to be awesome to get our little darlings back in class. I know a lot of parents are dreading the end of summer, though — having to wake their kids up early for school, and get back into the chaotic routine of getting everybody up and fed and dressed and out the door with everything they need. And then there’s the after-school hoopla of getting them to activities and making dinner and getting everything finished in time for them to get the kids to bed at a reasonable time.

But me?

I’m over here, like, OH YES I GOT THISSSSS!

It’s not that I have it all figured out. Far from it. It’s just I’m a nerd about being on time for things, being prepared, being “ready” in general. I get an odd sense of pride when we’re all standing in the front hall, shoes on, coats on, umbrellas ready, backpacks filled, etc. and we are still precisely two and a half minutes from the time we need to leave for the school bus. It’s like my own Nerdy Parent Olympics.

I may not dress fashionably or be able to carry on conversations about popular TV shows (I’m currently working my way through every season of Who’s The Boss) but you know what I CAN do? Make our weeks to run pretty darn smoothly.

In the words of Taylor Swift, are you ready for this?

1. Simplify the morning routine.

I lay out our kids’ clothes in advance — usually a full week at a time — on the clothing trees I built. This means the kids can get themselves fully dressed without me having to pick out their clothes (or make them change) when I’m trying to get myself ready. And, truthfully, they wake up earlier than my alarm anyway.

DIY clothing trees

Once they’re dressed for school, they know they have to brush their teeth before they can go downstairs. (Hair comes later — keep reading.) The first stop is the kitchen to turn on my tea kettle, and then our eldest’s job is to fill the dog’s food and water bowl. They also know they’re not allowed on screens until they’ve eaten breakfast, OR they’re eating it WHILE they watch something. Which brings me to …

2. Don’t overcomplicate breakfast.

I made a huge batch of pancakes from scratch every Saturday morning. But during the week? UM, NO, I am not making pancakes. Or eggs. Or bacon. Well, I might be making bacon but not until your little butts are off to school. That’s more of a 10 a.m. thing.

If I’m in the kitchen and there’s plenty of time before the bus, sure, I’ll offer to toast them a bagel or something. But most of the time? They handle their breakfast.

Our eight-year-old is a morning person and will make toast or pour a bowl of cereal. Our six-year-old is a night owl (although school certainly tires her out, so this isn’t as bad as it used to be). She’s also just … not a morning person, so she’s often sleepy and/or grumpy in the morning before school. She prefers something she can grab with zero effort, like a baggie of dry cereal.

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The end-of-summer panic

I shouldn’t be surprised, really, because I’m struck by the same feeling at the end of every summer: The little burst of panic that it’s almost over and I haven’t done everything I wanted to do or, more honestly, everything I felt I should be doing with the kids.

It’s this time of year when I typically organize a spur-of-the-moment trip to the beach, overwhelmed by guilt because I haven’t taken them yet. (Luckily, they have gone to the beach many times this summer with my mother. She is a sun person, unlike her basement-dwelling vampire daughter.)

If it weren’t for my mom, they wouldn’t get NEARLY as many beach days like this.

If I let myself really launch into a bad mom shame spiral, I could add that we haven’t been to the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park at all this summer. (In fact, I can’t remember the last time we went …?)

We didn’t do a session of swimming lessons, even though I had the best intentions. (I signed them up for a few weeks of camp without realizing it was going to screw up any chance of also fitting in swimming.)

My husband tried to take them strawberry picking, but the place was closed, so they bought some at the roadside stand instead. He didn’t set up the pool we bought and used last summer and now it’s too late. We meant to build a new bonfire pit, and it just didn’t happen. He, um, did set up the sprinkler for them once!

We wanted to take them to Prince Edward Island (sigh … again), or even to Magic Mountain for the day, but we’re in a season of sacrifice (better known as scrimping) and decided those weren’t in the budget. Maybe next summer.

Ugh. I always do this at the end of the summer. I beat myself up thinking of all of the fun things we didn’t do, rather than focusing on what we did do, so let’s try that again …

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

Back to the mats

Back to the mats {Heather's Handmade Life}

A long time ago, in a dazed overtired world where I had a three-year-old son and an almost-two-year-old daughter, she was a gymnast.

Back to the mats {Heather's Handmade Life}
Yup, I had fun sewing the outfits!

Well, as much as toddler can be a gymnast. Ah, Kindergym, where people sit in hula hoops and the moms try to have conversations but end up rushing across the bouncy floor to stop their child from falling off a balance beam twice their height.

But when she turned three, she started ballet.

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Better late than never

Better late than never: a perfect belated birthday party for our son {Heather's Handmade Life}

It wasn’t that we forgot our son’s eighth birthday in early June. Not at all! We celebrated it in style, during our Ontario vacation, by spending the afternoon playing video games and arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese’s. It was clearly one of the best days of his young life.

Before we’d left on our trip, we had his traditional “family party,” where grandparents and aunts and uncles come to our place for dinner and cake. He had new Lego sets coming out of his ears and had them all assembled by noon the next day, which is his idea of heaven.

But, well, technically … we skipped the part of his birthday where we throw a little party for him and his friends. We came home from Ontario and just … no one mentioned it. June melted into July and July melted into August and I seemed to be the only one who was quietly remembering.

I felt guilty, but enough to go through the effort of pulling together a party — especially during the summer when it’s hard to keep track of who’s on vacation and who’s at their cottage and who’s in day camp. Why, oh why, hadn’t I gotten organized back in June?!

Do you know what it took to kick my butt into gear? A birthday invitation from his best friend, who’s birthday is one of the very last days of August. Suddenly, the guilt was so powerful that I decided I had to do something immediately.

I texted a few friends to confirm their kids would be available in three days — a random Wednesday afternoon — and asked if I could take them to Levels Game Loft for a few hours of nonstop video gaming. No invitations, no real notice and almost zero effort required.

Better late than never: a perfect belated birthday party for our son {Heather's Handmade Life}

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

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column