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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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 …
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.
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 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.”
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
Then you flip it over so you’re looking at the back of the hoop …
… 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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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 …
Boom! Instant pile of quesadillas, ready to go! They stack up nicely and fit into my big plastic containers …
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.
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!
I made these yesterday (Wednesday) and there was one left, which I *just now* ate for breakfast. How’s that for real-time blogging? 😉