It all started with the placement of the shed (technically a baby barn) in our backyard. It was strangely positioned about six feet away from our deck, with a winding garden behind it. It made an already-narrow yard feel even narrower, and we talked for years about moving it … somehow … to the back of the property instead.
Well, YouTube to the rescue! We stumbled upon a video (I think it was this one) that showed a guy moving a huge shed “by hand” by rolling it on long wooden polls. It sounds crazy and, it turned out, it was crazy, but it seemed doable. Didn’t the pioneers always load barns onto logs and move them to a new homestead of something? It seemed legit.
At $30 for six posts, we decided to give it a try and see if it worked. Without going into too much detail — because no one should try this at home — we started by jacking up the shed. I was freaking out the whole time, positive the whole structure was going to come crashing down on my husband’s foot (or head).
We slipped the posts underneath and rigged up wooden skids and a pathway of pavers. The idea was that the shed would smoothly roll along them to its resting point at the back of the yard. (Fat chance.)
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.