No-sew pennant banner

Back when my friend was pregnant, she’d mentioned wanting a burlap pennant banner to hang over the baby’s crib (which you might remember from this sweet little makeover).

DIY crib sheet, crib bumpers, and crib skirt

I insisted I’d made one, but then I found myself procrastinating the project. Burlap is pain to work with because it frays so easily, and I was dreading cutting out the little triangles and sewing them together. Then, after all that, I’d have to cut out the letters of his name — Colton — and applique around each one, all while praying the burlap held up. Ugh.

When little Colton was not quite two weeks old, I was browsing the craft aisles of my favourite fabric store and discovered a wooden pennant banner kit.* I’d never seen one before. For 7.99 I would get seven wooden triangles, precut with holes, and the twine to string them together. Sold!

Before I left the store, I grabbed a sheet of dark brown felt* and 1.5m of burlap trim.* (I had no idea it was sold in narrow strips, but it was exactly what I needed to fit the pennants.)

No-sew pennant banner {Heather's Handmade Life}

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

No-sew pennant banner {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Are you an early school-prepper?

Even before the calendar flipped to August — and by “flipped” I mean metaphorically, of course, because we’re a digital household — it seemed like everybody was talking about back-to-school shopping.

One neighbour came home with new backpacks, water bottles and plastic lunch containers. Another asked me to watch for a package because she was expecting a lunch bag in the mail. Further down the street, a friend already had everything purchased for her kids, except the indoor sneakers.

I was surprised. They had all of that already? I’d wager that I’m looking forward to the first day of school more than any of them (#workfromhomelife) and yet I had bought absolutely nothing.

Well, that’s not true. I’d bought fabric. Lots and lots of fabric, hee hee. I started sewing back-to-school clothes in early July. In our guest room, there’s a growing stack of hidden dresses, shirts, skirts and leggings. I even attempted to sew tights for the first time!

One of many shirts-in-progress

When it comes to the things I don’t sew, I’ve decided I should probably get my head in the game. Do they need new jackets? I have no recollection of what they were wearing last fall and if it might still fit them. It’s so humid that I am nearly weeping, though, thinking of the cool September breezes.

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

Summer brain melt is a real thing

Summer brain melt is a real thing {Heather's Handmade Life}

The humidity has been out of control for weeks — maybe a month, who even knows anymore.

My hair is twice its normal size, and I have big hair so that’s really saying something. Everyone’s hot and sticky all the time. Our house doesn’t have air conditioning, but it does have warm, damp breezes whipping through the windows. They are not refreshing.

My brain is melting, along with the makeup I half-heartedly swipe across my face when I’m making an effort. Summer brain melt is a real thing, I’ve decided. It’s diagnosed when parents (and children) are hot and cranky and can’t seem to focus.

I felt like I had nothing to write about this week, really, so I asked my eight-year-old and six-year-old to pinch-hit. (I really must be dazed and overheated if I’m using a sports reference.)

I told them the topic was “summer vacation,” and even tapped out a few questions for them to answer. It kept them busy for almost an hour, since it’s hard for newbie typers to spell when the A, S, C, N, M, I, O and P letters are completely worn off your keys. (“Mom! I don’t see the M!” “Just skip it! Mommy will fix it later!”)

So, in the spirit of summer brain melt — and to celebrate that summer vacation is nearing the halfway point as I write this — here is what they had to say …

Hello my name is Dexter. This is Charlotte. I’m here to tell you how much fun summer can be for a kid. Summer for a kid has so much time to make new friends. One boring thing: math worksheets in the morning, but some kids like it. Some grown-ups don’t like summer because their kids get loud and rowdy …
Continue reading in my (or maybe now it’s “their”) weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 

Our epic DIY fail

Our epic DIY fail {Heather's Handmade Life}

When we had our driveway paved, I was thrilled to see the grey gravel banished forever. Our driveway had been lumpy and uneven, with a rocky hill leading up to the stairs of our porch — which sat perched on a heap of gravel that kept slipping out from underneath it.

We tore off our old stairs, which needed to be replaced anyway, the day before the paving crew was set to arrive. It made total sense when the pavers explained they would need to even out the grade, giving us a flatter driveway and a nice surface on which to rebuild our stairs.

The kids were obsessed with watching the crew work. Best babysitters ever.

I didn’t care that it meant cutting into the front lawn a bit. I was getting a flat, paved driveway! They finished the work in just two days, and left us with a gloriously black, smooth surface. It was so beautiful, I didn’t want to drive on it and risk marking or denting the fresh asphalt.

Ahhh, the freshly-paved driveway!

Once the crew left, however, it was clear we were going to have to do something about the exposed chunk of earth that ran along one side of the driveway like a miniature cliff. As the yard got higher and higher, the drop down to the driveway got steeper — and crumbles of mud started rolling onto my pristine new pavement.

Um, now what were we going to do about the MINI MUDDY CLIFF?!

We built the new, taller staircase and that hid some of the ‘dirt wall,’ but it wasn’t enough. Despite having zero masonry experience, my handy husband decided he could manage a simple brick retaining wall. (Famous last words.)

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

My first blood donation

My first blood donation {Heather's Handmade Life}

When you’re a parent, you’re always coming up with little teachable moments in which you show your children ways they can be good human beings.

It’s why we have discussions about homelessness when we pass the shelter in our town. It’s why I make a point of reminding them that not everyone is a “him” or “her” (it’s never too early to learn “they/their” pronouns). It’s why I take them to the food bank every December to drop off donations and talk about our family’s monthly donation to Feed Nova Scotia.

My latest idea for a teachable moment came when I realized I could take them with me to donate blood. I’d never done it before, but after a decade of low iron, I thought my hemoglobin levels were finally high enough to qualify. I signed up online (www.blood.ca) and also made an appointment for my husband. It was going to be a family affair!

The kids were intrigued when we entered the hotel conference room with its hospital-style chairs medical equipment. I rambled on about the importance of donating blood and how one donation can help three people who need it. We talked about how people who are sick need blood and people who are in accidents need blood. I was feeling pretty smug about being able to finally donate.

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

Go fly a (supersized) kite

Go fly a kite {Heather's Handmade Life}

*** The following post is sponsored conversation with Clay Cafe Truro. As always, all opinions and sweaty children are my own. ***

Yup, I’ve been singing the final song in Mary Poppins all day now. You might, too, now.

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Go fly a kite {Heather's Handmade Life}

Our friend, Jamie, the totally-awesome owner of Clay Cafe Truro, asked if the kids and I wanted to take some of their new kites for a spin to get the word out that THEY SELL KITES NOW, YAYYYY! 

Of course, it didn’t take much convincing. We’ve flown piddly little kites in our backyard before, since it’s mega-windy up here on top of our hill. But when the kids saw the SIZES of these JUMBO KITES? Oh man, they were pumped! Read More

Checking out Chuck E. Cheese’s

Checking out Chuck E. Cheese's {Heather's Handmade Life}

Our son turned eight earlier this summer and his birthday fell during our family’s vacation to Ontario to see my dad and stepmother. We’d toyed with the idea of taking the kids to Canada’s Wonderland for the day but it felt too expensive — especially considering neither kid would be tall enough for any of the “good” rides yet.

Then I remembered my dad mentioning there was a Chuck E. Cheese’s nearby in Mississauga. I didn’t really know anything except there would be pizza and games — I kept picturing the Whack-a-Mole one. I also knew their tagline, probably from watching United States commercials as a child: “Where A Kid Can Be A Kid.” It sounded perfect.

I Googled a three-minute Chuck E. Cheese’s commercial and played it for the kids — they were enthralled. This place was REAL?! They were going to GO THERE?! They were as excited as if we’d planned a trip to Disney World. (Not gonna happen.)

They bounced inside, starry-eyed and could barely hold still long enough to get their kidnapping-prevention stamp. (Parents and kids have their hands stamped with invisible ink codes, so no one can leave without their proper guardian. It’s great!)

Checking out Chuck E. Cheese's {Heather's Handmade Life}

Instead of tickets or tokens, they were armed with plastic swipe cards called Play Passes that would work on any of the games or rides.

Once we were safely inside the gate, we turned the kids loose …

Checking out Chuck E. Cheese's {Heather's Handmade Life}

What did we think? Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … Checking out Chuck E. Cheese's {Heather's Handmade Life}

DIY patio cushion covers

DIY patio cushion covers {Heather's Handmade Life}

Longtime readers may remember that a few years back, I was complaining about wrestling patio cushions into submission on a sweaty summer’s day. Well, much like childbirth, I forgot the pain and agreed to do it all over again.

Recovering patio cushions is a great way to extend the life of your furniture and give it a fresh new look. I’ve sewn a lot of cushion covers over the years, but this time there was the added challenge of sewing heavy-duty semi-waterproof outdoor fabrics.

I do NOT like sewing heavy-duty semi-waterproof outdoor fabrics.

But I love my client, and I agreed her brown- and lime-green patio cushions could use a refresh, so I agreed. And you know what? The end result was certainly worth the sweating and cursing.

Ready to thread your bobbin and make furniture magic? Here’s how to sew removable patio cushion covers, whether they’re for your porch, your back deck, or somewhere inside your home …

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

DIY patio cushion covers {Heather's Handmade Life}
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DIY rainbow doormat

Remember when I shared how I made a $20 wooden doormat using 2×2 boards and a bit of rope?

$20 wooden doormat: Full instructions!

Well, it was so much fun that I made a second one! Except this time, I grabbed whatever wood (heh) I had on hand, which ended up being a couple of 2x2s and 2x4s. Could I make a doormat from a mixture of the two? Of course I could!

I just cut them down to be the same length (24″ like last time), drilled holes in them (again, like last time) and arranged them in a pattern — two 2x2s, one 2×4, repeat.

DIY rainbow doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}

Then I rounded up some brightly-coloured paints and gave them the full rainbow treatment! I just slapped one coat on each, and didn’t even bother to sand them first (that would come later). DIY rainbow doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}

Once the boards had dried in the sun, I brought them back inside and roughed them up with my Mouse sander.* I love the way it brought out the wood grain and the imperfections of the boards through the bright colours. (Totally want to do this treatment again. ALL THE HEART EYES.)

DIY rainbow doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}
Then I strung the rope through the boards (like last time), knotted the ends, and slathered on a quick coat of poly to protect my pretty little mat from the elements. Here it is, on our back deck. Isn’t it fun?! DIY rainbow doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}

We still have one more door (my basement studio door) so I’m going to need to make a third one of these cute wooden mats. I just love them!

Our summer of Harry Potter

Our summer of Harry Potter {Heather's Handmade Life}

It was funny to admit that, at 34, I had never even attempted to read one of the Harry Potter books.

It’s sort of like how I’ve only ever seen one of the Star Wars movies. (I call it “Star Wars” but people tell me it’s “A New Hope.”) I didn’t really care. I also have not seen The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, X-Men or any of the Rocky movies. (But I regularly get Doris Day songs stuck in my head and saw Spice World in the theatre seven times, so my taste is questionable.)

It seemed most of my friends and much of my family had read all of the Harry Potter books and loved them deeply. They hadn’t really appealed to me, I suppose. I’m not big on fantasy books or movies — um, except for that brief obsession with the Twilight series in my mid-20s.

I had only seen one of the Harry Potter movies and that was purely by mistake. I had been heavily pregnant and persuaded to tag along to the theatre, really only interested in the air conditioning and buttery popcorn.

What I knew about Harry Potter could fit on the head of a magic wand. I knew there was a wizard school called Hogwarts. I knew there was a flying sport called Quidditch. I knew people were divided into “houses” according to their personalities or something. And I knew when one of the books was released, people kept spoiling it by shouting “Snape kills Dumbledore!”

Our son recently turned eight and one of his best friends absolutely loves Harry Potter. She’s read all of the books and watched the movies, but he never seemed interested. Like mother, like son. But I could see he was experiencing the same niggling feeling of maybe missing out on something. I felt it, too …

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

DIY barn quilt (without the barn)

DIY barn quilt (without the barn) {Heather's Handmade Life}

Have you ever spotted a barn quilt? They’re huge wooden squares painted in simple patterns to look like an actual quilt. I haven’t seen many in person — despite living in rural Nova Scotia — but I immediately flipped for the idea. I mean, hello! I love painting and quilting, so this is pretty much a dream project for me.

One problem . . . we don’t have a barn.

I approached my handy husband about putting a barn quilt on the shed, which is technically a baby barn. I got an emphatic no.

At first I thought maybe he just didn’t understand, and promised I wouldn’t use pink or make it really flowery. Still a big no. No barn quilt, of any kind, was going to be permitted on “his” shed. Since it’s really the one area of our property I don’t decorate or organize, I decided to let it go.

I didn’t have a barn or even a shed, but I did have a pergola — the new one we built above our picnic table, which I wrote about a few weeks back. Could a pergola have a barn quilt? Sure it could!

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

DIY barn quilt (without the barn) {Heather's Handmade Life}
Remember when this was a floating makeup table in our daughter’s room?
DIY barn quilt (without the barn) {Heather's Handmade Life}
It’s easy to grid out a barn quilt — squares and triangles, nothing fancy!
DIY barn quilt (without the barn) {Heather's Handmade Life}
My first DIY barn quilt!
DIY barn quilt (without the barn) {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Taking summer reading to a new level

Taking summer reading to a new level {Heather's Handmade Life} Why our kids are LOVING the TD Summer Reading Club
Our son has been staying up late these days, but it’s for the best possible reason: he’s reading one chapter book a night.

I’ve always felt strongly about raising readers. I’ve loved to read since I learned how, but my husband struggled with reading as a child and now that no one’s forcing him to read, he won’t touch a book unless it’s to read to our son and daughter.

As we read to them as babies, I’d wondered if they’d take after him or me. Would they only read what they needed to read for school — and complain about it — or would they devour books in their free time and always want more?

Reading has always been part of our nightly routine and they certainly enjoy it. We would read to them before they could read and we started taking turns reading once each of them learned how. Then, after prayers and tuck-ins, they have always been allowed to quietly read for awhile until they go to sleep.

It has only been this past school year that our son has taken it to a new level. He’s outgrown the Easy Readers (which our daughter is now slowwwwwwly picking her way through) and traded Berenstain Bears* for chapter books. His favourite series is called Magic Tree House* and he’ll snuggle up in bed to read all 110 pages before he goes to sleep.

Because he’s reading a book a night, we’ve been making lots of trips to the library to stock up on more. I don’t care how busy or tired I am. If he’s out of books, we will find time to drive down so he has a new one to read that night. Must. Not. Discourage. Reading. Obsession.

During one of these visits, both kids signed up for something called the TD Summer Reading Club.

Our kids get to “buy” new parts for their robots using credits they earn reading. They love it!

They hadn’t done a summer reading program before, but a few library employees visited their school and apparently had an excellent sales pitch because the kids insisted on going that very day …

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