Work-at-home meal hack

Work-at-home meal hack {Heather's Handmade Life}

When I’m working, I’m completely zoned out and don’t register that I’m hungry until suddenly I’m STARVING and ready to eat anything in sight. I feel like I’m too busy to stop and make something — even if it’s just opening a can of tuna and making a sandwich — so I used to run upstairs to the kitchen and grab a handful of crackers, a bowl of cereal, a granola bar, or another non-meal that takes mere seconds to prepare.

Then I started doing this …

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Canvas grocery bag hack

Canvas grocery bag hack {Heather's Handmade Life}

Yesterday’s post was all about how we packed our carry-on luggage, and today’s is about the kids’ “airplane activity bags” they also carried onboard (since each person is allowed two carry-ons). Instead of hefting around backpacks (which they would invariably load with way too much stuff), I wanted them to have something smaller to tote around.

I had a few of these free canvas grocery bags from Atlantic Superstore, as part of their new online shopping program. (Pssst — if you’re local, I did a full review video on Facebook.) Lots of companies give out similar bags, so chances are you have one or two floating around somewhere.

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Tips for packing carry-on luggage

Tips for packing carry-on luggage {Heather's Handmade Life}

My dad’s been a pilot since before I was born, so I grew up traveling as an “airline kid.” When I got married, I smoothly transitioned into being an “airline spouse,” since my husband is a baggage assembly lead. This means I’m very comfortable on airplanes — while simultaneously suffering from Standby Stomach — but I don’t exactly travel the traditional way.

For one, we never check luggage. Checked luggage is a huge pain when you’re traveling standby since it means you can’t jump from flight to flight as opportunities present themselves — you’re stuck with the plane holding your suitcase.

We started flying with our kids when they were three and five, and while it certainly would have been easier to check huge suitcases full of everything we might need or want, we’ve managed to keep things streamlined and only take what we can carry directly onto the plane.

Tips for packing carry-on luggage {Heather's Handmade Life}

Ready to dive into how we organize our neatly-packed ultra-efficient suitcases? Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff …

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

Free coffee table makeover

Free coffee table makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

I was starting to worry that my favourite week of the year was going to be a bust. Clean-Up Week was almost over and I had yet to pick up a single curbside treasure.

Luckily, I scored a few great pieces on the last day before the garbage trucks rolled through town to pick everything up. My best find was this oval coffee table. It was in good shape, but I suspect no one had snagged it because it was missing a huge glass panel. (And what’s the point of a coffee table with a gaping hole?)

Free coffee table makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

It was a beast of a thing so I decided it needed to be trimmed down a bit. Our living room isn’t very big and our sectional sofa takes up a lot of room. We’d gone years without a coffee table and only missed having one sometimes — we certainly didn’t want or need anything huge.

My husband took it apart and lopped off each end of the ovals, taking the table closer to a square shape.

Free coffee table makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

Then I took the pieces over to the deck to start painting, and left him with a tiny request: Build a cool-looking wooden panel, ideally with a herringbone pattern, to replace the missing glass.

I left him in his shed, pondering how he was going to make something look cool and what the heck I meant by “herringbone” …

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

What not to say about Kate Spade

I didn’t want to write about suicide on my son’s eighth birthday. But then, I didn’t want to hear what I’ve been hearing, either.

Kate Spade took her own life yesterday, and it seemed like everyone was talking about it. Suicide brings out the Judgy Judys, and I found myself cringing again and again. It’s fine to say “I don’t understand that.” It’s fine to say “Such a shame.” What is NOT FINE is to say … well, pretty much anything like this …

“She designed pretty purses! She designed floral notebooks with inspiration phrases! How could anyone so HAPPY do something like THAT?” NO.

“People who do that are just cruel” NO.

If you have never been suicidal, if you have never suffered from the deep darkness of mental illness, if you could not FATHOM taking your own life, then please refrain from saying anything other than “How sad.”

Because you DO. NOT. UNDERSTAND.

“Suicide is selfish!” NO.

“She had everything in the world to live for!” NO.

“Jeez! What a dumb thing to do.” NO.

“… the brand was an extension of Spade’s personality, all cheerfulness and ease … the realization of how hard Spade must have worked to keep it hidden for the sake of her brand — coming across as happy and dynamic when often she must have felt otherwise — was shocking and heartbreaking.”

“How could somebody DO that to their family?!” NO.

“She had a 13-year-old daughter! How could a PARENT kill themselves?” NO.

“… She made us feel that the perfect life was eminently achievable. How devastating to learn it felt exactly the opposite to her …”

“What’s wrong with people?!” NO.

“She had it all!” NO.

“… ‘The last person on earth you’d think would take her own life.'”

“This ‘mental illness’ business has gone too far.” NO.

“What a stupid thing to do.” NO.

***

I don’t know Kate’s story — I just own a bunch of her notebooks because I like her style. But I do know what it feels like to hurt. What it feels like to think things aren’t going to get any better. What it feels like to think the only way to stop hurting is to make EVERYTHING stop, permanently.

How sad.

“… It’s a rough world out there. people. Try to hang on.”

When your husband’s (sort of) in labour

It’s strange watching your husband in the throes of a painful labour, but that’s sort of what happened to us yesterday.

I knew the pain was bad when he woke up early in the afternoon, not long after going to sleep, after being at work all night. He texted to say he was having bad stomach pain, and I rushed upstairs to find him pacing the hall — his eyes squeezed shut. This was definitely not a run-of-the-mill cramp.

“Appendix!” I thought immediately. Except I knew nothing about a person’s appendix, really, except that sometimes they burst or rupture or something. I Googled “appendix pain” and it showed someone clutching their right-hand side in agony. Ah-ha!

I wanted to rush him straight to the ER, but he wasn’t convinced. So I called 811, the medical advice line, knowing they’d tell us to go and figuring he’d listen to them. (A great resource, but I could call 811 complaining of a papercut and they’d suggest going to the ER to have it checked.)

Fifteen minutes later, we were zooming off to the hospital. He was triaged quickly and marked as “urgent.” He was in too much pain to sit down so he paced, occasionally doubling over. People kept shooting him nervous looks. He was pale and sweaty and the pain intensified until he refused to leave the bathroom because he didn’t wait to make a scene in the waiting area.

It didn’t take long for him to be hurried into a room and I couldn’t help but have major flashbacks. Almost exactly eight years earlier, it had been me in the johnny shirt — flailing and twisting at the toe-curling pain. It was all so familiar. The moaning. The scrunched-up face. The throwing up from the pain.

Except this time, I wasn’t in the bed. I was the one with the useless cold compress and the nervous reassurance. I was the one holding the basin and offering sips of water. I was the helpless spouse on the sidelines who couldn’t do anything to take the pain away from the person I love most in the world.

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

DIY pet door in a screen door

DIY pet door in our screen door {Heather's Handmade Life}

Our Boston Terrier, Annabelle, loves going outside during the warmer months, and it was kind of a pain. She’d scratch at a door to be let out, and then two minutes later she’d decide it was too cold/hot/rainy/windy and want back inside.

When she figured out she could throw herself at the back screen door and push it open, one of us would have to go over and shut it again (she never learned that part) to keep the bugs out. Two minutes later, she’d be scratching at the front door again. Arghhh!

DIY pet door in our screen door {Heather's Handmade Life}
Our basic screen door leading to our back deck

Our back screen door is just a cheap wooden-framed one (basically this one) and I decided it would be easy to add a pet door into one of the lower panels. So I hopped online and expected to see a $20 or $30 option I could toss into my cart. Um, nope! I was shocked to see pet doors were in the $160-$300 range — just for flimsy plastic doors. What was wrong with the world?

I grumped about that for a few minutes and then decided I could figure something else out. Something much cheaper …

DIY pet door in our screen door {Heather's Handmade Life}
Our new DIY pet door!

DIY pet door in our screen door {Heather's Handmade Life}Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home … 

DIY pet door in our screen door {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Work-at-home summer prep

Consider this a PSA to all parents of elementary-aged children: We’re down to less than a month before the end of the school year.

Summers have always been hard for me as a self-employed person who works from home. September through June, I have a solid work routine and guaranteed time to focus.

July and August are pretty much a dumpster fire, professionally speaking.

Transitioning to summer has always been tough, but this year I’ll feel the pain more than ever. This has been the first time both of our children are in elementary school and I have been treasuring those precious weekday hours.

Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., I sequester myself in my basement office and my fingers are pretty much glued to my keyboard. Most days I’m so busy that I don’t eat lunch until I remember to choke something down in the five minutes before I leave to pick them up from the bus.

I have other self-employed friends who are semi-dreading the end of the school year, too. In theory, it would be nice to take July and August off from our work. We could spend buckets of quality time with our kids, sleep in, soak up the (limited) good weather and not jump every time our phone dings with a new email.

Of course, that’s not an option for most of us, since our businesses wouldn’t take kindly to a two-month hiatus. We are also fans of paying our mortgage and, like, eating …

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

***

You feel this pain on a spiritual level? Here are some related posts to scroll through while you sip a comforting hot beverage …

Paint the damn dresser, already!

Paint the damn dresser, already! {Heather's Handmade Life}

You’ve probably been thinking about it for a while, if you read my newspaper column from time to time. Maybe you’ve even gone so far as to look at colour options and even bought the paint. But still, you’ve hesitated.

Is painting a dresser going to be too much of a hassle? Is it going to look good in the end? Is it really going to be worth it?

Well, the wait is over. I’m about to give you five excellent reasons why you should put on your brave DIYer pants and paint the damn dresser this weekend …

Paint the damn dresser, already! {Heather's Handmade Life}

1. It’s the weekend.

That means you have extra time for a little project. Plus, what is a weekend without a project, even? (Although I am a person who does projects just about every day of my life so maybe you can’t trust me on this.)

Paint the damn dresser, already! {Heather's Handmade Life}
A painted dresser for a client (“Inglenook” by Fusion Mineral Paint)
Paint the damn dresser, already! {Heather's Handmade Life}
Our painted guest room dresser (“Park Bench” by Fusion Mineral Paint)

2. It’s been on your mind for a while.

Come on, I bet you have a dresser somewhere in your house that you’ve been thinking of painting. Maybe it’s because it’s old, or you got it as a hand-me-down and never liked it. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t match the decor. Maybe it’s because you love my columns (awww, thanks) and you’re kind of tempted to put one of them into action …

Paint the damn dresser, already! {Heather's Handmade Life}

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

Kids and junk food

I admit it — my husband and I are junk food junkies. We have been long before we got together in Grade 11, and our earliest dates centered around McDonald’s. (This was back in the “good old days” when a $5 bill covered one person’s meal, and $10 was enough for two.)

It was easier when our kids were babies and toddlers. You can mow down a six-pack of “road nugs” while your kid is in a rear-facing car seat, eat a plate of nachos while they’re napping and eat bacon freely while it’s still considered a choking hazard.

Once your kids wise up to the wonders of junk food, it isn’t so easy. But while my husband and I don’t have the greatest eating habits, we think — or at least, we hope — we’ve sheltered our six-year-old and seven-year-old from this “dark side” of our personalities.

Yes, we eat too many chips, but we only ever eat them after the kids are in bed asleep. Our son actively dislikes chips, in fact, except for a single brand of plain chips he deems acceptable. (For one of my children to hate potato chips is kind of unthinkable, and yet …)

“… Technology is keeping kids on their butts more, and as a result, those butts are getting … fuller. I see the bellies sagging below T-shirt hems. I bet you see them, too …”

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

White teeth without a filter

*** The following post is sponsored conversation with Alliance Dental and the Alliance Dental Partner Program. As always, all opinions and vehicle selfies are my own. ***

You know those whitening toothpaste commercials where they show the range of colours teeth can be? I always imagined I’d be in the mid-range — not really dark, but certainly nowhere near the bright white. I was in the “beige zone” — otherwise known as That Blah Yellow Tinge.

My teeth were certainly STRAIGHT, thanks to two years of braces — and the fact that I still wear my retainers nightly, 20 freakin’ years after getting my braces off. And while I was certainly happy they were straight, the colour did bug me.*

(*Especially next to my neighbour — who seriously has the most gorgeous naturally white teeth you’ve ever seen in your life. Whenever I stood next to her, I felt like I had a mouthful of yellow Chicklets. But EVERYONE feels that way next to her.)

I mean, they weren’t terrible. But they also weren’t that white. I was so self-conscious about the yellow-ness of my teeth that I got very comfortable with the “teeth whiten” feature on PicMonkey.

White teeth without a filter: My teeth whitening experience {Heather's Handmade Life}
The trick is not to whiten them ALL the way. You’ve gotta fade it a bit. 😉

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Protecting your child from sexual abuse

Protecting your child from sexual abuse {Heather's Handmade Life}

We thought we had done everything right.

We’d read and re-read The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, including the section about how “your body is your own personal property, and nobody else’s business — especially the private parts.”

We’d talked about public bathrooms and change rooms. We’d told the kids that, yes, sometimes there are kidnappers who will try to steal children. We’d talked about how sometimes there are “creepy adults” who try to touch children’s private parts. We’d taught them to scream, “Help! Stranger!”

We talked. We quizzed. We role-played.

We thought we had done everything we could. But recently, our family learned that it’s never enough.

When I was a child, my mom had a blue paperback called Sometimes it’s O.K. to Tell Secrets. It was a collection of little stories and cartoons about kids finding themselves in sketchy situations and having the courage to (A) get themselves out of it and (B) tell a responsible adult what happened.

Protecting your child from sexual abuse {Heather's Handmade Life}
Our new copy, fresh from Amazon

Even though it sounds a little disturbing, my sister and I loved this book. Our mom would read these stories about a child being touched inappropriately, or forced to look at dirty pictures, or coerced into doing something bad and being told not to tell their parents.

I don’t know what happened to our tattered blue book — full of stories of children in bad situations — but the other day I ordered a new copy while wiping tears from my eyes. Sexual abuse hit our family out of nowhere …

We learned that the “bad person” you warned your kids about isn’t always the stereotype of the isolated neighbour, the uncle that makes you feel uncomfortable or the leering stranger that gives you the creeps.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 
Protecting your child from sexual abuse {Heather's Handmade Life}
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