New home office reveal!

This past fall I decided it was time for a major change in our house. I work from home, so I was spending 40-plus hours a week crammed into a tiny nine-by-nine home office in the basement. I’d organized it as well as I could, but it was still stuffed with project supplies and felt claustrophobic.

My home office for 6+ years

Meanwhile, right outside my home office, there was a huge room — the entire length of our house — that was barely being used. It was dark, always messy, and the kids hardly ever came down there to play. Other than serving as a guest room when we had company, it was dead space.

I wasn’t sure if my husband would like the idea. (He really hated my idea of knocking down the wall between the linen closet and our master closet and creating a funky family library.) But he quickly agreed that it made sense for me to use the larger room for my home office, and we started the big switch.

You may recognize a lot of the projects in these “after” pictures, since I’ve been writing about this home office transformation for the last six months, but here’s a recap of what was involved in creating the home office of my dreams . . .

1. Better lighting: 

While this new space is a lot larger it doesn’t have any windows, so it was important to make it as bright as possible. I replaced the fixtures and added 5,000k bulbs for lots of clean, white light. The room also has five revamped lamps, which I turn on at different times, so there’s plenty of light now.

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home … 
Quick links to the projects featured in my home office makeover:

New home office / sewing room reveal {Heather's Handmade Life}New home office / sewing room reveal {Heather's Handmade Life}New home office / sewing room reveal {Heather's Handmade Life}

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home … 
New home office / sewing room reveal {Heather's Handmade Life}
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The not-a-party birthday party

We’ve celebrated 13 — nearly 14 — kiddie birthdays so far between our two children, and we have learned a LOT. We’ve figured out which parties are the most expensive, which parties require the most effort (before, during and after) and which parties we swore we’d never repeat.

There’s the house party, which can feel incredibly claustrophobic and requires cleaning your house twice — yuck. There’s the rent-a-venue party, which is typically the biggest party and can make your bank account weep. And then there’s a third kind of party, which has become our favourite — the “outing.”

Cake pops make excellent “portable cake.”

We started this tradition last year, and I don’t see us changing it anytime soon. Last year we took our daughter and a few good friends to Clay Cafe to paint pottery, and it was awesome. We took our son and a few friends to the local rec centre for rock-climbing and a swim, and we just repeated that this year for our daughter’s birthday.

Since it’s not a “party,” we’re not shelling out the hundreds of dollars to book the party room and rent the leisure pool. We’re just paying for a family day pass (or two family passes, depending on the number of friends) …

How does it work? Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 

DIY $20 wooden doormat

Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a project and tackle it the very same day, and other times it’ll take me years to actually get around to completing it.

I came across the idea for a wooden doormat at least a year or two ago, and now that I’ve finished one, I can’t wait to make more of them. It’s one of those rare DIY gems where the project is inexpensive, fast, fun to make, and the results are awesome.

Determined to finally make one of these wooden doormats, I pulled up a Pinterest tutorial and skimmed the simple materials list: 16 pieces of 2×2-inch lumber measuring 24 inches each, six feet of quarter-inch sisal rope, and a 3/8-inch drill bit. It was so simple, in fact, that I never went back to read the instructions — I am weirdly rebellious about instructions — and things still turned out perfectly.

DIY $20 wooden doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}

During a home improvement store run I asked my handy husband to pick me up four eight-foot-long 2×2-inch boards (less than $15 total) and a 50-foot package of sisal rope (less than $5 for way more than I needed for one mat) …

DIY $20 wooden doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}

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

DIY $20 wooden doormat {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Easy mini pizza hack

Easy mini pizza hack {Heather's Handmade Life}

You guys know I HATE cooking and only ever post “recipes” (I use that word very loosely) on the blog if they are (A) incredibly easy to make, (B) super-fast, (C) prevent us from wasting something, and/or (D) get me out of the kitchen in record time so I can go sew something or paint something.

But we had a big family “party” over the weekend to celebrate C turning six. Having 20-ish people in your house for dinner either involves cooking or cleaning out your bank account for a ton of pizzas to be delivered. So we always choose cooking.

Darling Husband had bought a new BBQ for the occasion since ours recently got the boot to the curb during Clean-up Week. So, of course, we decided to make hamburgers and sausages.

AND OF COURSE, he bought ninety-trillion packages of hamburger buns. I made 20 hamburger patties. You do the math. *sigh*

So what does one do with the eighty-nine-trillion remaining hamburger buns?

Freeze them, you might say? Nope — remember, we got rid of our deep freeze when I turned the laundry room into The Most Epic DIY Studio Ever.

And so I squashed them with my (still-kind-of-annoyed) palms and made mini pizzas with them …

Easy mini pizza hack {Heather's Handmade Life}

I loaded the squashed bun halves with pizza sauce, grated mozzerella, and chopped pepperoni, and baked ’em at 425F (the same temperature we used for regular pizza) for about 15 minutes.

THEY. WERE. DELICIOUS.

Easy mini pizza hack {Heather's Handmade Life}

This is really all I have to say. I hope this helps you, especially this summer during BBQ-every-damn-day season, if you also have a husband who ALWAYS OVERBUYS FRIGGING HAMBURGER BUNS.

(I love you, babe. I do. But sometimes I wonder if you are single-handedly keeping the folks at Wonder Bread in business?)

50 backyard activities for spring

50 backyard activities for spring {Heather's Handmade Life}
It’s not that my kids weren’t playing outside over the winter — they were. Honest.

It’s just that it was an especially icy, wet, windy winter, rather than a picturesque fairytale winter wonderland. The kids would go play outside and come back, wet and freezing, sooner than I would have liked. How do you force a child to stay outside for fresh air when there’s no snow — just a lot of frozen dead grass and frigid wind?

Admittedly, yes, they played too many video games over the winter. Now it’s time to correct that with lots of vitamin D and mud.

But now, after what feels like six months of false starts, spring weather is actually here! It feels amazing to be able to nudge the kids outside and watch them run around the yard happily. They’ve missed it, too.

We’re still in the rubber-boots-and-jackets phase, but soon enough they’ll be out there in sandals and shorts and T-shirts.

50 backyard activities for spring {Heather's Handmade Life}
Spring of 2013: What a good blogger husband!
I love this time of year, when every sunny day feels like a gift — lifting the spirits of parents everywhere who are tired of everyone being stuck inside …
Continue reading my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene, for my list of 50 (yes, FIFTY) backyard activities we’re excited to do this spring … 
50 backyard activities for spring {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Kids’ bookcase makeover

Kids' bookcase makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

While I usually don’t have a problem painting wooden furniture, I did hesitate at the start of this bookcase makeover when Lila’s mom told me it had been hand-built by her grandfather.

Kids' bookcase makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}
BEFORE

He’d done a beautiful job staining and sealing the wood, and even added a decorative square trim around the top. Was she sure about painting it? Yup. OK then — I’d paint it. Read More

DIY silhouette art

DIY silhouette art {Heather's Handmade Life}

I’m always guffawing at the prices of simple silhouette art in home decor stores. A solid-coloured canvas with a solid-coloured silhouette in the middle — a crown, a dog, a purse, a hamburger (OK I haven’t seen a burger painting but I’d sure like that in my house) — and they’re charging $40. Really???

Today I’m sharing how VERY VERY EASY it is to make your own, and zero artistic ability is required.

You’ll need:

  • Wooden canvas (if you’re using a regular canvas, you’ll want to use this method)
  • Printer paper + access to the almighty Google
  • A ballpoint pen + some hand muscles
  • Acrylic-ish paint (I used my go-to Fusion, but Dollar Store stuff is fine for a project like this)
  • A small craft brushDIY silhouette art {Heather's Handmade Life}

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DIY glitter name from foam core

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

On Monday I shared the fun (and budget-friendly) gallery wall I did for a client’s daughter, and today I thought I’d share the steps behind the oversized glitter-covered “Addy” that’s part of the arrangement.

You’ll need: 

  • A sheet of foam core (mine was a few bucks at Walmart)
  • Spray varnish (You could use Mod Podge instead, but this is faster and leaves a smoother finish.)
  • Loose glitter
  • A craft knife (it’s easier than scissors)
  • Printer paper (four sheets)
  • A ballpoint pen

To get started, I went to my go-to font free website and typed her name in a font called “Beauty and the Dutch.” It’s best to pick a font where the letters are touching, unless you want to hang them on the wall separately.

Then I saved a photo of her name (no need to actually download the font) and opened in Paint so I could quickly edit it. I put lines down the middle (horizontally and vertically) to roughly divide her name into four pieces, making it easier to print nice and large.

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

Then I cropped each piece separately so I had four different photos — each with 1/4 of her name.

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

I printed out the four pages on regular ol’ 8.5×11 printer paper, and just taped them back together at the seams to make the full name again. Then, because I wanted her name to be nice and thick, I used a pen to make the outline a little “bubblier.”

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

This next part can be hard on your writing hand, but it’s worth it. I spread the printed name on top of the foam core, and used a ballpoint point to trace the name — pressing HARD so it would indent the foam core through the paper.

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

The outline was faint, but it was enough to cut out the name using my craft knife.

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

I sprayed it lightly — using another piece of foam core for overspray — and sprinkled it with white glitter. Ahhhhhh.

Repeat this process several times, about an hour apart, until you have it completely coated in glitter. Then do another coat or two of spray to “seal” it all in.

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

Addy’s glitter name is perfect in her new gallery wall. (More on that in yesterday’s post.) Glitter is ALWAYS a good idea. 😉

DIY glitter name from foam core {Heather's Handmade Life}

When your kids learn chess … and you can’t

When your kids learn chess ... and you can’t {Heather's Handmade Life}

When our six-year-old neighbour came over last week with a chessboard under his arm, I was gobsmacked.

“You … you know how to play chess?!” I asked, incredulously.

“Our kids know how to play checkers,” I thought. “He must be using the set to play checkers.”

“Yup,” he replied, quietly setting up the board on our kitchen table.

Our kids, five and seven, gathered around the board as he started explaining the rules. I watched, too, still in shock at this six-year-old chess champ.

“Kings can only move one space, any way,” he told them, seriously. “Queens can move any way, as much as you want.”

“Wait, they don’t just each move one square at a time?” I butted in. “Like in checkers?”

“No. Pawns move one, except on their first turn they can move two. But they only attack that way,” he continued, swiping his finger in a diagonal motion.

I was dumbfounded — with the emphasis on “dumb.” I’d known chess had cute little pieces in different shapes, unlike regular old checkers, but I hadn’t known they each had their own set of rules about moving around.

They played a practice game while he continued to explain the rules. He couldn’t remember the names of some of the pieces so they called the rooks “castles” and the knights “horses.” (I only figured out the proper names because I’m an adult with a phone and can Google like nobody’s business.) The fact that he was clearly a whiz at chess, but too young to remember the terminology, made the whole thing even cuter …

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

Budget-friendly kids’ gallery wall

DIY silhouette art {Heather's Handmade Life}

The thing about decorating kids’ rooms is a parent’s instinct is often to (a) add bright colours and (b) let the kids pick out things they like. Neither of those things are wrong, but they can both lead to decorating roadblocks.

I was recently called in to help tweak the decorating in Addy’s room. It was full of light and had excellent “bones” in the form of matching white Ikea furniture, but her mom didn’t feel the room looked “finished.”

Two things struck me immediately: (a) wow, that is a PINK accent wall, and (b) ugh, a Trolls poster is not an ideal focal point.

The pink wall wasn’t a problem. It was even a really nice pink — a preferred shade I have always called Barbie Pink. The trouble was that it was so bright and eye-catching, the only thing to look at was . . . that framed Trolls poster. (Yes, Trolls is a fun movie with excellent songs — I have the soundtrack on my iPhone — but I don’t enjoy characters in decorating or clothing, as a rule.)

I took a bunch of photos and measurements, and went home to start working on pieces for a fun, fresh gallery wall arrangement to replace Poppy and her friends.

I was going to use two large canvas prints that Addy already owned (both from Winners) along with a light-up unicorn, but I needed smaller elements to mix in. I also wanted to balance out all of the pink by adding lots of white and pops of aqua and yellow.

Here are seven different ways I created inexpensive new pieces for Addy’s gallery wall …

Budget-friendly kids’ gallery wall {Heather's Handmade Life}

1. Laser-cut wooden frames.

These basic wood frames (no glass or backing) are usually around $1 at the craft store and are easy to paint. I filled one with a picture of JoJo Siwa (cut from an old calendar page I found in Addy’s room), and the other holds a chihuahua birthday card from her friend, Kinley.

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

Budget-friendly kids’ gallery wall {Heather's Handmade Life}

Budget-friendly kids’ gallery wall {Heather's Handmade Life}

Budget-friendly kids’ gallery wall {Heather's Handmade Life}
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Knock knock me over

I’m done with this week.

Or really, I should say “this week is done with me.” It won. It beat me. I give up.

Someone I love passed away, far too young, and we say good-bye to her on Tuesday. It was only the second funeral I’ve ever attended and holyshititwasgutting.

I didn’t know when exactly I expected to lose it during the service, but it wasn’t when I expected it to happen. It was during the hymn about loving all God’s creatures.

Suddenly I was sobbing “She hated spiders!” into my sister’s shoulder. She nodded through her tears. “No, she REALLY hated spiders!” I was borderline hysterical at this point. How had I forgotten, until that stupid hymn, how much she hated spiders? It shattered me.

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Experiments in beginner pottery

Experiments in beginner pottery {Heather's Handmade Life}

It’s been a while since I shared what I’ve been making in my weekly pottery classsomething special I do for myself now that our youngest is in Primary, yayyyy!

I shared the first batch of finished pieces back in October, about a month after starting the class, and then shared more finished pieces in November. So everything below is what’s come out of the kiln from November until the end of March. (I’ll share the newest pieces soon, once I’ve caught up here on the ol’ blog.)

Let’s dive in!

Experiments in beginner pottery {Heather's Handmade Life}
“Big Kahuna Bowl.” The biggest, heaviest cereal bowl you’ve ever seen!
Experiments in beginner pottery {Heather's Handmade Life}
The “bird’s nest” bowl. (Thrown on the wheel, and then I used a dental scraper to attack the outside.)
Experiments in beginner pottery {Heather's Handmade Life}
“Dark Blue, Dark Blue.” Cup thrown on the wheel, then I carved a textured pattern into the outside, and dipped it haphazardly in deep blue glaze. I really like this one!

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