Homework nagging hack

Now that our kids are in Grade 1 and Grade 3, I’ve noticed this year feels a little different. They’re older students and with that comes more responsibilities at home.

Our daughter, who’s in Grade 1, needs to read at least one book every day and then we log it in her home reading journal. Not a big deal, yet somehow we’re having trouble making it part of our daily routine and she ends up reading all four or five books the day before we need to send them back to school. Oops.

Our son, who’s in Grade 3, has a more intensive homework lineup this year. He needs to read daily, practice his weekly words and count by twos and fours to 100 (starting on different numbers).

Because he’s in band this year, he also needs to practice at home for 15 minutes every day.

The reading isn’t a problem because he takes after me and loves to read. I read a chapter of Harry Potter aloud every night — we’re on book four now and totally obsessed — and then he’s so excited to find out what happens next that he reads ahead a couple of chapters before he goes to sleep.

But there’s more …

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene … 
Free homework/chore chart {Heather's Handmade Life}
Download blank PDF version
Free homework/chore chart {Heather's Handmade Life}
Grab an editable version (Click “File” then “Make a copy” to customize)
Homework nagging hack + free printable homework/chore chart {Heather's Handmade Life}
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How I sew button-up shirts

How I sew button-up shirts {Heather's Handmade Life}

I talk a lot about the clothes I sew for our daughter — we all know she’s my life-sized Barbie baby — so today I thought I’d share some details about the button-up shirts I sew for our son.

While I have quite a stash of different dress and tunic patterns for our daughter, I’ve only ever really used two shirt patterns for our son. But by using different fabric, snaps, buttons, trimmings, etc. they all end up looking like very different shirts.

How I sew button-up shirts {Heather's Handmade Life}

When I first started sewing button-up shirts for him, he was four years old — maybe just turning five? It feels like ages ago. I was only sewing dresses at that point and a button-up shirt felt WAY TOO COMPLICATED, but I was determined to try.

Find a pattern and stick with it

I bought the Maxwell Shirt pattern from ShwinDesigns, and I must have made DOZENS of them before he outgrew the pattern. (It goes from 12-18 months straight through size 8.) I mean, really, you don’t need multiple button-up shirt patterns — just pick a nice easy one, and get comfortable with it.

How I sew button-up shirts {Heather's Handmade Life} Read More

It’s always scarier at night

It's always scarier at night {Heather's Handmade Life}
It’s always scarier at night.

This is what I try to remind myself when my anxiety is spiraling out of control in the middle of the night because one of the kids is really sick.

Throwing up is awful, but not worrying because I know it’ll usually pass within a few hours.

Sniffles don’t bother me and neither do colds. Nice, normal little coughs and the odd sneeze? Totally fine.

It’s when the coughing gets bad that I feel myself start to tense up. The tightness starts in my chest and gets worse each time I hear them start to hack across the hall. Then they’re silent. Can they breathe? Wait, another cough. Worse this time …

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

DIY ‘archways’ to separate open-concept spaces

DIY wooden 'archways' to divide an open-concept space and use different paint colours {Heather's Handmade Life}
I really wanted an open-concept house. Now I wish I had more walls.

I can’t say I regret buying our house — which doesn’t have a single dividing wall on the entire main level, other than around the bathroom — because it worked well for us when we had babies and toddlers. In those days, I needed to be able to watch the kids closely at all times — even when I was ducking into the kitchen to empty the dishwasher.

Now that they’re six and eight, I feel a longing for one particular house we toured. It was really old and had lots of little rooms, all separated by hallways and doors. I’d scoffed at the closed-off kitchen at the time, but now I think it would be nice to shut myself in there and listen to music quietly while I make dinner … without hearing the TV blasting from 15 feet away.

Anyway, the other issue with an open-concept house is that you can’t easily transition to different paint colours because the whole level is all connected. No walls. No doorways. Just … openness!

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

DIY wooden 'archways' to divide an open-concept space and use different paint colours {Heather's Handmade Life}

DIY wooden 'archways' to divide an open-concept space and use different paint colours {Heather's Handmade Life}

Five songs I find weirdly inspirational

Five inspirational songs you wouldn't expect {Heather's Handmade Life}
As a writer, I’m obviously a lyric person.

I’m always Googling lyrics to new songs I hear, and often the words are the entire reason I like a song — no matter how it sounds. (On the other side of things, Darling Husband likes songs for their beat, which is why he loves techno — what an adorable lil’ weirdo.)

I don’t write much about music, but I’ve been meaning to put together a post with some of the songs I find inspirational because of their lyrics. It’s a totally bizarre mix — Pitbull, Nickelback, and the TROLLS soundtrack?! — but I swear, it makes sense in my head.

Ready?

***

Rainbow by Kesha

And I know that I’m still f–ked up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can’t go on, hold tight, sweetheart
You’ll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby
Trust me, I know, life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight
You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and paint the world with me tonight 
***
WHY I LOVE IT … 
I’d never thought of myself as a Kesha fan — especially when she was spelling her name with a dollar sign — but I LOVE this song and listen to it on my phone all of the time. I shiver at the line “Darling, our scars make us who are, are.”

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The after-school freak-out

The after-school freak-out {Heather's Handmade Life}
As happy as I am that the kids are back in school, there’s one really annoying part I’d forgotten about: the after-school freak-out. 

It happens almost every day, immediately after our daughter gets off the bus. She’s smiling, she’s running toward me, she’s hugging me — that’s all fine. But then she asks if she can play with so-and-so or do something when we have other commitments and I have to say no.

And she loses it.

Right there in front of everyone, she starts screaming or crying or throwing herself down on the sidewalk. It’s called afterschool restraint collapse and apparently, I’m not alone here, which is quite reassuring. But I am still so over it.

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

When kids have wedding jitters

When kids have wedding jitters {Heather's Handmade Life}

Our whole family was thrilled when my sister got engaged last August. She asked me to be her matron of honour — yay! — and she wanted our eight-year-old son — her only nephew — to be the ring bearer.

He immediately declined, explaining, “I don’t want everyone to look at me!”

Meanwhile, our daughter was already twirling around the room, happily shouting, “I want EVERYONE to look at me!”

She was born to be a flower girl. Undivided attention as she paraded down an aisle, beaming and holding flowers in a fancy dress? Yup, that’s our Charlotte.

We all joked she was going to do her best to outshine the bride, but as the wedding approached, I wondered if that was actually going to be the case. She certainly practiced a lot.

For months, it felt like the wedding would never, ever arrive and then suddenly, it was just a few weeks away. I was busily sewing the kids’ outfits, struggling with the slippery fancy fabrics I don’t normally mess with. It took two tries to get a flower girl dress, the first one was a hideous too-wide number drowning in navy tulle — but my first-ever bow tie came together nicely.

I had last-minute worries about how they would hold up, though — the kids, not the clothes (although my sewing is always a bit questionable). Would they be exhausted before the ceremony started? Would they freak out when they saw the crowd of strangers? Neither had been to a wedding before, let alone been a part of one …

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

When kids have wedding jitters {Heather's Handmade Life}
A special dance to Katy Perry before the flower girl had to leave!

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

Organized teen bedroom

Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
Framed photos. Loose photos. Clay Cafe figurines. Medals. Buttons. Programs. Notes. Ticket stubs. Drawings. Posters. Lanyards. Stuffed animals. Jewellery. Tchotchkes.
These are just a few of the items that might be cluttering up a teen’s bedroom near you.

I was in the process of redecorating the bedroom of a lovely 13-year-old, and I knew I wanted to keep her stuff corralled so it looked as tidy as possible.

Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
The “BEFORE”
I decided we’d build a beautiful custom desk along one wall and stack deep wooden ledges above it for storing everything in one spot. Most important of all, the desk and ledges would be on the same wall as the door, so when you walked into her room, you’d be looking at a serene bed and gallery wall, not a ton of “stuff.
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
The “AFTER” (yup, the very same wall) — read the full tutorial for this gorgeous chair
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
A bright and clean custom desk
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
I pinned her paper bracelet collection into a frame with fabric backing
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
DIY jewellery display made from old dresser knobs and a scrap of 2×2 lumber
Organized teen bedroom {Heather's Handmade Life}
Tiny treasures look cleaner when they’re corralled into a simple shadowbox
Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home …
… or pin this to read later!

Filing cabinet makeover

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}
You know I love nothing more than snooping around somebody’s house and rescuing something old so I can give it a new life. So when I spotted an old beige two-drawer filing cabinet in a client’s basement, I suggested we dress it up to use in her teenage daughter’s bedroom.

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

I think a lot of people have unused filing cabinets in their basements these days, like sad relics of a time before the convenience of cloud storage. (I own filing boxes and file-sorters, but not an actual metal filing cabinet . . . yet . . . much to the chagrin of my paper-loving bookkeeper. Those things are expensive.)

I knew I could paint the whole thing to make it cuter — it definitely couldn’t stay blah ’90s office beige — but I wanted to try out a new treatment by using fabric on the fronts of the drawers. There were so many cute options, but I settled on a fun doughnut print ($9 for two fat quarters).

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}

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

Filing cabinet makeover {Heather's Handmade Life}
Or pin this to read later!

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Kitchen chair turned desk chair

What Charlotte wore …

What Charlotte wore ... {Heather's Handmade Life}

It’s that time of year when I get *really* into dressing the kids for school in the cute new outfits I spent July and August sewing for them! I try to take a picture most mornings before school, at least of Charlotte (Dexter isn’t a fan of pictures these days).

So here’s a look at what she’s been wearing to school lately, along with a round-up on patterns, fabrics, upcycling, etc.

What Charlotte wore ... {Heather's Handmade Life}

This is what she’s wearing today!

  • Black and white top: A mishmash of fabrics in my stash + cut-up clothes, sewn with this T-shirt pattern (which is one of my most-used patterns)
  • Mustard corduroy jumper: I made this from one of my favourite skirts (worn back when I was in an actual office). I cut off the belt-ish band to make the straps and the whole thing is made 100% using just the original skirt.

What Charlotte wore ... {Heather's Handmade Life}

She wore this on Tuesday …

  • Black bodysuit: Actually just her dance leotard from last year, sewn by mimicking an old bathing suit. I love the low back!
  • Floral skirt: Pretty crepe floral fabric (Atlantic Fabrics) with a stretchy black waistband made from an old black T-shirt. Since the fabric was so thin, I doubled it up (leaving the fold at the bottom of the skirt) and gathered the waist before adding the waistband. No pattern required.

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That time I DIY-ed on TV!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job

Back in June, I spent a couple of days filming in Halifax. I didn’t say much about it at the time because I was waiting until it was on the air, and now it is — eeeek!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job

I was a guest on an episode of “Eyes for the Job.” It’s a cool DIY show on AMI starring Chris Judge — a kick-ass carpenter who is BLIND! — and Alex Haider, who’s new to DIY and used to do the weather on Global News so lots of people know her. They were both so kind and welcoming, and I had an awesome time with them.

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job
Yup, I sewed myself a tool belt the night before filming began!

We turned a dresser into a bench — right up my alley, since I love repurposing furniture — and I even taught Chris how to sew so we could make a cushion for the top!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job
My now-famous sewing machine

The workshop was full of tools and I even got to use ones that were brand-new to me — like the band saw (yikes!) and the table saw (which we own, but I have never used on my own).

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job
Me thinking “Please don’t let me saw off my hand on national TV.”

I’ve been on sets of commercials and videos, but never a TV show so it was fun to see “how the magic happens.” It took two full days of filming just for the parts with me, and I wasn’t even in the whole 30-minute episode. It’s pretty crazy how much time and effort goes into a 30-minute show!

DIY columnist Heather Laura Clarke guest-stars on AMI's Eyes for the Job

I caught the episode on Thursday when it ran on AMI, and it’s airing again tonight at 9:30 p.m. Atlantic, and tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 18) at 9:30 a.m. Atlantic if you want to watch. AMI seems to be channel 65 throughout most of Nova Scotia. (Pls ignore my double chins during a few unfortunate angles!)

This actually wasn’t the end of my “Eyes for the Job” journey. I went back again in July for another episode, except I got to bring the kids with me! I’ll keep you posted when that episode airs — they’re VERY excited to see themselves on TV. Dexter took his “job” very seriously and I just know they got some amazing shots of his serious little face as he sanded away. Charlotte developed a full-on crush on Alex and never wanted to leave her side — it was adorable!

Andddddddddd I didn’t cut my hand off on national TV, so I’d consider that a huge win.

How to replace sleeves

How to replace sleeves {Heather's Handmade Life}

I actually did this project back in the spring and forgot to turn it into a post!

So I had a Silver jean jacket that I loved, BUT … there was a bit of buyer’s remorse happening. I’d bought a medium because it was the only size they had left and I REALLY wanted the jacket, like, immediately. The sleeves felt a titch too short, but I convinced myself they were fine.

And then ended up rolling them up 99% of the time … which led to them getting all stretched out … le sigh.

How to replace sleeves {Heather's Handmade Life}

So I decided to replace them!

I started by snipping them off at the shoulder seam …

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