The (ongoing) DIY deck disaster

Six years ago, I made what was certainly my biggest home-related blunder.

I dared to fall in love with the notion of a two-toned deck: dark stain paired with crisp white paint. I was enamoured with how it looked (so classic!) and stupidly rushed into a long-term relationship that has caused nothing but pain and frustration.


The honeymoon period was short, and by springtime all I could see were the flaws. Months of shovelling snow off the front steps had scrapped the stain and chipped the paint. It was agonizing because it had taken many, many days of sweat equity to get it off the ground, and now it all had to be worked on again.


You see, not only had I chosen a very dark stain (Sico’s Autumn Brown) — I’d accidentally chosen a very thick, non-sheer formula that was basically paint. The can said “semi-transparent,” but it should have said “Thick, unyielding substance that is not even a little bit transparent and will chip like paint.”

Et tu, Brute?

We made it even worse by slapping more coats on each summer to hide the chipped-off areas, mostly because we shuddered at the work that would be involved in sanding it all off.

Four years ago, I wrote this about our two-toned deck: “When it looks good, it looks very, very good. When it looks bad, it looks horrid.” I moaned that “the hassle of maintaining it has taken years off my life.”

We’re finally doing something about it.

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

The link between mental health and creativity

Heather’s Handmade Life is all about me building a creativity-filled life for myself and my family in order to fight through my own personal slog of anxiety and depression.

But as much as I talk about creativity and share my projects — and talk openly about my own mental health — I don’t make the connection as often as I should. The connection between mental health and creativity, and how it saved my life.

This is my story.

I was a super crafty child growing up — ALWAYS drawing and writing stories, occasionally messing around with pastels, watercolours, charcoals, etc. I even took private drawing lessons (with a teacher who would wind up teaching me oil-painting 25 years in the future).

My mom taught me how to sew on a machine, how to embroider by hand. We made wreaths, back when wreath-making was THE thing to do. I fancied myself quite the Claudia Kishi, except I wasn’t cool or fashionable. I was totally going to go to art school (NSCAD, or “The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,” as I called it when I was a precocious kid).

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“Alexa, lock the front door please!”

How to make a Samsung SmartThings Hub play nicely with your Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt and your Echo Dot

I’m putting on my techie hat. Can you see it? It’s a baseball cap with a joke about binary code. Not really, but consider this a warning that this post is about to get extremely technical — with loads of boring screenshots of apps. For real.

We recently partnered with Schlage to try out the Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt, which was VERY EXCITING because we love the idea of ditching housekeys in favour of custom lock codes.

Since we have two children who are not really old enough to carry housekeys, it’s been amazing to see them come and go — safely — using their own lock codes.

(They love it so much, in fact, that they walk outside, shut the door, lock it, step back, and wait for their sibling to get “their turn” unlocking, shutting, and locking the door. It’s pretty cute.)

As I mentioned in my original post, you don’t NEED to use any kind of app for the Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt. Nope, you can operate it 100% using the keypad on the front of it — even add lock codes, delete lock codes, etc.

To set up a custom lock code WITHOUT using an app, just tap in your six-digit programming code (located on a sticker on the back of your device, as well as on the back of your manual), press 1 and then enter the desired code twice to add it. So far, we have four personalized codes in there (one for each member of the family) but we can have up to 30.

You can also set up a special three-step alarm feature where the door beeps every time it’s opened or closed, or even sets off an alarm if the door appears to be tampered with (i.e. someone enters the wrong code over and over in an attempt to guess the code and break in).

So why, you ask, would anyone bother getting an app if their Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt can be fully operated without one?

Well … for the geeky techie fun!!!

Once I found out that my Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt had the ability to be controlled FROM MY PHONE as well as from my beloved Alexa (Echo Dots) all over the house? I SIMPLY HAD TO HAVE THOSE FEATURES.

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