Tuesday, June 27, 2017

10 places to work ‘from home’ and also entertain your kids

When I’m on a work call and the person apologetically says I might hear their child in the background — usually because they’re home with a sick kid — I want to weep with joy.

“I get it! I totally get it! In fact, my kids are on the other side of my office door right now — crayoning notes that say ‘Can we ples play Wii now ples and thack you?’”

I’ve been working from home — with kids — since 2010, so you might say I have seven years’ experience in typing quickly while shouting.

Sometimes it feels like the rest of the world is working in a “real” office free from sticky fingers and demands for more snacks. But the reality is that a lot of other professionals need to work from home occasionally.

Their kid’s too sick for daycare or their babysitter cancelled, they lost the coin toss with their spouse and here they are — struggling to make calls or respond to emails while making grilled cheese and slicing grapes.

It’s usually after a day or two of working from home — with kids — that friends send me the how-do-you-DO-this-every-day text. They claim they can’t get anything done because the kids are so distracting, and it does take practice.

I’ve learned, however, that it’s all about location, location, location ...

Where do I work "from home" when I have the kids with me? Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer BINGO with 100 activities for kids { Free download }

The trouble with summer vacation is that you can save a ton of great ideas in Pinterest, with the best intentions, and suddenly it’s Labour Day weekend and you’re feeling guilty about everything you didn’t get around to doing.

Summer gets BUSY! There are vacations and day-trips and everyone’s schedule is thrown out of whack, especially if you’re trying to juggle work and kid-wrangling without losing your job and/or children.

I decided that our family needed the old-fashioned version of a Pinterest board: a piece of paper on the kitchen bulletin board. Something we could ALL see, so we’d be able to squeeze in lots of different summer activities instead of getting bored with the same old stuff.

So using a basic table in Google Slides, I put together a Bingo board with 100 different activities the kids and I will attempt this summer. One hundred sounds ambitious, doesn’t it? Clearly “ice cream for dinner” is happening -- several times.

We’re going to hit up all of the local playgrounds and pools, take advantage of fun only-in-the-summer activities like parades and outdoor concerts, and cram in lots of backyard fun with sprinklers, wading pools and water balloons.

The list also includes indoor activities, since I’m a major Indoor Girl. We’ll do science experiments and baking, make our own storybook, build a LEGO city, and other things that don’t involve sunscreen, hats and a sweaty mama.

Over the summer, we’ll tackle the Bingo board and see if we can mark out all 100 items. I’ll even get a Bingo dauber for the occasion, which is sure to delight and stain the children on a daily basis. Wait, make that TWO daubers to limit the squabbling. (Each square will undoubtedly have two daubs in it, one per kid.)

Continue reading the full list of 100 summer activities for kids over in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ...

... or click below to download your own Bingo cards!

Customize the editable version in Google Docs

Download/print a blank version to fill in yourselves

Download/print our family's version

Pin these boards for later!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Grey is the new orange: How to paint wicker (the easy way)

Once upon a time, there was a country-style wicker six-drawer chest in a “warm honey” (a.k.a. bright orange) finish. It came from the kingdom of Canadian Tire — where its friends are still sold today — and, lo, it was sturdy.

It found a home with my mother, and then my sister, before finally making its journey to me. But it was not the happily-ever-after one would expect, for its orange wicker was so ghastly that no one could truly fall in love with it . . .

Still with me? I bet you have one of the wicker drawer units, or you know someone who does. They’re everywhere, and they really are well made. This particular unit has been passed around my entire family and it still looked brand new.

We stuck it in our living room for a while and used it to hold small toys, after I’d banished all remaining toys to the basement or the kids’ bedrooms. It was fine, despite not matching the hardwood, but I knew it could be better.

On a very rare evening when I had the house to myself, I got the brilliant idea to close off the bathroom door that connects our master bedroom to the only upstairs bathroom. (I have no idea why a “cheater ensuite” would ever be appealing.)

We didn’t need two doors and we’d gain extra wall space in our room. So I heaved my husband’s tall dresser over to block the door from the bedroom side, and brought this drawered unit into the bathroom — it fit perfectly in the extra doorway.

The orange had to go, and it didn’t take long to cover it up ...

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

... or pin this idea for later!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Creative paint storage solutions

One of the best parts of my new laundry room / DIY studio is that I finally have ALL of my paint in one glorious, organized colour-coded spot!

Before the studio, when the room looked like hell, I was storing our large paint cans in the utility room (a.k.a. hellhole), my acrylic paints and oil paints in my office, and my "fancy" paints (Fusion Mineral Paint and Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint) in a closet under the basement stairs. 

Now? It's all here ... 

Remember what this wall used to look like???


After I freecycled the deep freeze, tore down the random shelves, and drywalled/primed the walls, I had a blank canvas with lots of potential.

I bought basic 8' boards in a few different thicknesses (no need to have a wide shelf just for skinny acrylic paint bottles, I reasoned) based on the size of the paint containers. 

Then I stained them (no need to make any cuts) and hung them with L-brackets -- just like I did with these faux-floating shelves and photo ledges. I love L-brackets.

The very top shelf is for displaying canvases, but it can hold more paint if I need the room down the road.

For now, I have ...

  • a shelf for acrylic bottles -- which I only really use in projects with the kids because they're cheap
  • a shelf for spray paint
  • a shelf for sample tubs and "proppers" (extra tiles I use to keep things off the ground while I'm painting them, and these genius plastic painting pyramids)
  • a shelf for my Fusion Mineral Paint and Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint
  • a shelf filled with recycled cans to store my gloves, sponge brushes and screws 
  • a shelf for in-progress pieces (and large can overflow)
  • a shelf for storing and charging my Ryobi batteries
  • a shelf for stain and small cans of paint (and the tinfoil I use sometimes while painting)
  • a shelf that rests on the floor for most of the large paint cans (and my Ryobi jigsaw and circular saw, so I don't have to worry about them falling onto the floor)

Looking at these shelves just FILLS me with excitement for new projects!

I always have a bunch of blank canvases lying around, and I used to shove them in the closet of my office. But sometimes they'd get ripped by something heavy falling onto them, and it was SO frustrating.

Now I store them on the wall of the studio on these plastic rain gutters -- yup, the ones we used as bookshelves and took out of C's room when we redecorated and built her loft bed and makeup table

My paint brushes used to be stored in the closet under the basement stairs, and now I have them right where I can see them. 

I just stained two lengths of 2x2 board and drilled them into the wall, and then added a bunch of screws to hang the brushes on. (Two different thicknesses, because the original screws I used were too big to fit through the holes of some of the brushes.)

The brushes are now directly above the gorgeous new laundry sink from Kent, so I can wash them out and just hang them to fully dry.

I used to keep my good arcrylic paints and my oil paints in plastic tubs in my office closet, and it was fine. They didn't get damaged, BUT it was hard to see all of the colours.

So I took a piece of plywood, trimmed it to size with my jigsaw, painted it a light grey (Fusion Mineral Paint's "Putty") and used tiny screws to add a ton of binder clips -- these ones from Staples. 

They were perfect for pinching the ends of the paint tubes.

I filled one whole board with my Liquitex acrylics and ran out of room, so I had to make a second board.

The second board holds the acrylic overflow and any special mediums, plus my oil paints.

I just leaned both boards up against the (newly-painted) oil tank, and they have yet to fall over. They make it much easier to paint because I can see all of the colours at once, and they're just pretty to look at, too.

Is there anything more soothing than colours arranged in rainbow order? 

(Like my thread next-door in the office?)

(And my ribbon and embroidery thread?)

Ahhhhh ...