Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Treat yo' self: Work-at-home edition

Today I thought I'd talk about the treats you can buy -- or steal from other rooms -- for your home office.

After all, I spend a LOT of time in mine -- throwing parties and such, mostly -- and I have learned the hard way that it's IMPORTANT to make it a place I want to be.

Missed the party? Check it out here.

A really comfortable desk chair.

For the first few YEARS I worked at home, I had a cheap $40 desk and sat on a leftover dining room chair from our condo.

See how sad?

Oh yeah, and my office was bubblegum pink.

I don't remember why, exactly, but there came a point -- a couple of summers ago -- where I felt like I could finally afford a REAL home office chair.

I went to Staples with C and we tried every single chair to see which one was the most comfortable. "Price is no object!" I remember decreeing. Of course, it was, but I didn't even look at the price tags until I'd tried them all and narrowed down my most comfy favourites.

This one was the winner:

Yeah, it was a lot of money to spend on a chair. I had heart palpitations at the time. But it was the BEST thing I could have done for myself -- office-wise, anyway. It's SO comfortable, I spend a lot of hours sitting in it, and it was an excellent purchase.

A proper desk.

See above, RE: my crappy $40 desk. It was life-changing when I got my handy husband to build me a custom L-shaped desk.

(Which later was expanded to a huge U-shaped desk that I really should photograph when it's tidy.)

It's messy a lot, but I LOVE it.

Pretty notebooks.

I don't have a paper dayplanner (Google Calendar is my ride-or-die) but I do like making lists, sketching project plans, or jotting down ideas on paper.

I have these ones and, oh, they are so lovely on my desk.
Kate Spade New York Extra Large Spiral Floral Notebook
Rifle Paper Co. Tapestry Stitched Notebook Foil Set

Kate Spade New York Spiral Notebook / Curious

Software that will make your life easier.

I use mostly free software (like Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.) so sometimes I get complacent and don't think I need to pay for ANY software. For a long time -- other than my monthly payment for Google Drive storage, and my cloud accounting software -- I didn't.

But recently I upgraded to a paid -- yes, PAID -- PicMonkey account. I held off for a long time, despite using it daily for the blog, because you can get a lot of the features for free.

PicMonkey = awesome!

But it got annoying to accidentally click on an option I wanted that wasn't included, and there were a few features that I knew would *really* speed up the time it took for me to make graphics. So I upgraded and I'm very happy I did.

Little pick-me-ups.

It's important to have a few things on your desk that make you feel good when you're working. For me, it's my Vichy Thermal Water -- a single mist to the face wakes me up when I'm starting to lag -- mints, a bottle of water, and a pump of lotion so my hands don't dry out.


What are your favourite work-at-home treats? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Facebook!


You might also like ... 

How to work faster from home
Five ways Google helps me be a better work-at-home mom
My top three tips for new freelance writers

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The family that Sudokus together

I was working in a newsroom when Sudoku really took off in Canada. I started doing the puzzle in the paper each day. It was excited and new, and everyone was doing it — wait, that makes it sound like something else.

As someone who has struggled with math since childhood, Sudoku really challenged me. It didn’t come easily and I could literally feel my brain firing up in different areas. It was an excellent challenge and I liked it.

Over time, I stopped doing the puzzles. So did most other people, as the fad died off. Coincidentally, this was around the time when phone games really took off, so I guess everyone was too busy playing Angry Birds to try a game on real paper.

I’d forgotten about it until this past Christmas when was I picking up stocking stuffers for my husband. I’d been poring over the magazine selection at the grocery store, trying to find a woodworking one without any luck, when I saw the little book of Sudoku puzzles. He’d always enjoyed them, even more than me, so I stuck it in my cart.

Yet again, I forgot about Sudoku until the book appeared on the kitchen counter months after Christmas. There was a pen tucked inside and I noticed he’d completed a lot of the puzzles! I was shocked because the man is glued to his iPhone or PS4 remote for 90 per cent of his waking hours. (Apparently he’d been Sudoku-ing while cooking dinner one night.)

I carried the book over to the table and decided to try a puzzle for old time’s sake. I remembered how to do it — each grid, and each row, had to include numbers one through nine without any repeats — but it was harder than I’d remembered. I kept pausing, pen mid-air, and not being sure where to find my next move.

Of course, it didn’t help that my husband hovered over my shoulder saying “I see one ... I see another one ... How can you not see that one?”

“STOP!” I cried, frantically looking at the grids until the numbers swam in front of my eyes. I remembered my old habit of writing teeny numbers in the corners of the blocks that “might” be a certain number.

“That’s cheating!” he crowed from behind me.

“I’m writing down the possible sevens!”

He peered over my shoulder again. “You think almost all of them could be a seven!”

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

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

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Monday, March 27, 2017

DIY floating makeup table, revamped chair

When we were planning our daughter’s bedroom makeover, most of the discussions centred around the huge loft bed we were building.

But our daughter was even more excited about adding something else: a ‘real’ makeup table. Did I mention she’s four years old! She’s literally closer in age to needing a crib than a tube of concealer.

I hoped she’d forget about the idea, but of course she didn’t. Since her massive loft bed was taking up a good portion of the room, I didn’t really want to add another piece of furniture. So I compromised by building a floating makeup table — really just a tray attached to the wall — and redoing an old (free) chair to tuck beneath it.

I raided my pile of scrap wood and started by cutting some 1x2 boards into eight 20-inch sections — just a bit wider than the chair — to create a tabletop.

I screwed them into some more scraps of 1x2 to make a big planked rectangle, and then I screwed pieces of 2x2 around the outside as a frame. That way, if there were tubes of lip gloss all over the table, the raised edge would keep them from rolling onto the floor.

It was looking pretty ugly at this stage, I must admit. That’s what happens when you’re recycling painted and stained wood from three different projects!

The plan was always to paint the new makeup table and the chair — which I’d gotten for free as a hand-me-down — a beautiful custom pink (Custom Blend #8 on their site). The very first items I bought for the bedroom makeover, in fact, were the two colours of Fusion Mineral Paint I needed to mix this particular colour: Buttermilk Cream and Fort York Red.

I put on a podcast and absentmindedly mixed the two colours (half and half) to make the new shade. It was only after I’d painted everything that I stood back and realized something — it was totally not going to work in the room.

The colour was gorgeous, but the plan for the room had changed a lot since the early stages. Everything was softer and more muted than I’d originally planned, and I didn’t think about the fact that the pink makeup table and chair were supposed to be right next to the new dusty rose curtains. Ugh.

It was time for Plan B ...

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

Product sources:
Loft bed: Tutorial here
Wall colour: PPG's "Pinot Noir" from Kent
Sunburst mirror: HomeSense
White photo frame: HomeSense
Floral jars: Tutorial coming soon!
Chair fabric: Anne of Green Gables collection at Atlantic Fabrics
Chair paint: Fusion Mineral Paint's "Buttermilk Cream" from Phillips & Chestnut Victorian Salvage and Decor

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weekly wrap-up: flashing lights + snow days + baby clothes

In case you missed it, here's what I've been up to this week in Internet-Land ... 


I shared my fun Lite-Brite DIY -- including a blinky-blinky picture over on Instagram -- and basically had the commercial's song in my head all day. Lite-Brite! Lite-Brite! Turn on the magic of shining light!

Over on Instagram, I showed how the kids went bobbing for apples -- yeah, in March -- because what else are you supposed to do when March Break should be over? But it's a snow day? In spring?


We chatted about kids + phone manners. I taught ours to use the rotary-style phone in the kitchen and now they're obsessed with making calls. It's actually quite a nice way to entertain them while I cook, because they just hang around the peninsula dialing and jabbering away. 


I was feeling stressy from colours in spreadsheets -- yes, I know, earth-shattering stuff -- and decided to talk about some of my weirdness here in the ol' home office. I also shared an AMAZING link to a free white-noise streaming site that saves my life. Daily. 

And over on Insta, I dried my pretty new sink because STRESS and because cleaning makes me calmer.


We had yet another snow day! For real. The second one in a week, and DID I MENTION IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE SPRING? Oh, Canada. You are a butt sometimes.

Oh, and I shared the baby-clothes quilt I was finishing up for our baby girl. I already finished D's, too, actually, so I'll be sharing within the next couple of weeks.

Lots of projects on the go this weekend, as well as pizza + movie night tonight. I am READY for a weekend after this heck-hole of a week.