Friday, April 21, 2017

Weekly wrap-up: Dancing + dating + decluttering


Easter was ... hyper. Let's leave it at that.


My weekly DIY was a cool custom sign I made for a Cape Breton friend. It was really easy to make (minus the hand-cramping from the lettering) and I'm definitely going to make something similar for us.

DIY sign

I also shared my five favourite photography tips, taken from an amazing ECM Media workshop.

Photography tips


I talked about my son dating (!!!) and how I'm freaking about about it (!!!)

When little kids "date"

I also Instagrammed a picture of the adorable Monopoly money shirt I had finished sewing the night before. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.


I talked about my big skincare mistake and what I'm doing to fix it. (Hint: use anti-aging cream for the first time everrrrr)

What you need to know about skincare in your 30s

I took a FILTER-FREE (and hatless) selfie in the car at preschool pick-up, too.

I also linked to an article I wrote about an awesome local program for girls to prevent girl-against-girl bullying and improve their self-confidence.

No more Mean Girls

And I couldn't resist sharing this picture of my space babies in their new matching space outfits. (How cute is this fabric?)

A post shared by Heather Laura Clarke (@hfxheather) on


I shared what happened when my picky family (including picky ME) tried some new gluten-free and lactose-free foods.

Gluten-free and lactose-free taste test

I also had a fun post over on about decluttering and organizing on a budget.

7 Ways to Declutter Without Spending a Fortune

Busy weekend ahead of us, including a date night (of sorts), a birthday party, and hopefully some clean-up work in the back yard (a.k.a. where plastic toys go to die).


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Picky kids try gluten-free and lactose-free products

Disclosure: These products were sent to me for review, but all opinions (and tastes) belong to my picky family. 


I recently wrote an article on kids with food allergies and sensitivities, and how it's a good idea to go-to gluten-free and lactose-free foods for playdates, birthday parties, etc. I interviewed an awesome dietitian who made suggestions for parents, and told me how the quality/taste/price of these "speciality" foods has GREATLY improved.

I wrote the story, of course (it's my job), but I was skeptical.

My friend next-door has Celiac disease and I've baked gluten-free treats for her. They are NEVER tasty and they're a pain in the butt, frankly. What is xanthan gym and why does this package of overpriced flour think I'm going to have that in my house?!

Don't even get me started on lactose-free stuff, I thought. Darling Husband has suffered from lactose intolerance since shortly after we started going out. (Wait, did I cause it???) He gets horrible stomach pains (and then *worse* stuff) from all things milk-y. We used to buy him that nasty chalky lactose-free milk so he could have cereal, but we stopped because even he said it wasn't worth it.

But! Atlantic Superstore kindly sent me a package of some of their new lactose-free and gluten-free goodies so I could try them myself.

I half-heartedly took a few pictures in case I ended up writing about them, but I wasn't thinking it would ever hit the blog. Truthfully.

The kids, as always, were excited to see a package arrive. And this one had food! Yaaaaaaay for taste-tests!

We started with the gluten-free pasta, since we love pasta. I boiled two pots of water and made President's Choice Gluten-Free Tagliatelle (it looked like linguine to me, but I'm no chef) and President's Choice Gluten-Free Four-Cheese Tortellini.

I figured it was going to have that weird sweet-ish taste like the whole-grain pasta I hate.


The kids didn't like the tortellini but they don't like "regular" tortellini either, so they're crazy. They inhaled the tagliatelle while I stuffed myself with the tortellini.

It was freaking delicious, and I would have NEVER thought it was gluten-free.

Next up, we tried the President's Choice Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Mix. We have pretty high standards for cake in this house, and I have baked some nasty gluten-free cakes for my friend.

It mixed up fine and *looked* like a regular Betty Crocker cake mix. But I assumed this cake would have that "bean-y" taste that screams "I'm gluten-free! I'm made from ground-up beans instead of delicious white flour!"


It baked up perfectly and tasted great with my famous vanilla buttercream. I will say it was slightly crumbly compared to the chocolate cake I normally bake, but completely delicious.

AND it was so nice that we could bring a big piece next-door for my friend with Celiac, who gets left out of so many desserts.

The last taste-test was with the lactose-free products: President's Choice Lactose-Free Sour Cream, and President's Choice Lactose-Free Old Cheddar Cheese, served with yummy blue corn tortilla chips.

(The kids were amazed by the colour. Apparently we are boring parents who don't expose them to multi-coloured tortilla chips.)

We made this one a true taste-test and prepared half the nachos with the lactose-free cheese and half with "regular" cheese (a combination of whatever mozzarella and cheddar we had in the cheese drawer of the fridge).

(We didn't even put jalapenos on the nachos so the kids could eat from both sides in the name of true objectivity.)

And, yes, my lactose-intolerant husband DOES eat nachos on a fairly regular basis. What it does to his digestive system? Let's not go there. But I suppose it's "worth it" to him, or he wouldn't eat them?

I wasn't sure what to expect from lactose-free cheese and lactose-free sour cream (how could something with CREAM in the name not have lactose?).

I just hoped neither would be anything like that chalky lactose-free milk we used to buy. Was it going to have a weird taste? Was it going to be watery or chunky or otherwise strange?


You heard it here first: lactose-free cheese tasted exactly the same as regular cheese. The only difference was that it was slightly "oranger" than the regular cheddar.

The sour cream shocked me even more, actually. We even pulled out a container of the regular restaurant-style sour cream we normally buy, and they tasted exactly the same.

We used both containers for the next week or so, until they ran out, and I literally would just grab whatever one was closer -- that's how identical they were. (I made sure my husband always got the lactose-free version though. Why wreck his stomach unnecessarily?)

So good for you, Atlantic Superstore! I'm seriously impressed -- impressed enough to write a rare food post -- that you managed to crack the code and invent gluten-free and lactose-free stuff that tastes just as good as the "regular" versions.

(My poor husband* -- and anyone near the washroom after he's had regular cheese or sour cream -- thanks you very much.)

*Don't worry. He doesn't read this blog.

Pin this for later!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What you need to know about skincare in your 30s

Disclosure: These products were sent to me for review, but all opinions (and selfies) are my own.


I worked as a drugstore cosmetician in high school and again in university, and I maintain it was one of the best part-time jobs I could have had. I got paid to learn about why it was important to take care of my skin, what to use, and what NOT to use (Hello, People Who Put Lubriderm On Their Faces OMG).

As a result, I've been lucky to have pretty great skin -- oh, and genes play into that, of course. Thanks, Mom. I struggle with body image and it took me decades to figure out how to deal with my challenging hair, BUT my skin has always been something I could feel good about.

However ...

I was making a huge skincare mistake and didn't realize it until recently.

Um, you know how I'm not 22 anymore? Or even 28? Yeah, that.

I'm 33 now (I still find that strange to write, since I feel like I a solid 28) and I was still taking care of my skin EXACTLY the same way I did in my 20s.

These guys? They've been my starting lineup since I was a university student (a.k.a. a thousand years ago).

Vichy's Aqualia Thermal line

I think it was an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" kind of thing. I knew what products I loved, they worked, and I just kept buying them -- month after month, year after year.

Even Darling Husband had a photo in his phone of my go-to moisturizer -- Vichy's Aqualia Thermal in "Rich," since I have dry-ish skin and like a nice creamy cream.

This has been my Boo for 10+ years

It wasn't that this line stopped working -- it didn't. But I started noticing more fine lines in the mirror. It seemed to happen overnight, actually, once I hit 32.

Suddenly I was looking ... large-pored ... and wrinkled. Especially in the forehead. DARN THOSE EXPRESSIVE EMOTIONS.

And that's riiiiiiiight about the time I started taking my selfies wearing a hat ...

Thank you to @ella5320 for knitting me this gorgeous #pussyhat! 😽 (She's local and selling them on her FB page, Simply Craftish). . . My husband didn't know the meaning behind it -- he blankly asked if I was going to start wanting kitty ears on all of my hats -- so here's a quick explanation if you've been seeing these hats on social media. . . Remember when Donald Trump said that really awful thing that I won't repeat here? Well, a bunch of awesome crafters decided that ... "wearing pink together is a powerful statement that we are unapologetically feminine and we unapologetically stand for women's rights. We chose the loaded word for our project because we want to reclaim the term as a means of empowerment." (Pussyhat Project manifesto) . . #pussyhatproject #pussyhats @p_ssyhatproject
A post shared by Heather Laura Clarke (@hfxheather) on

I mean, luckily it was winter. But still.


Or I would sneakily bump up the brightness on my photos so it blurred out my forehead wrinkles ...

But then I decided, "You know what? Hats and filters are really not the best approach."

I reached out to my lovely friends at Vichy and explained my dilemna. And -- surprise, surprise -- there was a line I should be using.

A line for people IN THEIR THIRTIES.

A line for people, like me, who are NOT ACTUALLY IN THEIR TWENTIES and SHOULDN'T BE ACTING LIKE IT when it comes to their faces.

Because skincare in your 30s? It's different for a reason.

It's called Idéalia and it targets those first three signs of aging: fine lines, larger pores, and a duller skin tone.

Vichy kindly sent me four Idéalia products so I could try them and report back to you once I've used them for a while.

So starting today, I'll be using ...

IDÉALIA Radiance Activating Night Peeling Care: It's going to help me get rid of dead skin cells, smooth wrinkles, fade dark spots and acne marks, and give me a nice glow. It has 4% glycolic acid and 5% HEPES, and I'll use a cotton pad to apply it every night (after taking off my makeup), and then I'll follow it with a night cream.

IDÉALIA Radiance booster serum: I can use this morning or night, under a moisturizer. It's soooo important to keep your skin hydrated and serums are perfect for that because you get all of the hydration without a thick cream (which I love, but some people don't -- especially if they have oily or combination skin).

IDÉALIA Smoothness & Glow Energizing Cream: This is the daytime cream I'll put on each morning. It promises to even out my complexion, refine my pores, and smooth my lines -- all while giving my skin a glow that lasts all day.

IDÉALIA Energizing smoothing and radiance gel-cream: This is a lighter gel-cream designed for people with combination/oily skin, which isn't usually me BUT I veer more towards combination in the sweaty summer months. Since we're heading into that season, I could use this in the morning or at night -- or both -- instead of the IDÉALIA Smoothness & Glow Energizing Cream.


So if you're in your 30s and still using the same ol' moisturizer you loved in your early 20s, consider this a friendly reminder that it might be time to upgrade to something for grown-up women.

After all, we can't ALWAYS wear hats in selfies.


Pin this for later: anti-aging skincare in your 30s

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Five photography tips for amateurs

I take a lot of photos. My iPhone recently hit the 10,000 mark and then decided it was time for me to make some room for more.

But just because I take photos constantly -- for the blog, for my parenting column, and especially for my DIY home decor column -- doesn't mean I'm any good at it.


I was lucky enough to attend a photography workshop for bloggers recently, organized by ECM Media, and I learned so many great tips from Matt Corkum of Fade to White Photography.

Ready to slay your photo game, whether it's for your blog or just for fun? Here are a few of the gems I picked up from him ...

1. There's sometimes a lot of work behind a photo.

Matt told us how it sometimes takes 30 minutes to set up for a shot because he has to do something crazy like move all of the furniture out of a room -- just to get a blank backdrop for someone to stand in front of a window or something.

It inspired me to up my photo-game, because there are soooo many times I just kind of ignore the threads on the carpet or the specks of dust on the table. It doesn't always take a lot of effort to tweak things in "real life" so you get a better photo.

Oh, and he says you'd often be shocked to see what's JUST outside of the frame.

(Like this shot of my kitchen? See the shadow on the counter on the far right? A yucky compost bin with banana peels heaped on top. Gross -- and carefully excluded!)

2. Buy cheap-and-easy backgrounds.

Matt suggested buying white foam core for just a few dollars a sheet, and my friend Lori from Farm Fresh Style was a keener and ran right out for some.

It was the perfect background for her post on making marblized Easter eggs. This photo wouldn't have looked this Pinterest-worthy if the background was a distracting floor tile or a messy kitchen counter.

Photo credit: Farm Fresh Style

I often use my kitchen table as a neutral-but-interesting photo background, but it's not the same as crisp white.

We have our awesome white shiplap wall in the basement, which *should* be a good photo background, but it's in a dark windowless room. Whomp, whomp.

FOAM CORE! I'm comin' for ya!

3. If necessary, fake a better background. 

I loved Matt's tip that if you put your subject really far away from the background, your camera focuses on the person (or item) and the background gets kind of blurry.

I've always wondered how to do that, but I figured it was a fancy camera feature. Nope!

4. Learn how to work with light.

Natural light is obviously the best, but I admit I'm often lazy when it comes to taking pictures and I don't always seek out natural light even when I can.

For example ...

I made a cute frame display for the photos from my new Fujifilm Instax SP-2 smartphone printer, and I wanted to take a picture of it. I just took down something already hanging in my dining room, hung this up, and snapped.

There wasn't any natural light because it was blocked by the hutch. I was able to use a few iPhone tricks to bump up the brightness and straighten, but it still wasn't great.

Normally I would have stopped there and called it a day. But when I took the frame into the kitchen and hung it directly across from a window, suddenly the photos were looking much better.
This is a zoomed-in look at the detail I was getting from the naturally-lit shots. You can see the texture of the wire and the shadowing even on that tiny paperclip!

Natural light is also ideal for taking selfies. It's why you can sometimes find me standing in front of a window mid-day with a selfie stick. ;)

(True story: I stopped taking pictures during this Selfie Session because there was a neighbour outside and I thought he'd think I was grinning/posing out the window for him.)

Natural light can also be faked, and Matt shows us different reflectors that bounce the light around to make a photo better. WANT THEM.

5. Even the best camera in the world doesn't do the composition.

This was inspiring to hear, as a full-time iPhone photographer. Composition is something ANYBODY can -- and should -- do, on any device, whether it's a fancy camera or your father-in-law's flip phone.

(I had a point-and-shoot and stopped using it a few years ago when my iPhone officially had more megapixels. It seemed pointless.)

I've been playing around with the rule of thirds and trying to be more intentional about the pictures I take ...

Victoria Park playground in Truro, Nova Scotia

Victoria Park stairs in Truro, Nova Scotia

But still, I think I'm ready to upgrade to a big-girl camera. I have my eye on Matt's recommendation of the Fujifilm X-A3 because it has WiFi.

Fujifilm X-A3 Camera

Yes, WiFi. It will literally zoom your photos from the camera straight to your phone or tablet without messing around with cards.*

*Messing with cards is the No. 1 reason I have not bothered to buy a real camera, so this is huge news.


It was a wonderful workshop with my fellow bloggers, AND we all got to take home the flower arrangements we made.

Huge thanks to Dean's Flowers for hosting our event and teaching us the magic of making a little tape grid on top of a vase so the flowers stay exactly where you want them.

What's your favourite tip for an amateur photographer like me? Hit me up in the comments or over on Facebook!

Don't forget to pop over and see what my friends had to say about the event ...