Tuesday, March 3, 2015

7 boredom-busters for March Break

I can't believe next week is March Break. The kids are still too little to have no idea what it is, so they won't realize anything is different until Monday rolls around and we don't drive the preschool carpool.

Since we've been having horrrrrible weather lately (So. Sick. Of. The. Snow. OMG.), I figure we will need some major indoor entertainment.

So this week in "The Mom Scene," I'm talking about seven ways to keep kids busy that don't involve iPads and LeapPads or pads of any kind.

"... I’m not really the parent who plans educational activities, but I “invented” an activity that felt sort of science-y. It started when I found a couple of rock-hard bags of white sugar on the shelves in our basement. I Googled how to soften it, and it sounded like a ton of work. So I dumped a bag into a shallow plastic container, set out a bowl of warm water and some measuring spoons, and let my daughter go wild. 

I called it “Snow Sand” (patent pending) and she loved dripping the water over the sugar to watch it melt. After the sugar had thoroughly turned to mush, we made a brand-new activity out of washing out the plastic container in the sink. She’ll take any excuse to stand at the sink and pretend to wash dishes."

Read the full column here. May your March Break be merry and somewhat whine-free.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

DIY paint chip art

There are three things that I must do every time I’m in a hardware store: check the discount tables to see if there are any good deals, walk down the spray paint aisle — there’s something Zen-like about those glossy caps in all the colours of the rainbow — and, finally, gaze at the paint chips.

I can’t explain exactly what it is about them. The thickness of the cardstock, the beautiful colours, the promise of changing an entire room for a $50 can of paint. I just love them.

In a perfect world, I’d scoop up a handful of them during every visit, but I’m a follow-the-rules girl and I’d feel too guilty doing that. So I only take a few, here and there, when I actually need to decide on a colour for a project.

 Last weekend, I attacked my paint swatches and started pulling out strips with the colours of our home’s main level — shades of turquoise, aqua, and green — as well as cool-toned neutrals like white and grey ...

Continue reading over at My Handmade Home ... 

Read the full column here

Friday, February 27, 2015

The best present is a present you can eat

A lot of people do not like cooking (*raises both hands*).

A lot of people don't have time or energy to cook, especially when it's just for themselves (I lived off frozen fries in my pre-kid days). 

And when you're an articled clerk at a law firm and you put in a crazy amount of hours each week? Yeah, you really do not have the time, energy, or desire to cook for yourself.

So when Little Sis turned 27 (!!!) a couple of weeks ago, I decided the best gift was something edible. Lots of somethings, actually. Enough to keep her fed around the clock for as long as possible.

I had to make this collage in MS Paint, like it was 1994 or something, because PicMonkey has been down for hours. 

She's a hard person to buy for, but I had a feeling this would be appreciated. I grabbed a pen and started scribbling ideas on the side of my grocery list one day.
  • Breakfast food
  • Snacks!
  • Lunches for work
  • Dinners that can be made quickly when she finally gets home
  • Desserts
My sister is actually a much better cook than me -- she uses spices, even -- but I do have the time advantage. So I send Darling Husband to the grocery store with a list, and spend literally one entire day in the kitchen making the following ...


Her favourite chocolate-chip pancakes

(My seven-year-old electric griddle died while making the FIRST pancake, so I had to do all of them on the stove in a frying pan. Like a peasant.)

I wrapped each one individually, and they each got their own inspiring message, of course.

Apple juice boxes

(She never buys herself juice, but she loves stealing the kids' juice boxes.)


Individually wrapped chocolate-dipped granola bars. Mmmm.


I kept it simple because I wanted to make dishes that would freeze well (and, you know, because I'm an incredibly simple cook). I filled a bunch of containers with individual portions of homemade meat sauce and shells, and another bunch of containers with my famous turkey meatballs {recipe here} and brown rice, with veggies.



Little Sis loves my homemade pizza, so I made a vegetarian one and a pepperoni one (using our favourite "good" pepperoni). I also made garlic fingers with lots of cheese, mmmm. Everything was frozen, uncooked, on disposable pans with the baking instructions.


We are hardcore nacho people. So I made an Emergency Nacho Survival Kit with Tostitos, salsa, and pre-shredded Tex Mex cheese.


Peanut Butter Cafeteria Squares

This is one of Little Sis's favourite desserts {recipe here} because she used to love the peanut butter bars they sold at our elementary school for like 20 cents. I find them a little TOO peanut buttery, but if that's your thing, you'll like these.

Peanut butter cookies + PMS cookies

Keeping with the peanut butter theme (I used almost a whole jar that day!) I made three dozen classic peanut butter cookies, forked and all, and packaged them up with baking instructions.

I had a bit of dough leftover, so I decided to make giant-size PMS peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips and M&Ms. Each package contained one for her, and one for her roomie. There's also a disclaimer that it's totally OK to just eat the dough. #YOLO


I intended to deliver everything fresh, so Little Sis could decide what to freeze and what to keep in the fridge. But a darn snowstorm struck the next day, and we had to postpone her birthday celebrations for another week. So I stuck it all in the deep-freeze, and packed it into this tote right before we left for the city for Birthday Attempt #2.

It was still freezing out, of course, (*shakes fist at Canada*) so I was able to leave the container on the floor of my mom's garage until it was time for presents.

She had a few helpers when it was time to open it ...

... I think she liked it! :) 


This gift was great for my sister, considering her chaotic work-life these days, but my mom actually said she'd love something like this, too, because she hates cooking for herself. I might be onto something here. 

Wouldn't this be a nice gift for a new mama? I'm not a "new" mama, and if someone gifted me a giant crate of prepared food? ...




Related gift ideas (that also involve food)

For Little Sis's 25th birthday, I put together 25 little gifts that all connected to reasons we love her.

Best Friend and I started a new tradition where we take each other out for lunch around our birthday, instead of exchanging gifts. We LOVE it, and it's so nice to catch up without the kids. It's even become a quarterly thing, as we try to sneak in a Christmas lunch and a spring lunch, too. 

For Little Sis's 26th birthday, I made a "Big Night" kit (everything she needed for a party, including some alcohol, yeah) and a "Morning After" kit (everything she needed for a day of feeling blah on the couch).
For my in-laws for Christmas this year, one of their gifts was this basket of foods and products from where we live. A good idea for people (like them) who have absolutely everything under the sun!

Monday, February 23, 2015

DIY dry-erase calendar: So easy it basically makes itself

We weren't a "calendar" household, because we live and die by our Google Calendars. But we received one as a gift and tried it out, and it turns out? You calendar people are onto something.

Darling Husband, in particular, really liked seeing key dates up on the wall. Harrumphhhh.

So when the calendar ran out, I decided to make one that would blend into the kitchen a bit better ... 

View the full tutorial
Pop over to "My Handmade Home" to see how I made this VERY easy DIY calendar. I promise, you will enjoy writing with dry-erase markers just as much as I do.*


*No you won't. Because it's my favourite thing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Horrifying entries from my Grade 2 journal

We've been helping my mom sort through 23+ years of "stuff," which means we've spent a lot of time going through boxes and finding fun bits of memorabilia: photos, old school papers, and cards we wrote her in wobbly, little-kid writing.

My favourite thing that we've found so far has been my school journal from Grade 2. In 1991, I was a precocious seven-year-old who clearly liked to write.

Some of the entries have been hilarious, and I can't believe my poor mom had to face dear old Mrs. Cameron on Parent/Teacher nights.

Here are a few verbatim excerpts from my seven-year-old mind, with blue text to clarify the really misspelled words (and red text where I'm like OMG HOW DID I WRITE THAT???)

Sharing personal details ...
  • "Did you know my parents boke up?"
  • "I used to live in Fall River but I was at my dads when mummy moved." Jeez, I make it sound like she packed up and skipped town without us.
  • "My mommy mite get marred to Gary." (She didn't.)
  • "My daddy lives in Truro. Mummy and Daddy got davorsted (divorced) after my sister was born and my mom started going out with this other guy and Daddy started going out with this other girl. And then Mummy fell in love with gary. Dad fell in love with Debbie so when Daddy is off for work we go to his house for the weekand." (Teacher's response: "I enjoy shopping up in Truro.")

Telling tales on my poor mother ... 
  • "Last night I watched Peter Pan tell 9:00 becase mummy fell asleep on the couch." Sorry Mom.
  • "Last night me and my sister and steven and peter jumped on my mummys bed and we locked each other in the cupbord and we watched TV and when were jumping on moms bed we wached E.T. and Cinderella and we steped on eachothers heads and we screamed and yelled and then steven and peter went home and I went to bed. But when I woke up in the morning I did not want to get up." (Teacher's response: "Oh, you shouldn't jump on beds. You could get hurt.")
  • "We did not paint easter eggs at my house because my mom came home at 2:00 on Easter Sunday so we couldn't." Poor little girl, no parents on Easter morning. No painted eggs. Shed a tear for small Heather -- it's what she wants.
  • "I have two louse teeth and a bad coff. Mommy let's me drink tea."
Random lines that sound like I was writing a blog ... 
  • "I am hot, are you? I am thersitea (thirsty)." (Teacher's response: "No.")
  • "I can't thingk of anything els to say so, bye."

Sucking up ...
  • "Did you know what, I finished my Nancy Drew book. it is a twelw year old book." Reading five years ahead, and damn proud of it. *smh*
  • "Am I writeing alot? ______" (Teacher's response: "Yes.")
  • "Last night I dident get very much sleep so today I might be a bit tied but I will still do all my work on time. How was your weekand?" (Teacher's response: "You write wonderful journals, Heather.") Damn straight, I do.
  • "The singing in the gymnaysem was exsalent."
  • "I am teaching my little sister how to ride her tricle and she is doing great for a beginner." She sucks compared to me, of course, but for a BEGINNER, she is OK I guess.
  • "On May 11th I am making my first camenoun (First Communion). I will be receiving the body of crist." What a pious little girl I am ... (Follow-up entries were all about the sweets tables at the First Communion)
  • "I missed you when you were gone away. Where did you go? The subdatoots (substitutes) were ok but they were not perfect." (Teacher's response: "Remember no one is perfect. I was away because my mother was very sick and she died. At times I still feel very sad, but I am glad to be back at school now.") 
  • "The wallathon was great everybody had a good time." (#brownnoser)
Different career ambitions ... 
  • When I grow up I want to work at a pet store." WHAT? I DID?
  • "When I grow up I am going to be a dentist. I didnent want to be a doctor because their is 23 years of teaching school. I already know alot about bruching teeth. I will explane. You should bruch you teeth three times a day. You should flass onec a day."
  • "When I grow up I am going to be an auther or an actrise."
  • When I grow I think I will be an auther." (Teacher's response: "Do you like to write?") No, I hate it. I just think being an "auther" will be really lucracative and there surely won't be any rejection, either.

Sharing bizarre happenings ... 
  • "In Steven Manns treat bag he gave at his part thir are some ugly stick on finger nayels. This is what they look like." *drawing of finger nails, which are part of my Halloween costume of a witch*
  • "When my toe nayle came off I didn't know it was going to feel that, all I felt was a pinch." Yuck, thanks for sharing, seven-year-old me.
  • "For Christmas Mommy got me a realy sowing (sewing) mashinene but when she tryed it it did not sow well and it was loud so she toke it back to th store." I had a sewing machine when I was seven! I don't remember that. 
  • "Yesterday Leah and Lyndsay came over to my house. We played barbies and we played "Laugh your head of" and "Funny faces." Lyndsay died out laughing at my jokes. We couldn't get Leah to laugh very loud. She didn't think my jokes were very funny. Then we played parorts and we climbed the fence."
  • "Here is some even numbers: 024681012." Well, that was random.
  • "I have two New Kids on the block tapes and one scribller. Turn the page." (Teacher's response: "Wow!")
  • "Can Lyndsay move inbetwine brett and I because he looks all over my work and burps all the time. Believe me, he is not fun to sit by. He talks and he's nosey." (Teacher's response: "Sure, she can.") Yeah, I do remember being especially grossed out by boys in Grade 2. Poor Brett.
Early attempts at creative writing and using big words ... 
  • "Here is a Halloween pom: Halloween is fun but it has no sun, it's at night, when it's dark outside. Pumpkins sing a song like that. Children song, bells go cling, at Halloween night." (Teacher's response: "A nice idea!") Worst. Poem. Ever. 
  • "On the weekand I found my cabege pach kid. For Christmas I might be getting a cabge pach baby, so my cabge pach kid will have comepanen." (companion)
  • "Last night I went to my first teaball game. Guess who is on the other team, Cole! I know, it was pretty inbareasing." (embarrasing)

Signs I was destined to be a reporter ...
  • "Last year at the Christmas party Lesley skured (scared) frostey the snowman almost out of his costoum!" (Teacher's response: "What did she do?")
  • "Yesterday we had 27 centimeters of snow. I sleap in this morning and I got up at qurter to eight."
  • "All March Break I was with my Daddy and Debbie and we had an Internaeanal Week. On Monday we had tokos and on Tuesday we had Moshocka (moussaka) and I forget what we had on Wednesday. On Thursday we had spagetitti and meatballs. On Friday Mummy picked us up."
  • "Wes my buddy is very nice. He is 13. His height is 148 cm. His father works with jewery. His mother works at Shoppers Drug Mark." (According to follow-up entries, Wes was one of the older students that paired up with Grade 2s for special activities. I had a mega-crush on him.)
  • "Yesterday my mummy took me and my sister and little cathy to the Maratime Mumciem (museum) in Halafax. We went on the playground and the bad news was cathy lost her contaner (retainer) for her mouth and had to walk all the way around the publik places by the water were we had alrealdy walked when we were done we took her home but it could have bine at McDonalds (I could spell "McDonalds" but I couldn't spell "been") or it could have bine at the mumcien. When we got home mum called both those places and they didn't find it. But I called her contaner a refrigearator." This could easily have been a very entertaining blog post. Nicely done, little Heather.

 Cries for attention ... 
  • "This morning my mother was in a bad mood. She said 'Heather your a stupied little girl.' And she ment it to." (Teacher's response: "I'm sure she didn't mean it at all because you certainly are not stupid. Sometimes we all do and say things without thinking carefully.") Hmm, I wonder if I made that up or not? MOM???
  • "Mummy went away yesterday to Montril (Montreal) for two days I will miss her. Last night I wore Mummys night gown and I got a photo of Mummy and me and Daddy and me and a photo of Daddy and Mummy together."
  • "My daddy is gone away for a month!" *drawing of tiny tears*
  • "Last night Lesley my sister pooked me in the eye with a book! It hurt alot so thats why I have a pice of wet paper towel on my eye and on Saturday night when we went to IGA my sister scrached my face but I didn't cry. When she pocked me there was a tiny bump but its going away now." Did I really go to school with wet paper towel on my face? #dramaqueen
  • "On Saturday we went to the Krimmies (Kermesse) fair. My sister and my mummy went on the merry-go-round. I went on the twirl a whorl with another family." Aww, poor little girl from a broken home! Having to go on rides with other families!

I can't believe D will be in Grade 2 in less than two and a half years, telling tales on me in his journal. Oh God, what am I going to be reading?!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Coffee + Timbits + trying something new

I feel like my career has changed a lot in the past year -- even just in the last few months. New opportunities keep popping up, and I'm seizing them all the way I pick out the purple and orange Skittles first.

BuzzFeed Canada is hiring a freelancer for paid post opportunities, and I reallllllly feel like I've found my people. As part of my "audition" (what's it called when a writer tries out for something?), I wrote this post for BuzzFeed Community.

It's ... yeah, it's about Tim Hortons. As Canadian as you can get, really!

My first BuzzFeed post is totally Canadian, eh?

If you're at all interested in (A) Canada, (B) the U.S., or (C) Tim Hortons, it would help me greatly if you clicked over and took a read. I had fun putting it together, and it would be awesome to write regularly for BuzzFeed.

I apologize in advance, because the post will totally make you crave Timbits -- those glazed little spheres of joy.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Learning how to love your kids (and husband) "their" way

I spent nine years studying French and four years studying American Sign Language, but by far the most useful language I’ve ever learned is how to be better about loving other people.

 It all started when I was watching Dr. Phil in my early 20s — don’t judge, I had lots of free time back then! He had a guest who’d written a book on the five “love languages.” According to this author, Gary Chapman, people responded to “receiving gifts,” “quality time,” “words of affirmation,” “acts of service,” or “physical touch.” He said usually someone has a primary love language, but also connects strongly to a second one.

It was years ago, but the concept really stuck with me. I knew immediately that my primary love language was “words of affirmation.” (I suppose it’s natural for a writer to respond most strongly to words, right?)

I love when my husband tells me how much he appreciates what I do, or that he sees how hard I’m working. I love how my kids thank me profusely for something sweetly simple, like making their pancakes into the shapes of Barbies and horses. I also love when my family members and friends tell me they have fun with me, or that they’re proud of me. I was also the girl who craved affirmation from teachers, if we look back further.

My runner-up love language is “acts of service,” but this really just applies to my husband. When he voluntarily cleans up the kitchen, mops the floors, or scrubs a bathroom, it’s like an instant delivery of a dozen red roses — except I’m really allergic to flowers, so manual labour is actually way better than sneezy roses ...

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Make your own photo canvases (for much, much less than the professional ones)

Just popping in quickly to share this weekend's project in The Chronicle Herald (available online, too).

I made these cute photo canvases for our dining room, because I pretty much had a STROKE when I saw how much the professional versions cost.

View the full tutorial here, at My Handmade Home

Psssst, I even show you the trick for getting the canvas texture that the professional ones have. Check it out, will you?