...because home doesn't happen overnight.

A bathtub in a bathroom. It’s a novel idea.

tub in bathroom 1

And we finally executed it in the main bathroom! (Don’t mind the masking tape on the floor. The toilet isn’t set yet.) Steve and I designed the tub’s base. He created two wood saddles from a reclaimed beam to support the tub. I primed and painted the tub’s exterior. I have an entire post coming on those projects. We hired a plumber (it was actually a two man job) to install the fixtures: water supply lines, drain, overflow, faucet, shower head support and curtain rail. We’re really happy with the final product! We do a double take every time we walk by the bathroom and see a tub in there.

tub in bathroom 4

The install wasn’t without a few hangups. We fully expected some to pop up since we were flying by the seat of our pants. There aren’t too many homeowners bringing in old clawfoot tubs and modernizing them with wood cradle bases and new fixtures, so there’s not really that much information out there on the subject. I’d like to share the issues we ran into with the tub install just in case it’s something you’re considering for your own home. So, here goes… (Again, I will address the tub’s base and paint job in a separate post so this mainly concerns the plumbing install.)

1. Things go missing. The day before the plumber came, we brought in all the fixtures for the tub that we’d been storing in the garage. When we took inventory, the shower head (just the head, not the support) was nowhere to be found. We looked everywhere! We ordered the parts over two years ago and somehow, amidst the renovation shuffle, the shower head was misplaced or thrown out. Ugh. We felt stupid and irresponsible, said some four-letter words, then sucked it up and ordered a replacement. Renovating is a humbling experience ;)

2. Chrome-plated clawfoot tub drains are typically special order items. When the plumber came to hook up the tub, all he had on hand was a standard brass drain. I love me some brass but we had already chosen chrome for the rest of the plumbing fixtures. We thought a brass drain and overflow would look out of place (especially since it would be visible) so we had to hunt down a chrome-plated one which added time and cost to the install.

tub in bathroom 5

3. There’s nothing standard about vintage clawfoot tubs. The drain end of the tub has a slight slope on the vertical where the fixtures go. This means the fixtures don’t meet up with the tub at a 90º angle – which isn’t ideal. This posed a problem when installing the water supply lines, drain, overflow and even the faucet and shower head because each fixture relies on the placement of everything else. It was difficult to get the fixtures straight without compromising watertight seals. Obviously, it was important to us not to have leaks but we also didn’t want noticeably crooked fixtures. Our plumber was able to strike a good balance between function and aesthetics but not without some finagling. His exact words were, “Plumbers did a lot of cussing in the 1800’s.” Haha. Anyway, we decided to focus on lining up the drain, overflow, shower head and curtain rail and not worry too much about the water supply lines. (I.e., if the supply lines were perfectly straight, that would offset everything else.)

Another issue arose when we discovered the curtain rail was meant for a standard 5′ tub. Our vintage tub is 4½’. (The room is only 5′ wide.) Steve had to shorten the curtain rail by cutting out sections from each side of the rail. (The rail kit is made up of two symmetrical rods that meet at the shower head and ceiling flanges.) It wasn’t difficult but it was another hiccup that held up the install.

4. Four hands are better than two. It’s crazy how much the placement of one fixture affected the position of subsequent fixtures. There was a lot of “hey, hold this while I do this.” At one point, I was called in because a third pair of hands was needed. This was especially necessary when the ceiling flange was mounted. One person was in the attic holding an anchor block in place so that a second person could drill into it from the bathroom. I was holding a level to make sure everything was plumb. It’s not rocket science but there’s only so much you can do with two hands.

So, yeah, the install wasn’t a standard run-of-the-mill install. But it’s done and we have a working tub! We haven’t used it yet but we did fill it up and drain it to test things out. No leaks!

tub in bathroom 7

tub in bathroom 6

We’re crazy in love with the fixtures. The porcelain handles are so charming. Similar fixtures will go on the sink to help tie the old tub in with the new vanity.

tub in bathroom 8

Once the tub was in, we were itching to set the toilet. We chose a sleek, contemporary model to contrast with the old tub. I am so intimidated by this toilet!

tub in bathroom 9

It has a dual flush button on the tank, an elongated seat with a soft-closing lid and clean lines. Can toilets be sexy? I say yes. Steve worked on installing the toilet the day after the tub was finished. He was two screws away from having it set when one of the brackets at the base broke. Two screws away from not sharing one toilet! So close. At this point, it’s par for the course. We’re waiting on a replacement. Hence, the masking tape on the floor until it’s officially done. The brick on the floor to the left of the toilet is covering a heating / cooling register to keep Cheetah from disappearing down into it. She’s one curious kitty.

tub in bathroom 2

I’ll share details of the tub’s base and paint job next week. And I will include a source list when I post the final reveal. But if you have any pressing questions that just can’t wait, I’ll try to answer them in the comments section.

We’re getting there. What do you think so far?

P.S. – It was such a gloomy day when I snapped these shots. I had to lighten them quite a bit to get the base of the tub to show up. The photo quality isn’t my best but hopefully you get the idea.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

FYI: No mention of houses here other than one swept up by a tornado.

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Last Saturday, Steve and I had the opportunity to hear Ira Glass speak at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati. I’m a regular This American Life listener but it was my first time seeing Ira live. He did not disappoint. The event was titled “Reinventing the Radio” and, even though I have no professional ties to radio or journalism, I left feeling inspired as a writer.

Ira has a way of drawing listeners in without gimmicky promos and he talked about his storytelling version of journalism. In contrast to most news media, Ira’s broadcasts aren’t a series of big news stories with an underlying serious tone. Obviously, there’s a need for major, factual news programs (I’m not talking about the biased, sensationalized, fearmongering programs. I seriously think we could do without those.) but Ira claims there’s also a need for personal storytelling to put the world into perspective, to bring down the scale of the world to a human level. I couldn’t agree more.

He gave an example of a radio interview with a tornado victim and played some audio of the homeowner recounting her experience. She talks about what she was doing, what her kids were doing, what she saw and how it felt to be in a house that was picked up, swirled around and put back down on the ground three blocks away from its original location. There were no images or video but you could envision her story in your mind as it unfolded. It was riveting and really gave you a sense of what it might feel like to live through a tornado.

Ira then asked the audience to picture the nonexistent television news version of the same story. Most likely there would be video panning the wreckage, the victim’s home, the neighborhood. A very serious reporter would stand next to the victim and ask a few surface-scratching questions all the while ticking down the seconds. Maybe viewers would subconsciously judge the victim based on her, her home’s or her neighborhood’s appearance. The focus would be the damage but there wouldn’t be any real connection. And then the program would move on to another big scary story. It’s all very abrupt and fleeting.

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Ira’s method of storytelling is the reason why I find myself sitting in my car in the driveway with the engine off, radio on, after running an errand. I can’t stop listening! I’m caught up in the story. I want to find out what happens next. And, because the story is given time to unfold, I’m more likely to remember the details and make a permanent connection. It’s probable that I will recall the story at a later time and share it with someone else. Then that one little story will spark thoughts on bigger ideas and it causes me to look at things from a more human perspective than I would otherwise. Or it brings to light issues I normally wouldn’t consider.

Ira has a genuine talent for showcasing the humor and candor inside the bigger, scarier stories and I find it all very inspiring.

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” – Ira Glass

What about you? Are you a story lover? What is your favorite way to get the news? Do you listen to This American Life? Serial? I haven’t tuned in to Serial yet because I’m too afraid of getting sucked in!

P.S. – A dog dressed as Ira for Halloween and my dream radio.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

ghost lights 1

Other than displaying carved pumpkins, I haven’t really decorated for Halloween in years. (I’m more of a seasonal decorator than a holiday decorator.) This year the kids were hounding me more than usual and I’ve been on a recent “life’s too short” kick so I finally came around and spooked up this place. It’s nothing over the top but I think I have a chance at Mom of the Year 2014. (You know I’m kidding, right?)

ghost lights 2

I spent $6 (coupon included) on two yards of tulle and black poster board at JoAnn’s to create ghost lights over the kitchen island. I rolled out the two yards of tulle and left it doubled over (for a layered effect) then cut it into three equal sections, one for each pendant. I cut a hole in the top of each section, slipped the tulle over the pendants then secured it with string. I trimmed the tulle to my desired length then “fringed” the ends by cutting ~2″ wide strips on the bottom half of each ghost. I freehanded three ghost faces and cut them out of the black poster board then secured them to the tulle with double-sided tape.

ghost lights 3

They turned out pretty creepy. I think the key is to use a really thin and airy tulle (not the stiff, scratchy stuff) and to scrunch the ends. (Where are all my ’97 high school grads at? We hella good at scrunching.) The moaning ghost faces portray way more emotion and despair than two black eye holes. The cat is real. Yeah, you’re going to need to rescue a kitten to pull off this look in its entirety.

spider web

I attempted to make a spider web out of jute string that I already had on hand. It turned out okay?? There’s a good reason why I’m not a spider. Apparently, webs take patience and a certain amount of skill. I immediately felt horrible about all the real webs I’ve swiped.

First, I hung three lengths of jute in an asterisk formation. I tied the ends to anything I could find: antlers, cords on the side of the cabinet, a doorstopper, etc. I rigged it so that we can still open the cabinet and door. Starting from the outer most part of the web and working my way in, I knotted off sections of jute in a hexagonal pattern. I taped a paper spider to my creation to better designate it as a “spider web.” I don’t know. It reads more like an unfinished, ginormous dreamcatcher to me.

All the spiders are crying, “You call that a web?! You disgust me.” In my defense, I don’t extrude silk from my nether regions.

halloween living room

I couldn’t boo the kitchen and not the living room.


I bought two sets of removable 3D bats and filled the area above the TV with them. (A ladder was involved.) I love these bats! Don’t let the reviews fool you. A few people were disappointed that the bats aren’t larger but I actually prefer this size. The bats are plastic and you bend them to get the 3D effect. They also come with removable stickers. I’m not sure how the adhesive will hold up after one season but I can always break out my trusty putty tabs if necessary. These bats are definitely going to be a mainstay of our Halloween décor.

halloween mantel 1

I grouped pumpkins and squash on the mantel on either side of the TV wall. They were a steal at Trader Joe’s and were left over from a Thanksgiving tablescape shoot. (It goes live mid-November.) That’s where the eucalyptus branch came from, too. I laced the mantel with these copper string lights. They are the best! The delicate LEDs put off a warm white glow and the copper wire can be easily manipulated. Unlike traditional string lights, they’re barely noticeable when not lit. I can see myself using these throughout the holiday season.

halloween mantel 2

I sprinkled in a few paper maché skulls. I bought them for pennies at Michael’s several years ago during one of their post-Halloween sales and they’ve been stashed in the attic ever since. I’m very proud of myself for remembering to bust them out this year. FINALLY.


Likewise, I scored these window decals during a post-Halloween sale a while back when we were living in our previous house. They were originally two large window-sized poster decals but the size and shape were all wrong for our current home’s windows so I cut the spiders out from the background. I wasn’t sure how well the spiders alone would stick to the window. I used a damp rag to wet the window first to help with adhesion. So far, so good. I may end up laminating the spiders after this season to protect them. (You could easily DIY something similar with a little black craft paper or poster board. I was just trying to use what I had on hand.)

And now for some nighttime pictures because that’s always fun…

ghost lights 4

spiders 2

spiders 3

Ah, the ol’ spider in the lampshade trick. It’s a classic. There’s also a little spider in one of the windows on the front door that I failed to photograph. Have I mentioned Steve is terrified of spiders?

Anyway, I threw all this together one day last week while the boys were at school. It was fun to see their reactions when they came home. They were so surprised! Everett’s favorites are the ghost lights. Layne likes the bats and skulls. I like the fact that I can reuse almost everything.

What are some of the ways you decorate for Halloween? I need to up my game for next year.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

10.25.14 / Made Me Smile

tub progress

That, my friends, is the first time the (declawed) claw foot tub has been filled with water…at least while in our possession. And it happened yesterday. It felt extremely momentous. I’ll share more soon. The installation was tedious with inevitable hiccups but, look!, running water!! We feel like we’ve cleared a huge hurdle in this never-ending bathroom project. And that definitely makes us smile. Ear to ear.

More feel good stuff…

*Waltzing vacuum cleaners.

*The perfect lil’ reading nook.

*Since I’m “a little weird,” for fun I scoped out vacation rentals in Austin, TX. How ridiculously cute is this remodeled Airstream?! WANT.

*Add art to your kitchen.

the black shack

the black shack

*A black shack: equal parts edgy and beautiful.

*Ghost lights.

*Ikea’s take on The Shining. (Red rug. Ha!)

Have a great weekend! Steve and I are going to hear Ira Glass speak at the Aronoff tonight. I’m so excited! (Have you read or seen Sleepwalk with Me? Ira co-wrote and produced the film version.) I love listening to This American Life. I’m curious to see how similar / different it is to hear Ira in person. Either way, it should be fun! Storytelling is the best.

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2 & 3) Ansis Starks