...because home doesn't happen overnight.

blue apron 6

I first heard about Blue Apron from our friends in Nashville. Sara and I were bonding over our shared dislike for cooking (but love of good food) when she pulled a folder from a kitchen drawer. Inside were dozens of Blue Apron recipes that she and her husband had tried and liked. She told me that not only were the recipes easy to make and delicious but the kicker was that the company delivered all the fresh ingredients right to their doorstep in exactly the right proportions. No grocery shopping with whiny kids. No wasted ingredients. And shipping was free.

Sara and John both work full-time and have a young daughter. Sara is a physician and her job requires her to be on call several weeks out of the year. Those weeks can be stressful and chaotic not knowing if / when Sara will be called in to work. So during those weeks they subscribe to Blue Apron. Sara doesn’t have to worry about her family going hungry should she get called away. When Sara isn’t on call, they suspend or cancel their service until the next time she is. There’s no commitment.

I was completely intrigued.

Fast forward to three weeks ago when Steve underwent an emergency appendectomy. The recovery was hard on everyone. Between looking after the kids and caring for Steve, I had no time or energy to think about grocery shopping or what to make for dinner. We were in survival mode and eating takeout more than I care to admit. That’s when I remembered Blue Apron.

blue apron 1

I ordered three meals for the week. You can choose to feed two, four or six people. We are a family of five. I remembered Sara saying the portions were generous so I chose the four-person option to keep waste to a minimum. The ingredients arrived in a refrigerated box. One tomato was slightly smushed but usable and everything else was in perfect condition. Sara had mentioned to me that all the packaging was a downfall but, honestly, it wasn’t any worse than the takeout we had been getting. I put the ice packs in our freezer to reuse and we recycled the cardboard boxes, paper bags and plastic cups / bottles.

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Everything is divvied up in the exact amounts for foolproof cooking. The only ingredients you need to have on hand are olive oil, salt and pepper. Every recipe includes images of each step which we found extremely helpful.

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Basically, I prepped the ingredients then Layne was able to follow the directions to cook the meals while I supervised. (Btw, the day your kid makes you dinner is one for the record books. Kind of makes all those sleepless nights and dirty diapers worth it. Ha!)

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Here, Layne is making Filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice. This was Steve’s favorite. It was labeled as four servings but we easily got 6-8 servings out of it. Based on our experience, I would venture to say the standard $9.99 per meal price ends up being more like $5-$8 per meal depending on the recipe.

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We also tried the cod & pattypan squash en papillote with garlic butter & fresh herb salad. You guys, I cooked with parchment paper for the first time! And, yes, the parchment paper came as an ingredient with the service. Really. The peeps at Blue Apron think of everything so you don’t have to.

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The pan-seared chicken & sautéed bulgur with tomato salad & creamy lemon-yogurt sauce was my favorite. Each recipe was delicious but what I especially liked about the meals was that there wasn’t any need to prepare side dishes. The meals were, in fact, meals. It was nice to try some new foods, too. Chayote squash, anyone?

Overall, Steve and I were super impressed with Blue Apron. We’ll definitely be using the service again during especially hectic weeks. Although, I hope it doesn’t involve another appendectomy. All I could think during our week of service was “Where was this when our kids were newborns?!”

Would you try Blue Apron? It would make a great gift for new parents, an ailing friend or a homesick college student in need of a healthy homemade meal. The service is available nationwide. Check here for a full map of delivery zones. The first 50 House*Tweaking readers to sign up here will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!

*This post is sponsored in part by Blue Apron. All images, content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

On the blog, I’ve affectionately referred to this room as the “everything room” but in real life we usually just call it the mudroom. Here’s what it looked like when we bought the house…

mudroom before

mudroom before 2

There was an A/C unit in the window and an ominous ceiling fan. We thought the laundry closet was cumbersome. The dryer vented directly into the attic! Ugly tile and a remnant of green shag carpet completed the mess. We did like that this room served as a pause when entering from the backyard through the sliders (on the left) and from the garage via the man door (on the right).

mudroom after 1

Out of necessity we assigned this room multiple purposes: mudroom, dining room, craft room, game room and laundry room. Knowing the room would receive abuse on a daily basis, we opted for durable, dirt-colored tile on the floor and a forgiving tongue-and-groove wainscoting on the walls. (The tongue and groove is a repeated element also seen on the vaulted ceiling, planked TV wall and kitchen desk backsplash.) We were in need of closed storage for seasonal outerwear, reusable shopping bags, a broom, crafting supplies and a small collection of home accessories. We added a pair of freestanding wardrobes to serve as closets. One is customized with hanging rods at different heights (for outerwear) while the other is full of deep shelving (for crafting supplies and home accessories).

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In an effort to optimize wasted space under the window, I commissioned a local woodworker to create a custom wood bench out of Douglas fir. We hung sconces above the bench on side panels of each wardrobe to create a cozy nook without actually changing the structure of the room. It’s a great place to read, play a game of Uno or watch the kids get on / off the bus. The bench is surprisingly large!

mudroom after 4

A long, farmhouse-like table is perfect for dining, crafting, sewing or enjoying family game night. I chose a lighter wood tone to avoid overpowering the space. A mix of knockoff tulip and wishbone chairs surround the table for a laid-back vibe. I had the tulip chair seat cushions covered in a vinyl leather-lookalike. They are so kid-friendly! The iron pendant is industrial and beautiful all at once – which is fitting for a mudroom-slash-dining-room. We DIY’d a fauxdenza to house board games and incoming mail. The sleek profile and floating installation free up precious floor space. Cleaning underneath it is a breeze.

mudroom after 5

I painted the walls THREE TIMES before falling hard for the velvety black. It’s a great contrast to the slick surfaces and oodles of white. A gallery wall of family photos and art dress up the space so when we eat in here it doesn’t feel like we’re eating in a mudroom.

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We had the original sliders replaced with french doors. This room is our main entrance / exit on a daily basis and, for us, the doors are easier to open and close. Not to mention, they look better.

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A small bench just inside the door gives the kids a place to put on / remove their shoes. A felt basket and a trio of hooks corral shoes, bags, jackets, backpacks and hats. We try to keep only the items we’re currently wearing or using out in the open. The rest is stashed in a wardrobe.

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We nixed the laundry closet in favor of a laundry nook. (And the dryer now vents to the outside.) Discovering a recessed dryer vent box at Home Depot was like winning the lottery. It allows the dryer to hug the back wall. We built the wood countertop using boards we found in the attic during renovations. A small “lid” opens to reveal the washer controls and detergent dispenser. In a perfect world, I would have a dryer with a flat top and controls near the front so the countertop could extend all the way to the back wall. But I have never lived in a perfect world so until my current dryer konks out, I’m stuck with a raised control panel on the back of the dryer and, consequently, a tiered, shallow shelf above the countertop. For fun, we added a metal strip along the shelf to display family photos held in place by magnets.

Fabric panels hang from curtain wire to conceal the washer and dryer while still allowing easy access. I also keep a rolling cart and small ironing board hidden behind the curtains. Two upper cabinets hold laundry essentials, instruction manuals and lightbulbs. A leaning mirror bounces light around the dark corner.

The idea behind the laundry nook was that it could function as a serving area / bar when we entertain. I’d love for it to pull double duty as a dry bar someday. And who said doing laundry wasn’t fun?!

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mudroom after 13

mudroom after 6

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Admittedly, we eat most of our meals at the kitchen island but it’s nice having a designated dining table for special occasions and entertaining – even if, technically, it is in a mudroom. I never have liked formal dining rooms that are only used once or twice a year anyway. The small laundry nook forces me to fold and put away clean laundry as soon as it’s dry. That might seem like a disadvantage but it’s super effective and keeps me honest. This (unusual) setup totally works for our family and we’re happy we aren’t wasting money on unused space. It’s such a hardworking room!

Resources of note:

wainscoting & trim paint – Benjamin white dove, semigloss finish
wall paint – Ace Paints besalt mixed in the Clark + Kensington line, flat finish (I LOVE this paint.)
pendant – Crate & Barrel Hoyne pendant
pendant lightbulb – Bulbs.com
dining table – West Elm Boerum table in natural
succulent centerpiece – DIY
vintage kilim rug – etsy
tulip chairs – Overstock, reupholstered by Springboro Upholstery
wishbone chairs – Home Emporium
wardrobes – Pax units, Bergsbo doors; both from Ikea
hardware – Värde handles from Ikea, spray painted black
sconces – Jonathan Adler Havana wall sconce
woven shade – petite rustique from Overstock
wood bench – custom (I found the woodworker via craigslist.)
Hmong pillow – OrientalTribe11 on etsy
ochre throw – Target
sheepskin – Ikea
woven basket under bench – Wayfair
fauxdenza – DIY featuring Ikea’s Akurum wall cabinets
fauxdenza hardware – Home Depot
faux horns – Home Emporium
wood sculpture on fauxdenza – thrifted
white picture frames – Ikea
metal picture frames – West Elm
wood picture frames – Target
art – various DIY, Clare Elsaesser, Amelia Kay (The baby pointillism piece is Steve’s work.)
saddler bench – Wayfair
wall hooks – Home Depot
felt basket – Target
laundry cabinets – Ikea Lidingö wall cabinets
laundry countertop – DIY
magnetic strip – Home Depot
laundry nook mirror – Feiss Cleo mirror via Wayfair
curtain wire – Ikea
curtains – Ikea Aina panels, hemmed to size

If you feel like reading more about this multipurpose room, here are a bunch of links documenting its evolution:

MUDROOM RENOVATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/09/13/behind-the-walls-i-mean-scenes/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2011/10/07/mudroomdining-room-flooring/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/11/planking-in-the-mudroom/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/11/05/honest-mondays-repainting/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/10/our-biggest-renovation-regret/

ORGANIZATION

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/05/22/storage-in-the-mudroom-laundry-nook/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/06/22/wardrobe-function/

*http://www.wayfair.com/IdeaLounge/Tips-for-Winterizing-the-Mudroom-E878

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/01/15/diy-fauxdenza/

*http://www.wayfair.com/IdeaLounge/Create-His-and-Her-Charging-Stations-E877

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/11/14/making-the-most-of-small-closets-mudroom-part-i/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/11/22/making-the-most-of-small-closets-mudroom-part-ii/

DECOR

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/11/09/stenciling-the-laundry-nook/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2012/12/27/updates/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/01/23/a-last-minute-gallery-wall/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/02/21/the-everything-room-repainted/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/02/28/a-mini-gallery/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/03/01/easy-frame-hanging-no-nails-or-tape-measure-required/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/09/25/dining-room-progress-plans/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/09/26/two-quick-easy-projects/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/16/for-herdog/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/23/wayfair-in-the-house-a-cozy-nook/

*http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/29/new-art-a-lightbulb/

You can access this mudroom / dining room tour via the “See My House” link in the side bar along with a general house tour and tours of individual rooms. I’ll be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

07.19.14 / Made Me Smile

covet garden home

How was your week friends? Ours was FULL. It was Steve’s first full week back to work after his appendectomy three weeks ago and somehow Layne contracted chicken pox. (?!) Luckily, it seems to be a mild case but it has limited what we can do. We spent most of our time hiking and enjoying the polar vortex. (Btw, polar vortex in March = no bueno. But polar vortex in July? Me gusta!) We also squeezed in time to work on the clubhouse. We should have it finished next week just in time for a sleepover before school starts back up. The new driveway is coming along nicely! As much as we enjoy a good DIY, it has been completely satisfying to watch someone else do the dirty work. I’ll post an update soon.

A few more things to enjoy this week…

*I’m devouring Covet Garden Home, a special print edition.

*Genevieve’s Renovation aired this week. Did you watch it? Our satellite is disconnected while the driveway is being excavated and poured so I wasn’t able to watch it but I’m dying to. I’ve always loved G’s style.

*No satellite = time to rent a movie. Steve and I finally watched Tiny. I think it deserves its own post.

*Loft love.

*House lift. Fascinating!!

*If I were in Boston, I’d be all over Robin Luciano Beaty’s solo exhibition.

*Origami in space.

effortless style in a beach house

*DwellStudio founder Christiane Lemieux shares her beach house and tips for effortless style. “At the end of the day, our interiors are just the canvas for great memories.” So true.

I hope you make a few memories this weekend. xo

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Jonny Valiant

engineer print trend 4

Framed engineer prints are everywhere. Have you seen them? I especially love the ones featured here, here and here. I had been looking for a large piece of artwork to hang in the boys’ room when it dawned on me that an engineer print might be the ticket.

I had taken a photo with my phone of Layne and Everett on our recent trip to Florida. They’re mid-air jumping into a pool and it just exudes BOY. I had the photo blown up into a 2′ x 3′ black and white engineer print at Staples. (I quickly ordered the print online.) One day and $3 later, I had the print in hand. Since the print was so inexpensive, I “splurged” on a wood poster frame.

The print isn’t the highest quality and the paper is thin but for $3 I wasn’t expecting perfection. Also, the image doesn’t fill out the entire 3′ length – it’s more like 32″. This probably has something to do with the fact that I took the photo using the VSCO app. I might DIY a mat but next time I want the image to fill the entire frame. The frame itself is nice for a poster frame. The wood gives it a more expensive look and the facing is acrylic (not glass) which is ideal for a kids’ room.

engineer print trend 3

Layne and Everett LOVE it and that’s all that matters anyway. The plan is to switch out the print for a current photo of the boys each year. I really like the idea of this being a feature that evolves as the boys grow. And at $3 per print, we can afford to change the imagery whenever boredom strikes.

Have you tried enlarging a candid photo into an engineer print yet? It’s so easy and inexpensive and instantly adds personality to any space.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking