...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up. Is it obvious that we spent the holiday visiting family and friends out of internet service range? Well, we did. And it was wonderful for my heart and my kids…not so great for the blog though!

After a whirlwind weekend of filling our bellies, napping, driving over state lines and high school reunioning {yep, Handy Hubby even took a much needed break to attend his 15-year high school reunion}, we’re glad to be back. All my guys are catching up on their sleep this afternoon as I write. I felt H*T had been neglected for far too long, so I’m skipping out on the sleepfest.

The lucky winner of the $100 American Express gift card sponsored by Apartment Guide is “D” who loves using felt to create all kinds of festive decor for the holidays. Congrats!

Don’t worry if you didn’t win. I’ve got another fun giveaway scheduled for this week! Plus, I’ll be showing you the holiday decor and organization ideas I come up with for our teeny apartment. Things are about to get all ho-ho-ho up in here.

FYI – Apartment Guide is owned by Consumer Source, Inc. Apartment Guide partnered with bloggers such as me to participate in its “Holiday Home Organization” Blogger Challenge.  As part of that program, I received compensation.  They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products used for the “Holiday Home Organization” Blogger Challenge. Apartment Guide and Consumer Source believe that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Consumer Source’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

images: Apartment Guide

11.23.11 / Tongue and Groovy

A friend let us in on one of Cincy’s home improvement secrets. It’s called Home Emporium and they sell all kinds of things for home projects and decor. The inventory comes from closeouts and liquidations and then the savings are passed onto customers. We decided to check ‘em out and Handy Hubby called before we visited to ask if they had any pine tongue and groove in stock. They did! So we borrowed our new neighbor’s trailer and hitched it up to our SUV in case we decided to purchase the tongue and groove for the Underdog’s vaulted ceiling. {We decided to finish the ceiling in the great room with tongue and groove versus sheetrock.}

{HH doing one last calculation to double check we bought enough tongue and groove}

Bringing the trailer ended up being a good idea because we did end up buying unfinished pine tongue and groove in various lengths. An employee helped HH pick through the pile of pine lengths, passing on boards that were warped or damaged. At 49¢/linear foot, we spent $700-$800 on the ceiling boards for our 25’x25′ great room. There are less expensive options of bead board available that we considered but they were much thinner and flimsier than the 5/8″ thick sturdy boards we brought home. We were worried that the thinner versions may wave or warp over time.

We unloaded the pine boards at the Underdog and wrapped them in plastic while the drywall was going up and getting finished. The plastic tarps did a good job of keeping the boards dust-free. This past weekend, with the drywall work complete, HH and his dad unwrapped the boards and got to work installing them on the vaulted ceiling.

{grooved side of the pine boards}

At first, I thought I wanted the grooved side of the boards facing out. But after looking at a bunch of tongue and groove ceilings online, I realized that I preferred the wider plank look…so HH faced the smooth side of the boards.

The wider planks look less busy than the grooved bead board side of the tongue and groove. I love them! After a full day’s work, HH and his dad got one side of the great room’s ceiling hung.

 {HH rented the scaffolding}

The next day, with his neck and back aching from twisting his body into peculiar positions while hanging the plank ceiling, HH framed out the skylights on the other side of the great room ceiling. There aren’t any boards hung on that side of the ceiling yet but we’re already enamored with the aesthetic of the tongue and groove ceiling. While I do like the look of unfinished pine, I’m still thinking it will get primed and painted to mix better with that simple, clean and airy feel we’re going for.

That’s the latest and greatest at the Underdog. We’ve been anxiously awaiting this phase {finishing and installation} of the renovation, but it looks like things may be slow going for a few weeks while HH’s real job pulls him away with lots of traveling over the next several weeks. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed about being a single, prego mom for such a long period of time. Kudos to all those moms out there that do it everyday, day in and day out…whether you’re single or your spouse works away from home for extended periods of time. I don’t know how you do it!

On a lighter note, we came across a few other finds at Home Emporium. Along with home improvement supplies {tile, cabinetry, flooring, lighting, fixtures, etc.} the store also had a great selection of furniture, rugs and accessories. Other than the tongue and groove, we also purchased these items…

HH picked out the wooden bowl and I found an affordable alternative to the bullrush basket I featured in the kids’ bathroom mood board. $375 was a ridiculous amount of money for us to spend on a basket, but $17?…yes, please! I think it’ll come in handy in the kids’ bathroom for dirty towels and clothes. I also picked up a pair of faux bull horns for $40. I eyed similar real ones at a local upscale design boutique a few weeks ago but they were outta my price range at nearly $200 a piece. Yikes! So happy to have found similar faux ones for much cheaper. I think I’ll probably end up painting the square mounting blocks white or gray to give them a lighter feel.

So what do you think? Like the ceiling progress? Would you leave it unfinished or paint it?

FYI – I was not compensated in any way to mention Home Emporium. I just love sharing good shopping spots!

images: all Dana Miller for House*Tweaking




When you start contemplating any renovation, you will hear and read that you should expect the renovation to take longer than your guesstimate. We’re finding that to be true. We had hoped to be in the Underdog {with not every to-do marked off our checklist but just living there} by the end of October/beginning of November. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. Our next ETA was somewhere right around Christmas which looked pretty doable on paper.

However, HH was sent out of state on a trip for work two weeks ago that set us back. And just last week we learned that he’ll be traveling for work for another two weeks in the month of December. All of this was unexpected and makes our Christmas move impossible since the last projects on the list require HH’s DIY skills.

You know what that means? Yep. We’re planning on spending Christmas in our cozy lil’ apartment. So when Apartment Guide asked me to participate in their Holiday Home Organization Blogger Challenge I felt the timing was right. Why not?! My creativity has been so pent up over the last few months waiting and waiting to decorate the Underdog that I need a good crafty release.

Apartment Guide is not only a source for finding and researching apartments, but did you know they also offer useful advice for apartment dwelling? Holiday decor that meets apartment complex restrictions, storage options for surprise gifts and an inviting atmosphere for holiday guests are all covered by Apartment Guide.

{our holiday mantel last year}

I’ve been asked to come up with a few holiday decor and organizational ideas/projects that can be implemented within an apartment setting. So far I have plans for a space-saving Christmas tree, a wrapping station and temporary seasonal decor. I’ll be sharing all my projects with you here on H*T, so stay tuned!

{my holiday gift wrap last year}

Until then, Apartment Guide is graciously offering up a $100 American Express gift card to one lucky H*T reader! Use it to prep your place for the holidays, to help out with holiday shopping or for something totally unrelated to the holidays. It’s up to you. Here are all the details on how to enter:

  • PRIZE:  $100 American Express gift card which has a U.S. restriction for in-store purchases but works online anywhere. Should there be an international winner, the gift card may be awarded in the form of an e-gift card depending on the winner’s location.
  • RULES:  You must be at least 18 years old. One entry per email address.
  • HOW TO ENTER:  Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “GUIDE ME!”
  • DEADLINE:  Enter before Thursday, November 24th at 9:00 p.m. EST. One winner will be chosen via Random.org and announced on Friday, November 25th.
  • WHILE YOU’RE AT IT:  Share your favorite holiday-related DIY project. Recipes, gift wrap, decor, handmade gifts and snow angels all count! OR like Apartment Guide on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

FYI – Apartment Guide is owned by Consumer Source, Inc. Apartment Guide partnered with bloggers such as me to participate in its “Holiday Home Organization” Blogger Challenge.  As part of that program, I received compensation.  They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products used for the “Holiday Home Organization” Blogger Challenge. Apartment Guide and Consumer Source believe that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Consumer Source’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

images:  1) Apartment Guide  2&3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

11.18.11 / Mechanicalities

The mechanical closet at the Underdog is in the hallway that leads back to the bedrooms. Notice I said ‘closet’ not room.

It houses the furnace {shown} and water heater {not shown}. The closet is actually a little wider than the door opening and the water heater sits back in the left-hand corner. To take a picture of this teeny space, I have to stand in the bedroom across the hallway and I can’t get a shot of the water heater because that would require me going into the narrow hall for the angle needed but then I’m way too close. Are you following me? Basically, it’s a tiny closet off a very narrow hallway and it’s difficult to photograph. Take my word for it.

I shared the story of our craigslist heat pump back in June. {The Underdog came to us with no central air.} In case you missed it you can look back or just know that we paid $500 for the unit. Since then Handy Hubby has been busy installing the heat pump and wiring it to the furnace.

I’m not going to pretend I know what HH did. I have no idea. Luckily, HH has a buddy at work who has done DIY HVAC stuff before and he lent HH a hand with the hookup. What I can tell you is that HH ran copper pipes from the heat pump to the furnace. You can see the addition of two copper pipes near the bottom left-hand corner of the furnace just below where the panel would be.

The heat pump is located at the back of the house between the master bedroom and master bathroom windows.

If you look closely, you’ll see where those two aforementioned copper pipes come out at the back of the unit and run into the house.

It was a very happy day when HH came home from a long evening at the Underdog to announce, “The heat pump works!” Yep. My HH installed that sucker himself.  Well, okay, with the help of a friend. But still. Buying the craigslist unit for $500 and DIYing the install saved us about $2,000-$2,500!!!!!

And you know what that means. More money for pretty stuff. Cha-ching.

But, alas, this post isn’t about pretty things. It’s about the guts of the house…what makes it work…what makes it livable and comfortable to be in. And that stuff isn’t necessarily pretty. Unless you like cubes of steel and electrical components. To each his own.

So, back to the teeny mechanical closet we go.

While the water heater seems to be acting fine now, we’re sure it’s going to poop out at any moment. Probably the moment right after we move in. The water heater is ~10 years old. When HH got to thinking ahead, he realized that to replace the old water heater he’d have to remove the furnace due to the narrow access to the closet. Ugh. Not exactly ideal.

So, HH took the bull by the horns and opened up the mechanical room’s doorway to allow easier access to the water heater.

There’s that water heater I’ve been telling you about! The widened doorway gives HH direct access to the water heater. Normally, this is where I say ‘Yay!’ but there was one sliver of a problem.

Looking back to the first image…

…you’ll see that there was a single louvered door on the mechanical room. Now that the doorway is wider, HH had to look at pricing out bifold louvers. Bifold versus hinged because the hall is way too narrow to allow for a large door to swing out. And louvered versus solid to allow proper ventilation for the furnace.

You’d think that for such an eyesore those doors-that-can’t-make-up-their-minds-to-be-a-door-or-a-shutter would be cheap. Wrong. HH priced a set of bifold louvers for the mechanical room at $300. Neither of us wanted to spend $300 on something that we weren’t crazy about to begin with.

As luck would have it, on the way back to the Underdog from pricing out the doors at Home Depot HH spied something on the side of the road. Laid out with the trash were a set of louvered doors! Right on our street!

It was fate. HH didn’t think twice about hauling them back to the Underdog. While the measurements aren’t an exact fit our mechanical room, HH is certain he can make them work. And the price tag is hard to beat. You know what they say about one man’s trash… Here’s my ‘Yay!’ now.

So, that’s a lot of words about the smallest ‘room’ in our Underdog. While it isn’t much to look at, a room that houses a furnace and water heater is necessary. And making it work for us is just as important. When that old water heater comes out, I think HH is going to be patting himself on the back for opening up the doorway. If not, I will.

In other earth-shattering news, House*Tweaking turns 2 today! What a post for a blogiversary, right? I decided that two anniversaries in one week {our wedding anniversary + blogiversary = 2} were a bit much. So, next week will be the official blogiversary week. And it all kicks off with a profitable giveaway on Monday. In short, I’ve partnered with Apartment Guide to offer holiday decor ideas and seasonal organization solutions for apartment dwellers. Check in Monday for all the details!

For fun, I went back and read my very first H*T post. I noticed a few things:  1) No pictures. Rookie mistake.  2) My parentheses have turned into curly brackets…except when following a number. This is my own made-up rule.  3) I’m still not tech savvy.  4) ‘Hubby’ is now referred to as ‘Handy Hubby.’  5) Miraculously, H*T did keep me from wanting a third child. But my uterus had other plans.  6) Oprah ended her show this year.  7) This blog has fueled my hunger to read and write. It’s taught me new things – and not just about design – but life and myself in general. It’s been a wonderful outlet for the now more-than-a-zillion ideas whirling around in my head. And it’s most definitely been a great place to journal our home improvement projects…not that I ever imagined renovating a 1958 ranch named the Underdog would be a part of that.

Have a great pre-Turkey weekend!

images:  all Dana Miller for House*Tweaking