...because home doesn't happen overnight.

acapulco chairs 5

We have a teensy strip of concrete just to the right of our front door. Porch? Patio? Sidewalk tangent? I don’t know what to call it.

Anyway.

I put a bench there a few years back, but we never really used it. The kids and neighbor kids tend to congregate on the planter-turned-storage-bench instead. Then I spotted Acapulco chairs on a recent trip to HomeGoods. (I had gone in for discounted hand soap. That’s how stuff like this happens.)

I wasn’t immediately sold on them. I loved the design but questioned the comfortability. I didn’t have any measurements of the porch on me (a true sign of just how much I shunned the weird, wasted space), but I guessed it could handle a pair of chairs and a small accent table. At $60 a pop, the price was right. Typically, Acapulco chairs go for $225+. I snatched up two of them and told myself I could always return them if they didn’t work out.

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But as soon as I got them home, I knew there would be no return, no refund coming my way. They fit the space perfectly and are surprisingly comfortable in a lounge-y sort of way. They’re constructed of a rust-proof steel base and vinyl weave. After a month outside, they’ve proven to be super durable. They look brand new even after several significant storms. Severe thunderstorm winds haven’t moved them. They’re sturdy. Layne made me promise not to add pillows because he likes them just the way they are. He’s totally right, of course.

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I had fun searching for a side table. I wanted something substantial that would stay put and hold up to the elements. It needed to be roundish, too, to wedge between the chairs. I probably looked at hundreds but ultimately ended up with this gem-shaped, concrete table. The reviews aren’t great, but after reading them I realized it was because the product image doesn’t show the handle cutouts and kinda blows out the color of the concrete. So I took those observations into consideration and decided to spring for it. I was able to use a coupon which brought the price under $100. It arrived in mint condition and looks as expected. I like how the concrete finish ties in to the concrete windowsill (shown in the first image of this post). It’s heavy!

The lesson? READ REVIEWS. Reading reviews is what persuades me to sometimes buy items with two stars (some consumers don’t look at measurements and are disappointed when the item they bought is too big/small) and pass on items with five stars (I look for reviews of verified purchases).

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The table is the perfect spot for a small planter and a drink or two. In the morning, it’s coffee. In the evening, it’s coconut rum + pineapple juice. The planter is from West Elm and it’s one of my favorite purchases so far this year. I keep moving it around, inside and outside. (If you’re looking for a succulent that’s easy to care for, I love paddle plant.) The brass coasters are from Schoolhouse Electric. I bought a set for my sister and brother-in-law as a wedding gift this past spring then immediately bought a set for our house. They already have a good patina going thanks to a few spilled drinks courtesy of the kids.

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The little outdoor nook has already seen more action over the past month than it has in the entire four years we’ve lived here. It’s been nice to see our house/yard from a new angle. We live in what I refer to as a front yard neighborhood. Most of the front yards are larger than the backyards. All the action happens out front. It’s where the kids play a miniature form of baseball. Neighbors come over to say hi while walking their dogs. A large running group snakes by on Tuesday evenings. I’m surprised the UPS man hasn’t worn a trail directly to the front door. We’re social in the front, private in the back.

Speaking of the backyard, it’s been somewhat of a construction zone this summer. We’re installing shade sails. Can’t wait to share that project!

In the meantime, I rounded up a few of my favorite affordable outdoor side tables in case you’re on the hunt.

Happy porch sitting!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

bitsy's 6

Have you heard of Bitsy’s Brainfood? I discovered Bitsy’s at Target a few months ago while running errands with the kids. I was searching for healthy snacks for our spring break trip to go along with the apples and pistachios I had already picked up, but the kids wanted something more exotic (i.e., less boring) than pretzels. Bitsy’s was an instant hit and quickly became a snack staple in our house. Since then, the Smart Cookies and Smart Crackers have made appearances in the kids’ school lunches (they’re nut free!) and our pool bag.

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The Sweet Potato Oatmeal Raisin cookies and Cheddar Chia Veggie crackers are our family’s favorites. Mabrey loves the alphabet-shaped cookies for practicing her ABCs. The boys like creating pictures with the tangram-shaped crackers. I like the fact that they aren’t loaded with sugar, are made with organic ingredients and were created by a mom duo who believe that healthy minds and healthy bodies go hand in hand. (Each serving of Smart Crackers contains a ½ serving of vegetables.) Naturally, Bitsy’s was in our food bag on a recent road trip to Michigan City, Indiana. (More on the trip coming soon!)

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Speaking of summer road trips, we have several planned for this year. That’s in sharp contrast to last summer which was way too busy for my liking. I had a hard time saying no to a few activities (for myself and the kids), and it ended up being too much. We spent a lot of time in the car going from home to activity, activity to activity, activity to home. The tedious driving nibbled away at our downtime. Before we knew it, summer break was over and we hadn’t savored it the way we’d really wanted to.

This year I vowed to do things differently in the hope of zeroing in on that sweet spot between complete boredom and excessive busyness. My summer motto? Don’t make it harder than it has to be. We’re saying no to the things that don’t really bring us joy and yes to familiar favorites and a few new adventures. The kids are sticking with a free, drop-in camp at a local park two mornings a week. (Seriously, it’s been my sanity saver for the past two summers. The kids liken it to a three-hour recess. So, so grateful for park programs!) Layne is playing tennis once a week, and Everett and Mabrey are taking swim lessons for two weeks. All three are enrolled in the summer reading program at the library, and we bought a family pass to our neighborhood pool.

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Saying no to other stuff is allowing us to squeeze in several road trips which we’re extremely excited about. It’s also giving us chunks of downtime to do whatever we want: read, hang out with friends at the pool, go for a walk, squeeze in a project or two, wander, wonder, flex our creative muscles, take a nap already!, watch a movie, visit a new park or nothing. I’ll be the first to admit that I feel guilty when my day isn’t productive/busy/hard enough. It’s like enough isn’t enough unless it’s just slightly too much. Why is that?

Bitsy’s is readily available at Target. If you’d like to give them a try, the first 200 readers can use this coupon to score $2 off any Smart Cookie or Smart Cracker.

How do you handle summer break? What activities are your kids involved in? Does it ever feel like too much? Too little? Any road trips on your calendar? I always love hearing your thoughts.

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*This post sponsored in part by Bitsy’s Brainfood. This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

interior door 2

Inquiring minds want to know, “Where did you get the black hinges and doorknobs?” I could’ve sworn I shared the source years ago, but after some digging I realized I hadn’t. Better late than never!

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We replaced the interior doors and hardware after we moved in. One caveat: We had already removed the original doors, so we lived without any interior doors for quite a while. With a newborn. And two other rugrats. It sucked. I wouldn’t recommend it.

You can read more about the doors we selected here and here. (Eek! Mabrey looks so little.) We wanted a simple design that didn’t stray too far from our home’s midcentury roots, but we were hoping for something slightly less boring than a flush door slab. We were stoked to discover the Berkley from Masonite’s West End collection with its subtle inset detailing. Steve saved us >$2,000 by hanging the doors himself. Eventually, I painted them to match the trim. (It took me a year to get around to it!)

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We liked the idea of matte black hinges and doorknobs to contrast against the white doors. We went with these hinges. For the bathrooms and bedrooms, we used these privacy doorknobs. For the linen closets, we used these passage doorknobs. For the man door to the garage, we used this keyed entry doorknob along with this deadbolt.

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Four years later, the doors and hardware are holding up extremely well. (My kids should work at a door/doorknob testing facility.)

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The Safe ‘n Sound solid core doors have been a worthy investment. They provide great acoustical insulation in our smallish house (i.e., I lock myself in the bathroom from time to time for a quick, quiet recharge). The doors get a lot of compliments from visitors. They’re unique yet understated. I absolutely LOVE the matte black hardware.

In summary, living with interior doors trumps living without interior doors any day. I hope I never have to do that again.

P.S. – Create your own attic access.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking