...because home doesn't happen overnight.

It’s been over two months since I shared my childhood clubhouse and my plans for perking it up for my kids and their cousins. It took several sporadic weekends, a lot of elbow grease and numerous car loads but the clubhouse is finished! For now.

You can see the “before” here but this post is all “after”, baby. My apologies in advance for the massive photo onslaught you are about to endure. It was a sentimental project and I had a hard time choosing my favorites. Enjoy!

clubhouse ext 1

I didn’t do much of anything to the exterior. Some people probably think I went about this bass ackwards but I’d rather wait and see how much the kids use the clubhouse before I invest in luxuries like windows, a legit door, exterior stain, etc. I could easily sink a grand into this structure but I’m trying to be somewhat practical here. (It isn’t easy.) So a pair of hammock chair swings it is!

clubhouse ext 2

My dad suggested hanging them from old springs he had so I did that. You can bounce or swing or…swounce? And once you get in, you don’t want to get out. They cradle you like a baby. Btw, that’s my niece, Lillian. She lives in Texas but was visiting for the month of July so she got to help me work on the clubhouse. She was so excited!

clubhouse dumbwaiter 1

Steve geeked out and put his engineering skills to work by rigging up a dumbwaiter. It was a hit with the kids. It also came in handy when I was loading the clubhouse. The cots wouldn’t fit through the trap door so I hooked them to the dumbwaiter and lifted them over the porch railing.

clubhouse dumbwaiter 2

I didn’t even bother to paint the scrap boards supporting the pulley. It’s just a clubhouse, right?

clubhouse shelf 1

The clubhouse is all about nature. You’re surrounded by nothing but trees and sky. So inside, I kept things really simple to keep the focus on the outdoors. My initial instinct was to paint the interior white. But once I started cleaning up to prep for paint, it became evident pretty quickly that something closer to the color of dirt would work better. I chose a gray-green hue and never looked back. I really liked the weathered patina of the ceiling so I left it untouched.

Everett and my sister, Alina, helped me paint the first coat. I got a little emotional thinking about the three of us working together to revive a place my sister and I had once played in. I may have said something sappy about things coming full circle. I think too much when I paint.

clubhouse shelf 2

I repurposed a closet shelf from our own home’s renovation. Steve cut it down and installed three brackets to support it under the window. I didn’t bother to paint it. Again, it’s just a clubhouse, right? I kinda like the scuffed up paint anyway.

clubhouse shelf 3

The shelf is a makeshift nightstand of sorts. It’s perfect for books, nature journals and a pair of solar-powered cone lamps. I created a tic tac toe board out of washi tape and wood craft letters.

clubhouse south side 1

Two folding cots flank the shelf. They’re comfortable for cots, I guess. The kids LOVE them. They fold up so I can stash them in a corner away from the elements when we aren’t using them. In the winter, I’ll store them elsewhere.

Net canopies are my attempt at preventing mosquitos from eating my children and nieces. They were super easy to assemble and hang. The ring at the top is flexible plastic – not wood – which allowed it to be packaged efficiently. Genius.

clubhouse flowers

Rocks and wildflowers from our nature walks are on display. I found the Ball jar in my dad’s barn. It reminds me of my mom canning beans from our garden in the summer when I was a kid. Once you hear the whistle of a pressure cooker, you never forget it!

clubhouse northeast side 2

I had fun with with paint on the other side of the room.

clubhouse northeast side 1

I upcycled a large canvas that once lived in Everett’s nursery in our previous house. I had originally painted a leaf motif on it for the nursery but I wanted something bold and simple that would pop against the gray-green walls of the clubhouse. I had a flashback of sitting on the living room floor and watching M*A*S*H reruns with my dad on our boxy console TV. The red cross spoke to me so I painted one on the canvas using leftover paint.

I stole some linens and pillows from the boys’ bedroom (don’t worry, I replaced them with something else) for the cots. The army drab blankets are another nod to the clubhouse-meets-M*A*S*H theme. They’re surprisingly soft – not itchy at all. When we aren’t visiting, I stash the bedding in a plastic tote.

clubhouse walking sticks 2

The kids had fun scouring the woods for the perfect walking sticks. I painted a few bands of color around them then propped them in the corner. They feel more like art than hiking gear. The boys think they’re way cool.

clubhouse entrance

Near the entrance I painted a sliver of wall in chalkboard paint to encourage graffiti. You might remember seeing my sisters’  and their friends’ original graffiti in the “befores”. Most of it was inappropriate (Everett asked me several times what a jackass was while we were painting) but I didn’t have the heart to wipe it out completely so I left one harmless message uncovered. A small tin bucket holds chalk.

A soft cooler hangs from a hook on the other side of the doorway. It’s great for snacks and bottles of water.

A few more candid shots…

clubhouse kids 1

I moved them for some of the shots but there are plastic storage totes under each cot.

clubhouse tote

They hold games, books, journals, etc. Many of the books were Steve’s or his dad’s when they were little. I’m kicking myself for not getting a shot of the kids playing Monopoly on the floor. There’s plenty of room between the two beds for playing or laying out a sleeping bag.

clubhouse kids 2

I told Everett to “act completely normal.” You guys, THIS IS HIS NORMAL. He is hilarious.

clubhouse kids 3

My bookworm. Layne zones out when he’s reading. I bet he didn’t even know I took this picture.

clubhouse chalkboard

Funny story. I started taking pictures for the reveal and didn’t realize until about halfway through that Everett had written “butt cheeks” on the chalkboard wall. I had to erase it and start all over. I told you he was hilarious.

clubhouse northeast side 4

Some reactions to the finished clubhouse:

Lillian: I like that there aren’t a bunch of decorations and that it’s not just for little kids or boys.

Layne: I think it needs a generator and a mini fridge.

Everett: Butt cheeks.

Mabrey: (Nada. Too busy eating chalk.)

my dad: Looks nice. Reminds me of M*A*S*H. (No joke. That was totally unprompted.)

clubhouse lamp

clubhouse northeast side 3

clubhouse walking sticks 1

Personally, I kinda want to move in. And if the kids use it enough, I might be tempted to give the exterior more attention.

clubhouse ext 3

I’d love to know what you think of the clubhouse. Any playhouse projects going on at your place? Any M*A*S*H fans out there?

Resources of note:

hammock chairs – Wayfair*
pulley, bucket, rope, tie-off – Ace Hardware
wall paint – Martha Stewart flagstone mixed in Glidden exterior paint, semigloss
shelf brackets – Home Depot
washi tape, wood letters – JoAnn’s
solar-powered lamps – Ikea
steel folding cots – Wayfair*
mosquito net canopies – Overstock
army blankets – ebay
wall hook – Home Depot
soft cooler – Wayfair*

*This project was completed in collaboration with Wayfair. Items denoted with an asterisk were kindly donated to the project. You can see side-by-side before-and-afters right here. All images, content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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.

blue apron 2

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.

blue apron 3

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!)

blue apron 4

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.

blue apron 7

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.

blue apron 8

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

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

07.12.14 / Made Me Smile

nature walk

At the beginning of the summer, the kids and I made a pact to hit up as many parks as possible before school was back in session. We’ve hit up over a dozen so far and it has been so much fun! I’ve been giving the kids free rein on deciding where we end up with the only stipulation being no parking / admission fees. We’ve discovered creeks, bridges, stone stairways, swimming holes and the ideal picnic site. Sometimes I daydream of living somewhere more scenic, more exotic but our recent nature walks have brought on a new appreciation for this place we call home.

A few smile-worthy links from around the web…

*…and now I want to explore more of Weird Ohio.

*Hollywood takes on Cincinnati.

*Captain Pizza.

portable treehouse

*A portable, suspended treehouse.

*Ikea ranked “highest in customer satisfaction with kitchen cabinets” in J.D. Power study. (You can see how Ikea stands up to other brands here.)

*Love this look.

*Gray-green in the kitchen is hot right now.

Have a wonderful weekend! Maybe squeeze in a nature walk.

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Tentsile