...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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With the two older kids back in school and summer slowly slipping away, I find myself trying to make the most of what little daylight time we have together in the evenings. Eating dinner together as a family has always been a priority for us. Often times, Steve doesn’t return home from work until after 7:00 p.m., or he’s traveling. So when we do get the chance to eat dinner all together (as opposed to just the kids and me) during the week, we jump on it. It’s a great way to reconnect and share stories from the day. It’s never formal but it always feels special. The weather has been so pleasant lately that we’ve been eating al fresco on the back deck. We have an outdoor dining table but gathering on the outdoor sectional for dinner feels cozier, more comfortable. Everyone is at ease.

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With the busyness the school year brings, I’ve started ordering meals from Blue Apron again, too, depending on our schedule. The family plan is meant to serve four, but we’ve found that it’s the perfect plan for us since our youngest two usually eat half of a full serving. That equates to roughly $6.99 per person (for a family of five) which is less than what we normally pay to eat out yet a little more than what we pay for grocery shopping + meal planning on our own. The convenience of having fresh ingredients delivered right to our door in just the right amounts is kinda priceless though. Especially during chaotic weeks.

A new-ish feature of Blue Apron allows subscribers to see what’s on the menu up to a month in advance. You’re able to select which recipes you want to try and/or opt out of delivery for upcoming weeks. Shipping is always free!

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Our most recent delivery included the steak gyros & corn on the cob with tzatziki sauce & spiced butter and now it’s our all-time Blue Apron favorite. It was super quick and easy to prepare. Mabrey even helped ;)

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I served it family style on the coffee table outside.

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The kids loved the “help yourself” setup and made their own plates. Everything was good but the corn was AMAZING. Coming from me, that says a lot. I’ve lived in the midwest all my life and corn is a summer staple around here. Growing up, we had a large garden and rows of corn. Some of my fondest childhood memories include corn roasts at our house with all my aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad would get a large brush pile burning and we would roast ears of corn at the top of the pile, sticking them between the smoldering branches. When they were done, we ate them standing around the bonfire. The corn was so good that butter was entirely optional, rarely necessary.

Admittedly, when I first scanned the Blue Apron recipe and saw the corn + spiced butter combo I was leery. Adding anything to corn other than butter and salt felt almost sacrilegious. But it was DELICIOUS. The sauce is basically a mixture of butter, garlic and greek spices. Steve and I both agreed it was the best corn we have ever had. If you take only one thing from this post, let it be the corn + spiced butter recipe. Trust.

I like how Blue Apron nudges us out of our usual dinner comfort zones. In the same delivery, I also ordered the crispy catfish & roasted potatoes. The side of summer bean salad with garlic-lemon aioli was so good that we are bringing it to a family cookout next weekend. I want to try the oven-braised tandoori cauliflower and the piri-piri chicken next.

How are you eking out the last few weeks of summer? Did you know today is National Eat Outside Day?! How will you celebrate?

BONUS: The first 50 readers can grab two free meals on their first Blue Apron order by clicking here!

*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Congrats to Mary Ann and Kelly! I have already emailed you two with more info about your prizes. Thanks!

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My kids are on summer break which means they are either bored or hungry until mid-August. Ha! (I’m half joking.) I signed the boys up for a free camp program that our local park district offers three mornings per week, and they are taking a tennis class twice a week in the evenings. Mabrey takes a gymnastics class with her cousin (same age) once a week. Other than those activities we have the library, a pool pass and the studio to keep us busy this summer.

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The kids have been good sports about hanging out in the empty studio while I clean, take measurements, check in on progress, paint and make plans. In fact, they’re usually excited to go and that makes me happy. (It could have something to do with the NatureBox snacks.) I’ve always envisioned them playing, crafting, messing next to me at the studio. I want it to be a creative haven for them, too. But a few changes need to be made in order for that to happen.

For one, I need a large work table. I’ve been stalking an old dining table on ebay that would fit the bill, but I want to add casters to make it portable. It’s located here in Ohio. I could avoid shipping costs by picking it up myself. I haven’t pulled the trigger just yet only because I’m working on painting the floors. The table has been up for auction numerous times and keeps getting relisted when it doesn’t sell. With the floors almost done, I think I’m pulling the trigger this week!

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The other must-have is storage. Originally, I had planned on bringing in a wardrobe or armoire for storage, but with the kids in tow I’m leaning toward adding a few cabinets with drawers. I’ve rolled the idea around in my head over and over and I think a simple dry bar setup would work best. The space doesn’t have plumbing and there’s a cleanup sink just down the hall. I’m thinking a small bank of base cabinets, a mini fridge and a simple open shelf would suffice for housing the kids’  art supplies, snacks and packed lunches. The entry wall (shown above) would be the perfect location.

I busted out a very rudimentary sketch of what I have in mind. On graph paper…because that’s where the magic happens for me.

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As far as aesthetic, I’ve been writing down words that come to mind when I think of how I want the studio to look and feel: industrial, modern, farmhouse, imperfect, casual, durable, versatile, informal, functional, ever-changing, simple, inspiring. That list is pushing me toward Ikea cabinet frames paired with notched, flat panel drawer fronts similar to these.

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Lately, I’ve been drawn to cabinets painted in earthy greens. If I can make it work with the painted concrete floors, I’d love to use the DIY slab-style drawer fronts from Semihandmade and paint them a shade of green. I’ve always wanted to try Semihandmade drawer fronts / doors and this seems like the perfect excuse to do so. Even though there is a cleanup sink down the hall, the water isn’t drinkable as-is. Hence, the mini fridge so I can utilize a water filter.

One of the cabinets will be designated the snack cabinet. My kids are huge NatureBox fans. The monthly snack subscription is great for busy (summer!) months when we’re traveling back and forth to the pool, the library, the park, the studio, etc. They make great snacks for longer trips, too. I’m able to select which snacks are delivered to my doorstep. With over 100 options and no high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils, no artificial colors, it’s easy to find delicious snack options everyone loves. Each bag contains 3-5 servings so one bag feeds my crew. The salt & pepper lentil loops, antioxidant boost and granny smith apples are their favorites.

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Does NatureBox sound like something your family would like to try this summer? Maybe you have a vacation coming up? Today NatureBox is offering TWO free 6-month subscriptions. See entry details below.

PRIZE: Two H*T readers will win a 6-month subscription to NatureBox.

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the U.S. or Canada. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Browse NatureBox’s snack selection here then leave a comment on this post sharing which snack(s) you’d like to try.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST Tuesday, June 23rd. Two random winners will be announced Wednesday, June 24th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: Join NatureBox today and get a FREE sample box of some of their fan favorites. Click here to get started.

Good luck!

*This post sponsored in part by NatureBox, a product and service I use personally. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: 1-4 & 6) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 5) (clockwise from top left) Lincoln Barbour for Jessica Helgerson Interior Design; The Urban Farmhouse; Mazen Studio; Laure Joliet for Remodelista

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I’ve been subscribing to Blue Apron for a little over a year now. The family plan is perfect for us: 2 adults, 3 young kids. I use it for especially hectic weeks when our family schedule is extra busy and also for weeks when Steve is out of town and I’m winging the single parenting thing. It’s a huge relief finding the box of farm fresh ingredients on my doorstep, knowing I can postpone a trip to the grocery store for a few more days.

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Trying out new chef-designed recipes at home gets us out of the dinner rut and gives me more confidence in the kitchen, too. The filipino-style beef picadillo and fish & sweet potato chips are on regular rotation at our house.

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The kids are always excited when a Blue Apron delivery shows up. The only part they don’t like is sometimes waiting for me to take pictures of the food before they can eat it ;)

Last fall when we were gearing up for our family vacation to Rosemary Beach, I was making a list of food items to pack. To save money, I was packing breakfast, lunch and snack items. We usually eat half of our dinners out on vacation, but I wanted to cook at least two dinners. (The beach house we rented boasted a full kitchen.) I could see that space in the cooler was going to be tight and that’s when it hit me! Why not schedule a Blue Apron delivery to our vacation rental? And that’s exactly what I did.

I set it up to arrive early in the week, a day or two after our arrival. It was delivered to our porch while we were at the beach but, no worries, the box was refrigerated. It was so convenient! No need to hunt down a local grocery store in an unfamiliar city and then spend way too much vacation time trying to figure out where everything is. No need to buy a box of stick butter just for one tablespoon. All the ingredients are shipped pre-measured so there’s no waste and no rummaging around a rental kitchen for a measuring spoon or cup. (The only ingredients you might need on hand are olive oil, salt and pepper – which our rental supplied but you might want to pack them if possible.)

If you plan to cook on vacation, Blue Apron is ideal. There were a few evenings towards the end of our stay where we didn’t feel like rushing back from the beach, cleaning up and going out for dinner. That’s when I cooked. No one wants to take a cranky, overtired toddler out to dinner at a restaurant, am I right?

Do you have a U.S. vacation coming up? Maybe a staycation? If you plan on cooking, I would suggest giving Blue Apron a try. They deliver to most of the country, including Texas now! As always, shipping is free.

*BONUS* – The first 100 readers will get two meals off their first Blue Apron order FREE! Just click here.

Happy cooking and vacationing!

*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking