...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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I shared how we wrangle the household paper trail a few weeks back, and it spurred a tangent question: What do you do with all the kid art? I thought it might be helpful to share some ways we save and display the kids’ creations while still keeping our home mostly clutter-free. This is just what we do and what works for us. It’s not meant to be a strict ruleset. In fact, it’s a pretty loose system. But if you come across something you can implement in your home, great!

For starters, all three of my kids are creative in their own ways. Layne makes the most intricate Lego and origami creations. Everett LOVES to draw and work with clay. Give him a pencil and a blank piece of paper and he’s a happy camper. (He’s exceptionally good at capturing facial expressions.) Mabrey is really into painting with watercolors, coloring, writing her name (sometimes on her bed, ugh), copying text and taking pretend food orders. (Sorry, I don’t have any burgers. Would you like some fish and a lemon? Her restaurant never has what I ask for and she always suggests “unique” alternatives. Cracks me up every time.) She’ll also sit beside Everett while he’s drawing and try to reinterpret his pictures in her own way. It’s pretty cute. We rarely buy cards. The kids almost always make the cards we give for all sorts of occasions.

Layne and Everett are in grade school (6th and 3rd grade, respectively) and they occasionally bring home art-related stuff from school, but I remember the preschool years when it felt like every day was a damn art show! Haha. That’s where we are with Mabrey now. For the most part though, the majority of kid art is made at home. Art supplies are of one of the few things (books are another) that I tend to let pile up because they really do hold my kids’ attention in constructive ways. (Toys and clothes, not so much.) Art supplies are stored in the base cabinets in the desk area of the kitchen, and art is usually made at the kitchen island.

As for what we do with the masterpieces once they’re made…it really depends. Coloring book pages and preschool art are usually displayed on the fridge or fridge side panel temporarily. Mabrey has been known to tack her paintings on the wall near her play kitchen with washi tape, too. I usually give them a week or two, then they’re recycled to make room for inevitable new art.

Everett often gifts his drawings to friends, neighbors and family members. (You can spy one of his creations in Mabrey’s room.) He absolutely loves sending snail mail. He also likes to display recent drawings on the book ledge in his bunk.

Custom Lego airplanes and RV’s make their way on to the living room shelves and usually stay there until the pieces are needed for the next big thing. I’ve found origami sculptures in the laundry nook (and even the car!) when Layne is on one of his origami folding sprees, but we try to keep them contained to the top of his dresser and woven floor baskets in his room. He’s also been known to take requests from friends and teachers, so those pieces follow him to school.

Some art ends up in Steve’s cubicle at work. (Mabrey has the funniest exchange going on with one of Steve’s co-workers. Each week they trade handmade pictures or cards via Steve. It’s hilarious and super sweet.)

When projects are sent home at the end of the school year, I take a picture from above of them all laid out on the floor. We hang on to them for a week or so then pick our favorites to store in a tote up in the attic. If we both like the same one best, we keep one. If we like two different ones, we keep two. (Seasonal pieces like handmade ornaments are handled a little differently and stored with similar decorations to be displayed each year during the appropriate holiday.)

As you can see, kid art is in a continuous state of flux in our home. We hold on to absolute favorites and display others temporarily or gift them to others. I can’t imagine my kids wanting more than two dozen pieces of their own kid art once they’re grown and out of the house. And I can’t help but feel the more I save, the less special it is because it isn’t all that rare. But maybe that’s just me? Luckily, my kids seem more interested in the process of creating and trying new techniques to achieve a certain result than in coveting their actual creations. Still, I’ve been wanting to try to incorporate some kid art in our home in a more permanent way than just a tote in the attic.

A few months ago, I climbed into the attic and brought down an abstract that Everett made in kindergarten. For years, I had been envisioning it framed via a float mount to show off the stray paint droplets, chalk smears and crinkled edges…all visual evidence linking it to its handmade origins and its journey from school to home in a stuffed backpack. I had such a great experience using Framebridge earlier this year when I had two pieces of vintage Kuba cloth framed that I decided to go that route again. I created my custom framing order online and selected the float mount, Marin frame and mail-in option. A few days later, a pre-paid package arrived so I could send Everett’s abstract to the Framebridge studio to be framed. In a matter of weeks, it was shipped back.

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It’s perfect! I wanted to hang it in the hallway, but Everett told me he’d rather have it in his room so I hung it on just about the only wall space left in the boys’ room below a pair of open shelves.

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(Those floor baskets are chock full of origami!) Now I have every inclination to grab a few more favorites from the attic and have them custom framed as well to create a mini gallery of sorts in the hallway. I know Mabrey has a few ethereal watercolors up there, and wouldn’t a framed origami collection be so cool?!

Anyway, hopefully that gives you a peek at how we deal with the onslaught of kid art – which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. As I type, a handmade clay heart sculpture brought home from school is hanging from a hook near the front door. Bricks that the kids found in a nearby creek bed and painted at home are sitting on the countertop next to my laptop. They might not be here a month from now, but we’re enjoying them at the moment.

I’d love to hear your ideas for saving and displaying kid art at home. What works? What doesn’t? We tried a bulletin board a few years back and it just didn’t work for us. It was difficult to see any one thing well. Even though several pieces were on display, they mostly felt lost and jumbled. Maybe if we had more room it could work better?

If you’d like to give Framebridge a try, use the promo code HOUSETWEAKING15 to receive 15% off your first purchase now through January 31st, 2017. Framed art makes a great gift! December 4th, 2016, is the cutoff date for mail-in items. December 18th, 2016, is the cutoff date for print and frame items.

Bring on the kid art!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Last month Steve and I snuck away to Nashville for a kid-free weekend. Steve wasn’t able to leave work early on Friday, so we drove to Louisville after he got home that evening and stayed overnight. We hit up HammerHeads for dinner. The mac & cheese balls didn’t sound particularly appetizing, but they came highly recommended so we had to try them. They were AMAZING. So smoky and savory! The brisket tacos were pretty yummy as well.

The next morning we had a little time to kill before our drive on to Nashville. We came across an interesting trinket shop/bakery called Kizito. I was initially drawn to the window display chock full of African wood sculptures, but once inside we were hypnotized by the most amazing aroma of yeast, sugar and cinnamon. Turns out, the shop is owned and operated by a woman from Uganda who visits her homeland regularly and brings back African folk art to sell alongside her homemade baked goods. It makes for quite a unique inventory! Steve bought cookies (a gingersnap and coconut macaroon) and I bought an ebony figurine that now lives on the media cabinet in our living room. I can’t look at it without seeing Kizito’s warm face and smelling the faintest hint of cinnamon.

We checked in to our Nashville Airbnb later that afternoon, and immediately my dream of living tiny as empty nesters was solidified. Our cozy home for the weekend was a vintage Shasta camper in our host’s dreamy backyard. Walking through the gate from the driveway was like being transported to a secret oasis – leafy canopy, dappled sunlight, chirping birds, twinkle lights and all. #icriedalittle (I’m not much of a camper, but I love being outdoors as long I have running water and a real bed nearby.)

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The camper featured a teeny kitchen complete with sink, running water, hot plate, mini fridge and essentials. One end of the camper was outfitted with a built-in platform bed (plus AC unit!), while the other end housed a small table and vintage leather and cane chairs.

Clever storage included baskets under the bed, DIY peshtemal towel “curtains” to hide kitchen clutter and a slew of wall hooks and shelves. The wheel wells were covered in planks and provided extra shelving and seating. I thought the simple DIY window coverings were ingenious. Essentially, they were raw cut linen panels (white facing the window, gray facing the interior) with frayed edges and grommets looped over small hooks. During the day, they could be tied back with leather lace. At night, they could be closed by moving one grommeted corner to a hook on the other side of the window. Such an easy solution for oddly sized windows!

The vibe was super cozy, rustic and casual. I loved that the decor felt homier than a traditional camper. (Obviously, this camper isn’t meant to be moved around from place to place like a traditional camper.)

We spent a lot of time at the table reading, playing cards, drinking wine and just looking out over the backyard. (Temps were in the 90s during our stay, so we were grateful for the AC.) It was so quiet and peaceful that we had a hard time believing we were actually within city limits.

The separate bathhouse was so charming! Even with windows galore, it felt private. The lower awning windows featured the same tieback curtains as inside the camper for privacy, while the upper clerestory windows kept the small space feeling light and bright.

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Inside was the cutest corner sink, a toilet and clawfoot tub. Just outside, in a secluded corner between the bathhouse and camper, was an outdoor shower. Panels of galvanized metal backed cedar slats surrounding the showerhead. Showering under the stars one night remains a favorite memory. An outdoor shower is now on my dream house wish list. Bonus: no cleaning required!

A hammock was on the other side of the bathhouse under a minimal pergola. I’ll never forget the first time Steve tried to mount it when he didn’t think I was watching. He approached it like an American Ninja Warrior obstacle by getting a running start then jumping on to it back first which caused the hammock to quickly flip upside down. Consequently, he landed underneath the hammock facing the ground with his knees bent, resembling a human spider. Luckily, the only thing hurt was his pride. I had just stepped out of the camper when it all went down (literally). “I saw all that,” I said. Then we laugh-cried for approximately fifteen minutes. I fall into hysterics just thinking about it now. I told him I hope it’s the last image that flashes through my mind on my death bed. I would die laughing.

I made friends with Margot, the friendly backyard mascot. She was so sweet.

Nighttime was nothing short of magical in this little corner of the world.

With some pre-planning I was able to make a dinner reservation for two at the highly touted Rolf and Daughters. The interior felt very “industrial loft” but it was still cozy. Our waitress was really patient with us and answered all our questions about the menu which was a little difficult for us decipher on our own. We ended up having an incredible, drawn-out meal that felt all the more luxurious because there weren’t any kids to tend to. I forgot how nice it is to linger after a meal. (I’m usually in cleanup mode as soon as all forks are down at home.)

Not all of our meals were so extravagant, but here are some other food joints we thoroughly enjoyed near our Airbnb:

Calypso Cafe: an affordable lunch option within walking distance of the Airbnb. We loved the salads and martinique callaloo.

Five Points Pizza: within walking distance and well worth any wait. The garlic knots and Zeus pie were my favorites.

I Dream of Weenie: within walking distance but bring a bottle of water. Gourmet, charcoal-grilled hot dogs featuring unique toppings are served from a vintage VW bus. There’s a rotating menu and daily specials. No boring hot dogs here! FYI – I love a good hot dog. LOVE.

For breakfast, we hit up juice joints like Franklin Juice and The Urban Juicer. The morning dirt at Franklin Juice was our favorite.

We browsed a bunch of local stores and antique shops. I could have moved right in to Imogene + Willie. It’s located in an old service station and has a cool industrial vibe that’s warmed up with wood and leather accents, planked walls and a glowing red chandelier. Did you notice the paper patterns hanging from the ceiling? From afar, they looked like a giant tissue paper garland.

I had a daybed + rug moment at Rich Hippies. Have I mentioned I love getting interior inspiration from commercial spaces?

We picked up gifts for family from Moto Moda, Cadeau and Craft South. (Coincidentally, it was tax-free weekend in Tennessee.) Cadeau is where I first discovered my new favorite candle, Ash by Boy Smells. Don’t let the name fool you. It smells nothing like boy smells. Steve couldn’t care less about scented candles, but he loves this one. We also hit up Third Man Records downtown. Steve was really hoping to run in to Jack White, but we just missed him. He had been there two days earlier. We spent one evening walking around downtown, ducking in to different venues, sipping drinks and listening to live music, but we were happy to retreat to the quiet lil’ camper afterwards.

Not surprisingly, I had a hard time leaving. I knew returning to real life would be a slap in the face, but the little time we spent away from the kids was enough for a much needed reset. One thing I picked up from our short stay and started incorporating into life at home is setting the dial on our kitchen radio to a classical music station in the afternoons. When we arrived at the Shasta, the host had tuned a Tivoli radio to a classical music station. The volume was perfect. Not too loud, not too faint. We ended up leaving it on for most of our stay. It was so calming, and it has the same effect at home when the boys return from school. They’ve even been asking me to turn on “that music” from time to time when they need some downtime. I love bringing home little experiential golden nuggets like this as souvenirs from our travels.

Have you spent time away from your kids recently? Is it something you’re at ease doing or do you need a nudge (or shove) to get you out the door? When my kids were younger, I rarely traveled or spent time away from them. But now that they’re older, it’s a little easier and the more I do it the easier it gets.

P.S. – More thoughts on vacationing without kids.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking