...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I so appreciate everyone’s support and concern for our family on yesterday’s post. Your advice and willingness to help out financially have blown me away. I was not expecting that at all. At this time, we do not know exactly how much we will owe for Everett’s medical treatment. Things are in limbo and I imagine they will be for some time. I am optimistic that we’ll get them straightened out. In the meantime, it would make us happiest if you invested in quality helmets for yourselves and loved ones – and used and cared for them properly!

AI cards 1

Fact: I am not a big fan of store-bought greeting cards.

To me, they are impersonal, expensive, wasteful and usually tacky. In college, my roommate and I used the same greeting card over and over again, writing new messages in it to each other and exchanging it on our birthdays every year. It was such a fun (and cheap!) tradition. By graduation, there was no blank space left.

When I met Steve in college, I quickly learned that he had a knack for buying cheesy 99¢ greeting cards and crossing out or adding a word (bubble) or three to transform the generic message into something witty and hilarious. His cards always made me laugh.

AI cards 2

These days the kids make the majority of the cards we hand out. I keep a stash of blank cards on hand for unanticipated life events or quick, friendly notes. A current photo and a few handwritten lines can mean so much. And, at the moment, I have a slew of thank-you’s to write.

AI cards 4

That’s why I was happy to see Artifact Uprising‘s new everyday photo cards. The blank cards can be customized with a personal photo on the front, making them perfect for all occasions no matter how big or small. (The 5″ x 5″ size is perfect for all those instagram photos stuck on your phone!) As always, the company stands behind its mission to create tangible beauty via environmentally-friendly means. The cards are printed on sustainable, FSC certified papers.

AI cards 3

Today Artifact Uprising is graciously offering up a pack of 20 everyday photo cards to one lucky reader. The winner chooses the size(s). Mixing and matching is okay! Enter via the form below through Tuesday, May 5th. Good luck!

*This post is NOT sponsored. I just love sharing good finds and this is my meager attempt to thank you once again. Plus, the mini photo shoot and lighter subject material felt like a good way to ease back into things.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

exterior spring 2014

We’ve touched nearly every inch of this house and the biggest projects are behind us. Still, there are several projects left on our to-do list. Here they are in no particular order:

THD attic

*spruce up the hallway. I’ve always wanted this hallway to be more than just a pass-through. It’s narrow and riddled with doors, but I have a few ideas.

*create an interactive side panel on the exposed side of the refrigerator. I don’t know if we have enough room to do this, but it would be great to disguise the side of the fridge in a useful way.

*create a wrapping station. I keep a few boxes and rolls of paper in a cabinet at the kitchen desk but it would be nice to have a designated area for quick wrapping sessions.

toddler transition 2

*transition the nursery to a big kid room. I’m in no rush to do this, but eventually I will need to reassess our needs in Mabrey’s room. A trundle for extra sleeping space is a must.

*replace the mailbox. The door doesn’t shut properly and the post has seen better days. I’ve had my eye on these midcentury-inspired ones ever since they were in the Kickstarter phase.

*install a discreet clothesline. I love hanging clothes and linens outside to dry but I need more space! Currently, I have a single drying rack and that just isn’t cutting it.

*organize the garage. It’s a mess from standing in as our workshop over the last 3 years.

*build a screen / vertical garden to hide the electric meter on the back of the house. I’ve been wanting an excuse to try these.

*build a screen to hide the outdoor trash / recycling bins. We like the look of this one.

dining patio

*install a trio of overlapping shade sails to shade the backyard deck and patios. We had a local company come out last summer to give us an estimate for this project. The quote was more than we were willing to spend. We think we’ll do some of the work ourselves to save money. We like the vibe of this outdoor space.

*plant a tree in the front yard. To make up for all the dead ones we removed.

*build a raised bed garden or two. Alison is my green thumb hero.

*incorporate a rain barrel. And use it.

*start composting. This tutorial for a tumbling composter doesn’t look too terribly difficult. Any tips for someone new to composting?

driveway after 1

This is a random pipe dream and one that might not ever make it to fruition just because we aren’t sold on it. It isn’t entirely necessary and we aren’t sure it’s worth investing in for this property but…

*build a sizable outbuilding at the end of the driveway and convert the attached garage to a flex / rec room. Like I said, pipe dream. We may decide to save our time and money for something else that makes more sense for our family.

That’s all I can think of at the moment! We don’t have deadlines for any these (some of them won’t happen this year) but it would be nice to tackle some of the outdoor projects this spring / summer while the weather is nice. If not, we have to wait a whole ‘nother year. We’d love to knock out the shade sails so we can enjoy them. And it would be nice to park at least one car in the garage. I’ll keep you posted.

What projects are on your never-ending to-do list?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

hidden litter box 8

Before we get into this hidden litter box business, can we talk about how “helpful” toddlers are? Mabrey is a BIG “helper.” If you had / have / know a toddler, you know what I mean. In their lil’ minds they are busy doing something important (like washing dishes, dusting, cooking, mopping, vacuuming, feeding the family pet, etc.) but in reality they are making an even bigger mess.

After Mabrey washes dishes, the dishes are still dirty and everything in sight is soaked. When Mabrey dusts, one square foot area is dripping wet and she’s still spraying it because (to her) it’s just not wet enough. When Mabrey cooks, she uses all of the things: pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, toothbrush (?!), measuring cups, Hot Wheels (?), bowls, whisk, baster, timer. All of the things. When Mabrey vacuums, everything is fair game: her braid, Legos, Cheetah’s tail, shoelaces, jewelry, rocks, Hot Wheels, crayons. Don’t want to pick it up? Sweep it up! When Mabrey feeds Cheetah, there’s no telling how much food she’ll put out or where the food will be. Two days’ worth of food in the water bowl? Two pellets in the food bowl strategically placed in the dollhouse? A perfect scoopful in the litter box? Yeesh.

Of course, after I clean up her helping messes and relay the day’s events to Steve in the evening, it’s comical. Sweet even. So she keeps “helping” and I keep reminding myself that she’ll want nothing to do with helping in a few short years.

But when it came to the litter box, something had to be done. Every time I turned around Mabrey was trying to clean it or throwing random stuff in it. Originally, I placed the litter box on the floor next to the dryer but that spot was a little too accessible for a two-year-old. I googled a bunch of hidden litter box ideas but it seemed like everything I found required a new, separate piece of furniture: a solid bench, an end table, a freestanding wood box, etc. I really wanted to keep the litter box in the mudroom and I wasn’t willing to give up precious real estate for another furniture item no matter how small.

So I started looking around at what we already had. That’s when the a-ha! moment struck.

PAX wardrobe + cat door = hidden litter box. Boom. Done.

We purchased a cat door for big cats (the vet guesses Cheetah is at least part Maine Coon which means we could end up with a pretty large cat when she’s full grown) that would accommodate the thin side panel of the PAX. If you’re curious, it’s this one. It doesn’t have the best reviews but it looks like they mostly pertain to indoor-outdoor use on an exterior door. Since we were going to be installing the door inside, we weren’t too concerned with the actual door function. We simply needed the large opening and the ability to install it into a thin panel.

hidden litter box before 2

hidden litter box 2

We removed the PAX doors and all contents (cat paraphernalia, sewing machine, sewing basket) from the bottom shelf. Using the included template, we cut a hole in the side of the PAX where Cheetah would be able to access it when the wood bench was in place (see first image of this post).

hidden litter box 3

Installing the door wasn’t difficult but it did require an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while another person screwed everything together. Because we installed the door on a thin panel (as opposed to an actual door) we did have to trim the screws to get a perfect fit. Again, not difficult but an added step.

hidden litter box 4

I made the executive decision to install the door with the red locks facing the interior of the wardrobe. I didn’t want them visible from the exterior. (The 4-way locks allow access only in / only out / both in & out / both locked.) We could have done away with the flap door all together and just used the opening, but we decided to keep the door in case we ever need to put Cheetah up for some reason. That way, she still has access to the litter box.

We taped the door to hold it in the up position. We want Cheetah to get acquainted with the new location of her litter box before we introduce the door. I lined the bottom of the wardrobe with two Flor squares leftover from the boys’ room. I had to trim one for a perfect fit. I plan on hosing them off outside when necessary, probably each month when I empty and clean the litter box. A rubber mat, a scoop and the litter box sit on top of the rug squares.

PAX_wardrobe_with_cat_door_litter_box

To accommodate the litter box, I raised the lowest shelf and reorganized all of the shelves. I moved my sewing machine and sewing basket to a different closet but, eventually, they will end up in the studio along with most of the other items in this wardrobe. The dark brown woven basket on the shelf above the litter box holds cat food, overstock litter, cat nail clippers and Cheetah’s brush. So I guess this is the cat closet now? Never thought I’d be typing that.

hidden litter box 5

hidden litter box 7

I like that the cat door is easily accessible for Cheetah but completely inconspicuous. Mabrey’s interest in the litter box has waned. For now. The other great thing about this setup is that the litter is better contained. I’m not finding as many stray bits as I was when the litter box was on the floor next to the dryer. I also have my rolling cart back next to the dryer which is another plus.

hidden litter box 6

Luckily, Cheetah has adjusted to the change swimmingly. She took to it right away and hasn’t missed a beat. I actually think she prefers this setup over the previous one. It’s her contained space away from toddler “help.”

hidden litter box 1

After we installed the door and put everything back together, I got to thinking that if someone really wanted to they could totally go wild with a DIY cat house design that takes up the entire PAX. THE ULTIMATE IKEA CAT HOUSE HACK! You know, cutting holes in shelves, adding scratching / climbing posts to allow access to vertical space, etc. It was just a thought. I’m not THAT crazy ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking