...because home doesn't happen overnight.
08.14.14 / Driveway Update!

Do you remember our elderly, crumbling driveway? If not, let me jog your memory.

driveway before 2

The asphalt driveway had seen better days. It was cracked and unlevel and had sunk so far into the ground that the culvert near the road was essentially a speed bump. Don’t believe me?

driveway before 1

Grass was growing through the cracks. The depressions held water, gravel, dirt and mud. Some places were in such disrepair that you could lift up chunks of asphalt with your bare hands. The kids invented a “driveway puzzle” game where they would remove sections of the asphalt, jumble them up and then put them back where they belonged.

Replacing the asphalt with concrete had always been on our to-do list but it took a few years for it to reach the top of the list and for us to save money for such a big (expensive!) project. We lived with it as-is, not even bothering to make stopgap repairs. As the house’s exterior started to take shape, the driveway remained an eyesore. Steve and I would talk about how driving up to the house and pulling into the driveway should be a “Whew, I’m home!” moment but for so long it was “Ugh. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an uglier driveway.”

At one point, I was so over the crippled asphalt that I tried talking Steve into a gravel driveway. I actually like gravel driveways. But he was set on concrete (and a lot of it) and he was the one who would be maintaining it so we waited it out. Until this summer!

driveway work

Steve grappled with the idea of DIYing the driveway but he would have had to take time off work and persuade friends to help (and also take time off work). In the end, saving his vacation days and back won out.

We found a local concrete guy (well, pair of guys) through family after admiring their beautiful driveways (What? You don’t gaze longingly at driveways?) and discovering the work had been carried out by the same contractor. We had a less-than-wonderful experience with the people we hired to install the back patios and front walk about two years ago so we were adamant about finding a better contractor. And we did! Work started in early July and it took about two weeks for two guys to rip out the old asphalt driveway, prep the site and pour the new concrete driveway. They were meticulous and followed our plans to a T. Their finish work was spot on. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it is to work with people who give a rat’s ass about their work. I’d give you the play-by-play of everything that went down but I don’t think it would be as enjoyable in post form as it was in real life. (Mabrey was mesmerized by the backhoe as documented here and here.)

I will tell you how much it cost. We paid $9,300 in cash which is no drop in the bucket but was affordable based on other quotes we received. (We had two other contractors come out and quote the job, too.) We could have saved thousands by doing it ourselves but it would have been a huge project and time-eater. For this particular project, we decided the money was worth it. And after seeing the results, we have no regrets whatsoever.

Soooo, the after!

driveway after 1

So, we still need to tackle some general cleanup, sealing the concrete and reseeding the lawn but LOOK AT THE DRIVEWAY. Go ahead. Feast your eyes. Stare. It’s like concrete porn. Steve wanted a big driveway and he got a big driveway. It’s essentially a two-lane road. We let it cure for three weeks before we parked a single vehicle on it. The day Steve pulled the cars into the new driveway for the first time the kids were all, “Look! Dad’s driving on the driveway!” The first time we pulled out in the car the kids were all, “It’s so smooooooth!”

driveway after slope

No more speed bump! There’s a new culvert in there. You just can’t see it. The driveway slopes ever-so-slightly away from the garage and out to the side yard and road. We also had the contractor install and bury two new drain lines that connect to downspouts at the front and back of the house. We haven’t had a problem with water seeping into the garage before and we’d like to keep it that way. Remember, we’re a bit paranoid when it comes to water + our house.

You might notice the far end of the driveway sloping up. The backyard is higher than the front. We were stumped about how to properly end the driveway at the backyard. Originally, Steve was going to have the guys create a curb there but we weren’t sold on the idea. I thought steps would look nice but Steve nixed that idea. He has high hopes of building a man shed just beyond the driveway someday and wanted a way to drive something (I’m guessing his nonexistent, fancy riding mower??) into the shed if necessary. I suggested a graduated slope. It made sense and we didn’t think it would look awful so a slope it is.

Can I tell you how excited I am about finally having a clean way into our house?! Before, we tracked rocks, dirt and mud into the house from the driveway. Now, I’m finding less of all of that in our house…and in our car.

driveway after 5

Here’s a better picture showing the slope. See how the driveway ramps up on the left? Normally, our trash cans sit between the window and garage door. (It was trash collection day when I snapped these so the cans were out at the road.) We’re going to DIY an enclosure of some kind to hide the cans but we haven’t made it that far. Also, our Direct TV satellite used to stand off to the left (seen in the first two images of this post) but it’s not hooked up yet. I’m trying to convince Steve that we don’t need it but football season starts soon so I’m not sure it’s going to fly.

driveway after 4

The one thing we aren’t head over heels about is the step to the front walk. It slopes up to the walk instead of meeting it at a 90º angle. But that’s the fault of the previous contractor who installed the front walk. It’s too shallow. We specifically requested a deeper walk there because we knew it would have to meet the new driveway at some point but it didn’t happen. Like I mentioned, it was a less-than-wonderful experience with the first set of concrete work. We’ll probably add river rock or short stacked stone walls on either side of the transition to hold the dirt back. Any suggestions?

Some side-by-side comparisons because that’s always fun…

driveway after 2

driveway after 3

driveway garage door

Somehow the garage door looks better. We’ll replace it eventually but the driveway is a good distraction for now.

driveway after 1

Can’t you just picture the driveway cleaned & sealed, surrounded by lush grass with a tidy trash enclosure, maybe a basketball hoop (?) and a modern man shed at the back? Squint harder.

And that completes probably the longest post ever written about a driveway. If you’ve made it this far, I’d love to know all about your driveway and any suggestions you might have for the trash enclosure and / or sloped step. Steve already has his man shed all planned out so don’t worry about that ;)

Whew, I’m home!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Did you happen to see this streamlined family home in the most recent issue of Dwell magazine? The article struck a chord with me. The <700 square foot space belongs to a young family of three – soon to be four. It’s the result of a four-month-long renovation which brought more light and storage and better function and design into the apartment. The use of sliding doors, ample windows and Murphy beds go a long way in making the space feel bright and airy. The execution of a stowaway bunk bed in the children’s room is particularly captivating.


In embracing small space living, the family spent the last year and a half selling off most of their books, furniture and decorative objects.

“It really made us scrutinize what’s important and what we can do without. Rather than being a burden, that has been liberating. We don’t feel weighed down by stuff we don’t need or use.” – David Friedlander, resident

“People usually try to fit their old furnishings into a new space. We fit ourselves into the space.” – Jacqueline Schmidt, resident


In addition to being small, the apartment was also in less-than-perfect condition upon purchase. The poor condition yielded a low price tag which meant the family could afford a complete remodel and a few splurge-worthy materials like wide-planked oak floors.


The kitchen is the perfect marriage of high and low: Ikea cabinets + marble countertops and backsplash.


The bathroom boasts marble tile and a floating vanity. Natural light streams in through the shower window.


You can see more of the family home here. I find it so encouraging! It’s a wonderful example of how living with less can actually be a luxury. Even though our home is about twice the size and we’ve done a fair amount of purging already, I am motivated to edit our belongings even further. Having downsized ourselves, I have to agree: living with less is freeing on so many levels.

Have you ever been inspired to go through your closets after seeing or visiting a smaller home? What one drawer / shelf / closet / room in your home needs a good purge session right now? Our junk drawer and the boys’ closet are calling my name…

images: Matthew Williams for Dwell

08.12.14 / The Master Bathroom

When we bought our house three years ago, the plan was to scrub the original bathrooms really well and live with them for a few years before renovating them. But in the midst of demolition, we discovered black mold behind one of the bathroom walls when we demo’d a shared kitchen wall. Upon further inspection, there were cracked shower tiles in each of the bathrooms allowing water to seep into the walls. We ended up gutting both bathrooms to remedy the mold problem. We finished the master bathroom before moving in and it’s been our only functioning bathroom for the past 2+ years. Yep, all five of us use one bathroom. And I’m still alive to tell its story.

master bath before 1

master bath before 2

The original bathroom was pink and gray – complete with a matching vinyl shower curtain, window curtain and valance (!). The vanity was way too small. The fluorescent lighting had to go and the only ventilation was an open window. However, we didn’t mind the layout and the window in the shower provided a decent amount of natural light.

master bath after 1

To save time and money, we kept the original layout and toilet but all the other fixtures and finishes are new. The electric was upgraded to service a sconce above the vanity, a can light above the tub and a proper ventilation fan.

master bath after 2

The original aluminum window was replaced with a vinyl one featuring privacy glass. The glass is smooth to the touch (and easy to clean) but textured in between the double panes for privacy. I am so, so, SO happy to have a window in the shower! It’s as close as I’ll ever get to an outdoor shower in Ohio.

The original shower tile was only installed about two-thirds of the way up the wall. We chose to take the new wall tile to the ceiling to give the appearance of taller ceilings and a bigger space. We contemplated a glass door or partition on the tub / shower but the placement of the plumbing would have made entry / exit into the shower tricky. We opted for a simple floor-to-ceiling shower curtain instead and it works great.

master bath after 6

Bathrooms tend to feel very slick and sterile but I’m drawn to natural, nubby and woven textures. To achieve that tactile vibe I love, I chose tiles with interesting textures. The shower tile almost has a glittery appearance. It shimmers in the light from the window. Not to mention, the reflective surface is another way to trick the eye into seeing a brighter, larger space.

master bath after 3

The sink area of the bathroom is visible from our bed(room) so I wanted something super simple that would tie in to the bedroom and not look too utilitarian. I had my heart set on a floating vanity but Steve requested drawers for all of his beauty supplies. (He’s kinda high maintenance.) The compromise was a floating vanity boasting two deep drawers. It was the perfect solution! We have plenty of storage and I can slip the kids’ step stool underneath the vanity. The floating design makes for quick and easy floor cleaning, too.

master bath after 4

Eventually, we added a small wall cabinet to the left of the sink to house Steve’s electric razor, electric toothbrush and more of his manly toiletry surplus. (I told you he’s high maintenance.) I got tired of knocking over all the charging stations on the sink. We cut a hole in the side of the wall cabinet to gain access to an outlet so Steve can charge his grooming tools sight unseen and no one’s the wiser. THIS IS HOW YOU STAY MARRIED, PEOPLE. You won’t read about this in any of those self-help marriage books. Good communication? Showing appreciation? Healthy sex life? Yeah, those are all noteworthy and all but, I’m telling you, hidden charging stations are where it’s at! And they lived happily ever after…

For warmth, I hung a round teak mirror above the sink. I didn’t seal it or anything and it looks as good as new. Teak has a good reputation in wet conditions so it’s kinda perfect for a bathroom.

master bath after 5

The original floor tile tested positive for trace amounts of asbestos but there was no way we were keeping it. Now the proper way to remove asbestos tile (at least in the great state of Ohio) is to hire a certified abatement contractor for anything >50 square feet. (This one bathroom contained less than that but we were dealing with two bathrooms which put us over by ~20 square feet.) But that is expensive and Steve will try anything at least once. So he removed the asbestos tile himself using a wetting method along with full-body coverup gear and a respirator. I was pregnant at the time so the kids and I steered clear of the house during and for some time after removal. Steve did dispose of the tile in a landfill that accepts asbestos. In sharing this, I’m NOT saying you should attempt this yourself. I’m just being honest about what we did. You should probably follow your state’s regulations, m’kay? M’kay. Now that that’s settled…

The new floor features (asbestos-free!) penny rounds and they lend yet another texture to the bathroom. It reminds me of reptilian scales and, after we first installed it, I wanted to rub myself all over it. We chose a sandy, dirt-colored grout that has held up well over the past two years. A woven trash can disguises ugly water lines. The basket on top of the toilet tank holds toilet paper. We couldn’t decide on a good place to hang a toilet paper holder (I vetoed the side of the vanity because I didn’t want to see toilet paper from the bed) so we threw a few rolls in the basket temporarily and, well, now it’s permanent.

master bath after 7

master bath after 8

master bath after 10

master bath after 9

master bath after 12

master bath after 11

I don’t think either of us expected to live with only one bathroom for this long. (We’re slowly plugging away in the other bathroom as I type.) But if we must share a bathroom, I’m happy it’s this one. On any given night, you can find all five of us squeezed in here getting ready for the kids’ bedtime. It works but, man, I am totally looking forward to having a second bathroom. It’s going to be a game changer. No more difficult questions about what happened to my penis!

Resources of note:

wall & trim paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
floor tile – penny round moss from The Tile Shop
shower tile – capua blanco from The Tile Shop
tub, drain, shower fixtures – Kohler archer
shower curtain – 96″ seersucker curtain from Amazon, discontinued
double hook shower curtain rings – Amazon
shower curtain liner – Amazon
toilet – reused, Kohler
wall sconce – Barn Light Electric
mirror – Home Emporium
vanity – Ikea GODMORGON, high gloss gray
sink – Ikea ODENSVIK
faucet – Ikea DALSKÄR
soap dispenser – Target
wall cabinet – Ikea, painted white
towel holder & hooks – Lowe’s
trash can – Target
wall urchins – Target (I spray painted them gold because that’s what I do.)
hand towel – West Elm
peshtemal towels – etsy

Curious about the evolution of this bathroom? Here are a bunch of bathroom-related links:

























You can now access this master bathroom tour (along with a general house tour and individual room tours) under the “See My House” tab in the side bar. I will be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Congrats to Brenda who likes to shred then freeze her zucchini surplus in 2-cup increments. So clever!

zucchini pie 1

My dad gave me four 5+ lb. zucchini from his garden last week. They were HUGE. (I’ve shown a 12″ ruler for scale.) We like zucchini and all but, seriously, what does one do with >20 lbs. of it?! I did the only logical thing I could think of. I called my grandma. She has a killer recipe for zucchini pie and it tastes just like apple pie, if not better. In fact, the first time she serves it to you, she tells you it’s apple pie. Only after you scarf it down and go on and on about how good it is does she reveal the secret ingredient – zucchini! Keep reading for the recipe.

zucchini pie 2

I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT APPLE PIE! (a.k.a. ZUCCHINI PIE …but don’t tell anyone that part)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

4 c. peeled, deseeded, sliced zucchini (sliced smaller than shown above…that’s just a pretty picture ;) ) *For a softer filling, precook the zucchini. We like ours firm so I didn’t cook the zucchini first.*

2 T. lemon juice

dash of salt

In a large bowl, mix zucchini, lemon juice and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the following ingredients:

1½ c. sugar

1½ t. cinnamon

1½ t. cream of tartar

3 T. flour

dash of nutmeg

Mix well then pour the sugar mixture over the zucchini. Toss to coat. Pour zucchini filling into a 9″ pie crust. (My grandma says she “cheats” and uses the refrigerated Pillsbury pie crusts. So I cheated, too, because if it’s good enough for my grandma, it’s good enough for me. Also, I had TWENTY POUNDS of zucchini to peel and slice. No time for pie crust made from scratch. You will need two crusts – one for the bottom and one for the top.) Dot with butter. Cover with top crust then pinch bottom and top crust edges together. Use a fork to vent the top crust. Or knock yourself out and make an intricate lattice top crust or something equally fancy that totally intimidates me.

Bake at 400°F for 40 minutes or until golden brown. (After 15-20 minutes of bake time, cover the edges of the pie crust with foil and continue baking.) The good news is even if it tastes bad, your house is going to smell amazing. But, don’t worry, it’s going to taste so good.

zucchini pie 3

That, my friends, is the very first pie I have ever made. And it probably doesn’t even qualify because I used pre-made crusts. Whatever. My family and friends loved it.

zucchini pie 4

I served it with creamy vanilla ice cream. Obviously, this isn’t a healthy recipe. The only “good” thing in the pie is the zucchini but I’m not sure how good it is once you smother it in sugar.


Maybe you have 20 lbs. of zucchini lying around and don’t know what to do with it? Maybe you wanna trick your loved ones with a little apple zucchini pie? You’re welcome.

I ended up getting 3-4 pie fillings out of each zucchini. That’s 12-16 pies! Luckily, my grandma said I could freeze the filling. (Just be sure to blanch the zucchini before freezing.) I baked two then put the rest in the freezer. If you invite me to your house in the near future, chances are good that I will arrive at your doorstep with a zucchini pie in hand.

gowanus boards

In celebration of this monumental event (my first pie!), Gowanus Furniture Co. is graciously offering up a set of cheese boards. Gowanus Furniture Co. was founded in 2011 by an Eagle Scout who believes that “we can have well-designed, locally-made products that are a good value and will last through successive moves to new homes.” Based in Brooklyn, the company is especially focused on small space living and produces sink-top and stovetop cutting boards to take advantage of unused space. The boards can also be hung on the wall with included hardware. But the boards aren’t just useful. There’s a sense of humor behind certain pieces and morse code monograms are always an option. Personally, I have a fondness for things with a hidden sense of humor…my grandma’s I Can’t Believe It’s Not Apple Pie recipe being one of them.

Feeling lucky? See entry details below.

PRIZE: one president long cheese board + one grilled cheese cutting board ($92 retail value)

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

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “HUMOR ME!”

DEADLINE: Enter before Sunday, August 17th at 9:00 p.m. EST. One random winner will be announced Monday, August 18th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: Use the discount code “housetweaking14″ to score 10% off Gowanus Furniture Co. purchases throughout the month of August.

This post is NOT sponsored. I support quality small businesses and encourage you to do the same. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking