...because home doesn't happen overnight.

play kitchen after 2

Santa gifted Mabrey this play kitchen last year. I didn’t find it obnoxious for a toy. But Mabrey kept asking, “When are you going to paint my kitchen?” Girl catches on quickly. Store bought items rarely stay the way I find them.

play kitchen before 1

In an effort to tidy up the side of the fridge, I decided to tweak the play kitchen with paint. And by paint, I mean paint, backsplash, new hardware, open shelving and an oven light. I may have taken things too far. Oops.

play kitchen before 2

The before. Again, it wasn’t obnoxious but there was room for improvement.

play kitchen steps 1

1 – The first thing I did was remove the chunky handles and patch the holes with wood putty.

2 – After a few applications of putty, I lightly sanded the patches and surfaces to be painted – just enough to scuff them up a bit.

3 – I taped off the oven window, control knobs and countertop.

4 – I gave the kitchen two coats of Sherwin-Williams coastal plain in a satin finish. (Btw, did you know you can purchase Sherwin-Williams paint at Lowe’s now? So convenient!)

play kitchen steps 2

5 – I bought two sheets of Smart Tiles subway tile in white. I had been eyeing them for a while but many sellers only sold them in packs of six and I didn’t need that much. When I saw them on sale at Wayfair for $5.99 per sheet and sold individually, I bit.

6 – The sheets are self-adhering vinyl with an easy peel-and-stick installation. The tiles are staggered on the edges for an overlapping seam.

7 – When positioned properly, the seam is barely noticeable. Lining up the grout lines carefully is key. I had to readjust the second sheet a few times to get a perfect fit. I don’t know that I would ever use these in a real kitchen (maybe a rental?) but they’re perfect for this application.

8 – I cut away the excess tile with utility scissors.

play kitchen steps 3

9 – I cleaned up the edges with a utility knife. I cut from the backside of the kitchen and pressed a board against the front side of the backsplash for more control. I ended up painting the top of the wood backsplash white for an even cleaner look.

10 – I used scraps cut from the first sheet to fill in small portions of tile on the second sheet. I had just enough tile!

11 – I added new handles. Because the play kitchen’s cabinet doors aren’t a standard thickness, the included screws were too long. I had to rummage around in the garage to find a few random ones that would work.

12 – (This is where Steve says I went overboard.) I cut a piece of lumber (thrifted from our garage) to fit the width of the backsplash. I sanded it smooth by hand and added a quick coat of wood conditioner.

play kitchen steps 4

13 – I applied two coats of wood stain. (It’s Minwax special walnut, my favorite.)

14 – I secured the shelf with two wood screws, using the original screw holes (from the original shelf) as my pilot holes. It’s super sturdy.

15 – I spray painted the faucet flat black to tie in with the new hardware. (Don’t think I didn’t consider adding a small bathroom faucet, but that really would have been too much. Ha!)

16 – The finished product!

play kitchen oven light

For fun, I added a battery-powered LED tap light in the “oven.” Mabrey LOVES this new feature.

play kitchen after 5

play kitchen after 4

play kitchen after 3

Just this morning she made me a broccoli cake ;) She couldn’t care less about the gray-green / subway tile / reclaimed wood / matte black hardware mix, but I’m all over it. One in my size, please?

play kitchen basket 1

Mabrey has a basket of play kitchen accessories. I keep it on a low shelf in the living room when she isn’t playing chef. She likes to carry it over to her kitchen when she’s playing. The red stool stands in as extra countertop space.

play kitchen basket 2

She was gifted this toaster, this coffee maker and a slew of faux food including some felt items from etsy. So cute!

play kitchen after 6

When I was tweaking the play kitchen, I couldn’t help wondering if there was a market for unfinished playthings that consumers could put their own spin on. Someone should do that. I think it’s so nice when toys (especially larger ones out in the open) meld with a home’s decor. I’m more likely to leave it out which means it’s more likely to be played with which is the whole point anyway, right? Or, I might be cray-cray.

At any rate, it was a fun little project and Mabrey seems to enjoy it. Now to tackle that messy fridge!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

riviera maya

Last winter when it was -20°F and we were suffering from cabin fever, Steve and I booked a trip to Mexico. Sans kids. I had mixed feelings. I was excited to have something (warm!) to look forward to, but I couldn’t help feeling a little anxious about how it was all going to play out. Disrupting a family’s routine is no joke. Who will watch the kids? Who will get the boys on and off the bus? Who will supervise homework? Who will feed and check in on Cheetah? Who will make sure Mabrey gets to gymnastics and Everett gets to his tennis lesson? And, crap!, I need a passport! The logistics alone had my mind reeling.

Everett’s accident happened a few weeks before we were scheduled fly out. That only compounded my anxiety. How could I possibly leave my kids after something like that? The timing was all wrong. But Steve was quick to point out that Everett was fine. His wounds were healing and he would be back to school. Plus, the vacation was already paid in full, non-refundable. My bonus mom was practically shooing me off to Mexico, stepping in to take care of the kids. “Go! Have fun!”

The day before we left was insane. It was almost enough to make me want to call off the entire thing. Typed schedules, lists, laundry, packed bags and backpacks, a birthday present for Layne’s best friend, drop-offs, goodbyes, lots of hugs and “Oh! One more thing…” And that was before I even started packing for myself.

riviera maya

But you know what? It was all worth it. In fact, it turns out the timing was perfect. It was just what we needed, although it took me a day or two to completely relax. At home, I don’t sit down until after the kids are in bed for the night. Lounging doesn’t come naturally. But by the end of the week I had it mastered. (Piña coladas helped.) And guess what? The kids were fine. They even missed me which doesn’t happen all that often since I quit my day job.

For so long, I’ve felt that vacations without kids aren’t worth the hassle / chaotic preparation / expense. I’ve even considered them a sign of weakness. Shame on me! I’m slowly realizing that’s just the mom guilt talking. It’s okay necessary to take a break – whether it’s an hour or a week. Sometimes I need to step out of my everyday roles as chauffeur, parent, booger wiper, toilet cleaner, etc. to be just me with the guy I married. I don’t want to be one of those couples who don’t know each other when their nest empties. So I’ve started thinking of these chunks of time alone as investments. They’re investments in our sanity, our relationship, our family, our future. And we’re vowing to make them happen more often. Looking at things from this perspective really diminishes the guilt for me.

riviera maya

What about you? How do you view adults-only vacations? Luxuries? Necessities? Investments? Do you vacation without kids?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

05.06.15 / Studio News!

For a reason that I have yet to figure out, the studio of my dreams wasn’t meant to be. To make a long, drawn out story short, the current tenants decided to keep the 350 square feet of dreamy light which was a shock to the landlord and, of course, me. “I wouldn’t have shown you the space had I known they were going to keep it beyond the first month,” the landlord told me. Current tenants get first dibs.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Not willing to let go of the space so easily, I approached the current tenants (who have been holding on to the space – empty and unused – for 3 months) to plead my case in the kindest, most I-don’t-want-to-step-on-anyone’s-toes sort of way. They were super nice but it was a no-go. The tenants rent a much larger space in the same building and aren’t exactly sure what they will do with the smaller space. Office? Conference room? Storage? And so it sits – empty and unused – which is probably the hardest part of the whole thing for me. To know that corner room on the second floor with its easy access, modest size and amazing windows isn’t being put to use kills me.

News of the studio being a no-go came just before Everett’s accident. After the accident, my priorities shifted. I tried not to think about the space, but it was still on my mind a lot. I felt guilty for thinking about a studio while Everett healed but, eventually, I realized this was something I really wanted. Taking a cue from strong Everett, I picked myself up out of the stupid hole of self pity I had dug and started looking for another space.

I encountered the same problems I had when I first started looking: too expensive, too dark, no creative freedom. Last week I finally secured a new space on the same property (different building) as the dream space. It isn’t perfect. It’s dirty, gritty, rough, raw. At 1,000 square feet, it’s much larger than I need. The landlord felt so badly about the first space falling through that she was willing to come down quite a bit on rent which put it in my price range. I decided to take it and make it work.

studio 2

studio 3

The room does have some great attributes. The ceilings are crazy high. I haven’t measured them but they’re at least 20′. Two 2-story windows face west and let in a good amount of natural light. Access to the room is via a loading dock which means I can easily pull my car up to the room’s double doors and unload materials for projects. (This also means it isn’t all that great for public access. Having visitors enter through a loading dock is a little scary.) There’s plenty of room to spread out and have several projects going at once. At first, I was put off by all the space but now I think it will be nice for the kids to have room to play while I work. And there is a good amount of empty wall space to serve as photo backdrops.

studio 1

The room was a dance studio (with an interesting paint scheme) in a previous life. Although, the tenants were evicted because they did more partying than dancing. As a result, the room needs drywall work (partying + dancing = holes in the walls) and a thorough cleaning. I keep reminding myself that nothing in life worth doing is easy. Drywall work started over the weekend and things should wrap up today or tomorrow. Then it’s onto cleaning and painting. I’m hoping to have the shell of the room finished by June 1st. I’ll be sharing progress in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

Even though it isn’t the studio of my dreams, I’m really excited to make it my own and to have a place outside of the house to be creative and make messes. It’s The Underdog in studio form!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking