September 21, 2015

Our Old House: A Home-Improvement Series for the DIY-Distressed

Hello, mama! Have you seen those blogs with stunning pictures of home makeovers and craft projects so brilliant you hit the pin button the minute you lay eyes on them? This is not that blog. But I've decided to do a DIY series anyway, because one of my heart's desires is to encourage other moms by being honest about my, er, "areas of lesser giftedness." What's that? You don't care what color we painted the walls...you just want some chocolate? Done. I promise I'll tack a recipe (or at least a link to one) onto every post in the series.

How We Turned a Playroom into a Hangout Lounge
Plus: Chocolate & More Chocolate S'mores Cookies* 

Our Michigan farmhouse has a Michigan basement--which is code for "a great place to hunker down in the event of a tornado but not somewhere you want to spend time otherwise."

In lieu of a subterranean lounge space, my girls have what on "House Hunters" would be called a "bonus room." (Which is code for "we can ask more money for this house.") It's attached to my older daughter's bedroom, and we used to refer to it as "the playroom" in the days when my girls had playdates. 

Now that my tween and teen daughters "hang out" rather than play, the playroom has become (wait for it) the hangout room.

Here are the tools and techniques we used to morph this room into a space "on fleek**" enough that my daughters will deign to take their friends there. 

1. This is no place for beige. The neutral eggshell/cream/ivory/ecru paint that came with the house in this room was so out, I can't even talk about it. Limey green is in, with orange and purple accents. Honestly, I love these colors and am thrilled I've got a room to use them in and interior-design clients who want me to do it. 

2. An attention-grabbing wall. It looks like all the other walls in the room, but it's actually a giant magnetic field! We painted one of the shorter walls with magnetic primer before slapping on the
lime topcoat. The girls hang pictures from magnetic clips and spell out
messages using a magnetic letter set and generally impress their guests with the fact that stuff apparently sticks to this wall of its own free will. We could have painted over this magic primer with chalkboard paint for a one-two magnetic chalkboard punch, but our walls are plastered and textured...too rough for writing. 

I. Love. This. Wall. But if we were doing it again, I'd only give part of it the powers of attraction. This primer is not cheap, and you really need several thin coats for optimum stick-to-it-ness. Maybe I'll add a redo to my ongoing list of "Things I Might Do When My Girls Are Out On Their Own." Or not. I never did get around to doing even half of the items on my list of "Things I Might Do When the Girls Are in School Full-Time." 

3. Fun and functional seating. Specifically: butterfly chair + inflatable chair + futon. I know futons get a bad rap, but ours works perfectly in this space. It's casual but sturdy, and it quickly converts to a place to sleep when the hang-out room gets used for slumber parties. (Can I still call them that?) If you're thinking of getting one, make sure the mattress is at least five inches deep and decent, not some foam wafer (which is why futons have gotten that bad rap, I think).

4. Creative and cooperative photo displays. If you're a returning visitor to this blog (thank you! bless you!), you might be having a moment of confusion and, possibly, panic. Is that a CRAFT? Is that from PINTEREST? What is going ON here? Fear not, cherished reader. Yes, it is both...but my daughters did it. (See "The Fruits of Your Labors" in "7 Reasons I Love Being the Mom of a Teenager.") All I did was screw in the hooks at either end of each strand of coated poly-something twine. Here's a tip about those screws I learned from my dad: don't get out the drill for something like this. Just find a nail slightly smaller in circumference than the screw you're using, and pound it in a little ways to make your starter hole. Then twist in your screw manually. Voila! No power tool needed. (Now, I know all you DIY-divas out there are probably saying, "Um, hello?! I keep my rechargable screw driver in my back pocket at all times for this kind of thing." Or, "Um, hello?! I learned this tip at the home-improvement station in kindergarten!" Please see "DIY Distressed" in the title of this series.) The girls found adorable jumbo clothespins at the craft store, and the whole set-up is charming and easy to change out. As a bonus, it cost about $5 total in supplies.

5. A nod to the past. My husband's parent got this clock for our oldest daughter when she was just a baby. They brought it back from Italy, having purchased it for their beloved first-and-only (at the time) grandchild from an Italian clockmaker. It is from the playroom days, but it fits the color scheme and the space and has sentimental value, so it stays. If my girls ever mention its removal, I tell them it's "quirky" and to embrace the nostalgia.

6. Snacks. Eventually, everything comes back to food in this house. But in the play-to-hangout-room transition, these, too, have matured. Goodbye, Goldfish crackers. Hello, Chocolate & More Chocolate S'mores Cookies.*

Other hang-out must-haves we threw in the room include a colorful five-head lamp, the requisite TV/DVD combo, a giant hand-me-down dresser with tons of storage, and my personal fave: this trash can. $6 at Big Lots, and it completely echoes the color scheme. 

All of this comes together to accomplish my real goal: to create a place right here in our house where my girls want to hang out. Because I like having them home with me. And also because if there's a tornado, we've got the perfect basement to go to.

*Chocolate & More Chocolate S'mores Cookies (Yup, you can print this.)

Heads up, mama! This dough needs to chill at least an hour, so plan ahead. Yes, I know that's a pain. But it will be worth it. Also worth it: getting ahold of some parchment paper to line your cookie sheets. I've even found this at the dollar store, although cheap parchment tends to be a one-and-done deal, whereas I've reused better stuff many times over.
1 box chocolate cake mix (with the incredible shrinking cake-mix "thing" I've found at my grocery store, the mix I used was about 15 ounces...if you like a soft cookie, use one with pudding in the mix)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup oil (be generous here if your cake mix is more than 15 ounces)
2 eggs
9-12 large marshmallows
3 whole sheets graham crackers

1. Cut marshmallows in half width-wise. Put them in the freezer until further notice.

2. Combine the cake mix and the chocolate chips.

3. In a small bowl or 1-cup glass measure, whisk together the oil and eggs.

4. Dump the oil/egg mixture on top of the cake mix and stir just until you don't see any more dry cake mix.

5. Cover and chill at least an hour or up to several hours. Did you cut and freeze your marshmallows? If not, do it now.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie sheets with parchment as advised above. Or, if absolutely necessary, butter them like crazy or spray very generously with nonstick cooking spray.

7. Put the graham cracker sheets in a small plastic storage bag and take out any frustrations you've got by banging them into very fine crumbs. Dump the crumbs into a small bowl.

8. Scoop out two-tablespoons globs of dough and line them up on your cookie sheet, 9 to a sheet. (Only prep and bake one sheet at a time.) When you've got your globs all lined up, get your marshmallows out of the freezer. Press and flatten out a dough glob a little, put a marshmallow half in the center, then form the dough around the marshmallow, encasing it completely. Use a little extra dough if you need it...you want your marshmallow all tucked in. Repeat with the remaining dough blobs you've already portioned out. Return remaining marshmallows to freezer and dough to refrigerator.

9. Roll and coat each marshmallow/cookie dough package in graham cracker crumbs...don't be skimpy here. If you run out of crumbs, beat up some more.

10. Place marshmallow/cookie dough/graham cracker packages on the lined/greased/sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 6-9 minutes, or just until puffed and slightly cracked.

 11. Cool on cookie sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes before using a spatula to remove cookies to the rack to cool completely. Or to a plate to eat immediately.

12. Makes 16-24 cookies, depending on various factors...whether you're pro- or anti-raw cookie dough, how big your "2 tablespoon" blobs are, that sort of thing. Store airtight if storage is something you actually end up eating.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
**Not familiar with this newish entry into the tween/teen lexicon? See "8 Things Moms of Young Daughters Have to Look Forward To (Really)," point #2.

Other posts that would have been in this series except that I put them up before I started the series: 


What inspired idea do you have to make this hangout room even better? 
Tell me about it...but please do keep in mind that #idkhowtodiy.

33 comments:

  1. Wow, this post has everything! Seriously! I have tween boys, and I really should be converting their play room into a hangout room. (In fact, I mentioned that to my hubby just a couple of months ago, though that hasn't made the old to do list yet.) Thanks for the great tips!

    And the chocolate...oh my. These look like the perfect cookies to hide in the closet and scarf down. ;)

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    1. Heehee, Jamie. Are YOU hiding in the closet, or are you hiding the cookies there? :) Or both? Thanks so much for your kind words on my DIY "tips." At least you know that if you give them a try, they'll be easy because if I can make them work, ANYONE can make them work. Keep me posted on your boys' playroom-cum-hangout!

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  2. I love your basement, It is so bright, cheery and full of color!.. I'm trying not to look at those cookies though.. my weakness.

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  3. BTW, smart thinking to have the girls hang out with their friends at your house. I also have 2 teen girls and I always tell them to bring their friends over instead of them hanging out outside god knows where. (Smart mama!!)

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    1. Love it, Mary! I think we can agree that we are BOTH smart mamas! ;) Thanks for stopping by...it's always so nice to hear from a fellow mom of teens...and a fellow mom of teen girls at that!

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  4. One word...YUM! Those look delicious. Perfect cookies to bake on a crisp autumnal day ;)

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    1. Thanks, Alexis! I love your reply because: 1)you took time to stop by and leave one; 2)you said nice things; 3)you used the word "autumnal." :) Thank you for all!

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  5. Yum on the cookies! I love s'more and cookies so having them together is perfect. And I love the revamped basement. Looks like a place I'd hang out too :)

    liz jo @ sundays with sophie

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    1. I hope you get to make and enjoy the cookies soon, Liz Jo! Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and for your kind comments!

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  6. What a fun room, and I really like the colors. Of course, the cookies look great too!

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    1. Thank you, Dee! We couldn't use those color just anywhere in the house, so I'm glad they found a home! ;) Thanks for taking time to stop by!

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  7. What a great idea! And I love the magnetic wall, I think that would be fun to try in a kitchen. I also totally identify with the distressed diy, I love doing crafts and so on, but my inspiration is a little slow in coming. This morning I got excited because I "decorated" for fall by getting a few small squash and gourds from the farmers market!

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    1. Yes! A magnetic wall would be perfect in a kitchen, Hannah! Maybe I'll have to put that idea on my list of "House Projects to 'Do' in Rooms We 'Did' When We First Moved In that Now Need to be 'Redone' Except that We're Still Trying to 'Do' All the Rooms We Never 'Did' In the First Place." Will have to come up with a short name for that list, however. Your fall decorating sounds PERFECT...just my speed! :) Thanks for taking time to stop by! P.S. I'm not trying to rush through September, but I can't wait to share Eric Whitacre's "October" on the first day of next month! ;)

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  8. Can I come over to the hangout room, have your girls school me in teen/tween lingo, and eat your yummy baked goods? That's the sort of DIY I could really get behind. :)

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    1. Absolutely. When can you be here? I'll make a triple batch of cookies. The girls will do up an adolescent-vocab PowerPoint you can save until your kids get a little older. (In case you're wondering: "on fleek" apparently does not lend itself to superlatives. Or at least I got the tween eye-roll treatment when I tried say that something was "on fleekiest." P.S. How's your painting coming? Are you still DIY-despairing? ;)

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  9. "On fleekiest"--I love it! And thanks for asking about the DIY despair at our end--the once-red, now-lavender bedroom is finally finished, five coats later, and looks great, though I have somewhat lost momentum to tackle the next room (our dining room whose current shade could either be called "Granny Smith" or "Skittle Green," depending on how charitable one was feeling). I have set a built-in Thanksgiving deadline for myself to get it done, so we'll see how that all goes...

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    1. I will be waiting on an update whilst I frantically clean this house in preparation for hosting my in-laws for Thanksgiving. P.S. Do you think we might have been twins separated at birth? Because my husband's and my first bedroom was also originally a lavender-ish hue. It WAS our newlywed boudoir, but it looked more like a bordello. We painted it ivory...but your hard-won red sounds much more interesting--in the best possible way. Do keep me posted on how your Thanksgiving deadline works out! ;)

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  10. I love the green color on the walls! I would have enjoyed this space when I was a teen (for that matter, I think I'd still like it as an adult).
    Also, the cookies sound yummy (s'mores are one of my favorite treats). Any recipe that uses the term "globs of dough" is one I have to try. ;-)

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    1. Aw, thanks, Shannon! It's always nice to meet a fellow s'more lover! I've just been visiting your blog--again, having been there recently to find your stovetop lasagna recipe. Now I'm off to FB to send you some like-love, and gladly! Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  11. "This is no place for beige." lol - truly! That made me giggle.

    I love the way everything turned out... and those cookies look and sound DIVINE!

    Thanks for sharing all this goodness!
    xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I'm glad my woefully limited DIY advice could at least provide a laugh! ;) I'm better with cookie dough than paint. Which, on a day-to-day basis, ends up being a pretty good trade. Thanks for stopping by AND for so graciously hosting the SHINE Blog Hop!

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  12. I only just made a play area, never thought of making it into a hang out area when they get older. How fun!

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    1. Well, it sounds like you have lots of time before you have to think about that conversion! Enjoy your little one(s) while they are at the age of playing--and know that you have much to look forward to even when they grow into the "hanging out" stage! :) Than you for taking time to stop by and to comment!

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  13. Yum! We love cake mix cookies, I never thought to do a s'mores version! What a great idea!

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    1. Thanks, Carlee. These ARE rather addictive! ;) I've got to make another batch this week because when I mentioned them to one of my daughter's marching band's drum line staff guys, he said, "Yes, yes, yes!" Those guys work like crazy all year-round, so I figure baking him these cookies is the least I can do! Thanks for taking time to stop by!

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  14. I love all the bright colors! Definitely bright and cherry... not like a hurricane bunker at all! Thanks for linking up over at the Welcome Home Wednesday Link Party! Can't wait to see what you link up with us this week... hope to see you at the party tomorrow!

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    1. Thank you, oh talented Betsy! And I have JUST been to this week's Welcome Home Wednesday party...thank you as always for being such a gracious and encouraging hostess!

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  15. Oh Elizabeth, you are killing me! These are the most perfect looking S'mores cookies I've ever seen! Thanks for sharing at You Link It, We Make It and we hope to see you back this week! Pinning!

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    1. Heehee...instead of killing you with kindness, I'm killing you with cookies? ;) That's better anyway, I think. Or at least I'm better AT it. Thank you so much for hosting You Link It, We Make It. I love it! :)

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  16. Elizabeth, my kids are going to FLIP over this recipe. We love s'mores so much that I once did a giant round-up of all different varieties of s'mores! I'll be pinning this! Thanks so much for sharing it at You Link It, We Make it!

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    1. PS: I love the new hangout room, especially your picture wall! So colorful and fun!

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    2. Haha, Kim...my girls get pretty excited about these cookies themselves! I MUST find your s'mores round-up. I NEED it in my life. Really, the whole s'mores thing? Brilliant, in any form. Thanks so much for stopping by...I heart You Link It, We Make It! :) xoxo

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  17. Louis Prima crooned as my dad helped me turn an attic into a loft. heating and cooling

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!