...because home doesn't happen overnight.

So we got a cat. And there’s a burning question that keeps coming up: WHERE DO YOU KEEP THE LITTER BOX?

cat paraphernalia - litter box

Next to the dryer, naturally. I chose the spot on a whim when we brought Cheetah home but it’s actually kinda perfect. It’s out of the way and the tile hides stray litter and allows for easy cleanup. For the first few days, I kept the curtain open so Cheetah could maneuver in and out easily. Recently, I started closing it almost all the way. Cheetah can get to the litter box but we don’t have to see it 24/7. It’s pretty inconspicuous.

We have this litter box. It’s nothing fancy. (Don’t tell my nine-year-old there are automatic litter boxes. Next thing you know, one will be on his Christmas list and then how will he ever learn the discipline of scooping cat poop? #lifeskills) But it fits the small space and, more importantly, it works. The litter mat is here. It helps to catch stray litter.

You may recall a rolling cart used to live next to the dryer. I moved it to a linen closet to make room for the litter box. NBD. (I also stash the catnip, lint rollers, Frontline and cat brush in the linen closet.) I’m able to keep a drying rack and our small ironing board next to the dryer. Cheetah doesn’t seem to mind. She is a domestic cat after all. I hope she takes up ironing soon.

cat paraphernalia - food  water

The food and water bowl is under the bench on the other side of the mudroom. Again, the tile is super easy to wipe down. The bowl has non-slip feet so it doesn’t slide around on the tile.

cat paraphernalia - storage

I store cat food and litter in the wardrobe next to the bench. I was advised to purchase this cat food and this litter. Apparently, cats can have issues with grains? Since I have no experience with cats whatsoever, I can’t really attest to how good these are. And after I bought the walnut-based litter I realized that anyone with a serious tree nut allergy can’t enter our home. (Luckily, we don’t know anyone with a tree nut allergy but who’s to say we never will?) But Cheetah is alive and we haven’t had any issues with odors so I’m not complaining. One of my biggest qualms with potentially owning a cat was the smell. So far, we haven’t had any odor issues. Fingers crossed we can keep it that way.

cat paraphernalia - stand

For the first two days, Cheetah mostly slept. I think she was traumatized. Or she was pretending to be a in bad dream where a toddler follows her every move. Then on day 3 she suddenly perked up and started scratching the sisal rug in the entry and climbing the screens on the french doors in the kitchen. (!) This sparked an intense “why is my cat scratching / climbing?” google search. (I told you I was oblivious.) Apparently, Cheetah needs to scratch / climb and I need to provide appropriate items for her to scratch / climb or she will find some herself. In desperation, I snatched up the least offensive cat stand I could find at my local pet store. I AM THAT LADY. I know I could make one just as good (if not better) but, again, the desperation. Quick! Before all the window screens are torn to shreds!

The bones are there. I figure I can tweak it when it starts looking even more hideous. Whatever. Cheetah loves it. When I catch her scratching / climbing something I don’t necessarily want her to scratch / climb, I pick her up and place her on the stand. Sometimes I spray it with a little catnip solution. Watch out! Psychedelic cat! Luckily, she hasn’t damaged anything but I don’t trust her 100%. We’re a work in progress over here.

(Also, this picture has me itching to paint those french doors a glossy black like the ones in the kitchen.)

cat paraphernalia - lounger

To redeem myself of the Carpet Tree purchase, I found this cardboard lounger. I actually love it and so does Cheetah. She scratches it and also sleeps on it. I like that it slips under the living room shelves and doesn’t take up a ton of space. The world needs more pet paraphernalia like this.

cat paraphernalia - fiddle leaf fig

There seems to be some controversy about cats and fiddle leaf figs. I’ve heard and read that FLF’s are and are not toxic to cats. Cheetah hasn’t paid much attention to the tree so far but I did rig it with some frightening cooling racks to discourage her. I AM THAT LADY, TOO. If I have to choose, I’ll find a new home for the tree – not the cat. (Which should tell you something about my feelings toward this kitten because I heart that tree so hard.)

cat paraphernalia - leather sofa

I can count on three fingers the number of times Cheetah has slept on the leather sofa. Just today, I caught her pawing at it (no damage was done) and I quickly sprayed some water her way. The spray didn’t touch her but it was enough to grab her attention. I set the spray bottle on the speaker box next to the sofa for the rest of the day and its presence was enough to keep her at bay. I’ll have to update you on the sofa’s condition in a few months. To be continued…

In general, I’m either freaking out about the cat or completely ignorant. I think it’s a good balance ;) I don’t expect perfection. I made no décor choices based on cat behavior so I can’t fret if something gets scratched. As much as I love creating a stylish home, I want it to be livable for our family – which now includes a cat. If we can’t live in it, what’s the point? That being said, I’m making every effort to teach Cheetah which items are (not) okay to scratch / climb. Fortunately, she seems to be catching on.

I titled this post “Phase 1″ because I fully anticipate different or more cat paraphernalia entering our home. Things just got verrrrrry interesting over here, didn’t they? I shared the items we already have not as recommendations per se (although I really do love that cardboard lounger and the food bowl) but so you could see what we’re starting with and offer up any tips or advice. After reading all the wonderful comments on the previous post, I watched a video on how to clip cats’ claws at home and bought some trimmers. I AM ALSO THAT LADY. I can’t say I’m excited to cut Cheetah’s claws but we’ll figure it out.

If you made it this far and you’re a cat person, I hope you find my antics humorous and have wise words to share. Like, where does your cat sleep at night? Cheetah picks a different spot every night. Is this normal? If you’re not a cat person (like I was two weeks ago), I’m sorry and I hope you don’t think I’m too crazy. Also, I hope a snuggly kitten weasels its way into your life.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

WARNING: This post has relatively little to do with houses but a lot to do with home.

cheetah

“Dear friends, please help me find a home for this gorgeous rescue kitten! She is sweet, cuddly and litter box trained. She has a small voice so would be safest inside. We love her but have too many animals to give them all they need. Thank you!”

That was the exact text that popped up on my phone while we were watching the boys’ swim class two Saturdays ago. It was from my cousin. I showed it to Steve and he smiled but didn’t say a word. The kids had been asking for a pet for a while and my go-to response was “maybe after Mabrey is potty-trained.” I didn’t think I could nurture one more living thing. In fact, I had recently brainstormed a post all about why I wasn’t ready for a pet right now. I had a lot of excuses. However, when I received the text, Mabrey had been potty-trained for a week so my usual response wasn’t going to hold up.

I called my cousin to see if the kitten was spoken for yet. She said she was ours if we wanted her. I told her I wasn’t a cat person and was clueless about all things cat. Up to that point, my experiences with cats were limited to outdoor farm cats and Pet Sematary. Not only did I think I didn’t like cats, I was scared of them – afraid they would pounce and claw my eyes out at any given moment. Steve’s thoughts on cats were similar. We weren’t cat people.

But my cousin assured me that this kitten wasn’t skittish. She was good with kids and other animals. She liked to play and cuddle. And THE KITTEN EYES. I couldn’t say no. I knew deep down there wasn’t a good reason why we couldn’t take her in. And, of course, the kids would love her. So the next thing I knew we were driving down to my cousin’s to retrieve a cat without so much as a litter box.

Upon meeting the kitten, we learned a little more about her. The story goes that my cousin’s nine-year-old daughter found the kitten and (what they assumed to be) her sister in the woods behind their house. The kittens were super scrawny and barely breathing. They brought them inside and gave them food and water. For a few weeks, they lived in the garage, grew stronger and learned to use a litter box. But the sister eventually ran off leaving this kitten alone. Heartbroken for the lonely kitty, my cousin brought her inside until she could find a home for her. (They already had four cats and a dog as it was!) That’s where the text message came in. And that’s how I ended up with a kitten on my desk not even 24 hours after declaring we didn’t own a cat.

cheetah

After we brought her home (luckily, my cousin sent us home with a small litter box) Layne and I spent a good hour at a local pet store asking a million mind-numbing questions about litter boxes, litter, cat food, vaccines and such. You guys, I didn’t even know that cats drink water! I’m sure the employees were half-scared for our new kitten.

Anyway…

cheetah & mabrey

We’ve been living with a kitten for almost two weeks now. She’s a she and her name is Cheetah. (She came to us already named and we couldn’t bear to force another change on her.) The kids love telling people “We have a pet Cheetah!” A neighbor noticed the “M” marking on her forehead and informed us she’s at least part Maine Coon.

I fully expected there to be some difficulty with the transition to a new environment but Cheetah hasn’t had one single accident. (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.) And she is SO GOOD with the kids. They love her! Layne scoops the litter box and Everett is in charge of food and water. Mabrey regularly manhandles her and Cheetah just goes with it. She is cuddly but has little bursts of energy when she likes to scamper and play. (Do cats scamper?) Her meow is almost silent. Having had a dog in the past, I can’t believe how quiet she is. Sometimes she will be right underfoot but I won’t know it until I nearly trip over her. She loves watching the birds, squirrels and rabbits out the window but never seems interested in escaping outside. She will come to us when called by name. She barely sheds. She has a daily schedule she made up herself which I find amusing. For instance, I know at 8:00 a.m. she will be perched in the boys’ windowsill waiting and watching for the neighbor dogs to go on their morning walk. She even naps when Mabrey naps and I don’t think it’s pure coincidence. She’s pretty much too good to be true. My friend who used to have her own pet-sitting business says we hit the cat jackpot.

That’s not to say I haven’t freaked out a few times. Domestic cats are nocturnal?! Cats have an innate need to scratch?! And climb?! Catnip is the cat equivalent of ecstasy?! I told Steve I sorta feel like a first-time mom. I want to do everything right but I’ll probably look back in a few years and laugh at all the ridiculous stuff I did in the name of ignorance.

Steve has really fallen for Cheetah, too. When he gets home from work he asks “Where’s Cheetah?” and the first thing he does after the kids are in bed is participate in a little kitty snuggle session. In short, this kitten is growing on us and we feel badly for having wrongly judged cats in the past. We aren’t entirely sure how it happened but we’re glad this kitten found us.

Are you a cat person? Have you ever ended up with a pet you never imagined owning?

Pssst – Since introducing our newest family member, everyone wants to know where we keep all the cat paraphernalia and how our décor is holding up. I’ll address those in a separate post later today!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

family photo books 1

I’ve been meaning to create family photo books for a while now. I held off as long as I did because I was waiting for the perfect photo book to come along. I really didn’t want the thick albums of yesteryear with their photo pockets. I’m horrible at printing out photos. Horrible. Not to mention, traditional bulky albums take up a lot of space – space we don’t have. It saddened me to know the photos of our life were stuck in limbo on our laptop and phones. Surely there was a tangible yet beautiful way to share family photos.

Enter Artifact Uprising. The company offers a variety of photo products you can hold in your hand: photo books (hardcover and softcover), calendars, postcards, prints, etc. It doesn’t sound all that different from any other company offering similar products but Artifact Uprising focuses on design-worthy aesthetics and eco-friendly materials. Photo book pages are made of 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and wood items are handcrafted from local, fallen beetle pine – versus healthy trees. The commitment to quality along with the inspiring back story are what set this company apart from the rest of the pack.

“We believe that doing good is more important than doing well – and that kindness makes the world right. We believe in travel and the things you can learn from getting lost. And we believe the best lessons come from the listening. We try to laugh when light is needed and persist when the path requires it. We love wide open spaces and campfires and the kind of quiet that allows you to hear the snow crunching below your feet. We believe in those who wake up every day to choose joy. And we believe in the underdog. We believe in always remembering where you came from. We believe each of us will – in time – do something really, really nice for the world.” – Jenna Walker, CEO & co-founder of Artifact Uprising

family photo books 2

So, yeah, choosing Artifact Uprising was a no-brainer. I sat down one afternoon while the boys were at school and Mabrey was napping and created nine softcover photo books in the 5.5″ x 5.5″ size. They candidly document the last three years of our life. Most of the photos are from my instagram account but I downloaded a few from our computer as well. I didn’t include every photo from my instagram feed – only the ones that were family-oriented. I chose mostly nature-themed photos as cover photos so the books would look pretty on display. They. are. gorgeous.

family photo books 3

The day the books arrived I tossed them in a bowl on the coffee table and immediately the kids were flipping through them. They are the perfect size for little hands. To say we LOVE them is an understatement.

family photo books 4

I can’t believe how one photo can spark a memory and suddenly we’re talking about “that one time…” They are such great conversation starters for kids. Mabrey especially enjoys seeing pictures of people she knows in a book. “Dat’s ME!” She thinks they’re legit books and we’re all famous ;)

family photo books 5

One softcover book runs $16.99 and would make a special gift for a family member or friend. Mine are in chronological order but you can create “themed” books, too. A book that tells the story of a child from newborn to graduation would be great for a graduation party. A book dedicated to a family vacation could be fun. Steve and I have even talked about creating a book that documents our home’s renovation.

How do you display family photos at home? We have a gallery wall plus these new photo books and we also stream our computer photos on to the TV (via Apple TV) on the weekends when we have guests or are working on a project. The kids love seeing themselves on TV. #mininarcissists

*I love Artifact Uprising‘s mission so much that I contacted them about becoming an affiliate soon after our photo books arrived. They agreed! While I purchased the photo books shown above on my own with no special discount, I do earn commission on any orders placed via affiliate links. This post was NOT sponsored and Artifact Uprising didn’t request a post. I just love sharing good stuff. Thanks for your continued support!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

schoolhouse electric hardware 1

I’ve always loved the idea of adding special hardware to the Ikea vanity in the master bathroom, but it’s never been a necessity as the standard plastic pulls (mounted to the top of the drawers) functioned well. I was more than content waiting for the perfect handles to find me. And find me they did – just a few weeks ago in the form of the 11″ edgecliff pull from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. They were a bit of a splurge but they instantly brought the vanity’s level of sophistication up a notch. Totally worth the wait.

schoolhouse electric hardware 3

Installation was easy enough. Two screws per pull (which were included with the purchase) screwed into two pilot holes and that was it. (The new pulls are mounted 2½” from the top of each drawer.) The handles are quite substantial and feel hefty underhand. They’re one of the those subtle details that bring a sense of luxury to the space and they’re used so frequently that they really do make a regular, mundane task (opening a drawer) feel special.

I don’t think I’ll tire of the gray-brass combo anytime soon. And, yes!, you CAN mix finishes in a small bathroom! The brass pulls pick up on the gold vase and wall urchins but they don’t “match” the chrome finishes in the rest of the bathroom. THAT’S OKAY.

schoolhouse electric fall 2014-2

I love our new pulls so much that I asked Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. if they would be interested in a giveaway. They were kind enough to offer up a store credit! The timing couldn’t be better. The company just released their fall ’14 collection today. Like the rest of the inventory, the new items blend seamlessly with traditional or modern décor and the quality is superb.

schoolhouse electric fall 2014

sources: metal hoop stand // round brass tray // brass rail // Jack loveseat in nubby tweed

I’ve got my eye on the metal hoop stand. Even though we converted the original wood-burning fireplace to gas in the living room, I like the idea of displaying stacked split logs for an organic vibe.

See anything you like? Check out the full collection here and keep reading to enter to win a $100 gift certificate!

PRIZE: one $100 gift certificate to Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “SCHOOL ME!” and let me know which item(s) you would put the $100 toward.

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

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, September 21st. One random winner will be announced Monday, September 22nd.

Good luck!

images: 1 & 2) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 3 & 4) Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.