...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I hope you don’t mind if I eke out one more post from our recent vacation. It’s dark and cold here so I’ve been living vicariously through the vacation photos on my phone. I thought maybe you would like to do the same. Photo dump, anyone?

rosemary beach post office

As I’ve mentioned before, we stayed in Seacrest which is sandwiched between Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach. We spent most of our time biking and walking around Rosemary and I was so inspired by the architecture which you can read more about here. Seriously, have you ever seen a cuter post office?

rosemary beach house

rosemary beach house

No house is just like the other but there is an underlying vibe that keeps things feeling harmonious. I was especially drawn to the exterior material choices: wood siding, cedar shingle, stucco. And the windows. THE WINDOWS.

rosemary beach garage door

rosemary beach driveway gate

rosemary beach gate

There were so many good door and gate moments, too. I nearly wrecked my bike rubbernecking. Steve and I spent ten minutes ogling the galvanized downspout on that green garage. I loved the unique silhouettes of the gates. The attention to detail is incredible.

rosemary beach modern porch

rosemary beach traditional porch

There was a juxtaposition of modern and traditional that kept things interesting. I noticed something new and different on every bike ride – even if it was an area we had passed through before. For a design nerd like me, it was sensory overload. In a good way, of course.

rosemary beach hidden lantern

rosemary beach hidden lantern

rosemary beach hidden lantern

One of our favorite places to visit was The Hidden Lantern Bookstore in downtown Rosemary. It’s part bookstore, part art gallery, and it’s gorgeous yet homey. There’s a big, comfy sofa and plenty of cushy chairs which make it difficult to leave! I noticed a trio of paper lanterns covered in “scales” cut from book pages. The featured artist was Rae Broyles. Her work is amazing.

I discovered this new book on display and wouldn’t shut up about it because when in Rome… Steve secretly bought a signed copy on the last day and gifted it to me for my birthday. He’s the best.

We ate dinner out a few nights. Since the kids were with us, our options were a bit limited but we really enjoyed Cowgirl Kitchen (get the smoked tuna dip and shrimp & grits) and La Cocina (get the fish tacos and lobster quesadilla plus a margarita). Both were family-friendly and delicious.

alys beach

On one of the cooler days, we biked to Alys Beach just to gawk. Alys Beach is one of those unattainable places that makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong in my life. Ha! The homes are opulent, beautiful and crazy pricey. Here’s a little Alys Beach trivia for you: The community is centered around Lake Marilyn. Interestingly, the lake was an afterthought. It was added in 2005 in response to a need for an irrigation reservoir. Overhead, the lake’s contours resemble those of a curvaceous woman. Hence, the name Lake Marilyn was born.

lays beach house

This was the only house small enough to fit in my viewfinder!

alys beach pool

This is just a sliver of the pool area. There are private cabanas with a lap pool on one side and woodland preserves on the other. Stunning.

alys beach horse sculpture

We stumbled upon these horse sculptures constructed of driftwood. The kids loved them.

alys beach window

alys beach door

More window and door moments. Can you EVEN? Most of the homes are centered around interior, private courtyards that feature fountains and pools. We could hear water trickling beyond the doors. It was so dreamy.

The boys and I hit up Charlie’s Donuts for breakfast one morning. We really wanted to try George’s and Fonville Press but, alas, they didn’t happen this trip. Next time! Who’s with me?

Okay, I think I can make it through winter now ;)

P.S. – The #HolidayHostess event continues this week with Jennifer from Dear Lillie. Her recently re-painted kitchen looks cozy.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

12.15.14 / Made Me Smile

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

We put up our tree last week. Cheetah was verrrry interested in it before we added lights and (unbreakable) ornaments. She disappeared into the tree once and we had to pull her out but, since adding the decorations, she seems to have lost interest other than batting around a few ornaments on the lowest branches. Just in case, we anchored the tree to the mantel with fishing line ;) WE ARE THOSE PEOPLE.

More happenings…

*Coolest open house ever.

*So much potential.

*DIY corner shelves. (Way to go, Alison!)

*A reader from Estonia contacted me this week. It piqued my interest and I did some reading up on the area. Now I want to visit! Have you ever been? This beach villa looks amazing and this old town home in Tallinn looks so cozy.

british standard kitchen via Remodelista

*Kitchen love.

*One mama’s thoughts.

*Someone gifted me an Amazon gift card for my birthday. I bought this book and have been devouring every word and image. I’m kind of sad I only have a few pages left to read.

Have a great one!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Alexis Hamilton

For those not-so-serious families who play just as hard as they work…

family fun


1 – remote control helicopter – Finally! A remote copter that is easy to maneuver (i.e., kid-friendly) and robust. My boys LOVE these and Steve and I have been known to “borrow” them from time to time.

2 – playchute – Do you remember making parachute tents in gym class when you were little? A smaller version makes a fun family gift and is easily stored in a closet or under a bed. Great for indoor or outdoor play.

3 – Hape coffee maker – I’m a huge fan of the Hape brand. The kids love the fun, pretend play toys and I love the quality and affordability. I have my eye on this coffee maker for Mabrey. She can make hers while I make mine.

4 – Bounce-Off game – Perfect for family game night! Simple instructions and a fast pace keep everyone’s attention.

5 – sport stacking – Our fireplace and this game are the two things that got us through last winter. Sport stacking requires hand-eye coordination, speed and concentration. Many schools have implemented the sport. There are even world stacking tournaments! Beware: IT’S ADDICTIVE.

6 – SingStand karaoke system – After scoring a speaking part in a recent school performance, Everett asked for a microphone. This one looks promising.

7 – Blokus – For quiet play. Steve and I even sneak in games after the kids are in bed. (It reminds me of moving furniture around on floor plans.)

8 – doctor set – Um, any game that requires me to lie down and be still is fun. Funny story: The first time I pretended to take Mabrey’s temperature, I told her she had a fever and was burning up. She heard “burning” and immediately stopped, dropped, rolled and pretended to cry. Now, when anyone plays doctor with her and she takes their temperature, the diagnosis is always the same. YOU’RE BURNING! …as in, on fire.

9 – The Book with No Pictures – It’s the one book you will read to your kids without wanting to skip pages. Hilarious.

Work hard, play hard, folks.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

12.04.14 / Our Vacation Rental

beach house 1

Last winter when we decided to plan a vacation to Rosemary Beach, I searched online for vacation rentals and fell down a virtual rabbit hole ogling at all the possibilities. There were townhouses, flats, carriage houses and extravagant beach houses. And they were all beautiful.

One thing I noticed after a little research was that the rentals just outside of Rosemary were less expensive but still within biking distance to downtown Rosemary and the beach. I also noticed that we could save a ton by visiting during the off season. We weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise so we wanted a place we could spread out and hang out in comfortably if the weather didn’t cooperate. I whittled down the list of possibilities to ~10 rentals then we selected one of them as a family. You never know what to expect when reserving a vacation rental sight unseen (at least in real life) but we lucked out. Our vacation rental was clean, family-friendly, homey, convenient and in a great location on a dead-end street.

We chose to stay in Seacrest Beach which butts up against Rosemary but is a little more economical. The house came with four adult bikes and we used them to bike to downtown Rosemary (~5 minutes) every day. We biked to the beach, too. We biked everywhere.

beach house 2

The house had four bedrooms (three of them were master suites with a king bed and an adjoining bathroom), three bathrooms, and was three stories high. The night we arrived, we were blown away. It was much larger than we had expected. The ceilings were at least 10′ high which made it feel even bigger. Coming from a 3-bed, 1-bath rancher, we were very spoiled.

We loved the big porches on the first and second floors and took full advantage of the swings.

beach house 3

The first floor living room opened up onto the dining area and kitchen. We liked the open floor plan. I also appreciated the furnishings. Many beach rentals have generic decor (which I totally get…it’s a rental) but this house felt really homey with all the wood tones, natural textures and nubby upholstery. There were all kinds of books and magazines available to read. We really felt like we were staying in a home – notsomuch a rental.

beach house 4

Layne, our oldest, made the comment, “Look mom! This house is perfect for us. It has poufs!” Atta boy. Haha. We watched movies as a family almost every night in the living room. The kids would drag down bean bags from the bunk room (more on that in a minute) and we would pop popcorn. It was so cozy.

beach house 5

I loved the rustic coffee table. It had a great patina, was kid-friendly and oversized. The kids would pull up the poufs to the coffee table and we played board games or worked puzzles. (Or spilled glasses of water. It happens.)

beach house 17

beach house 7

The full kitchen (while very beige) was stocked with dishes, glasses, flatware, serve ware, pots, pans, Keurig, traditional coffeemaker, blender, slow cooker…basically anything you could think of. I liked that there were two sinks – one under the window and one in the peninsula. There was a large pantry which came in handy. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches at the house to save money. Our *three* kids fought over the *two* stools at the bar. It was a popular spot.

beach house 6

The dining area was one of my favorite spaces. The table sat eight but could be extended to seat larger parties. It was great for card games and Everett did his homework there every evening, too.

(Did I mention we pulled the kids out of school? Layne only missed three days but Everett missed an entire week. I felt guilty about them missing school but both of their teachers / schools were really supportive. Everett’s teacher gave him some work to do while he was away.)

The apples are fake and there were 28 of them. I know because Mabrey made Steve count them over and over. I may have thought about stealing the chairs. And did you notice the basket on the floor in the corner? There were large baskets in nearly every room in the house. They were great for keeping our things out but tidy. When we were packing up to leave, I just went around and emptied all the baskets.

beach house 8

I would like to point out the palm leaf on the buffet and the pinecones on the bar. The neighborhood we stayed in has a nature trail. The palm leaf and pinecones were souvenirs from my walks. If you happen to be the guy who was driving a golf cart near the trail about a month ago and came upon a strange lady loading pinecones into a shopping bag and hacking palm leaves with a steak knife, I’m sorry I scared you. Also, at this very moment there’s a large bag of said pinecones sitting my garage waiting to be strung into garland. #pineconecaper

The stairs lead up to the second and third floors. We were not used to living with stairs and there were so many here because of the three floors and extra high ceilings. It only took a few days for us to get lazy and choose not to go back up / down the stairs to retrieve a forgotten item. The stairs were a fun novelty but by the end of the week we were all ready to go back to living without stairs. Isn’t that crazy?!

beach house 9

Each bedroom had its own balcony / porch. Steve and I claimed this bedroom. Technically, it was Mabrey’s room, too. She slept in the walk-in closet in a pack-n-play that was already in the closet. She kept calling it her room. I’m pretty sure the closet was bigger than her bedroom at home!

The master suites had wall-to-wall seagrass carpet. I’ve owned seagrass rugs before but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live with seagrass carpet. I really liked it in person and it seems like it would hold up well to heavy traffic and abuse.

beach house 10

This bed? It was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. Steve and I meant to check the mattress tag before we left but forgot. Oh well. We’ll just have to go back.

When I was posting to instagram during our vacation, someone made the comment “rental homes always make me want to get rid of all my stuff.” Ditto.

beach house 11

MORE STAIRS up to the third floor. My legs are burning just thinking about them.

beach house 12

The third floor bunk room was a hit with the kids. Everett claimed it and slept in a different bed each night before deciding that the bottom bunk on the far left was the most comfortable. He is such a funny kid. Do you spy the bean bags I mentioned earlier? There were three which was perfect for family movie nights. The bunk room was stocked with children’s books (for all ages) and puzzles.

beach house 13

The bunk room included a TV, wet bar and mini fridge. Everett stashed some water and an apple in the fridge just in case he woke up hungry in the middle of the night. I told you he is funny.

Maybe the only drawback of the entire house was that there was no door on the bunk room and the center stairwell was open from the first floor to the third floor. It was a super cool architectural feature and fine for the boys (they’re 6½ and 9½) but I didn’t feel comfortable letting Mabrey (2½) have free rein in the bunk room. She had to be supervised.

The balcony off the bunk room was another favorite spot.

beach house 14

The hammock swings did not go unnoticed ;)

beach house 15

We picked a different porch to eat on every day but this one was our favorite even though it required carrying our lunches up three flights of stairs. When the most difficult decision of your day is “Hmmm, which porch should we eat on?” that’s not a bad day.

beach house 16

And, finally, the view from the third floor balcony was pretty amazing. Can you spot the palm tree-lined cobblestone streets? It was such a happy and charming lil’ neighborhood.

The ironic thing about our time spent in this awesome house is that, for the most part, we all used the same bathroom! (We’re used to sharing one bathroom.) And we usually traveled as a pack from room to room. (We aren’t used to not being in the same room together.) It was nice to have the extra space to spread out for a few days (the boys enjoyed having their own rooms) but it was superfluous and I was glad I wasn’t the one responsible for cleaning it. If / when we go back, we’ll bring more people or we’ll probably stay somewhere smaller.

That being said, we had the most amazing time. The house truly was everything we could have asked for – and more! Very accommodating, truly hospitable. We’re so grateful that we were able to make some memories here.

So what do you think? How do you feel about vacation rentals? How do you save money on vacation? Do you have a favorite spot / feature of the house? Have your kids ever missed school due to a vacation?

P.S. – Because I know someone will ask, I searched for vacation rentals on VRBO. The property management company for our house was superb. They have an app for you to download during your stay that has all the info you could ever want or need about the house and surrounding area. I would highly recommend the area, house and VRBO! That is an unsolicited recommendation.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking