...because home doesn't happen overnight.
05.17.16 / Liked & Linked

sister wedding


photo booth

Hello! How are you? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! Haha. Just kidding. I come from a family whose motto is “no news is good news” which means things are good on my end. A little busier than normal, but good.

My (much) younger sister, Alina, got married a few weeks ago. She looked beautiful, as always. The ceremony took place outside on a soggy, overcast day. It rained all day but let up just in time to wipe down the guest chairs and say “I do.” Five minutes after the ceremony was over, it started raining again. Perfect timing!

I was a matron of honor along with my other sister, Rihana. Mabrey was the flower girl, and Everett was the ring bearer. Before Everett and Mabrey walked down the aisle, I told Everett to remind Mabrey to toss her rose petals if she forgot. Three-quarters of the way down, Everett glanced in Mabrey’s basket and must have thought she wasn’t tossing efficiently enough. He whispered something to her and she immediately came to a complete stop, let go of Everett’s hand and dumped the basket upside down, emptying its contents in one fell swoop. She got some laughs. Layne was a legit groomsman. He wore a tux and a boutonniere, escorted a bridesmaid, the whole shebang. He looked so handsome and grown up! I was shocked when he later told me he wants to add a tuxedo to his wardrobe. Says the kid whom wears fluorescent athletic apparel on a regular basis.

The flowers were gorgeous! I couldn’t stop admiring them. Alina worked with a local florist who offers affordable DIY bouquets. Basically, you select your floral arrangements a few months in advance then show up the day before your event and the florist gives you a quick tutorial on how to create the arrangements yourself on site. You have several hours to put everything together. The results look professional but cost way less. Alina chose blush roses, white hydrangea, ivory astilbe, eucalyptus and dusty miller for the bridesmaids’ bouquets. They were so, so pretty.

We had a blast at the reception. The boys were dancing maniacs. They absolutely love weddings just for the dancing. Steve and I were able to steal a few moments in the photo booth. Sombreros and oversize heart glasses for the win!


It was a wonderful celebration, and I’m so happy for Alina and Pete. They are experiencing so many exciting changes right now. Not only did they just tie the knot, they are closing on their first house in a few weeks (it’s a dreamy, historic colonial with hardwood floors and original woodwork), moving to a new city and starting new jobs. I’m going to miss them so much!

A few things…

*Made me cry.

*Made me laugh.

*Tips for meditating at home.

*I’m on a candle kick at the moment. I have this candle burning in my kitchen and this candle burning on my nightstand.

lil boy room 2

lil boy room

*Love this little boy’s room.

*A $20,000 house. Say what?!

*That’s one epic treehouse!

*I gifted the newlyweds a set of brass coasters, a print from one of my favorite artists and a guest book for their new home. Secretly hoping they ask me to help decorate ;)

Hope you are well!

images: 1-3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 4 & 5) Anna Smith

We usually head south whenever we get the chance to travel, but this year we’ve planned a few trips that will take us north of Ohio just to mix things up. We made one trip over the kids’ spring break and rented a crazy cool cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, near Traverse City. It was a last-minute getaway. We hadn’t planned on going anywhere, but, after we paid off the mortgage, we thought it would be fun to mark the milestone with a spontaneous road trip. We knew nothing about the area and that was kinda the point. The drive was mostly uneventful (about as uneventful as a road trip with three kids can be) until we were a few miles from our destination and got a taste of the whole lake effect thing. We arrived in the middle of a snowstorm and that pretty much set the stage for the next five days. It didn’t feel much like spring, but it was beautiful.

The snow and below freezing temps didn’t dampen the kids’ spirits. They had fun exploring the land behind the cabin and discovered an orchard just beyond the steep hill in the back. Everett couldn’t get over the expansive, open space and took off running saying, “I’m freeeeeeeee!”

Let’s be honest. They were just happy they weren’t in school.

We spent the majority of our time lounging around and hanging out in the cabin. It wasn’t awful. We hit up our local library before we left and I packed the kids’ Legos, so books and builds were in full force. Layne got sucked in to the Wildwood series.

In the evenings, we would unfold the sleeper sofa, pile onto the bed in our pajamas and turn on the TV. We got caught up in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. Oh my gosh! Have you guys seen that show?! My mouth was salivating the entire time. We decided as a family to start planning vacations based entirely around places we want to eat.

We watched a few movies, too. Song of the Sea was a family favorite (along with Dumb & Dumber which I almost didn’t mention because, holy cow!, Steve and I somehow forgot it contained so many sexual innuendos and probably isn’t the most kid-appropriate movie but, of course, the boys thought it was hilarious). #parentfail

One afternoon while Steve was on a conference call, the kids and I drove into Traverse City, parked the car, stood on the lakeshore, gazed out at the water and tried imagining what it must be like in the summer…until we could no longer feel our faces. While chilly, it was invigorating. It was our first time seeing snow on sand. I thought about how the locals probably didn’t bat an eye at snow on sand, but, to us, it was so surprising and ironic, laughable even.

The lake is gorgeous. I was amazed at how its mood changed depending on the sky and weather. (In southern Ohio, we aren’t graced with vast bodies of water. The muddy Ohio River doesn’t count.) One day it was calm and clear blue, and the next day it was choppy and deep turquoise. It was almost like a living mood ring.

One day after lunch, we meandered through Mercato at The Village. It felt nice to stretch our legs – indoors with heat! The historic property was once the Northern Michigan Asylum and has been preserved and renovated as a unique alternative to urban development. It’s massive! We sampled chocolate and browsed an epic bookstore where Everett honed in on a vintage typewriter. (The kid has a thing for typewriters.) There was a less precious model set up for kids to tap away on which was the highlight of the trip for Everett. In one store, I spotted a t-shirt that read “It’s not spring in Michigan without an April blizzard” and it made me laugh.

Alongside local art, old black and white photographs with accompanying text line the brick walls and tell the story of the former institution. At its prime, the asylum was the poster child for humane treatment of the mentally ill. The superintendent believed patients deserved kindness, comfort, beauty and a sense of purpose. Straightjackets were forbidden. It was fascinating to read.

We ate most meals at the cabin but hit up a few local spots. Our favorites in Traverse City were Slabtown Burgers (try any burger and the sweet potato fries), Spanglish (the salsa verde and pork tostadas are amazing) and The Filling Station Microbrewery (order the rocket with prosciutto and a brewsky).

We stopped off at The Redheads Café for breakfast on our way out of town and were kicking ourselves for not discovering it sooner! (Da’ bomb earns its name.)

When we left, it was still snowing ;)

Thanks for the memories, Michigan. We’d love to visit again sometime when you’re less white and more green. Where should we go next time? We were bummed Mission Point Lighthouse was closed.

P.S. – The cabin was way too cool not to snap a few pics with my real camera. Look for them soon!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

04.11.16 / Liked & Linked

We celebrated Mabrey’s and Everett’s birthdays in the last two weeks. Fun fact: My due date with Mabrey was Everett’s birthday, but, like the majority of babies, she wasn’t born on my due date. Still, their birthdays are so close we usually lump them together to celebrate with extended family because it’s easier for everyone. On their actual birthdays, we do something special yet not extravagant.

For her birthday, Mabrey wanted a balloon, bubbles, bubblegum and to visit her favorite park. We made a special trip to Target just for bubbles and bubblegum. The look on her face when she laid her goodies on the conveyor belt at checkout was pure happiness. She smiled at the cashier and said, “I’m four!” Every time someone wished her “Happy birthday!”, she replied with “Happy birthday to you too!” It was so cute. We spent the entire afternoon at the park where we met another little girl also celebrating her fourth birthday with her father and little sister. Trips to the park must be in high demand in the four-year-old world. On the way home, we stopped off at a local bakery, and Mabrey picked out a huge chocolate cupcake as her birthday treat. All the excitement wore her out. She fell asleep in the living room with her balloon floating overhead while I made spaghetti for dinner, her favorite. She still can’t make the hand signal for four without putting up three fingers first. When someone asks her how old she is, she initially signals three then slowly raises her pinky. It’s hilarious. I hope she always does it that way.

Everett’s birthday coincided with spring break, so we celebrated it while on vacation. (More on our vacation later this week.) He asked for a Kylo Ren voice-changing mask, a lightsaber and pizza. Amidst the chaos of packing, I ordered the mask and saber before we left and had it shipped to our cabin. Seriously, what did procrastinating parents do before Amazon? I didn’t have any wrapping paper, so I presented the drab brown box in dramatic fashion. I screamed from the top of the stairs, “Ahh! Everett, I caught an animal in a box on your bed!! I need you to see what it is!” (We had heard a squirrel in the attic the night before.) Everyone came running upstairs. I secretly shook the box from behind (imitating a frisky varmint) while Everett cautiously opened one flap and the mask and saber came tumbling out. He said, “I knew it wasn’t an animal!” But he had a huge smile of relief on his face ;) We had the most delicious pizza at a local pizza joint later that evening followed by a cookies and ice cream cake from the frozen section of the grocery store. Everett said it was the best cake ever. #momoftheyear He’s been wearing his new mask out in public which has prompted some comical reactions.

A few things…

*Did you fall for it?

*I have this new album on repeat.

*The happiest nation in the world.

*Tiny house getaway.

*Bathroom goals.

kitchen / conservatory


dining / conservatory

*The house tour that made me add “conservatory” to my dream home wish list.

*Finally!! Super soft jeans that my tall, thin and picky boys will wear without complaining! They feel and fit great.

*Everett’s mask and lightsaber, if you’re interested. (More theme-y than I normally buy, but he loves them and they work really well.)

I hope it feels like spring wherever you are!

P.S. – THANK YOU for all of the book recommendations! My reading list is full and that makes me so happy.

images: 1-4) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 5-7) Emily Billings for Apartment Therapy