...because home doesn't happen overnight.

quick and easy beans 5

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. The weather is glorious. Nature’s colors are beautiful. Our family schedule slows down a little. And the comfort food brought on by the change of seasons is pretty great, too. One of my favorite dishes to make this time of year is spicy pinto beans. They’re quick & easy, healthy and – best of all – everyone in my family loves them. No whining at the dinner table is a small happy moment in our often chaotic home. The recipe requires only three ingredients (!) and very little prep. I thought I’d share it with you.

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SPICY PINTO BEANS

3 cans of 15 oz. organic pinto beans, preferably BPA free (We like Trader Joe’s brand.)

5 slices of bacon, preferably nitrite free

3 T. McIlhenny tabasco chipotle pepper sauce (more or less to taste…I would say this recipe is at a mild-medium spice level.)

Pour beans (undrained, not rinsed) into medium sauce pan. Cut bacon into 1″ pieces. (I use kitchen shears.) Add bacon pieces and 3 T. pepper sauce to beans. Stir to mix then simmer on low heat for 25 minutes or until bacon is cooked through. Serve with cornbread. (Again, we like Trader Joe’s brand.) Makes 4-5 servings.

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Super simple, right? Steve and I are always surprised by how good these beans are. They definitely taste like they’re more work. Sometimes it’s nice to have a “don’t have to think about it” meal lined up for crazy days or for evenings when you’d rather spend more time playing with the kids and less time prepping in the kitchen. Not to mention, this meal is easy on the wallet.

Steve follows a paleo diet most of the time. I was so bummed the first time I made this dish (sans cornbread) and he informed me that legumes were not on his paleo menu. Seriously?! They’re beans! I told him if he was going to follow a caveman’s diet I would prescribe to a cavewoman’s personal hygiene routine. He eats the beans, folks. #cheatmeal

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Anyway.

Like I said, this is a spicy dish (if you want it to be). You will need some fresh water on hand to quell your thirst. Luckily, the kind people at Soma sent us one of their water carafes to try. It’s a smart setup – a functional water filter and a beautiful carafe in one. You guys, we made it through an entire meal without anyone whining OR getting up from the table to refill their glass. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I ATE MY ENTIRE MEAL IN ONE SITTING WITHOUT REPRIMANDING ANYONE.

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Back to Soma for a minute. The sustainable carafe features shatterproof glass, BPA-free plastic and an appealing hourglass silhouette. It can hold up to six 8 oz. glasses of water and is right-sized to fit your hand, sink and fridge. The biodegradable filter is made of coconut shells and reduces the amount of chlorine, lead, selenium and arsenic in tap water. You can opt to have a new filter sent to your doorstop every sixty days and each filter bought provides a donation to charity : water, an organization that helps to bring clean water to families across the globe. It’s beauty meets brains meets philanthropy. I call it the beauty queen of water filters and you can learn more about it here.

Our fridge features a built-in water filter / dispenser but it’s sometimes cumbersome (sometimes impossible) to fill large containers. The carafe is nice for said containers, entertaining and the *rare* uninterrupted family dinner. I wish we had owned one when we were living in our interim apartment during renovations. Instead, we used a bulky pitcher-like filter that hogged fridge space. The Soma carafe is a great idea for renters. I’m looking forward to busting it out over the holidays when we have guests. Refilling Cheetah’s water bowl is a cinch with the Soma. (Who knew cats are water snobs? Not me.) And I’ve been using it to fill my kettle in the morning when I brew my coffee Chemex-style. It’s much easier than wrangling the kettle into position under the fridge’s small water dispenser.

Do you use a water filter? Either in your fridge or at the faucet? We always have. Filtered water is the drink of choice in our home. I don’t buy pop / soda, juices or bottled water. If you’re interested in Soma, H*T readers will receive $15 off the first 50 purchases made by entering the discount code “HT15OFF”.

*This post was sponsored in part by Soma. All original content, imagery and opinions are my own. If you don’t care for the carafe, I hope you still enjoy the recipe. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

09.27.14 / Made Me Smile

mid century gem fsbo

I’ve always admired this midcentury home in our neighborhood. The double doors at the entry get me every time. On one of our walks this week, I noticed that it’s listed for sale by owner. I don’t think it will last long. Such a gem! I’m hoping they stick a brochure out with the sign in the yard so I can peek at the interior. #housestalker

More good stuff…

*I canNOT believe this kitchen makeover only took a month to pull off.

*The six Brady siblings shared a bathroom but no toilet and the iconic Brady Bunch house is still around.

*Jenni Kayne’s dark and cozy den is my dream den. (The rest of her house is pretty amazing, too.)

michellewilliams_bk3

*How adorable (and expensive!) is Michelle Williams’s home? Very. (Love that built-in unit on the left.)

*My favorite non-drying toner to use during the cooler months.

*Three words: Eames. Cat. Lounger. Two words: Shut. Up.

*There is too much cuteness in my house right now. I can barely stand it but am grateful for witnessing it.

Have a great weekend! We’re having our friends over for dinner tonight. I’m making my grandma’s famous baked ribs (so easy!) and Steve is throwing together his killer kale salad. There’s nothing better than sharing good food with good friends.

P.S. – Steve told me he likes the corn hole bags I made. He thinks he is so funny ;)

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Brown Harris Stevens

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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 ;)

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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