...because home doesn't happen overnight.

ghost lights 1

Other than displaying carved pumpkins, I haven’t really decorated for Halloween in years. (I’m more of a seasonal decorator than a holiday decorator.) This year the kids were hounding me more than usual and I’ve been on a recent “life’s too short” kick so I finally came around and spooked up this place. It’s nothing over the top but I think I have a chance at Mom of the Year 2014. (You know I’m kidding, right?)

ghost lights 2

I spent $6 (coupon included) on two yards of tulle and black poster board at JoAnn’s to create ghost lights over the kitchen island. I rolled out the two yards of tulle and left it doubled over (for a layered effect) then cut it into three equal sections, one for each pendant. I cut a hole in the top of each section, slipped the tulle over the pendants then secured it with string. I trimmed the tulle to my desired length then “fringed” the ends by cutting ~2″ wide strips on the bottom half of each ghost. I freehanded three ghost faces and cut them out of the black poster board then secured them to the tulle with double-sided tape.

ghost lights 3

They turned out pretty creepy. I think the key is to use a really thin and airy tulle (not the stiff, scratchy stuff) and to scrunch the ends. (Where are all my ’97 high school grads at? We hella good at scrunching.) The moaning ghost faces portray way more emotion and despair than two black eye holes. The cat is real. Yeah, you’re going to need to rescue a kitten to pull off this look in its entirety.

spider web

I attempted to make a spider web out of jute string that I already had on hand. It turned out okay?? There’s a good reason why I’m not a spider. Apparently, webs take patience and a certain amount of skill. I immediately felt horrible about all the real webs I’ve swiped.

First, I hung three lengths of jute in an asterisk formation. I tied the ends to anything I could find: antlers, cords on the side of the cabinet, a doorstopper, etc. I rigged it so that we can still open the cabinet and door. Starting from the outer most part of the web and working my way in, I knotted off sections of jute in a hexagonal pattern. I taped a paper spider to my creation to better designate it as a “spider web.” I don’t know. It reads more like an unfinished, ginormous dreamcatcher to me.

All the spiders are crying, “You call that a web?! You disgust me.” In my defense, I don’t extrude silk from my nether regions.

halloween living room

I couldn’t boo the kitchen and not the living room.


I bought two sets of removable 3D bats and filled the area above the TV with them. (A ladder was involved.) I love these bats! Don’t let the reviews fool you. A few people were disappointed that the bats aren’t larger but I actually prefer this size. The bats are plastic and you bend them to get the 3D effect. They also come with removable stickers. I’m not sure how the adhesive will hold up after one season but I can always break out my trusty putty tabs if necessary. These bats are definitely going to be a mainstay of our Halloween décor.

halloween mantel 1

I grouped pumpkins and squash on the mantel on either side of the TV wall. They were a steal at Trader Joe’s and were left over from a Thanksgiving tablescape shoot. (It goes live mid-November.) That’s where the eucalyptus branch came from, too. I laced the mantel with these copper string lights. They are the best! The delicate LEDs put off a warm white glow and the copper wire can be easily manipulated. Unlike traditional string lights, they’re barely noticeable when not lit. I can see myself using these throughout the holiday season.

halloween mantel 2

I sprinkled in a few paper maché skulls. I bought them for pennies at Michael’s several years ago during one of their post-Halloween sales and they’ve been stashed in the attic ever since. I’m very proud of myself for remembering to bust them out this year. FINALLY.


Likewise, I scored these window decals during a post-Halloween sale a while back when we were living in our previous house. They were originally two large window-sized poster decals but the size and shape were all wrong for our current home’s windows so I cut the spiders out from the background. I wasn’t sure how well the spiders alone would stick to the window. I used a damp rag to wet the window first to help with adhesion. So far, so good. I may end up laminating the spiders after this season to protect them. (You could easily DIY something similar with a little black craft paper or poster board. I was just trying to use what I had on hand.)

And now for some nighttime pictures because that’s always fun…

ghost lights 4

spiders 2

spiders 3

Ah, the ol’ spider in the lampshade trick. It’s a classic. There’s also a little spider in one of the windows on the front door that I failed to photograph. Have I mentioned Steve is terrified of spiders?

Anyway, I threw all this together one day last week while the boys were at school. It was fun to see their reactions when they came home. They were so surprised! Everett’s favorites are the ghost lights. Layne likes the bats and skulls. I like the fact that I can reuse almost everything.

What are some of the ways you decorate for Halloween? I need to up my game for next year.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


modern family laundry 1

modern family laundry 5

James and Kristina‘s laundry room is less of a room and more of a hallway that runs between the kitchen and garage.

modern family laundry before

The original laundry room consisted of nothing more than a washer and dryer. James and Kristina were looking to add storage without adding square footage.

modern family laundry

So they built up! James created a platform for a front-loading washer and dryer and took advantage of wall space by installing horizontal wall cabinets from Ikea. (They are a nod to similar cabinets above the kitchen sink.) A laminate countertop provides a surface for laundry detergent and grab-n-go early morning coffee. Keeping the coffee maker in the laundry room frees up counter space in the minimal kitchen.

modern family laundry 4

Kristina is a hair stylist for friends and family and works out of the house so a separate utility sink for washing and rinsing clients’ hair is a must-have. Food and water bowls for the family’s two dogs sit at the base of the sink cabinet. The entire space is tiled in the same porcelain tile as the entry, dining area and kitchen. (Sock feet photobomb.) The wall color is Behr ocean pearl, the same color used in the entry and family room.

It just goes to show that a laundry room needn’t be big (or even a room) to be tidy and functional. I’m especially inspired by how the space flows so well with the rest of the house due to repeated elements like the horizontal wall cabinets, floor tile and paint color. Way to work with whatcha got!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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It’s been almost three years since I’ve worked as a pharmacist. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t quit my job to blog. (Although having the blog as an outlet has been wonderful.) We found ourselves unexpectedly expecting a third child in the midst of a pretty intense renovation and things were messy, literally and figuratively. The decision to quit my job was a joint one. When I was pregnant with Mabrey, Steve and I sat down and made a list of pros and cons. He came to the decision more quickly and easily than me. I knew giving up a steady paycheck to stay home with the kids wasn’t going to be all fun and games. And it hasn’t been. There are days I would rather be at work – not that being at home isn’t work. Here are the things I miss (and don’t miss) about working in the traditional sense.


*the money. I took an 80% cut in pay when I quit my job. It’s not 100% because I’ve been able to bring in a little money via the blog and some design work. I miss contributing significantly to our household income. I miss that feeling of accomplishment that came with each paycheck almost more than the money itself. But, when Steve and I did the math, the money I would have brought home after paying for three kids’ childcare / after school care didn’t seem worth the hassle of drop-offs and pickups and hurried mornings and evenings. At the time, I proposed Steve staying home and me working full-time. From a strictly financial standpoint, it made sense. I made more money than Steve. But I really detested my job and Steve’s exact words were, “I couldn’t do it.” Steve regularly reminds me that my worth isn’t directly related to the amount on my paycheck. I know he means well but it sounds too much like a cliché.

*a more equal division of parenting and housework. I typically worked second shift as a pharmacist which meant I did the morning routine and Steve did the evening routine on the days I worked. I also worked one or two weekends per month so Steve had weekend duty sometimes. Now that I’m home, the majority of parenting responsibilities and housework chores fall on me by default. Don’t get me wrong. Steve is an AWESOME hands-on parent. But he works 10-12 hour days and travels so he isn’t here all the time. Now, more than ever, I feel like if one of the kids is having a problem or the house is a disaster it’s a reflection on me – as opposed to us. And I feel like it’s my sole responsibility to fix it. Some days, that’s a lot of pressure. I fully realize this is self-induced and I’m working on it.

*using my brain. I swear my IQ has dropped by 30 points in the last three years. I adore having conversations with my kids but there’s a lot of talk about poop and butts. It’s not particularly stimulating on an intellectual level. For a while, I forgot how to have an adult conversation. That’s starting to change. Our kids are getting older and asking great questions which prompt interesting conversations. Still, I miss being challenged even though some days are extremely challenging – if that makes any sense.

*the freedom! After drop-offs on the days I worked, I would have a few hours to myself to do WHATEVER I WANTED. Sometimes I worked out. Sometimes I treated myself to lunch. Sometimes I watched TV or read a book. Sometimes I cleaned without anyone going behind me undoing what I had just done. Sometimes I simply savored driving home in my car alone. Now, just scheduling my annual pap smear is a logistical nightmare. I find myself choosing not to do things because the thought of working around school, naps, bus drop-offs / pickups, extracurricular activities, meals, schedules, etc. is daunting. To be honest, I have felt a twinge of jealousy when Steve shows up after work with a freshly cut head of hair. For him, it was so easy. Again, I’m working on it.

*missing my kids. After a 12-hour day at work, I wanted nothing more than to chill with my kids the following day. I missed them! And they missed me! Now, some days I want to lock myself in the bathroom. Or get a hotel room for the night. There are days I think my kids would happily fork over their own money for said hotel room. Steve is really good at recognizing this and he basically forces me out of the house when he sees that I am in need of a break. I love him for that.

*a sense of productivity. In the pharmacy, my work was constantly being evaluated. There were productivity measures on our computer screens that turned green when things were running smoothly and red when we were backed up. At closing, we printed out reports that summarized the day’s work. We recorded the number of prescriptions we filled and dispensed. We had semi-annual peer reviews that provided us with a look at the things we excelled at and those things we needed to improve upon. Now, there are days where I run around like crazy staying busy, moving from one task to the next, but when it’s all said and done, I have nothing official to show for it. Look! A clean bathroom! A fully loaded dishwasher! The kids’ nails are trimmed! woo. hoo.

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*the rat race. I so do NOT miss the harried busyness of getting myself and the kids dressed, fed, gathered and out the door just to arrive at the pharmacy hours later feeling like I’d already put in a full day’s work. Did I remember to pack Everett’s lunch? Did I remind Steve Layne has a spelling test to study for tonight? Did I set out the chicken for dinner? And I know Steve doesn’t miss leaving work abruptly to pick up the kids before daycare closes then rushing home for dinner, homework, baths and bedtime. When I was working, I felt like we were infinitely thinking three steps ahead. Things are still busy. Things will always be busy when kids are involved. But it’s a less frantic busy. Our mornings and evenings are less hectic. There’s less driving. There’s less shuffling hither and thither. Our family schedule is more simplified. I recently asked Layne and Everett what they liked most about me not working as a pharmacist. They had the same answer. “We like getting off the bus at our house and you being here.” And it’s little things like this that almost erase the “I miss…”

*the line of work. Even though I miss the money, the feelings that came with it (accomplishment, productivity, worth, etc.) and my hilarious co-workers, I do not miss working in a retail pharmacy. After being in the field for over a decade, I was disgusted with the way our society, in general, views healthcare. Health is not a privilege. It’s a way of life. It does not come in pill form (for most people). It’s not acute. I also saw the other side of things. The big drug companies marketing and pushing pills like a ShamWow infomercial. I was appalled. I wanted out. I also felt stifled creatively. By contrast, the last few years have been thoroughly rewarding. I’m grateful I get to be here for my kids and experiment with writing, photography, renovating and decorating on the side. I’m glad my kids get to see me throw myself into something I’m passionate about.

*spending more. Since our household income was cut in half, we were forced to scale back on our spending. That might sound like a drawback but it’s actually been very freeing. We only buy / do things that we really want to buy / do. We rarely make spontaneous purchases. We drive old cars. That being said, we’ve taken more vacations in the past few years because we’ve made them a priority. And we would love to travel more. We’ve been throwing extra cash at our mortgage and are on track to be mortgage-free by early 2016 (if not sooner) so, hopefully, we’ll see those traveling dreams come to fruition. It’s been really insightful to buckle down and prioritize financial goals. As a result, our finances are more streamlined.

*missing special events. When you work in any retail setting, you work evenings, weekends and holidays. I missed plenty of family gatherings, school parties and programs. We don’t make it to every gathering and school function but at least they’re options now. (Okay, sometimes we’re guilted into thinking we don’t have a choice.) I’m very protective of the time we have together. When someone is sick, it doesn’t throw a wrench into our schedule as much as it would have if I were working. (Btw, stay-at-home parents don’t get sick days.) Steve and I are able to spend more time together now, too.

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What’s the point of this post? (If you’ve made it this far.) Your guess is as good as mine. When I’m feeling things, it’s usually easier for me to write them down and dissect them. None of this is news to Steve. We’ve discussed everything I’ve laid out above. He’s always been supportive of my work – the pharmacy, the kids, the blog. Looking at the list, there are more items listed under “I miss…” vs. “I don’t miss…” But when I look closer, the things that most directly affect our quality of family life in a positive way are listed under “I don’t miss…” Looking back fifteen years from now, I don’t think I’m going to wish I would have worked more.

On the other hand, I don’t want motherhood to completely consume me. Is that selfish? Shouldn’t I be happy that we can make one income work for us? That I have the option to be home with the kids? It’s just that I’ve seen far too many women stay home to raise children only to become confused, lost, depressed, aimless when their nest empties. How do you prevent that? That’s what I’m trying to figure out, I guess. I’m getting involved outside the house. I’m making time for things I like to do. I’m getting better at telling Steve when I need a break. I’m reading more to challenge my brain. I’ve discovered I’m happiest when I’m learning something new. Sometimes I learn new things from a book. Sometimes my kids teach me new things.

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American social activist / abolitionist / feminist, c., 1895

“We can have it all. Just not all at once.” – Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam’s Club, 2014

Have you quit working to be home with your kids? What do you (not) miss about working? Maybe you’ve decided to keep working after kids? Maybe you’ve decided to go back to work after your kids are grown? At any rate, what do you do to satiate your need for intellectual stimulation? What do you do just for you?

Personally, I am forever grateful for this little slice of the blogosphere where I get to share all the big and little things that pique my curiosity. x

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

10.04.14 / Made Me Smile

vintage rug in bathroom

Hello, hello. How was your week? Not gonna lie. It was an “off” week for me. Not sure if it’s the cooler weather, dark mornings or what but by Friday evening Steve could tell I needed a break. He took the kids and shooed me out of the house. I went to see a movie by myself. That might sound sad but, let me tell you, it was pretty awesome. Have you ever seen a movie at the theater alone? Would you?

A few links that caught my eye…

*I found the perfect vintage rug for the main bathroom. The pattern and colors are lively but the small size doesn’t shroud the hexagon tile.

*The ever popular Adamo family home is up for sale. (The mudroom / laundry room off the kitchen is one of my all-time favorite utility spaces.) It’s yours for only 1,875,000 GBP which roughly equates to 3,000,000 USD. #stickershock All of that to say I’m looking forward to seeing what the stylish family does with their next home.

*”We play with textures instead of color to create a cozy feeling.” Love this approach.

dark moody bedroom

*I would totally hibernate for the winter in this moody, cocoon-like home.

*Game of Scones, ftw.

*I love going to the store with multiple children.

*If you’re curious, I watched Gone Girl at the theater. I neither loved nor disliked the book. I mostly read it to see what all the hype was about. The book-to-movie adaptation is one of the few that I like better than the book version. Whether you read the book or see the movie, the story line is perverse and uncomfortable but I think the movie does a good job of lacing the plot with frank humor. As dark as the story is, there were moments during the movie where the audience (including myself) laughed out loud. Then, a few minutes later, there were audible gasps of disbelief. I like seeing movies at the theater that take the audience on an emotional ride. Just my $.02.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re working on a cradle base for the claw foot tub. I mean, the rug is nice and all but it would be nice to actually bathe in the bathroom. I’m also wrapping up a few smaller projects around the house before cold weather really sets in and all I want to do is sit by the fireplace. Have a good one!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Richard Ostell