...because home doesn't happen overnight.

michigan city sunset

A few weeks after school let out, the kids and I spent five days in Michigan City, Indiana. It was such a (surprisingly!) great getaway that I thought I’d share a little more about our trip.

tryon farm

Since it was just me and the kids (Steve couldn’t slip away from work), I was hoping to keep the drive time under six hours. I can’t remember when or where I heard about Tryon Farm, but it was one of the few possibilities that came to mind when I started planning the trip. When I mapped it, I was stoked to learn we could make the drive in less than five hours. (We’re in southwestern Ohio.) You can read more about the green farming community here. Essentially, it’s the real life intersection of nature + modern architecture, and it happens to be located a mile and a half from Lake Michigan in Indiana. It sounded like the perfect spot for an adventure.

the nest

Several Tryon Farm homes are available as short-term rentals. We rented the coziest little house nestled among the trees. It was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom modern cabin with all the essentials but nothing over the top. There was no television and no internet service. I loved how all the windows cranked open to get a good breeze going. No need for A/C even on the hottest of days!

triple bunk

triple bunk

The kids’ favorite feature was the triple (!) bunk beds built into a tower hallway between the kitchen and bedroom. A pocket door separated the bunk nook from the kitchen. Each bunk had its own window, reading light and book shelf. A sturdy ladder reached from the floor all the way to the top. The highest bunk even had sliding doors with frosted panels to create a secret hideout. Naturally, the kids fought over it. They ended up taking turns sleeping on the top bunk. A huge skylight in the ceiling of the “bunk tower” kept the space bright during the day. It also acted as a silent alarm clock early every morning, but I actually enjoy waking up early on vacation so it wasn’t a big deal.

tryon chickens

tryon tire swing

Each morning after breakfast we’d explore the farm by way of various trails. There were ponds, dunes, meadows and woodlands. Mabrey loved visiting the chickens. The boys had a blast playing on the tire swing.

tryon architecture

I couldn’t get over all the amazing homes and how they were seemingly built into the landscape. Raw materials like corrugated steel and concrete were softened by creeping vines and leafy canopies. My absolute favorite house was a low slung ranch built into a sloping hillside. It had a green roof that you could walk on! (It was empty during our visit.) I loved the juxtaposition of modern lines against the wild landscape.

tryon farm

I used basil and oregano from the community garden to make meatball subs and spaghetti in the kitchen of our little house.

my three

wet clothes

all day long

me and lils

mabrey lake

After lunch we would venture off the farm to take in some of the local attractions. Namely, the lake beach. It wasn’t really warm enough to swim until the latter part of the week, but that didn’t stop the kids from getting in – sometimes fully clothed. I decided I prefer freshwater lakes over salty oceans. (Plus, no stingrays. I was stung once as a teenager, and the ocean just hasn’t been the same for me since.)

michigan city lighthouse

One windy afternoon we started walking west toward the Michigan City lighthouse. I thought we’d walk to the pier and turn around. But as we got closer, there weren’t any restrictions against walking along the pier. In fact, there weren’t any railings or warning signs or anything. We literally walked out and onto the lighthouse. I’m not much of a helicopter mom, but I was a little anxious trying to keep three kids contained on a narrow pier. Luckily, we made it all the way out to the lighthouse and back with no casualties.

south shore line

We had planned on taking the train into Chicago one day to visit a museum, but that plan was thwarted by an overly tired and whiny four-year-old. (Just look at her disgruntled face!)

south shore line

I couldn’t see spending all that money just to make everyone miserable, so we did the next best thing and rode the train two stops west then back again. Everett especially liked the train. The boys later confessed to only wanting to ride the train anyway, so it worked out perfectly.

3 dune challenge

The highlight of our trip was visiting Indiana Dunes State Park in nearby Chesterton. We completed the 3 dune challenge. The wind was whipping. The sun was beating down. Our shoes filled with sand and instantly became two sizes too small. Everett and Mabrey complained most of the way. I refused to carry them. (I couldn’t carry them.) At one point Mabrey dropped to her knees and raised mini fists to the sky and cried, “I’m soooooo tiiiiiiiiiired!” I had to stifle my laughter. It was like a scene from a movie where the main character is stranded, dying of thirst, in the desert. Only, replace the main character with a preschooler. Who has a water bottle, sunscreen and snacks.

But. BUT!

indiana dune state park

We were rewarded with the most AMAZING view! The kids begged to walk down to a private beach after we crested dune #2. I warned them that it would turn the 3 dune challenge into a 4 dune challenge, but they weren’t fazed. It was the best detour. We felt like we were in a different world. (If you look closely, you can see all three kiddos in the shot above.)

A few other local hot spots that we tried and loved:

*49er drive-in movie theater in Valparaiso, Indiana – Affordable and family-friendly, they play new releases. Named one of the top 10 drive-ins in the country.

*Mucho Mas! in Michigan City, Indiana – Tex-Mex cuisine. Great lunch option.

*Stop 50 wood fired pizzeria in Michiana Shores, Indiana – Probably some of the best pizza to ever grace my taste buds. Get the firecracker appetizer. (Homemade marinara + hot sauce + a dollop of melty goat cheese + flaky breadsticks = fireworks in your mouth.) The house salad is incredible, too.

lake house

lake house

In the evenings, we’d drive down to the lake and watch the sun melt into water. In reality, I was house-stalking.

lake michigan

On our last day, we didn’t have to check out until 5:00 p.m. We milked every last minute. It was in the 90s, so we spent the afternoon at the beach. It was so hot and the water felt so refreshing that even I got in. (I liken my swimming habits to a rare eclipse.) The kids built sandcastles and buried their feet. Mabrey collected a dozen teeny shells and smooth rocks. A stunt plane practiced its aerobatic routine over the lake directly in front of us, looping, rolling, ascending and diving, leaving its temporary, smoky signature in the blue sky.

lake michigan

As I lay on my towel watching the kids and the plane, an unexpected parenting milestone snuck up on me. I was able to lie uninterrupted on the beach for a full thirty minutes. It was glorious. Well worth the wait ;)

Late in the afternoon we headed back to the little house, showered, packed, locked up and hit the road. On our way out of town, I asked the kids what they would miss most.

Layne said, “The laid-back atmosphere.”

Everett said, “The tire swing.”

Mabrey said, “The chickens.”

I was already missing those thirty minutes on my beach towel.

My only regret of the entire trip was Steve’s absence. Everywhere we went one of us would say, “Dad would love this!” We have to get him there. Soon.

Thanks, northern Indiana, for giving the midwest a good name. Can’t wait to visit again!

Do you have any recommendations for vacation spots in the midwest and/or within a six-hour drive of Ohio? We’d love to add more midwestern cities to our wish list.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.01.16 / Liked & Linked

summer nights

mabrey's room progress

worn out

School’s out! I think this is the earliest my kids have been released for summer break. (We didn’t have any snow days to make up this year.) The sad part is they go back extra early. (Ask me in a few weeks though, and I’ll tell you it’s a good thing.) We’re trying not to think too far ahead. Instead, we’re jumping feet first into summer by eating most meals al fresco, hitting up the local pool (pool dunks count as baths, right?), roasting s’mores, catching fireflies, playing hide-and-seek outside and letting the kids’ bedtime slip later and later. Can you spot a tennis ball caught in the snow rail on our roof? #signsofsummer

In other news, Mabrey’s room is taking shape. As much as I loved the dark walls, the white feels fresh and airy. It’s a completely different room! I decided to hire out the wallpaper installation. It was scheduled for this week, but the installer called late last Friday to say he could squeeze us in early Saturday morning. Yes, please! (You can catch a sneak peek here.) I spent the rest of the day emptying, reconfiguring, painting and reorganizing the teeny closet. I nixed the freestanding shelving unit that I threw in there as a short-term solution when we moved in…FOUR YEARS AGO. Switching out the crib for a twin trundle bed was a priority, and it’s eaten up a lot of space. I’m trying to free up more floor space by using the closet for toy storage.

Speaking of beds…I’m waiting on new mattresses to arrive. Until then, Mabrey is sleeping on a thin IKEA trundle mattress which I brought in temporarily from the boys’ room. Although, I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t just throw down a shag rug and call it a day. She’s been passing out on the living room rug nearly every afternoon. (I can’t say the same for her bed at bedtime. So. Much. Drama.) Stay tuned for more progress along with individual posts featuring the tweaked out bed and reorganized closet.

A few links…

*A narrow kitchen featuring hand-painted gold radiators!

*Wanted: a modest version of this house on the land we found here. (Seven months later, we can’t stop thinking about that plot for sale near Asheville.)

*Love the mix of wood + tile in this bathroom.

*Such a fun idea for a kids’ summer birthday party. House envy!

cincy airbnb 1

cincy airbnb 2

cincy airbnb 3

*Headed to the midwest this summer? Check out this local architect’s airbnb in Cincinnati complete with a rooftop deck.

*A silly, interactive, FREE website that Everett’s teacher told us about to combat boredom. My kids love the awesome sauce and koo koo kanga roo channels.

*The swimsuit Mabrey picked out. It’s super cute (gold elephants!) and stays put in all the right places.

*The boys’ swim trunks. They will only wear fitted trunks that don’t have to be tied and retied.

I hope you had a glorious loooooong weekend. The kids and I are sneaking away to Michigan City, Indiana, next week for a little getaway. I get to be the fun parent for five days! Haha. Any suggestions for eating, seeing and doing?

P.S. – Easy Greek spread for all those summer potlucks.

images: 1-3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 4-6) Airbnb

05.17.16 / Liked & Linked

sister wedding

bouquet

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!

Anyway.

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