...because home doesn't happen overnight.
06.30.14 / Made Me Smile

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If you follow me on instagram then you probably already know that Steve underwent an emergency appendectomy on Friday. He’s home now and resting but the recovery has been much more difficult than either of us were expecting. Obviously, our priorities have completely shifted. The kids have been good about bringing Steve water and snacks and reserving their aggressive hugs for when he’s feeling better. Mabrey is keeping us stocked up on groceries ;)

I wasn’t able to post my regular “Made Me Smile” links but there were too many good ones not to. I thought you might enjoy seeing them even though it’s Monday.

*I don’t know about you but I can’t think about appendectomies without thinking of Madeline.

*A $22,000 dream house…on wheels. (Steve and I are inspired by the couple’s desire to live mortgage-free.)

*One of the best nursery reveals I’ve seen. I love the mix of old, new and handmade.

*A young family is just beginning the decorating adventure in their newly constructed home. Damn good start if you ask me.

*Who wouldn’t want to stay at the Lombardi House?

*The mom behind the popular General Store.

*Coming to bookshelves in the fall of 2015: A Field Guide to Decorating.

*Daddy’s kitchen.

*Mabrey’s shopping cart.

Happy Monday, friends!

06.20.14 / Made Me Smile

IT problems

Lots of tech issues over here this week, including faulty wifi service at home and a bogged down server. I’ve been assured that everything is being taken care of as quickly as possible but I apologize for any problems you may have trying to pull up the blog. The behind-the-scenes tech stuff (coding, servers, web hosting, routers, etc.) is definitely my least favorite part of blogging. Oh, and did I mention Steve was out of town and my kids are bored? And that it rained practically every day? But enough whining. We’re supposed to be smiling! All the links that helped me get through the week…

*750 square feet of nothing but style.

*Stop trying to “finish” your space.

*Nate’s #1 decor tip: clean up that s#@!hole.

*How to sunbathe sans balcony or backyard. Ha!

zigzag stairs

*Zigzag stairs.

*A great soy candle for summer that’s fresh, not overwhelming. (I have it in my bedroom!)

*How to capture life with kids (on your phone).

*A funny read on writing.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be back here Monday with a peek at the boys’ room and, if all my technological stars align correctly (fingers crossed), I’m starting the house tour next week, too.

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Youngchae Park

Progress in the kid / guest bathroom is slow-going.

kid bath progress

Steve started tiling the back wall. It’s proved to be a challenge. The wall is wonky and there’s a window and Steve’s a perfectionist soooo…it’s taking a while but we’ll get there. The other walls shouldn’t be as tricky.

Since it looks like we’re going to be sharing one bathroom for a little longer, I decided to do something I’ve been meaning to for a while.

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I replaced the flimsy plastic toilet seat and lid in the master bathroom. It changed my life.

The toilet came with the house. We decided to keep it. (We actually wanted to keep the toilet in the kid / guest bath, too, but it was accidentally broken during a renovation mishap. Oops.) I’ll never forget the looks of passersby as I was cleaning the toilet in the front yard…with a garden hose…while eight months pregnant. THE HORROR.


I went to Home Depot and had way too much fun playing with all the toilet seats. It’s almost embarrassing how many special features there are. You know, considering some places in the world don’t even have proper sewage systems. But it didn’t stop me from wanting all. the. features. Built-in potty seat? Yes. Removable and easy-to-clean? Yessssss. Whisper-soft and slow-closing? GIVE IT TO ME.

I ended up with this tricked out seat + lid. Installation was super easy. Gross but super easy. Once I had removed the disgusting bolts holding the old seat in place I couldn’t get the new clean one installed fast enough. It took me all of 10 minutes. And that was with a toddler “helping” me. The new seat and lid are made of molded wood so it’s sturdier than the cheap plastic we had before. Our toilet is round and the new seat is about ½” too long but it doesn’t seem to affect its function.

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There’s a built-in potty seat which Mabrey has already claimed. I really like this feature since we don’t have room for a separate training potty. The potty seat is removable so when we’re past the potty-training phase we can take it off. A magnet holds the smaller potty seat to the lid when non-toddler derrière use the toilet. The potty seat is plastic – not wood.

Another awesome feature is the soft-closing mechanism which keeps the lid and seat from slamming shut. Everett graciously demonstrates this toilet *magic* here. I love this feature. When the boys use the bathroom during the night or early in the morning while Steve and I are sleeping, I’m not jolted awake by the sound of the toilet seat slamming anymore. It’s the equivalent of hanging blackout shades in an infant’s room. Anything for five more minutes of sleep! Between our soft-closing kitchen cabinets & drawers, bathroom vanity and now toilet, I’m going to be slamming all the things at every house I visit.

potty lid unlock

In case I need to remove the seat + lid for cleaning purposes (from the looks of our old toilet seat bolts apparently I need to), the entire piece can be unlocked from the bolts and lifted off.

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In summary, maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can teach an old toilet new tricks.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.17.14 / My (Home) Workout

This really has nothing to do with houses (other than it takes place in one) but inquiring minds want to know about my workout routine so I’m sharing all the details – and awkward photos – below.

home workout 1

Welcome to my home gym! Haha. I gave up my pricey gym membership when we decided I would quit working as a pharmacist to stay home with the kids. And, honestly, it’s been for the better. It forced me to find an alternative workout method. Before, I went from machine to machine at the gym and it was so boring. I was stuck in a rut and I really had no idea what I was doing.

I’ve *mostly* exercised regularly (you can see my equally embarrassing pregnancy workout routine here) during and in between pregnancies. Thanks to that and breastfeeding and sometimes diet restrictions during periods of nursing, I’ve never had a problem gaining too much weight during pregnancy (I gained 30-35 lbs with each pregnancy) or losing the baby weight after giving birth. But after Mabrey was born, I noticed a huge difference in the consistency of my body. Everything was mushy and I lost a lot of muscle tone. I felt different too. I was more tired than usual (it probably had something to do with the fact that Mabrey didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost a year old) and weak. I wanted to feel strong again.

I didn’t have the funds for a class or a personal trainer plus a babysitter so I read a bunch of reviews on post-pregnancy workouts that I could do at home and ended up trying Tracy Anderson’s post-pregnancy workout. I loved it! During a good week, I would manage to get in three workouts. But two workouts per week was probably my average for the first year of Mabrey’s life. Once Mabrey weaned and started sleeping regularly, I gained more energy and was able to carve out more blocks of time to devote to exercising. Eventually, the post-pregnancy workout became less difficult and I knew it was time to move on.

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Since I had a good experience with the post-pregnancy workout, I looked into some of Tracy’s non-pregnancy material. After reading hundreds of reviews, I opted for the 1-hour mat workout and precision toning DVD’s. You guys, these are the real deal. I’ve been doing them for over a year now. Here’s what I LOVE about Tracy’s method:

*I can work out at home…or pretty much anywhere. Just figuring out the childcare logistics for three kids is enough to turn me off to a gym or class. Not that I have anything against them but I know me and I know I’m much more likely to workout at my convenience. Getting three little people loaded into the car to go anywhere is an ordeal in and of itself. I make it a priority to work out and it usually happens in the afternoon during Mabrey’s nap time (the boys are either in school or at home reading / having screen time / watching a movie) but sometimes I wake up early to sneak in a workout before the kids are awake.

Likewise, the workout travels well. When the weather allows, I work out on the deck in our backyard. When we were on vacation last week I brought my laptop, DVD’s and weights along and worked out on my grandparents’ screened porch.

*I don’t need a ton of space or equipment. As you saw in the first photo, my living room doubles as my gym. I push everything up against the sofa to give myself plenty of room and pop in the DVD. If the boys are watching a movie, I play the DVD on my laptop and prop it up on the coffee table.

home workout 2

home workout 3

I stash what little equipment is needed (light weights, adjustable ankle weights) in a basket on the living room shelves. I used canned food as weights starting out until I decided to invest in legit weights. I have 1 lb, 3 lb and 5 lb free weights.

home workout 4

Some of the exercises require a chair for support. I grab my wishbone knockoff from the dining room and it works perfectly. I do the floor exercises on my living room rug but a yoga mat would work, too. I love that I don’t need an entire room devoted to large, expensive exercise equipment.

*It’s inexpensive. I would probably enjoy Tracy coaching me in person but I’m guessing I’ll never be able to afford her. (She’s been known to train the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.) Over the past two years, I’ve spent less than $100 total on workout material and equipment. That leaves me with more money for pillows! or wine! or cute workout chairs! Bottom line: it’s cheap.

*There’s a subtle ballet / dance reference. I am NOT an athlete. I know. Shocker.

Fun fact: In high school I was demoted from track team runner to statistician after my coach learned that my body’s natural reaction to running was passing out. I ended up being diagnosed and treated for a cardiac arrhythmia later in life. But, whatever, I was good at math.

However, I did study ballet for over a decade. Tracy started out as a dancer and some of the arm and leg positions (plié, attitude, fourth position, etc.) are reminiscent of ballet and it’s funny how after all these years the positions still feel familiar. They’re almost like second nature to my body. That’s not to say someone without dance experience wouldn’t like the workouts or wouldn’t be able to do them. It’s just something I notice and like.

*It’s challenging. These DVD’s are not easy. But they aren’t impossible either. If I can get through an entire workout on the first try then, in my mind, it’s too easy. It took me MONTHS to get through the entire precision toning DVD without dropping my arms or a leg at some point. To this day, I am dripping with sweat and winded at the end of my workout. A year later, it’s still challenging.

FYI – Steve is a certified CrossFit trainer so he’s crazy fit. I begged him to try just the arm section of the mat workout with me a few weeks ago and HE COULDN’T DO IT. “This is stupid,” his words exactly.

To keep from burning out or plateauing, I alternate between the two DVD’s regularly.

*It isn’t trendy. Oprah and Gwyneth made Tracy a hot commodity several years ago but don’t assume her methods are outdated. Tracy is constantly creating new material. There are also little things (changing positions, adding / increasing weights, doubling up on sessions, controlling more, etc.) you can tweak within the workouts to make them more difficult as you get stronger and the workouts get easier. I’ve heard Tracy is training men now too and she recently released the pregnancy project after giving birth to her second child. It almost makes me wish I was pregnant again just to try it. Almost. At any rate, I’m totally bummed it wasn’t available when I was pregnant.

*It’s effective. The number one reason I haven’t moved on to something else is because this method really, well, works. I am stronger. I am toned. I like the way I feel. I like the way I look. I’m not ripped but that’s not my preferred body aesthetic anyway. The workouts focus on accessory muscles – as opposed to major muscle groups – to create a lean but toned profile. If I ever get to the point where I don’t feel challenged or I stop seeing results then I’m open to trying something different – Tracy Anderson or otherwise.

home workout 6

So that’s what I’ve been doing to stay fit. I try to work out every other day. Some weeks it’s more (rare!); some weeks it’s less. I will say that between the two DVD’s I like the precision toning more. It’s more difficult (the planking is ridiculous) and begets results more quickly. There’s more verbal direction, too. But both DVD’s are effective. My ideal workout would include the warm-up, arms, legs and cool-down sections of the mat workout paired with the butt and abs sections of the precision toning. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend the mat workout or the method for beginners.

I’d like to mention that this information isn’t meant to be prescriptive. I’m just sharing what I do. You should do what works for you. I have friends who swear by classes or gyms to stay motivated and hold themselves accountable. But if money / kids / time don’t make those convenient options for you and you’re interested in trying something at home, I’d highly recommend Tracy’s method. I’m always surprised by how much more productive I am on the days I work out. It seems counterintuitive but using up an hour of my busy day to exercise actually results in more stuff getting done. I have more energy, more focus.

How about you? What do you do to stay active? Have you ever tried Tracy Anderson’s method? Is there another workout method I should know about?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking