...because home doesn't happen overnight.

summer sandals

In summer when I’m not walking around barefoot (most of the time!) or running in my Brooks, it’s a good bet I’m wearing my favorite pair of strappy leather sandals. They go with everything: jeans + tee, shorts + tank, a breezy sundress, even a swimsuit + coverup at the pool or beach. They’re easy to slip on but look slightly more refined, sexier than flip flops.

Every time I share a snap of them on Instagram, people want to know the source so I thought I’d share it with you. I bought them at Kohl’s (!), and they are the only sandals I’ve owned/worn for the last two years. I have sensitive toe cleavage (TMI?), but these don’t bother me at all. In fact, there was no break-in period required. They were immediately comfortable. They’ve held up tremendously well especially considering how many miles I’ve logged in them. (FYI – For all-day walking excursions, I wear something more supportive but these are great for running errands, trips to the park and pool, casual dining out, etc.) I just noticed that they’re still available at a crazy affordable price, and I’m seriously considering buying another pair because surely the ones I have won’t last forever. I’ve included them in the round-up below (see #1) along with a few other strappy casual sandals that caught my eye.

 

In other news, the kids finish up school this week and the pool opens this weekend. Summer really is coming!

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Right-sized living forces me to shop with intention for our home and for myself. I think about how I will use an item and how often. I think about where I’ll store it. I think about how the item will impact my everyday living. If I already have a similar item, I think about its fate and if/how the potential purchase will be an improvement over the current item. I think about how long the item will last. I think about how I want the item to look. And I think about how much I’m willing to spend. Typically, the more boxes an item checks, the more money I’m willing to spend on it. There’s no aimless browsing. There are no impulse buys. If a purchase doesn’t hold up to my expectations, I return it.

Here are a few of my best buys from this year. I’ve divided them into two categories: things for my home & family and things for myself. They are little things I use on a regular basis that have improved my everyday life because of their purpose, convenience, small footprint, beauty and/or comfort.

FOR HOME & FAMILY

best buys 2015

1 – reusable grocery bags I use them multiple times per week for all shopping, not just grocery. They also make great library book bags. Don’t let their small size fool you. They stretch to hold an insane amount of stuff. They store easily inside of each other and can be stashed in a closet, glove box or purse or hung on a hook.

2 – wire basket I bought one of these over the summer to harvest tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from the garden. The kids loved using it and it held up against their abuse. Because of the simple design, I leave it out on the kitchen countertop to corral all kinds of things during colder months.

3 – indigo dyed kitchen towels Pretty and practical, these kitchen towels are soft and absorbent. Drying dishes never looked so good.

4 – stainless steel lunch boxes When I bought these for the kids, I was leery of spending so much on lunch boxes. But after going through a ridiculous amount of boxes, bags, containers and lids (where do they all go?!) over the years, these have proven to be a worthy investment. Not only are they virtually indestructible, they somehow make packing lunches easier and faster. (Get tons of ideas here. Instead of forks, I pack toothpicks now.) Numerous classmates, parents and teachers have inquired about them. I throw them in the dishwasher for easy cleanup.

5 – mesh family beach tote Our old pool bag gave out this past summer and I had to find a replacement in a pinch. Even though it isn’t the prettiest thing, this tote is super functional which is the #1 priority for me when it comes to a family pool bag. With its various pouches and pockets, it easily holds everyone’s towels, drinks, snacks and pool toys. The mesh material is waterproof, sandproof (I made that up…it means it doesn’t hold sand) and washable. Throw it in the washer or hose it down. It folds up and stores flat during colder months.

6 – peshtemal beach towel Along with the pool bag, I also replaced our old beach towels with peshtemals. (We made the switch indoors a while ago.) There’s one for each member of our family and they’re all the same color so there’s no fighting over towels or outgrowing themed towels. They’re thin which means they dry quickly and roll up easily to fit inside the pool bag. No more lugging around heavy, wet towels! They get better with every wash; just don’t use fabric softener.

FOR ME

best buys 2015

1 – Finley clutch So, technically, I haven’t bought this yet because it’s sold out :( But as soon as it’s back in stock, it’s mine. I have the petite bellfield tote (the only purse I own) and it only gets better with each passing year. It’s great for everyday, but I’m in need of something smaller and dressier for special occasions. That motherhood milestone when you no longer have to carry around a ginormous bag for everyone else’s necessities? I’m celebrating it with a clutch.

2 – electrolyte drink tablets I’m a sweater (as in odiferous not knit) and, apparently, I’m a runner now, too. I discovered these tablets after a particularly grueling run. For me, they really help to prevent muscle cramping without adding loads of sugar to my diet.

3 – Saucony retro sneakers These are my go-to kicks for running errands and keeping up with the kids. They’re comfortable without looking orthopedic and they look great with almost everything “ath-leisure.” I love them so much I have them in black/silver and purple/orange. (The purple/orange looks great with olive or navy leggings.) I hope Saucony never stops making them.

4 – stainless steel water bottle When I’m home, I’m really good about drinking plenty of water. But when I’m out and about (which seems to be more and more these days), my water intake wanes. I keep this water bottle in my bag or in the car and fill it up at home or via drinking fountains around town. The kids have been known to borrow sips from it, too. It keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold for 24 hours. I’ve used it with #2 above.

5 – swanky earbuds I’m a true introvert and sometimes I just need to drown out all the stimulation going on around me. I love these comfy, good-looking earbuds for listening to music, TED talks and podcasts at home or away. The design is a lesson in form + function. One cord is longer than the other. A teeny, inline 3-button remote is all but invisible. Gold accents make them feel more like jewelry than audio paraphernalia and a leather case keeps everything tidy. *BONUS* – Use the promo code “housetweaking15” to score a 15% discount.

6 – metro legging Easily, these are the best leggings I’ve ever owned. I bought the high-waisted version months ago and they have been a staple in my wardrobe ever since. Imagine if jeans and yoga pants had a baby. That baby would be these leggings. They do amazing things for the glutes. Dress them up for running errands and dining out or dress them down for lounging and light workouts.

What are some of your favorite buys of the year?

09.18.15 / Post #1,000!

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I sat down to write a more technical post and happened to look at my WordPress dashboard (which I never do because I hate thinking about the blog in numbers). The published post count read 999. WTF?! That just doesn’t even seem possible. I mean, I know I’ve been at this for almost six years but 1,000 posts feels a little monumental. So I ditched the technical post (i.e., saved it for another time) and decided to write something more personal. I spontaneously jotted down the first ten things about myself that came to mind. Fair warning: they’re pretty random. (AND THERE ARE A LOT OF PARENTHESIS.) (And some curse words.)

1. Audio alerts drive me crazy. Beeping microwaves, dinging washers, buzzing dryers, ringing & pinging phones. It’s sensory overload. (TVs and movie theaters always seem extremely loud to me, too.) I set everything to silent mode if it has the option.

2. I love tennis. Like, LOVE IT. I played two decades ago in high school and picked it up again last fall. I didn’t play much over the summer but have started playing more regularly in recent weeks. I play 3-5 times a week with an awesome group of ladies and it is so much fun. I like everything about it: the geometry of the court, the friendly but aggressive competition, the sound of a ball hitting a racket just right, the clothes, the exercise, the mental game, the net game, Roger Federer. If I had to choose between loving only houses or loving only tennis, I don’t think I could choose just one.

3. I’m running my first 5K tomorrow. I hate running. Not to be confused with running after a tennis ball. No, I’m talking about plain ol’ running. I ran track in high school, briefly. After passing out at the finish line several times, I was demoted to statistician. (math > running) I had always felt heart palpitations but I thought they were normal. Your heart is supposed to beat faster when you’re running, right? Years later after I had my first baby, the palpitations became so frequent and so severe even when not physically active that I finally saw a cardiologist and was diagnosed with PSVT. The arrhythmia was successfully treated via cardiac ablation in 2006, but a fear of running has been plaguing me ever since. Then Steve went and organized a 5K to benefit autism and I couldn’t not run (such a good cause, I want to support my husband, yadda yadda) so I’m running my first 5K tomorrow. Eek! My goal is to not pass out.

4. The last thing I binge-watched on Netflix was Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Summer. (The TV series, not the movie.) It’s hilariously stupid, if that’s your thing. (It’s my thing.)

5. I’ve only taken one bath in the tub we tricked out with a wood cradle base. It was glorious. It needs to happen again. Maybe after the 5K?

6. Things have been a little rough since Everett’s accidentPhysically, he’s fine but there are some lingering PTSD symptoms affecting both him and me. (So many acronyms in this post!) I don’t want to delve into details because he deserves some privacy, but, honestly, it has been extremely difficult watching him opt out of everyday activities due to fear. Ironically, none of them have to do with riding a scooter or bike. It’s also very hard to get anything accomplished when he so obviously needs my attention. The start of a new school year has brought even more challenges. This week was better than last week and I hope I can say the same next week.

7. The last thing I bought for our house was hand soap. Mrs. Meyer’s rosemary liquid hand soap, to be exact. It’s perfectly lovely but I am very promiscuous when it comes to hand soap. I’m a hand soap whore. I can’t commit! So many hand soaps, so little time.

8. The last thing I bought for myself was a vintage Mexican skirt on eBay. (see above) I’m crunchy like that. It was $29 and it’s going to be my fall staple. Fashion week, shmashion week.

9. Going from two to three kids did me in. There was a lot going on then. We were living in an interim apartment and renovating. I quit my day job. Mabrey was awful colicky and didn’t sleep more than a few hours at time for almost a year. I was running on fumes. Even if things had been more stable, the jump from two kids to three threw off our cushy 1:1 adult to kid ratio and I feel like we’ve been driving on a metaphorical flat tire ever since. People with more than three kids should automatically get $1,000,000.

I’ll never forget telling other parents of three that we were unexpectedly expecting a third child. They smiled the biggest smiles and kept telling us how “awesome” and “fun” it was. “It’s such a great dynamic,” they would say. Either we’re doing something wrong or it was complete bullshit. In reality, I think they were quietly celebrating, “Yes! They’re coming to the dark side!” I seriously can’t remember what life was like before three kids. That being said, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Mabrey is still my favorite surprise. And sometimes it is awesome and fun but most of the time it’s loud and frenzied.

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10. The best book I read this summer was Euphoria by Lily King. It’s a must-read!

*BONUS* I eat french fries two at time. They have to be similar in size.

Whew. I bet you’re glad this won’t happen again for another 1,000 posts.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking