...because home doesn't happen overnight.


Congrats to Joanne (that lucky Irish girl!) and Corinne (yay for gluten-free snacks!). They each win a six-month subscription to NatureBox.

pantry 1

In our previous house we had a roomy, walk-in kitchen pantry. Here? Notsomuch. When we designed the kitchen, the plan was to use cabinet space for dried and packaged goods. We thought if worse came to worse we could always store pantry items in one of the wardrobes in the adjacent mudroom but, luckily, we haven’t had to.

Downsizing has changed our lives a lot – which we expected for the most part. But we’re surprised by how much it has affected our thoughts on food. It seems like in our previous house, we bought (and ate) way more packaged food because we had this huge pantry to stock. Here, there’s no pantry begging to be filled so we find ourselves buying (and eating) less boxed food. And we’re making the packaged foods we do eat count. We’re also better at keeping our fridge stocked with fresh produce.

So where exactly do we keep packaged foods and dry goods in this house?

pantry 2

We’ve designated a corner lazy susan as our “pantry.” It’s easily accessible and doesn’t take up much space.

pantry 3

Even though it’s probably a tenth of the size of our previous pantry, nobody goes hungry around here. If anything, we’re eating better. We’re more conscious of what we’re buying and eating since we only have so much room for food. The whole “quality over quantity” theme has even seeped into our grocery shopping and regular diets. I’m not saying we’re perfect (um, hello boxes of Girl Scout cookies) but our attitude towards in-house food has definitely changed. Plus, I can pull the “we don’t have room for it” card, guilt-free, anytime one of my kids asks for juice boxes at the grocery store.

The limited space makes for quick inventory checks, too. It’s easy to see what we’re running low on and what we have plenty of.

pantry collage

I think lazy susans are difficult to organize. Why can’t I find wedge-shaped bins to organize and optimize space in a lazy susan?! BAM. Someone should take that idea to Shark Tank. I did the best I could with some bins and baskets we already had on hand. (In fact, most of them once lived in our big, flashy pantry.) The cabinet contents are divvied up into categories: canned goods, snacks, pasta & rice, non-refrigerated produce, breakfast foods, baking ingredients, sweets, etc. I try to keep the items in each bin specific to a given category so I can simply pull out one basket to find what I need instead of bending over and spinning my way through everything just to find one item.

pantry 7

The basket system works really well for snacks. The kids can grab the snack basket to pick an item of their choice without my help. To keep things relatively healthy but also give the kids a sense of freedom, I control what goes into the basket but they choose what comes out. Win-win.

NatureBox recently sent my family some goodies to try and they made their way into the snack basket. With no high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated corn oils, no trans fats, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors and no artificial colors, I’m happy to support NatureBox’s mission to help people discover better choices. Being a busy mom, I also appreciate that the monthly snack subscription includes free shipping anywhere in the continental U.S. Healthy snacks at your doorstep, people! Best of all, YOU CHOOSE which snacks show up at your doorstep.

pantry 5

To free up room in the corner cabinet, I do store a few things elsewhere in the kitchen. Cereal and oatmeal live in large glass canisters just above the “pantry.” We go through those two things so quickly there’s never any worry of them becoming stale before consumption.

pantry 6

I keep flour and various sugars in containers next to the stove. The stainless steel canisters have rubber-sealed lids with secure latches to keep contents fresh.

I’ve received SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. about where we keep food in our downsized house. I hope this post gives you some answers. (Doesn’t peeking into someone’s pantry feel extremely personal?) We’ve discovered that having less space for food isn’t necessarily a problem. For us, it’s motivation to make better choices. And better is always a step in the right direction.

pantry 8

Would you like to discover better snack options with the help of NatureBox? Great! See entry details below.

PRIZE: 6-month deluxe snacker subscription to NatureBox ($120 value). There will be TWO WINNERS!

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) in the U.S. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Browse the snacks NatureBox has to offer then leave a comment on this post stating which ones you’d like to try. (I fell hard for the oat bran dippin’ stix and dark cocoa almonds. YUM.)

DEADLINE: Enter before Sunday, March 16th at 9:00 p.m. EST. Two random winners will be announced Monday, March 17th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: House*Tweaking readers receive an exclusive discount. Enter the code “HT50″ to score 50% off your first box of any size. Valid only on first month’s box, new customers only.

This post sponsored in part by NatureBox. All images and content by me. All crumbs by my kids. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

pesto sandwich 2

When it’s cold outside, I like a hot sandwich and warm soup inside. Our next-door neighbors in our old ‘hood used to make this sandwich all the time when they entertained. (I miss having neighbors who feed us!) It’s perfect for parties or a quick meal.

pesto sandwich 1


*loaf of ciabatta bread
*¼ c. pesto
*1 lb. shaved ham, preferably uncured (I use Boar’s Head uncured, smoked ham.)
*a few slices of provolone cheese
*¼ c. dill pickles, sliced
*thin slices of red onion for topping

I’m guessing you know how to make a sandwich. If not…spread the pesto onto the top half of the cut ciabatta loaf. Layer meat and toppings. (I can’t believe I just typed instructions for making a sandwich. You’re welcome.)

pesto sandwich

Wrap the sandwich in foil and place it on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

pesto sandwich 3

Cut the hot sandwich lengthwise then widthwise into 2″ finger sandwiches. Use toothpicks for easy serving.

pesto sandwich 4

Serve with kettle cooked chips, salad or soup of choice. Personally, I love it alongside Trader Joe’s organic tomato & roasted red pepper soup. (There’s a low sodium option, too.) YUM.

pesto sandwich 5

My kids aren’t fond of pesto so I usually forgo pesto on one end of the loaf when I make it for my family. This sandwich is super easy and super comforting. Enjoy!

Psst…easy chicken marbella is pretty comforting, too.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Hey everyone! I survived Alt and will be sharing a synopsis of my experience later on this week. In some ways it was what I expected and in other ways not. To be continued…

baba 1

Mabrey is almost twenty-two months old and still takes a bottle. (Per our pediatrician’s recommendation, I give her coconut milk due to an issue with dairy.) She refuses to drink milk from anything but her bottle. I’m not worried but I think it’s interesting to see how my views on the topic have changed from baby #1 to baby #3.

When my boys (now 8 & 5 years old) were babies, the day they turned one I got rid of all bottles. I breastfed them both but they stopped nursing and started bottles on their own before age one. At the time, I thought I was doing the “right” thing by banning bottles when they turned a year old. They didn’t fight me on the matter but it did take them a few weeks to accept milk from a cup.

With Mabrey, it’s almost laughable to see how far I’ve loosened the mama reins. And it’s not just the bottle, either. I’m more flexible all around, figuratively speaking. What’s that Mabrey? You wanna stay up late and dance naked in the living room to pop music? You wanna eat food off the floor? You want me to read you books instead of lay you down for a nap? …oh, okay.

baba 2

I hadn’t really thought about the bottle thing until recently when someone asked when I had stopped giving Mabrey bottles. I got the look when I said she still took them. Mabrey flat out refused all bottles and solid foods until she was ten months old so when I consider that, she’s only been taking a bottle for a year.

But like I said, I’m not worried. Mabrey doesn’t need a bottle to fall asleep. She doesn’t carry it around with her all day. In fact, she usually feeds herself on a floor pouf in the living room then walks her empty bottle over to the kitchen sink when she’s finished. (She’s the tidiest toddler I’ve ever encountered! She’s always making messes but is quick to clean up.) Although I suppose when a toddler says “I wanna baba o’ milk” maybe it’s time for milk in a cup? Maybe I’m subconsciously okay with the bottle because I know she’s definitely my last baby and I’m trying to milk (sorry for the pun) every last drop of the baby phase?

I don’t have any definite plans to wean Mabrey from her bottle and I don’t think there’s a concrete “right” time for all babies to be weaned. They’re so different in so many ways, aren’t they? Still, I’m curious as to when and how you stopped giving your baby a bottle. If you have more than one child, have you loosened the mama reins with subsequent children as well?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

chicken marbella 1

If you’re like me, you panic at 5:00 p.m. thinking about what to put on the table for dinner. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking so whatever I make tends to be quick and easy. I get stuck in ruts making the same things over and over. I don’t read cooking / foodie blogs regularly because it isn’t my passion and I usually end up feeling completely inadequate and overwhelmed. But, and here’s the big but, I LOVE EATING. So I cook. Sometimes all it takes is one new recipe to shake things up and bring my meal plan out of doldrums. I always appreciate an easy, yummy dinner idea so I thought you might too. And, to me, home is as much about what you do in it as what you do to it.


chicken marbella 2

Add ingredients listed above to a medium mixing bowl and stir gently to combine. Pour the mixture over three to four chicken breasts in a baking dish. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Warning: your house is going to smell amazing.

chicken marbella 4

chicken marbella 3

It should look something like this when done.

chicken marbella 5

Remove bay leaves. Serve with couscous and pour juices over.

chicken marbella 6

Even easier…make this dish in the crockpot after freezing the ingredients. You can combine all ingredients in a freezer bag ahead of time and store in the freezer until you’re ready to cook. (Great gift idea for moms-to-be! Write baking instructions on the bag and don’t forget to include a box of couscous to go along with it.) You could easily whip up a batch of this chicken marbella on the weekend, freeze, then serve later in the week. I like a lot of olives and capers but you can use less if you wish. Multiply the recipe to accommodate larger gatherings.


images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking