...because home doesn't happen overnight.

bday 2

On Saturday, we celebrated Mabrey’s and Everett’s birthdays with extended family. (Mabrey turned two on Sunday and Everett will turn six on Monday.) Their birthdays are close enough to warrant a joint celebration – at least with extended family. Mabrey and Everett have such a close, unique relationship. They don’t mind sharing the spotlight with the other. At least for now.

On my kids’ actual birth days, the goal is to make them feel as special as they are. For us, that doesn’t mean oodles of gifts or an expensive party for all their classmates or even matching decorations. Extra cuddles, some balloons, a special gift, favorite foods, revisiting their birth story, maybe a visit to their favorite park and saying “I can’t believe you’re X years old already!” is all it takes. And we always read Dr. Seuss’s Happy Birthday to You!

bday 3

It got me thinking about how other families celebrate birthdays. Back when I working as a pharmacist, one of my co-worker’s had a Birthday Hat. It was a big, obnoxious (in a good way) hat that each person wore on their special day. They have pictures of each family member wearing the hat each year on their birthday. Such a fun tradition!

Growing up, my family took pride in singing the most horrible, drawn-out version of “Happy Birthday” you’ve ever heard. Loud, off-key, out of sync – that’s the stuff! The worse, the better. It’s always funny to see how non-family members not accustomed to our tradition react to the rendition. Usually, they look on in horror!

bday 1

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family? Any unique traditions? I’d love to hear ‘em.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

03.28.14 / Made Me Smile

made me smile awesome 2

Despite the rough start (DIY fail + technical bloggy problems = no bueno), I was able to crack a few smiles this week. Take the good with the bad, folks!

*House Beautiful’s kitchen of the month is more like the kitchen of my dreams.

*I spy many Ikea pieces in this fresh and cozy apartment. (If there were an Ikea version of “Where’s Waldo”, I would slay it. I can spot an Ikea item from a mile away.)

*That’s it. I’m moving to Australia.

*Ever wonder what happened to Genevieve Gorder? (She was my favorite “Trading Spaces” designer back in the day.) Well, apparently, Genevieve has been very busy renovating her home. I love her house tour in Design*Sponge at Home so I can’t wait to see the full-on renovation.

*DIY paper towel holder.

*Coolest. dad. ever. (Besides my husband.)

*Chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies make everything better.

*I grew up on 12 acres of rural land and explored the woods all day every day until evening when my mom would ring the dinner bell. We had a huge, vintage schoolhouse bell on our porch that my mom would manually ring to call us for dinner. I’m thinking of continuing the tradition with my kids, albeit with this suburbia-friendly dinner triangle.

*Mabrey’s awesome shirt. Plus, outtakes…

made me smile awesome

I hope you have a weekend full of smiles! We’re celebrating Everett’s and Mabrey’s birthdays with family then attempting Round 2 of tiling in the bathroom that just won’t finish itself. Keep on keepin’ on, my friends!

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image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

bath prep 1

This past weekend we prepped the unfinished bathroom for tile. Steve mudded, taped and sanded the seams in the cement board. Then he shop-vac’d the entire room and cleaned everything with a damp cloth. (Where I come from, shop-vac is a verb.)

Per the suggestion of a friend who also happens to be a self-employed contractor, we decided to try a new waterproofing product (it’s that hot pink stuff you see above) on the shower walls. It’s called RedGard and can be rolled onto surfaces before tiling to create a waterproofing barrier and prevent cracks.

tile prep 2

Some say this extra step isn’t necessary. (We didn’t use this product in the master bathroom because we hadn’t heard of it yet and things are just fine in there.) For us, it’s peace of mind. Plus, we like trying out new products along the way and sharing our experience with others.

The cement board in this bathroom was installed at the same time as the drywall in the rest of the house – which we hired out for. And while the rest of the walls turned out great, the cement board installation in this bathroom was a little wonky. I’m guessing it was the last room to be finished at the end of a long day and was completed in haste. The seams were less than perfect but not enough for us to rip everything out and start over. Steve asked our contractor friend what to do. He suggested mudding, taping and sanding the seams then applying the RedGard. So that’s what we did.

Steve rolled two coats of RedGard over the cement board. The stuff is really thick and stinky. For better control, he used a small roller. This method worked well but the RedGard can also be troweled on if desired. Steve wore a respirator during application while the kids and I spent most of the *mild* day outside. We turned on the bathroom ventilation fans and opened the windows to help dissipate the smelly fumes. Still, it was pretty stinky the day of application.

bath prep

The RedGard turns from pink to red when dry. It dries fairly quickly. See how it’s more red in the image above and pinker in the very first image of this post? That was the time between starting the first coat and cutting in around the window to finish up the first coat. The color is just as garish in real life as it is in these pictures. If not more so. Steve’s vision was screwed up for the the rest of the day after staring at the red-pink walls. The boys were relieved to learn this was NOT going to be the final color of their bathroom!

With the bathroom prepped for tile, we started thinking ahead. The original plan for the room was to use the same skinny subway tile we have in the kitchen for the shower walls and a continuous 36″ high tiled wainscoting around the rest of the room. For the floor, we planned to use carrara marble hexagon tile.

But right at “go time” we were second-guessing these choices. We hemmed and hawed over whether or not to do the tile wainscoting throughout the room…mostly because we knew it would be a lot of work but I also worried it might look too busy. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of having mostly tiled walls to wipe down from the kids’ splashes and messes. We decided putting in the extra time now for the wainscoting installation would pay off in the form of easy cleaning down the road. Not to mention, the wainscoting will serve as another “layer” in the room and you know how I feel about layers. So tile wainscoting it is!

Then we got to thinking about the floor tile. I love, love, LOVE the marble we chose. But my kids love, love, LOVE to not pee in the toilet. We have two boys and our toddler just started showing interest in potty-training. Need I say more? I knew the white marble wouldn’t last one day in this house without becoming stained. (We have light-colored penny tile in the master bathroom but it’s ceramic and isn’t easily stained like marble.) And I don’t really feel like being a slave to a bathroom floor, no matter how pretty it is.

I wasn’t on the computer two minutes before I found this noir hexagon tile. It’s tumbled travertine and it’s slightly less expensive than the marble we originally chose. We have a travertine floor in our mudroom and it has held up really well to all the mud, dirt, rocks and food my family throws at it so I know the same material will work great in the kids’ bathroom. And can we talk about the color of this tile for a hot second? From a distance it reads black but upon closer inspection there are variations of charcoal, blue-black and jet-black. The color gradient gives it a natural, organic feel. It’s soooooo goooooood. So good we changed our minds. Noir hex it is!

We’re (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of our noir hex order to swap out the carrara we have on hand. Since the floor tile needs to go down before we can begin the wall tile, our progress in the bathroom has come to a screeching halt. So goes DIY home improvement!

In the meantime, I went ahead and created an updated mood board for the bathroom.


Kid/Guest Bathroom


1 – barn wall sconce We have the same light over the sink in our master bathroom. We like it so much we’re using it in the kid / guest bath, too. Even though the two bathrooms will feature different finishes, keeping the lighting the same offers some consistency.

2 – imperial bianco 2″ x 12″ subway tile We used this tile for a minimal backsplash in the kitchen. Again, incorporating the same tile here provides cohesion throughout the house which is nice because this bathroom will serve as our main bathroom once finished (eek!) and it’s located near the kitchen.

3 – stainless steel first aid cabinet I bought this metal cabinet eons ago. We’re planning on cutting through the drywall and mounting the cabinet between the studs (recessed so that it’s flush with the wall) for hidden storage in the bathroom. I haven’t decided if it will hang above the toilet or on a sliver of wall next to the sink. Probably next to the sink?

4 – noir hex! Most everything else in the bathroom will be white or wood-toned so I’m banking on this tile for some high contrast.

5 – tork brass dripping mirror I like adding circles to boxy rooms so I’m thinking a round mirror will go above the vanity. I like the thin brass frame of this one but I’ll probably wait until most of the fixtures are in place before I finalize the mirror selection. As much as I like softening sharp lines with rounded edges, I wouldn’t be opposed to a rectangular one if it “fits.”

6 – cognac vanity with marble top We bought this vanity over two years ago on sale at Home Depot. I can’t find it available anywhere now. We bought it for the inexpensive price, open frame and clean lines. I’ve read it’s a pain to assemble and install so we’ll see how it goes.

7 – claw foot tub with wood base Do you remember the claw foot tub we found on craigslist? It had four feet when we bought it, three feet when we got it home and now it’s down to two. (!) The plan is to DIY a simple wood base and forego the claw feet all together. I have a feeling we’ll be flying by the seat of our pants during this project as I haven’t come across any detailed DIY’s for wood tub bases. It might not work out but it sounds fun so we’re giving it a go. We’re trailblazing!

We’re itching to whip this bathroom into shape. Whenever we’re in the middle (or even beginning stages) of a project, it feels like a major waste of time (and, honestly, a complete drop in confidence) to take a step back and reassess our plans. But sometimes it leads to changes that make more sense in the long run. That’s how I feel about our decision to switch up the floor tile in the kids’ bathroom. It’s a good change.

Do you find yourself second-guessing every step of a project? Does it help or hinder you? We’ve seen it go both ways for us. Sometimes taking a second look at plans reaffirms our original decisions which gives us a boost of confidence to forge ahead. Other times, we doubt certain aspects and end up completely paralyzed which usually results in the project getting pushed further out.

Oh, home improvement, why are you so addicting?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed that a stuffed strawberry frequently makes an appearance alongside Mabrey. My cousin gifted Mabrey the Ikea strawberry lovey over a year ago and, ever since, the two have been inseperable. Mabrey and her strawberry are BFF’s. Mabrey affectionately refers to her lovey as “B” and their relationship is just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever encountered.

mabrey & B

My boys had blankies they loved when they were babies and toddlers but they only slept with them. (They still do but they don’t have to have them.) The blankies never made it out of their beds. But Mabrey and B go everywhere together. Mabrey talks to B. Mabrey sleeps with her face buried in B. Mabrey clings to B when she’s upset. B sits on the corner of the kitchen island to watch Mabrey eat. B goes for rides in the car with Mabrey. Mabrey takes B along for walks in her stroller. B watches movies with us. (To date, the only movie Mabrey has sat through from start to finish is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. One of the main characters is a little strawberry.) Mabrey makes us talk to, hug and kiss B. Mabrey blames B for her messes.

Me: Maaay-breeee, who dumped out all the Legos?

Mabrey: B did-dit.

So it should come as no surprise that our entire family was completely heartbroken when B went missing last month. Ironically enough, we lost B on a trip to Ikea – the same place B hails from. I wasn’t paying attention (I am easily distracted at Ikea) and didn’t realize that B had made it into the store with us. So I never noticed when Mabrey accidentally left B lying somewhere. In fact, I didn’t notice B was missing until after we returned home and I was putting Mabrey down for her nap. I couldn’t find B. She wasn’t in the car. She wasn’t in the house. She wasn’t dropped between the car and the house.

Frantically, I called Ikea. You can imagine how confusing that phone call was for the person on the opposite end of the line.

Me: Hi. We were just at your store and my daughter lost a stuffed strawberry. It’s actually an item you guys used to carry so someone may have thrown in onto a shelf thinking it belonged to the store but ours has all the tags removed. Has anyone turned it in?

Ikea employee: (silence for a while) So….um….you bought a strawberry today?

I left my name and phone number but, needless to say, no stray stuffed strawberries had been turned in. I broke the news to Mabrey telling her B was all gone. B went bye-bye. Initially, she took it pretty well. I think I was more upset than she was. Everett came to the rescue and selflessly offered up his stuffed puppy for Mabrey to sleep with. Mabrey went down for her nap (with Everett’s puppy) with no problems. She didn’t mention B anymore that day. She went to bed that night with Everett’s puppy and didn’t make a peep. I was relieved.

I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason.” Mabrey seemed to be handling the loss of B quite well so I thought maybe it was meant to be. Maybe it was time to move on.

The next morning I went in the nursery and lifted Mabrey out of her crib.

Mabrey: B go bye-bye.

A lone tear rolled down her cheek. Ugh. My heart sank. I felt horrible. Mabrey had lost her best friend. Normally, Mabrey is a pretty happy girl but that day she was pitiful. She was sad and clingy and mentioned B several times throughout the day. I was sad, too. Screw “everything happens for a reason.”

When Steve came home from work that evening, we scoured the internet for a B replacement. (Our local Ikea no longer carried the stuffed strawberry.) We found a new one on eBay for $15 and bought it immediately. It took six days for B 2.0 to arrive and it was a loooooong six days. Mabrey was sleeping okay with her brother’s puppy stand-in but she asked for B from time to time and she wasn’t her normal happy self. I was anticipating the arrival of B 2.0 but worried that Mabrey might not go for it. Surely, B 2.0 wouldn’t look, smell or feel exactly the same as the original.

Much to my surprise Mabrey took to the replacement. I remember handing her B 2.0 for the first time. I could tell right away Mabrey knew it wasn’t the real B. But after a few seconds a huge smile spread across her face and she gave B 2.0 a big heartfelt squeeze. B 2.0 was better than nothing. B 2.0 was good enough. I had my happy girl back.

Now Mabrey treats B 2.0 just like the original. They are best friends and I am so grateful for a happy ending to our lost lovey story.

A lost lovey might seem like a minor thing to get worked up about but it really felt as if Mabrey had lost her best friend and, being her mom, I felt like I was the one who had let her down by not paying closer attention to B’s whereabouts. Has your child ever lost a lovey? How did your child react? How did you react? I hope your stories have happy endings, too.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking