...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

mama chair 2

For years I’ve been thinking it would be great to have extra seating near the fireplace. We spend the majority of our winters huddled around the fire trying to stay warm. The poufs I tossed down several years ago are super kid-friendly and worked well when our kids were a little younger. They were essentially glorified bean bags. However, as you can imagine, they were quite low and not really suitable for adults. An epic chair hunt commenced.

For a while, finding a chair wasn’t a huge priority. The poufs were fine, and we were trying to wrap up the main bathroom anyhow. But it didn’t stop me from looking. I knew I wanted something low and squatty to keep sight lines unobstructed from all angles. (Something like a tall wingback would have cut off the space.) I also wanted something unique which meant I was willing to wait for the right chair to come along.

I browsed thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, etsy and several other online sites for over a year before I found THE ONE on ebay. It was listed as a “Danish chair with walnut armrests and neckrest in Kurt Østervig style” – although I don’t think it’s a legit Østervig. While the frame was in great condition, the upholstery left a lot to be desired. It was upholstered in a satinish, tone on tone floral fabric (most likely not the original upholstery) and it was badly stained. (See the before here.) The scale and lines were perfect though, and I knew a good upholstery job would make a world of difference. I immediately nabbed it for $150.

Then it sat in the garage for another year while I saved up the money to have it reupholstered. I wasn’t even going to try DIYing my way around those walnut armrests and neckrest. When it came time to select an upholstery fabric, I considered a nubby polyester in mustard or gold (similar to this), but ultimately decided I’m too fickle when it comes to textiles to commit to it. I wanted a true neutral that would stand the test of time. With a saddle leather sofa and an oversize gray chair already in the room, I kept it simple and chose ivory.

But.

BUT!

It had to be 100% family-friendly. I worked with a local upholsterer who suggested a fabric line pre-treated with Nano-Tex. You can learn more about Nano-Tex here, but it basically renders fabrics stain- and spill-proof…permanently. Sign me up!

mama chair 5

I brought a bunch of samples home and tried them out in the space. In the end, I went with dublin oyster (pre-treated with Nano-Tex) from Luxury Fabrics. It’s a chenille that feels like velvet, looks like linen and wears like microfiber. Upholstery trifecta! Then I had to wait ANOTHER SIX MONTHS before I could pick it up from the upholsterer.

(For locals, I use Springboro Upholstery. The guy does excellent work, but he isn’t exactly cheap – this cost ~$525 for the fabric + labor – and lead times can be crazy. He’s busy for a reason though. I also used him for the tulip chair cushions in the dining room. They’re a leather lookalike and have held up tremendously well.)

It was totally worth the wait! When I picked it up from the upholsterer he said, “It’s definitely the most unique piece I’ve ever worked on. Very 60s.” Bingo.

mama chair 7

I love it. It’s even better than I had envisioned. It’s low-slung and kinda sexy and looks amazing from every angle which is great since it’s visible from the living room, dining room and kitchen. To me, it looks like the chair form of those preppy equestrian blazers with leather elbow patches. I would totally wear this chair.

The day I brought it home, Cheetah was curled up in it within five minutes, and that very same evening Mabrey wiped spaghetti sauce on it. The spaghetti sauce literally came up with one swipe of a wet cloth. If we were to have a fourth baby (we’re not), I would name it Nano-Tex.

mama chair 6

mama chair 8

I placed the front feet on the shag rug and angled the chair in toward the coffee table. I stuck felt pads (from the junk drawer) on the back feet to protect the wood floor. Eventually, I’ll probably upgrade to these, but the “free” felt ones are fine for the time being. I really like how the chair closes off the seating area. Before, the space always felt a little lopsided with most of the furniture sitting off to one side. It feels more balanced and intimate now.

Obviously, I couldn’t leave the chair floating by itself looking all lonesome.

Obviously.

It needed a side table and a reading light to keep me it company. Since the chair was a splurge, the table and light had to be budget-friendly, but, again, I wanted them to be unique. I wanted a petite, round table to allow traffic to flow freely and mesh with the low arms and scale of the chair. It took me a while, but I found the perfect reclaimed teak table from Overstock of all places. (Shopping Overstock is a lot like shopping secondhand stores, except the inventory is new. You have to sort through a bunch of junk to find the good stuff.) I scored it for $111 with a 12% coupon. The natural wood and organic curves give it a bohemian vibe. The open spaces keep it from feeling too heavy.

mama chair 3

The lamp is vintage from ebay. It set me back $25 and was originally a weird mauve-brown color (seen here). I taped off the wood accent, light socket and cord and gave it a few coats of flat black, heat-resistant spray paint which we already had on hand. I love how the black paint sets off the shape.

mama chair 4

I wrapped the upper third of the fugly cord in leather lace from JoAnn’s ($4 with a coupon) using the same method I used on the kitchen desk lamp. Then like the sly cord hater I am, I snaked the cord through the table. One more reason to love that lil’ table!

mama chair 1

The kuba cloth pillow and indigo mudcloth throw are from here and here, respectively. I stole the pouf from the gray chair and now no one wants to sit there because it’s impossible to lounge with your feet on the floor. Which begs the question, “Are two poufs in one room too many?” The little blue and white pot on the mantel is the peruvian planter from West Elm. The snake plant hides the gas shutoff for the fireplace. I still haven’t figured out a way to disguise the dreaded boob speakers :/

mama chair 11

mama chair 9

I’ve been jokingly referring to the new chair as my mama chair, yet every time I go to sit in it someone has already beat me to it. It’s the new favorite seat in our house. Burning fire or not, it’s a great little reading and/or wining spot regardless.

But seriously, kids and cat, BACK OFF IT’S MINE. If you’re good, maybe I’ll leave it to you in my will.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking