...because home doesn't happen overnight.


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I’ve had a hard time with the boys’ room. Especially the recessed wall that the boys’ beds are pushed up against. It’s the perfect spot for the bunk but I’ve always felt like it needed something. After I brought in the vintage dresser, I was pretty sure that something should be a warm-toned wood wall. But I didn’t want it to feel rustic. I just wanted it to balance out the wood tones on the other side of the room.

After a lot of searching, I came across Stikwood. (Btw, this post is NOT sponsored but I did ask Stikwood if they would be interested in doing a giveaway for you guys. Spoiler alert: They said yes!) Have you heard of it? Essentially, it’s peel-and-stick solid wood planks meant to be used on walls. There’s no nailing, no finish work. You simply measure, cut, peel, stick. I ordered a bunch of samples and quickly settled on the caramelized bamboo. It had the same warm tones as the dresser. I measured the wall (roughly 8′ x 8′) and ordered accordingly.

Even though the wood planks are VOC free, upon arrival the boxes had a smell to them. I sat them in the garage for several weeks to off-gas since we were in no rush to install them.

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Once the smell had dissipated, I brought the boxes into the boys’ room to acclimate. Can you see them under the dresser? Last weekend we finally got around to installation.

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We pulled the beds into the center of the room and unloaded the wall. Steve used painter’s tape on the black wall to note the placement of the sconces and shelves. He took a few measurements and wrote them on the tape for reference later.

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We decided that Steve would be the measurer and installer; I would be the cutter. I hooked up our Ryobi flooring saw (the same one we used to cut and install all the flooring in the house) to the vacuum to keep the sawdust mess to a minimum.

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You can read how-to instructions and see a video here but I wanted to share a few in-progress shots of our own.

1 – It was important to us that there be a full plank at the ceiling (since it would be visible) so we worked from the top of the wall to the bottom. The first plank we installed was actually one row down in the middle of the wall. There are three peel-and-stick adhesive strips that run the length of each plank on the back. To install a measured and cut-to-size plank, you simply peel away two of the protectors, fold over a short section of the third protector, place and level the plank, then remove the remaining third protector with the plank in place. This allows some room for adjustment when placing the planks. We didn’t use any of the fancy installation tools that Stikwood offers but we did find a rubber mallet to be helpful to achieve a snug fit.

2 – Once the first plank was in place, things moved along swiftly. We were careful to vary the lengths and seam placement. It was the most uneventful project we’ve completed in a while. That might make for a boring blog post but it was super nice not having any unexpected problems arise.

3 – We had the wall knocked out (figuratively speaking) in one afternoon. Instant gratification! We lucked out and ended up with a full plank at the baseboard so I didn’t have to make any cuts length-wise and we only had to work around one outlet. The most difficult part of the entire project was rehanging the sconces and shelves but even that wasn’t too bad. We were worried that we might have to put up some type of trim in the corners but I brought my A-game to the flooring saw and made precise cuts so no trim!

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Everyone LOVES the wood wall. Steve thinks it makes the room look bigger. He says you can now tell that the wall is set back from the rest of the room. The boys say it feels like they’re sleeping in a cabin when the bed curtains are drawn at night. I heard the word “cozy” come out of Layne’s mouth. I think the wall is the perfect balance to the large wood dresser on the other side of the room. And I like the contrast between the warm wood and white beds. There’s probably some rule against two accent walls in one room but it’s a kids’ room. Who cares.

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I don’t know if it’s our age or the sheer exhaustion from being in (what has felt like) perpetual renovation mode for the last 2+ years or what, but Steve and I are slowly warming up to products that promise quick and easy results – even if they cost more. Stikwood is definitely quick & easy. It’s also made in the USA, high quality and eco-friendly. The only drawback is the cost, but you get what you pay for. To help ease the sticker shock, Stikwood is kindly offering up a gift card today. See entry details below.

PRIZE: one $280 gift card to Stikwood plus a complimentary samples set

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

TO ENTER: Sign up for Stikwood’s newsletter here then leave a comment on this post sharing which plank you would use and where. (The entire time we were installing the planks, I kept telling Steve “Wouldn’t this be great for a TV wall? Just picture it with a flatscreen and floating console.)

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 18th. One random winner will be announced Friday, December 19th.

Good luck!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

For those not-so-serious families who play just as hard as they work…

family fun


1 – remote control helicopter – Finally! A remote copter that is easy to maneuver (i.e., kid-friendly) and robust. My boys LOVE these and Steve and I have been known to “borrow” them from time to time.

2 – playchute – Do you remember making parachute tents in gym class when you were little? A smaller version makes a fun family gift and is easily stored in a closet or under a bed. Great for indoor or outdoor play.

3 – Hape coffee maker – I’m a huge fan of the Hape brand. The kids love the fun, pretend play toys and I love the quality and affordability. I have my eye on this coffee maker for Mabrey. She can make hers while I make mine.

4 – Bounce-Off game – Perfect for family game night! Simple instructions and a fast pace keep everyone’s attention.

5 – sport stacking – Our fireplace and this game are the two things that got us through last winter. Sport stacking requires hand-eye coordination, speed and concentration. Many schools have implemented the sport. There are even world stacking tournaments! Beware: IT’S ADDICTIVE.

6 – SingStand karaoke system – After scoring a speaking part in a recent school performance, Everett asked for a microphone. This one looks promising.

7 – Blokus – For quiet play. Steve and I even sneak in games after the kids are in bed. (It reminds me of moving furniture around on floor plans.)

8 – doctor set – Um, any game that requires me to lie down and be still is fun. Funny story: The first time I pretended to take Mabrey’s temperature, I told her she had a fever and was burning up. She heard “burning” and immediately stopped, dropped, rolled and pretended to cry. Now, when anyone plays doctor with her and she takes their temperature, the diagnosis is always the same. YOU’RE BURNING! …as in, on fire.

9 – The Book with No Pictures – It’s the one book you will read to your kids without wanting to skip pages. Hilarious.

Work hard, play hard, folks.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

12.04.14 / Our Vacation Rental

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Last winter when we decided to plan a vacation to Rosemary Beach, I searched online for vacation rentals and fell down a virtual rabbit hole ogling at all the possibilities. There were townhouses, flats, carriage houses and extravagant beach houses. And they were all beautiful.

One thing I noticed after a little research was that the rentals just outside of Rosemary were less expensive but still within biking distance to downtown Rosemary and the beach. I also noticed that we could save a ton by visiting during the off season. We weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise so we wanted a place we could spread out and hang out in comfortably if the weather didn’t cooperate. I whittled down the list of possibilities to ~10 rentals then we selected one of them as a family. You never know what to expect when reserving a vacation rental sight unseen (at least in real life) but we lucked out. Our vacation rental was clean, family-friendly, homey, convenient and in a great location on a dead-end street.

We chose to stay in Seacrest Beach which butts up against Rosemary but is a little more economical. The house came with four adult bikes and we used them to bike to downtown Rosemary (~5 minutes) every day. We biked to the beach, too. We biked everywhere.

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The house had four bedrooms (three of them were master suites with a king bed and an adjoining bathroom), three bathrooms, and was three stories high. The night we arrived, we were blown away. It was much larger than we had expected. The ceilings were at least 10′ high which made it feel even bigger. Coming from a 3-bed, 1-bath rancher, we were very spoiled.

We loved the big porches on the first and second floors and took full advantage of the swings.

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The first floor living room opened up onto the dining area and kitchen. We liked the open floor plan. I also appreciated the furnishings. Many beach rentals have generic decor (which I totally get…it’s a rental) but this house felt really homey with all the wood tones, natural textures and nubby upholstery. There were all kinds of books and magazines available to read. We really felt like we were staying in a home – notsomuch a rental.

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Layne, our oldest, made the comment, “Look mom! This house is perfect for us. It has poufs!” Atta boy. Haha. We watched movies as a family almost every night in the living room. The kids would drag down bean bags from the bunk room (more on that in a minute) and we would pop popcorn. It was so cozy.

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I loved the rustic coffee table. It had a great patina, was kid-friendly and oversized. The kids would pull up the poufs to the coffee table and we played board games or worked puzzles. (Or spilled glasses of water. It happens.)

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The full kitchen (while very beige) was stocked with dishes, glasses, flatware, serve ware, pots, pans, Keurig, traditional coffeemaker, blender, slow cooker…basically anything you could think of. I liked that there were two sinks – one under the window and one in the peninsula. There was a large pantry which came in handy. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches at the house to save money. Our *three* kids fought over the *two* stools at the bar. It was a popular spot.

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The dining area was one of my favorite spaces. The table sat eight but could be extended to seat larger parties. It was great for card games and Everett did his homework there every evening, too.

(Did I mention we pulled the kids out of school? Layne only missed three days but Everett missed an entire week. I felt guilty about them missing school but both of their teachers / schools were really supportive. Everett’s teacher gave him some work to do while he was away.)

The apples are fake and there were 28 of them. I know because Mabrey made Steve count them over and over. I may have thought about stealing the chairs. And did you notice the basket on the floor in the corner? There were large baskets in nearly every room in the house. They were great for keeping our things out but tidy. When we were packing up to leave, I just went around and emptied all the baskets.

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I would like to point out the palm leaf on the buffet and the pinecones on the bar. The neighborhood we stayed in has a nature trail. The palm leaf and pinecones were souvenirs from my walks. If you happen to be the guy who was driving a golf cart near the trail about a month ago and came upon a strange lady loading pinecones into a shopping bag and hacking palm leaves with a steak knife, I’m sorry I scared you. Also, at this very moment there’s a large bag of said pinecones sitting my garage waiting to be strung into garland. #pineconecaper

The stairs lead up to the second and third floors. We were not used to living with stairs and there were so many here because of the three floors and extra high ceilings. It only took a few days for us to get lazy and choose not to go back up / down the stairs to retrieve a forgotten item. The stairs were a fun novelty but by the end of the week we were all ready to go back to living without stairs. Isn’t that crazy?!

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Each bedroom had its own balcony / porch. Steve and I claimed this bedroom. Technically, it was Mabrey’s room, too. She slept in the walk-in closet in a pack-n-play that was already in the closet. She kept calling it her room. I’m pretty sure the closet was bigger than her bedroom at home!

The master suites had wall-to-wall seagrass carpet. I’ve owned seagrass rugs before but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live with seagrass carpet. I really liked it in person and it seems like it would hold up well to heavy traffic and abuse.

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This bed? It was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. Steve and I meant to check the mattress tag before we left but forgot. Oh well. We’ll just have to go back.

When I was posting to instagram during our vacation, someone made the comment “rental homes always make me want to get rid of all my stuff.” Ditto.

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MORE STAIRS up to the third floor. My legs are burning just thinking about them.

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The third floor bunk room was a hit with the kids. Everett claimed it and slept in a different bed each night before deciding that the bottom bunk on the far left was the most comfortable. He is such a funny kid. Do you spy the bean bags I mentioned earlier? There were three which was perfect for family movie nights. The bunk room was stocked with children’s books (for all ages) and puzzles.

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The bunk room included a TV, wet bar and mini fridge. Everett stashed some water and an apple in the fridge just in case he woke up hungry in the middle of the night. I told you he is funny.

Maybe the only drawback of the entire house was that there was no door on the bunk room and the center stairwell was open from the first floor to the third floor. It was a super cool architectural feature and fine for the boys (they’re 6½ and 9½) but I didn’t feel comfortable letting Mabrey (2½) have free rein in the bunk room. She had to be supervised.

The balcony off the bunk room was another favorite spot.

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The hammock swings did not go unnoticed ;)

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We picked a different porch to eat on every day but this one was our favorite even though it required carrying our lunches up three flights of stairs. When the most difficult decision of your day is “Hmmm, which porch should we eat on?” that’s not a bad day.

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And, finally, the view from the third floor balcony was pretty amazing. Can you spot the palm tree-lined cobblestone streets? It was such a happy and charming lil’ neighborhood.

The ironic thing about our time spent in this awesome house is that, for the most part, we all used the same bathroom! (We’re used to sharing one bathroom.) And we usually traveled as a pack from room to room. (We aren’t used to not being in the same room together.) It was nice to have the extra space to spread out for a few days (the boys enjoyed having their own rooms) but it was superfluous and I was glad I wasn’t the one responsible for cleaning it. If / when we go back, we’ll bring more people or we’ll probably stay somewhere smaller.

That being said, we had the most amazing time. The house truly was everything we could have asked for – and more! Very accommodating, truly hospitable. We’re so grateful that we were able to make some memories here.

So what do you think? How do you feel about vacation rentals? How do you save money on vacation? Do you have a favorite spot / feature of the house? Have your kids ever missed school due to a vacation?

P.S. – Because I know someone will ask, I searched for vacation rentals on VRBO. The property management company for our house was superb. They have an app for you to download during your stay that has all the info you could ever want or need about the house and surrounding area. I would highly recommend the area, house and VRBO! That is an unsolicited recommendation.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

holiday hostess 1

Want in on a little secret? I decorated for Christmas before Halloween this year. Cue the record scratch.

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For two days in October I pretended it was December. Well, sort of. We normally do a live garland on the mantel and a live tree but those were nowhere to be found pre-Halloween. Mr. Fig was a somewhat believable stand-in. I rummaged through red and green totes in the attic. I saved empty boxes and wrapped fake presents pressies. (My apologies for misspelling the Aussie short form in my previous post. Google can’t be trusted.) I crafted paper dot garlands from glitter paper, a circle punch, hot glue and jute string. I found the cutest little cardboard Christmas tree at JoAnn’s. I rigged two of these paper star lights and one of these in the front window along with a few cheap & easy embroidery hoops turned 90º. Hint: Use fishing line. It’s strong and nearly invisible.

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I was simultaneously working on the kids’ Halloween costumes. My kids were baffled by my Christmas in October antics.

So why all the fuss? In short, Joss & Main asked me to be a part of their holiday campaign and I said yes. Deadlines were involved.

holiday hostess

The long answer? I’m only one of four bloggers participating in the #HolidayHostess campaign now through the end of the year. Each week a different blogger will be featured and you can shop their look via a flash sale. You also get an inside scoop on each blogger’s holiday traditions. Today is the first day of the campaign and I happen to be this week’s hostess. If you’re interested, you can check out the sale here and read about my holiday traditions here. There are some great pieces up for grabs. Act soon! The sale ends 12/9/14.

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In other news, we’re sticking with tradition and buying a live tree again this year. But I’m nervous! How does one go about keeping cute kitties out of Christmas trees?! You all were so helpful when we adopted Cheetah a few months ago. I’d love to hear your tips for surviving the holidays with a tree and kitty intact.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking