...because home doesn't happen overnight.

IKEA dresser bench 10

Mabrey’s big girl room is finished! I’m sorry to have kept you waiting for so long, but this project took place in real time amid real life which means it took forever. I’ll be sharing a series of posts this week discussing different aspects of the room because I feel like there’s too much for one post. Actually, that’s how I tackled the room…by breaking it up into smaller, easily digestible projects. Last month I shared how we customized a plain Jane trundle bed. Today I want to talk walls. I promise pretty pictures are coming soon, but this post includes a bunch of grainy, in-progress, iPhone photos. Brace yourself!

big girl wall paint

The nursery walls were a deep charcoal with blue-green undertones. I absolutely love the color and am keeping it in my back pocket for future reference, but it was time to brighten up the room to reflect Mabrey’s, ahem, vibrant personality. (No joke, I just overheard her telling Everett, “That’s what you get. Don’t mess with me!” #strongwilled) I removed everything from the walls, patched holes and sanded them smooth in preparation for paint.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the teensiest bit concerned about painting a light color (Benjamin Moore white dove OC-17) over such a dark color (Benjamin Moore dark pewter 2122-10). I consulted with my local Benjamin Moore sales rep, and he assured me that the self-priming Natura line was the way to go. I was prepared to roll on three or four coats to get full coverage, but it only took two coats and a little touch-up. Yay for projects that take less time than anticipated! It also helped that the trim was already painted Benjamin Moore white dove, so I didn’t have to tape it off. Even though the walls are an eggshell finish and the trim is semi-gloss, stray brush marks aren’t noticeable. I painted three of the four walls. I left one wall dark thinking it would be a good backdrop for Stikwood, but that idea didn’t really pan out. (More on that in a minute.)

After the walls were painted I had the wall behind the headboard wallpapered in Cavern Home’s tapestry wallpaper in zuni. Yes, I paid someone $125 to install the wallpaper. It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I’ve successfully hung wallpaper by myself in the past, but this paper was a little different. For one thing the wallpaper was not pre-pasted, so I would’ve had to invest in adhesive anyway. Second, the edges were untrimmed meaning someone other than the manufacturer (preferably a professional installer) needed to trim them prior to installation. The process can be a little tricky if you aren’t familiar with it. I wasn’t willing to wing it for fear of botching the entire project. So I found a local professional installer via the Wallcovering Installers Association. I called three or four installers before I found one that would take on such a miniscule project. He stopped by one Saturday morning and, in less than hour, the wallpaper was up. I couldn’t write that $125 check fast enough. So. worth. the. money.

The lesson? If you’re considering “untrimmed” wallpaper, be prepared to hire out the installation.

We planked the fourth wall in Stikwood’s vertical caramelized bamboo. It’s the same wall treatment we used on the bunk wall in the boys’ room. (You can read more about that project here.) This is where the dark wall (the one I didn’t paint white) became problematic. The wall isn’t perfectly flat (thank you old houses) so no matter how hard we tried, a few gaps showed up between some of the planks. The dark background accentuates the gaps. Luckily, they aren’t noticeable on the finished wall. They’re one of those things that really only bother Steve and me because we’re the ones who hung the planks. Still, if I had to do it all over again knowing what I know now, I would have taken the time to paint the wall white. Live and learn.

I think that covers all four walls. (Corny pun, so sorry.) Normally, I wouldn’t use three different wall treatments in such a small space, but I like breaking all the rules in children’s rooms. Mabrey’s room isn’t even 10′ x 10′, so I feel like the walls are one dimension I can have fun with without taking up precious floor space. I spent very little on actual furniture pieces, so there was more room in the budget for wall coverings. And since I only used wall coverings on two of the four walls, the splurges were relatively affordable.

Do you have any unique wall coverings in your home? I’ve always loved the idea of a simple kitchen set against planked walls, either rustic or painted. Something similar to thisthis or this or this.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

kid-friendly home 1

During our stay in Toronto, I kept noticing colorful baskets in various sizes and shapes all over the house. A large basket in the living room held books. A smaller version in the playroom held a toy Viewfinder along with a pile of reels. A tall, slender basket in the master bathroom held magazines. Several baskets in the laundry room held sewing supplies. By the end of the week, I was so smitten with the baskets that I messaged the homeowner about them. She said they were bolga baskets from Ghana. An online search quickly revealed a whole new world of baskets to me. Bolga baskets are on pinterest, etsy, ebay… you name it! Where have I been?

Bolga Baskets

They’re pretty and practical, and you know I’m all over that woven texture. Of course, I had to have one. (Or two.) After some slightly obsessive internet stalking, I discovered affordable options from this online retailer. They offer free shipping on all U.S. orders and are members of the Fair Trade Federation.

bolga basket mudroom

We now have bolga baskets hanging out in our mudroom…

bolga basket living room

…and living room. They’re perfect for corralling shoes, toys, reading material, craft supplies, produce, cats and, oh I don’t know, maybe your 23 Olympic gold medals. They arrive flattened to keep shipping costs down but are easily reshaped with water. I wetted, reshaped and dried mine in the bathtub. Bam! Baskets!

bolga basket kitty

I wasn’t kidding about the cat part.

Did you already know about the bolga basket thing? If so, sorry to bore you, but I was too excited not share! #basketnerd

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

08.12.16 / Our Trip to Toronto


We spent a week in Toronto last month and had a blast. There was so much to see and do! The trip was nine months in the making. When we fantasize about vacations, we typically lean towards nature and a slower pace so this trip was a fun deviation. The words “I’m bored” never passed the kids’ lips. Here are some of the highlights in case you’re interested.

To keep costs down, we made the trip by car. In the past I’ve always considered Toronto “too far.” I was surprised to learn that we’re a doable 7-hour drive away. (I’m embarrassingly terrible at geography.) It’s also worth noting that children <16 years old can cross the U.S.-Canada border by land or sea with their legal guardians and a birth certificate. Steve and I had to present our passports, but the kids only needed their birth certificates.

Niagara Falls

We drove through New York to hit up Niagara Falls on our way. It’s nearly impossible to capture the grand scale of the falls on camera. In person, the vistas are vast and impressive. It’s beautiful and scary all at once.

Niagara Falls

Our favorite part was walking to the top of the falls and looking down at the hurricane decks where tiny people in yellow ponchos were getting drenched. The backs of my knees felt melty, and I’m not even afraid of heights. The constant swirling and gushing was meditative. The entire experience was breathtaking.


Nobody fell in! I want to give a little shout out to the purse I’m wearing. I bought the small crossover bag just for traveling, and it’s perfect. Not too big, not too small. Hands-free carrying. Adjustable strap. Plenty of zippers and pockets for organization. The water-resistant nylon stood up to sweat, spills, sprays from the falls and even a random thunderstorm that caught us off guard one evening in Toronto. It’s my version of a fanny pack ;)

toronto airbnb

toronto airbnb

toronto airbnb

toronto airbnb

toronto airbnb

After an exciting afternoon at the falls, we crossed the border and made our way to Toronto. We stayed in the most amazing, family-friendly airbnb. It had a cozy rustic, artsy vibe with a slew of insanely fun amenities for the kids including a kitchen swing and the ultimate playroom. You can see more of the kid-friendly features here. It was the perfect home-away-from-home base for exploring the city. (It looks like the price has increased since we booked it, but at the time it was crazy affordable.) If we lived in Toronto, I feel like we would be good friends with the homeowners. They have an amazing art collection and a great selection of reading material for kids and adults. After casually plucking this book from a shelf, I had a hard time putting it down and ended up buying a copy when I returned home because I had to know how it ended!

We realized early on that we were in a part of Toronto known as Little Portugal. Our first night was the final of the Euro 2016 championship, and the neighborhood broke out in celebration when Portugal won. It was really exciting to be in the middle of the festivities.







We enjoyed the walkability of the neighborhood. It’s only a short walk to Dufferin Grove Park, restaurants, grocers and shops. I absolutely LOVED walking to buy groceries on a whim at the local markets. In the States, I drive to make weekly grocery trips. The planning is my least favorite part. It was nice being close enough to pick up ingredients spur of the moment and wheeling them home in a wagon. Plus, it makes for some great house stalking. (Those little arched windows hinting at an interior staircase slay me every time!)

We spent slow mornings at the house then ventured off to the city in the afternoon, returning home again in the evening.

cn tower

toronto island

toronto zoo


jellyfish blue

We bought city passes to visit CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Toronto Zoo. (I did the math, and it ended up being $11 admission per person for each attraction with the city pass. Not bad!) We really, really wanted to visit the Ontario Science Centre, but due to poor planning (and an exhausted four-year-old) near the end of the week we ran out of time. We paid extra for the Sky Pod at CN Tower (do it!) and felt like giants looking down on the city, lake and island. People looked like ants; cars looked like toys; buildings looked like architectural models. We made a game of pointing out rooftop pools. We could have done without the zoo, and once you’ve seen one Ripley’s Aquarium (we had), you’ve seen them all. Even so, the jellyfish exhibit features a color-changing black light and is super cool.

casa loma

casa loma

casa loma

casa loma

casa loma

Casa Loma was a crowd favorite. We loved being able to tour the more personal and secretive spaces. We snuck through a hidden door in the study and discovered the servants’ back stairs. We walked up a spiral staircase on the third floor and emerged on top of a turret with long range views of the city. We traipsed through an underground tunnel and popped up in a horse stable. I couldn’t get over the concrete coffered ceiling, tiled walls and brick floor in the stable. They were gorgeous!

lake ontario

Mid-week we hit up the lake. It was a welcome break from all the walking, crowds and traffic. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a painful descent from the sandy beach into the cool water, but we discovered that once you get past the rocks (ouch!) the lake bed gives way to sand once again. We’re quickly becoming lake fans. We’ll take the sun, sand, water and waves. Hold the salt and sharks!

toronto cn news

Speaking of perfect weather, it was comical to us that everyone was going on and on about the “heat wave” during our stay. There was even a heat advisory in effect.

It was 83°F.

In Ohio, it’s not unusual for us to experience 90ºF+ days during the summer. Anything cooler feels pleasant. One evening while waiting in line downtown at Sweet Jesus (a local ice cream hotspot), Layne and Everett were approached by a local news reporter and asked if they wanted to be on TV. Uh, okay. When they went live (at 9:00 p.m. in SCORCHING 78ºF heat!), they were asked how they were staying cool. They were like, “Drinking water?” #celebrities

Meanwhile, I had goosebumps. To be fair, I probably couldn’t handle Toronto winters.

la carnita

We tried a bunch of local restaurants. Sweet Jesus and La Carnita were good but, for us, they just didn’t live up to the hype and were overpriced. I did fall in love with the decor at La Carnita though. How fun is that chicken wire pendant filled with burnt-out light bulbs?!

Our favorite meals came from Boom Breakfast, Laziza, La Bella ManaguaThe Slip and the beer hall at Mill Street Brewpub in the historic Distillery District. The first three were all within walking distance of the house. We liked Boom Breakfast and Laziza so much that we ate at each of them twice! You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at either one. Laziza has daily specials that are amazingly delicious and inexpensive. Two giant falafel wraps for $6 total! At La Bella Managua we loved the calamares and bisteck encebollado. We were impressed with the salmon tacos and fried chicken at The Slip. The ribs at Mill Street Brewpub were fantastic. Funny tangent story: After touring the dinosaur exhibit at the ROM earlier in the day, Mabrey stopped mid-rib bite and asked with big eyes, “Are we eating dinosaurs?!” Haha.

We didn’t do much shopping, but Layne and I made it to Kensington Market the last day. I picked up gifts at Kid Icarus (a must!) and Blue Banana Market. I’m bummed I didn’t make it to Tonic Living. Next time!

As much as we loved visiting Toronto, it made us appreciate many of the things we take for granted at home. Namely, free parking and lots of green space.

Have you made any trips this summer? I’d love to hear about your adventures!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking