...because home doesn't happen overnight.

We usually head south whenever we get the chance to travel, but this year we’ve planned a few trips that will take us north of Ohio just to mix things up. We made one trip over the kids’ spring break and rented a crazy cool cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, near Traverse City. It was a last-minute getaway. We hadn’t planned on going anywhere, but, after we paid off the mortgage, we thought it would be fun to mark the milestone with a spontaneous road trip. We knew nothing about the area and that was kinda the point. The drive was mostly uneventful (about as uneventful as a road trip with three kids can be) until we were a few miles from our destination and got a taste of the whole lake effect thing. We arrived in the middle of a snowstorm and that pretty much set the stage for the next five days. It didn’t feel much like spring, but it was beautiful.

The snow and below freezing temps didn’t dampen the kids’ spirits. They had fun exploring the land behind the cabin and discovered an orchard just beyond the steep hill in the back. Everett couldn’t get over the expansive, open space and took off running saying, “I’m freeeeeeeee!”

Let’s be honest. They were just happy they weren’t in school.

We spent the majority of our time lounging around and hanging out in the cabin. It wasn’t awful. We hit up our local library before we left and I packed the kids’ Legos, so books and builds were in full force. Layne got sucked in to the Wildwood series.

In the evenings, we would unfold the sleeper sofa, pile onto the bed in our pajamas and turn on the TV. We got caught up in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. Oh my gosh! Have you guys seen that show?! My mouth was salivating the entire time. We decided as a family to start planning vacations based entirely around places we want to eat.

We watched a few movies, too. Song of the Sea was a family favorite (along with Dumb & Dumber which I almost didn’t mention because, holy cow!, Steve and I somehow forgot it contained so many sexual innuendos and probably isn’t the most kid-appropriate movie but, of course, the boys thought it was hilarious). #parentfail

One afternoon while Steve was on a conference call, the kids and I drove into Traverse City, parked the car, stood on the lakeshore, gazed out at the water and tried imagining what it must be like in the summer…until we could no longer feel our faces. While chilly, it was invigorating. It was our first time seeing snow on sand. I thought about how the locals probably didn’t bat an eye at snow on sand, but, to us, it was so surprising and ironic, laughable even.

The lake is gorgeous. I was amazed at how its mood changed depending on the sky and weather. (In southern Ohio, we aren’t graced with vast bodies of water. The muddy Ohio River doesn’t count.) One day it was calm and clear blue, and the next day it was choppy and deep turquoise. It was almost like a living mood ring.

One day after lunch, we meandered through Mercato at The Village. It felt nice to stretch our legs – indoors with heat! The historic property was once the Northern Michigan Asylum and has been preserved and renovated as a unique alternative to urban development. It’s massive! We sampled chocolate and browsed an epic bookstore where Everett honed in on a vintage typewriter. (The kid has a thing for typewriters.) There was a less precious model set up for kids to tap away on which was the highlight of the trip for Everett. In one store, I spotted a t-shirt that read “It’s not spring in Michigan without an April blizzard” and it made me laugh.

Alongside local art, old black and white photographs with accompanying text line the brick walls and tell the story of the former institution. At its prime, the asylum was the poster child for humane treatment of the mentally ill. The superintendent believed patients deserved kindness, comfort, beauty and a sense of purpose. Straightjackets were forbidden. It was fascinating to read.

We ate most meals at the cabin but hit up a few local spots. Our favorites in Traverse City were Slabtown Burgers (try any burger and the sweet potato fries), Spanglish (the salsa verde and pork tostadas are amazing) and The Filling Station Microbrewery (order the rocket with prosciutto and a brewsky).

We stopped off at The Redheads Café for breakfast on our way out of town and were kicking ourselves for not discovering it sooner! (Da’ bomb earns its name.)

When we left, it was still snowing ;)

Thanks for the memories, Michigan. We’d love to visit again sometime when you’re less white and more green. Where should we go next time? We were bummed Mission Point Lighthouse was closed.

P.S. – The cabin was way too cool not to snap a few pics with my real camera. Look for them soon!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

04.11.16 / Liked & Linked

We celebrated Mabrey’s and Everett’s birthdays in the last two weeks. Fun fact: My due date with Mabrey was Everett’s birthday, but, like the majority of babies, she wasn’t born on my due date. Still, their birthdays are so close we usually lump them together to celebrate with extended family because it’s easier for everyone. On their actual birthdays, we do something special yet not extravagant.

For her birthday, Mabrey wanted a balloon, bubbles, bubblegum and to visit her favorite park. We made a special trip to Target just for bubbles and bubblegum. The look on her face when she laid her goodies on the conveyor belt at checkout was pure happiness. She smiled at the cashier and said, “I’m four!” Every time someone wished her “Happy birthday!”, she replied with “Happy birthday to you too!” It was so cute. We spent the entire afternoon at the park where we met another little girl also celebrating her fourth birthday with her father and little sister. Trips to the park must be in high demand in the four-year-old world. On the way home, we stopped off at a local bakery, and Mabrey picked out a huge chocolate cupcake as her birthday treat. All the excitement wore her out. She fell asleep in the living room with her balloon floating overhead while I made spaghetti for dinner, her favorite. She still can’t make the hand signal for four without putting up three fingers first. When someone asks her how old she is, she initially signals three then slowly raises her pinky. It’s hilarious. I hope she always does it that way.

Everett’s birthday coincided with spring break, so we celebrated it while on vacation. (More on our vacation later this week.) He asked for a Kylo Ren voice-changing mask, a lightsaber and pizza. Amidst the chaos of packing, I ordered the mask and saber before we left and had it shipped to our cabin. Seriously, what did procrastinating parents do before Amazon? I didn’t have any wrapping paper, so I presented the drab brown box in dramatic fashion. I screamed from the top of the stairs, “Ahh! Everett, I caught an animal in a box on your bed!! I need you to see what it is!” (We had heard a squirrel in the attic the night before.) Everyone came running upstairs. I secretly shook the box from behind (imitating a frisky varmint) while Everett cautiously opened one flap and the mask and saber came tumbling out. He said, “I knew it wasn’t an animal!” But he had a huge smile of relief on his face ;) We had the most delicious pizza at a local pizza joint later that evening followed by a cookies and ice cream cake from the frozen section of the grocery store. Everett said it was the best cake ever. #momoftheyear He’s been wearing his new mask out in public which has prompted some comical reactions.

A few things…

*Did you fall for it?

*I have this new album on repeat.

*The happiest nation in the world.

*Tiny house getaway.

*Bathroom goals.

kitchen / conservatory


dining / conservatory

*The house tour that made me add “conservatory” to my dream home wish list.

*Finally!! Super soft jeans that my tall, thin and picky boys will wear without complaining! They feel and fit great.

*Everett’s mask and lightsaber, if you’re interested. (More theme-y than I normally buy, but he loves them and they work really well.)

I hope it feels like spring wherever you are!

P.S. – THANK YOU for all of the book recommendations! My reading list is full and that makes me so happy.

images: 1-4) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 5-7) Emily Billings for Apartment Therapy

03.23.16 / Liked & Linked

park jump


spring daffodil

Mabrey came down with all. the. infections. late last week, so we kept things pretty chill over the weekend so she could rest. You can see how that went. Nothing keeps her down. We celebrated the arrival of spring with a trip to one of our favorite local parks. Steve met up with us after work and we played family tag. The boys were surprised to learn that I wasn’t an easy catch. Out of breath, Everett said, “I didn’t know you could run, Mom! You usually do boring stuff at the park.” Another mom sitting on a nearby bench overheard him. We made eye contact then burst out laughing. It was an unexpected, endearing moment. #momsympathy

Everett brought home a book from school about Abraham Lincoln’s sense of humor. I asked him to tell me something funny about Abe. “Well, when the ladies weren’t around, he told fart jokes.” Suddenly, Everett wants to be president.

Green buds are popping up everywhere. A random daffodil managed to survive the trauma of yard excavation several years ago. I look forward to its sunny blooms each spring. The air smells sweeter than it has in months. There’s the slightest tinge of warmth which we notice immediately upon stepping outside. I love how everything feels new yet familiar in the spring.

A few links…

*In case you’re interested, Lincoln Tells a Joke. (It’s actually a pretty fun read.)

*The rainbow rock project.

*Target mirage. Hilarious.

*No-fuss salmon cakes (from this cookbook) are a regular on our weekly menu. Everyone loves them.

*The wallpaper I ordered for Mabrey’s big girl room. (Mood board coming soon!)

green kitchenette

green kitchenette

*I love the (green!) freestanding kitchenette in this workspace.

*The best DIY house flip I’ve ever seen. (Yep, that’s an IKEA kitchen.)

*A simple solution for stashing and charging electronics in small spaces.

*A tile picture ledge in a powder room for a casual art display.

*I bought a bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding next month. Nothing like waiting until the last minute!

Happy spring!

P.S. – After reading through all the comments on this post, Steve felt compelled to respond. Find his thoughts at the end of the updated post.

images: 1-3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 4 & 5) Belathée Photography