...because home doesn't happen overnight.


Congrats to Taylor who has the perfect spot for the “Torched” print!

Myra contacted me about adding function and style to her family’s foyer. Even though the entry is spacious, the family is having a difficult time making it work for their lifestyle. With two young boys in the mix, the entry needs to provide organization for shoes, outerwear, a diaper bag, pumpkin seat, mail, keys and other miscellaneous.

myra foyer 1

myra foyer 2

myra foyer 3

myra foyer 4

myra foyer 5

As is, the walls are only primed and the space is broken up by french doors that lead to a living room, an open staircase, a doorway and a coat closet. There isn’t enough storage near the front door so discarded shoes and hats turn into tripping hazards. A clunky bench blocks the french doors. The dresser was originally meant to hold small outerwear items but instead it has become a catchall for odds and ends, like board games and items left behind by guests. Myra isn’t sure it’s the best fit for the space. She and her husband recently spruced up the stairs with new paint and stain. They would love for the open staircase to be more of a focal point as it’s one of their favorite things about their home. And Myra wants the foyer to feel more inviting – both for her family and for guests – as it’s the main point of entrance. She leans towards neutrals, natural textures and hits of black and gold.

Here are my ideas for Myra’s foyer…

inviting + family-friendly entry

1 – First up, I would keep the wall color light. Benjamin Moore super white would look bright and clean. If white walls aren’t practical for Myra’s family, a light gray (i.e., Benjamin Moore gray owl or stonington gray) could be great. I think the front door would look more substantial with a few coats of black paint. Try Benjamin Moore onyx. Hanging two rows of hooks (one at kid height, one at adult height) on the sliver of wall just to the left of the front door as you enter would provide immediate storage for everything from jackets to backpacks to the diaper bag. These leather and peg hook racks are so handsome. A more affordable option would be to DIY similar racks using stained wood boards and black hooks from a local home improvement store.

2 – Since the staircase wall is the view that greets the homeowners and guests upon entrance, it should feel welcoming and act as a focal point. This is the place to hang art and add a few accessories. I would repurpose or sell the current dresser and bring in a narrower one with straighter lines so as not to compete with the staircase. A small teardrop lamp on top of the dresser lends warm ambience and makes the large space feel more intimate. The “Torched” art print has an organic vibe that helps to soften all the sharp angles in the entry. I would frame it and hang it a few inches above the dresser then lean the bird art (currently near the front door) in front of it for a casual, layered effect. A gold leaf-like bowl can corral everything from Hot Wheels to keys to the baby’s pacifier. Because it’s metal, it’s virtually indestructible. Greenery is always a good thing! Keep a large floor basket next to the dresser for miscellaneous items such as random toys, stray socks or a bike helmet.

3 – Textured rug squares in putty or taupe are perfect for high traffic areas. They’re so good at upping the cozy factor while simultaneously hiding dirt. The antique bench is too bulky and completely crowds another great feature of the foyer – those glass doors! I would like to see a simpler bench used elsewhere in the space. (More on that in a minute.) For immediate hidden storage near the front door, I would hang a slim shoe cabinet on the wall where the bird art currently resides. The cabinet is meant to hold shoes but it’s also great for smaller items like gloves and hats that don’t always make it into the closet or dresser. The plastic material is family-friendly (just wipe it down!) and inexpensive but could be dressed up by wrapping the sides and top in plywood. The top horizontal surface is a great spot for dropping keys or mail. Hanging a small round mirror above the shoe cabinet allows for quick once-overs. I love the leather detail on this one!

4 – Between the coat closet and staircase (on the window wall) I would provide seating with a bench. I like the simple design and natural materials of this one. The cork looks really organic and should be crazy durable, not to mention a little more forgiving to lil’ ones than the hard corners and arms on the current bench. A sturdy basket, shoes and/or the infant pumpkin seat can be slid underneath the bench and out of the way. I always think it’s a good idea to have a basket at the bottom of a staircase to corral items that need to be taken upstairs. Just grab the basket on your way up and go! A kilim pillow lends color and pattern. (Every room needs a pillow. Duh.)

5 – To finish off the space, I’d switch out the traditional chandelier with something more modern. I absolutely LOVE the lines and black finish of this blacksmith chandelier. The finish ties in to the metal legs on the bench, the black ink in the artwork and the leather loops on the hook rack.

Lastly, I would also encourage Myra and her family to utilize the backside of the closet door. A clear hanging organizer can keep extra pairs of shoes in check along with other small items like scarves, hats, gloves, etc. I know keeping an entryway (no matter how large or small) tidy with kids present can feel like a losing battle most days, but I’ve found that having a system in place is essential. It doesn’t take much to quickly throw hats in baskets and shoes in cabinets and hang bags and coats on hooks before walking away. When there’s a place for everything, it’s a cinch. I hope this gives Myra and her family – and maybe even you – some ideas for injecting function and style into one of the busiest spaces of a home.

After making it through all that, I’m excited to announce today’s giveaway! Minted is offering up some art for the taking. (I seriously can’t stop thinking about that dreamy print above.) See entry details below.

PRIZE: one $200 credit to Minted

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a physical shipping address. (No P.O. boxes please.) One entry per email address. This giveaway is open to international readers!

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “MINT ME!”

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 15th. One random winner will be announced Monday, November 16th.

*BONUS* I’m throwing in a signed copy of Lovable Livable Home to the winner! John & Sherry were nice enough to send me an early copy but I had already preordered one. I met up with them when they were in town last month and asked if they wouldn’t mind signing my preordered copy for a giveaway. They were game so it’s up for grabs! Shipping is on me.

Good luck!

Do you have a space in need of help? You can email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com with photos and a description of your space for consideration for a complimentary mood board and blog feature. I’m not able to help everyone but I will do my best to select spaces with the best potential. Thanks for reading!

1st 5K

After mentioning the completion of my first 5K a few weeks ago, I received some questions regarding my training. I thought it would be most helpful to just lay everything out in post form for ease of reference. FYI: I’ve always been a physically active person but never by means of running. This information is meant for novice runners like me whose goal is to run an entire 5K. If you have any running experience you may find these tips to be too rudimentary. On your mark. Get set. Let’s go!

1. Runner-friendly apps. When I signed up for the 5K, I had no idea how to train for a long distance race. I had no internal gauge to determine how fast or how far I was running. (Spoiler alert: I was slow and not running very far at all.) Steve downloaded 5K Runner onto my iPhone and I used it for the first month or so of my training. It’s basically an audio coach that talks you through a walk / run / walk workout three times per week. For the first 2-3 weeks, I was extremely discouraged. I could finish the workouts but felt completely spent during and after. My breathing was erratic when I ran. My legs hurt like crazy all the time – even on my rest days. I was seriously doubting my ability to run 3+ miles without stopping to walk when I could barely finish a 1-mile walk / run at a snail’s pace. I said things to myself like, “I’m just not a runner.” “Something isn’t right. My legs aren’t supposed to hurt this badly.” “It doesn’t feel natural when I run.” “I can always back out.” I even half-wished I would pass out like I used to so I would have an excuse not to run.

But somewhere around the 4-week mark of training, I noticed a shift. I had more control over my breathing. My legs weren’t hurting as much. I was experiencing natural “highs” after my runs which kind of made me look forward to the next run. Instead of focusing on how far away I was from my goal, I was able to reflect on how far I had come.

The kids and I visited my grandparents in Florida in early August. I mistakenly forgot to pack my phone. My first thought was, “Well, guess I won’t be able to run because I can’t run without someone / something telling me when and how.” It was a lame excuse and I knew it but that was my rationalization. Then I saw my grandma (who had a knee replacement last year) waking up early every morning to meet her girlfriends at the neighborhood pool for water aerobics and I thought, “If she can do that, I can make an effort to run a few times this week.” And so I did.

Without my 5K Runner app, I decided to borrow a wristwatch from my grandma and run until I needed to walk. To my surprise, I ran for 11 minutes without walking! It was the longest continuous run I had completed. I walked for two minutes then ran for another eight. My phone showed up in the mail a few days later but I ditched the 5K Runner app and stuck to my 20-25 minute wristwatch workout, running until I absolutely had to walk, walking for 1-2 minutes then finishing with a shorter run. By the end of my visit, I could run ~15 minutes without stopping to walk.

When I returned home, I added Map My Run to my phone to document my routes, distances, splits and overall times. I was running 2-3 times per week. Seven weeks into my training, I was able to run two miles without stopping to walk. That was the moment when I actually believed I could reach the 3.2-mile mark if I kept at it. I gradually added snippets of distance to those two miles and I completed my first unofficial 5K two and a half weeks before the race.

2. Runner-friendly gadgets. Starting out I ran with my phone in hand and the volume on high so I could hear the audio coach. Steve made fun of me and quickly bought an armband holster for my phone. (For the record, he’s the gadget lover in the relationship. I avoid them at all costs.) I tried adding a pair of basic ear buds from our junk drawer but I was continually adjusting them so they wouldn’t fall out, which they did regardless. And what to do with the dangling, bouncing wires?! It was annoying. Reluctantly, I shelled out money for wireless bluetooth earphones. They made me a gadget lover. They didn’t fall out (they come with ear buds and ear loops in various sizes for a custom fit) and they blocked out the sound of my ragged breathing. Not being able to hear myself breathe made such a difference to me! It’s as if I couldn’t hear how tired I was. The wireless aspect was completely freeing, too. I could focus on my form and pace instead of wrangling wires.

3. The right footwear. As mentioned above, pain in my legs from the knees down was my biggest hurdle early on. I had expected some pain but this was almost unbearable at times. I tried improving my gait by emphasizing a midfoot strike. It definitely felt better than my natural (i.e., very wrong) side-to-side stride but I was still in pain.

I did some reading online and determined improper support of my high arches was partly to blame. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t own true running shoes. I read a bunch of reviews online and ordered a pair of Brooks Pure Cadence 2 running shoes. I didn’t care what color they were. I just ordered the cheapest ones in my size from Amazon. I loved them right out of the box. There was no break in period, no blisters. With proper cushioning in all the right places, my gait improved even more. Maintaining proper running form required less effort and felt “natural” for the first time in my life. (I followed these guidelines for proper running form.) The pain in my knees, shins and feet improved almost immediately. My arches never felt better.

However, the pain in my calves did not improve. In fact, I even experienced intense swelling at one point. My legs never swelled during any of my pregnancies, but the pain reminded me of how my legs used to feel after a 12-hour workday standing in the pharmacy while pregnant. Back then, I wore compression stockings for relief. I wondered if it would be weird to wear them while running. A quick Amazon search revealed that compression socks for runners actually do exist! I had no idea. I snagged a highly rated pair of performance run socks in pink. (Because it was the cheapest color and I don’t care what I look like when I run.) THESE SOCKS WERE GAME CHANGERS! For me, the claims of more comfort, less fatigue and quicker recovery completely held up in real life. It should come as no surprise that my first run in the socks was the 11-minute wristwatch run I mentioned in #1. Sometimes I even wore them for comfort on rest days. #sohot

4. Ideal running conditions. At first, I ran whenever I had a break in my schedule. The kids were home from school for the summer and squeezing in a run wasn’t always easy. I ran when I could. It didn’t take me long to figure out I was NOT a night runner. I didn’t like not being able to see what was around me and I had trouble falling asleep afterwards. Running in the stifling hot summer afternoons was excruciating. Also, I learned that running shortly after eating gave me intense runner’s heartburn. For these reasons, I made every effort to get my runs in first thing in the morning. Later on as summer dwindled and the temps cooled, I was able to go for pleasant afternoon runs but morning time really was my running sweet spot.

When I started training, I had visions of running in all these cool places around my city. But what I realized was that if the location required me to get in a vehicle, I was less likely to run. It seemed like too much effort. Eventually, I settled on a route in my neighborhood. (After all, a legit running club runs through our ‘hood every Tuesday.) It’s mostly flat and quiet with little to no traffic and the kicker is that it’s just steps from my front door.

I had a few friends offer to run with me but I never took them up on it. For one, I thought I was so terrible that I would hold them back. But mostly I preferred running alone. It was me time, albeit grueling. (That might be an introvert thing.)

So, yeah, my ideal running conditions involved cool temps in the morning, an empty stomach, my trusty neighborhood route and just me. That’s when I felt and did my best. (Luckily, the conditions of the real race were quite similar.) Once I tried a different route on a HOT afternoon and it went horribly. There were hills, a construction zone, heavy traffic and no shoulder to run on. I walked a lot and it took me >45 minutes to finish. I vowed never to take that route again.

5. Patience. I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t attempt to run before this summer. (Fear was the other big factor.) I’m old enough to know that accomplishing a lofty goal requires hard work and time. I knew training for a 5K would be strenuous physically. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run 3 miles overnight. I gave myself ten weeks to train for the race. Still, I expected to see results sooner than I did. I had no choice but to be patient with my progress. I’m not going to lie. The first month sucked. Big time. I couldn’t run longer than a minute without needing to stop and walk at least the same amount of time or longer. The entire time I was running, I couldn’t wait to walk. I told Steve I would rather go through another au naturel birth than run a 5K. That’s where #6 came in and kept me going.

6. Inspiration. I found inspiration everywhere. For starters, Steve organized the Lift Up Autism 5K. I watched him spend so much of what little free time he had setting up an event website, getting people registered, creating the race route, organizing a group of volunteers, contacting sponsors, etc. all for a good cause and I wanted to support him. I also found it extremely inspiring to read about others’ first 5Ks. There’s a lot to be found by googling “first 5K race.” Dipping into others’ experiences helped me focus on endurance, reaching that 3.2 mile mark and finishing strong with a smile on my face.

I thought about my childhood neighbor and friend who now has the extremely challenging job of raising three children, two of which are severely autistic.

I thought about my dear girlfriend who experienced a traumatic labor and delivery which ultimately resulted in her losing her baby the same day he was born.

I thought about my own son, Layne, who was once on the autism spectrum and has grown into the most intelligent and sweetest ten-year-old I know.

I thought about my kids seeing me cross the finish line.

When my legs wanted to stop I thought about all the chronically ill people who would give anything to have healthy, tired legs.

During one run in Florida, I had just reached my goal for the day when a golf cart passed me carrying a severely disabled elderly woman. I was so ready to quit but I ran another two minutes just for her.

During a run in my neighborhood, I passed an elderly woman who frequently runs in the area. She looks as if she’s been a runner all her life and has the injuries and crippled posture to show for it. I had only planned on running 2 miles that day but ended up running 2.5 in honor of her.

During a week that Steve was out of town for work, the only way I could get in my run was to push Mabrey in a (non-jogging) stroller. The stroller is over a decade old. It’s the only stroller we’ve ever owned. The wheels are terribly squeaky and I fear it could collapse at any moment. That stroller was all over the road that day! I kept thinking it was too hard to run behind but then I thought about Mabrey and I wanted her to see me do something difficult. I finished a 5K run that day. Mabrey had no clue. She just liked going fast. The next time I ran stroller-less, it was so easy relative to that stroller run.

You get the point. Inspiration is everywhere if you want to find it. It’s yours for the taking. Use it to do good, hard things.

1st 5k 3

I completed a total of three 5K runs before the actual race. I posted a PR of 25:09 on race day. Out of 70 participants, I placed second. I was the first woman to cross the finish line. And I did it with a smile on my face.

After the race, my sister (who is an avid runner and has completed several marathons) asked me if I was hooked. I’m not entirely sure what my relationship with running is from here on out. I feel great. I’m probably in the best conditioning shape of my life. The fighter in me wants to get my time down but I don’t want chronic injuries. That being said, I ran a mile “for fun” this past weekend and posted my best mile time ever – 7:14. I read somewhere that a 37- to 41-year-old is in the top 1% of their age group if they can run a mile in 6:48 or better. I turn 37 next month. I kinda want to try. For fun.

For me, the weirdest part about all of this is that I run for fun now?! Who am I.

Reading others’ experiences inspired me so much and I want to pay it forward. Have you ever completed a 5K? What were your training must-haves? One more thing: Do you use a music app or create playlists for running / working out? That’s the one thing I haven’t been able to nail down. Any songs you would recommend? I’m all ears. Hehe.


It’s hard to believe it has been a year since we spontaneously adopted Cheetah. I can still remember the entire family driving to pick her up. We had no idea what we were doing. At the time, we had no experience with cats and quite frankly we were skeptical of, even frightened by, them. But she needed a good home and I couldn’t think of a really good reason not to take her in. Plus, she had the saddest lil’ eyes. I couldn’t say no.

layne + cheetah

I’m so happy I didn’t say no. Cheetah has been the best pet ever for our family. She’s protective, mild-mannered, hilarious, cuddly, intuitive, well-behaved, quiet, independent, lazy and at times playful. Personally, I think she’s waaaaay easier than any dog I’ve ever encountered even though she is very dog-like. Coming from “not a cat person” whose family bred beagles growing up, that’s saying a lot. I would have never guessed in a million years that we would own a cat and love her as much as we do. Cheetah has converted many cat skeptics over the last year including family members, friends and complete strangers.

cheetah morning

Cheetah has her own little daily routine which cracks me up. She starts the morning by coming into our bedroom when she hears Steve getting ready for work. She sits on the bed and waits patiently for him to scratch behind her ears and rub her face. Then she bounds down the hallway (seriously, you can hear her galloping these days) to the kitchen and quietly mews at the doors to the backyard until someone opens them so she can watch the birds and squirrels. She stays in the kitchen while we eat breakfast. The boys tell her “goodbye, be a good girl” before heading out to catch the bus. She follows them to the mudroom and sees them off.

mabrey + cheetah

cheetah + nursery

cheetah in a basket

cheetah + play kitchen

legos cheetah

After the morning rush, Cheetah spends most of the day playing with Mabrey and napping in random places. She’s so great with Mabrey who can sometimes be rough. If I were Cheetah I think I would have scratched her by now, but she hasn’t. Some of the places I find her sleeping are quite comical: the kids’ beds, in baskets / bags / boxes galore, on the mantel, in closets, on Mabrey’s play kitchen and even in the kids’ Legos bag. She will sleep almost anywhere. Her favorite spot is wherever she is at the moment. On the weekends, she follows the kids around lounging while they play. During the week, she greets the boys after school by flopping down and rolling over for belly rubs. Everett always asks her how her day was and then asks me if she was good.

While I’m making dinner, a neighborhood cat usually strolls through our backyard. Cheetah follows it from the mudroom to the kitchen to the master bedroom, watching through the french doors and windows. It’s the fastest she moves all day.

cheetah tub

For not liking baths, she sure likes the clawfoot tub – especially right after the kids have bathed or showered. Similarly, if a glass of water is left within her reach, she gently splashes her front paws in it and gives herself a bath. We can’t leave drinking glasses unattended!

everett + cheetah

cheetah cuddle

In the evenings, Cheetah is extra cuddly. The less time we spend at home during the day, the more cuddly she is. She accompanies Steve and me as we make the bedtime rounds. She sits quietly in the boys’ room as we tell them goodnight. She waits in the hallway just outside Mabrey’s door for a minute or two after we’ve put her to bed to make sure all is well. The way she looks after them is the sweetest. Then she’ll join Steve and me in the living room while we watch Netflix, read or talk. If she’s really exhausted or hot, she rolls onto her back, belly up, to let the ceiling fans cool her fluff. (see first image above) I laugh every time. Before bed, Steve cradles her like a baby and rubs her belly. He’ll probably kill me for sharing that but it’s true! Then we’re off to bed and she has free rein. I have no idea where she sleeps unless she sleeps behind the crook in my knees.

When we first brought Cheetah home, I worried about her destroying our furniture and/or rugs. I worried she would have accidents. I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle the cat hair. But so far, she hasn’t destroyed anything or had any accidents. The DIY hidden litter box has been awesome. We still have the cardboard lounger and carpet tree found in this post. The latter is beginning to come undone so a tweak is on the horizon. As long as I brush her regularly, Cheetah doesn’t shed too badly and when she does it’s mostly clumps that can be easily picked up or swept up. (I still swear by the vacuums I mentioned here.) She sometimes gets on the countertops which I really don’t like but it’s usually because she’s hungry or thirsty and needs food or water. The kids take turns feeding her. Once you feed her, she’s a friend for life ;)

I don’t really know the point of this post except to say that I never thought rescuing a pet could be so great and maybe more people should try it if they can. And if you think you aren’t a “cat person,” think again. Our vet guesses Cheetah is at least part Maine Coon. I’ve heard from so many Maine Coon owners professing their doglike qualities and kid-friendliness. If a dog-cat sounds like a good fit for your family, maybe give Maine Coon varieties a look.

Have you ever adopted a pet? Were you surprised by how much they improved your family life? Here’s to many more happy cativersaries!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking