...because home doesn't happen overnight.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed that a stuffed strawberry frequently makes an appearance alongside Mabrey. My cousin gifted Mabrey the Ikea strawberry lovey over a year ago and, ever since, the two have been inseperable. Mabrey and her strawberry are BFF’s. Mabrey affectionately refers to her lovey as “B” and their relationship is just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever encountered.

mabrey & B

My boys had blankies they loved when they were babies and toddlers but they only slept with them. (They still do but they don’t have to have them.) The blankies never made it out of their beds. But Mabrey and B go everywhere together. Mabrey talks to B. Mabrey sleeps with her face buried in B. Mabrey clings to B when she’s upset. B sits on the corner of the kitchen island to watch Mabrey eat. B goes for rides in the car with Mabrey. Mabrey takes B along for walks in her stroller. B watches movies with us. (To date, the only movie Mabrey has sat through from start to finish is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. One of the main characters is a little strawberry.) Mabrey makes us talk to, hug and kiss B. Mabrey blames B for her messes.

Me: Maaay-breeee, who dumped out all the Legos?

Mabrey: B did-dit.

So it should come as no surprise that our entire family was completely heartbroken when B went missing last month. Ironically enough, we lost B on a trip to Ikea – the same place B hails from. I wasn’t paying attention (I am easily distracted at Ikea) and didn’t realize that B had made it into the store with us. So I never noticed when Mabrey accidentally left B lying somewhere. In fact, I didn’t notice B was missing until after we returned home and I was putting Mabrey down for her nap. I couldn’t find B. She wasn’t in the car. She wasn’t in the house. She wasn’t dropped between the car and the house.

Frantically, I called Ikea. You can imagine how confusing that phone call was for the person on the opposite end of the line.

Me: Hi. We were just at your store and my daughter lost a stuffed strawberry. It’s actually an item you guys used to carry so someone may have thrown in onto a shelf thinking it belonged to the store but ours has all the tags removed. Has anyone turned it in?

Ikea employee: (silence for a while) So….um….you bought a strawberry today?

I left my name and phone number but, needless to say, no stray stuffed strawberries had been turned in. I broke the news to Mabrey telling her B was all gone. B went bye-bye. Initially, she took it pretty well. I think I was more upset than she was. Everett came to the rescue and selflessly offered up his stuffed puppy for Mabrey to sleep with. Mabrey went down for her nap (with Everett’s puppy) with no problems. She didn’t mention B anymore that day. She went to bed that night with Everett’s puppy and didn’t make a peep. I was relieved.

I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason.” Mabrey seemed to be handling the loss of B quite well so I thought maybe it was meant to be. Maybe it was time to move on.

The next morning I went in the nursery and lifted Mabrey out of her crib.

Mabrey: B go bye-bye.

A lone tear rolled down her cheek. Ugh. My heart sank. I felt horrible. Mabrey had lost her best friend. Normally, Mabrey is a pretty happy girl but that day she was pitiful. She was sad and clingy and mentioned B several times throughout the day. I was sad, too. Screw “everything happens for a reason.”

When Steve came home from work that evening, we scoured the internet for a B replacement. (Our local Ikea no longer carried the stuffed strawberry.) We found a new one on eBay for $15 and bought it immediately. It took six days for B 2.0 to arrive and it was a loooooong six days. Mabrey was sleeping okay with her brother’s puppy stand-in but she asked for B from time to time and she wasn’t her normal happy self. I was anticipating the arrival of B 2.0 but worried that Mabrey might not go for it. Surely, B 2.0 wouldn’t look, smell or feel exactly the same as the original.

Much to my surprise Mabrey took to the replacement. I remember handing her B 2.0 for the first time. I could tell right away Mabrey knew it wasn’t the real B. But after a few seconds a huge smile spread across her face and she gave B 2.0 a big heartfelt squeeze. B 2.0 was better than nothing. B 2.0 was good enough. I had my happy girl back.

Now Mabrey treats B 2.0 just like the original. They are best friends and I am so grateful for a happy ending to our lost lovey story.

A lost lovey might seem like a minor thing to get worked up about but it really felt as if Mabrey had lost her best friend and, being her mom, I felt like I was the one who had let her down by not paying closer attention to B’s whereabouts. Has your child ever lost a lovey? How did your child react? How did you react? I hope your stories have happy endings, too.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


Congrats to Joanne (that lucky Irish girl!) and Corinne (yay for gluten-free snacks!). They each win a six-month subscription to NatureBox.

pantry 1

In our previous house we had a roomy, walk-in kitchen pantry. Here? Notsomuch. When we designed the kitchen, the plan was to use cabinet space for dried and packaged goods. We thought if worse came to worse we could always store pantry items in one of the wardrobes in the adjacent mudroom but, luckily, we haven’t had to.

Downsizing has changed our lives a lot – which we expected for the most part. But we’re surprised by how much it has affected our thoughts on food. It seems like in our previous house, we bought (and ate) way more packaged food because we had this huge pantry to stock. Here, there’s no pantry begging to be filled so we find ourselves buying (and eating) less boxed food. And we’re making the packaged foods we do eat count. We’re also better at keeping our fridge stocked with fresh produce.

So where exactly do we keep packaged foods and dry goods in this house?

pantry 2

We’ve designated a corner lazy susan as our “pantry.” It’s easily accessible and doesn’t take up much space.

pantry 3

Even though it’s probably a tenth of the size of our previous pantry, nobody goes hungry around here. If anything, we’re eating better. We’re more conscious of what we’re buying and eating since we only have so much room for food. The whole “quality over quantity” theme has even seeped into our grocery shopping and regular diets. I’m not saying we’re perfect (um, hello boxes of Girl Scout cookies) but our attitude towards in-house food has definitely changed. Plus, I can pull the “we don’t have room for it” card, guilt-free, anytime one of my kids asks for juice boxes at the grocery store.

The limited space makes for quick inventory checks, too. It’s easy to see what we’re running low on and what we have plenty of.

pantry collage

I think lazy susans are difficult to organize. Why can’t I find wedge-shaped bins to organize and optimize space in a lazy susan?! BAM. Someone should take that idea to Shark Tank. I did the best I could with some bins and baskets we already had on hand. (In fact, most of them once lived in our big, flashy pantry.) The cabinet contents are divvied up into categories: canned goods, snacks, pasta & rice, non-refrigerated produce, breakfast foods, baking ingredients, sweets, etc. I try to keep the items in each bin specific to a given category so I can simply pull out one basket to find what I need instead of bending over and spinning my way through everything just to find one item.

pantry 7

The basket system works really well for snacks. The kids can grab the snack basket to pick an item of their choice without my help. To keep things relatively healthy but also give the kids a sense of freedom, I control what goes into the basket but they choose what comes out. Win-win.

NatureBox recently sent my family some goodies to try and they made their way into the snack basket. With no high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated corn oils, no trans fats, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors and no artificial colors, I’m happy to support NatureBox’s mission to help people discover better choices. Being a busy mom, I also appreciate that the monthly snack subscription includes free shipping anywhere in the continental U.S. Healthy snacks at your doorstep, people! Best of all, YOU CHOOSE which snacks show up at your doorstep.

pantry 5

To free up room in the corner cabinet, I do store a few things elsewhere in the kitchen. Cereal and oatmeal live in large glass canisters just above the “pantry.” We go through those two things so quickly there’s never any worry of them becoming stale before consumption.

pantry 6

I keep flour and various sugars in containers next to the stove. The stainless steel canisters have rubber-sealed lids with secure latches to keep contents fresh.

I’ve received SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. about where we keep food in our downsized house. I hope this post gives you some answers. (Doesn’t peeking into someone’s pantry feel extremely personal?) We’ve discovered that having less space for food isn’t necessarily a problem. For us, it’s motivation to make better choices. And better is always a step in the right direction.

pantry 8

Would you like to discover better snack options with the help of NatureBox? Great! See entry details below.

PRIZE: 6-month deluxe snacker subscription to NatureBox ($120 value). There will be TWO WINNERS!

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

TO ENTER: Browse the snacks NatureBox has to offer then leave a comment on this post stating which ones you’d like to try. (I fell hard for the oat bran dippin’ stix and dark cocoa almonds. YUM.)

DEADLINE: Enter before Sunday, March 16th at 9:00 p.m. EST. Two random winners will be announced Monday, March 17th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: House*Tweaking readers receive an exclusive discount. Enter the code “HT50″ to score 50% off your first box of any size. Valid only on first month’s box, new customers only.

This post sponsored in part by NatureBox. All images and content by me. All crumbs by my kids. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

03.07.14 / Made Me Smile


I’m not gonna lie. This week was rough. But finding a few smile-worthy things helped me realize that my bad weeks aren’t all that bad. Here are the *much needed* things that made me smile.

*My $4 pot of tulips bloomed! One question for any green thumbs out there: what do I do with it now? Can I transplant the bulbs outside? I’m clueless.

*Lulu’s modern princess mood board created by her awesome mommy using my Polyvore tutorial.

*This beautiful children’s book (my current fave) would make a great Easter basket gift.

*Boy meets art.

*A calming live-work apartment.

*I borrowed this Thom Filicia book from the library and now it’s on my wish list. In the book, Thom shares his personal story of finding, buying, renovating and decorating a lake house. (The foreword is by Tina Fey. How crazy is that?!)

*Lastly, somehow I stumbled upon the #sharemystyle hashtag. Australian residents are taking pictures of their personal spaces and posting them via twitter or instagram with the #sharemystyle hashtag for a chance to win a featured spot in Inside Out magazine. Warning: the real life eye candy is addicting. (I’m not sure whether to say “you’re welcome” or “I’m sorry” for sharing this with you.) See my favorites below.

share my style faves

See what I mean?! Gah.

I hope you’re able to find some smile-worthy moments this weekend. It’s going to be sunny and mild today so I’m taking the kids to the park after school. I can hardly wait!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Inside Out magazine

02.28.14 / Made Me Smile

mabrey book 1

So much to smile about this week!

*Cuddling with Mabrey and reading her absolute favorite book before nap time is something I look forward to every day. Our copy was Steve’s when he was little. Dare I say it’s vintage?

*Finally, we created attic access in our home where there was none and then we organized said attic. Hurray for not paying to heat / cool attic space anymore!

*These painter’s pyramid stands came in handy when I tweaked an Ikea step stool earlier this week. Such a clever product!

*Lauren’s tips for styling a console. Her home is featured in the current issue of Domino magazine which I just picked up this morning. Guess what I’ll be reading tonight with wine in hand!

*A little bathroom humor never hurt anyone.

*You know that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow we’ve all been searching for? Turns out, it was in someone’s backyard.

*We got a taste of spring. It was delicious.

*I placed second wayyyyyy behind one of my all-time favorite designers in the annual Homies Awards. Emily slayed it and rightfully so! Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. Love ya.

Do something that puts a smile on your face this weekend. We’re hoping to level out the floor in our unfinished bathroom after our plumber came and adjusted a water line last week. Gotta start somewhere!

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking