...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

surprise DC trip

In the fall of 2011, I surprised the boys with a road trip to Washington, D.C. (Technically, Mabrey went too, but she was just a bump. Can you see her?) I was still working as a pharmacist at the time and managed to get a rare Friday off that coincided with a long weekend for the boys. A few weeks prior, I had called my sister (who lived in Fairfax, Virginia, at the time) to see if she’d be interested in having some visitors. She quickly said, “Yes!”

On the Thursday before the long weekend, while Layne and Everett were at school and daycare, respectively, I packed their bags and loaded up the car with snacks and pillows. I picked Everett up from daycare then we drove home and waited for Layne to get off the bus. We didn’t even get out of the car. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when Layne climbed in and I revealed my secret. They were so excited! They couldn’t believe we were up and leaving in the middle of a perfectly normal afternoon. The wonderful part is they were more excited about being surprised than actually going on a road trip.

surprise DC trip

Years later, they still bring up that mini vacation. The thing they remember most is me surprising them – not seeing the Lincoln Memorial or riding the Metro.

Have you ever planned a surprise vacation? Would you ever sign up for a surprise vacation? (Apparently, it’s the new way to travel.) Do you even like surprises? I like surprising my kids with trips, but I don’t know if I could give up complete control of vacation planning! We’re leaving for a little family vacation tomorrow. The kids know we’re driving somewhere and will be gone for a few days, but Steve and I haven’t told them where we’re going yet.

P.S. – That one time I was wifenapped.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking