...because home doesn't happen overnight.

big magic 1

Steve gifted me Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert at the end of last year. I finished reading it a few weeks ago and Gilbert’s words on creative living have stuck with me in a way I can only describe as validating and energizing.

Generally speaking, I felt creatively stagnant last year. Some of it had to do with nearing the end of an extensive renovation with no desire to move right away or invent projects just for the sake of blogging. Some of it had to do with Everett’s accident and all the legal, financial and mental repercussions that followed. A lot of it had to do with my struggle to figure out where this space goes after it’s served its purpose as a place to share our downsizing/renovation story. Whatever the reasons, I didn’t write, photograph, create, paint, play around and share enough to satiate my creative side. As a result, my creative muscles atrophied and I felt a little lost.

But after reading Big Magic, I’m finding my way. I’ve come to realize that squeezing creativity into my everyday life is essential to my happiness. I need it to thrive. Maybe you can relate? Here are five key takeaways from the book that are inspiring me to live a more creative life this year.

1. Change your definition of creative living. Gilbert defines creative living as “a life driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” It’s shaping your world exactly to your liking and uncovering your hidden talents. It doesn’t have to be your career. In fact, formal education isn’t always necessary. Sometimes, it’s even crippling because school debt places an emphasis on financial success.

Gilbert gives the example of a middle-aged friend waking up early a few mornings each week to spend time at the ice rink, revisiting her childhood love of figure skating. Creative living isn’t always as obvious as the writer shacked up in a secluded cabin by a lake working on her next novel or the artist brushing paint onto a canvas in his backyard studio. Creative living looks different to different people. And that’s okay!

2. You don’t need permission to live a creative life. You’re allowed to be curious. You’re allowed to try new things. You’re allowed to make things just because you like making things. (You’re also allowed to NOT make things because you don’t enjoy making things.) It’s in your DNA to make things and that’s really all the permission you need. How freeing is that?!

3. Forget perfect. Done is good enough. If you seek only flawless performances or perfect works of art, you won’t create or share anything. And that, by definition, is not creative living because fear is trumping your curiosity. (see #1)

4. The outcome cannot matter. You can’t take creative living too seriously. After all, it’s just trying, learning or making stuff. It’s NOT a baby. (I’ve always found it odd when people describe their creative work this way.) You don’t have to save the world. You don’t have to find some untapped niche. You just have to like it. You can like it because it’s fun, fascinating, healing, sanity-saving or just plain ol’ frivolous. And sharing what you do or make without expectations is the only sane way to create. The peanut gallery’s reaction doesn’t belong to you.

5. Curiosity is the secret. You aren’t creative because you have the luxury of extra time and energy. There is no magic fairy dust. There is hard work, persistence and lifelong learning. You do and make new things because it matters to you enough that you’re willing to give up some sleep, money, TV, exercise, socializing, etc. As long as curiosity is fueling your work, you will be able to get through the shitty parts.

Have you read Big Magic? Did any particular idea(s) strike you as inspiring or change the way you think about creative living? I, for one, am listening to my curiosity now more than ever. I’m excited to see, learn, try and make so many new (to me) things without being bogged down by reactions that are beyond my control. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If creativity and curiosity are tugging at your heart strings, it’s a must-read.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Fair warning: You’re about to commit to a very winded post on the search for an ideal big kid bed. There are few images and lots of rambling. Words > pictures. What I’m trying to say is…you will have to use your imagination. Coffee might help. Or wine.

Reath Design

It’s official. Mabrey is a big girl. She potty-trained on her own over a year ago but didn’t stay dry through the night on a regular basis until recently. I learned the hard way with my first that making a deal out of potty-training before they’re ready just makes more work for me. So I was happy to let her figure out the nighttime thing on her own, and she did just that. My only incentive to her was a “big bed” once she showed me that she could stay dry through the night consistently. Well, the time has come.

Part of me is a teensy sad. I love her room the way it is but her needs are changing. She barely fits in the IKEA GULLIVER crib / toddler bed. It had a good, long run (nearly four years!) but she really needs something larger. The dark pewter on the walls is still one of my favorite hues of all time. It’s so conducive to sleeping and napping (oh naps! where have you gone?!) which makes it perfect for a nursery but I think it’s time for a change. Mabrey is spending more and more time in her room during the day playing, and she’s developed such a spunky personality. I’d love for her room to reflect these latest developments.

Of course, I can’t be sad for long because, HELLO, I get to tweak her room! I’ve started a very rudimentary moodboard and I’m already giddy about the possibilities. I’m channeling my inner Mabrey and having fun with some of the details. But before I get too carried away, I want to share my ideas for the obvious – the big bed!

Mabrey requested bunk beds. Of course. Her brothers have bunk beds. But her brothers also share a room that’s substantially larger than hers. Sure, bunk beds would fit in her room but that’s about it. It would essentially be a bunk bed closet. With her room being so small, I’d like to keep most of the furniture low to create breathing room. I gently broke the news to her and told her we’d find something she liked. She took it in stride.

Right off the bat I had several stipulations regarding the new bed: 1) Twin size. Her ~9′ x 9′ room can’t accommodate anything larger. 2) Extra sleeping space. It would be great to incorporate another sleeping surface into our three-bedroom home for sleepovers or overnight guests. The boys have a separate, pull-out trundle under their bunk that has come in handy over the years. 3) Clean lines. Not only do I like the look, but straight lines take up less space physically and visually – a necessity in a small room. 4) Not a bazillion dollars. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit drooling over Oeuf and Dwell Studio kid beds, but I just can’t stomach the price tags when I know there are other viable options out there for half the cost (or less). I’m more likely to splurge on items that will be used by everyone in our main living areas. Beds in kid rooms? Notsomuch. Which is probably why, currently, all the little people beds in our house hail from IKEA. We’ve had great luck with them. So it should come as no surprise that IKEA was the first place I browsed.

I looked at the TARVA and considered using a SVÄRTA trundle underneath it. The setup was most definitely budget-friendly but I wasn’t convinced of its staying power. I also looked at the BRIMNES which is a pretty smart concept. It’s a daybed / single bed / double bed / bedroom storage in one and includes two mattresses and two drawers. However, upon further inspection I noticed that the included mattresses aren’t standard thickness. Plus, we sometimes bring the boys’ trundle out into the living room for sleepovers and that isn’t possible with the BRIMNES. I couldn’t see paying $600 for something that didn’t check all the boxes so I nixed it.

That’s when the search really intensified. Ha! I searched craigslist and ebay for vintage beds but everything was too expensive, too ornate and / or didn’t offer a trundle option. I considered daybeds with trundles but I wasn’t excited about anything in my price range (<$500) which most likely meant I wouldn’t like them a few years from now. I stopped looking for a while. Then I started back up again just a few days ago and found this crazy affordable trundle ensemble. I know what you’re thinking.


But wait a minute. Hear me out. Forget about all that brown for a minute. Take away the espresso finish and the really bad styling. (Is that a beige microfiber comforter?) Yes, the headboard and footboard are slatted but at least they’re relatively wide slats. Now click on the “natural” option. Things just got a little better, didn’t they? Now imagine the “natural” frame painted in a modern shade of olive green. Lose the country knobs on the trundle. Replace them with elongated brass pulls. Do you see it? Let me help you.

DIY big girl bed

Now look at the price. Subtract $10. Did you get $283.95? Great. You win another cup of coffee. Or wine. Go ahead. Pour yourself a second round. I’ll wait. UPDATE: The price has increased since this post was originally published. Grrrr. But it’s still pretty affordable.

Good? Good. Let’s continue.

So, yeah, I bought that bed + trundle setup for $283.95 thanks to a $10 credit on my Wayfair account. (You can earn store credit for leaving reviews on past purchases.) It checked all the boxes. Twin size. Pull-out trundle. No ornate frills. No commas on the price tag. I’ll actually be able to afford mattresses to go with it. Imagine that! The fact that it’s made of solid wood and can be converted to a bunk (with the purchase of another twin) are just bonuses. And with a fresh coat of paint and some killer hardware, it’s going to look way less vacation rental…especially against light walls…maybe some fun wallpaper? I won’t finalize the paint color and exact hardware until after the bed arrives so I can see how things shake out in person, but I’m diggin’ the olive + brass combo. Mabrey is stoked and so am I.

I bookmarked the first image in this post years ago as inspiration for a child’s room and it’s stuck with me. I’ll be loosely referring to it for Mabrey’s big girl room. More details soon!

Here’s to no diapers (cloth or disposable) in my house!

P.S. – A crib review & transitioning from crib to toddler bed.

images: 1) Reath Design 2) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

02.22.16 / Liked & Linked

flying solo

dream house

Layne rocked his first solo flight last week and now he’s obsessed with flying. Every time I open my laptop, it’s on the Delta home page. I think I may have a future pilot on my hands. He checked out a half-dozen books on airplanes from the library and devoured them in one evening. He told me he found the jet he’s going to buy when he’s older. It only costs $350,000,000.

He asked Steve, “Dad, how do I make a lot of money really fast?”

Steve was like, “If I knew…”

It’s fun to see him thinking about his future at this age, pondering all the things he wants to do, all the places he wants to visit. I’m so proud of him for not flinching a muscle flying unaccompanied. (He flew to DC to visit my sister and her husband. It was their Christmas/birthday gift to him and one he’ll never forget.) Fun > fear. I don’t think I was that courageous at eleven. On a side note, all I see are his ginormous man feet in that picture!

If I had to describe our weekend in one word it would be restorative. It was sunny and mild and we spent nearly every waking hour outside. The fresh air and warm sunshine were invigorating. It was just what I needed to pump myself up for another week of single parenting ;)

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been exploring surrounding neighborhoods. With no big house projects on deck and cabin fever grabbing hold, more than once we’ve found ourselves piling into the car to do nothing more than drive. We’ve lived in the area for 4+ years but are just now discovering all these quirky little suburban pockets sprinkled with midcentury gems. They’re so dreamy.

Steve and I fell in love with that sprawling ranch above. I liken the footprint to the shape of a lightning bolt. It’s so unique. There’s a detached garage (in the foreground on the left) with an open breezeway connecting it to the main house. Vaulted ceilings, stacked stone fireplaces, skylights and floor-to-ceiling sliders grace the main living spaces. There’s even an indoor greenhouse! The house sold a few months ago but is currently empty. I keep driving by checking for signs of life…or a for sale sign. #housestalker

A few links…

*I can’t get enough of this DIY cabin. The recycled paper countertop is beautifully simple.

*Just when I thought I’d seen everything shibori…shibori backsplash tiles.

*I fell down the virtual rabbit hole at Brit’s place…on her blog and instagram account. I’m so intrigued by her review of RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinetry. Definitely bookmarking it!

misfit kitchen

*Such a pretty kitchen. The laundry room ain’t bad either.

*An interesting podcast on the art of living with less from the authors of the memoir Everything That Remains. A documentary about minimalism is in the works. (Some fun six degrees of Kevin Bacon-esque facts: The authors went to grade school in Lebanon, Ohio, where our previous McMansion was located before moving further north to Dayton, Ohio, where our current home is located. They recently moved to Montana.)

*I love the look of the integrated handles on the MÄRSTA doors and drawer fronts, but I haven’t experienced them in person yet. They weren’t on display the last time I was at my local IKEA. Have you seen them? Thoughts?

*I caved and started using this organic self tanner on my ashen body. It’s phenomenal!

One more week until March!

images: 1 & 2) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 3) The Misfit House