...because home doesn't happen overnight.

FYI: No mention of houses here other than one swept up by a tornado.

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Last Saturday, Steve and I had the opportunity to hear Ira Glass speak at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati. I’m a regular This American Life listener but it was my first time seeing Ira live. He did not disappoint. The event was titled “Reinventing the Radio” and, even though I have no professional ties to radio or journalism, I left feeling inspired as a writer.

Ira has a way of drawing listeners in without gimmicky promos and he talked about his storytelling version of journalism. In contrast to most news media, Ira’s broadcasts aren’t a series of big news stories with an underlying serious tone. Obviously, there’s a need for major, factual news programs (I’m not talking about the biased, sensationalized, fearmongering programs. I seriously think we could do without those.) but Ira claims there’s also a need for personal storytelling to put the world into perspective, to bring down the scale of the world to a human level. I couldn’t agree more.

He gave an example of a radio interview with a tornado victim and played some audio of the homeowner recounting her experience. She talks about what she was doing, what her kids were doing, what she saw and how it felt to be in a house that was picked up, swirled around and put back down on the ground three blocks away from its original location. There were no images or video but you could envision her story in your mind as it unfolded. It was riveting and really gave you a sense of what it might feel like to live through a tornado.

Ira then asked the audience to picture the nonexistent television news version of the same story. Most likely there would be video panning the wreckage, the victim’s home, the neighborhood. A very serious reporter would stand next to the victim and ask a few surface-scratching questions all the while ticking down the seconds. Maybe viewers would subconsciously judge the victim based on her, her home’s or her neighborhood’s appearance. The focus would be the damage but there wouldn’t be any real connection. And then the program would move on to another big scary story. It’s all very abrupt and fleeting.

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Ira’s method of storytelling is the reason why I find myself sitting in my car in the driveway with the engine off, radio on, after running an errand. I can’t stop listening! I’m caught up in the story. I want to find out what happens next. And, because the story is given time to unfold, I’m more likely to remember the details and make a permanent connection. It’s probable that I will recall the story at a later time and share it with someone else. Then that one little story will spark thoughts on bigger ideas and it causes me to look at things from a more human perspective than I would otherwise. Or it brings to light issues I normally wouldn’t consider.

Ira has a genuine talent for showcasing the humor and candor inside the bigger, scarier stories and I find it all very inspiring.

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” – Ira Glass

What about you? Are you a story lover? What is your favorite way to get the news? Do you listen to This American Life? Serial? I haven’t tuned in to Serial yet because I’m too afraid of getting sucked in!

P.S. – A dog dressed as Ira for Halloween and my dream radio.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

ghost lights 1

Other than displaying carved pumpkins, I haven’t really decorated for Halloween in years. (I’m more of a seasonal decorator than a holiday decorator.) This year the kids were hounding me more than usual and I’ve been on a recent “life’s too short” kick so I finally came around and spooked up this place. It’s nothing over the top but I think I have a chance at Mom of the Year 2014. (You know I’m kidding, right?)

ghost lights 2

I spent $6 (coupon included) on two yards of tulle and black poster board at JoAnn’s to create ghost lights over the kitchen island. I rolled out the two yards of tulle and left it doubled over (for a layered effect) then cut it into three equal sections, one for each pendant. I cut a hole in the top of each section, slipped the tulle over the pendants then secured it with string. I trimmed the tulle to my desired length then “fringed” the ends by cutting ~2″ wide strips on the bottom half of each ghost. I freehanded three ghost faces and cut them out of the black poster board then secured them to the tulle with double-sided tape.

ghost lights 3

They turned out pretty creepy. I think the key is to use a really thin and airy tulle (not the stiff, scratchy stuff) and to scrunch the ends. (Where are all my ’97 high school grads at? We hella good at scrunching.) The moaning ghost faces portray way more emotion and despair than two black eye holes. The cat is real. Yeah, you’re going to need to rescue a kitten to pull off this look in its entirety.

spider web

I attempted to make a spider web out of jute string that I already had on hand. It turned out okay?? There’s a good reason why I’m not a spider. Apparently, webs take patience and a certain amount of skill. I immediately felt horrible about all the real webs I’ve swiped.

First, I hung three lengths of jute in an asterisk formation. I tied the ends to anything I could find: antlers, cords on the side of the cabinet, a doorstopper, etc. I rigged it so that we can still open the cabinet and door. Starting from the outer most part of the web and working my way in, I knotted off sections of jute in a hexagonal pattern. I taped a paper spider to my creation to better designate it as a “spider web.” I don’t know. It reads more like an unfinished, ginormous dreamcatcher to me.

All the spiders are crying, “You call that a web?! You disgust me.” In my defense, I don’t extrude silk from my nether regions.

halloween living room

I couldn’t boo the kitchen and not the living room.


I bought two sets of removable 3D bats and filled the area above the TV with them. (A ladder was involved.) I love these bats! Don’t let the reviews fool you. A few people were disappointed that the bats aren’t larger but I actually prefer this size. The bats are plastic and you bend them to get the 3D effect. They also come with removable stickers. I’m not sure how the adhesive will hold up after one season but I can always break out my trusty putty tabs if necessary. These bats are definitely going to be a mainstay of our Halloween décor.

halloween mantel 1

I grouped pumpkins and squash on the mantel on either side of the TV wall. They were a steal at Trader Joe’s and were left over from a Thanksgiving tablescape shoot. (It goes live mid-November.) That’s where the eucalyptus branch came from, too. I laced the mantel with these copper string lights. They are the best! The delicate LEDs put off a warm white glow and the copper wire can be easily manipulated. Unlike traditional string lights, they’re barely noticeable when not lit. I can see myself using these throughout the holiday season.

halloween mantel 2

I sprinkled in a few paper maché skulls. I bought them for pennies at Michael’s several years ago during one of their post-Halloween sales and they’ve been stashed in the attic ever since. I’m very proud of myself for remembering to bust them out this year. FINALLY.


Likewise, I scored these window decals during a post-Halloween sale a while back when we were living in our previous house. They were originally two large window-sized poster decals but the size and shape were all wrong for our current home’s windows so I cut the spiders out from the background. I wasn’t sure how well the spiders alone would stick to the window. I used a damp rag to wet the window first to help with adhesion. So far, so good. I may end up laminating the spiders after this season to protect them. (You could easily DIY something similar with a little black craft paper or poster board. I was just trying to use what I had on hand.)

And now for some nighttime pictures because that’s always fun…

ghost lights 4

spiders 2

spiders 3

Ah, the ol’ spider in the lampshade trick. It’s a classic. There’s also a little spider in one of the windows on the front door that I failed to photograph. Have I mentioned Steve is terrified of spiders?

Anyway, I threw all this together one day last week while the boys were at school. It was fun to see their reactions when they came home. They were so surprised! Everett’s favorites are the ghost lights. Layne likes the bats and skulls. I like the fact that I can reuse almost everything.

What are some of the ways you decorate for Halloween? I need to up my game for next year.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

10.25.14 / Made Me Smile

tub progress

That, my friends, is the first time the (declawed) claw foot tub has been filled with water…at least while in our possession. And it happened yesterday. It felt extremely momentous. I’ll share more soon. The installation was tedious with inevitable hiccups but, look!, running water!! We feel like we’ve cleared a huge hurdle in this never-ending bathroom project. And that definitely makes us smile. Ear to ear.

More feel good stuff…

*Waltzing vacuum cleaners.

*The perfect lil’ reading nook.

*Since I’m “a little weird,” for fun I scoped out vacation rentals in Austin, TX. How ridiculously cute is this remodeled Airstream?! WANT.

*Add art to your kitchen.

the black shack

the black shack

*A black shack: equal parts edgy and beautiful.

*Ghost lights.

*Ikea’s take on The Shining. (Red rug. Ha!)

Have a great weekend! Steve and I are going to hear Ira Glass speak at the Aronoff tonight. I’m so excited! (Have you read or seen Sleepwalk with Me? Ira co-wrote and produced the film version.) I love listening to This American Life. I’m curious to see how similar / different it is to hear Ira in person. Either way, it should be fun! Storytelling is the best.

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2 & 3) Ansis Starks

10.23.14 / Easy Harvest Salad

harvest salad 1

A few weeks ago we hit up our favorite pizza place, Dewey’s, and had the most amazing harvest salad with figs, pumpkin seeds, bacon and a cider vinaigrette. (If you ever get the chance to eat at Dewey’s, you must try the Green Lantern. It’s part of their regular menu and they rotate in seasonal items, too.) It was so good that Steve and I couldn’t stop talking about it for days. I decided to try my hand at replicating the salad at home. It’s not an exact match but it’s pretty close. I’ve made it several times now and we can’t get enough. Maybe you would like to try it?

For the salad I used a baby spring mix, dried figs cut in half, roasted pumpkin seeds, uncured apple smoked bacon pieces (You bake it, right? It’s super easy and less messy.) and crumbled goat cheese.

harvest salad 2

For the vinaigrette, I went with this simple recipe since I had all the ingredients on hand. I just mixed everything in the blender.

harvest salad 3

Done and yum. Even our kids gobble this salad up. I think I know where all the seeds from our jack-o-lanterns are going to end up this year!

What are some of your favorite fall recipes?

P.S. – Easy fall beans.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking