...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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Have you heard of Bitsy’s Brainfood? I discovered Bitsy’s at Target a few months ago while running errands with the kids. I was searching for healthy snacks for our spring break trip to go along with the apples and pistachios I had already picked up, but the kids wanted something more exotic (i.e., less boring) than pretzels. Bitsy’s was an instant hit and quickly became a snack staple in our house. Since then, the Smart Cookies and Smart Crackers have made appearances in the kids’ school lunches (they’re nut free!) and our pool bag.

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The Sweet Potato Oatmeal Raisin cookies and Cheddar Chia Veggie crackers are our family’s favorites. Mabrey loves the alphabet-shaped cookies for practicing her ABCs. The boys like creating pictures with the tangram-shaped crackers. I like the fact that they aren’t loaded with sugar, are made with organic ingredients and were created by a mom duo who believe that healthy minds and healthy bodies go hand in hand. (Each serving of Smart Crackers contains a ½ serving of vegetables.) Naturally, Bitsy’s was in our food bag on a recent road trip to Michigan City, Indiana. (More on the trip coming soon!)

bitsy's

Speaking of summer road trips, we have several planned for this year. That’s in sharp contrast to last summer which was way too busy for my liking. I had a hard time saying no to a few activities (for myself and the kids), and it ended up being too much. We spent a lot of time in the car going from home to activity, activity to activity, activity to home. The tedious driving nibbled away at our downtime. Before we knew it, summer break was over and we hadn’t savored it the way we’d really wanted to.

This year I vowed to do things differently in the hope of zeroing in on that sweet spot between complete boredom and excessive busyness. My summer motto? Don’t make it harder than it has to be. We’re saying no to the things that don’t really bring us joy and yes to familiar favorites and a few new adventures. The kids are sticking with a free, drop-in camp at a local park two mornings a week. (Seriously, it’s been my sanity saver for the past two summers. The kids liken it to a three-hour recess. So, so grateful for park programs!) Layne is playing tennis once a week, and Everett and Mabrey are taking swim lessons for two weeks. All three are enrolled in the summer reading program at the library, and we bought a family pass to our neighborhood pool.

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Saying no to other stuff is allowing us to squeeze in several road trips which we’re extremely excited about. It’s also giving us chunks of downtime to do whatever we want: read, hang out with friends at the pool, go for a walk, squeeze in a project or two, wander, wonder, flex our creative muscles, take a nap already!, watch a movie, visit a new park or nothing. I’ll be the first to admit that I feel guilty when my day isn’t productive/busy/hard enough. It’s like enough isn’t enough unless it’s just slightly too much. Why is that?

Bitsy’s is readily available at Target. If you’d like to give them a try, the first 200 readers can use this coupon to score $2 off any Smart Cookie or Smart Cracker.

How do you handle summer break? What activities are your kids involved in? Does it ever feel like too much? Too little? Any road trips on your calendar? I always love hearing your thoughts.

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*This post sponsored in part by Bitsy’s Brainfood. This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

interior door 2

Inquiring minds want to know, “Where did you get the black hinges and doorknobs?” I could’ve sworn I shared the source years ago, but after some digging I realized I hadn’t. Better late than never!

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We replaced the interior doors and hardware after we moved in. One caveat: We had already removed the original doors, so we lived without any interior doors for quite a while. With a newborn. And two other rugrats. It sucked. I wouldn’t recommend it.

You can read more about the doors we selected here and here. (Eek! Mabrey looks so little.) We wanted a simple design that didn’t stray too far from our home’s midcentury roots, but we were hoping for something slightly less boring than a flush door slab. We were stoked to discover the Berkley from Masonite’s West End collection with its subtle inset detailing. Steve saved us >$2,000 by hanging the doors himself. Eventually, I painted them to match the trim. (It took me a year to get around to it!)

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We liked the idea of matte black hinges and doorknobs to contrast against the white doors. We went with these hinges. For the bathrooms and bedrooms, we used these privacy doorknobs. For the linen closets, we used these passage doorknobs. For the man door to the garage, we used this keyed entry doorknob along with this deadbolt.

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Four years later, the doors and hardware are holding up extremely well. (My kids should work at a door/doorknob testing facility.)

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The Safe ‘n Sound solid core doors have been a worthy investment. They provide great acoustical insulation in our smallish house (i.e., I lock myself in the bathroom from time to time for a quick, quiet recharge). The doors get a lot of compliments from visitors. They’re unique yet understated. I absolutely LOVE the matte black hardware.

In summary, living with interior doors trumps living without interior doors any day. I hope I never have to do that again.

P.S. – Create your own attic access.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

studio matsalla fireplace 1

I receive emails from readers all the time asking for advice on particularly troublesome areas in their homes. Unfortunately, I’m not able to respond to each one, but a problematic area that keeps popping up is the pesky angled fireplace. I would never suggest an angled fireplace in a new build, but sometimes they’re inevitable in homes bought by successive owners. The good news is I don’t think an angled fireplace should be a deal breaker if other attributes of the home are desirable: location, layout, size, price, potential, etc. In fact, they can really amp up the cozy factor in a space. Personally, I’ve never lived in a home with an angled fireplace, but I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts on working around one. If I ever end up with an angled fireplace, there are a few general guidelines (no hard and fast rules) I would follow.

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clj fireplace

Update an angled fireplace, but don’t make it the star of the room. If an outdated surround is cramping your style, feel free to give it a fresh coat of paint, add trim, upgrade the mantel and/or install new tile on the surround or hearth to better suit your aesthetic. Keep the updates simple so that the fireplace melds with the rest of the space without creating a distracting focal point in a corner. If you opt for a mantel, keep it shallow. Amber Lewis painted the stone fireplace in her previous living room, while Julia and Chris Marcum added basic trim and paint to a contemporary version in their basement family room. In spaces where you don’t want the corner of a room taking center stage, allow the fireplace to become part of the background.

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rafterhouse fireplace

Don’t arrange main furniture pieces parallel to an angled fireplace. It’s so tempting to orient a sofa facing the fireplace. However, when dealing with an angled fireplace, it’s better to place the sofa on OR facing another wall in the room to establish a conversation area. This creates a more practical and appealing layout.

makerista angled fireplace

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Balance an angled fireplace with adjacent built-ins, shelving, a large window, french/sliding doors or furniture items similar in scale to the fireplace. In other words, place something of similar size on a wall at 135° in relation to the fireplace. This keeps your eye traveling around the room instead of dead-ending in a corner. In essence, you are creating a new focal point while still benefitting from the coziness a fireplace can provide. Gwen Hefner designed built-ins using IKEA bookcases for a client’s living room. If desired, you could bring in a media cabinet and TV instead. I wouldn’t recommend placing a TV above an angled fireplace!

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Keep fireplace accessories to a minimum. Placing a small accent chair, ottoman, planter or basket near the fireplace can help soften awkward angles. Just make sure you aren’t drawing unnecessary attention to the corner. Hang a simple mirror or piece of artwork above the mantel, or just leave it bare. This is one time you don’t want to layer a bunch of accessories on the mantel. Studio Matsalla added patterned cement tile to an angled fireplace but opted out of a mantel. A modern planter and round mirror are subtle decorative accents. (You can see how this fireplace fits into the bigger picture in the very first image of this post.)

I hope this gives those of you struggling with angled fireplaces some ideas! No need to sell your house ;)

images: 1,9) Studio Matsalla 2,4,8) design by Amber Interiors; photography by Bryce Covey for Style Me Pretty 3) Chris Loves Julia 5) Rafterhouse 6,7) The Makerista