...because home doesn't happen overnight.
In summer when I’m not walking around barefoot (most of the time!) or running in my Brooks, it’s a good bet I’m wearing my favorite pair of strappy leather sandals. They go with everything: jeans + tee, shorts + tank, a breezy sundress, even a swimsuit + coverup at the pool or beach. They’re easy to slip on but look slightly more refined, sexier than flip flops.
Every time I share a snap of them on Instagram, people want to know the source so I thought I’d share it with you. I bought them at Kohl’s (!), and they are the only sandals I’ve owned/worn for the last two years. I have sensitive toe cleavage (TMI?), but these don’t bother me at all. In fact, there was no break-in period required. They were immediately comfortable. They’ve held up tremendously well especially considering how many miles I’ve logged in them. (FYI – For all-day walking excursions, I wear something more supportive but these are great for running errands, trips to the park and pool, casual dining out, etc.) I just noticed that they’re still available at a crazy affordable price, and I’m seriously considering buying another pair because surely the ones I have won’t last forever. I’ve included them in the round-up below (see #1) along with a few other strappy casual sandals that caught my eye.
In other news, the kids finish up school this week and the pool opens this weekend. Summer really is coming!
image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
For years I’ve been thinking it would be great to have extra seating near the fireplace. We spend the majority of our winters huddled around the fire trying to stay warm. The poufs I tossed down several years ago are super kid-friendly and worked well when our kids were a little younger. They were essentially glorified bean bags. However, as you can imagine, they were quite low and not really suitable for adults. An epic chair hunt commenced.
For a while, finding a chair wasn’t a huge priority. The poufs were fine, and we were trying to wrap up the main bathroom anyhow. But it didn’t stop me from looking. I knew I wanted something low and squatty to keep sight lines unobstructed from all angles. (Something like a tall wingback would have cut off the space.) I also wanted something unique which meant I was willing to wait for the right chair to come along.
I browsed thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, etsy and several other online sites for over a year before I found THE ONE on ebay. It was listed as a “Danish chair with walnut armrests and neckrest in Kurt Østervig style” – although I don’t think it’s a legit Østervig. While the frame was in great condition, the upholstery left a lot to be desired. It was upholstered in a satinish, tone on tone floral fabric (most likely not the original upholstery) and it was badly stained. (See the before here.) The scale and lines were perfect though, and I knew a good upholstery job would make a world of difference. I immediately nabbed it for $150.
Then it sat in the garage for another year while I saved up the money to have it reupholstered. I wasn’t even going to try DIYing my way around those walnut armrests and neckrest. When it came time to select an upholstery fabric, I considered a nubby polyester in mustard or gold (similar to this), but ultimately decided I’m too fickle when it comes to textiles to commit to it. I wanted a true neutral that would stand the test of time. With a saddle leather sofa and an oversize gray chair already in the room, I kept it simple and chose ivory.
It had to be 100% family-friendly. I worked with a local upholsterer who suggested a fabric line pre-treated with Nano-Tex. You can learn more about Nano-Tex here, but it basically renders fabrics stain- and spill-proof…permanently. Sign me up!
I brought a bunch of samples home and tried them out in the space. In the end, I went with dublin oyster (pre-treated with Nano-Tex) from Luxury Fabrics. It’s a chenille that feels like velvet, looks like linen and wears like microfiber. Upholstery trifecta! Then I had to wait ANOTHER SIX MONTHS before I could pick it up from the upholsterer.
(For locals, I use Springboro Upholstery. The guy does excellent work, but he isn’t exactly cheap – this cost ~$525 for the fabric + labor – and lead times can be crazy. He’s busy for a reason though. I also used him for the tulip chair cushions in the dining room. They’re a leather lookalike and have held up tremendously well.)
It was totally worth the wait! When I picked it up from the upholsterer he said, “It’s definitely the most unique piece I’ve ever worked on. Very 60s.” Bingo.
I love it. It’s even better than I had envisioned. It’s low-slung and kinda sexy and looks amazing from every angle which is great since it’s visible from the living room, dining room and kitchen. To me, it looks like the chair form of those preppy equestrian blazers with leather elbow patches. I would totally wear this chair.
The day I brought it home, Cheetah was curled up in it within five minutes, and that very same evening Mabrey wiped spaghetti sauce on it. The spaghetti sauce literally came up with one swipe of a wet cloth. If we were to have a fourth baby (we’re not), I would name it Nano-Tex.
I placed the front feet on the shag rug and angled the chair in toward the coffee table. I stuck felt pads (from the junk drawer) on the back feet to protect the wood floor. Eventually, I’ll probably upgrade to these, but the “free” felt ones are fine for the time being. I really like how the chair closes off the seating area. Before, the space always felt a little lopsided with most of the furniture sitting off to one side. It feels more balanced and intimate now.
Obviously, I couldn’t leave the chair floating by itself looking all lonesome.
It needed a side table and a reading light to keep
me it company. Since the chair was a splurge, the table and light had to be budget-friendly, but, again, I wanted them to be unique. I wanted a petite, round table to allow traffic to flow freely and mesh with the low arms and scale of the chair. It took me a while, but I found the perfect reclaimed teak table from Overstock of all places. (Shopping Overstock is a lot like shopping secondhand stores, except the inventory is new. You have to sort through a bunch of junk to find the good stuff.) I scored it for $111 with a 12% coupon. The natural wood and organic curves give it a bohemian vibe. The open spaces keep it from feeling too heavy.
The lamp is vintage from ebay. It set me back $25 and was originally a weird mauve-brown color (seen here). I taped off the wood accent, light socket and cord and gave it a few coats of flat black, heat-resistant spray paint which we already had on hand. I love how the black paint sets off the shape.
I wrapped the upper third of the fugly cord in leather lace from JoAnn’s ($4 with a coupon) using the same method I used on the kitchen desk lamp. Then like the sly cord hater I am, I snaked the cord through the table. One more reason to love that lil’ table!
The kuba cloth pillow and indigo mudcloth throw are from here and here, respectively. I stole the pouf from the gray chair and now no one wants to sit there because it’s impossible to lounge with your feet on the floor. Which begs the question, “Are two poufs in one room too many?” The little blue and white pot on the mantel is the peruvian planter from West Elm. The snake plant hides the gas shutoff for the fireplace. I still haven’t figured out a way to disguise the dreaded boob speakers :/
I’ve been jokingly referring to the new chair as my mama chair, yet every time I go to sit in it someone has already beat me to it. It’s the new favorite seat in our house. Burning fire or not, it’s a great little reading and/or wining spot regardless.
But seriously, kids and cat, BACK OFF IT’S MINE. If you’re good, maybe I’ll leave it to you in my will.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
I have fond memories of my mom cooking in the kitchen. She could quickly scan the contents of the fridge and pantry and whip up a homemade meal based on her inventory. When she bought groceries, she planned meals on the spot according to what was on sale that week. All with a smile on her face and four kids in tow. Sadly, I did not inherit my mom’s culinary skills.
These days I cook frequently and I’m actually a decent cook, but cooking didn’t come naturally and it wasn’t an innately joyful experience for me right from the start. However, over the years, I’ve come to enjoy it. (!) Here are a few things that make cooking more enjoyable for me.
Planning ahead. By 5:00 p.m. my brain is fried and my patience tank is nearly drained. It’s much easier for me to start dinner prep when I know what I’m making and when I have all ingredients on hand. Having to put meal prep on hold (or cancel it all together) to hunt down a missing ingredient is THE WORST. So once a week I glance at our family calendar, plan seven to eight dinners and make a grocery list. Every week is different. When things are running smoothly (rarely!), I plan an entire week of homemade meals. Other times, I pencil in Chipotle when Mabrey’s ballet class runs close to dinnertime. In my book, planning a meal out is still meal planning!
When it comes to grocery shopping, I like to tackle it the same day each week. For me, that’s Wednesday. The boys are in school, the stores are well stocked and I avoid the weekend crowd. (When I was working second shift as a pharmacist, I would shop for groceries at a 24-hour store once a week after my shift was over to avoid crowds and make it a kid-free errand.) If someone is sick or our schedule is unexpectedly thrown off and I’m not able to get to the store, there is a local grocer that offers curbside pickup. I put in an online order and Steve picks it up on his way home from work. The few times I’ve done this, it’s been a lifesaver.
For weeks when I anticipate total chaos (like when Steve is traveling and I’m flying solo), I set up a Blue Apron delivery. I’m able to select which meals I want to try and get fresh ingredients in exact proportions delivered right to my doorstep in a refrigerated box. Typically, I order two dinners from the family plan. It might not sound like much, but subtracting two dinners from my weekly meal planning helps tremendously. That’s two fewer meals I have to think about. Blue Apron is great for week-long vacations, too. (Just remember to change your delivery address before and after vacation!) I have it delivered to our destination at the beginning of vacation. It gives us a chance to get our bearings and hunt down a local grocer if necessary. I supplement with food I bring from home, and we always like to try out local restaurants as well.
Crowd-pleasers. Finding a meal that checks all the boxes for five people can be challenging, but, when I know I’m making something everyone will eat sans complaints, it makes my job more enjoyable. Oftentimes, I get stuck making the same things over and over. When I’m in a rut, I bust out Blue Apron recipes that I’ve tried in the past with success and recreate them with store-bought ingredients. I keep recipe cards of our favorite meals in a magazine file at the kitchen desk for reference, and sometimes I browse the online cookbook. To this day, our favorite family meal is the first one we tried!
The right tools. For me, that means quality over quantity. I’d rather invest in one really good, versatile piece that I use on a daily basis than a dozen meh things with very specific purposes that I use maybe once a year. Over the long run, buying this way usually costs less. I recently replaced a cheap, nonstick pan we bought over ten years ago. Ironically, everything stuck to the pan and I found myself mumbling four-letter words under my breath every time I used it. Cleanup was a disaster requiring extensive scrubbing even after a long soak. I invested in a Scanpan from Blue Apron’s market and, oh my word!, it’s a game changer. It produces flawless dippy eggs (a.k.a. eggs over easy) and is a cinch to clean. It’s also nice to know that a bunch of toxic chemicals aren’t leaching into our food.
Here are a few more kitchen items that I use on a regular basis which make cooking easier and more enjoyable for me: a gas range (so fast! so efficient!), non-drip oil and vinegar cruets (they also make great wedding and housewarming gifts), easily accessible spice jars, a wooden spoon rest (I broke no less than three ceramic ones before investing in a robust wooden one), coconut oil in a mason jar on an open shelf (I keep an oversize bulk jar in the cabinet and refill the mason jar as needed), stainless steel measuring spoons and cups, a vegetable knife (the 365+ knife line from IKEA is surprisingly awesome), a large cutting board and a multipurpose set of ramekins (I use them as ingredient, snack, dessert and dip bowls).
On a different note, I detest using a peeler. I grew up watching my mom and grandma peel fruit and veggies with a paring knife and that’s how I like to do it. Although, did you know the easiest way to peel ginger is with a spoon? That’s one of the many little tricks I’ve picked up from Blue Apron over the years.
A soundtrack. I enjoy cooking way more when I listen to music, podcasts, TED talks or NPR. Earlier this year, I added a small radio to a corner shelf in the kitchen and it makes me ridiculously happy. It’s become part of my cooking routine. Something about having music or an audio story playing, keeps the kids calm and interested, too, which is a nice bonus.
A tidy kitchen. When it comes to cooking, I like to start and end with a clean kitchen. Before I start prepping a meal, I quickly brainstorm my next moves so that I use the least amount of cookware possible. It should come as no surprise that many of my favorite meals to prepare are one pot recipes. (I love Blue Apron’s beef picadillo recipe just for this reason. I cheat and use microwavable rice.) I heard somewhere that the best cooks clean as they go. If that was the only criteria for culinary success, I’d maybe have a chance at becoming a world-renowned chef. Ha! When our bellies are full and the dishes are cleared and the dishwasher is humming along, now that’s my happy place. Top it off with a glass of wine and I’m on cloud nine.
Do you like cooking? Does it come to you naturally? What do you do to make it more enjoyable? Do you have a dedicated grocery shopping day? What is your favorite everyday cooking utensil? Any podcast recommendations? Also, I’ve been thinking about doing a little kitchen tour. You know, have a look in the drawers and cabinets to see how everything is laid out. Is that something you’d be interested in? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’re new to Blue Apron, the first 25 readers can score two free meals on their first order by clicking here.
P.S. – An organized sink cabinet.
*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking