...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I so appreciate everyone’s support and concern for our family on yesterday’s post. Your advice and willingness to help out financially have blown me away. I was not expecting that at all. At this time, we do not know exactly how much we will owe for Everett’s medical treatment. Things are in limbo and I imagine they will be for some time. I am optimistic that we’ll get them straightened out. In the meantime, it would make us happiest if you invested in quality helmets for yourselves and loved ones – and used and cared for them properly!

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Fact: I am not a big fan of store-bought greeting cards.

To me, they are impersonal, expensive, wasteful and usually tacky. In college, my roommate and I used the same greeting card over and over again, writing new messages in it to each other and exchanging it on our birthdays every year. It was such a fun (and cheap!) tradition. By graduation, there was no blank space left.

When I met Steve in college, I quickly learned that he had a knack for buying cheesy 99¢ greeting cards and crossing out or adding a word (bubble) or three to transform the generic message into something witty and hilarious. His cards always made me laugh.

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These days the kids make the majority of the cards we hand out. I keep a stash of blank cards on hand for unanticipated life events or quick, friendly notes. A current photo and a few handwritten lines can mean so much. And, at the moment, I have a slew of thank-you’s to write.

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That’s why I was happy to see Artifact Uprising‘s new everyday photo cards. The blank cards can be customized with a personal photo on the front, making them perfect for all occasions no matter how big or small. (The 5″ x 5″ size is perfect for all those instagram photos stuck on your phone!) As always, the company stands behind its mission to create tangible beauty via environmentally-friendly means. The cards are printed on sustainable, FSC certified papers.

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Today Artifact Uprising is graciously offering up a pack of 20 everyday photo cards to one lucky reader. The winner chooses the size(s). Mixing and matching is okay! Enter via the form below through Tuesday, May 5th. Good luck!

*This post is NOT sponsored. I just love sharing good finds and this is my meager attempt to thank you once again. Plus, the mini photo shoot and lighter subject material felt like a good way to ease back into things.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking


The winner is Katie who would choose the Vibrance bouquet in remembrance of her mother.


What are your guilty pleasures? I have a few.

*Slipping into freshly laundered bed linens.

*Buying any and all shelter-related glossies and / or books.

*Staying up way too late reading said glossies and / or books.

*Letting the boys play Minecraft for the 30 minutes of peace and quiet.

*Making spontaneous trips to Trader Joe’s.

*Taking advantage of Ikea’s kids-eat-free Tuesdays to “just look.”

*Driving alone.

*Eating alone in my car.

*Eating anything slathered in cookie butter.

*Eating anything covered in dark chocolate and considering it healthy. Because, antioxidants!

*Binge-watching “Breaking Bad” via my sister’s Netflix account.

*Searching “Danish” and “midcentury” on eBay.

*Allowing Mabrey to skip her nap in anticipation of an extra early bedtime.

*Locking the bathroom door.

*Subscribing to Amazon Prime.

*Pretend-searching for houses on realtor.

*Pretend-searching for vacation rentals on airbnb.

*Hiding Mabrey’s favorite book for a week because I can’t bear to read it one. more. time.

*Getting dressed, curling my hair, putting on makeup then staying home and thinking I clean up nice.

*Blasting pop music in the car and singing along at the top of my lungs while my kids look on in horror.

*Making a weekly batch of chocolate oatmeal no-bakes “for the kids.”

*Texting Steve to pick up takeout on his way home from work.

*Daydreaming about all the things I will do when I’m an empty nester.

*Rationalizing this: cleaning house = exercising.

*Sneaking a drink of water during my least favorite parts of Tracy Anderson DVDs.

*Stalking vintage rugs on etsy.

*Stalking houses in real life.

*Showing up to my tennis drill early for the extra 15 minutes of childcare.

*Swearing by fancy pens because they make my horrible handwriting look better. (In reality, my handwriting is a lost cause.)

*Keeping fresh flowers in the main bathroom and on my nightstand.

(I could go on and on…)


Sometimes those fresh flowers come all the way from a mineral rich volcano in Ecuador BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT. Ha! In all seriousness, The Bouqs is a new and easy flower delivery service that delivers fresh bouquets directly to your door from the farm. The farm practices sustainable, responsible farming as certified by The Rainforest Alliance. Flowers are cut the day before they’re shipped so they arrive fresh and last longer. (The bouquets are so fresh that it sometimes takes a few days for the flowers to fully open.) Prices are competitive because there are no middle men and no tacky add-ons like stuffed animals and candy. All you get is a lush bouquet wrapped in simple kraft paper.


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Order a bouquet for yourself or send one to someone special. I divvied up a larger bouquet into three smaller ones: one for the main bathroom and two for Mabrey’s caregivers at tennis. I am so grateful for their help. (And those extra 15 minutes of me time!)

Are fresh flowers one of your guilty pleasures, too? The Bouqs is offering up a six-month delivery service to one lucky reader. See entry details below.

PRIZE: one six-month flower delivery service, courtesy of The Bouqs.

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the U.S. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Visit The Bouqs here, register for an account and browse the selection. Then leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite bouquet.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Monday, April 6th, 2015. One random winner will be announced Tuesday, April 7th.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: I’d love to hear your guilty pleasures! No judgments ;)

*This post sponsored in part by The Bouqs. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog! Please use the discount code MARCHBLOOM to score 15% off your order.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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So something funny happened. I used to strongly dislike cooking, but now I don’t. I still wouldn’t call it my passion (there are no plans for Food*Tweaking, ha!) but sometimes I actually find myself enjoying it.

What happened? I’m not exactly sure, but it didn’t happen overnight. I think a few things came in to play. I have more time to cook now that I stay at / work from home. My kids have become little foodies, critiquing my skills and offering to help out with meal prep. When I went dairy free, out of desperation I tried new recipes and ingredients and it exposed me to a whole new world of cooking. FYI – We aren’t completely dairy free anymore, but I haven’t bought cow’s milk in years. Now, Steve eats a mostly paleo diet and I try to accommodate him when I can.

I’ve also been using Blue Apron regularly for almost a year after our friends recommended the service. It’s helped me get out of the dinner rut of spaghetti and tacos – both of which I love but they aren’t very adventurous. I’m giddy every time the refrigerated box of fresh ingredients shows up at my doorstep. Especially when it’s the FIFTH snow day in a row and we’re low on food and I have no desire to brave the cold for groceries. I really like the new family plan which feeds our family of two adults + three children and then some. The new family meals are meant to be served family-style and are more affordable.

I’m so grateful for recipes shared online that I started sprinkling my favorite quick & easy go-tos in with other home-related content on the blog. Obviously, that forced me to take photos of food. All of a sudden cooking became yet another fun, creative outlet when viewed through my camera lens. *BONUS* – I get to eat the subject matter!

I’m definitely not a food styling expert by any means but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my food photography secrets. Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at recipe posts.

*I always photograph food in natural light. (But not always in black socks. No judgments! It was, like, -20°F!!) After some trial and error, I discovered that the best spot to shoot food in my house is on the floor just inside the french doors in our mudroom / dining room. The doors are north-facing and the bright, indirect light is perfect. Placing the food on some sort of backdrop on the floor makes it easy for me to get overhead shots. I’m not naming names because it isn’t my secret to tell but I know one highly regarded food blogger who styles and shoots food in her garage with the door partially raised because that’s where the best light is in her house. Whatever works! I also consider the mood of the dish when contemplating lighting. In general, for brighter, lighter foods I’ll shoot in the late morning on sunny days. For richer, more comforting foods, I’ll shoot on cloudy days or in the early evening.

*I always consider composition. It’s almost like decorating a room but on a much smaller scale. Sorta like creating a mood board but with food. A food board? Instead of lining up all the ingredients, I’ll arrange them organically. I try to balance colors and textures within the frame. My goal is for it to look pretty but imperfect and real. I’ll cut lemon slices, peel garlic, “spill” a little salt or crumble cheese. A little mess is okay! I add practical props. Measuring spoons and small bowls work well. I’m itching to add more props to my bag o’ tricks because my current inventory is lacking.

*I leave out raw meat and raw fish if possible. The same with labels unless they’re particularly helpful. They just don’t look all that appealing to me.

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*I include one or two significant, in-progress shots. Again, I’m no chef and the recipes I share aren’t crazy complex so images of every step usually aren’t necessary. My kids really enjoy prepping so I’ll usually snap a few shots of them. (When we prepare a Blue Apron meal, Everett’s job is to read the instructions to me step-by-step. It knocks out his reading homework for the day. Win-win.) Needless to say, it’s difficult to supervise the kids, photograph and cook at the same time!

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*I shoot several different angles of the finished product. That’s mostly for fun. I never know which angles are going to make the cut until I edit the photos. If the kids are cooperating, I’ll set the table quickly. If not, it might be just a few close-ups. If the dish is especially decadent, I like to include a half-eaten or empty plate, too. It’s a good “the end” image.

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The recipe shown here is one of the new family meals offered by Blue Apron. It’s the chicken scallopini with roasted broccoli & whole wheat farfelle. Paleo Steve ate only the chicken (I left one breast free of flour) and broccoli. The kids and I loved it all! The roasted poblano chilaquiles with sunny side-up eggs and avocado sound pretty amazing, and the filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice is a family favorite that I keep on standby.

If you have been wanting to try Blue Apron, now’s your chance. The first 100 readers will get two meals free-of-charge when they place their first order! Just click here. And, as always, shipping is free.

Do you have any tips for food styling or photography? Any great food stylists I should check out for inspiration? Were you surprised by the food on the floor in the mudroom? My black socks? Ha!

*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

P.S. – The evolution of my photography.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking