...because home doesn't happen overnight.
06.17.14 / My (Home) Workout

This really has nothing to do with houses (other than it takes place in one) but inquiring minds want to know about my workout routine so I’m sharing all the details – and awkward photos – below.

home workout 1

Welcome to my home gym! Haha. I gave up my pricey gym membership when we decided I would quit working as a pharmacist to stay home with the kids. And, honestly, it’s been for the better. It forced me to find an alternative workout method. Before, I went from machine to machine at the gym and it was so boring. I was stuck in a rut and I really had no idea what I was doing.

I’ve *mostly* exercised regularly (you can see my equally embarrassing pregnancy workout routine here) during and in between pregnancies. Thanks to that and breastfeeding and sometimes diet restrictions during periods of nursing, I’ve never had a problem gaining too much weight during pregnancy (I gained 30-35 lbs with each pregnancy) or losing the baby weight after giving birth. But after Mabrey was born, I noticed a huge difference in the consistency of my body. Everything was mushy and I lost a lot of muscle tone. I felt different too. I was more tired than usual (it probably had something to do with the fact that Mabrey didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost a year old) and weak. I wanted to feel strong again.

I didn’t have the funds for a class or a personal trainer plus a babysitter so I read a bunch of reviews on post-pregnancy workouts that I could do at home and ended up trying Tracy Anderson’s post-pregnancy workout. I loved it! During a good week, I would manage to get in three workouts. But two workouts per week was probably my average for the first year of Mabrey’s life. Once Mabrey weaned and started sleeping regularly, I gained more energy and was able to carve out more blocks of time to devote to exercising. Eventually, the post-pregnancy workout became less difficult and I knew it was time to move on.

home workout 5

Since I had a good experience with the post-pregnancy workout, I looked into some of Tracy’s non-pregnancy material. After reading hundreds of reviews, I opted for the 1-hour mat workout and precision toning DVD’s. You guys, these are the real deal. I’ve been doing them for over a year now. Here’s what I LOVE about Tracy’s method:

*I can work out at home…or pretty much anywhere. Just figuring out the childcare logistics for three kids is enough to turn me off to a gym or class. Not that I have anything against them but I know me and I know I’m much more likely to workout at my convenience. Getting three little people loaded into the car to go anywhere is an ordeal in and of itself. I make it a priority to work out and it usually happens in the afternoon during Mabrey’s nap time (the boys are either in school or at home reading / having screen time / watching a movie) but sometimes I wake up early to sneak in a workout before the kids are awake.

Likewise, the workout travels well. When the weather allows, I work out on the deck in our backyard. When we were on vacation last week I brought my laptop, DVD’s and weights along and worked out on my grandparents’ screened porch.

*I don’t need a ton of space or equipment. As you saw in the first photo, my living room doubles as my gym. I push everything up against the sofa to give myself plenty of room and pop in the DVD. If the boys are watching a movie, I play the DVD on my laptop and prop it up on the coffee table.

home workout 2

home workout 3

I stash what little equipment is needed (light weights, adjustable ankle weights) in a basket on the living room shelves. I used canned food as weights starting out until I decided to invest in legit weights. I have 1 lb, 3 lb and 5 lb free weights.

home workout 4

Some of the exercises require a chair for support. I grab my wishbone knockoff from the dining room and it works perfectly. I do the floor exercises on my living room rug but a yoga mat would work, too. I love that I don’t need an entire room devoted to large, expensive exercise equipment.

*It’s inexpensive. I would probably enjoy Tracy coaching me in person but I’m guessing I’ll never be able to afford her. (She’s been known to train the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.) Over the past two years, I’ve spent less than $100 total on workout material and equipment. That leaves me with more money for pillows! or wine! or cute workout chairs! Bottom line: it’s cheap.

*There’s a subtle ballet / dance reference. I am NOT an athlete. I know. Shocker.

Fun fact: In high school I was demoted from track team runner to statistician after my coach learned that my body’s natural reaction to running was passing out. I ended up being diagnosed and treated for a cardiac arrhythmia later in life. But, whatever, I was good at math.

However, I did study ballet for over a decade. Tracy started out as a dancer and some of the arm and leg positions (plié, attitude, fourth position, etc.) are reminiscent of ballet and it’s funny how after all these years the positions still feel familiar. They’re almost like second nature to my body. That’s not to say someone without dance experience wouldn’t like the workouts or wouldn’t be able to do them. It’s just something I notice and like.

*It’s challenging. These DVD’s are not easy. But they aren’t impossible either. If I can get through an entire workout on the first try then, in my mind, it’s too easy. It took me MONTHS to get through the entire precision toning DVD without dropping my arms or a leg at some point. To this day, I am dripping with sweat and winded at the end of my workout. A year later, it’s still challenging.

FYI – Steve is a certified CrossFit trainer so he’s crazy fit. I begged him to try just the arm section of the mat workout with me a few weeks ago and HE COULDN’T DO IT. “This is stupid,” his words exactly.

To keep from burning out or plateauing, I alternate between the two DVD’s regularly.

*It isn’t trendy. Oprah and Gwyneth made Tracy a hot commodity several years ago but don’t assume her methods are outdated. Tracy is constantly creating new material. There are also little things (changing positions, adding / increasing weights, doubling up on sessions, controlling more, etc.) you can tweak within the workouts to make them more difficult as you get stronger and the workouts get easier. I’ve heard Tracy is training men now too and she recently released the pregnancy project after giving birth to her second child. It almost makes me wish I was pregnant again just to try it. Almost. At any rate, I’m totally bummed it wasn’t available when I was pregnant.

*It’s effective. The number one reason I haven’t moved on to something else is because this method really, well, works. I am stronger. I am toned. I like the way I feel. I like the way I look. I’m not ripped but that’s not my preferred body aesthetic anyway. The workouts focus on accessory muscles – as opposed to major muscle groups – to create a lean but toned profile. If I ever get to the point where I don’t feel challenged or I stop seeing results then I’m open to trying something different – Tracy Anderson or otherwise.

home workout 6

So that’s what I’ve been doing to stay fit. I try to work out every other day. Some weeks it’s more (rare!); some weeks it’s less. I will say that between the two DVD’s I like the precision toning more. It’s more difficult (the planking is ridiculous) and begets results more quickly. There’s more verbal direction, too. But both DVD’s are effective. My ideal workout would include the warm-up, arms, legs and cool-down sections of the mat workout paired with the butt and abs sections of the precision toning. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend the mat workout or the method for beginners.

I’d like to mention that this information isn’t meant to be prescriptive. I’m just sharing what I do. You should do what works for you. I have friends who swear by classes or gyms to stay motivated and hold themselves accountable. But if money / kids / time don’t make those convenient options for you and you’re interested in trying something at home, I’d highly recommend Tracy’s method. I’m always surprised by how much more productive I am on the days I work out. It seems counterintuitive but using up an hour of my busy day to exercise actually results in more stuff getting done. I have more energy, more focus.

How about you? What do you do to stay active? Have you ever tried Tracy Anderson’s method? Is there another workout method I should know about?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

tn house

This past weekend Steve and I met up with some friends from college at their home in Nashville. John and Sara happen to have the same disease that plagues Steve and me. It’s called “We Love Old Houses and Want to Save Them All.” Ever heard of it? Symptoms include weight loss (because who has time to eat when there are cabinets to hang, walls to paint and tile to install?), insomnia, shortness of breath, muscle pain and general fatigue. There is no known cure. Haha.

tn kitchen 6

Anyway, John and Sara bought a lovely 100-year-old home last year and have been working non-stop to update it, doing a lot of the work themselves. (Sara points out that she is very good at holding stuff and telling John how bad his ideas are.) The first major project was a complete kitchen overhaul. The couple’s goal was to optimize the kitchen’s function while merging their modern masculine aesthetic with the home’s age and good bones. As with any renovation of an older home, obstacles were plentiful and included wavy walls, sagging ceilings, uneven floors, ancient electrical wiring and even a case of pneumonia. (That was John. He ran himself ragged working his full-time job and then working on the kitchen until the wee hours of the morning for months.)

But nearly a year later, the couple is enjoying the fruits of their labor. And, fortunately, they were kind enough to let me snap away so I can share their amazing kitchen with you. We spent much of our time catching up and eating our way around the town but I had a few minutes of downtime one evening to set up my tripod. The sun was setting quickly so I apologize for the lack of natural light. Enjoy!

tn kitchen 1

The kitchen sits at the back of the house where the original kitchen once lived. An original door leads to a backyard patio. A wall separating the kitchen from the living room was removed during renovation to open up the space. The original butler’s pantry was closed off from the kitchen. During demolition, John discovered a doorway and transom (seen on the right above) that had once joined the kitchen and butler’s pantry. The couple restored it and plan to set the butler’s pantry up as a bar / coat room.

tn kitchen 2

Looking in from the adjacent living room, the left side of the kitchen houses the stove and refrigerator. The thick baseboard is original but I love how John updated it with a stripe of gray paint. It’s little details like this that had my eye traveling all around the room.

tn stove 1

The stove is Kitchen Aid and features a built-in griddle. I had to wipe the drool from Steve’s chin.

tn stove 2

The backsplash is composed of white subway tile with contrasting grout.

tn kitchen window

Between the stove and refrigerator is a tall window that extends down to the countertop. I am so envious of this window! The perimeter countertops are quartz. John wanted the look of marble. Sara wanted something low maintenance. It was a no-brainer.

tn fridge

Built-in cabinetry surrounds the refrigerator. The gray cabinets are from Anderson, a local business that specializes in custom cabinetry. Satin nickel hardware complements the stainless steel appliances.

tn kitchen 3

The other half of the kitchen houses more cabinetry for storage, including a large pantry. A magnetic side panel painted in chalkboard paint is a fun touch and a great spot for writing down grocery needs or just doodling. (John and Sara’s two-year-old daughter, Avery, is obsessed with Buzz Lightyear.)

tn kitchen pantry 1

This corner of the kitchen functions as a coffee station. The couple doesn’t rely on a microwave most days so a small one sits discreetly on the counter next to the pantry. Glass-fronted upper cabinets hold dishes and glasses. The “eat” and “beer” signs were bought at a local flea market. (And they pretty much sum up what the weekend was all about.)

tn kitchen pantry 2

Avery likes to hide in the pantry. It’s that big!

tn kitchen 4

A large island in the center of the kitchen is the hub of the house. It’s topped in walnut butcher block and seats six comfortably. (Four farmhouse stools with backs line one side of the island and two backless stools slip under the overhang at each end.)

tn kitchen sink

The island houses a wide, deep undermount sink. The style of the sink is unique and was new to me. It has two basins which are separated by a divider only a few inches tall. It’s conducive to washing large pots but still allows for that separation that many homeowners prefer. I’ve always been a single basin sink lover myself but this sink’s creative design might convert me.

The walnut is unfinished. John oils it regularly but admitted it was due for another oil.

tn dishwasher

The dishwasher is next to the sink, housed within the island as well. I really liked this setup – with the sink and dishwasher in the island. The person washing dishes can interact with those at the island or in the living room instead of turning their back to them.

Marble hexagon tile covers the floor. The oversized scale of the hex is spot on for a room with 12′ ceilings. And speaking of soaring ceilings…

tn kitchen island 2

The coffered ceiling was the icing on the cake for me. It gave the entire room a feeling of grandiosity that suited the historic home. The DIY ceiling is decked out in alternating bead board and decorative tin tiles – all painted white. Steve and John installed the last of the ceiling corbels and bonded over caulk during our visit.

Throughout our stay, John had music streaming in through surround sound speakers in the ceiling. It is Music City after all.

tn kitchen pendant

The pendants, sink and many other fixtures are from Ferguson’s, a local bath, kitchen and lighting gallery.

tn kitchen collage

Even though the kitchen is in all regards “new”, it doesn’t feel contemporary. The color scheme, fixtures and finishes are all classic in style, making the kitchen a perfect fit for this old home. I’m so happy John and Sara found this home and are invested in updating it while respecting the things that make it special.

tn kitchen 5

With the kitchen reno finished, the couple is slowly plugging away at other projects as time and money allow. They affectionately refer to the home as their “ten year plan.” Their home has amazing bones and potential but they want to be considerate and patient when it comes to renovating. I can’t wait to visit them again and check out their progress.

Thanks to John and Sara for allowing me to share their kitchen. Because it’s just too good not to!

P.S. – Check back later to see the home’s newly constructed mother-in-law suite! Steve and I stayed there during our visit and basically didn’t want to leave.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking, published with the consent of our friends John & Sara

02.16.14 / My Home Workspace

Welcome to my workspace!

workspace 1

I don’t have a separate room designated as an office. Instead, I carved out a home office in a corner of my kitchen. This is where bills are paid, mail is sorted, the kids’ school communication lands, grocery lists are written, design work is completed, blog content is created, and – let’s be honest – falling down the virtual rabbit hole happens. It’s a small space with many functions and, up until a few weeks ago, it wasn’t living up to its full potential. I was finally able to give it some much needed attention and turned it into an organized and inspiring place to werrrrk.

First, let’s take a look at the evolution of this lil’ corner.


During renovation, we removed walls to open up the kitchen to the living room. This space was originally a teeny dining room off the kitchen. We relocated the dining room to the mudroom (sounds strange, works beautifully for us) to make better use of the space. We vaulted the ceiling, added skylights and replaced the original dining room window with french doors.

We installed Ikea cabinetry, including a 9′ island. For the office portion of the kitchen, we created a built-in desk with plenty of closed storage. The base cabinets house the printer, paper, kids’ art supplies, gift wrap and even a charging station for battery-powered tools. The glass front cabinets hold glassware, decorative accessories, my camera bag and plenty of baskets and bins which corral everything from vitamins to paint decks to the kids’ flash cards.

We added a tongue and groove backsplash (it matches our TV wall) to the desk area and painted it white. The backsplash links the upper cabinets to the base cabinets. Before, the upper cabinets “floated” on the wall and felt disconnected from the lower desk area.

Recently, I organized the contents of the glass front cabinets and moved the shelves in line with the grids on the doors for a more unified look. I added accessories to make the workspace more appealing from both practical and visual standpoints.

before_after_workspace 2

The photo on the left was taken the day we closed on the house. It’s a view of the original dining area from the front door. The image on the right is the view from the front door now. It’s safe to say I don’t miss the orange shag carpet or 8′ ceiling one iota.

workspace 5

Let’s take a closer look.

workspace cabinet

For the upper cabinet contents I stuck to mostly glass, white, wood and silver for an organic feel. I threw in a pair of textured gray letter boxes to tie in to my desk stool and other gray elements in the adjacent living room.

(My fiddle leaf fig is still alive! I just wanted to point that out. I think he likes it here.)

workspace cubby

The glass front cabinets work great for me. They force organization and discourage clutter while providing a display area protected from dust. The right side of my desk has always been a natural dumping zone so I brought in a wood cubby with hidden storage to give inevitable clutter a sightly place to chill. A decorative tray on top holds fresh flowers and my glasses.

There are two items in my office that always spark compliments from visitors: the wood cubby and the fiddle leaf fig. I guess you could say they are the popular kids.

workspace file

At the opposite end of the desk, I brought in a letter tray to address my family’s never-ending paper trail. Each family member has their own (labeled!) pull-out tray. I temporarily store current catalogs and glossies in the magazine files until I get a chance to read them. #printlimbo For fun, I personalized the metal files with photo magnets.

workspace 6

A desktop organizer holds smaller items like pens, pencils, planners, a tape dispenser, scissors, a tape measure and my phone. I splurged on a fire engine red stapler after a decade of living with a mini stapler that constantly jammed. And, yes, it reminds me of Office Space which makes me laugh out loud.

“…but then they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler but I kept my Swingline stapler because it doesn’t bind up as much and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire.” – Milton Waddams

workspace 4

I’ve long admired loosely arranged inspiration boards. It makes for a casual display that can be easily changed when boredom strikes. I decided to try one myself. I used washi tape and double-sided tape to tack business cards and inspirational images to the backsplash. I hung a framed print with 3M adhesive strips. I tapped a finish nail only partially into the tongue and groove and hung a few rolls of washi tape and a leather bracelet. I shopped my house for the items displayed on my inspiration board so this project was free yet completely fulfilling. It’s so nice to work surrounded by items and images that inspire me in some way.

workspace chair

I spent months searching for a comfortable stool that would go along with the modern organic vibe I had envisioned for my workspace. When I stumbled upon this clean-lined upholstered counter stool, I knew it was the one.

workspace 2

The cushy seat, supportive back and appropriately placed footrest are conducive to long blogging sessions. The simple silhouette and rich wood base are in line with the aesthetic of our open kitchen-living space. I’ve been using the stool for a few months now and it looks and feels just as good as the day it arrived. I am much more productive when my legs aren’t falling asleep.

workspace afar

I always appreciate a pulled back shot to help me visualize how a niche, nook or corner fits into the bigger picture. I thought you might, too. Our kitchen is on the left; our living room is on the right. Can you see how the DIY shelves balance out the desk area on this wall?

I need more Buddha heads. Obviously. Also, I think I may be the only person I know with a high chair in their office. It’s for my assistant.

workspace 7

And that’s my home workspace in a nutshell – almost literally. It’s modest in size yet totally functional and so me. I love working here! I want to work here. Ever since I made organization and inspiration priorities in this lil’ space, I have been waaaaayyyy more productive.

After working for over a decade in a career field that sucked all inspiration out of me, I feel EXTREMELY lucky and am so grateful to be able to do the work I do now and to do it here. I have you guys to thank for that. Thank you! From the bottom of my stripe-lovin’ heart.


wall color – Benjamin Moore tapestry beige
backsplash color – Benjamin Moore white dove
cabinets – Ikea
letter boxes – Ikea
framed wall art – Clare Elsaesser
high chair – Ikea
wood cubby – Wayfair*
letter tray – Ikea
magazine files – Ikea
desk organizer – Ikea
photo magnets – StickyGram
counter stool – Wayfair*
photography prints – Walter Helena
blue & white desktop planter – JoAnn’s
black & white floor planter – vintage
rug – vintage

*This post was sponsored in part by Wayfair. Items marked with an asterisk were chosen by me and donated by Wayfair. All opinions and images are my own. Hop on over to Wayfair to see my top five tips for creating a functional and stylish workspace.

Happy start to the work week, my friends!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

01.14.14 / Workspace Progress

Progress on my workspace is coming along. (You can see the plans here.) I hit up IKEA this past weekend to pick up the KVISSLE items and all of a sudden I know where crap is. It’s life-changing! Thanks to the new organization, I’m two for two having Everett appropriately dressed for Spirit Week. Monday, school colors. Check. Tuesday, hat day. Check. Mom of the Year 2014?

married to the sea 2

The frame for my Married to the Sea print arrived last week and I finally took advantage of Mabrey’s naptime to assemble and hang it. It’s lovely. If you’re counting, that brings the total number of Clare Elsaesser prints in our house to three.

married to the sea 3

It was my first time using a legit gallery frame as opposed to the ones I normally use from IKEA or Target. Not that there is anything wrong with the frames from IKEA or Target. They’re actually great and I have them all over my house. But this gallery frame is museum quality. It’s that good. The razor thin metal face gives it such a sharp look.

married to the sea 4*

It has me thinking I should use several of these frames to create a big floor-to-ceiling gallery in the nearby hallway. Snowball effect. Don’t you love it?!

married to the sea 1

My home “office” is the only one I know of that houses a highchair. But it’s temporary. Soon enough Mabrey will be sitting on a stool / chair at the island / table with us. (She already insists on eating her snacks at the island like her brothers.) I could see a step stool or plant stand living there in the future. I have a hard time reaching the top shelves in the upper cabinets so a step stool would come in handy.

Now that I have my desk countertop under control, I’m thinking I should go ahead and address the contents of the glass-fronted cabinets. They aren’t awful but they could definitely use some editing and maybe some attractive storage boxes. I spotted these when I was at IKEA a few days ago. Sorta wish a few had made it home with me.

What about you? Has tackling one project only led to another? What are you organizing these days?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking