...because home doesn't happen overnight.

bitsy's 6

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!)


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

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.

amber lewis fireplace 2

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.

amber fireplace 3

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

makerista fireplace 1

amber lewis fireplace 1

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

06.01.16 / Liked & Linked

summer nights

mabrey's room progress

worn out

School’s out! I think this is the earliest my kids have been released for summer break. (We didn’t have any snow days to make up this year.) The sad part is they go back extra early. (Ask me in a few weeks though, and I’ll tell you it’s a good thing.) We’re trying not to think too far ahead. Instead, we’re jumping feet first into summer by eating most meals al fresco, hitting up the local pool (pool dunks count as baths, right?), roasting s’mores, catching fireflies, playing hide-and-seek outside and letting the kids’ bedtime slip later and later. Can you spot a tennis ball caught in the snow rail on our roof? #signsofsummer

In other news, Mabrey’s room is taking shape. As much as I loved the dark walls, the white feels fresh and airy. It’s a completely different room! I decided to hire out the wallpaper installation. It was scheduled for this week, but the installer called late last Friday to say he could squeeze us in early Saturday morning. Yes, please! (You can catch a sneak peek here.) I spent the rest of the day emptying, reconfiguring, painting and reorganizing the teeny closet. I nixed the freestanding shelving unit that I threw in there as a short-term solution when we moved in…FOUR YEARS AGO. Switching out the crib for a twin trundle bed was a priority, and it’s eaten up a lot of space. I’m trying to free up more floor space by using the closet for toy storage.

Speaking of beds…I’m waiting on new mattresses to arrive. Until then, Mabrey is sleeping on a thin IKEA trundle mattress which I brought in temporarily from the boys’ room. Although, I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t just throw down a shag rug and call it a day. She’s been passing out on the living room rug nearly every afternoon. (I can’t say the same for her bed at bedtime. So. Much. Drama.) Stay tuned for more progress along with individual posts featuring the tweaked out bed and reorganized closet.

A few links…

*A narrow kitchen featuring hand-painted gold radiators!

*Wanted: a modest version of this house on the land we found here. (Seven months later, we can’t stop thinking about that plot for sale near Asheville.)

*Love the mix of wood + tile in this bathroom.

*Such a fun idea for a kids’ summer birthday party. House envy!

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*Headed to the midwest this summer? Check out this local architect’s airbnb in Cincinnati complete with a rooftop deck.

*A silly, interactive, FREE website that Everett’s teacher told us about to combat boredom. My kids love the awesome sauce and koo koo kanga roo channels.

*The swimsuit Mabrey picked out. It’s super cute (gold elephants!) and stays put in all the right places.

*The boys’ swim trunks. They will only wear fitted trunks that don’t have to be tied and retied.

I hope you had a glorious loooooong weekend. The kids and I are sneaking away to Michigan City, Indiana, next week for a little getaway. I get to be the fun parent for five days! Haha. Any suggestions for eating, seeing and doing?

P.S. – Easy Greek spread for all those summer potlucks.

images: 1-3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 4-6) Airbnb