Meet the Blogger

Last night I was drafting a style post (I know, quite a departure from the usual posts around here), and I realized that y’all probably don’t have any clue what I look like, since I rarely post pictures of myself. Just to be sure, I mentioned it on Twitter.

It turns out, a 65×65 pixel photo of myself on the sidebar is not enough. Noted.

This is me.

The whole conversation made me realize that if y’all have no idea what I look like then my personality probably doesn’t come across quite as clearly as I assume it does. I know I’m pretty terrible at writing about myself, but maybe I can work on posting more photos and sharing a few facts. Some of which may be old new for those of you who follow me on Twitter or who actually read my rambling posts tagged Life from 2011/2012 that were rife with quotes found on Pinterest. (Y’all, 2011 was a bad year, and 2012 wasn’t much better.)

  • I’m 25 (26 next month. Robert is 26, 27 in May)
  • I’m brunette with dark brown eyes.
  • I’m also nearsighted.
  • I like to say “I’m 5’4 on a good day”. I might be shrinking, it’s hard to reach the upper cabinet shelves. (Also, if 5’4 is the average height for a woman, why do I have to buy petite/short pants? My best guess is that I must be long-waisted.)
  • I’m a graphic designer. I graduated from FSU (Florida State University) with a degree in studio art, emphasis on graphic design. Apparently they have an actual graphic design major now, which wasn’t an option when I was in college.
  • My 9-5 job is editing images for the website of a sports merchandising company.
  • If you’ve read the About section you know that Robert & I met in while volunteering at  the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity in order to meet the community service hours for our IB high school.
  • I drink a lot of coffee & lattes. I know caffeine is considered the devil and whatnot by most people who do their best to eat healthy, but I cannot give up my coffee. I have started drinking brewed coffee black, though (I’ve always drunk skim lattes).
  • I worked  at Starbucks during college, and for a year after college graduation.
  • I do my best to drink my 8-10 cups of water a day (though I’ve fallen off the wagon about this recently).
  • Last year I challenged myself to learn to like more vegetables. Dusty’s 80/20 plan sort of sums up what I strive for, although this past month R and I have been eating out too much.
  • I used to do gymnastics, but instead starting competitions in 4th or 5th grade I gave it up in favor of horseback riding (which I started when I was 9).
  • When I was 16 I got a horse rather than a car. His name is Charger, he’ll be 25 in April. We used to belong to our local Pony Club, he came to college with me, and he now lives on Robert’s aunt&uncle’s farm in Tennessee.
  • In the span of one week in 2011 I had strep & an ear infection, my paternal grandmother passed away, and Robert and I were shot at while outside our best friend’s house (by the neighbor, not the friend). You can read more about that here and a little bit here.
  • We’re not currently close to that friend, and I miss him every single day. He understands (understood?) me better than anyone ever has, even Robert. That’s probably not the sort of thing you’re supposed to admit about a guy you aren’t married to, but there it is.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but maybe I’ll make this a series, and work on thinking of some more interesting facts. Also, feel free to ask questions. I’ll do my best to answer, assuming it doesn’t make be blush too badly.

Feel free to snag the graphic from the top of the post if you’d like to re-introduce yourself to your readers as well! Or the one below, if you prefer.

More about me: More Insight Into Who the Heck We Are; Things You Can’t Tell Just From Reading My Blog

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2013 Goals

I’m not usually one for making yearly resolutions, but Robert and I are certainly no strangers to setting goals (and usually failing to achieve half of them). For a while I was setting seasonal goals, as our enormous To Do List was discouragingly slow-going, but we never successfully completed any of those lists. Then we set “short term” goals for house projects, which I suppose you could say has been a little more realistic. It helps a bit in

We’ll continue to chip away at that list, and I’ve set some additional budgeting goals for 2013.

  • Pay down debt (credit cards, mortgage/car loans)
  • Refinance house
  • Build savings accounts

These budgeting goals kind of go hand in hand, if you consider the fact that paying down debt will reduce monthly payments and allow us to contribute more money to savings each month. Refinancing the house should do the same thing by lowering our monthly mortgage payment (or at least lowering the interest rate over the life of the loan, which will save us money in the long run).

Happily I’ll be able to tackle part of the first bullet point this week, and we’re looking into our options the second. A few weeks ago I asked on Twitter if anyone would be interested in a post/series about our experience with refinancing, so I’m drafting that as well.

I suppose you could say the third point is an on-going goal. I have an IRA that my parents set up when I was in high school & a 401k through work, Robert has a 401k through his work, and we each do our best to contribute to our savings accounts with each paycheck. There have been some setbacks to our savings over the years, and the internet has a funny way of peer pressuring us to buy more, renovate more, etc. This year I’m challenging us to be more diligent about contributing to our savings/emergency fund, which will force us to be smarter about which house projects we tackle. I guess we’ll see how things shake out, considering that a lot of the things we have planned tend to be big-ticket projects. Robert and I have done our best to keep things budget-friendly. Completion of our guest bathroom, for example, is estimated around $1,500, and that includes a lot of the components we already purchased.

With any luck these goals will snowball into the rest of our 5(?) Year Plan.

I’ll leave you with these poor quality iPhone photos of the fridge surround we’re building. So far it has cost around $130 for the cabinet grade plywood, paint, screws, etc. We still need to buy one or two sample size containers of paint for the back of the shelves, and some trim pieces.

Hope you all had a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year’s!

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Design Assistance: Jess’ Apartment

A few years ago (yes, I’m horribly behind), my sister signed a lease on a 500 square foot studio while in graduate school. She asked me to help her decorate, requesting a modern design featuring dark wood and a blues-green color scheme to coordinate with the kitchen. I believe the other instructions were basically that it had to be very budget friendly as she was up to her ears in student loans, and she needed a sleeper sofa.

This was the preliminary design board I sent to her. We later found a nicer tv console, so she chose to go with an A-frame bookshelf and a less expensive rug. Normally I would also suggest paint colors and maybe a few accessories for customers, but we knew J couldn’t paint and wasn’t planning to stay in the apartment long term (also she wouldn’t be home much with clinical rotations). Even having said that, we wanted to make the place comfortable and find pieces she could take with her to her next apartment.

Here’s another photo of the kitchen, after she moved in. Check out the book shelves above the cabinets, I love them! The backsplash is amazing, too.

Here’s the living room. There were French doors leading to a small balcony to the right of the tv, which I think would have looked lovely with something like these curtains from Ikea to add some more color. I’d hang them on an oil rubbed bronze curtain rod, and since she was renting I’d probably pull the vertical blinds open and tuck them behind one of the curtain panels.

Ideally a darker colored slipcover for the sofa would stand out from the wall color better, since she wasn’t allowed to paint. I’d also love to see a more colorful rug, but this one did the trick of keeping the couch from scratching the wood when it was pulled out into a bed.

Here’s the dining area, which was on the other side of the French doors. I love the bar height table she chose. (Also, get a load of all those running medals. She’s a marathoner. #mysisterisawesome)

I’m thinking about doing a follow up now that she’s moved, showing how the pieces progressed in her new larger place.

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Laundry Room Tweaks

I posted about a month ago about how a rat chewed through a PEX pipe in the wall of the laundry room, meaning we were starting our third simultaneous reno.

As I mentioned last month, we already have the washer, dryer, and laundry tower in the room. The paint was purchased a while back, and we already own the shelving unit, sink & faucet as well. Taking advantage of this mostly-free (ok, previously paid for) spruce, I ripped out some old wire shelving, then panicked about the 9 trillion screw holes/anchors still in the wall, called my dad in, and together we spackled & slapped up the first coat of paint last week. (While I’m not above ripping things like airboxes and shelves out myself, apparently I prefer help putting things back together. But it was a nice father-daughter afternoon!)

After my dad went home, I put the metal shelves together and moved things out of the mini-warehouse back in from the neighboring guest room. We do need to add a second coat of paint, but I wanted things to be more “together” when Robert got home.

My dad and I didn’t paint around the washer/dryer or water heater, because 1) we couldn’t really reach it, and 2) Robert and I plan to make build-ins on this wall down the road, so we may not need to paint this area anyhow. Something like this, but built around a water heater, since we plan to move the washer and dryer to the wall where the shelves are currently. (At which point the metal shelves will be used to better organize tools in our shed.) We’d love to be able to use a tankless water heater, which is why I’ve left it on the board for now – wishful thinking, but the likelihood is that it won’t work out. To be honest I wasn’t listening when Robert explained the physics-y reason it won’t work for our house, I was busy coming up with Plan B.

Initially we planned to replace the peeling linoleum with inexpensive vinyl plank flooring like we used in the kitchen, but after visiting the nearby The Tile Shop showroom we may have changed our minds.


apologies for the funky angle, I had difficulties photographing the 6×12 room

We both love these 12×12″ sheets of Gray Small Pebbles from The Tile Shop. They’re a little out of our budget, but maybe we can work something out. I do have a few DIY ideas, too, in case the cost of these sheets is a total deal-breaker.

So that’s where things stand with the laundry room. Next step (well, after the second coat of paint) is to build a platform for the washer and dryer, sort of like this. We have to finagle things around a few inches of concrete foundation(?), and if possible we need to eek two more inches out of the wall. I’ll keep y’all posted on our plans for that.

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Soft Opening: Design Assistance

Maybe you noticed this page when I updated it last week? It’s been up for a while, but I’ve never really formally introduced the fact that I’m now offering Design Assistance.

Though I don’t have any formal interior design training, I seem to have a knack for picking colors schemes and tracking down the perfect components for a room. I’ve been told I have almost an encyclopedic knowledge of things, from where to find affordable curtains for a nursery to paint colors. I love making design boards and coming up with room ideas for people.

I also have a graphic design degree, and would love to create blog graphics for anyone in the market for affordable, custom headers, social media icons, or other graphics. For more information on services please visit the Design Assistance page, and for pricing information please contact me at thehernandohouse@gmail.com.

Chatting with readers is my favorite, and I’ll still do my best to promptly answer any quick email or Twitter questions (as well as all blog comments!), but I hope you understand that part of my five year plan includes using the blog to help fund some of our projects. I may also consider opening up the blog to sponsors in the way of sidebar adds and/or sponsored posts. At this time I’m still not sure I’m interested in giveaway posts. I know they’re popular, but they seem like a huge hassle. Am I wrong?

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Five(?) Year Plan


the rules of the internet tell me I need a photo, so this is from last month, taken on Robert’s dad’s boat. consider it symbolic or something.

Alternate title: Whoa, Dream Big! (name that movie)

Preemptive apology for how rambling this post is about to get.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what the next few years will hold for us, in terms of working on the house, and working in general. I think it started when I signed Robert up for his second-to-last semester of college courses. Maybe we will get into the why of things later, but Robert is, as he likes to say, on the ten year plan.

The idea of not having to plan projects, vacations, or family gatherings around Robert’s school schedule coupled with his recent frustration with his current job sent me into a tizzy of “but what will we do when we’re both college graduates?” The resounding answer from my gut was that I want to work for myself, or at the very least have a job with a more flexible schedule and the ability to work from home. (Robert on the other hand wants to be a Project Manager.)

When you add in the fact that we’re dangerously close to actually having walls in the guest bathroom, and maybe even laying the reclaimed wood we bought at ReStore two years ago I also had an “ohmygosh the house is going to be ‘finished’*, what are we going to blog about?” panic**. (Maybe I’ll blog about all the projects I never finished talking about, like the globe light and the pendant over the closet desk.)

All of that brings me to my Five(?) Year Plan, which I’ve broken down into two sections: House and Life.

House

  • Finish guest bathroom & refi the house – hopefully way, way sooner than 5 years!
  • Remove carpet & lay hardwood – also hopefully way, way sooner than 5 years!
  • Add a door & window(s) to laundry room
  • Add more windows or skylights to guest room
  • Add small, frosted window to guest room closet
  • Stucco the parts of house with T-111 siding
  • Put a new roof on the house
  • Enclose the porch into a sunroom
  • Build a half bathroom off the living room

Life

  • Set up personal/portfolio website finally up! and only 4 years after graduation! (sarcasm)
  • Grow freelance business (graphic design and interior design)
  • Grow the blog?
  • Watch R graduate & walk at graduation
  • Take real estate classes
  • Buy a rental/investment property
  • Start a family

You may have noticed that the Life section includes what is basically three very different career paths for myself – graphic design, interior design, and real estate. I think that the real estate and interior design could sort of go hand-in-hand, and I’ve always been able to make time for freelance graphic design projects. That will probably change in the future (especially as we get closer to that last item on the Life list), but for now I’m going with it.

Over the next week or so I’m going to talk about how possibly growing the blog fits into all of this.

******

* I know houses are never really “finished”. By the time we get “done” we’re going to have to make changes to accommodate kids, or at the very least we’re going to hate all our paint colors.

** Don’t even get me started on the “We always said we’d start a family when Robert graduated, but I’m not ready. My eggs are going to dry up (if they’re even good to begin with) and we won’t be able to have biological kids. Our parents are going to hate me.” panic. Granted I’m pretty sure none of that will actually happen, and even if it did our parents wouldn’t hate us, right? (Mom?) I always said I was going to adopt kids anyhow… Especially after that whole where-babies-really-come-from discovery. We’ll see.

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Guest Bath Redux: Ceiling

I know, we win the award for the Slowest Bathroom Reno Ever.

The day after Thanksgiving Robert and I ripped down the guest bath ceiling. It was a really stress-relieving process involving $1 hard hats from ReStore, respirators, safety glasses, and a pry bar. When we finished we headed to Lowe’s to pick up two sheets of mold-rated drywall and a couple of recessed lights.

The next day we had both our dads over to help put the ceiling back up.


the first half going up


fitting pieces around the new vent fan


finished and ready for lights

The whole process took about 4-5 hours, including a break for lunch. As the room is only about 6.5 feet by 7.75 feet, my job was mainly to sit outside the bathroom window and grab bags of trash as they threw them out, or to fetch tools. It worked out because we only have three respirators anyhow (and I have asthma/allergies). Now notice how none of them are wearing respirators for the installation phase. Oh well. #renofail

I also forgot to run and grab the Nikon on any one of my many tool runs, so these are all iPhone photos. #bloggerfail

Robert and I are hoping to work on plumbing and wiring as soon as possible, but we’re also juggling the hall bath closet, laundry room tweaks, and possibly putting up a fence in the backyard. Oh and that pesky work thing. Fortunately this is Robert’s last week of school for the semester!

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A Visit to The Tile Shop

Over the weekend Robert and I visited The Tile Shop showroom nearby. I didn’t think to bring the Nikon (anyone noticing a theme? #bloggerfail), but I snapped a few pictures with my iPhone of some of the inspiring designs.

This bathroom set up reminded us of our plan for the currently-gutted guest bath, although we’ll be using a drop in tub. Loving the white subway tile, the chair rail edge tile, the step/bench in the back and the train rack! The black hex floor tile would look lovely in our yellow and black hall bathroom, especially since our existing 50s floor tile is in rough shape.

The shower floor in this display reminded me of Emily at Merrypad’s entryway floor (which I’ve been crushing on for months). We don’t have access to boatloads of shale like Emily (lucky duck!), but something along the lines of these sheets of Gray Pebbles would make a gorgeous laundry room floor! They also had a flatter style at the store that I can’t seem to find online. Both the saleswoman, Carol, and my dad in talking to him later, pointed out that the pebbles may not be as comfortable to walk on when Robert and I age. Though I have to say that they felt pretty smooth and level when I laid the palm of my hand over the sample.

Though not typically my style, this travertine shower had my reaching for my camera app because it sounds pretty close to what my mom wants when she and my dad redo their master shower. Pretty much everything screamed “Mom”, right down to the enclave for shampoo/soap and the seat in the back of the shower. I’m unsure if she’d like the mosaic tile details seen here, but maybe if it was a light blue glass tile?

We didn’t leave with any time this time, but Robert and I are both leaning heavily towards the 2 x 2 in black hex tile for the hall bathroom. We left with several pamphlets and Carol’s card (one for me, one for my mom) because she was so helpful and attentive, and plan to attend one of their Saturday morning classes (every week at 9:30 AM) before we tackle the guest bathroom. We’re pretty certain we’ll be using their grout, mortar, and recessed wall shelves, too.

Note: This post is in no way sponsored by The Tile Shop. Though Robert and I would be honored to pair up with them in the future, this post is just me geeking out over all their lovely tile options!

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Hall Bath Progress

Recently it has felt like Robert and I have been bouncing around the house tying up lose ends left and right, but when I sit down to blog it feels too insignificant for a post. Does anyone else have this problem?

When we last left off in the hall bath things looked like this. Fortunately with my dad’s suggestion (and installation, since Robert had to work late that night) of  a dressor fitting on the unthreaded galvanized pipe we were back on track.

Robert installed the rest of the valve that night and tested everything to make sure there would be no leaks when we turned the water back on. The next day he attached the tub spout and worked on bracing the shower pipe outlet (which we moved about 8-10 inches up the wall) and behind the valves. A few days after that Robert cut the valve stems to length and attached the valve handles, escutcheons, and tub overflow plate while I stress ate chocolate in the other room.

Truthfully we still need to add some set screws to the handles, but they’ve been working pretty well so far.

On Thanksgiving we started working on an access panel inside the bathroom closet, which will allow us to work on the pipes inside the closet without ripping into the drywall again. It’s held in place with two magnetic cabinet latches and we attached a window sash lift to make it easier to remove. After we finish painting the closet we’ll either caulk or weatherstrip around the edges so that it’s airtight. If we caulk the seams we can always use a razor knife to slice the seams before removing the panel.

So that’s where we are in the hall bathroom. Over Thanksgiving we also ripped out and replaced the ceiling in the guest bathroom, so I owe you a post on that.

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I hate rats. And PEX.

Alternative title: My house’s plumbing hates me.

Let me start by saying: I know a lot of people swear by PEX. Emily at Merrypad (and DIY Network) used it in her bathroom (which looks fantastic, if you haven’t seen it, so stop by and say Happy Blogiversary!) and Martina at Adventures in Building Beauty loves their PEX. As Martina points out, it’s great in that it allows water lines to freeze without bursting. While that’s not really an issue here in North Florida, it’s a valid concern in other areas.

I’ve had some qualms about the PEX in our own house ever since the issue with the guest bath. And then I got this text regarding the laundry room leak from Robert on his lunch break.

The last part is referencing the fact that unfortunately whoever installed the PEX in our guest bath didn’t use inserts (we suspect a rat may have had something to do with things bursting there, as well).

All of this to say… We are starting on (simultaneous) Room Redo #3. For those keeping score at home, that’s guest bath, hall bath, and laundry room. Fortunately this phase of the laundry room is mainly pipe/drywall repair, removing the unused mini fridge and freezer, painting, and replacing a light fixture. One day we’ll build also a base so the washer, dryer, and laundry tower can sit side by side on the other wall. And eventually we want to replace the water heater, install a sink, and maybe adding a window.

I came up with a design board for the space almost two years ago, and my plans for the space are pretty much the same.

Thankfully we already have the washer, dryer, and laundry tower in the room. We bought the paint on a wild hair a while back, and we have the shelving unit, sink & faucet as well. The fabric is the same fabric we used for master bedroom curtains, although we may decide to just add a skylight.

I suppose my incessant dreaming, planning & buying things (like the sink) way too far in advance sometimes makes it easier to land on our feet when something like this happens. When the pipe burst in the guest bath I was ready the next day with a plan & a design board. I usually plan first, and ask questions about feasibility later. Another bonus of planning so far in advance is that we have more time to problem solve when we run into design issues.

So that’s where we are with the laundry room plans. This weekend entails some drywall patching in the laundry room, as well as spackling, sanding, texturizing and painting in the hall bath closet.

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