Thursday, June 30, 2011


Ok, so I'm sure this is old news to all of you blog followers out there, but I just started using Google Reader after months of resisting... holy moly. I've always had my many blogs bookmarked in my Google Chrome setup, and I find myself constantly clicking on each one, one by one, eagerly anticipating that someone out there in the internet world that I love, chose to write something that I've never read before... usually it's the same post as before on every website, unless you are like my fave Young House Love family who writes two, sometimes three posts a day (I can always count on them for entertainment). So usually I've wasted a lot of time for nothing. BUT, here's the crazy thing that Google has come up with (again, I know I'm the last to discover this), they have a service where you subscribe to your favorite blogs (I follow about 20), and it then lists the blog posts of those 20 blogs in a similar format to my Gmail account. And if any of those bloggers writes a new post, it simply shows up in my Google Reader inbox. Once I've read it, it's just like email, it turns purple instead of white. I have added an extra hour to my day (total exaggeration) by visiting one site rather than 20! And not only that, but I'm up-to-date in real time because as soon as it's posted, I'm alerted! Love it!

If you have a Gmail account then I'm sure you are familiar with the Calendar, Documents, Photos, Maps... tabs that are at the top of the page. Well, if you go to 'more' or possibly 'even more', you can select Reader as one of those tabs. From there it is easy to get started, just don't become a blog junkie like myself! 

And while we're at it... if you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, you should definitely check it out! It's basically a place online where you can catalog everything you find online that you love. So if I'm perusing one of my 20 blogs, and there is a photo of an idea that I want to remember for my own house, then I simply 'pin it', and it is stored on my 'home' board. Of course I have lots of boards, including 'holiday', 'graphics', 'party planning', and many more. The point is that I don't have to worry about downloading the image to my computer, I just have these online folders where I can sort things into the categories I want and return to them again and again. So if I am planning a party, then I can reference my 'party planning' board to find the ideas that I tucked away! Another cool feature to this is that you can have 'followers' and you can 'follow' your friends, so you can see (and steal) their finds as well!

NEWS FLASH! I just discovered that you can't actually 'pin' from Reader. :(
So from Reader, you have to go to the blog, then pin. Oh well, so much for tying these things together into one post!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

under construc[tion]

As a young architect, you dream of designing amazing buildings to serve the public. In 2008, I was given the opportunity to work with my team to design an Adult Day Center that would serve 19 to 99 year olds with both mental and physical disabilities. The program was quite complex, at over 25,000sf it is a fairly large building, and they wanted it to have a 'village' feel. After months years of programming the spaces, designing the building, selecting finishes, etc., the building went into construction. And now, the finish line is in sight!

It is very rare that I get to go to the site, but yesterday I was able to attend one of the construction meetings, and walked the site beforehand. I probably took 150 photos because I was just so excited to see some of my design ideas come to life! You'll notice a lot of natural light, and glimpses of color that will become more evident once the flooring is in. The building sits on a fairly wooded, 10-acre site, and we tried to make the massive building seem as though it was nestled into the landscape.

Here are a few of those photos to show you the progress!

the building as a whole, this is the view when you arrive to the site
the Main Public Entry

Training room windows bring in lots of light and create a
pitched ceiling on the interior
One of two courtyards, separates the Admin and Day buildings.
The greenhouse
The large Day Room with clerestory windows to bring in natural light.
The smaller rooms (with color) are training rooms, where smaller groups
can participate in specific activities.
This canopy starts outside the building and
swoops into the main space on the interior.
This is the large Day Room, where most of the
day-to-day activities will be held.
The building is comprised of three structures, one serving Administration needs - housing the lobby, a large training room, offices, and meeting rooms; the second building is the Day Program, which is where the adult day program is housed, and includes a large 'day' room, a dining room with kitchen and canteen, nursing services, training rooms, etc.; and the third, smaller building is the Pottery Building, and it has a kiln, large space for pottery making, a greenhouse, and a car wash.  Between the buildings are small, enclosed courtyard areas for dining or relaxing. By breaking the square footage up into smaller buildings, it allowed us to bring the scale of the building down to almost a residential scale, while allowing for a huge, gym-like space to accommodate over 100 people comfortably.

I can't wait to see it completed!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I showed you the cards I made for my dad & stepdad here, but I couldn't share my gift to my dad until now, since we celebrated the holiday a week late due to the prep course that I took. A few weeks ago, Brian and I were in Georgia visiting his family, and we went through Greene County, Georgia on our way to Penfield (where his family homestead is). There are several cool antique stores in the area, and while we were perusing through one of them, I came across an antique alligator that I assumed was just a figurine, about a foot long and green in color. My dad lives on a lake, and yes there are alligators in it, so I always think of him since he has a 4' long wooden alligator on his porch. After further investigation into the antique alligator that I stumbled upon, it turns out that it was a nutcracker made of cast-iron (quite heavy in fact), and you place the nut in it's mouth and push down, hence cracking the nut in the alligator's jaws! Unfortunately the price was a little more than I would typically spend on a Father's Day gift, but after walking around the store for a while, I kept coming back to the alligator. I'm not sure why, but I find it so difficult to shop for the men in my life, so when I see something that is this perfect, I have to buy it! And then, I realized that everything in this particular booth was on SALE! Score! So, more on the alligator later... after while crocodile.

I wanted to first share some photos from the weekend, that get at the heart of Greene County and Penfield...

Notice this storefront is all trees and plants behind it,
it was incredible! This is a nursery that is part of one of
the antique stores. 

pulled pork for dinner



Well, that was some of the fun from the weekend, now let's get back to the gift-giving! So there was this alligator nutcracker that I just had to have for my dad, so I bought it. Then I thought of 'how can I wrap this?'. Which led me to the next little design I came up with...

This was the card that I attached to the gift. And speaking of the gift, here he is in action (sans nut)...

And here he is pre- and post- wrapping...

And it just so happened that the last time we were at Penfield, we collected pecans from one of the many huge pecan trees on the old Mercer campus. So with this gift, I also had a clear bag of pecans with the same white bow. The alligator worked, although was quite messy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

blog men[tion]

Thanks to my stepsister-in-law, Heather for plugging me on her blog, Notes from the Nelsens! I unfortunately wasn't able to participate in the sailing weekend, due to the exam prep course described in the post below. But we loved having you stay in our guest room, and it was nice spending the little bit of time with you that I could!!

I stole this photo off her blog, since it was one of the few moments I got to spend with everyone!

Monday, June 20, 2011


This past weekend I spent 3 full days at the ARE Structural Systems Workshop that David Thaddeus teaches. He is a professor at UNC-Charlotte, and he travels all over the country teaching this workshop that is meant to help ARE (Architecture Registration Exam) candidates PASS the Structural Systems exam. This is one of 7 exams that must be PASSED in order to become a Registered Architect. Until then, like me, you are considered an intern. I have been an intern for 12 years of my professional career. I have also been very, very, very slack in completing my exams, but the list is long of reasons and excuses. BUT, the catch is that they give you 5 years to complete the exams, starting on the date that you PASS your 1st one. It's called a 'rolling clock' because you lose the exam that you PASSED 5 years earlier and the date shifts and you have to re-take whatever exam falls within a 5-year-period of trying to complete them all. You may think, 'wow, well that should be easy', who could possibly take 5 YEARS to complete 7 exams? That would be me. Sad. Well, technically my 5 year 'rolling clock' rolls over in November.

I have PASSED 3 exams, which leaves me with 4 (2 of which I have failed previously). I forgot to also mention that if you fail an exam, you actually have to wait 6 months before you can take it again. Silly, I know, but I guess they want you to ponder the material for another 6 months, to be sure you understand it before taking it again.

Let me recap. It is June, which means November is in 5 months. So, I have 5 months to complete 4 exams, without failing any! It has taken me 4 years and 7 months to complete 3 (actually 4 because I did PASS the LEED exam too), and I have failed just as many as I've completed! YIKES!

Back to the Workshop...
     Friday      9:00am - 7:00pm (10 hours)
     Saturday  8:00am - 8:00pm (12 hours)
     Sunday    8:00am - 7:00pm (11 hours)

Of course there were bathroom breaks and lunch breaks mixed in there, but for the most part it was an intense 3 days, with lack of air conditioning and a couple of fire alarms thrown in for fun! Oh happy day.

Thought you may enjoy seeing a couple of sample pages from my notes from the weekend... don't worry, I don't understand it either! And the colors are a code for studying: red=compression, blue=tension, purple=bending, shear=green, and grey=deflection.

The big news of the day... I've scheduled the exam! I am taking it on July 5, so I'll have the long holiday weekend to cram in everything that I don't get to in the evenings between now and then.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


And Happy Father's Day!

For Father’s Day, I decided to create my own cards for both my dad & my stepdad. Not because I’m cheap (although I am), but because I’ve been using graphic design as my creative outlet lately. In fact, I’ve even come up with a name for such venture…

This is something I truly enjoy, and at the same time I’m trying to build up a portfolio of work, thereby sharing it on the blog under the label: 'graphic design' for feedback from YOU! I love the instant gratification of putting words & images to a page. If I don't work on my graphic layouts then I'll never get better at them! 

The coolest part of making my own cards is that both my dad & Gene acknowledged my efforts upon my calling to wish them a Happy Father’s Day. It made me feel good that they appreciated them! And rather than just thanking me for sending a card, it evoked conversation and enthusiasm. 

Making cards also allows me to say what I want to, rather than depending on someone else’s cutesy poem or idea. I’m sure Hallmark & American Greetings and the like are much more experienced and seasoned at this sort of thing, but neither of them know me or my peeps like I do!  

And of course, I realize now that I could have made minor modifications that would have made a huge difference graphically for these, but they were quick, spur-of-the-moment projects that needed to get out the door & in the mail. They definitely aren’t perfect, but again this is practice! Right?

This card for my dad was spurred by his love of cars, especially Fords, since he was a Ford dealer at one time. He also owned a 1955 Thunderbird convertible when we lived in Louisiana. I remember a birthday party when I was probably turning 9 or 10, and the theme was based off the 1950’s. Everyone wore poodle skirts and saddle oxfords, and we danced to the juke box, and there are photos of us all piled on the convertible like we are about to be beauty queens in a small town parade. I wish I had the photo to share, but it would involve my mom finding it, mailing it, and scanning it, so no. But the point is that the car on the card is a Thunderbird, a ’55 no less, and although his was baby blue, I grayed this one out for effect, and based the colors of the card on the color of the car. I added a pinstripe down the center to evoke the style detailing of a car. Of course “Father’s” is taking the place of “Ford” in the logo, and ‘Happy’ and ‘Day’ are magneto font, which is a font that “recall[s] the chrome-strip lettering laid over the rounded shapes of …automobile trunks in the thirties and forties by a[n] …American industry that knew it was going places, doing things, and changing the world”. You see a font can provoke memories, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I carried that font to the inside as well, and the phrase ‘to a true original’ is harkening back the originality of the Thunderbird the first year it was made, but also to my dad, who is definitely like no other!

For Gene, I usually get something related to golf, or beer, or fishing. I wanted to change it up a little and therefore started perusing cards online and came across the line… ‘dad you’re rad’, and although I thought it was cute, I already had a card designed for my dad (2 actually, but that’s another story), then I thought well if I modified this with ‘stepdad’ and came up with text for the inside then I could make Gene a card too! Which leads me to the silly poem I wrote that I knew only Gene would appreciate. The bold words and color placement make it unique and fun, and perfect for my stepdad. So there you have it, my latest creations. 

Back to studying.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, a friend wrote a post on her blog about 5 things she loves. Easy right? Well, the thought of that intimidated me so much... narrowing down my life to 5 things! So, I thought I'd take baby steps, and find 5 things that I love about my house. Well, even that was too hard! Then I decided I'd write about 5 things that I love about my house that-were-original-features and that-may-have-influenced-us-to-buy-said-house. Still too hard. There were so many little details about the house that provided so much character and charm, so here's my list...

The 10 11 Things I Love About Our House
That Were Original Features and May Have Influenced Us To Buy the House:
This is mostly in order of what you stumble upon first, but not really.

1. front door + storm door
This of course was the first thing you saw when you stepped on the porch. It is an awesome round-top door with a half circle lite. It was painted orange at the time, and really not a good orange. I love orange, and even I couldn't wait to paint the door! The storm door, which is also awesome, was probably custom-made to fit the round top frame and it has a full-height window with no obstructions. Another small feature of the front door was the reindeer door knocker, which had me believing that fate was 'knocking on our door' (pun intended). You see, I collect reindeer, so it was destiny!

2. fireplace + fire screen
One of the most charming features of the house hits you when you walk in the front door. The fireplace is an unusual mustard-color glazed brick with an interesting pattern that extrudes in and out. The fireplace also has an antique cast-iron insert and cover with an angel motif that is stunning.


A funny story about that is that when we made the offer on the house, the executors of the estate hired an 'estate sales company' to come in and organize all of the personal belongings to be sold. They were very nice and even let us come in while that were setting up to go through old photos, and actually said that if we found any pictures of the house then we could keep them (which we did). Well, the day before the sale is set to start, they post photos of the items that will be sold on their website. So I decided to peruse the furniture, clothing, dishes, etc that would be sold, and lo & behold the fireplace cover was posted! Immediately I called our realtor and had a screaming fit! Tears, the whole nine yards. It was not pretty. This went around and around between us, the realtor, the sale company, the estate, etc. The sale company's policy is that they sell anything that isn't part of the house, so if you can pick the house up and turn it upside down, then they can sell anything that would fall out. Well, well, well... my argument was that the insert that the screen latched to, was clearly not falling out, and that they best be putting that piece back on my fireplace. It actually took a little more encouraging than that, but clearly this was original to the house, and it wasn't going ANYWHERE. It was pretty much an 'over-my-dead-body' scenario. Point being, it stayed. 

clearly the cover goes with the insert!?

Which leads me to another favorite thing that we skipped over when we were on the porch...

3. planter boxes
There are two antique concrete flower boxes that flank the front stairs, and they are actually in that same location in some photos we found dated 1968, but like the fireplace screen above, they shook out in the turn-the-house-upside-down trick. I wasn't convincing them to let us keep them, especially after the fireplace debacle. So, we paid for them. I can't remember if they were $25 a piece or $25 for the pair, but whatever it was, they were worth it! I mean really, the house would look naked. Now if I could only keep the flowers alive. The following photos give you an idea of what the house looked like when they took the planters off to paint (notice the red door, sans storm door), then the planters in full bloom on the right. See what I mean about naked?!

4. mezuzot
Since I've told you some of the bad that came out of the estate sale, I'll share a good story... we knew that there had been an elderly African American woman living in the house since she purchased it in 1968 (Miss Julia), and we knew that the house had been built around 1935 according to the tax maps. What we didn't know was who built the house and lived in for those other 33 years? Well, the young guy who owned the Estate Sale business is Jewish, and he pointed out this small rectangular containers on the front door and bedroom doors that I never would have noticed! They are decorative cases that hold parchment called mezuzah, a prayer scrolled inside. History says these should be placed on all doorways (except bathrooms & closets), and that they protect the inhabitants inside the rooms. Needless to say, we didn't remove them, but unfortunately they had been painted over so many times that they are pretty unrecognizable, and we aren't sure if the prayers have survived. We figured it was best to leave them be! I'll have to find a photo! 

5. hardwood floors
The floors are also quite unique in color, and they were one of the first things that I latched onto. They were in great condition and one of the few things that I knew we wouldn't have to do much to. Of course the contractor didn't protect them like they should have, so a light sanding was necessary after construction, but not on our dime. One of the first things I did after the closing was scrub these floors and ever since I've had a strong connection with them!

6. archway between the Living Room & Dining Room
Since you can see this in the photo above, I thought I'd go ahead and talk about the obvious. The archway! It is charming. Need I say more? It also inspired us to create our archway between the kitchen and dining. You can see how they play off of one another here:

Now that we are in the dining room, let's move on to another feature...

7. doorbell
When we first bought the house, the ding in our ding-dong didn't work. The electrician tried to fix it, and it worked for a while, but we are back to 40% of the time or so. It's still cool to look at though! See hardwood floor photo above.

8. picture rail
If you are still reading, you've probably read this post in the past, where I go on and on about the picture rail, and the practicality & beauty that surrounds it. That about sums it up!

Can you tell that I'm getting lazy? This one post has taken me over a week to write. As excited as I am about our house, and all of it's cool parts, this is getting ridiculous. Maybe I should have stopped at 5?

9. telephone nook
I just recently wrote about the phone nook as well, over here. Regardless, it is way cool, and it took me a long time to decide what to put in it, so I painted it, and added a flower, but I'm sure this will be an ever-changing display for holiday decor of the moment, etc. 

10. the bathroom
I love our bathroom. In fact, I probably could have written a post about "The 5 things I love about our bathroom". So here goes, a post within a post. 
  1. The wooden built-in valance over the window. It was there when we moved in, but it blended into the white walls, and there were green, flow-y curtains billowing over vinyl mini-blinds. 
  2. The wall tiles & floor tiles. White subway tiles with a black border on the walls, and a black and white basketweave on the floor. These tiles are gorgeous, and I love them. Again, when the walls were painted white, the tiles blended in, but now with the more vibrant color on the walls, they pop! The floor took some work, since there was a lot of rust that needed to be scrubbed. Read more about that here.
  3. The archway over the tub. Before it got lost in the white walls, and it too had a green shower curtain coming from it, but the arch is truly highlighted with the yellow on the wall and the bright orange shower curtain! This arch is quite similar to the other archways in the home, but I love that it is in such a small space, adding so much character!
  4. The cast iron tub. I love that the tub is in keeping with the age of the home. Also, it is quite deep and large considering it's age. It did have 1970's flower power stickers for slip-resistance that had probably been there since the 70's, but when we had the tub reglazed, those went by the wayside, thankfully!
  5. All the little things. The light fixture is a replica of the one that was there. The original no longer worked and therefore we replaced the whole thing. The medicine cabinet & mirror... yes, it's old-school, but it is also super-awesome. A little worn, but definitely functional. Soapdish/toothbrush holder/towel rod tiles... yes, these are all tiles that have survived the duration of the life of this house so far. I love that each of these things was integrated into the original bathroom layout. 

So there you have it, the post-within-a-post = one happy bathroom. 

11. 3-over-1 windows
This is something that we went around and around about. Do we replace the windows, thus making the house more efficient, or not. We went with not. There is just something so charming about those darn original windows. We just couldn't part with them, and it would have been extremely expensive to replace them with models that looked like the original, so we didn't budge. You may remember that the new window in our Master Bedroom mimics the old ones. 

And there it is, the 11 original features I love about our house. Really it was more like 20 things, if you separate out all the bathroom features, etc, but who's counting, right? Can you tell that I was sitting on the living room floor when I took several of the photos in this post? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

explora[tion] - office

This will be the last 'before & after' for a while, since the addition really doesn't have 'before' pics unless you want to see our former backyard. Also, the addition is not quite finished.

A few things still left to do in Master Suite addition:

  • paint the Master Bedroom
  • install countertop/sink in vanity nook
  • run plumbing to sink in vanity nook
  • complete installation of vanity in vanity nook
  • install mirror and shelf over sink
  • complete the entire Master Bathroom
    • install flooring
    • install toilet
    • install tub/shower
    • tile tub/shower
    • paint
    • build out shelving

So, on to the last room (for now), shall we?

The office is in the original 'back' bedroom. The back bedroom was the cleanest, most un-cluttered room in the house when we first toured, and I think this was probably Ms. Julia's room. Like the front bedroom, we switched out the ceiling fan, replaced the old blinds with new bamboo Roman shades, and painted it the same color as the other room, Sherwin Williams Window Pane (I told you I love this color!). That's it, no other changes. Pretty simple.

This room actually serves a dual purpose, since it's where our computer lives we call it the 'office', but that couch over there has a pull-out bed, so it can also serve as overflow for when we have multiple guests! It's happened more than once already! And judging by the boxes, it's also our 'catch-all' space... don't open the closet. ;)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

explora[tion] - guest bedroom

Back to the tour!

Next on our stop, 'before & after' shots of the front bedroom. The house originally had 2 bedrooms, both off the same hallway, one at the front of the house, and one at the back. I feel quite confident that the back bedroom was Julia's, and I'm not sure who would have been living in this one, but they clearly had a lot of stuff!

We did not do a whole lot in this room, but the subtle changes make a huge difference. We switched out the ceiling fan for a more modern version, we replaced the pink curtains and plastic blinds with new rods and room-darkening drapes, and we painted the walls my favorite color in the house Sherwin Williams Window Pane. It is such a light blue-almost-green, and it is so cheerful. Love it.

 The biggest change in this room was the removal of the panelled closet. This particular closet was clearly not original to the room, and there was a small closet with shelves (behind that mirrored door), that provided some storage. When my mom offered to buy us a wardrobe, we decided the closet had to go! It really opens up the space, and the wardrobe provides a much nicer space for storing ours and guests belongings.

So come visit! We have a nice room for you to stay in!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Since I posted my card and gift wrapping excitement previously, I thought I'd share more of my graphic efforts! I absolutely love putting together invitations and announcements. And even though this one pulls some images off of Google, it was still fun to create!

Our friend Nick has joined the Peace Corps and is moving to China in the next few weeks, so we are throwing a going-away party for him, so he'll have a chance to say goodbye to all his local friends. Most of our parties involve bowling, so that's the theme we decided to go with. We will sure miss him!

dragon image credit: 

Update: Photos from the event!

This is supposed to be a drawing of an airplane!
Although it was called a submarine, a shoe, and a cucumber.

Monday, June 6, 2011


We got started on the Laundry Room transformation yesterday! We now have a cabinet and shelving installed, as well as my inspiration for cleaning my clothes...

Yes, I am excited to report that this OutKast song is now posted on our Laundry Room wall! Awesome. It makes me smile. So, we still have to paint the cabinet, which we will most likely go with white to match the wire-frame shelves, but we've also tossed around ideas for a color that would contrast well with the green. White will probably prevail. We wouldn't want to get too crazy! Here are the photos with the still-unfinished cabinet...

And in this photo, you can see why we didn't do cabinets all the way across. We have the electrical panel to contend with. We will eventually be painting that white as well. The nice thing about the shelves that we bought, is that we have a space to hang clothes for drying now, which was part of our plan all along.

And I also wanted to mention that we have a nest in our back porch fern. The mom rarely leaves, but we were able to catch a quick glimpse while she was away, and there are 2 small eggs in it! I'm pretty excited even though I know this will probably be the death of the plant. I'm excited! There is also a nest in one of the front porch ferns as well, but no eggs, as far as I can tell. Although we did witness some of the construction during our morning coffee on the porch yesterday.