Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Hip to be Square

by Cait

I don’t know how many of you work in a cubicle every day, but for me 40+ hours a week in at a drab desk with standard-issue tan cube walls makes me just a little bit crazy. It also makes me a little bit jealous of all of those full-time bloggers, freelancers, business owners and telecommuters. I had to stop reading Apartment Therapy because I couldn’t take seeing one more pretty office. My little cube just couldn’t compete.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to dress the place up a bit. I added fun accessories to my desk, changed my computer background to something cheerful, considered getting a plant for my desk (and then a faux plant, after I killed all the real plants in our house). It worked for a while, but then one day when they were working on the front office building at work I walked out of my window-less cube in the back of the warehouse to see this:

did someone order a pallet o’ West Elm?

Yes, that is a pallet of West Elm Parsons Desks. There was also a smaller stack of tables. It might have been the most beautiful thing I had ever seen if I wasn’t so busy being jealous and enraged.

I tried to forget about it. I tried to focus on working, and spend my time away from work making our house into the kind of inspiring space you see splashed across decorating magazines and blog house tours. I tried to tell myself I didn’t even want a Parsons desk (“Where would I even put things? There’s hardly any drawer space!”) That worked for a while, too. Work was work, a place where I put on blinders and tried to pretend I didn’t spend almost every waking second thinking about paint colors, fabric swatches, furniture and design boards. A coworker and I dubbed the recently completed front office building Swankyville, and I vowed never to go there. Even after hearing the rumors about coffee that wasn’t 40 cents a cup . And especially after learning that my ID badge won’t even open the door to Swankyville!

Finally one day I had a reason to go over to Swankyville. After having my coworker use his badge to let me in, I sat waiting for my interview. I allowed myself to look around at the warehouse-chic breakroom, with its matte black ceiling, dark furniture, and stainless appliances. Just for a second I imagined myself working in the surrounding offices and far nicer cubicles. I even snapped a terrible iPhone picture (which it came out horribly blurry, thanks to the glare from the freaking atrium with picnic tables and the idea of being caught being that girl who takes pictures of the breakroom).

I spy with my little eye, a lot of West Elm furniture.

Since the photo came out so poorly, I threw together a quick design board with the furniture (and vases, which are not pictured) they used.


West Elm Overlapping Squares Bar Stool; West Elm Scoop-back Bar Stool; West Elm Klismos Dining ChairWest Elm Round Dining Table with Cutout LegsWest Elm Hive Vase

Back over in… whatever the opposite of Swankyville is, I looked around my cube. Maybe I don’t have West Elm furniture, maybe I won’t be working in Swankyville, and security sure as heck won’t let me in the building with much else to spruce the place up with (they give my paper bag the stink eye daily), but I can probably at least pull off CB2 chic. Even if I am on more of an Ikea, Target and Amazon kind of budget.

Aladdin To-Go Tumbler Clear; Ceramic Greek Coffee Cup; Black & Decker 5 Cup Coffee Maker; Tape Dispenser; Red Swingline; San Fran Tumbler

I have tried to deck my desk out with fun pops of color to keep me sane during the work week. A few of them have been on my desk since I started this job over two years ago, like the ceramic Greek coffee cup, my red Swingline, and my cassette tape dispenser. I added a plastic tumbler (similar to the San Fran one, though mine actually has leaves on it) as a  pen cup. My mom gave me a heart-shaped box made from recycled magazines, and I thought it would be a cheerful reminder of home, so I use it as paper clip holder. Up until a recent company email preventing us from having coffee makers I had this Black & Decker 5 cup on my desk, which got me through a lot of overtime last year. Since I have to bring (or buy) coffee now, I thought an Aladdin tumbler like this one would be nice for the tail end of summer and iced coffee (I haven’t actually decided which one I want yet, I might just buy whatever I find at HomeGoods).

Other than the things pictured, I just try to pick up things I think are cute (and usually cheap). I have a little Florida license plate with my name on it, the VW that popped out of one of my car’s center caps a few years ago, some pins with funny sayings, a small yellow desk fan.

What do you keep on your desk (at home, or the office)? Anything other than basic office supplies?

PS- I’m sure this post sounds like I hate my job. That isn’t true. I’m thankful to have a steady income, and a job where I get to use some of the skills I went to school for. Is this the job I want to work the rest of my life? No. But I do feel fortunate to have a job, even if it’s one that makes me want to strive for more.

August 29, 2011

The Spanish Steps

by Cait

To break from the hurricane talk for a minute, I thought I’d share some details on a project we took on last week. I’ll have the rest of how we prepared for the high winds we were expected to have, as well as the rest of our tile project for you later this week.

We live in an area where it’s pretty common to see Spanish tile on houses, and we recently took the plunge and ordered some. I had been pinning Spanish tile designs and tiled steps to my Curb Appeal board on Pinterest for weeks, and we figured it was time after recently visiting St Augustine & also seeing quite a few tropical vacation photos featuring Spanish tile. I had done some research as far as where to buy tiles that were pretty & reasonably priced, and  when one of those websites offered free shipping we decided to order our tile.

Before we finalized the decision on which tiles to buy I did a couple of Photoshop mock ups of what our front steps would look like after we tiled them. It was probably an unnecessary step, but I’m a Photoshop nerd, and sometimes it helps Robert understand my ideas.

First this one:

And then, when we decided to take advantage of free shipping from another website with different tile options, I made the one below.

We also toyed with the idea of doing one design per step, like the mock up below.

We ulitmately decided that we liked the second mock up best, so we measured to see how many tiles we would need and placed our order.  We also measured around our front door and ordered some tiles go go around that.

A few days later our tile arrived and we got to work laying them out to see what pattern we liked best.

As far as attaching the tiles to our steps, we figured that we would probably use something like Liquid Nails rather than trying to grout the tiles in place. And as luck would have it, in talking to my dad about the project we discovered that he happened to have a couple of tubes of adhesive he was willing to give us. Sweet!

We applied the adhesive in a 4-dot pattern on the back of each tile, then held the tile in place for a minute or so to give the adhesive a chance to begin setting. We used one tube for about 57 tiles the first day, just to give you an idea of how much adhesive you’re going to want if you decide to tackle a similar project.

The whole project probably took about two hours from start to finish, and we only cracked one tile in the process (and we had an extra) so I’d say it was a success. We did run out of adhesive three tiles before we finished the bottom step, so this isn’t a complete after picture.

We  didn’t want to cut any tiles, so we do need to figure out a solution for the slight space you can see on the left of the second step (each step has a similar space, actually). We’ll probaly end up painting that area a different color to make it blend, or add some sort of edge tile.

Also, after giving the adhesive a chance to dry overnight we ran a bead of almond colored caulk along the top edge, just to give the whole thing a cleaner look.

Anyone else added some interest to their exterior recently?

August 26, 2011

Preparing For a Big Storm: Part 1

by Cait

Growing up in Florida, Hurricanes are not uncommon. Sometimes as Floridians we even downplay the seriousness of the situation, saying things like “We’ll get some wind and rain, maybe lose power, and move on”. Recently I heard the quote “There is no such thing as a minor hurricane”, and I have to say I agree.

 My personal viewpoint on hurricanes has fluctuated over the years. Fortunately I have never experienced a full-force hurricane, but I grew up hearing stories about Hurricane Dora, which hit the area in 1964. My dad’s family moved to Florida right around that time, and my mom grew up here. When I was in middle school we had a close call from Hurricane Floyd. We were expected to get a direct hit, so we packed up and began to evacuate. After several hours of sitting in traffic on our way through Georgia the storm was reported to be turning, so we went back. I remember being terrified, and my parents and sister had to reason with me to calm me down. Even though we did not get the full force of that storm we still lost power for over a day. Also, the family photos that my mom packed into a plastic box and put them in the center of the house may or may not have stayed that way for some time. 

After that my attitude towards hurricanes became somewhat cocky. This may also have to do with the fact that I was entering my teenage years. I would still watch the forecasts like a hawk, but they always seemed to turn at the last minute. People in the area believe we are protected by the Gulf Stream, and though I never fully bought into that, I did get a bit more relaxed about the idea of hurricanes.

Then when I was just starting college at Florida State the forecast for Katrina said the storm was headed straight for us. As a category 4 or 5. Even then I was cocky. “Oh it won’t be that bad, we’ll get some rain, maybe some downed trees and lose power. We’ll be fine.” I remember even being a little flippant after the storm hit. “Florida gets hit by hurricanes all the time, what’s the big deal?” Finally, after seeing some of the pictures and hearing some of the stories, the magnitude of what had happened hit home. Ever since then, I watch the radar like a hawk, stock up on supplies, and try to prepare the best that I can.

This morning Hurricane Irene, which was initially predicted to be heading straight for us, passed by our city about 240 miles off the coast. Even with the storm that far away area beaches experienced sustained winds over 20mph with gusts into the 50s. 

I’m sure anyone who is not in the path of Irene is sick of hearing about it, and maybe those of you who are in the path are sick of it too, but I personally believe that you can never be told enough. In the case of hurricanes it’s always best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

image from The Weather Channel

At a minimum, The Weather Channel suggests you have these essentials on hand:

Essential Items

During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.

Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:

  • At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Non-perishable food
  • Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
  • Manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Toiletries
  • Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
  • Battery-powered radios and flashlights
  • Plenty of batteries
  • Extra cash
  • Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)

If you are a pet owner you will need to take precautions for your pets as well. This is a list from the National Hurricane Center on how to perpare your pets. And this is a list from The Weather Channel on preparing your home. 7th House on the Left also had a great post on being prepared for the unexpected.

And a few more of my personal thoughts (which may be slightly “duh” things):

  • If you are in the path of a hurricane, especially if you are in a low-lying area- get out! Prepare your house/apartment the best you can, and leave town. Take your pets with you if possible, they stand a better chance if they are with you.
  • Mandatory evacuations are not to be ignored. There is a reason they are telling anyone who ignores the evacuations to put their ID in their left shoe, and yes it is partially to scare you so that you will leave!
  • Do not drive through flood waters. Just don’t do it. Especially if there is any risk of a downed, live power line.
  • Even after the rain has stopped, there is danger from high winds and downed power lines.
  • If you are going to board your windows, use screws not nails – they are stronger.
  • Houses, cars, boats, etc can all be replaced, your life cannot. Please don’t take any chances!

We’ll be back later with another post about the things we did around the house in preparation for Irene, even after the likelihood of a direct hit had passed.

August 23, 2011

200th Post, and Guest Posting on Yellow Brick Home

by Cait

I can never think of what to say about “blogging monuments”. I know that they generally get acknowledged, but I was taking a small break from blogging when our “blogiversary” passed, and when we hit 100 posts I didn’t have much to say either.

“We are so proud of all the things we have accomplished in the past six months and 100 posts.  We had a blast doing things like writing a guest post and being featured in an online magazine.  Both were incredibly exciting and we would be thrilled to be asked to do it all again.  We would also love to do more design boards (both for us and anyone who might be interested),  and we get a big kick out of recommending paint colors for some reason (I think it’s staring at all the pretty paint chips).  One day we’d like to have an online shop, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.

A few things we are going to avoid (at least for the time being) is advertising and giveaways. While we aren’t sure we’re in the Ad-Free Blogging camp, we have no idea who would want to advertise on our itty-bitty blog or how to go about any of that, and we usually skip giveaway posts on other blogs.”

Since then, all I can say is that I am so thankful for all of the opportunities we’ve have had to guest post in the six months since then. I would still be thrilled to have our house featured in another magazine, but that isn’t necessarily a goal of ours at this point. Mostly we just want to focus on checking things off our to-do list, and work our way towards tackling all the things we dream up for our house. I would still welcome any opportunities to help others with any design questions they may have, but we definitely undestand the pride that comes from doing that sort of thing yourself.

Having said all that, we are so excited to be guest posting over on Yellow Brick Home today! So be sure to check there for another one of our curb appeal projects.

And a big welcome to anyone who is here for the first time! Thanks so much for stopping by! We love new readers!

August 18, 2011

The Blues

by Cait

Things have been hectic around here lately. A lot of working too much and coming home too tired to do a whole lot of anything in the way of projects. In spite of all that, we’re baby-stepping our way through a front porch mini-makeover this summer in an effort to improve our curb appeal and stay busy enough to keep our sanity. We already have the mailbox (a gift from Robert’s parents for my birthday), and we talked about our new door hardware and other changes we’d like to make here.

The next step in the process was to give our front porch ceiling a facelift. We’ve both been on a blue kick recently, and it’s a southern tradition to paint porch ceilings blue, so we embraced it. We started with a peach ceiling (which made the ceiling feel very low and closed-in), sporting asymmetrical trim (to hide the seams in the drywall), a HomeGoods lantern we turned into a porch light pre-blog, and far more dead bugs than I care to think about. (The photo below was taken after Robert started to pry the trim down, but there is a really old iPhone picture in this post with a true before picture.) Robert did all of the work (and took a lot of one-handed pictures),  since this took place during a period of time when I was working 58 hour weeks.

Robert pried the trim down using a razor knife & a screw driver, then added a few more screws to reinforce the drywall.

After everything was secured better he caulked the drywall seams.

Then he took down the old light and sanded the edges of the old layers of paint to help give everything a smoother, more seamless look in the end.

The first layer of spackle went up.

Followed by a lot of sanding and more spackling.

After waiting out a summer shower, he taped off the ceiling and rolled on two sample cans of  Valspar Grand Hotel Mackinac Blue (we changed our mind about the Glass Tile color after taping some paint chips to the ceiling and staring at them for a while).

Then the tape came down, and we added a new light.

All in all, it’s a cheerful addition that you can see peeking out at you when you pull up in the driveway.

I can’t wait to tackle the back porch now! Maybe we’ll wait until it cools off a little…

Edit: I saw this link on another blog (I wish I could remember which one!), and when my mom emailed it to me I thought I should add it to the post. Thanks to NPR for such a great link about blue porch ceilings.