Save On Your Electric Bill : Free Energy Audit

Do you feel like your electric bill is outrageous??

We kind of did.

So I called Huntsville Utilities and asked for an explanation as to why our reading was that high.

We only turn lights on if absolutely necessary, utilizing every last drop of sunshine our large windows can hold.
Our thermostat is set at a brisk 61 degrees in the winter, using our fireplace to heat up the house.

What other extremes could we explore?

"We offer free energy audits for all of our customers," the kind HSV Utilities employee responded.

Sign. Me. Up.

A couple of days later, Brad (the energy audit man) walked around our house with me, pointing out areas where we could do a little handiwork while saving a lot. 

Do we recommend this program? Absolutely. It's free and Brad printed out a full-blown Energy Audit Report that explained areas where most cold / warm air is lost and how we can improve those areas for better energy usage. The report also includes an estimated cost of repairs along with a Quality Program Participant List if we choose to hire someone to fix the problems. 

I normally feel obligated to working with a company if they come out to give us an estimate or to evaluate an issue at our house. But there is no obligation in working with the utility company as a contractor... because it's not a contractor. They aren't the ones who will be doing any of the work required to make our house keep more energy efficient. This also makes their evaluations more trustworthy.

Fortunately, we will be able to DIY most of the stuff from our report. For those of you who may not have this free service offered through your utility company, here is a list of things that Brad recommended we do...
Also, please remember that our house was built in 1965. There are a few issues that stem from the age of the home.


  • Spray expansion foam around pluming openings under the sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms 
  • Glaze single pane windows around the panes and caulk all windows at the edges to prevent air and moisture from coming in
  • Ensure all of the doors leading to the outside of the home are actual exterior doors and not interior doors
  • Exterior doors should be sealed on the sides, top, and bottom to prevent air and moisture from coming in (jamb-up weatherstripping and thresholds with vinyl bulbs are recommended for sealing existing doors)
  • Attic access doors and pull down stairs should be insulated and weatherstripped if located within conditioned areas
  • Make sure your HVAC system is serviced annually if more than ten years old, and on a two to three year basis for systems less than then years old
    Maintenance should always include cleaning the coils and an inspection of the condensate drain and overflow system.
  • Check for places where air may be penetrating your house and either caulk the openings or add a foam seal where you find the problem
    This may include exterior / interior wall receptacles, outside walls at floor, wiring openings, fireplace damper, and / or light fixtures.

Needless to say, we have a lot of weatherstripping to put up, pipes to warm with foam sealant and cracks to caulk. 


If you would like a free energy audit from HSV Utilities, call the number from the website and ask the operator to connect you with the energy department. They'll be able to help you from there. Good luck! 

Postscript: There tend to be many frustrations with utility companies but I have been incredibly impressed with the immediacy of HSV Util. to solve the problems we've had so far. We owe about 98% of this post to Huntsville Utilities and give them the credit for it. We wouldn't have any of this information if it wasn't for their guidance and service. Thank you, HSV Utilities for going above and beyond.

DIY Todd Nest : Hymnal Banner {Come Thou Fount}

After we took down our Christmas decorations, the front entryway seemed so bland. 

Solution: Banner across the glass block wall (can you tell I'm really embracing it these days?)

I wanted to make a banner that would fill the entire wall so it needed to be a phrase with either three words of similar length or three phrases that could be made into one. 

Micah 6:8 stuck out to me. I could have one banner with "act justly", one with "love mercy" and one with "walk humbly with your God". I got super attached to this idea but it wouldn't work out the way I had planned. 

Next idea. Mama E sent us home with a box of old books and hymnals when we came back from our Christmas visit. "Come Thou Fount" had just about the same number of letters, it's one of our favorite hymns and it was the first hymn in sight when I opened up the book. It's a song of redemption and Christ seeking us out while we were but strangers.

It was the obvious choice. 

My original plan was to feed the hymnal pages through the printer but they looked like this (two examples on the left) when they came out. The color didn't hold well and the printer devoured the top of the page (see the wrinkled ink-blotted top). Instead, I decided to print each letter off on cardstock and trace the letters onto the hymn. Time-consuming, yes. But so worth it.

Supplies:

Hymnal Pages (I used 14 pages since I made a flower for one)

Pencil

Black Marker (or whatever color your heart desires)

Hole Punch

Jute

This is the pen and pencil I used...

I printed two letters to one page since the hymnal page is about half of an 8.5" x 11".

Then I went old school and traced the letter silhouette using a sunlit window.

After you have traced your letters, fill them in with a brush pen or marker.

I like to put a decorative paper on the back for more support and to give the banner a finished design. Hole punch the tops and string jute through. If you use only the hymn, be very gentle in stringing the jute!

The banner is a lovely complement to the three palette frames my dad made us!! I still need to put some photos in them but I'm also kind of okay with them being empty for now. 

I used the actual "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" hymn for the first flag and added a paper flower onto it.

What is your favorite hymn?

The Jitney's Journeys Studio : DIY 12-foot Desk



Once again, I was inspired by Young House Love when I saw their DIY 13-foot counter. Originally I really wanted to get the Bedford desk collection from Pottery Barn because I knew I could build on to the collection if I needed to and the color / design was just what I had in mind. Then I remembered my mom had a custom built desk in her office using Lowe's kitchen cabinets so I decided to combine snippets of these ideas into one. 

The wall in my studio was only 12 feet, so we settled on a length of 12 feet instead. We ventured down the road to Lowe's where dad picked through the large pile of lumber and pulled out the best looking 12-foot 2" x 10"s he could find. Rather than assembling several pieces of lumber, we simply bought four pieces of lumber at the full 12' length. JD and dad set up two sawhorses in the garage and placed the pieces of lumber on top, ready for me to sand away. After sanding, I stained the backs and sides of the planks using PolyShades Antique Walnut Satin.


We carried the four planks into my office, setting them on top of a couple of scrap lumber pieces and two large pieces of plastic (since I would be staining the top part). They assembled the four planks by drilling three pieces of plywood into the back. Please note that they are totally rockin' the headlamps.


We carefully flipped the super heavy desktop over and I stained 2 coats on the top side.


We bought three unfinished cabinets from Lowe's for the drawers. Though this wasn't as money-savvy as the Young House Love bottom cabinets from the thrift store, they were WAY more money-savvy than the Pottery Barn cabinets (and more practical too). The middle is an unfinished base sink cabinet and the other two are unfinished drawer base cabinets. I sanded them down a little and painted on a few coats of Dover White (Sherwin Williams) in the garage. 

Our neighbors graciously helped us carry the cabinets into my studio as half of us lifted the desktop while the other half placed the cabinets into their rightful position. {Have I mentioned lately how thankful we are for our neighbors?!}

Mom, Elizabeth (neighbor) and I stood in the back of the room, examining this creation we had assembled. 

"Aren't the cabinets a little tall for an actual desk? Normally desks are a little lower to the ground, right?" asked Elizabeth.

"Ooooh yeah. I forgot to mention that we had to custom order the cabinet bases for my office so they would be short enough for a desk size," laughed mom.

"Aww man," was all I could say at the moment as I began sweating profusely. I really thought we messed up.

But in reality, it's perfect. I stand up anyways when I cut materials for sewing or other projects so it's helped to prevent the back pain I felt from bending over using the other desk. In fact, I prefer standing during most of my work. Somehow it gives me a steadier hand. Plus the desk fits perfectly under the windowsill and couldn't be at a better height for decor purposes.

I'm currently on the hunt for an industrial chair (vintage, please!) for the smaller nook of the desk. 


After everything was set up, I lined the drawers in these lovely Laura Ashley Shelf Liners.


Then I drilled holes for the knobs and handles we picked out from Lowe's. I debated between getting the simple knobs from Lowe's or getting some funky ones from Hobby Lobby, but the threading from the knobs at Hobby Lobby stick out pretty far in desk drawers. I was going for looks and practicality with this studio. As clumsy as I am, I'd have scars on my hands from reaching into the drawers with Hobby Lobby knobs. But they sure are precious! 

I digress.

We settled on these knobs from Lowe's. :)


When the desk was finished, we decorated. 



and paid much attention to detail, flow, inspiration and organization. ;)





Voila! 


What do you think? 



The Jitney's Journeys Studio : Overview & Quick Intro

Here is our finished studio!!


It may look super cluttered to most people, but oh, how I love this space!!! This studio has everything I need to be creative, including tons of storage and wall space of inspiration. 

During our house search, we intentionally looked for a room without carpet that I could make into our studio. This house had a guest bedroom - with tile. It's kind of weird that they would have tile in a bedroom and I'm not sure of many people that would be into that kind of thing - but it was a bonus for us! It's super easy to sweep up burlap and glitter; and paint easily scrapes off the tile. 

When we first moved into this house, I placed my collection of bottles on the built-ins. Then my mom came to visit and the collection was the first thing to go. Fortunately, she suggested they would look better on ledge under the giant window in the studio and I can't imagine this place without them. It's almost like a stained-glass window when the sun shines through. She's a genius.

I painted two coats of "jogging path" from Sherwin Williams on the studio walls to replace the standard beige that covers the walls of the rest of the house. It's a soft gray and the name of the color screams success, right? It's almost like saying, "This room is destined for the jogging path to success." Plus, the gray walls brought out the grays in the tile very nicely. I'm super pleased with the turnout.

We built the desk ourselves (we, meaning JD, dad and myself) and I stained, painted and put up all of the shelving while JD was at work. Surprise!


This space has all of my knick-knacks, leather-working tools, mailbox, crafting supplies and paper. You may notice the sign that says, "Hippies Use Backdoor - no exceptions". I found this sign in college and fell in love. I'll admit that I've been called a hippie (or "crunchy") many times in my life, especially recently. JD and I have been riding our bikes everywhere over the past three weeks, including our weekly grocery trip, so it makes sense for people to have that perception of us, but I digress. It's funny and that's what matters. 


This is my shipping, packaging and inspiration station. We placed the antique door chalkboard against this wall to keep track of projects, birthdays, weddings and babies. Each order I receive is assigned to a basket on the shelf. Now I can set an order aside and work on another one, if needed, and I'll still be organized! This is a new one for me. ;) Then we have bags, envelopes, tissue, etc. for shipping and packaging needs. 

Please note the "Safety First" sign and First Aid box hanging on the wall - both finds from Mom, of course. I store all of my small supplies in the First Aid box, and the Safety First sign is just too cool for words. 


Alas, this is what you see when you walk in the doorway: my sewing nook. Isn't it charming? Bonus: I bought the chair from a thrift store for $3, painted it and recovered it. It's not only pretty, but quite comfy!

I will be posting about each section of the studio over the next week or two. Hope you enjoy the tour!

Increasing Curb Appeal : Garage Door Revamped

I'm going to let you in on a little secret... 

We haven't shown many photos of the exterior of our house. In fact, the exterior was our least favorite part of the house when we saw it. The front boasts a slightly modern / Brady Bunch kind of style which is cool, but very different. 

If we had money growing from our elbows, we would paint the orangey-pink brick and tan accents, knock down the whole entry way / give it a mod-cottage twist and add a completely new garage door. 


Unfortunately, we haven't mastered the money trick yet, so we settled on adding a Black Decorative Hardware Kit to the face of our garage. Once again, my awesome mom came to the rescue and picked up a kit for us before she came to visit last time. *Thanks mom!


It was super easy! All you need is a kit, a drill and some muscles. Great neighbors help too!

{thanks Elizabeth, Alyssa and Ava for helping me measure and handing me the screwdriver when needed. Alyssa and Ava also performed a marvelous ballet recital after we finished. The freshly-decorated garage acted as their backdrop.}

Tip: There are several options for the layout of your hardware. The back of the box has great design ideas! I taped all of the hardware in different designs so that I could figure out which way looked best and decided on this one...



We still have a few additions to make on the front of the house, as our budget allows, but the hardware kit added a great amount of character!

Do you think the hardware kit made a big difference?
What was one of the first things you changed on the exterior of your home? 




DIY : Antique Door Chalkboard and Inspiration Board Tutorial



There are TONS of tutorials on how to take an antique door and transform it into a chalkboard but I've had this baby tucked away for about a year now... and, well, it felt like it was finally time to piece it together and share it with y'all.

So grab your electric sander, paintin' pants and some good tunes.

Let's rock 'n roll. 


Supplies
electric sander
sand paper
several old rags
roller brush /  big-bristled paint brush
paint
antique glaze
[i also used the antique glaze from the Caromal Colours Reclaim line]
painter's tape
chalk


Step 1
Find an awesome antique door for a super low price.
Bring it home and set up shop.
My vision was to have a five panel door so that I could make four panels into chalkboards and create a cute design for the middle panel. My parents actually found this for me at an antique shop about an hour away from Huntsville.

Step 2
Paint the door the color of your choice.
I placed painter's tape over the door knob plate because it would add some contrast to the door.


Step 3
Break out a piece of sandpaper.
Sand the edges, corners and even brush along the surface in some falt areas to create the distressed look.
I love the rich brown of the original paint color that appears under the white.


Step 4
Wipe the debris of the sanded door away with an old, dry cloth.


Step 5
Paint antiquing glaze over the entire surface of the door and wipe away quickly with a damp cloth.
Paint the sanded areas more heavily if you'd like a deeper distressed look.
You can also use a flicking motion with a coarse-bristled brush to create splatters (see the example in the bottom three pics -- I blotted the the splatters so that they looked more natural and not so heavy).


Step 6
Place painter's tape around the edges of your panels.
Paint the magnetic primer on first if you'd like a magnetic chalkboard.
{I used the Rust-oleum Magnetic Primer but it doesn't hold magnets very well...}
Roll on the chalkboard paint (follow directions on the package for drying time and coats).


Step 7
Remove painter's tape after about a day of drying.
If you're lucky, the tape will remove some bits of the painted surface so that it gives even more of a distressed look - and you didn't even have to work for it!
Draw over entire chalkboard surface with a piece of chalk and erase.

Step 8
Nail some hooks and wire on the back, find the perfect place to hang it and...
voila! 




Hammer a decorative upholstery nail onto each side of the door and loop a string of twine around each one.
Hang inspiration pieces (such as buttons, ribbons, paint samples) and there ya have it: inspiration board, chalkboard and gorgeous piece all-in-one!


DIY Blog Design : How to Link Your Blog Buttons {Step-by-Step}

Yesterday we learned how to make blog buttons here

It's only fair to share the secrets of how to link the blog buttons, right?

Put your party hats on, people. It's time to learn...


Let's get started with a website to host your images.

Log into your account. 

If you don't have one, we suggest Flickr.

Hit the upload button (you'll find this at the top of the page).

Click "Choose photos and videos to upload" in the middle of the screen, select your blog button files and open those beauties.

Your page should look a little something like this: 


Now you're ready to rock 'n roll.

STEP 1: 
Because we don't like for our Flickr page to be filled with all of our bloggin' elements, we click the privacy button for these images. Hit "Only visible to you" and "Hidden from public searches" if you'd like to do the same.


Click the "Upload Photos" button at the top of the page and the buttons will begin publishing to your Flickr account. 


STEP 2:
Click on a blog button from your photostream. Hit the "Share" button and choose the "Grab the HTML/BB Code" tab. You will see your code as well as options for the image size. We went with the small size as it measures 200 x 200. Just the size we need for our sidebar.

Click on the code, right click and hit copy.

We're finished with Flickr for now. Let's move to your blogger dashboard. 


STEP 3:
Hit the Layout button on the sidebar menu.

Click "Add a Gadget".

P.S. Sorry for the overwhelming Layout template on the example. It's a little overcrowded...


STEP 4: 
Scroll down and click on the "HTML/JavaScript" button.


STEP 5:
A box will pop up like the above image. 

Paste your code from the Flickr account inside of the box.

We're going to mess around with code a little now...

STEP 6:
Replace the first link with the link to the page you would like the button to direct. For safe measures, delete only what is inside of the first set of quotation marks. (Although, I also like to delete the title gibberish too. If that's not too confusing, go for it!!)

For example, we want our France button to direct our readers to a page that shows all of our travels from France (which we haven't written about yet... note to self: need to get on that).

We replaced "http://www.flickr.com/photos/jitneysjourneys/8509521400/" title="CircleBlogButtonFrance by jitneysjourneys, on Flickr" with 
"http://jitneysjourneys.blogspot.com/search/label/France"

Leave the second link alone, as that is the link of the original image. 

Now we get something that looks a little like this:


Click "Save" on the HTML box.

Click "Save arrangement" on your dashboard.

Boo-yah.

You just linked up a blog button to a website.

You're awesome.

If everything went well for you, carry on, good friend! Otherwise, we've written up a couple of questions that we felt may be brought up among our readers and wrote the answers below. If we don't cover your question(s), write your question in the comment box of this post just in case others have similar inquiries and we will answer to the best of our abilities. :)

***

What is a label?

A label is a word you can use to identify a series of posts. You will find a box in which you can enter labels in the Post Settings toolbar. For example, we would write the word "tutorial" as a label for this post. Other labels could be "DIY" or "how to". On our sidebar, you will find a Tutorials button that will link you to all of our tutorials. The link for that is:
http://jitneysjourneys.blogspot.com/search/label/tutorial

If you have labels for a series of posts, you can use the same link format.
http://YOUR-DOMAIN-NAME-HERE/search/label/NAME-OF-LABEL

Use that link if you want to link a blog button to a series of posts.


***

Why does your new code have the dimensions of 170 x 170?

We decided that we wanted our sidebar to be smaller than 200 x 200 after seeing the finished product so we made the dimensions smaller to fit our ideal blog size. If this happens to you, you can change the dimensions in your code but be sure to keep the sizes consistent to the original dimensions (i.e. changing 200 x 150 would be 100 x 75 if you wanted to decrease the size by half).


DIY Blog Design : How to Make a Blog Button {Step-by-Step}

Today we're going over....



Are you pumped?

Let's do this.

**You can use any photo editing program but I believe Photoshop is the easiest - as well as the most convenient - tool when trying to make more than one blog button in the same format.

STEP 1: Getting Started
Open a new document in Photoshop. 
I made the dimensions 500 px x 500 px with a transparent background.
We will change the image size before posting the image but this size is much easier to work with.


STEP 2: Create an Ellipse
Click on the ellipse tool and create an ellipse by pulling from the top corner to the bottom corner, forming a perfect circle. Be sure to hold down the Shift button while creating the circle for perfect measurements on all sides.




STEP 3 : Place an Image
File  > Place 
Choose the main image you would like to use for your button.




STEP 4 : Size / Adjust the Image




STEP 5 : Grab & Pull
Grab and pull the ellipse shape into the same layer as the placed image. 

STEP 6 : Pioneer Woman Action
I use the "Seventies" action from the Pioneer Woman to add some vintage love on my blog button images. You can download her incredible group of Photoshop Actions here
If your actions window doesn't appear, click Window > Actions. After you download the actions, click the action you'd like to use and hit the Play button.





STEP 7 : Erase Background
Click on the Background Eraser Tool.
Select the Shape layer (unlike the screenshot below - whoops!).
Erase AWAY!! 



STEP 9 : Or Delete the Shape Entirely
I feel ridiculous after doing that step. You can delete the shape entirely and have the same outcome. 
But erasing is just so much fun...



STEP 9 : Add Banner
Find a banner image online and download (or you can make your own). 
File  > Place the banner. 



STEP 10 : Color Overlay
Pull up your color scheme in a different window so that you can still see the file you're working on AND the color palette. 
Double click on your banner layer.
Click on Color Overlay. 
Click on the color block to change the color of the banner.




STEP 11 : Change Banner Color
Click on the eyedropper tool.
Click a color of choice from your color palette with the eyedropper tool.
Click OK.
There's no need to copy the number. I'm not really sure why I put that there.



STEP 12 : Add Text
Click on the Type Tool.
Add text, change the size and have fun with font options.



STEP 13 : Align Layers
Maybe I don't know my way around PicMonkey enough yet, but this is a big reason I choose Photoshop over other photo editing programs.
Select the text and banner layers (hold down Command while clicking on the layers). 
Click Align Horizontal Centers. 
Boom. 
No eyeballin' here.

**Now is the best time to save this document. We will use this document as our Blog Button Template.
File > Save As > "Blog Button Template"
Save as a Photoshop (.psd) file. 


STEP 14 : Resize Image
Let's make this image the perfect size for your blog. 
I like 200 px x 200 px for a toolbar size. You may want to go smaller though. Just make sure that the width and height are the same sizes. 

Click OK. 
File > Save As > "Blog Button {Image Name}"
For example, I saved my image as "Blog Button France".
Save as a .png file.


STEP 15 : Create More Buttons
Guess what!? 
You don't have to start a new document in order to make more buttons. 
Open your Blog Button Template again.
File > Place a new button image.
This image should be a layer in between the first image and action. Your Layers box should look a little something like this: 


Pull the circle shape into the new image layer. Click the eye on the first image layer so that you won't be able to see that image any longer.
Hopefully you have the image sitting perfectly in the circle now.
Change the text in the banner.

File > Save As > "Blog Button {New Image Name}"
For example, I saved my image as "Blog Button Bungalow".
Save as a .png file.

Voila! 

You just made two blog buttons. 
Whoop whoop!
Now you have the ability to make as many as you'd like!!

Come back tomorrow to see how we will place the buttons onto our blog.


We hope you enjoyed this tutorial - and that is was super thorough and helpful!
We aren't professional designers by any means but I love playing around with our blog's appearance on a frequent basis. Please let us know if you have any questions and we will try our best to help!


DIY Blog Design : How to Pick a Color Palette


Ok. So neither JD nor myself are professional graphic designers, by any means. However, I looove learning how to spice up our blog design on a very consistent basis. 

Anytime JD is away on travel or when we're off traveling somewhere together for his job, I revamp our blog design in some way or another. Designing helps ease my anxiety and makes the time fly by as I wait to have my husband back in my arms.


[Side note: Can you tell from our new design that JD has been out of the country for three weeks!? Needless to say, I really really missed him. I spent the three weeks with my parents crafting, leather-working and helping to set up my mom's booth at The Cotton Depot. It was a beautiful time with our amazing friends and family in Georgia, but I still really missed my husband. He flew in Saturday where I greeted him with this painting at the airport. But more on that another day.]



It would be so much easier if I bought a template from one of the awesome professional designers on Etsy, but I'm a stubborn DIY-gal. 

A very stubborn DIY-gal... And I married a very stubborn DIY-guy. 

We're not stubborn in the sense of close-minded, rather in the sense of being frugal and wanting to do everything with our own hands.

So it only makes sense to try our hands at designing our own blog... right?

Now, let's get to chattin' about a main element of design.

Color.

It's crucial to design.
Absolutely crucial.
So choose wisely.
For our newly revamped blog design, I picked "Sparkled Hues" from Design Seeds.


I wanted a color palette that would incorporate the colors of spring but could possibly carry into summer, if needed. So we have Easter blues as well as a Fourth of July red, white and blue. I love the pop of red but only implement it in smaller places on our blog.

Color schemes are so wonderful and inspiring that I made a Pinterest board here. Color palettes are perfect for anything design... websites, home decor, sewing projects, weddings, you name it!

You want to choose a palette with four to six complementing colors to integrate into your design.

Here's a great tutorial from The Mother Huddle on how to create your own color palette using a photo with PicMonkey.

What do you think of this palette? 
What are your favorite colors to work with?




DIY : Exhilarating Bath Salt Soak


Need a quick last-minute gift idea? 

This bath salt recipe is easier than spreading peanut butter on crackers. 

Grab a carton of Epsom Salt, some food coloring and your favorite essential oils (use the ones from your sugar scrub or try a new scent).


I'll be using my go-to essential oils: Lavender and Eucalyptus.


These gel food colors from Wilton have lovely colors. I used the green (left box), and teal and purple (right box). You can use whichever colors you'd like though! Get creative. :)


Step 1: Measure out how much Epsom salt you will need in correlation to the jar you will be putting the bath salts into. I used these half pint jelly jars, so I filled one up to the lid and poured it into a big bowl. (I used three jars for the green food coloring, so I did this three times.)


Step 2: Add the food coloring. I started out with a few drops but thought it was too light green.... so then I added a few many more drops.


Step 3: Add a few drops of the essential oil...


Step 4: Mix the salts, food coloring and essential oil together.

Step 5: I decided the eucalyptus smelled too "VapoRubbish" for my liking, so I added some lavender to even out the aroma. 


Step 6: Smellin' awesome and lookin' good... but still too light green. So then I added some teal food coloring to the lime green salts to add depth. 


Step 7: Wipe out your bowl and repeat the steps with the lavender and purple food coloring. 



Step 8: Perfection. :) Put a lid on it and tie a pretty bow around the lid. 
Sprinkle a tablespoon of bath salts in a warm bath. Inhale. Exhale. Soak. :)