Make Your Website Your Own: My Top 3 Beginner Blogger Help Sites

So clearly you can tell that I love to DIY, but I only recently discovered how much I would like to DIY my own website! Unique web designs can be so expensive, so I’ve been on the hunt to learn as much as I can do it myself. It’s still a work in progress (this is QUITE the learning curve for me) but I’ve already discovered so much!

I thought I’d share the love and let you in on the three sites that have helped me the most.

1. Photo Editing: PicMonkey

Not only are web designs expensive, but so are the programs behind them. If you don’t want to shell out for a Photoshop program and would prefer something user-friendly, I would highly suggest Pic Monkey.

I often use their online platform to edit photos, add in text or banners, or even to create a logo. It’s very easy to use, and it’s surprisingly powerful. The only downside I find is that you need to keep the  browser open to edit a photo. That means, if I’m working on a logo, I can only make changes with the browser open. Once I close it, I need to start fresh. Overall though, great program for basic editing needs!

 

 

2. Young House Love’s Blogging Tips Section

(This is their awesome book! If you’ve never heard of it, I’d highly recommend it.)

I find reading through experienced bloggers’ blog help sections incredibly helpful. It doesn’t necessarily have to be YHL, but they’re one of my favourites (and I’m clearly not alone, with all the comments they get on a daily basis!). They post on a wide variety of blog topics, from coding to how long a post actually takes to be published. I never realized how time consuming blogging truly was until I started my own…. Check out some of your favourite established blogs and see what helpful insight they might have to offer.

And the site that inspired this post…

 

 

3.  Don’t Fear the Internet: Coding Basics

Unlike wordpress.com, wordpress.org offers the possibility to design to your heart’s content. I definitely wanted this option, as my current site leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. However, to get what you want, you need to learn to… CODE. Eek!

Armed with only a tiny bit of html knowledge I learned a few months ago, I was not prepared to take on designing a new website with my own coding. Thankfully, I have a friend helping me out, but I want to understand the behind the scenes elements of a website myself. This site offers a great foundation and is done all through video. Seeing a visual demonstration of what coding accomplishes helped me immeasurably. Now I know things like, the difference between html and css. (You may have an idea, but I honestly was clueless until this weekend.)

This site offers a very simple and easy to understand format. Unfortunately, they have a limited selection of videos… I guess the writers behind it got busy. If you don’t have any background in coding and want to learn, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

 

There you are! My top three blogging help sites. Be sure to check back Wednesday for my next home project!

Tips to Add Extra Kitchen Storage (and Salvaged Shelves Reveal!)

Back in March, I blogged about how upcycled some worn pieces of wood for my future salvaged shelves. I thought they would look nice, but I’m thrilled with the results!

Salvaged open shelving

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have a mini apartment sized kitchen: 7 by 7. This does not give me much to work with (especially since I’ve been downsizing from the much larger kitchen we had in our last place), and when we unpacked our kitchen items, it all ended up looking like this…

Kitchen before Kitchen Before

Yikes.

With little cabinet storage to spare, extras ended up above the shelves or onto precious counter space. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful to create more space:

1. Add a cart. (Admittedly, you can see snippets of it in the before pictures.)

Ikea Bekvam Cart

It’s been said before, but that’s because it works! We got this one off Craigslist for $40, but it’s originally from Ikea for $70. (I probably should have bargained a bit more for this one, but apparently I was feeling carefree that day…) The colour isn’t my favourite so I might paint it eventually, but it’s fine for now.

Not only does it add counter space, it holds some small appliances, a little tool box, and our kitchen linens. As a bonus, it’s a perfect fit for my stool! Yes, being 5’3, I own a step stool, and it’s so worth it.

2. Make use of vertical space.

Crate and barrel baskets

There is often a ton of wasted space above kitchen cabinets, and I needed to make use of every square inch. I had used it as you can see in the before picture, but all those exposed boxes were a definite eye sore.

Instead, I bought these baskets from Crate and Barrel. I love the warmth and texture they bring in (not to mention how well the complement the shelves!), and having three of the same baskets creates a clean uniform look.

And of course…

3. Hang open shelving.

Salvaged open shelving

Not only is it functional, it’s a lovely way to display your dishes and favourite pieces. I’m especially fond of the handmade blue and white pottery I bought down in Mexico.

Open shelving  Open shelvingOpen shelving

Again, here’s the before:

Kitchen Before

And after progress!

Salvaged open shelving

Let’s take a look at the to do list:

  • Replace hardware
  • Add one or two new rugs (to cover up our ugly lino) : 1/2
  • Paint an accent wall in the eating area
  • Make a bench and coordinating cushions
  • Hang salvaged wood shelves 
  • Decide on artwork (if needed)
  • Create storage systems

Progress for sure, but still work to be done. I’m not sure if I’ll still feel the need to replace the hardware and make a bench, but we’ll see. Enjoy the process, right..?

What about you? Any projects you’ve been dying to finish? Anything you’ve envisioned and been over-the-moon about the results?

5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Pet Friendly Rental: The Showing

House hunting update: I’m thrilled! I can’t believe it only took one day of viewings (though all told we looked at 7 different units) to find our new apartment. My mind is bursting with new ideas and inspiration, which I will fill you in on soon! Plenty of good posts to come, but clearly, I’ll be in moving mode for the next few weeks. I’ll still be blogging, but no big DIY projects on the horizon until we’re settling in.

I wanted to share with you some tips I’ve learned along over the last few years of renting, this time when it’s time to actually see the space.

1. Dress like it’s an interview, because it is one. I don’t mean show up in a suit, but more along the lines of what you would wear to meet a significant other’s mother. I’ve been to a lot of showings (especially because I’m a house geek and enjoy going, be it for me, for my friends, the open house down the street… anyway) and I’m always shocked by the number of people who either don’t realize this, or simply don’t care. You usually have about fifteen minutes tops to impress the landlord, so first impressions count. Look like a slob? Guess how they’ll assume you’ll treat their space. Styled to be dark and edgy? Wonder if they’ll feel they can trust you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be yourself, just show your best side. Dress to show that you’re mature, responsible and approachable, not that you’re hoping to start a grow-op in their suite.

And, following that point…

2. Impress the landlord. Show up on time or early (I’m always early for interviews and showings, but as my friends can attest to, pretty much ends there), be prepared with application information (reference numbers, past addresses etc.), pens for forms, pertinent questions and so on. It’s especially crucial, at open houses, to make a connection. Try your best to chat with the landlord so that they’ll remember you when looking through your file later on. Again, I’ve seen people browse around quietly, who look interested in the place, but don’t try to get a word in. I know it feels pushy, but it allows them to get to know you, at least the bare minimum.

3. Realize the advantages to having a pet. This point is especially for your own peace of mind when going to a showing. I mentioned in my last post, tips before the viewing, bring your pet along to show what a responsible pet owner you are (and make sure you walk your dog like crazy so that they’re not too over the top!). I always thought of the disadvantages having a dog would bring as a tenant: they’re often dirty, smelly, loud, and you can’t predict what damage they might inflict on your home. That being said, their presence can prove how established you are, especially if you’re an unmarried couple. In general, a pet owner is at the settling down point in their life, and past the “let’s party and get wasted” stage. It also shows that you and your partner are committed to one another and most likely won’t break up (and break the lease) tomorrow.

4. Take photos for later reference. Be respectful and ask first of course, but having photos can help you remember a place once you leave. Obvious perhaps, but I can’t tell you how much having pictures helped me to distinguish one from the other in my memory after seeing all those apartments yesterday.

5. Rate the rentalIn my last post, I mentioned how helpful we’ve found writing down a physical list of qualities we were searching for in a new home. We then used this list to create a “Rate Your Rental” page. Here we scored each element of the potential place as soon as we left, when it was fresh in our minds. Here is our version:

Rate Your Rental Check List

This one is based on our wish list, but your welcome to use it for yourself, or tweak it to whatever fits for you and your family. If you’d like a copy in Word, feel free to comment and I’d be happy to send it to you.

There you have it, the hints that have helped me find a new space to call home. What about you? Any funny showing stories? Tips you’d like to share?

5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Pet Friendly Rental: Before the Viewing

Surrounded by competition, finding a rental in the city a challenge. Finding a pet friendly unit hoists it up to an even tougher level. Despite our original misgivings, Shaun and I have secured five whole viewings tomorrow! Here are some tips to finding a pet friendly rental.

5 Tips to a Pet Friendly Rental

Before the viewing:

1. Make a wishlist. If you live in a city like mine, places in your ideal neighbourhood will have number of potential tenants lined up around the corner to see it. Sometimes, if the landlord is a “show me the money” kind of person, you’ll need to make an on-the-spot decision to take a place or risk giving it up to the next renter. To help make the right choice, prep beforehand. Write up a wishlist of the most important elements you would like in a place. I find it even better to list them in terms of importance as well, so you know what you can and can’t live without. You can see ours here. That way, you can size it up against your wishlist, and have a better idea if it fits what you truly need, and you won’t sucked in to the if-we-don’t-do-this-now-we’ll-lose-it in the moment mentality.

2. Look through all listings. Craigslist gives you the option of searching for pet friendly units:

Craigslist screen1

Contrary to common sense, if you’re having trouble finding a pet-friendly apartment, don’t click this section. You’ll have a list of all places, most of which will say “no pets”. However, a few places won’t specify whether or not they accept your extra family member. If you’re willing to take the time, it’s worth looking through all those listings. If you see one that doesn’t mention anything about a cat or a dog, call the landlord to see if they’re open to the idea. We’ve found a large portion of them will be, but don’t really want everyone and their dog (I am such a geek with that pun, don’t mind me) to show up at their door, so they don’t list it. They may be willing to meet with you, and you can use the opportunity to show them how well your pet will treat their place.

3. Show the landlord that you are a responsible pet owner. Many landlords don’t allow pets because they’re worried their place will be destroyed. If they’re weary, let them know what lengths you’ll go to to protect their rental. For example, to protect a hardwood floor, large area rugs are a great option, and also act as a barrier to muffle the sound in the apartment below. Offer to bring your cat, and especially your dog, to the showing. This will give the landlord a chance to see how well behaved and quiet (and perfect) your pet is. 

4. Look past the ad for potential. I’m a visual person. Before Shaun and I moved in together, I judged a rental harshly by the quality of its photos. I would unequivocally cut out any posts without images, and any photos that didn’t appeal to me. Shaun has expanded my horizons on this one, which is even more important now that we have Bali.

For example, when we looked for our last place, we were in Indonesia. To say our search from overseas was a challenge is an understatement.  We saw this place (which we eventually ended up taking) over and over, but no one seemed to want it. Ironically, today, I came across his same ad for another unit in the building. He used this photo of the living room:

Landlord photo

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Yes, you can see the hardwood, but you can’t see any of the character, the quality of the wood, and how bright the place is. Contrast that to the photo we used when we went to sublet it (because we wanted to get our puppy of course):

Our living room

We literally had to take it down within two hours because we got so much response. It’s not even a staged photo! Often you need to look for the potential in an ad and see the place in person. This can work in your favour because a lot of people are like me out there. They ignore ugly photos. Use this to your advantage, and it will mean less competition for you! In our case, we even had enough leverage to score a cheaper price.

5. Respond quickly. Again, I have to say it, Craigslist is competitive. Shaun is a regular  Craigslister and noticed just HOW MANY responses you’ll get for a decent listing. You’ll have the most luck of getting an answer if you are one of the first people to respond to the ad, so check often and respond as soon as you can. Plus, if there are too many responses, the landlord will take it down, but you’ll have made it into the running.

Hope this helps your search! If you have any other tips that have helped you along, I’d love to hear them!