Rental Improvement

You haven’t seen much of me on social media lately, and there’s a good reason why. I’ve been elbow-deep in DIY projects and blog design projects.


hanging baskets hanging baskets front

I love hanging flower baskets on a porch. It cheers up the space while adding a pop of color. Let’s hope I don’t forget to water these this year. Oops.

The following is the guest bedroom’s progress.

room before

room progess and paint on hands

I wish my hands were the only places the paint found its way onto. I had paint ‘freckles’ and ‘moles’ on my face and arms. Lovely.

room after

Much brighter and cleaner.

I must be crazy for going through all of this for just a rental property, but the walls here were driving me insane. The house looks nice at first glance, but after a while, the things I thought I was okay with starting bugging me more and more. The carpeting was stained as well as the walls.

Getting our landlord to fork over the cash for paint and new carpeting was like pulling teeth. I will never understand people who have a house and don’t maintain it. Even with me doing all the painting, he still complained about the cost of the paint. And it was 40% off. Seriously? Stop being so cheap!

I used Sherwin Williams’ ‘Panda White’ in this room. I think it brightens it up so much! I was painting all day yesterday and will probably start on my office tonight. THAT room is a disaster. Di-sas-ter. It’s why I haven’t had any office makeover reveals on the blog.

With all the drama behind my IKEA desk (that I am STILL waiting on a refund for!) and the condition of the room, it hasn’t been the cheerful blogging and designing space that I’ve wanted. As soon as that baby is brightened like this room I’ll update it.

Does spring time bring out the cleaning / DIY / renovating nutcase in you?

How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress

You may be wondering what in the world is a  ‘gravatar’. I’ve heard of an avatar and its beautiful blue skin and the beautiful world it lives in. What’s that? No, I’m not talking about the James Cameron film AvatarA Gravatar is a play on words for the term “Globally Recognized Avatar.”

Still lost? I’m talking about those little pictures next to your name when you comment on a WordPress blog. If you’ve never set up an account, your pretty face won’t appear next to your awesome comment. On my blog, I’ve assigned pretty peonies as the default image rather than the anonymous asexual humanoid.

How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress | Northern Belle Diaries

You’re welcome.

However I, along with the rest of the bloggers I know, like to put a face to names. It also helps build the blogging community. So this tutorial was born!

This tutorial is not solely for WordPress bloggers. This tutorial is also for bloggers on other platforms who frequently comment on WordPress blogs and would like their pretty face and blog details next to their fabulous comments.

Side note: I am a huge supporter of the native commenting system of WordPress (aided by the link-loving actions of the CommentLuv plugin). While many love the Disqus commenting platform, it is a personal preference of mine to not use it, particularly if you are on the Blogger platform and are thinking of later on moving to WordPress.

Step One
You will need to create a account. You will not be creating a new blog, although creating the account certainly gives you the ability to do so. You are only creating it so that your comments, when using the e-mail address associated with this account, show your photo.

This is NOT like creating a Disqus or Google/Blogger account, as you will NOT have to sign in to in order to comment. vs
This is different than the big and mighty that the self-hosted folks use. Self-hosted WordPress blogs use the open-source software (called and install it on a server they pay a web-host for, hence the term ‘self-host.’ is the free blogging platform that requires no web-hosting costs, and just like Google’s Blogger platform, it’s free. Free is always good, right? It usually is, but since it’s a free service on a great piece of software, you’re limited in what you can do with it, including customizing your design (unless you pay $30 annually for CSS access) and not being allowed to monetize your blog.
I know it’s a little confusing so I thought I’d clear that up. By the way, I started blogging on, moved to Blogger, and am now on [self-hosted] Of the three, self-hosted is my favorite!

Step Two
After you create your account, click on “Settings” where you will enter your information.

How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress| Northern Belle Diaries

Step Three
Enter your information, and then click on the link to create your Gravatar profile.
How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress | Northern Belle Diaries

Step Four
Log in using the option to ‘log in with’ and, ignoring the fact that I already have created several different Gravatars, select ‘add a new picture.’

How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress | Northern Belle Diaries


Choose your method of image importing. I chose to upload an image from my computer.

How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPressHow to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress | Northern Belle Diaries

Step Five
Select your image and crop it.
How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress | Northern Belle Diaries

Step Six
So you have your image all cropped and ready to go, and then you’re at this stage. What the what?

How to Create a Gravatar Image for WordPress | Northern Belle Diaries

This is the part where it’s almost like choosing between the red pill and the blue pill, except there are 4 different colors. Suffice it to say, this is one time where I would just play it safe and choose a G-rated image. Besides, you don’t want to associate your content with an X rating, or litter someone’s blog with X-rated images, am I right? Right? Right?

It’s time to enjoy that new image. Go and comment on blogs!

Things I probably shouldn’t admit

Some days I blog struggle. As in, I don’t know what to post on here. This is not including the days I life struggle. Did I just make that up? Nevermind, just roll with it.

It doesn’t matter that I always have about 40 drafts tucked away waiting for a rainy day. Sometimes your drafts don’t match your mood. (Kudos to those of you who have editorial calendars. My brain isn’t sophisticated or disciplined enough for that). And when the last post published on here was two days ago, I start feeling like my blog is looking like the neglected red-headed child and some emergency TLC in the form of chicken soup and Disney movies is called for. And times like these when I still don’t know what to write, I tell myself, “Self, just go write.”

So, given the fact that I didn’t plan anything spectacular for today, this is all you’re gonna get. A confessional type of post with anecdotes.

twilight city lights

The older I get the more of a homebody I become. And it scares me.

Kind of.

The thought of staying out past 11pm seriously brings a sudden onslaught of a) cramps, b) nausea, or c) a headache. I’m not a young chicken anymore. This is both good and bad. No wonder the only people at bars before 11pm were “old” when I went out in college. Who in their right mind would want to stay out till closing time at a bar? Seriously?

Teachers sometimes give up.

You know how you sometimes hated going to school? Well, let me let you in on a little secret: sometimes teachers hate going to school, too.

I taught music at an inner-city high school. My school had a crazy block schedule and my dreams of having multiple chorus classes were shattered. My classes didn’t care to learn about Mozart (shocker) or anything that wasn’t Motown or rap or R&B. Inevitably, the days where I had spectacular and engaging lesson plans that required group activities, the lesson was spoiled because not enough students were there.

So when there were field trips, or other events where 50% or more of my class was gone, I played a movie. But really, as a music teacher, the world was my oyster because just about every movie has music. So if an administrator popped in and asked if this was “educational” I shamelessly nodded yes (see also: lied through my teeth hoping they wouldn’t call my bluff and ask to see my nonexistent lesson plan). Worst teacher ever? More like exasperated.

Blogging can make you feel like a failure.

I’m just kidding. Ish.

I always want to be prepared and have well-put together blog posts, like my phone numbers one, tax tips for bloggers, breaking up with friends, or posts where I talk about if BlogHer is actually worth it. (It is, by the way). But then you have posts like this one that become fodder for hate sites.

Sometimes you hit them out of the park. Other times they blow up in your face.

I am progressively becoming a worse driver.

I confess that for the life of me I cannot figure out the four way stop.

Right of way…does that mean the person to my right has the right of way? Don’t count on me to go first. I’ll just wait until I’m the last person in the intersection pissing everyone else off in the process.

You know what drives me up a wall? When the person who I think has the right of way motioning for me to go before them. Then we do this awkward exchange of “No you go first”  at the intersection, and inevitably both of us try to go at the same time. This just confuses me further. Stop. Just, stop.

I am deathly afraid of hydroplaning.

Raining? You’ll find me driving like an idiot, avoiding the slickest portions of the road. Unfortunately that means the worn-in paths on the asphalt aka where you’re supposed to drive. Even if that means straddling the lane lines or driving right on the double yellow line. Puddle? Don’t even count on me driving through it. Don’t judge me. I’ve hydroplaned so many times in all sorts of cars that my life has been in real honest-to-God danger.

I am deathly afraid of curves at high speeds.

It only takes one bad car to instill the irrational fear that you’ll tip over and fall into bodies of water or tumble down ravines. For me, it was that old Suzuki Vitara. Its center of gravity was higher off the ground, and any turn made while driving faster than 25mph made the car feel like it was toppling over.

I’m starting to accept that I’ll never have a Hollywood figure

I’d love to have Michelle Obama’s arms. I’d love to have Jen Selter’s booty.  I’d love to have Jillian Michael’s abs. But the reality is that I’m just too freaking lazy. I want to take a magic pill and make it happen. (Seriously, I’ll buy stocks in that miracle product if it’s ever made).

I’m still young enough to achieve one. I don’t have kids and I know I really shouldn’t have an excuse. I know that I’ll hate myself one day when I have kids and wonder why I wasted all the free time I used to have. But for right now, designing blogs and writing from time to time on my blog is where I’m at.

And I’m okay with that….

…and I think this is a good place to stop because otherwise you’ll get a rambling novel of nonsense from me.