— Natalie Martinez


Josie, Sarah, Brandon, Clark Howard, & Natalie

I finally got around to building with the Atlanta Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. After years of saying I was going to do it, all it took was a friend and blog follower, Sarah Ellis, owner of American Sun Control, to finally motivate me to do it. Home building is more fun when you’re with friends, right?

We were a part of Winter Build 2014, a huge home building project sponsored by consumer advocate Clark Howard. (He’s pretty popular on the radio with his syndicated program, which is why we had to get our pic with the local celebrity.) Hundreds of volunteers descended on a small development in an Atlanta West End neighborhood. We gathered at 8am and signed our waivers, were divided into groups, had a safety meeting, and got to work. Chili’s provided lunch and then we were back at it until 4pm.

I spent the day teamed up with Josie. We worked with another volunteer, John, and installed security screens on the bedrooms and then we installed door hardware throughout the home. I’ve never had to install door hardware and everything that you could possibly do wrong, I managed to do. I put the lock in backwards, the face place upside down or got the whole thing installed and then tested the knob and the lock didn’t catch and retract. Awesome. Let’s just say, I am a pro now and can install your hardware!

Here is a picture of the home we helped build.



Don’t let the beautiful blue skies fool you. It was a cold day and Brandon had no reservations about working outside all day long.

Ten years ago Habitat for Humanity Atlanta committed to making their houses greener and more energy efficient to create even better long-term value for their clients. The last thing I want to mention is that not many intown builders can actually say they build to EarthCraft standards for any of their homes, let alone the houses with the least amount of profit. It’s good to see that Atlanta’s largest affordable single-family housing developer is mindful of natural resource consumption and the impact construction has on the environment.

A few months have passed since I worked on this build in February and a few things still stand out. First, I was impressed by all of the volunteers. Everyone had such a positive attitude and rolled up their sleeves and did whatever was asked of them. Second, the homeowner was also very engaged and appreciative. She worked harder than the rest of us building her home day after day, week after week for an affordable home and low interest mortgage. Third, I still feel grateful for the chance to build with friends and for a great organization offering homeowner at an affordable price to good people willing to put in the time. Helping to make homeownership available to good people is something to be proud of.  Not very many us can actually say we have built our own house and this woman can.

Habitat-for-Humanity-Atlanta-logo “Atlanta Habitat is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and to making adequate, affordable housing a matter of conscience and action.  In 1983, a group of concerned and motivated individuals in Atlanta founded a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity.  Atlanta Habitat is now one of the largest affordable single-family housing developers in the city, and is one of the largest of 1,500 affiliates of Habitat for Humanity in the United States.” Learn more about Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.

Have you built with Habitat for Humanity? What was your experience like?



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Here’s the Fayetteville House! Like most houses I design with intown Atlanta builders, it’s a spacious 4 BR/3 BA home with an open floor plan. This one is steps away from the Oakhurst Square in the popular Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur. It’s a desirable location because it’s a great walkable community with exceptional schools, so we’re not surprised that potential buyers are already circling, waiting to make an offer.

Yesterday we met with our engineer and reviewed the latest code updates about wall bracing.  (For you architects and builders out there, I’m talking about the huge revision to section R602.10 of the 2012 International Residential Code.)

If you’re like me and enjoy watching the construction progress, keep up with my Instagram feed for the latest construction photos. Because so many projects are at different stages,  social media is really the best way to keep up with it all. Recently I’ve been sharing the construction progress on Instagram using the hashtags  #FayettevilleHouse and #DaleHouse.

As I mentioned in this post, it’s been a great week already. Two houses that I designed last year are sold, two more are under construction, and two more are being designed right now.

I just started my own company, but I may need a design partner very soon. I’m very grateful to be busy and bummed that I have to turn work away because I don’t have the time!


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I’m excited to finally see 921 Emerson Ave finally for sale! The builders just finished up this past week and the realtor is getting ready to list this 4BR / 3 BA home for $479,900 in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of Atlanta.

For those of you on Instagram, I’ve been sharing photos of the construction progress over the past four months. You can see more on my Instagram profile and also with the hashtag #EmersonHouse.

This weekend, real estate agent Kathleen Sickeler will hosting an Open House from 2-5pm.  I plan on showing up during the Open House to see what it looks like staged. Please stop by if you have time and check out the craftsmanship for yourself.

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I stopped by the house earlier this week and the stager was busy bringing furniture in. Here are a few snapshots of the interior. I’ll be sharing the professional photos soon.

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Thank you to my friend and fellow architect, Erin Graves, for completing and putting together a beautiful set of construction documents.

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DECEMBER 9, 2013

We had our first visit with Santa. We had been prepping Elena for her encounter with Santa.  “Have you thought about what you want for Christmas?”

We headed over to a breakfast where Santa was hanging out with friends. Elena’s jaw dropped when we walked in the room and she saw him sitting there talking with children.  She climbed on his lap and said, “Santa, I want a puppy and a coffee pot!” Puppy? Oh, no! And she wants a chicken that lays eggs!

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DECEMBER 8, 2013

It’s hard to get anything past this little girl of mine!

Let’s just say she’s learning about why baby Jesus was born in a manger. At 3 1/2, she’s old enough to understand and piece together the story of his birth.  This little manger scene that I’ve had since college makes a December Daily appearance every year.  This year when Elena and I turned on the light and she was curious about a few things and started to ask questions.

Apparently, they left Joseph out of the scene! (Is this common? I have no idea, but he’s not there.)  So, the story of today is another quote from Elena, ” Why is he in there? Where is his daddy?”

His Daddy is the light everywhere and all around us and in our hearts.

That’s not a new concept, but I think she’s starting to get it.

If you want to read our prayer from last year about trying to be the light, you can check out my December 6th 2012 post. Elena was 2 1/2 and had a better idea about how to just be light. You don’t have to try. You just have to be.



I’m linking up with the Mom Creative’s Weekly Series called Project Life Tuesday.

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DECEMBER 7, 2013

Have you guys seen these gingerbread house stamps? They’re perfect for our holiday cards this year.

Yesterday we we addressed and stamped all of the envelopes and today I got around to writing and printing out our annual Christmas letter.  We stuffed the envelopes and added a holiday photo of the cutest person living in the house.  The envelopes are stacked next to the front door and are ready to be mailed out tomorrow and head all over the world.




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This year I am documenting the days leading up to Christmas in a simple album with Project Life photo pages.  This is my third year doing December Daily and I’ve streamlined the process even more than last year.  After looking high and low for simple number cards, I decided to just make my own in Photoshop.

These 3×4 number cards are free.

I made dark gray numbers (1-31) on a white background plus a few Christmas carol quotes that are especially meaningful to me. If you use these journaling cards, please tag me on Instagram. I would love to see what you’re making with my cards.

Printing Instructions:

When you click on the link below a window will open up with a 6-page PDF. Print the pages directly from your web browser. Make sure your print settings are to print “100%.” Do not “scale to fit” or “fit to page”.  You may have to print with the orientation set to “Landscape.”


Download my Number Cards and Christmas Carol Quotes

These are simple and versatile enough to use for your December Daily project or in any other numbered documentation throughout the year.

December Daily + Project Life Link Up:

I promise to help keep you motivated if you’ll do the same for me. Stop back in December and participate in my special December Daily + Project Life link up. It’s a special link up for those documenting our December days with a Project Life system or Snap album with 3×4 and 4×6 photo pocket pages.

Stay up-to-date:

December is a busy month on NatalieMartinez.com ! Stay up-to-date on my December Daily progress by following me on Bloglovin‘ or signing up for my blog posts to be delivered to your email inbox.

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As the popular quote about children goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” There aren’t longer days than those in mid-December when you’re half way through documenting every day of the month, but the popular December Daily project by Ali Edwards is worth following and participating in this year.

I’m a full-time working mom, but this is a special project that I make time to do every December. I’m about to show you that this project doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  I’m sharing this approach because it worked so well last year that I’m doing it again but with some sparkle. ( You can see my overview and foundation pages from last year here. I also have an archive of my 2012 December Daily posts here .)

A typical Project Life page will contain two December days.  Half of a page protector is reserved for each day, which includes one 4×6 photo + 1 3×4 filler card + 1 3×4 date card + 4×6 journaling card.


This allows the album to expand or contract based on what’s happening on that particular day. So, if I have the time or want to feature something special on a single day, it would look something like this:


If I have fewer pictures or miss a day all together, I can remove the date card and not worry about it. You can see more examples of how pages would look if you have four days to a page or if you skipped a day here.

If you’re busy and don’t feel like you have anything to document, a December Daily tip for you is to just use a quote. Write it out by hand or type it up. That’s what I do when Elena says something cute or if I don’t have time.



So, just stick to one story or one quote per day, use filler cards and paper, and add one photo and you’re done.

2013 Supplies.

Project Life album + Project Life Page Protectors Design A

Various papers in gray, white, and gold from  Paper-Source.

Candy cane striped paper from Michaels.

I made the date cards in Photoshop. The font is Didot.

Embellishments from my stash.

And, these digital journaling cards from Oh Snap Boutique! Click on the images below to purchase and download each set.



More December Daily inspiration.

I’d love to see what you’re doing to celebrate and honor your family this Christmas, so stop back in December. I’ll be posting my progress every few days and will host a link up for those of you using the same December Daily / Project Life approach.

Check out my December Daily + Project Life board on Pinterest.

Follow me on Instagram for more sneak peeks and other ideas that I will tag as #DecemberDailyTip


It’s Tuesday, which means I’m linking up with the Mom Creative‘s “Project Life Tuesday.”





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This may be my only blog post about what I put on my feet.  I’m neither a fashionista nor a shoe addict, but my toddler is a little bit of both.  I don’t know where she gets it because it’s not from me.  She has her own sense of style and insists on choosing her outfits everyday, usually combining bold stripes with a floral top. One teacher actually said to me once, “Baby Gap should take note of your trendsetter.” She’s not really trendsetting, but she is confident wearing a skirt with sneakers so she can outrun the boys on the playground.

Halloween morning I decided to exercise my creative side and wear a black and white striped top. I slipped on a new pair of coordinating shoes knowing that I’d be wearing a black witch hat later on in the day. On the way to the car, the little bit of sparkle caught Elena’s eye and she stopped dead in her tracks and gasped, “I love your shoes!”

I played it cool. “Oh, well, thanks. I like them, too.”

Inside I was thinking,  I love this girl. She hammer-swings, builds towers, adores her Teddy bear, plays with the boys, dances ballet, bakes me pretend muffins, pours me pretend coffee, and has not one, but two pair of glitter shoes. Elena means “light” and she sparkles, yes she sparkles and so do these shoes.

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Dear Friends,

Call me extroverted, but I’m not afraid of strangers. This personality trait came from my dad.  It doesn’t bother us to talk to people we don’t know at any time of day or any day of the week.  I can strike up a conversation with anyone most of the time.

The conversations I am about to share are the ones I didn’t initiate.  I haven’t been feeling myself lately and even the strangers in my life could tell.

1.  In a cab on the way home from the airport, I sat in the backseat with my head back against the seat and my eyes closed.  The cab driver asked me where I was coming from and I told him that I had returned from a visit with my family in Ohio. I started crying when he said, “You are lucky you have family. All of my family is in Nigeria. I don’t see them.”  My expensive emergency flight was to try to keep my family together and it backfired on me. It didn’t work and it still isn’t working. It was an emotionally grueling trip then and continues to rock me to my core. I’m living through some of the most important lessons in my life and it’s making me feel delicate.  I’m not a crier, remember? I’m an ENTJ, but I cried in the backseat of my cab because I held it all in for so long.   So I was back there and my driver did what most men do when they see a woman cry. He said,


I was glad to be home with my husband and daughter who show me love on a daily basis. When I got out of the cab, I gave my driver a hug and said, “thank you for saying those kind words. You didn’t have to say anything at all, but you did and it’s what I needed to hear.”

2.  Fast forward two months and I am sitting on an airplane again heading back to see my family in Ohio. My dad just had a stroke the day before. I’m flipping through my Real Simple magazine trying to relax on the flight and instead, I’m dropping tears again and trying to be discreet about it, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t even have any tissues and the woman next to me noticed and asked me if I was alright. It ends up her husband had a stroke, too and had recovered. She gave me her email address and asked me to drop her a line and let her know how my Dad is doing. I did and this was her reply:


I’m going to rephrase one sentence that Missy wrote in her reply because it’s what I believe about life.

“That’s the beauty of the strangers in our lives…they give us light to pass on.”

Love, Natalie

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