Retaining wall in a day, Really!


When we purchased our home 11 years ago, the back yard was a barren wasteland.  There was no plant life, only a pit of red clay.  Many people have the luxury of planting their yards immediately after moving in.   The mechanic and I did not have that luxury.  We had major erosion problems.  We live in a neighborhood where each neighbor’s yard sits progressively higher than the next.  The yard to the right has rain runoff into our yard, and our yard erodes onto the property to the left of us.  You get the picture.  We kept putting topsoil dressing on our yard to only have it wash off into our “lower neighbor’s” yard.  This is the solution that I came up with, which caused much moaning and groaning from the mechanic.  I had just undergone some minor surgery and could not help lift the 50lbs bags for this project; however, I did dig the ditch.


It was a long, deep ditch too.  I needed the bottom of the ditch to be level with my neighbor’s yard. Clay-type soil is often baked into a hard crust, and is difficult to break apart with a shovel.


I was extremely nervous.  I was not positive that my “concrete retaining wall” idea would work, and the mechanic had just started putting the bags in. I did not let the anxiety show on my face.



We decided to place the first layer of concrete bags on their sides to help hold the loose soil. The mechanic loved it when I decided we needed two more rows of concrete bags placed on top of that bottom row.



Once all the bags were in place, I watered the wall daily for four days.  I could hardly wait to rip the paper off of the concrete.  I even got a bit impatient waiting on the top row to harden.  I poked a hole large enough to fit the water hose nozzle in and filled each bag with water.  Looking back, I should have been more patient.  You can see the holes that were made in the concrete.   If I do this again, I will continue to water all the bags daily, until they are all hard.  The wall didn’t need to be pretty because it does not show.  My planting beds are in front and the fence is behind it.  RESULTS?  We had torrential downpours since this wall went in, and we no longer lose topsoil in our neighbors yard.  The retaining wall works!  This makes me breathe a sigh of relief because I don’t have an issue with the mechanic.

Some “spring” in my soul

I pull my flip flops from the closet and notice a dullness of the sequins that were once sparkly.  I dust them off, scoot them on, and head out to my back yard.  The sun feels good on my toes after winter’s end.  All is well with my soul. nest in glass The birds are screeching for me to fill the feeder with more seed.  Two of them barely avoid flying into my face as they are busy fighting for their right to a mate.  I notice the birds have been stealing sphagnum moss from a hanging Staghorn plant.  They have left me a giant hole to fill.  The bird bath is full of partially eaten worms, no doubt left there accidentally while they were getting a drink.  One lone feather floats there too.  I see that the birds have left their poop all over my swing that sits under a big oak tree.  What a mess!  I fill up the bird feeder with more seed, check. I drag out the water hose to wet a bucket of sphagnum moss.  I need to replace the missing moss in my hanging planter, check.  I wash out the bird bath and put in fresh water, check.  Now my flip flop sequins are dirty again and I’ve spent too much time on these birds.  I’m frustrated and a bit angry, especially about the poop.   I think, THIS IS CRAZY! Why do I do this anyway?  Then, I spot a loan nest in my crepe myrtle tree.  It’s a tiny one left over from last year.  I pull it down from the bare branches to inspect it closer; there were not any eggs. The nest fascinates me.  I have a habit of emptying the contents of the vacuum cleaner outside and the prior owners of this nest used those contents for nesting materials.  I notice tiny strands of silver and blonde hairs woven throughout the dry, grass structure. I examine it even closer and discover a pleasant surprise.  It’s my hair!  This is exciting!  I even feel honored and privileged somehow.  My hair cradled those baby birds that were there last year.  I have a new treasure to keep.  All is well with my soul again!

Inspired to Paint a Chicken

Yesterday, I was searching Google for a photograph that would inspire me enough to recreate it on canvas.  Most of the time I use my own photos, but this time I was searching for bird photos.  While looking at photos of chickens, I inadvertently came across a You-Tube video by Paul McCartney.  The video is called “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”.  I’m putting a link of the video so you can watch.  I warn you. It’s graphic! Throughout the video, I watched all sorts of animal abuses that are performed at modern, factory farms.  I had just finished my lunch and flossed my teeth to remove the sliver of pork steak that was wedged between them.   As Paul McCartney narrated the video, I watched, in horror, abuses farm animals undergo.  I kept thinking, are these abuses tolerated so that I can eat meat? I would describe some of the details of the video to you, but have a hard time writing them.  Despite the sickening feeling swelling up in my stomach, I did continue to watch the video to completion; however, not without shedding tears and feeling like my lunch would literally haunt me. I’m already talking to my family about “going vegetarian” and if we could adjust to such extreme changes in our diet.  I need to shed some pounds, the mechanic said he’d eat what I put in front of him, and my 19 year old daughter is apprehensive about B-12 deficiency. So, vegetarianism begins? Stay tuned.

Shiplap without the cost!



Faux shiplap walls



To create faux shiplap:

Mr. Mechanic and I started by purchasing two 4-x-8  plywood sheets from Lowe’s.  We needed to shiplap a 6×6 wall and one board would have left us two shiplap boards short. (Now I have extra boards for my next shiplap project.) The plywood we purchased is sized at 96 inches  by 48 inches and cost $13.48 for each sheet.  By cutting the plywood into 6 inch wide planks we knew that we could get 8 boards per plywood sheet!  The nice folks at Lowe’s cut these boards into 6 inch wide strips for us! The plywood we chose is pre-primed and looks pink!  Check out the plywood link to see exactly what we purchased.  If you’re a military family like us, don’t forget to get your 10% military discount at Lowe’s.




The planks have splintered edges on the cut sides, so we hand sanded them smooth.  When we tried to use an orbital, power-sander it caused it to splinter the edges more.  Hand sanding seemed to leave a smoother edge anyway.  I can’t stress enough how important this step was.  We got frustrated later, in the painting stage, when any splinters or rough edges showed up because of our lack of sanding. We did not have to sand the surfaces of the boards on this particular plywood. All of this sanding may sound labor intensive, but it went quickly; I got to spend some “quality” time with the mechanic.

We used a stud finder to find and mark our wall studs.  I drew a pencil line from top to bottom where the studs were. We wanted to make sure that all of our nails would go into a stud.


You can pre-paint all your boards but you would also need to pre-paint your wall too because the wall will show through a little bit. We decided to paint and install the planks at the same time.  We used Valspar Signature paint from Lowe’s.  We painted the only the  bottom edge of a plank, making sure to get off any excess paint drips immediately.


Making sure that our plank was level, we nailed it to the studs. (the pencil marks for our studs was our guide to help us see where our studs were.) We used nails near the top and bottom of each board to help prevent any warping at a later time. We used a nail gun but you can nail it by hand too.  At this point, I would finish painting the plank, making sure to fully paint the top edge of the plank too.  Small seams will make it where the wall shows through.  We made sure the seams that were showing were painted the same as the planks.  To help achieve this, while painting my top edge and face of my planks, I also painted the wall above the plank about an inch.

Mr. Mechanic and I used nickels to provide us even spacing between the planks.  This spacing is necessary to achieve the shiplap appearance.  Be careful not to let paint build up between the spaces. I even used some folded sheets of paper to wipe out any excess paint from the seams.






We continue up the wall, attaching and painting as we went. When we got to the light fixture, Mr. Mechanic removed it.

Using a jigsaw, he cut out the spot where the light fixture goes.  Mr. Mechanic used the face plate of the light fixture as a pattern.  He to drew on the round shape that needed to be cut out.  There might be better ways to do this, but it worked the first time for us!  I figured that if I HAD to cut the board in half to get it around the light fixture, that it would be OK.  I would just fill in the cut above the fixture with spackling compound.  But Mr. Mechanic  was able to make the circle without cutting above it.  “Jeeze-O-Man”, I said. (wiping the sweat from my brow.)

Perfect fit; I do my happy dance!



Once all the planks were installed, we decided to finish off our edges of shiplap by installing some trim. We used inside corner wall panel molding that we purchased at Lowe’s, but you can really use any kind of molding that you like.

You are left with lots of tiny holes where the nails went. We filled them with lightweight spackling. You only need to use your finger to fill the tiny spots.


Once all the holes are filled, apply another coat of paint on the whole surface.  I actually used two more coats of paint to achieve the finish that I was looking for.  I also painted the trim two coats.



Looks like real shiplap to me!


I love how the faux shiplap dressed up this bathroom.

Note: see how I refinished these vinyl (Thermafoil) cabinets in this blog under “Thermafoil cabinet makeovers”




Not Your Usual Fern

I planted, or “framed” this Stag Horn Fern this past spring.  Now it is really starting to fill out.   I don’t know if you can tell, but it has Stag Horns on the back too.  I got a super deal on four Stag Horns, $3 each, at a local nursery.  I immediately placed one in my home, and it is currently growing in a pot indoors. Many years ago, in another life, (long story) I had purchased a small Stag Horn in a small framework. I wanted to reproduce that Stag Horn that I loved,  but in a larger size.  So, that being said, I used the remaining three Stag Horns to make this hanging one!  I had some old 2X4’s that I cut to make a frame. (I am not a carpenter; forgive me.)  I used wood screws to put the frame together and corner braces to reinforce the corners. Also, I had some old wire fencing that I couldn’t stand to toss.  I wrapped that wire fencing on one side of the frame and hammered in gardener staples to adhere the fencing to that side of the frame. (I left enough excess fencing to make a continuous wrap on the other side, however; I did  not finish wrapping it until I filled the frame with moss)  Next, I carefully removed the Stag Horn from it’s small pot.  First, I worked the leaves of the Staghorn Fern through the fencing that was attached to the backside of the frame, making sure to face the fern outward.  I left the fern and all it’s planting materials together. Only the green part was sticking through the fencing.  To make more room for the bigger leaves of the plant, you can use wire cutters to clip away some of the extra fencing. I just maneuvered mine through the fencing by gently curling the leaves and pushing them through the fencing holes. I placed the whole plant, including some dirt that was in the pot, under the fencing. Eventually the base will grow over the fencing,  but I used the fencing to hold my ferns in place.  Then, I soaked some sphagnum moss  in a bucket of water. (You can purchase this moss at any garden center) A good soaking enabled the moss to be packed and held together easier. The next step required some extra hands.  I needed someone to hold the frame and  lean it backwards.  This was so that I could access the front side, and not squish the fern that I had just placed on the back side. While leaning it towards herself slightly, my daughter held the frame steady. This enabled me to stuff the Sphagnum Moss  behind the fern I had just planted. Then, I filled the whole frame with moss.  Next, I wrapped the extra fencing around the front side, bending it to go around the front of the frame.  I did not attach it yet,  but first placed my remaining ferns (you must start with small Stag Horns to do this project) on top of the moss and through the fencing like I did on the back side.  Finally, I permanently attached the fencing to the front side.  I used the gardeners staples, being careful not to crush the plants on the front side.  I hung the framework of Stag Horns from my oak tree.  The Stag Horns are thriving and seem to enjoy the shade of my Oak tree as much as I do.  Tip:  I also attached another rope from the bottom of the frame and secured it to the ground with a stake.  One time, on a windy day, I saw that my Stag Horn was getting a beating while the wind blew it against the tree’s trunk.  Now safely secured,  it can only “spin” on a windy day.

This plant makes me do my happy dance every time I see it!

Thrift store mirror make-over


I picked up these mirrors at a thrift store for five dollars each.



They were heavy and the frames appeared solid and in great shape.  For ten dollars , I was ready to risk refinishing them.  I thought they would be beautiful above my double vanity in my master bath.  Diamonds in the ruff.


The mirror frames had ornate carvings that I thought were plastered.  Much to my surprise, they were solid wood.  I had to get through a layer of cream, gold and burnt orange paint to find the wood.

1. My first mistake was not covering the mirror glass.

2. My second mistake was not covering my face with a mask.  (Old paint can contain lead paint)

After sanding a bit, and I thought that I was being very careful not to touch the glass, I saw that I was bumping the glass mirror.  This caused scratches in the mirror!!  So, I taped around the edges with some painter’s tape.

3. My third mistake was not covering the WHOLE mirror.


I was planning on painting these frames but I loved the distressed look that was slowly being revealed.  I sprayed on cleaner and went to work with a toothbrush to thoroughly clean all the crevices and remove the loose paint particles.


I was happy with the looks of the mirror.  I sanded some areas down to expose the wood while leaving other areas with various colors still showing.  To seal the frames I put on two coats of clear finish coat.


verb (used without object) to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave:

See all my scratches around the edges of the mirror? Ugghh, I felt so stupid and angry at myself.  I knew this mirror would have to go to Over The Mountain Glass to be repaired because those bitty scratches would drive me crazy.  This bargain of mine was going to cost me after all, and all because of my lack of foresight. Oh, I thought I was safe by covering my other mirror with tape.  Remember mistake number 3?  When I was sanding with the rotary sander I actually bumped the mirror BEYOND the tape.  Both mirrors had to be replaced.  This was a $130.oo mistake.  By the way, the original mirrors were in almost perfect condition when I got them. JEEEZZE-O-Man was I sick!

I had the mirrors replaced in the frames that I refinished because those small scratches would drive me CRAZY. (my husband was real happy about that)   I was certain that they would look beautiful above my cabinets that I had just refinished. (see my tutorial on how I refinished ALL of my Thermafoil /vinyl cabinets both in the kitchen and my bathrooms) This project was not without it’s disappointments’ however,  I love this shabby chic look!









I think I can make it so I'm constanly proving to myself that I can!