DIY Car Repair

In the midst of the marathon kitchen renovation and the paralyzed wiener dog rehab center, we PhilBillPaul squeezed in a few other DIY projects.

Rachel needed new brakes on her car.

PhilBillPaul put them on as she assisted.

He loves to use these DIY opportunities to teach life skills.

She would have let him do it himself but he got really tough with her. He said he would do it but only if she got out there and helped him.

Ridiculous I know. He’s so demanding.

Because in addition to a fulltime job, handyman and man who never sleeps…

He does car repairs!

Wish I could share the picture of Rachel being grateful and hugging him and thanking him profusely.

But that’s not her love language.

In her defense, she is the only child who actually knows how to use tools.


DIY Kitchen Renovations ~ Cabinets

What do you do with 20 year-old honey oak cabinets that your husband loves but you know need to be updated?

He gets cranky when you talk about painting wood.

He likes the real wood grain to show.

After several long meetings with my friend Google, I had enough ammunition to show him some options that we would both like.

I started out this whole kitchen renovation thing with making everything light. I thought we would do light counters and even lighter cabinets. I was thinking of a soft cream with a dark brown antique glaze.

Once the counters were done, I changed my mind completely. I wish I had made the countertops darker when I was using the Giani Granite paint kit. When the tile backsplash went up, I knew we needed to make the cabinets chocolate brown to pull colors from both the counter and the backsplash.

I read dozens of blogs about painting, glazing and stripping cabinets. I was searching for the least labor intensive way to give the cabinets a new look.

Here are some great tutorials that really helped us:

How to Paint & Glaze Cabinets

This was the look I originally thought we would go with.

How To: Reglaze Honey Oak
When I changed my mind about going darker, this was great to read except she sanded and I refused!

How to Paint Cabinets::For Imperfectionists
She’s speaking directly to me!

Deciding on a cross between several methods we read about and eliminating as many steps as we could, we finally agreed to create our own glaze with color kit.

Products we knew we needed:

  • Deglosser (to avoid any sanding – hate it)
  • Glaze
  • Paint (to mix with glaze)
  • Polycrylic (topcoat for glossy finish)

I saw the Valspar paint samples and got the nice Lowe’s man to mix up two chocolate samples for me which turned out to be exactly the right amount of paint we needed for $6 bucks.

We stuck with 4 parts glaze to 1 part paint and tested this on the smallest doors.

We also found that the cheap foam brushes worked much better than regular paint brushes. The brushes left brush marks and I hated that look.

Ready to Work

First, PhilBillPaul removed all the door fronts and labeled them so we could put them back in the right place.

Next, cleaning with Dollar Store degreaser.

Doing all this outside or in the garage would be great but since it’s 110 degrees in the shade here in Georgia right now, I set up the cabinet work in the family room.

Next step was wiping deglosser on with a scrubber pad so we didn’t have to sand. This was the strongest smell so PhilBillPaul did this part because smells are a real migraine trigger for me.

I came back downstairs to do the glaze painting. Only three thin glaze coats later…

And three polycrylic topcoats…

We both love the results.

Thank goodness!

He also spray painted all the old hardware with a brushed nickel finish. We can both live with them for now and may get wild and add new cabinet handles later. I’ve marked some on ebay.

Perhaps we ran out of steam and didn’t get the bottom cabinets done yet…

It’s really so you could see the dramatic difference changing the honey oak. 😉

Did I mention that I also thought it was a good time to add beadboard to the island and several end cabinet surfaces?

Again, we went the budget route and used the mdf sheets from Home Depot and I’m fine with it. PhilBillPaul said it was a pain to work with.

He knocked that out last weekend but saved the painting for me. Hopefully when we paint it and he adds the trim to the edges and bottom, we’ll like it.

Cripes, we still have to paint the walls. And eight honey oak stools and one chair.

I haven’t even mentioned the rotting kitchen window. The house may collapse before we get the inside updated.

I promise to post pictures of the complete renovation. If it is ever complete. Check back in 2012 to see if we ever get this dang project done.

Meanwhile, if you missed our other kitchen projects:

The Craigslist appliances
The countertops resurfaced
The glass tile backsplash


DIY Kitchen Renovations ~ Glass Tile Backsplash

Way back in May, we bought glass tiles for a backsplash to use as our inspiration for our kitchen renovation.

We propped one up on the small counter behind the blender as we started making our plans.

Seems like I always like to start off with one blurry photo. Ahem. Better pictures to follow.

I’ve always loved the look of the small glass tiles and knew that a backsplash would add some depth and personality to the kitchen.

Tiles we used were from Home Depot called Desert Sunset. They come in 12 x 12 squares with a flexible mesh backing.

Adhesive kit to hang tiles was very, very helpful!

I let PhilBillPaul handle this part.

Learning what a crooked job your builder did is not fun. We’ve known that since we built the house. But this project brought up those bad memories of a builder who cut corners. And cut them crooked.

Cabinets are not level. Wall is not level. Drives PhilBillPaul crazy. I, surprisingly, let it go 20 years ago. Even though it now has created some challenges hanging a perfectly spaced grid of glass tiles.

I talked him down and we made some interesting adjustments and I convinced him it was a giant improvement and we moved on. Luckily I got over my need for perfection about the same time the darling twins were born.

The fun part was sticking the tiles to the adhesive. Cutting them to fit was like putting together a puzzle.

Final step of grouting was not fun. I let PhilBillPaul handle that part too. We used what the Home Depot clerk told us to buy. It was a non-sanded grout and we chose bone as the color.

Wiping with cheesecloth once the grout dried made them shiny again.

Love. Love. Love.

It’s now my favorite part of the kitchen.

We’re not going with the open cabinet look. We are working on the doors right now.

Cabinet update coming Monday.

If we don’t kill each other over the weekend.


DIY Kitchen Renovations ~ Resurface Countertops

We knew that we couldn’t afford new countertops. Even with all that money we saved buying appliances on Craigslist.

We also knew that even if we could afford granite that it is porous and that skeeves me out in the “my four kids are piglets” category and we didn’t need more hidden bacteria in the house.

Furthermore, we decided granite would be a very unwise investment in these economic times and with the plummeting value of our house.

I was not willing to buy new laminate counters and have PhilBillPaul deep in another installation mess. Instead, we did extensive research on how to resurface our existing lovely almond laminate countertops.

We looked at options available at our local Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Option #1: Laminate sheets you can overlay and stick on your old laminate counters. Frankly, those are worse than the original laminate, in my opinion.

Option #2: Counter transformation kit from Rust-Oleum®. I wasn’t crazy about the speckled finish or any of their colors.

One Sunday afternoon while I watched Tiger-free golf, I spent the day with my friend Google and found two other options.

One was Granite Transformations which PhilBillPaul nixed almost immediately because they have no prices on their website. He’s a tough consumer and believes you need to at least give a price range or he won’t even call.

The second thing I stumbled upon was Giani Granite. After I spent the whole afternoon reading their website and blog reviews, I knew I had found the winner! I always try to read product reviews from real people in addition to testimonials on the company website.

I took some screenshots of different kitchens on several blogs and then showed PhilBillPaul. We both decided the price was right at $69.95 for a kit that covers 35 square feet. It really came down to us both agreeing that it is paint and if we hated it, we could go to plan B.

(We didn’t have a plan B but we would make one if we needed to.)

Giani Granite Countertop Paint Kit

Our favorite selling points on Giani’s website were these:

  • Water-based safe and low odor 
  • Hides any existing stains, scratches or burns
  • Granite color is adjustable to your decor
  • Durable automotive grade clear polyurethane topcoat
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee

Sunday evening I told him I was going to email the company, tell them I have a blog and if they would send me two kits, I would review their product. Nothing to lose and if they didn’t respond, we would order the 2 kits we needed.

Monday morning I received a lovely email saying they would be glad to send me 2 chocolate brown kits for me to review. This was better than Craigslist. Woo hoo!

Then I realized PhilBillPaul was going to make me paint.

Step-by-step counter resurface project

Here is my pictorial review and believe it or not, we did this in one weekend…

98% photo credits to Scary Baby except the first blurry one which is mine.

On Friday night, PhilBillPaul prepared the old countertops by using wood fill putty & spackling compound to repair some chipped and broken places and then cleaned them with S.O.S pads. I stayed in my bedroom because we had a big fight.

He did a good job – amazing how things look better when they are clean.

Yes, we are removing everything from top of cabinets and aren’t re-hanging the goofy baskets, thank you very much. Please stay focused on the countertops.

Since he did do all the prep work, I broke down and painted the black iron core primer base on all the surfaces.

Most painting falls to me because of his failing eyesight. The black primer went on very easily and covered very well. We didn’t even open the second can in our other kit. The black base coat needs to dry for 8 hours before the “fun” part can begin.

After watching the excellent DVD (twice) included in the kit, it was time to practice with the 3 mineral paints that you apply one at a time in the order of numbers on cans. I like simple instructions I can follow.

The kit includes a piece of black poster board and sponge that you can cut into several sizes. At this point, I was apprehensive about ruining our whole kitchen.

We liked the three mineral paint colors but I was paranoid that we didn’t want dark counters and it would make the kitchen too dark.

The practice poster board is very helpful. Maybe we should have picked the lighter kit. Breathe, Sherra – it’s just paint. We decided that I would add more of the lighter two mineral paints to keep it on the lighter, neutral side.

You work in small sections and don’t want to create a pattern. It should be random so it looks more natural and granite-like.

If I was doing it again, I would have left more black and added more chocolate. Dark would have been fine. I’m a spasz.

You have to wait 4 hours before you can apply the topcoat that adds the shine. This is the part I was most excited about. And most nervous.

This was with just one coat! I watched that section of the DVD three times and still wasn’t sure I could do it right.

Four hours later, I added a second coat. The biggest tip is not to dry roll this topcoat as it will leave lines. You have to keep the topcoat product on the roller and roll a very thin coat but not let your roller make that dry sound that happens when you paint walls.

The maximum third topcoat was added on Monday morning after spouse peer pressure. I should have stopped at two. I used every last drop of 2 cans and I liked it better with two coats. Yes, I’m blaming PhilBillPaul for this bad call. No one can tell except us. In the right light and if you bend over and hunt for my mistakes. Please don’t.

All in all, I did a pretty good job. Our pictures would be better with some daylight. We are night owls and do our best work after dark. Then again, with more light you might be squinting at your computer trying to see my roller lines.

Giani recommends that you wait 72 hour hours before putting your small appliances on the counter. Since we were going to put up a backsplash and work on our dated honey oak cabinets, we decided to ban the children from the kitchen. We may continue working in the kitchen indefinitely so they stay out of it.

Seriously though, while we are doing other work, it has given the counters time to cure and harden properly. We are very, very happy with the results!

I think the big box stores need to work with Giani Granite and get their kits in their stores. Immediately.

Suggested Improvements

Things I think Giani Granite should change:

  1. Put everything in the kit. They have a “Save-a-trip” kit for $12.50 that is buried in 2 or 3 clicks and hard to find. I would raise the price of the whole kit to include everything you need. This still keeps the kit under $100 and that’s a win/win. Please don’t make me go back to the store with PhilBillPaul on the weekend!
  2. Add a trial size of their cleaner to the kit. Make us fall in love with the cleaner so we’ll order it but you’ve got to reduce the shipping on that. Right now, I can’t see ordering a bottle of cleaner for $4.50 and paying $9.75 to ship it.
  3. Hire me to re-do their website. Needs BIGGER, gorgeous photos of all the before and afters. Type is too small. LOTS of material for Typo Tuesday. Make the shopping experience more user-friendly. Don’t make me click the “Add to cart” button to see the price. Embrace your fabulous price point and put it everywhere!

Even if they don’t change anything and they don’t hire me, this granite paint kit is hands-down the best thing on the market to give your kitchen counters a new look at a fraction of the price of new counters. Giani Granite really made us say “WOW” at every step.

PhilBillPaul has brought people into the house to show them our handy work. LOVE having people stop in and see our giant mess.

Let me know what you think and if you would tackle a DIY project like this. With or without your spouse?

Disclosure: While Giani Granite provided us with two paint kits to review their product, our opinions are our own and you know I’m not afraid to share my true and unbiased opinion on most anything. 😉

P.S. In my dream kitchen, I would get new recycled glass countertops.


An 11-year-old’s View of Spring in the South

It started with a few seed packets.

Then she negotiated for a couple of six-packs of flowers.

The warm weather got her in the flower gardening mood.

With very little supervision she planted everything in the front yard.

Directly in the path of the mower.

And the curb where people walk and extra cars park.

“Because they needed full sun.”

And Dad said they would be prettier in the front yard.

Not a great plan.

When I saw this sign on Sunday morning…

I gently suggested that she could move things to the backyard where there is full sun.

And we could remove the sign that I thought bordered on bad manners.

Since I have given up yardwork for lent ever.

Dad could build a small raised bed and it could be her own little garden.

One quick trip to the store and a bribe of another six-pack of flowers and she was all in.

While I sat glued to the TV watching The Masters and (clapping whenever Tiger missed in honor of my Uncle Jack 😉 ), she got busy and replanted everything.

I said “Take some pictures of your new little garden.”

She said “I want to take some pictures of the azaleas and cherry tree for Grandma.”

I showed her the macro setting on the little digital camera.

She went outside and came back with these…

Her cute little flower bed. Thanks Dad.

Green trees and blue skies!

Grandma, here’s the cherry tree in the front yard she wanted you to see.

One of our most favorite things about living in the South are the azaleas…

I have to enjoy all this from inside because the pollen and my allergies can equal migraine right now.

She even captured the neighbor’s dogwood tree.

I think we have a budding photographer on our hands.

Pun intended.

In case it’s not quite Spring at your house, hope you enjoy Scary Baby’s photo shoot of what’s happening around our house!


Busy Fun

Taxes and three FAFSAs do not qualify as busy fun. 🙁

Busy fun is working from home on WordPress blogs.

I love to help other women with their own blogs!

The downside to this busy fun is that when I work on other people’s blogs, my own gets pushed down to the bottom of my “to do” list.

I seem to get computer fatigue and don’t write on my own.

Check out my latest blog makeovers. Just click the image to visit each one.

It’s always fun when clients are friends!

Take a minute and visit my portfolio. Maybe you’ll decide you want to start a blog – email me. I’d love to help!


One Special Lady

I’ve written about her before.

She was a looker.

As they say back in Indiana. 😉

I wrote about her in 2008…

She’s the only Grandma I’ve ever known as my mom’s mother passed away when I was just six months old…

…Imogene is funny and spunky and I have always loved spending time with her. To get to spend one-on-one time with her is a sheer delight for me.

She got such a kick out of riding in my bright blue VW bug.

In May of 2007, on my way home from the Black Hole, she was exactly what I needed and it was my honor to take her bra shopping (oh, the funny story of that shopping trip) and then to Gray Brothers for her favorite meal.

The next year, I got to go back and spend more time with her and we had dinner once again at Gray Brothers.

So glad I documented our visit here.

…words cannot describe what it meant to me to get to spend the afternoon with her and take her out to dinner.

I convinced her I could pick her up the next day so she could enjoy another meal with 6 of the 7 Kivett siblings who were all gathering at another local cafeteria.

She simply beamed through the whole meal. She loved them all so much.

In January of 2009 on my long road trip to the frozen Midwest tundra, I was so glad I got to visit again. It was such a gift that there was no ice in Indiana because I was able to take her on a car ride back past the farm and we got to visit with my Uncle Jack and Aunt Peggy at their house.

Treasured memories…I could go on and on.

I saw her for what would be the last time with darling twin Wizzy in July last year.

We brought her butterscotch pie from Gray Brothers and when I showed her the picture of her in front of that blue bug that I carry in my wallet, her face lit up.

Then she winked and giggled, “We had some fun, didn’t we?”

She passed away Saturday morning.

She is being buried this morning after 95 vibrant years on earth.

May she rest in peace knowing how much she was loved.


Friday Food Fun: Taste Test

Spent a little time baking last Saturday. One of the darling twins came home and I wanted to send some Fall treats back to college with her.

I had several new recipes to try. Thankfully, Scary Baby was more than willing to help me pick. I knew I had to make our family’s favorite Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting because everyone had requested them. I wanted to do something else with apples, maple and we needed a little chocolate.

For our chocolate choice, she voted for these Oreo Cheesecake Cookies and I knew these would be a winner for Roger Leroy who has a serious Oreo addiction.

Photo compliments of Scary Baby.

I had several different pumpkin whoopie pie recipes but since I was already making pumpkin bars, I was excited to find this Maple Nut Oatmeal Creme Pie recipe.

Of course I had to eliminate the nuts because two of the darling children have an aversion to nuts. I also searched for a different filling because I was trying to not repeat the cream cheese from the Pumpkin Bars. Scary Baby voted for this maple marshmallow creme filling which turned out to be extra delicious!

My, oh my! Combining those two recipes was a very good choice.

My final selection was Apple Sour Cream Bars because Leigh Anne had raved about them. They were still in the oven when Wizzy left to head back to school. Totally okay with that because these ended up being my favorite and left more for me! (Besides, they have nuts so she wouldn’t have liked them.)

Once all four items were done and PhilBillPaul picked up pizza for dinner, I thought it would be fun for Scary Baby and Cloret to have a taste testing party for two.

Great minds think alike because Scary Baby had notebook paper out and was writing the title as I carried the desserts in.

“The Tasting…”

I asked them to use a 4 star rating and not show each other their answers until they were all done.

Very amusing critiques.

Cloret and I agree across the board on our reviews.

Since she loved the Apple Sour Cream Bars as much as I did and the big girls missed out, Cloret got to take a plate home along with some cookies and oatmeal pies.

No comments on my bad white chocolate drizzling skill. Or lack thereof. Remember, this is not a food blog and we are eaters who don’t get hung up on presentation.

In case you didn’t get the recipe links above, here they are again:

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oatmeal Creme Pies (sans nuts) with Maple Marshmallow Filling
Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
Apple Sour Cream Bars

I’m so happy that it’s cool enough to use the oven again!

Let me know if you try one. What’s your favorite cool weather treat?


Teen Drivers

Best 30 second commercial I’ve seen in a long time.

Whether you have teens who will be driving soon…

Or you’ve lived through teaching your teen(s) to drive…

Did you catch your breath like I did?


Side note: I hope it wins awards and they play it in some primetime slots! When I went to look for the commercial online to show PhilBillPaul, I discovered “The Dad” is the real-life father of both the 6 year-old and the 16 year-old girls in the car. Very sweet.

Room With A View

With a view like this…

…there should be no complaining of boredom or bad days or a host of other things I heard last year.

This is the view from the darling twins college dorm room.

I think they are settled in and ready for a very good year.

We drove up last weekend to deliver a few odds and ends they forgot and took them to dinner.

It is really beautiful up in the small town where they go to school.

For the first time in their 19 years, they are not sharing a room.

Well, sort of not sharing a room.

They are suite mates in this brand new dormitory.

Which means they still share a bathroom but they have separate bedrooms.

A bathroom that is much bigger than all four darling Humpfreeze children share at home.

They have two showers between the four suite mates but only one toliet – go figure?!

Wizzy is rooming with Meadows and Roger Leroy lucked out and is by herself.

It took my covert photography skills to snap a picture of their trash can.

Meadows did her best to stand guard over it but she should know better.

It was refreshing to see some habits never change.

They also explained the story behind the one poster they are allowed on the wall.

Something about their social director status but I wasn’t clear on the monkey pictures.

But then we were walking to the car for dinner, Roger Leroy had to stop for a minute.

And the monkey pictures all made perfect sense.

Hey Jenna,

Roger Leroy is keeping everything very neat until you arrive next semester.

You are going to love the new rooms! I was even impressed with the “hotel” door locks. Hope your mom and dad copy and print this to include in your next letter from home so you can see your new room.

Side note: Jenna arrives for second semester but she’s at her Army National Guard AIT at Ft. Leonard Wood.

Don’t worry Wizzy and Meadows, I know you both pass room inspection with flying colors and you keep your room clean too.

It was a lovely Sunday evening visiting with the darling twins and we’re thankful they have such lovely new digs!

Really though, did anyone else have a view out their college dorm room window like this?

I’ll go first.


My room overlooked a parking lot and the TKE and Sig Ep house.


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