We are absolutely delighted that this mammoth task is finally completed, I could literally jump for joy! Our old schist casa has so many garden railings and gates. They were all looking very old, tired, dirty and flaky – a lot like me (ha ha). The time had come to sort out this long DIY job. We did consider hiring a contractor but my motto has always been “If you want something done right, then do it yourself.” All of the railings are painted black but the strong sunshine in Portugal had faded and chipped away at the paint over time. I have no idea when the railings were painted last but my estimation is several years ago as they were all in very poor condition. There was a lot of researching different methods and tools to use as well as various primers and paints.

The most important factor was to prepare the railings by scrubbing off all the dirt then sand them removing all the flakey paint to produce a smooth base so the paint will not flake or chip off easily. We knew this job was going to be long but we never knew it would take several months. Our main challenge was the weather. We obviously couldn’t sand or paint in the rain and we couldn’t paint in severe heat either as the product would just bubble and blister. Hubby has a regular 9-5 job so 90% of the sanding fell on my strong shoulders. I didn’t mind sanding solo but painting is a 2 person job as I am the mini roller maniac and hubby is in charge of the paint brush. Teamwork makes the Dreamwork (ha ha). I broke more than one electric sander and although I had the smaller attachments to reach into tiny tricky areas I found the best results came from a good old fashioned hand job, that sounds a bit rude (ha ha). I basically hand sanded the whole lot and believe me when I say that it was one hell of an arm workout. No gym is needed when you hand sand. Hubby joined me on weekends and after work and we worked as a dynamic duo team to get the job done. We started this job in 2022 and finished most of the railings by April 2023 but then the rain came then the heat of Summer. Our neighbour then started her huge renovation job of a new roof, windows and walls were resurfaced and painted. I was mildly pissed that they splashed concrete all over our railings, my doors, window frames and roof tiles. It’s a good job I’ve mellowed in my old age. I think living in Portugal for nearly 4 years has changed my priorities in life and in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal. There’s bigger fish to fry.

Whoever designed railings with so many intricate swirls and curls and not straight lines should be shot! I think it was a man (ha ha). We used Bondex paint which I always call Bondage because I can’t ever remember the correct name. The guy in the local DIY shop nearly fainted when I asked if they sell Bondage (ha ha). I got through so much sandpaper but we saved an absolute small fortune by doing this job ourselves. I am a frugal lass so I won’t pay a professional tradesman/woman to do a job that I can attempt myself. I even climb on rooftops and scale ladders. Hubby encourages me because I think he is hoping I might have a fatal accident one day and he can get some well deserved peace and quiet and a break from all this weekend DIY. He loves me really, I’m a total catch and multi talented (ha ha). Luckily, I do know my limits and there is clearly a time when one needs to fork out their hard earned cash but in all honesty this has been very rare in our case. I turn my hand to anything. It’s surprising what one can achieve with a YouTube Video and a trusty little helper by ones side.

We basically morphed into DIY Weekend Warriors. To all my UK friends who think my life is all glamour and sipping cocktails in a pool under the Portuguese sun. This is my life 99% of the time, working like a beaver, covered in shite, headscarf trying to disguise and protect dirty hair that hasn’t been washed in over 7 days but I still have a smile on my face. I usually shop at charity and thrift stores for DIY and gardening clothing but Portugal lacks these type of shops so although I hate “Primarni” with a passion, I often buy their bargain €3 leggings and €1.80 vests to wreck in the gardening. They are basic, cheap and quite robust, just like me (ha ha) and the pants pass the squat test, don’t become see through or expose your butt crack when you bend over which is always a positive. Some overhead jobs required protection. I am oozing “Catwalk” and “The height of fashion”. Locals think I’m nuts because I wore a plastic bag on my head as previously it took me 2 hours to get all the paint out of my hair. Hubby said I looked like Marge Simpson. It’s not a very sexy look but I don’t own a shower cap. Maybe it will catch on and I will start a new trend, it can become the height of Vinhó village fashion. Old ladies will swap their tabards for plastic bags on their heads (ha ha).

DIY and hard manual labour is exhausting! One thing for sure is I don’t need a gym here, sanding railings is a bionic bicep workout for sure. My staying power and coping mechanism is all down to regular mini rest breaks and multiple snacks to refuel our energy levels. This included lunches of eggs from our gorgeous happy hens which are loaded with protein, homemade British baked beans on toast, delightful Portuguese cakes and marshmallows for my sugar fix and marvelous mince pies with homemade custard and meringues in July which seems so very wrong. There were plenty of caffeine and protein smoothie pit stops. Hubby found a genius way of feeding each other marshmallows on BBQ skewers so we didn’t have to touch our sweet treats and consume the toxic black paint (ha ha).



The Railing Paint

Added Extras

Once the railings were transformed into such beauty we just had to paint the exterior of the walls and sort out the front facade. Hubby was delighted with the extra work. We also sanded and re-varnished the balcony sliding doors and every window/shutter. I don’t do things by half measures (ha ha).

Work In Progress

Gosh, we had a hilarious time, there was hard work but plenty of laughter with a few misfortunate accidents like shattered panes of glass and minor cuts and grazes, I literally shed blood and tears (the tears were laughter thankfully). I think I need a separate award for “World’s most messiest DIYer” (ha ha).



Mince Pies in July

Only Helena the crazy Brit could eat British Christmas mince pies that she found at the bottom of her chest freezer in July! Mince pies are for life not just for Christmas like puppies (ha ha).

Sugar Fix

Homemade meringues are the BEST!

Sprucing up my Backside

Not content with renovating the front of our house, I then decided to spruce up my backside!

Work in Progress

Funny Signs

Hubby insisted on making a sign so I didn’t fall down the hole and break my ankle! The gesture was gratefully received because I’m accident prone as hell! Some crazy person graffitied the sign and added a rather rude sentence (ha ha).



Sofa So Good

There was even time to build and paint a garden sofa out of old wooden palette’s!

Creative Hubby Handmade Reward Gifts

Hubby made me a personalised certificate for our fridge. It’s hilarious as he praised me for completing 95% of the job (ha ha). That’s still an A* right? I wish I could get an A* in the Portuguese language as I suck big time. I’m not about to trade hubby in for a Portuguese fella just to get proficient in the language as I’m quite fond of him and I’ve been there, done that and got the Carlos T.Shirt along with a divorce (ha ha). I got lucky the 2nd time around and “Allen” is way easier to spell and pronounce than “Monteiro De Lima” (ha ha). He also handmade me a beautiful delicate artisan Pandora charm for my bracelet and a matching Kingfisher bird necklace using resin. It’s purple (my favourite colour) and glam glitter sparkly like me (ha ha). Hubby is definitely a keeper. I married my best friend and I highly recommend it.

The only negatives are he leaves the hallway light on multiple times per day and he poops out coins wherever he goes (ha ha). Not as bad as being married to a cheater, gambler or alcoholic for sure. He must have holes in all his pockets but on a good day I can earn about €6.40 just by bending over and retrieving the coins. I often stay in the downward dog position for a long pause just in case someone wants to Roger me unexpectedly from behind, you take what you can at my age, just kidding, I prefer the comfort of my mattress (ha ha). I really wanted hubby to join in the fun, come and take photos of me prancing around the garden with my proud certificate on display but unfortunately he was in a lengthy online work meeting and didn’t get a lunch break so I had to celebrate solo. I also received a Reward day trip to a historical Portuguese village with a castle fit for Princess Helena. It was a mesmerising day out complete with a glove box full of Helena Haribo journey sweets, I’m easily pleased.

I’m colour coordinating with the black railings (ha ha). I’ve never had so much FUN with an A4 Certificate of Achievement. It’s now firmly attached to the front of my fridge with magnets like a proud child’s potato print painting (ha ha).

Final Countdown (13/09/2023)

Transformation radiant railing time and I am elated! Wow what a difference! I’m so glad this huge DIY job is now completed. We have sanded and painted the whole lot now as this was the final small area to finish. It took 3 hours in total to paint this tiny area and much longer than expected but I did send hubby to the gas station mid way through for Coke Zero and marshmallows as I was so hot and flagging. He returned without the mallows because apparently they sold out and I’m sweet enough. I totally forgot how exhausting this DIY job is in the heat. The radio and plenty of water kept me going on our final task but I had to keep stopping to cloud spot (ha ha). They are finally magically transformed into a beautiful silky shiny railings, super glossy and sparkling like me! I really want to slide and shimmer down them like a stripper down a greasy pole or more likely a rat down a drainpipe (ha ha). The miracle of the day was the fact that I didn’t get any paint in my hair this time so no more goth like streaks which didn’t suit my Princess vibe (ha ha). We have a trusted system in place for the railing task now. The painting is a 2 person job so hubby is in charge of the paint brush and Helena has the roller because I love to rock and roll (ha ha). Lets not forget that once the railings were painted they then needed a second coat so basically we did the whole job twice over! That is sheer commitment and dedication.

I also think it might have taken a little longer to paint than anticipated as there is a particular song on the radio that is played all the time and when it comes on I must down my roller/paintbrush and dance like a horse for at least half of the song. The lyrics sound like “Giddy Up” hence the horsey moves but actually the lyrics are “Get it Up” and if I were to do some more investigation I have a sneaky suspicion that it has a rude and saucy intention but I am not Googling the lyrics because I have a pure virgin mind and like to gallop like a mucky mare (ha ha). Anyway, naughty or not, it’s a cracking tune and beats the annoying Sam Smith on repeat! When Leroy Merlin say there are 10 disposable gloves in a pack they literally mean 10 (5 pairs). I was confused as I assumed there were 10 pairs as I don’t know any one handed DIYers! This mishap resulted in us having to wear one glove each. You can clearly see which hand I wore mine on (ha ha). I also stole an old T.Shirt of hubby’s for the occasion. We completed the job at 8pm just as the sun was setting. We both felt extremely chuffed and happy. I had to wait until Friday to receive my reward. I was hoping and praying that it was a donkey or two, I’m naming them Leroy & Merlin (ha ha).

My Final Reward (15/09/2023)

A tedious job which started months ago but now it’s time to reap the rewards.

I was rewarded with a yummy congratulations cake: homemade Pão de Ló, a 2nd certificate for my fridge and a tipple or two from our retro bar. What more could a girl ask for? A house with a swimming pool is the answer (ha ha). I’m working on hubby and chipping away at him grain by grain, like sanding the railings by hand. Bit by bit I’m wearing him down until he gives in. 2024 could be the year I get my final dream home with a pool. Persistence and sheer commitment pays off long term whether it’s railings, health & fitness or “Buy me a house with a pool Mrs Mission” (ha ha). Keep smiling folk, pool party at my house next year, bathing suit optional, bring a bottle (not optional).

I was presented with my certificate from Major of Casa Valhal (AKA Hubby Senhor Adriano). I’m presently tucking into my cake with banana and homemade orange jam, simply delicious. Apparently I scrub up half decent and can look as pretty as my new railings when I make the effort (ha ha).

Railing Snake

The most weird and random thing we experienced completing this railing task was discovering Snakey Joe. Bejesus, I nearly had the fright of my life when I saw this huge snake wrapped around the railings! Snakes LOVE our schist walls and slithering in all the cracks and crevices of the schist stones. Unfortunately this snake was dead and missing its head so we laid it to rest. I love hubby’s Plain Lazy T.Shirt “Work Less, Play More” probably not the best slogan for a full day of DIY (ha ha). His work wear is so dirty that I considered making him disrobe and get naked in the garden as I didn’t want his filthy clothing inside. If you see a naked man in the garden, don’t panic, it’s not National naked gardening day come early is just my dirty man (ha ha).


This DIY job has been a mammoth team effort and on-going for months due to work commitments and extreme weather but now the windows, doors, metal shutters, white walls and black railings are prepped, painted and protected from the elements. My goal was to finish all these railings before I died. It was touch and go for a moment if I would succeed (ha ha). If you can survive a full weekend of DIY with your significant other then congratulations your partnership is rock solid. It just goes to show what a bit of hard effort and teamwork can produce. I think it looks awesome and I am super proud of our effort. We saved a fortune too by doing it ourselves. Not only are the railings now weatherproofed from sunlight and rain it should last a good 10 years so it might outlive me (ha ha). Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy the spectacular views.

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!