There will always be some kind of work to do on our schist Casa and some DIY jobs are way more fun than others. First priority is weatherproofing/restaining the balcony sliding doors. This seems like a relatively quick and easy job you may be saying, WRONG! This job took way longer than anticipated and I needed hubby’s help as I still have a bad foot and with him only being available weekends, this task seemed endless. First off we had to sand down the doors and remove all the old varnish. Then we had to remove all the silicone sealing which was so difficult. Next step was to bug proof the doors, we don’t have any wood beetle or nasty bugs in the doors but it’s better to prevent this from occurring in the future. Finally we had to re-varnish/stain the doors and re-seal. We could only work on these doors in good weather when it wasn’t raining hence why it took a while. Luckily we have roll down metal shutters so once the bare wood was exposed we were able to pull them down and protect the doors from the rain and sun whilst we were not able to work on them.

We have a lot of window frames and wooden shutters to complete this process on as well. In hindsight we probably should have just given the doors a really light sand down and painted over the old varnish but I thought that removing the tatty old, uneven varnish was more of a thorough job and would definitely give a better result and long term protection. Some tasks are worth taking time over and preparation is key so my granny used to say. I have learnt to chill a bit more since living here in Portugal. I used to be a perfectionist and want things done fast and to a certain standard but I’ve learnt to adopt to the Portuguese style of life and relax a little more and take time out to enjoy a few day trips in-between all the hard work as the DIY jobs will always be here when we return from having fun in the sun.

I literally shed blood, sweat and tears sanding these doors! I broke every single fingernail off and the skin on my hands is rough as the sandpaper. Our electric sander broke because we have a real talent for breaking every tool we buy, at least we are consistent in our approach (ha ha).

Work in Progress – Smile and Wave like a Lucky Cat

Hubby was on-call so we had to stay around the house just in case he got a phone call to be close to his PC so it was a perfect time to work on the doors. I hate the prep work, dust is everywhere, mostly in my hair and mouth because I don’t shut up. Hubby is using the electric sander and I’m doing a hand job, “Ooh Er Missus” that sounds a bit rude! (ha ha). Removing the silicone is a crazy slow task and it’s such an arm workout, who needs the gym! I sent hubby to Côja for a higher grit sandpaper and he returned with a present for me (Lucky Cat). If you know me you may have viewed my epic collection of lucky cats which are back at my dads house in Bristol, U.K. I didn’t bring them with me when we relocated as we only bought 2 suitcases and a bike. I was also concerned that airport security would take them all apart and think I was smuggling drugs. Surely with the size of my ass there is only one secure place to stash the white stuff (ha ha). It was a glorious sunny day in February with scorching balcony sunshine. I don’t know why I ate hot soup for lunch, I’m crazy. I’d much rather be hiking in nature but someone has to work and earn the euro, luckily it’s not me (ha ha). I’m hoping my lucky cat will wave and waft some good fortune my way. Health and financial luck would be fantastic as my foot is well and truly ducked (with a capital F). I need a swimming pool before summer or I’m gonna have to submerge random sweaty body parts in my washing up bowl in the garden which will be a lovely sight to see (ha ha).

No Pain, No Gain – Blood, Sweat & Tears

I broke every single nail and my knuckles are raw anyone would think I’ve joined a bare knuckle boxing club (ha ha).

Mr & Mrs DIY

If you can survive a full weekend of DIY with your significant other then congratulations your partnership is rock solid. On this day I was about to kill my hubby and contemplating a hubby swap (ha ha). Just kidding, I only had to tell him off a handful of times so all is hunky dory. If anyone is after cheap gardening clothes my Primarni (AKA Primark) vest top cost a crazy €1.70 so I can wreck it to my hearts content. I try to recycle clothes as much as I can, my gardening leggings are from a local clothes swap. I’m so over sanding these doors but the end is insight thankfully. I had a lovely protein packed lunch of fresh tuna, savoury crepe and salad to keep me fuelled cooked by myself for a change and a nice Portuguese strong coffee. My cup says “It’s Sunday I feel like a Zebra” but I just feel like a hot shower (alone), dinner and a lie down in a dark room. I am so covered in dust and grime that I am thinking of changing my name from Helen to Dusty (ha ha).

DIY Fail – Bondage, Bondex & Real Lady Tears

I spent ages on a Friday sanding down the doors with a light grit sandpaper in preparation for the painting on the weekend. Hubby was working so I persevered myself and took hours cleaning up all the dust and the whole area including the windows. I tested the Bondex product on the end panel and it was an absolute DIY disaster! The product was so thick like tar and once applied with a brush it went on so unevenly and the result looked like a 5 year old had completed the job with their eyes shut. I was distraught and shouted loudly for hubby. He came out and had a go and it was even worse. Despite stirring the product and using quality new brushes it was just BAD. I literally cried real lady tears as I spent so long on the tidy up stage, I even cleaned all the metal balcony railings. Now the only remedy was to wait for it to dry and sand it off again and start all over from scratch. That evening we returned to the store and talked to a staff member who confirmed that this was the best product for external wooden doors to protect from the sun and rain. I did ask about the water based Bondex product which we used on the chicken coop house which glided on like silk but he said that the product we had was far superior and if we used the water based product we would still need a top coat of varnish to protect it.

I didn’t want to go this route as I could foresee me taking a long time painting the water based product on then if the top coat was applied and it looked shit then I would have a crazy long job of re-starting all over again. I asked if I could thin it out but he just shrugged and didn’t want to commit by saying yes or no. I then asked on a facebook DIY group and most people recommended using a product called Osmo. I did email the customer support dept for Bondex but in the end we decided to return home and re-try the product we have as it cost over €40. We bought a product to thin it out and thank god it worked well in the end. I was a bit annoyed that I had to sand off the panels I had already painted badly but it only took a couple of hours and a shed load of patience. Then I had to re-clean which did piss me off a bit but I had my little helper friend. On a funny note I can’t seem to get the name of this product and I keep calling it Bondage! Top tip: Don’t go into a DIY store and say you already have Bondage at home when you mean Bondex, you will receive wide eyes and a funny look. My only saviour was I was wearing a face mask which not only helps fight the battle against Covid but it assisted my idiocy as it hides my red cheeks of embarrassment when I say something absolutely stupid and saucy (ha ha). Hubby was also second hand embarrassed for me, bless him. Bondex did actually reply to my email but we had already found a resolution by thinning the product out. A nice chap called Hugo replied to me confirming that this was the best route and I’m quite shocked that we actually bought the right thinning product too as there are so many tins on the shelves and it’s often tricky to translate the text on the back of the tin.

Hello Mrs Helen – God Bless Hugo

First I Lure him into a False Pretence with Breakfast in Bed

Overnight oats, O.J, Tea and a Chocolate Bunny because why not!

Smile while you Can

Little does he know what is in store for him! He won’t be smiling for long (ha ha). As the saying goes “A little hard work never killed anyone”.

If you don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

Round 2 Helen in the Red corner and thinned out Bondex in the Blue corner (ha ha). Today was Portuguese Father’s Day. Hubby was delighted to assist me with my Door Mission Impossible. He would much rather be painting doors than paddle boarding on Father’s Day (ha ha).

Halfway There & Living on a Prayer

Whoa, we’re halfway there, Oh-oh, living on a prayer, Take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear, Oh-oh, living on a prayer. Team work makes the dream work. We got half a job done and it’s not too shabby. I did have to keep telling hubby off for loading too much on his brush and dripping it everywhere. I spent most of the morning saying “Less is More” and he spent the same amount of time replying “Unless it’s cake” (ha ha). This product goes a long way and would have gone further but I got about 10% in my hair. Top tip: Don’t let your significant other go on top, unless your in the bedroom (ha ha). I even bought Portuguese cakes seeing as it was Father’s day so we enjoyed some delicious cakes with a view accompanied with strong coffee as I needed to sober up with some caffeine as I was high as a kite. I should of wore a mask as the product is solvent based, I’m basically a glue sniffer but don’t tell anyone. Here is the result of Half a job Helen. To be honest we could only paint half as the doors slide and would touch each other so they needed to dry fully before we painted the other half. I like to think I’m half way through the job but in all honesty I’m only 25% because this is only the first coat and it requires 2 coats.

I rewarded the Dad of 8 on Father’s Day with Cake

Cake with a view. I LOVE our daily village Pão van.

The Other Half

The next day (Sunday) I painted the other half with my other half (hubby). He is a trusty assistant and does what he is told. This day there was rain predicted for the evening so we awoke bright and early to allow time for the product to dry before we rolled down the shutters to protect from the rain. One coat down, one to go.

My Baked Bean Babe – Al Fresco Lunch

British baked beans on Portuguese pão – When 2 cultures merge al fresco at the dining table (ha ha). I rewarded hubby with a table for 2 at the Casa Valhal garden terrace restaurant but not before I made him climb the orange tree to collect fruit for freshly squeezed O.J (ha ha). It was fine dining all the way with my homemade baked beans on toast. Yes, I made baked beans from scratch because the frugal me refuses to pay €1.60 for a can of bloody beans! I made the equivalent of 5 cans for a mere 30 cents each. Can you see there is a theme of rewarding hubby with food! It works every single time. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Balcony Doors – Before Photos

I really wish I had taken before photos as the doors were in a sorry state. I found a couple of before photos from 2020 and 2021 but the doors were in much worse condition when we undertook this job in 2022.

2nd Coat

I am so happy to have finished the 2nd coat as this job seems to have gone on forever. Mainly due to the rainy weather and I only have hubby on weekends due to his work schedule. This is not a job I’m attempting by myself just in case I screw up (ha ha). If we both makes a balls up of the job then we can equally share the blame. It was very time consuming painting all around the window edges and trying not to get the paint on the windows. I just don’t get on at all well with masking tape and I’m pretty sure masking tape is only good for useage during a kidnap scenario for silencing the victim (ha ha). Time for some well deserved lunch, a tasty egg and tomato bap, thanks to our crazy hens and an orange picked straight from our tree with a caffeine kick on the side.

James Bond – The Man with the Silicone Gun

Never mind The man with the golden gun here is my man with a silicone gun. Give a man a gun and he suddenly becomes James Bond. The last job on the balcony doors was to silicone all the edges and I left hubby to this task but I obviously checked in with his progress and marked him out of 10 (ha ha). I could do with some of this silicone in my deflated sad breasts (ha ha).

Balcony Doors – After Photos

Finally, done and dusted, you just need to imagine the white metal shutter area above and the ledge below painted white, it will then look awesome.

No Rest for the Wicked

Next BIG job is sanding down all the windows, shutters, metal black railings and gates in the garden and repainting them. I have a feeling this might be a lengthy job too. Last is the repainting of the house white. Our house is partially made from schist stone and the other part is faced over and painted white so we need to address the flaking and prep then repaint. God only knows how I’m going to reach the top, I will need to buy a longer ladder unless I can grow a few feet taller into a giant. I’m most excited for the house painting and the metal area above the shutters of the balcony doors as I think this will make our house look awesome. At the moment it’s a little scruffy, flaky, dirty and tried looking which is exactly how I’m feeling right now (ha ha). After much debate we actually decided to focus on the window frames and shutters due to the fact that the Bondex product is now opened. Then move onto the flaky white metal shutter area above the balcony doors, the wall below and the metal railings to the front aspect because this is the main focal point of the house.

Window of Opportunity – Casa Chickens

My chickens love exploring and they have such good eye sight. They sussed out immediately that the windows were missing leaving a huge gap. They saw their opportunity and took it causing chicken chaos in our lounge. Maggie is the ring leader and should not be trusted at any cost (ha ha).

The Never Ending Hand Job

Not quite as rude or exciting as it sounds (ha ha). I broke our electric sander so I have to do a hand job. It’s exhausting and I think I definitely need a sand paper budget as I’ve bought so much. I sent hubby out for more 80 grit but he could only buy 120 so it’s a tiring and back breaking task. I am using an old table that was left in the garden when we purchased our house, I’ve actually broken the leg on it now from all my energetic crazy sanding but hopefully it can still survive as it’s our potting table for plants. I used a couple of old pallets to make the table a good height for me to prevent further back pain.

Political Putty – Douglas V Donald

I sent hubby to the village store to buy wood putty. He bought the wrong colour and came back with a pot that resembles Donald Trump’s orange face. The funniest part is it’s colour name is “Douglas”. They definitely missed an opportunity and in my opinion should have called it Donald, after all Trump is very orange and “putty” useless (ha ha).

The Height of Fashion

I also asked for new gloves as mine have holes from excessive sanding. I did laugh that the gloves are called “Cofan” more like Coffin which is where I will be if I keep continuing with this DIY at a crazy pace. My nails and hands are wrecked and so sore. I’m covered in splinters from the wood too. My nickname is no longer “Dusty” but “Hand job Helena”. If word gets out I might turn a profit (ha ha). The red gloves got me reminiscing my childhood and the T.V series “The red hand gang”. Now I am really showing my ripe old age!

Bed socks + Flip flops = Sexy lady (NOT). There is reasoning behind my madness. I still have a bad foot and my gardening sketchers are falling apart and a size 4 which is a tad snug so flip flops it is and the weather was a bit chilly hence the thick socks. I’m definitely not going to win any awards in the over 45 category for “Most Sexy Lady” I’m more likely to win “The look of Tired” but at least this is the only place I have a camel toe (ha ha).

Pizza Time

Hubby got a bit excited as when I shouted “I’ve finished the Window” he thought I said “Thin dough” not “Window” and his mouth was watering at the prospect that I was making pizza (ha ha). I did reward him at the end with a day trip to Sortelha and a pizza in a pretty picnic park.

Shattered Dreams

I accidently dropped a 1L bottle of water on my bad foot whilst negotiating all the bags of sandpaper and DIY stuff. I literally screamed and hubby came to investigate what the hell was going on but he was carrying a window frame at the time. The inevitable happened and he bloody dropped it! Then I felt bad as I was partially to blame. The funny part is that in the morning I jokingly said “Wouldn’t it be funny if you dropped and smashed a window”. I tempted fate, most people go from single glazed to double but we went from double glazed to single, all in one mishap (ha ha).

Sun Room, Biceps & Arm Wrestles

We are lucky that we have a sun room so I can continue to sand under cover if it rains. Who needs the gym when you can sand by hand. Gosh it really is an upper body and mainly arm workout. My biceps have got huge from all this bloody sanding. My new nickname might actually have to be Popeye (ha ha). I certainly need to challenge hubby to another arm wrestle at the top of a mountain, I lost on this occasion but I think I’d win 1st prize now. I am slightly concerned that with all this new muscle mass hubby won’t be able to carry me. He struggled enough last year with me just sitting on his lap. The pain in his eyes says it all. He will just have to manage and get stronger because I actually only weight just under 9 stone now and I’m not reducing my weight any more just because he is a weak ass (ha ha). I gave up using the sun visor as a protection for our old table. The glare from the silver bedazzled me and nearly very made me blind (ha ha). Now the table is covered in varnish and so am I.

The Dirty Protest

There comes a time in the day where I just have to put down my sandpaper and enjoy some quality chicken and coffee sunset therapy. It appears Carol and Michonne are addicted to caffeine like me. Michonne did a dirty protest on my blanket all because I wouldn’t let her drink my coffee dregs. Carol’s eyes look a lot like mine, big and pink (ha ha). I’m absolutely shattered but I have a coffee in my hand and there is a banana and mini chocolate bar between my lower legs so all is good (ha ha).

Gorgeous Gecko

We have a couple of Gecko’s living between our window frames and shutters. We have named them Leeroy and Leonna. I caught hubby removing the window off it’s hinge and saying “Your Beautiful” to Leonna. I don’t think he has ever uttered those 2 words to me ever. It’s a hard life when one has to fight with a gecko for their hubby’s attention (ha ha). Her feet look so cute against the glass of the window.

Kitchen Windows – Before Photos

Kitchen Windows – After Photos

Not too shabby a job. They are old windows so they will never be perfect but i’m pretty happy with the result.

Work in Progress – Windows & Shutters

Easter Good Friday = 10 hours straight of DIY door and windows edition. I was exhausted after perching and squatting on precarious window sills and it all started again the next day. I got varnish in places on my body that I didn’t know existed. I also got really sticky so maybe my new nickname should be sticky Vicky (ha ha). Here are all the windows at different painted stages drying in the sun on anything and everything. Please excuse the oranges (they fall faster than I can pick them up). Also excuse the mess of the raised beds, gardening tasks are next on my to do list, I promise.

The window frame is not that important. What is important is the light that comes through the window and the man sat on the window ledge, of course (ha ha).

Shutter Saturday

We have started on the shutters on Easter Saturday. They are all sanded, bug proofed and drying in the glorious sun. I don’t think I will ever get bored of these views from my garden. Never mind bug proofing I thing we are bugging each other today. Somehow I have the “It’s a small world” song from Disneyland stuck in my head and I keep singing it in the different accents from the various countries. I think it’s because we visited Coimbra for DIY stuff Thurs Eve and we got held up in traffic at the roundabout near the Portugal dos Pequenitos (Miniature theme park). I really want to visit this place but don’t feel I can without a child, I don’t want to look like a weirdo or a paedo! I need to wait until granddaughter Aurora visits.

I think I may have consumed too much coffee as I then went on to sing Madonna’s “Get into the groove” because there are so many tricky grooves we need to get into on these shutters. Now I’m onto Jennifer Lopez “Jenny from the block”. “I’m just Jenny from the block, used to have a little, now I have a lot” but I’ve changed the words to “I’m just Helen with a sanding block, I used to sand a little, now I sand a lot”. I’m driving hubby around the bend. Singing is infectious because now hubby is humming Madonna instead of his usual rock bands and he doesn’t know why. He is getting his own back by flicking dust in my face and hiding my tools. I keep telling him to stop as we have a time frame so time is of the essence and he keeps replying “Vanilla essence” which is doing my head in (ha ha).

Fenestration & Fun Facts

I learnt a new word and it’s not as rude as it sounds (ha ha). Apparently Fenestration is an architectural term for the arrangement of windows, doors and other glazed areas in a wall e.g. skylight. It derives from the Latin word Fenestra meaning window. Gotta love learning new facts at my old age.


It was a long, messy and tedious job but so worth it as the doors are now bug and weather proofed for a good few years. They might outlive me! The tin says 4 years of protection so lets hope I survive a little longer on this planet. I am really pleased with the overall result. Now they look great and it was so worth all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears. The other window frames and shutters are an on-going process as there are 20 in total. I literally said to hubby “I’m beginning to wish we lived in a windowless house”. In hindsight, I don’t wish that because I love the sunlight and gravitate towards the rays like a sunflower. I then said “I now know why people have PVC windows”. I actually really dislike PVC windows but I do see their practicality, they just wouldn’t match our old schist casa. What a shame as I could have modelled next to them in my red PVC skirt that I borrowed from the sexy Carol Vorderman. If I ever buy a PVC skirt just chuck me out of the nearest highest window (ha ha).

When will I get the windows and shutters finished? My only answer is: How long is a piece of string? It’s such an exhausting job, never mind window pane, can you feel my pain? They will be completed at some point in time. My aim is to work hard on this on-going project but also enjoy some day trips out. When the weather is beautiful we need to embark on awesome adventures together, share new experiences and enjoy this wonderful country I now call home. The DIY jobs will be here tomorrow but I might not. We will work hard for 3 days over the Easter bank holiday and enjoy one day off for a road trip somewhere awesome. Nothing in life is guaranteed so it’s really important to enjoy life and have FUN in the SUN. We all need time out from continuous DIY jobs to regain energy and recharge our mind and body. Striking a healthy balance is key.

Happy Easter

The spirit of Easter is all about hope, peace, love, and joyful living. Feliz Páscoa (Happy Easter) and God bless from the Casa Valhal gang: Helen (Crazy Human), Adrian (Geeky Human), Milo (Bunny Boy) and the awesome butt nugget ladies: Carol, Michonne, Maggie and Judith (Hens). Milo may not be very photogenic at his Easter photo shoot with his raggedy moulting fur and angry glare but this is his regular happy joyful face. I have a similar resting face and the same issue with my fine fluffy hair (ha ha). Believe it or not we groomed him today. Now let’s eat this awesome homemade bolo de coco (Portuguese coconut cake) and continue the Easter egg hunt. I think I over bought on the chocolate treats but is there such a thing as too much chocolate? We so deserve it after another 8 hours of DIY. We gave up chasing the chickens around the garden for an Easter selfie. It’s so hard trying to take selfies with animals but we tried (ha ha).

Moulting Milo

I couldn’t stop laughing at all the bunny fluff flying in the air like confetti (ha ha).

Sunset & Cake

A perfect end to a perfect day.

“Out of my window… I see everything I dream about and wished I had!”