Pergola Paradise (on a budget)

When we first moved into our home, we were thrilled to see wisteria growing in the backyard. We would always admire the beauty and the smell, and we tried so many times to grow wisteria in the past, but we were never successful. We had some work done in the backyard and had to move the wisteria to put in a patio, but we replanted after the project.  Thankfully, the wisteria survived.

In fact, each year we would have to cut the branches back because the vine would grow exponentially! We dreamed of the vine growing over a beautiful pergola, and we would say, “One day, we will have a pergola.”  For years we researched, planned, and dreamed, but other projects always seemed to take precedence.  Last weekend, we made the dream happen!

1. Scope out the space where you desire to build a pergola.

We researched purchasing kits that matched our area/size but found they were expensive–out of our budget. When you go on home improvement store websites they offer standard sizes.  Our patio did not meet the standards that typical pergolas came in.  We wanted a size that met our needs and desires. With this in mind, you have a choice. You can order the kit, or you can “do it yourself”.

2.  Once you decide to “do it yourself”, look at various pergola options and decide on your design based on what will fill your space.

For example, do you want a free standing pergola, or do you want to attach one end to the house?  You have to consider windows and space. Do you want to paint it, or do you like the color of wood? We typed in the words “pergola design” in Google and visited many websites.

3. Create a materials list based on size and design.

From post to post, our pergola is a bit over 12′ x 13′. The supports and rafters are longer. We used treated wood, most of it from Home Depot. You can simply write down your materials list or even create a spreadsheet with item counts and costs so you can budget your job. Creating a list will make things easier when ordering materials.

We used 6″ x 6 ” posts, 2″ x 8″ supports, 2″ x 6″ rafters, and 2″ x 4″ slats. For the angled bracing, we used 4″ x 6″ boards.  Don’t forget the hardware. We used half-inch diameter carriage bolts, half-inch lag (hex) screws, and many of the carriage bolts were 10 inches in length to go through the larger posts and supports. We used the lag screws (5 inch) for the 2 x 8’s that ran the longer length of the pergola in areas where we could not through bolt. To set rafters in place, we used TimberLOK screws that went completely through the span of the rafter into the supports.  We used 3 1/2 inch deck screws to fasten the slats to the rafters.

When considering materials, and even the building process, it is much like building a deck.

Posts, supports, Rafters,  Slates, Angled Bracing

4. You can save some time by ordering your materials online at your local home improvement store.

It may be helpful to visit the store ahead of time to see what materials they have on hand and to get an idea of what your materials look like. You can also write down item numbers (or take pics of the tags), to use for placing your online order later.

5. If you do not have a suitable truck to transport  the materials, you may want to consider renting a trailer. We rented a 12 foot trailer from U-Haul for around 40 dollars for a half day.  Our son-in-law had the truck with a hitch to pull it. Your situation may be different depending on the size of your truck bed, or the length of the boards you are carrying. We had some 16′ foot boards and a 6′ truck bed.

6. The Build !

The first thing we did was to frame up two posts, the support beams, and angled supports to create an arch.  We did two of these. Fasten the posts and supports together with deck screws first, stand them up (with a friend or two), and check that the supports are level. You may want to check throughout the project to make sure that everything is level and plumb.

We then used 2 by 4’s to make temporary X-bracing. This allowed our arches to be supported and stand up while we added the additional support beams, rafters, angled bracing, and slats.



It took three FULL days, two strong men, and the ladies to help with support of posts, holding ladders, retrieving hardware, cleaning up, cooking, and most importantly having fun along the way….

The last drilling of the nail…..

Adelaide turned 1!

Beautiful Sam is having her first baby! We enjoyed a baby shower lunch.

Let’s paint something for the pergola!

The next morning I got up early to enjoy the pergola paradise and Bible study.
















You can always come home


the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Your dwelling place is uniquely different. The decor, the smell, the pictures on the wall, as well as the food in your refrigerator all support your idea of a safe, happy haven. At the end of the day, you come home to let your guard down, throw on your pajamas, and recharge. The people who greet you may or may not be encouraging, but most of us would say that our family is our refuge. We acknowledge challenging times with those we love can make it hard to come home sometimes but in a lifetime of walking through the front door and settling in, we can agree home is where the heart is.

My father wrote me a letter recently. He felt led to encourage me to move forward. How can we move forward with confidence? So many quotes and scriptures could provide the stepping stones for us to embrace change, but the bedrock of embracing change is the constant–home.

I have this long rope in my home with duck tape covering one inch of the end of the rope.

When my vision is short or my circumstances are dictating my moods and actions, I’m reminded of my focus.


My eternal resting place becomes my reality and all the nonsense and struggle seems doable, a part of the journey versus a setback. When I look back through the years, my home has been a place of refuge, chaos, joy, confusion, peace, new beginnings, traditions, loss, celebration, and a constant…

My life may change but the constant is home–day in and day out– I can come home. One day we will have a perfect constant –heaven. Thank you, daddy, for creating a home on earth for me, and for pointing me to my Daddy and my eternal home.

My daddy’s letter:

Thinking about you this morning, and praying for you as well. I felt I should pause and write you some thoughts I have regarding your transition to your new job.

First of all, the sermon I heard yesterday by Gabriel Swaggert had some very inspiring points. He talked about the time Israel was suffering a famine because of their wicked ways, but he spoke of how God through Elisha said I am going to pour out a blessing on you. Gabriel also spoke of the time God’s people were facing the Red Sea, and the Egyptians were about to catch them. God said, “Move forward!”  They did and God opened up the Red Sea for them to cross to the other side.

This morning in Louise and my devotion time, the story was about God calling Abram to leave home, country, family and friends to go where He would lead them.

I know you are apprehensive about your change in jobs, but God is telling you to move forward and He will make the way for you. Moving forward you will be leaving a job of security, friends, and a place where you are comfortable. A new land of opportunity where you will be a blessing, and you will be bathed in prayer asking God to bless you as well.

You are loved by your Saviour, your husband, your children, your grandchild, and by your Mom and Dad. It will be a great experience because of God’s Spirit watching over you, and remember you can always come home!

I love you Anna, and I pray you will see God’s love in the morning because you have put your trust in Him. I pray that He will show you the way because you have lifted your soul to Him. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Love you, Anna,


Jelly Toast

I grew up in an older home from infancy until about sixth grade.  My years there were filled with warm summer nights with box fans in the windows, crickets serenading me to sleep, and a pretty pink canopy bed, with pink shag carpet. My yard had large oak trees, and one tree was well suited for a tree house and rope swing.  We’d jump from the tree house ledge on the rope swing and fly through the air.  That was the closest I ever got to flying as a little girl, and it was pretty close.  My brother closest in age to me, loved to dare me to do things; and I aimed to please.  He dared me to fly on the first jump off the ledge, meaning, I would be at the highest elevation.  That day I flew high; however, with gravity, what goes up, must come down. Down I went. Hard. I landed on my feet, and I can still feel the sting. I impressed his friend that was visiting.  I can still see his eyes wide and mouth open.

I’d give a million dollars to have a picture of that tree house and our swing.

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My mom sent me this picture of our home. Much has changed. Trees have been taken down, businesses have popped up around what used to be my backyard, and they have modernized the home.  In fact, the home is a business. Looking at the front yard, my mind went back to a revival night.  We provided worship music, a message, and watermelon.  It was a night of adventure and mystery.  In the dark of the night, we worshiped and poured out love to our neighbors. Folks sat on blankets and sang along with the musical talent on the front porch. When the watermelon was passed around, as a child, I was thrilled. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted watermelon again quite like that night–sweet, filled with water, crisp, and smelled divine.

My family is away on vacation. I’m much older with a full life. I recently became a grandmother. Becoming a grandmother forces you to reflect.  I watch my oldest daughter with my grand-daughter; and I go back. Memories I’ve stored in the recesses of my mind spring forth like a pop-up book–taking you by surprise at the beauty and details. This side of the memory has more meaning. You close your eyes and imagine your grandchildren’s memories they will make with you.

Jelly toast.

Our kitchen had the largest table to fit the whole family for meals. My mom was an amazing cook. One afternoon, a friend was visiting, and she served coffee and jelly toast. I was sitting next to my mom across from the friend.  The window was open, and the toaster on the table.  She would toast the white bread, smother the softness with real butter, and then the grape jelly. Up to that point, I had not really experienced the process of jelly toast.  I guess it was the company, the breeze, the simplicity of the afternoon, but my mouth had never tasted such heaven. I loved the way she toasted the bread just enough to make it warm, but not crisp, or burnt. What was equally unusual was my mother’s change in the rules.  She was conservative.  You ate three balanced meals a day, no snacks in between except for fruit, and over eating was not encouraged.  I thank her for this.  I’m healthy today because of her wisdom and discipline. This time was different. She picked up on my experience of heaven and decided to serve my fantasy of jelly toast.

Like Oliver, I asked for “more”, and instead of turning me out, she served me.  I think I ate about four pieces of jelly toast that day.

On our vacation, we had breakfast together; we had jelly toast. Grape jelly.  Butter. Warm toast.  I told them my pop-up book memory, and my youngest smiled at me. “Grandma made me jelly toast, too.”  We reminisced together.

Life is much like jelly toast stories. We experience the daily grind–work, cleaning, disappointments, chores, going, and doing. The necessary prevails.  In fact, the necessary provides the structure to experience the jelly toast stories. Simple things you do out of love will be remembered and treasured for a life time. The next time you are doing the ordinary for someone extraordinary it matters. You are creating a beautiful pop-up book, in which, your love will be the thematic thread woven in the legacy of your family story.


jelly toast

My house is filled with a thousand dreams….

“I just pray that hope will go on living
In this house of a thousand dreams” Martina McBride

When I hear this song–I go back, smile, and the happy tears flow….


Our Lavender Bathroom

We “lived” with a leak in our upstairs bathroom that found its way down to the kitchen for many years.  We did everything possible to fix the leak ourselves; we hired someone to fix it, but in the end they didn’t (frustrating); and we ultimately put a board up over the “hole” for years until we could attend to the frustration.  After many years, here is the result of patience, or insanity! 🙂

Before Pictures


Blue and brown striped wallpaper that was peeling from the walls.


Older glass door from the 70s


The leak was occurring in the pan underneath all this tile!

I am not a professional home decorator, so picking out tile, colors, and a theme was difficult because I’m very practical; yet, there is a whimsical side to me as well.  We bought our tile from Mosaic Tile Company 10911 Trade Rd, Richmond, VA 23236; (804) 794-2700.

Because of the blue floor tile, I felt beholding to that color scheme.  I began picking out blue shades when my daughter announced that was boring, and I should try something exciting!  I looked to my left on the counter and saw a beautiful orchid with the colors of purple (flower) and green (the leaves).  Nothing is more exotic than an orchid!  I told the clerk I wanted this color scheme found in nature!


I happened home one day to check on the contractors and asked to see the tile.  I wanted to make sure that what I ordered was what he had in his van. I’m a re-checker to a fault, but this time the re-check proved important.  They had the wrong tile and color! Mosaic Tile graciously admitted their mistake and fixed the error in a timely fashion.

The Work Begins:

We used Knickerbocker Contractors (

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They used a special pan that is guaranteed. I highly recommend them!

Getting ready for the new tile…

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All Done!

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Once they were completed with the shower, we went to work on stripping wall paper.


This took weeks here and there because of jobs and other commitments.  We had to work on the walls a bit because of the length of time the wall paper was on the walls, and the high quality installation of the paper–lots of glue!  There are many products out there that will help you with this task.  Lowe’s will have them.  Also, you must get a steamer to remove the paper.  I can’t imagine doing it by hand without the steamer.  If you can afford it, it’s best to have multiple folks working and steaming.

This became a family project.  Valentina picked out many color combinations and brought them home for Vivian to have the final say.  So my colors are from the girls, which I love.  The orchid was from my oldest, and prior to the work she gave me a white vase of lavender for “inspiration”, she said.  That was so precious to me.  I’ve always loved lavender and green together. And, of course, lavender is one of my favorite scents and soothing aromas.

Once the walls were all done,


we began to decorate.  I decided to research on Amazon and Google unique items.  It’s amazing what you can find if you type in the right words for a Google search, like “unique knobs for the bathroom”, or “unique light switch plates”.  I also utilized Great Big Canvas ( to purchase a wall peel of lavender.  It goes on the wall easy, and when you are tired of it, you can peel it off to save.  No glue, no mess, no trouble.



switchplate switchplate2


I love my sweet knobs!

What to do with the floor?  We could not afford to redo the tile on the floor, so we decided to add pretty rugs from Kohl’s and Tuesday Morning.

rugs rugs2

A little busy perhaps, but that is my whimsical side.

Victoria found on Pinterest an excellent use of an old door for shelving and decoration. We had old doors from my grandmother’s home place.  Parish took the time to make my shelving utilizing the idea from Pinterest.  The hardware was purchased from Lowe’s, and due to the door’s weight, we had to purchase special hanging equipment.  That, too, was purchased at Lowe’s.

door door2

There are treasures from friends and family on my shelf.  I also went to World Market ( in the Short Pump area to purchase some treasures.



I wanted a special place for my lavender robe.



The mirror was purchased from World Market


The window treatment was my last decision.  The curtain was from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I ordered them online!  The curtain is called “Chelsea Window Curtain”. Bed, Bath, and Beyond often sends members great coupons for ordering online.  I took advantage of the coupon.


Our contractor for the job was Charles Felts, Jr.  He oversaw many necessary projects completed during this time.  We highly recommend him for his professionalism, efficiency, and most of all trustworthiness.  With any project, challenges occur; however, Charles and his crew were always professional and filled with joy.  I never saw Charles that I did not see a patient and joyful expression on his face.

Riverside Builders LLC
14413 Clearcreek Pl
South Chesterfield, VA 23834
Charles J Felts Jr
I thank God for our beautiful bathroom, and enjoy getting ready in the mornings among the lavender and beauty.  I recently went to the drug store to find lavender tablets for the shower!  I do miss my garden tub from my previous home.  Anytime I go away on vacation, I’m constantly taking a bath versus a shower–catching up on missed tub time.  The tablets have turned my shower into bath time fun!

My Nook

Someone sent a Facebook message introducing “She Sheds”.  It’s the female alternative to the “Man Cave”.  You take something like this:

And turn it into an office/she shed for the queen of the house!

Wow! That’s beautiful!  I want one!

In an effort to minimize, reduce, and take care of what we have, we are utilizing a narrow space in our home that has become the “throw-anything-you-don’t-want, and I- don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it spot”.

Slowly but surely we are turning this narrow space into my “she shed”–my spot to be creative, research, learn, and dream.

I have tons of books to go through and I need to decide what to keep.



My girls went through so many videos and, yes, VHS tapes and narrowed them down to two plastic tubs.  We found some sweet memories on that shelf and laughed hysterically!

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My husband took two old doors from my grandmother’s house, painted them, and hinged them together to make me a divider for privacy.  This is a busy part of the house for going outside, and the pathway to grandma’s and papa’s house.  It’s also on the way to the laundry room.  I’m not sure how the traffic is going to do, and we may actually build a more secluded spot utilizing a wall.

I love the room with my children’s art work.


It’s so amazing what you find when cleaning and truly going through items one-by-one! I have laughed and cried and reminisced. It’s actually caused me to slow down and enjoy my girls.  Oddly enough, the memories I discovered made me sit down and play, dream, and reflect with them. I have found resources I’ve needed for work, ministry, and for personal growth! I also have been saving items for a friend moving into his first home!

Today my little girl wanted to make a video of Cinderella and the prince. Maybe this seems simple, but for me the simplicity of the moment made me joyful. I teared up. Life is filled with beautiful moments if we stop to enjoy them and count them as a treasure.

I would like to take the wallpaper down and paint. I’m not sure. I need to think of a better, more creative, decorative chair for my desk.  We are removing the hope chest for more space. That was done today, and sweet Vivian wanted this for her room. My children were rating me on my hoarding tendencies.

Mom, why would you want to keep THIS?

I always had a great reason that related to a very special memory! HA!  On a scale of 1 – 10, I was a 5 on the hoarding scale.  I’m improving. So, when I would run across a little toy (those are my favorite), I would put them in this small box. One day, my little grandchild will visit, and we can play with these special toys! My husband is actually playing with them right now.  He is lining them up and taking pictures.  I’ll be sure to close with his photography/play session.


The sweetest thing I found was a wall pocket. Parish went outside and picked fresh flowers for me to enjoy.


While the queen and king were busy about the house (this time my husband cooked while I fixed and cleaned), my little girl was creating her own castle out of Lego’s.  I had to laugh–how timely and appropriate!

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I guess from a very young age we dream of our future home, or castle to call our own and fix up with the one we love.

A future post will be my husband’s wonderful recipe while I was fixing and cleaning–

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

Fresh Spring Rolls with his own special sauce!

My husband’s play session:

Dorothy, along with her friends the Scarecrow and Tin Man (Picture One), face their fears (Picture Two)..

Lions & tigers & bears …….OH MY!!!! (Picture Three)




Vintage or Modern? Life lessons in the decisions

(Lots of resources and links in this post highlighted in the title–just click on it!)

We purchased a home from 1972. As you can imagine, the plumbing, electricity, and anything you can think of are outdated when it comes to repair.  We purchased the home in 2006, when my youngest was two years old.  She is now 11 years old. So that’s over 9 years in our home of charm and surprises. What this old house is teaching us has many life applications.  I’ll let you find them in the story:


1. You can’t fix everything all at once. You have to learn to live with one thing, while working on an issue of priority. Other issues will have to wait.

2. Be content. You may have to turn off the main for the water after each shower, but until we can find the plumbing part needed (because Lowe’s and Home Depot do not carry it), the money, and the time, keep it rolling and be content with the blessings that abound. Stressed about it? No worries. Keep it rolling.  This too shall pass.

3. Listen to your heart. Service people will come and go with their advice and opinions, but what do you want?  We had one quote that included remodeling to be more modern.  We hear things like, “Oh! That’s interesting!” He had a lot to say about our “out dated” stuff.  Modern is not our thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a fancy, modern dishwasher, cabinet, or appliances, but my home is colonial style and, well, I quite fancy myself a pilgrim!  I’m okay with what I have, just fix the leak in the shower.

3. Your home is your castle and you are the king and queen–embrace the beauty of what God has given you. After applying for a home equity loan, we began to add even the smallest of things on the list of “to do” because we were overwhelmed.  We were dreaming of condos, apartments, and #tentliving. We even considered selling.  After a “discussion” between king and queen, we began to take control of our castle, our stuff (Well, God’s stuff given to us to take care of).  No thank you for the 9,000 quote to remodel the entire kitchen counter tops for a simple leak in a 1972 fiesta bowl with an antiquated faucet. Granite counters will have to wait.  We spent hours researching the 1972 fiesta bowl (which by the way the name of such items is wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy under the sink, and you need a flashlight to find it) and stumbled upon a website that was into renovations of old homes. (click the link  for more!) We read the Q and A and found a situation just like ours.  In the answer was a shop in California that had our old faucet!  We called them, had a lovely conversation, and we are currently awaiting our old, but new faucet to install and KEEP our beautiful fiesta sink!

You can get replacement faucets for this. Try calling Conleffs plumbing in San Jose CA . They are a bunch of old school guys who knew EXACTLY what my sink was when I brought in pics & told me exactly what I needed. That is where i bought mine. It was $250 a few years ago. Vikki

My husband calls the fiesta kitchen sink, “A party in three bowls!”

Our sink is a lovely earthy brown!  I’m sorry we missed out on the cool green color! Loving my 70s.

We were on the phone with Samantha Lou in California sending her pictures back and forth until the order was complete! Friendly, incredible, and full of positive energy that reminded us that vintage is awesome!  Who needs modern?!

I also recommend Richmond Plumbing Specialties for plumbing parts for older homes. (click on link embedded in the title)

No one had this part for the older model Kohler shower:


They did, and they were very helpful! My husband came home, and after 30 minutes, fixed the shower for only 25.00 dollars. The queen was making Po’ Boy Fried Oyster Sandwiches, and the King was fixing the shower.  Which leads me to my last point:

In marriage, we NEED each other.  We often divide and conquer in our relationships, but there are some times that encouragement, a skill set, an organizational task, and a “we can do this!” have to take place, even if it’s through a “discussion”.  : )  Discuss, change, motivate, and move on!  Make it work and enjoy the journey. I’m a highly driven person with a creative mind, and I don’t mind pretending that I know what a faucet valve is and making a call.  I knew our faucet was out there somewhere awaiting to be adopted!  My husband needed that.  My husband is skilled with his hands. Our home and budget needs that.

We even talked about a previous Bible study and post we wrote on this blog about needing each other. (  I encourage you to read with your spouse and re-focus.  I needed the reminder.

I’ve discovered a new love for plumbing.  I’m amazed at how all the parts go together. Each part has it’s purpose, and each part is needed to produce the service required.

This is what I’m dreaming of and is soon to show up on my front door.

These are all the parts that will make my kitchen faucet functional.

Every washer, hose, and lever is needed.  Truthfully, it reminds me of how we all function together at church, home, and our jobs to create something beautiful and useful!

More posts to come as we spend the next few years fixing up “our old house”.

Update 9/5/2015

Our new kitchen faucet came in!  We ended up getting the plumber who is doing work on our bathroom to also install the kitchen faucet and fix the leak.  All is well!