After dealing with a variety of contractors on this house project I feel that I should share a few tips that I have learned along the way! I am by no means an expert, but I do feel that I am experienced enough in dealing with contractors to share Top Essential Questions you should consider when hiring and working with contractors!

Lots can be said for tackling a home improvement project or two each year and my hat is off to those who build a house from the ground to the roof! In my case, projects have always been something I have enjoyed and it came as no surprise to anyone in my family when I decided to tackle this historic fixer-upper of a farm house!

So without further a do here is the list of my Top Essential Questions for working with contractors!

How long have you been in the industry?  

This really is a key question because you are looking for a credible resource and someone with a successful track record! You certainly don’t want bubba and his buddies learning on your project no do you?

Can you provide resources that I can contact? 

Would you need resources for every job at your house? Well, come to think of it yes, you do! I really can’t think of a job that you are paying your hard earned money for that you wouldn’t need a reference check! Pest control – umm yes do you want to pay someone to spray for pests only to find out that the dilute the stuff they spray, NO! Painting – duh, of course you want to know that they will do a good job and that it will last! Plumbing – do you want to toilet backing up when you are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, I think not. Point made. Ask for resources.

Are you licensed, bonded and insured? 

You always want to make sure that at the very minimum that the contractor you are working with is licensed and carries liability insurance and workers comp insurance. This is as much for your protection as it is for the protection of those working at your house.

Do you guarantee your work? In writing?

Most people will tell you that they guarantee their work. That is great until you see them doing the job and realize that you might need a written guarantee to ensure that it lasts! Ask for it up front. Then you don’t feel foolish going back and asking for it later! Not that I have ever had to do that or anything!

Are you or your contractor pulling the required permits? 

This one is important. If you have ever had to deal with the city building and planning department then you know that it is sometimes a little more difficult than one would think. Fortunately for me, I have gotten to know my city B&P department quite well. Only because I have changed my mind about a zillion times on how I want to do my gate/fence for my driveway! Additionally, my city requires the homeowner to pull permits, but it has been helpful to know when I need one and when I don’t from my contractors.

What is the timeline for the project?

When a project begins you are so excited and you can’t wait for the finished product! But one of the most disappointing things is when your contractor cannot start your job for 3-4 weeks and then your project taking another 4-6 weeks! That is a long time to keep your excitement up and your patience calm! And then if there are delays…my oh my does everyone become grumpy!

Do you clean up the job site after work is completed?

This one I learned the very hard way! Imagine if you can…having say your foundation leveled and piers put in while you are on a relaxing beach vacation knowing that when you come home you can finally start work on the many many projects that await you on your historic house. Now imagine driving 15+ hours with two teenagers only to get home at midnight to dirt, dust and grime throughout your house from the floors to the counters to the trim boards! When the only thing on your mind is a shower and bed and you are on your hands and knees cleaning because you can’t walk anywhere without getting dirty! Know up front who will do the cleanup and if necessary hire a cleaning crew to take care of this for you! You will thank me later!

Do you need water or restroom facilities? 

This sounds like common sense and I know that I asked my painters about a million times in the August heat if they wanted water but never did I ever (that is a drinking game I think) ask if they needed restroom facilities! Talk about a terrible host! It really never occurred to me and I can only assume that they took bathroom breaks at lunch? I do feel terrible about this one and that is why I have included it!

Will you sign a contract for your work?

I am of the belief my word and a handshake is as good as a contract, but that is something I have learned is not good enough when you are dealing with contractors. Even if you have known them your whole life and they are good friends of your parents! Just get it in writing. Make sure to include what is to be done and when and at what price. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more uncomfortable than calling a family friend and complaining that the work was not done correctly or finished or at the right price. Nothing.

As long as you have some patience, and I am here to tell you I don’t have much, you can really work through this list with your contractors you hire. You will, of course, have other specific questions related to your specific job but these should get you started and in the very least you can share a laugh or two with me on the funny things you have experienced with dealing with your own contractors. Have other questions that should be on this list? Comment and let me know! I would love to add to it even if it is for my own benefit!



DIY Industrial Shelves – Take less than an hour total

We did a little decorating this weekend with our almost finished bathroom makeover by creating these awesome, and easy industrial farmhouse shelves. When I say easy, I honestly didn’t know how easy this project was going to be and if I would have known then I would have done it a lot sooner than this! Y’all these industrial farmhouse shelves are EASY! Like on a scale of 1-10 these are like a 1 or 2. 
We did these shelves in an afternoon, while also painting part of the fence with the new paint sprayer (many more posts to come from using that bad boy), stripping paint off of a beautiful hardwood door and fixing our work table that had lost a part making it inoperable. So our ADD may have been on overdrive or possibly I was a little ambitious to get a few things crossed off the to-do list, but we managed to get quite a bit done in a very short amount of time! 
So for a while now I have been struggling with how to decorate this vintage farmhouse because there is literally no wall space to decorate with. We have tons of windows, which I love, but there just isn’t a lot of wall space for decorating and I feel that is what is missing in order to make this house a home. So while perusing Pinterest after church on Sunday I came across a picture of some industrial wood shelves. After making a quick supply list and dashing off to Lowes, we gathered the supplies and headed home to get started! 
Supplies needed for two industrial farmhouse shelves:
  1. 1x8x6 board cut into two 18” pieces
(4) metal flanges 
(4) metal pipes (we used ones that were individually packaged that were 10” long)
(4) metal pipe cap
(1) foam paint brush
(1) bottle of hammered spray paint (we used XXX in XXX color)

(1) small container of stain (we used Minwax in Walnut)

(8) paint triangles

(16) screws

Pencils for marking holes (unless you are really really good at eyeballing things)
First, we laid a paint cloth down on our work bench and set up the paint triangles. Side note, we use these paint triangles all the time because they make painting all sides of something so easy because it puts the item up off the painting surface! We didn’t put the long pipes on the cones, they stood up on their own. 
Next, we sprayed all the pieces with a coat of the hammered paint and allowed them to dry. While drying we cut our 1×8 into our two 18” boards. We marked the board with a Stanley square to ensure a straight cut with our GMC chop saw. 
We laid our boards on four paint cones and stained the boards on all sides. Because it was a cooler day it took a long time for the boards to dry. Way too long for my patience! 
We marked the wall where we wanted the shelves. Because we know that there is wood behind the entire wall in this room we did not need to worry with anchors or finding studs to drill into. But if you will need to find the studs or use anchors if you don’t have wood behind your walls like we do. We probably double and triple checked our measurements to make sure that the flanges were going to be level and equally spaced both vertically and horizontally. Honestly, I was terrified of messing this step up because we were drilling on our newly installed ship lap wall and I knew that the repercussions were going to be massive if I missed a measurement! There were a lot of heated moments during this step! I didn’t help that when I was finally ready to drill the first screw into the wall that the battery on the drill was dead! 
So after 16 screws and lots and lots of checking for the level we were done with the hard part. Next, we twisted on the metal pipes and caps! We grabbed the mostly dry boards and placed them on the “brackets” and wall-lah we were done! Then I tore the house up looking for cute items to place on these new shelves and found a few things. But I don’t think that this will be the end result of the decorating but it worked for today! 
All in all, these shelves took no more than about 20 minutes to complete, drying time of the wood was probably more like an hour and a half. But I think these shelves make all the difference to the bathroom. Since this is the only full bath and the bathroom guests would use when visiting us it is important to me that it look special. The original image that I used for my inspiration called for two inch thick boards, which I think would look really nice but because this is such a small bathroom I felt like it would overpower the room so we used the thinner one-inch boards. 

What’s for dinner? Blue Apron!

What’s for dinner?

Blackened Cajun Catfish and Spiced Beef Torta from Blue Apron

Ever dread 4 pm when the only thing on your mind is, what’s for dinner? Yep! It happens to me all the time, more often than one would think honestly! This week I am dreaming of Blackened Cajun Catfish and a Spiced Beef & Pickled Torta. I know, strange dreams! I love to cook, and I love trying new recipes. Rarely do we have the same meal twice. Now that is not to say that we don’t have favorites that we repeat, but I rarely make it the same way.

So when the BFF recently offered me a free week to try Blue Apron food delivery I was all on board! Honestly, I was a little hesitant because I am leery of any box program. So many times I have almost signed up for beauty boxes, dog treat boxes, and other food boxes! I am one of those people sign up then realize that they need to cancel because they aren’t getting what they really want, but keep receiving boxes because they keep missing the cancellation deadline. You know who you are…I am not the only one! But let’s be honest, as a single mom, the thought of free meals was just too much for me to pass up! Teenage boy who eats all the time=grocery budget that is blown most months!

I was willing to try out Blue Apron because the BFF spoke so highly of it! So she helped me select my week of meals based on deliveries she had tried and things we thought the teenage boy would eat. We both were worried about the picky teenage boy and his eating preferences.So I selected the Pork Chops with Garlic Picada and Honey-Mustard Chicken. When I signed up I went ahead and skipped the delivery for the following week so that if it didn’t work out I would have time to cancel my membership before paying for more food. Smart move on my part!

Pork Chops & Garlic Picada with Brown Rice and Spinach

When our Blue Apron package arrived I was so excited! I mean, it was like Christmas! When taking items out of the box, it was like unwrapping a present! We sorted everything and decided on the Pork Chops with Garlic Picada for our first meal. But y’all, this meal was a hit! I mentioned that the teenage boy is a bit picky…well even he liked the meal and it had spinach in it. Yep, spinach. Both of us gave this meal an 8 (nothing gets a 10 in our house) and said we would definitely have it again.

Honey-Mustard Chicken with Roasted Winter Vegetables

The next night we had the Honey-Mustard Chicken. Y’all I am here to tell you that this was one of the best things ever. Like one of us practically licked their plate on this meal! (That would not be me, because what respectable Southern lady licks her plate?) This meal earned a 9.5 rating – a top rating in our house!

What I loved about these meals were the ease of having everything measured out and ready for you to prepare. Could I do this for other meals? Sure. But who has the time for that? Blue Apron takes the guess work out for you and makes it so easy to prepare dinner. The flavors were bold, the meat was moist and the portions were huge! I had ordered the dinners for four so that I would have enough for the teenager, me and to be able to take one for lunch the next day…I still had food leftover! No kidding!  The biggest downside would be that we don’t always like the four options that are offered and the directions are sometimes a little wonky (which is why I recommend reading ALL the directions before beginning)!

This week we are having Blackened Cajun Catfish and a Spiced Beef & Pickled Torta and I cannot wait!






So if you have read this far and are interested in trying out Blue Apron for yourself do a few simple things:

  1. Follow Simple Southern Life on Twitter
  2. Follow Simple Southern Life on Instagram
  3. Follow Simple Southern Life on Pinterest
  4. Follow Simple Southern Life Blog using the sidebar at the top

We have one week to give away to someone! We only have one, so we will be drawing the winner on February 10th at 8:00 a.m. Central Standard Time. Good Luck!

Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate with Blue Apron, I get nothing in return from this post other than the satisfaction of giving away one of the free weeks that any Blue Apron member receives as part of their membership. My options are my own and are not influenced by my membership on Blue Apron. 



Photos of the Week 1/30 – 2/3

Top Five Photos of the Week

We had a little detour in our life and have missed a week or two of posting.  But we are back! And we are once again living life to its’ fullest! If anything, the detour to our posting was a sign that none of us really know how long we have here and we truly need to see the beauty in the things around us! So I hope you enjoy the Top Five Photos of the Week pictures! Help me out with the titles by leaving a comment!

Mos of these pictures were taken with my older Cannon Rebel EOS XS. Although I have learned to love love love my new Cannon EOS T6 camera we still use the older one from time to time. Both take great pictures as you can see. Loved our time at Pedernales State Falls in the heart of the Texas Hill Country! It was a photographers dream that day! Perfect lighting, fall foliage and a day full of fun hiking and fishing!

I found the praying mantis in my backyard and spent the afternoon taking pictures of him! He was a great model for me and perfect for our Top Five Photos of the Week. Hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do!

Help me out with the titles by leaving a comment!







This last one of Riley was just too cute to pass up! While we were moving even he helped pack boxes! But the best part is that we were able to recycle the box and reuse it for his entertainment! And we thought this one was a great way to participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge with this weeks word being, Repurpose! Guess dogs are like kids…no matter what you buy them they still want to play with simple household items!

A Dessert to Impress

Chocolate, strawberries, cream…

this is a Dessert to Impress!

We have created a special treat, a dessert to impress even your toughest critics! But don’t let that deter you, because this impressive dessert is so simple to make! And it is a Southern treat that you will go to again and again.

A sweet southern dessert to impress your guests!
A sweet southern dessert to impress your guests!

This simple southern dessert to impress is so easy that it can become your signature go to dessert that will have all of your friends wanting the recipe. But as a good Southerner, you don’t have to share the recipe…just the dessert!








Print Recipe
A Dessert to Impress
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees while defrosting your puff pastry by laying it out on a cutting board. If frozen it could take up to 40 minutes to defrost.
  2. Once defrosted cut into three sections at the folded seems.
  3. Then cut each strip into quarters and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack while you prepare the filling.
  6. Mix vanilla pudding packet and one cup of milk, then fold in a cup and a half of whipped topping. Refrigerate pudding for five to ten minutes. while you slice the strawberries.
  7. Once pastries have completely cooled, carefully pull each apart in half, so you have a top and a bottom section. Add a tablespoon of pudding filling and a layer of strawberries, top with another layer of filling before putting on the top puff pastry piece.
  8. Add a little more filling and a couple of strawberries. Set aside and continue building your dessert to impress.
  9. When all have been made dust the tops lightly with powdered sugar. I used a sifter. Next carefully add a drizzle of chocolate syrup in long thin streams across the top of the dessert to impress. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready.
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Shutter Up – DIY Window Shutters

DIY Shutters

Simple DIY for Adding Window Shutters

Ever drive past those beautiful expansive estates that have been meticulously well kept? Every detail seems to be in its proper place. That is not my house. Yet. Well…maybe never.

Today on Simple Southern Life we are tackling the easy task of DIY shutters for our recently painted garage. For information on the garage renovation, see our blog post, Mint is an ice cream flavor, not a paint color. Here is a quick, and easy tutorial on adding some much-needed detail to what some might see as an eyesore. The garage.

DIY Window Shutters by Simple Southern Life

Since our garage is detached and part of the backyard I wanted to add some decorative touches to it to make the backyard more inviting. Living in the South we get to enjoy most of the year outdoors, and the backyard really becomes an extension of the home.

Supplies for DIY Window Shutters on Simple Southern Life

Next, determine the length of your shutters. Mine were 36 inches, and I wanted three boards with cross pieces per side per window.

The next step is to mark and cut all your boards at one time, as it is so much easier that way. I measure and mark each board individually using my Stanley square. Although I know it is tempting to just mark the first one and use it as your guide, it is safer to measure and mark each one so when you are finished you don’t have to take it all apart to cut the one that was just a tad too long!

DIY Window Shutters on Simple Southern Life

Next, layout your three long boards side by side. Then lay the cross pieces on top. Carefully clamp the long boards to the cross pieces to keep them in place while you drill them together using your 1.5-inch screws.

DIY Window Shutters on Simple Southern Life

I usually drill the two side pieces and then the middle because once the sides are in the middle board won’t move around on you. Repeat this process for the other end of this shutter.

DIY Window Shutters on Simple Southern Life

Next, lightly sand the shutters when you have finished attaching them together. I have had this FireStorm orbital sander for years! I love the ease of putting new papers on – it is Velcro! Wipe off well with a cloth to remove any loose debris.

DIY Window Shutters on Simple Southern Life

Now you are ready to paint them! I had to give my shutters two good coats of paint, allowing them to dry in between coats.

Once you finish painting and are ready to hang, grab your drill and four of your 3-inch screws. You will need a helper for this step! Place shutter next to the trim on your window, making sure you are even at the top and bottom and screw the shutter into the structure. I screw into the middle board because I like things to be symmetrical. Add another screw to the bottom middle. Repeat for other windows.

DIY Window Shutters on Simple Southern Life


Tad-ah! You are done! Doesn’t it make a big difference!

Photos of the Week 1/9-1/15

As the man behind the camera at Simple Southern Life I will be posting the top five photos I took each week. For Christmas, I got a new DSLR camera because the DSLR I had was very old, eight years old in fact. Next year I will be taking a photography class in school and they require me to have my own camera. I have entered a few contests every year and I usually do pretty well, but I hope to improve my skills before I am graded on them starting in the Fall. Now enough of my talking and on to the actual pictures.

1: Oh Orchid

Not only a photo but a project to keep it alive too!

2: Mums the Word

Failed gardening project.

3: Straight as a board







4: O O O…Riley!

Chief Security Officer at SSL

5: Night Light

Shooting light trail is a favorite right now!







What would you title these pictures?

More than fifty shades of gray!

We finally decided on a paint color for the exterior of the garage and house, because let’s face it Mint Chocolate Chip is not a paint color! I mean seriously,  what were the previous owners thinking? So we went on the daunting task of finding the perfect gray! And wow was I surprised to learn that there are more than fifty shades of gray! I just want gray. Not blue-gray, not pink gray (yes there is such a thing) and not green gray. Just good old gray gray!

After many samples, we FINALLY purchased Valspar Exterior paint in Polished Silver. And we got lucky that Lowes was having an awesome rebate offer by the time we made our decision! Score one for me! The mint green color of the garage just had to go! Because honestly, I was embarrassed to tell anyone that this was our house.

garage mint
BEFORE picture

Meet the Neighbors

I no more got started painting when the neighbors started coming out to officially meet us. I guess when you are working outside it is an open invitation for visitors. But these people were chatty and all I really wanted to do was paint. Each and every one of them were so excited that we were painting the garage (and house). They too agreed that mint chocolate chip is not a paint color! And they all loved the color I selected. Score one for me, again!


The AFTER of the painting of the garage, which is now gray.
Garage AFTER…I was excited and didn’t bother to clean up before this picture!


It is funny how something so simple as a fresh coat of paint can transform something! Honestly, what a difference a coat of paint makes! We used Valspar Exterior paint in Polished Gray from Lowes. This was my first five gallon paint purchase and I felt like a true flipper (or possibly just a full fledged adult) with this big bucket of paint in my cart!

Next Up on the To Do List

I have plans to add navy shutters to the sides of the windows and add some window boxes with pretty perky flowers too! Because in the South, a detached garage like this becomes part of the backyard decor and since we get to enjoy the outside most of the year we need to spiffy it up some!


after front
Front of the garage.

If you look closely you will see the tiny spot I couldn’t reach at the top of the garage! I briefly thought of leaving it as a momento to the mint chocolate chip green – ha! Only kidding! My fear of heights got the best of me! So my Dad finished it the next day for me!

Also on the LONG to do list, I bet you can guess, fixing the busted garage door! I don’t know how you run into your own garage door but I have a few theories on how the previous owner dented the door! The good news is that it does still go up and down. The bad news is that it looks terrible and you can’t just replace the one dented panel – you have to replace the WHOLE garage door! Ugh!

I can’t tell you how happy the new paint makes me every time I drive in my driveway! It truly is the simple things that make me happy!


Simple Southern Life – Bichon Birthday Bash

A year ago we were running errands and walked into PetsMart looking for supplies for our fish tank. This was the latest of hobbies of my teenage son. In we go for fish and out we come with a dog! An adorable Bichon-Doodle dog! What?

Yep, you read that right. We went in for fish and came out with a Bichon-Doodle dog. Our local store was hosting a pet adoption day for a local rescue group. I’d like to note that I was against this. I repeatedly shook my head NO. I looked to my parents for support on this one, only to see them both shaking their heads YES! I had been sabotaged!

Riley Adoption Day
Riley’s Adoption Day

Once they put the cute little cuddly Bichon-Doodle in my arms I knew it was over. Although I kept saying NO, my heart kept saying YES! So after paperwork, an extensive interview and many tears from the dogs’ foster Mom, a collar, a pet bed, a leash and of course dog food we were on our way with Howie.

Now Howie just didn’t seem to fit him. So after MANY names being tossed about we landed on Riley Howard. Honestly, I cannot see how anyone could have abandoned this pup. He is the sweetest, most lovable, cuddly dog that is always smiling! No kidding. With his under-bite, he always appears to be wearing a smile.

Picture of Bichon-Doodle and teenboy in bluebonnets
Life in the south means yearly bluebonnet pictures!

We have had so much fun with Riley this year! He’s gone kayaking, hiking, fishing, road tripping and enjoyed many a playdate with his cousin Cooper. But one of the coolest things is that he still has his big smile! That is evident here in his birthday video!

Riley has his own Instagram account so check him out some time @bigsmilelittledog and be sure to follow Simple Southern Life as well!

Flippers Before Flippers Were Even Cool

One of the great things about restoring an older home is that you get to bring life into something that so many others have let go over the years. It is a very rewarding process. So far the biggest drawback has been that there are a lot of decisions to make, both big and small. And for someone who struggles with decisions from time to time, this can be difficult. I know, you are probably rolling your eyes at this one. Yes, I knew going into this that there would be a lot of decisions. I had great role models in this area as my grandparents completely renovated a historic home in Fredericksburg beginning when I was 10 years old. Over the course of a few years, they took what was a complete dump and turned it into a gem that gave us years of enjoyment when we visited them! There wasn’t much they couldn’t do and they have been great resources when I struggle with decisions. The best advice they often give, just enjoy the process.

Before painting, it is so ugly

I will admit that I am a pretty handy person, and with the help from my parents there really isn’t much we can’t build, repair, refinish or think through. And thanks to YouTube, we have had a few moments of proud success on our work!


I have found a few products that have made my life a little easier with some of the painting projects that we have tackled. One being the Wooster paint brush. This is my all time favorite brush to use!  Unfortunately when I popped in a small hardware store and opted not to purchase the Wooster because it was twice the price as the big box store, I was the one that paid the price for buying a cheaper brush! The cheaper one I tried to use was, well useless. Disaster. I’m talking streaks, bristles coming out almost immediately when I used it, paint flicking in places I didn’t want it to, and the list goes on. I cannot say enough good things about the Wooster brand. It has a good feel in your hand, it doesn’t get heavy, it cleans up very well and can be used for a variety of paint jobs. I will not make this mistake again. I will either pay double (cringe) or make sure I have one on hand when I need it. To be honest, I now keep two new ones on hand at all times. So if I use one, I buy another on my next trip to the store.

Half-way finished!

Here is a peek at some of the painting that we have done lately in the tie-dye room. No one could sleep in this room with this obnoxious paint scheme. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am not sure what the previous owner was thinking with some of these color selections. If the neighbors thought the mint green garage was bad, they would really think the inside paint colors were bad!

Almost done!

For this room we used the high-end Valspar paint from Lowes, think good, better, best and we went with the best for maximum coverage for this room. The color is Polished Silver and we selected an eggshell finish for the walls and Ultra White in a semi-gloss finish for the trim. Note, you have to ask them to actually add the color Ultra White to their base paint even though they’re off the shelf base paint is called Ultra White. Lesson learned the hard way, but dealing with Valspar directly we were able to quickly solve the mystery and I can only say good things about their customer service! In fact, I will be a Valspar customer for life because of how quickly and easily they replaced my paint.

Although this room is far from finished, at least the walls are one solid color!

Inspiration I used:

The Walls

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