June 29, 2015

Six Layers of Love (Or: Confessions of a DIY-Challenged Mom and What Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Bars Have to Do With Any of It)

Hello, my name is Elizabeth, and I am home-improvement impaired.

#idkhowtodiy.


My sweet husband, by his own admission, is similarly stricken. Based on our fixer-upper fitness, we should at most own a condo in the city.


Instead, we own a two-story, 100-year-old farmhouse with three outbuildings and an historic barn on 10 acres in the country. I know.

We love the house, but there is always some project that's trying to beat us down. The most recent beat-down came from my younger daughter's bedroom floor.

Our house has several wood floors that were painted when we bought the place and are not worth refinishing. Before my younger daughter, Anna, was born, we didn't know if she was going to be a he or a she, so we did the room up in blue, raspberry, and, on the floor, dark green. You'd have to have been there, but it made some sense at the time.

Once my 11-year-old figured out she was living in a pseudo-gender-neutral room, she complained, and together we picked out a fabulous midnight blue to replace the army green on her floor.

I slapped two coats of the new on top of the old and called it good.

Except it wasn't.

Because the old green was oil-based and the new blue was water-based.


Take-Away Tip #1: You've heard the saying "oil and water don't mix"? Truth, mamas. Take it from me, and don't try to put them together on your daughter's bedroom floor and think you're somehow going to be the exception to an immutable law of physics or chemistry or some other subject I don't understand.

The blue paint almost immediately started peeling off like a giant pore-tightening mask.

If Anna stood barefoot in one spot too long, she came away with a blue-paint slipper. She was not a happy middle-schooler. (I mean, I know "happy" and "middle-schooler" are often mutually exclusive terms, but her ill-tempered floor pushed my girl right over the edge into tween angst.)

I tried sanding and recoating, to no avail.

I went back to the home-improvement megastore where I'd bought the blue paint and confessed my stupidity. The paint-counter expert told me I should have initially applied a "bonding primer," which would basically convince the old green oil-based paint and new blue water-based paint that they could and should get along.

I bought a quart of the primer and started scraping off peeling blue paint in preparation for a do-over. Because I was not and am not going to do this again. Am. Not.

I scraped. And sanded. And scaped. And sanded. In due haste, I reached "I don't care" status and decided to just start throwing down primer...two coats, taking me up to four and counting.

Then I started painting. For the record, I despise painting. It's too messy. The only thing fiercer than my hatred of painting is my love for my daughter.

Midway through, I had a eureka moment, thank goodness. I'd been dipping my paintbrush directly into the quart can, which was a drippy hassle because I was using the biggest brush I could employ TO GET THE THING DONE ALREADY, and it barely fit. Bristles kept getting bent. The whole thing was a mess. (See "too messy," above.)

I decided I needed to pour the paint into something else for easier access. Absent a single one of the Cool Whip tubs that normally self-reproduce in my cupboard but which, inexplicably, had vanished when I needed one, I pulled a hinged Styrofoam food tray off the shelf.

And (Take-Away Tip #2): genius. I poured paint neatly into the larger well, which left smaller spots free for my wipe rag and bits of floor debris I fished out of the paint. The host can sat safely in the open tray lid, and when I needed to put down my brush, it rested securely with the handle protected from slipping back into the paint (see "too messy," above). The whole tray went right into the trash when I was done. Really, this could change my life. I'm sure DIY-divas have been employing this trick for decades, but it was possibly my DIY-challenged self's finest hour.

Two coats of blue brought the project total to six layers. The new paint seems to be staying put in spite of a summer so humid we could be growing rice in the living room carpet. 

And hallelujah, the room is done. No more peeling. No more paint socks for Anna. A room that's all her.

As for the Gluten-Free Chocolate Peanut-Butter Bars and what they have to do with any of this? This is a bit of a stretch, but here it goes:
  • Out of love for my daughter, I put a total of 6 coats of paint or something like it down on her floor. 
  • And have you heard of those bar cookies called "Seven Layers of Love"? (They're sometimes called "Seven Layer Magic Bars.") Well, these are not them. But they are layered. And you might love them. 
  • Do layer peanut-butter crumb cookie mixture with chocolate-fudge goodness.
  • Don't layer oil-based and water-based paint without a bonding primer go-between. 
I promise these bar cookies are so much better in real life
than they are in this photo. (See "Blog Backstory," list at end, #9.)
Gluten-Free (Or Not) Chocolate Peanut-Butter Bars

1 (~ 15 oz.) yellow cake mix, gluten-free if you want your finished product to be so
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (fat-free, low-fat, or regular...just make sure you aren't accidentally using a can of evaporated milk!)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Coat a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
3. In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, melted butter, peanut butter, and eggs. It'll be a stiff dough...use some muscle (or an electric hand-mixer). 
4. Press about two-thirds of this batter into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 5-7 minutes, just until barely starting to set in the center. 
5. While this is happening, pour the chocolate chips into a large microwave-safe bowl and dump the sweetened condensed milk over them. You don't have to stir at this point. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Now stir well. If the chocolate is not melted after you beat vigorously for a few seconds, heat for about 10 more seconds, and give it another try. Once your milk and chocolate have become one deliciously fudgy mess, stir in the vanilla. 
6. When the peanut-butter base has finished its pre-bake, remove it from the oven, and pour your chocolate fudge loveliness evenly over the entire surface. It's easier to distribute by pouring rather than spreading, so take your time and disperse the chocolate mixture as equitably as possible over the base. Don't neglect the corners and edges. Use a knife (or an offset spatula, a.k.a., My Very Favorite Kitchen Utensil) if you need to coax the chocolate mixture a little. 
7. Use your fingers to scatter small bits of the remaining peanut butter dough evenly over the surface of the chocolate. 
8. Bake for another 10-20 minutes, just until the cookie dough is barely set in the center and the chocolate mixture is starting to crack. Under is better than over here, doneness-wise. If you err on the short side, you can call these "gooey" and "melty." Whereas if you err on the long side, you'll have to just go with "hard" and "dentally damaging." 
9. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Store airtight. You can refrigerate these if you want to, but serve them warm or at room temperature. Or almost-hot right out of the pan five minutes after you yank them from the oven.



35 comments:

  1. You crack me up! Love her room! Pinning! Coming to you from #EspressosofFaith via #MomtoMomMondayLinkup!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Bonnie! Your kind comments made my day! Thanks for joining me for a few moments in my DIY-distress! :) I told my daughter I had two words for her if layers 5 and 6 didn't take. Throw. Rugs. Blessings on the rest of your week!

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  2. Our trim in our 50 plus year old house has had water based on top of oil based paint at some point!!!!!! I seriously think it will eventually be easier to just replace all of the trim! Have a beautiful day and enjoy the fruits of your labor and know that throw rugs are very "in"!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! Goodness, it's always something as a homeowner, isn't it? Thanks for taking time to visit and comment. Power to the throw rug! :)

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  3. Your DIY frustrations made me think - count it all joy that we all have different gifts. I am so blessed when someone I know has a gift for something that makes me crazy. I never would have considered what the base of the paints were! Lots of work, but it turned out beautifully. I skipped over the recipe since I'm on a diet.

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    1. Great point, Jennifer! Count it all joy, indeed! (Even if painting IS one of those things that makes me crazy.) Thanks so much for taking time to visit and comment!

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  4. I would love a 100 year old farm house-my hubby not so much! Mostly because as you said there is always something to fix! It's an adventure for sure! Love how the bedroom looks and chocolate and pb made any way is a VERY big weakness of mine! :-)
    Cathy@threekiudsandafish{dot}com

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    1. Thank you, Cathy! The quote "you may think you are finished with old houses but they are never finished with you" is surely true. :) Really, I am so much better with baking...and clean-up from that is fun! Thank you for taking time to stop by and encourage me with your kind comments!

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  5. I can relate with the lack of DIY capabilities. I am not at all crafty either, but I still try! Lol and those bars? Pls. I am making those like, now. Peanut butter and chocolate are my weaknesses! www.JustOneMommysOpinion.com

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    1. Oh, good, Jolleen...I'm not alone! :) Sometimes I feel like I'm the only non-DIY-diva in the blogsphere! And I have to say that if PB and chocolate are your weaknesses, you are actually very strong. Protein and phytochemicals and all that. :) Thanks so much for visiting...I'm looking forward to checking out your blog as soon as I put away the zillion dollars' worth of groceries cluttering up my kitchen!

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  6. Well, that was an ordeal to go through, but the blue is very pretty. I love it. And I know you don't want to paint it again, but a roller with the dumped paint is a good thing too. ;)

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    1. Oh, yes, Leslie, I NEED your roller reminder b/c I have miles of painting to go before I sleep. That BR may be "done," but there's the inside porch...and the outside porch...and the front stoop. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to stop by. Note to self: buy a roller. :)

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  7. Love your connection to the peanut butter bars! I know how frustrating painting projects, and all diy projects for that matter, can go. Our first home was full of DIY and we thought we knew what we were doing after all the practice we did on that house. Our current home is a century home that is always in need of some TLC... and we are not up to the challenges it presents almost daily.

    Marissa

    Reading List

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    1. Aw, thanks for going on that little tie-in trip with me, Marissa! :) I'll bet your current home is lovely! But I also imagine you can understand how when people say, "Oh, but old houses have so much character," I sometimes think, "Yeah, well some days I'd like less character and more functioning plumbing." Thank you for visiting and encouraging me. May God return that blessing back to you!

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  8. That is a LOT of painting!! Kudos to you...it did turn out great though! I wasn't too sure what I thought about the color, but then when I saw the room as I whole, I was convinced. :) Great job!

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    1. Thank you so much, Nicole! Honestly, I wasn't too sure about the color myself, but my daughter has very strong ideas about what she likes, so since the blue wasn't immoral, illegal, or dangerous, I went with it. Now we're both happy, and I'm moving onto the porch...with white paint! :) Thanks for dropping by for a visit!

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  9. You are HILARIOUS! I had to read the post to my 11yo son because he wondered why I was giggling. He said you remind him of Liz Curtis Higgs, which believe me, is a major compliment coming from him (and me!).
    Love the floor - so pretty! How much did that cost ya? LOL.
    So glad you're going to be in the Imperfect Mom Confessional with me! Yippee!

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    1. Aw, thank you so much! I am beyond grateful I saw the link to your post about the Imperfect Mom Confessional. WHICH I need in my life. Thank you, thank you, for taking on that project/ministry! And please pass along my undying gratitude to your son for the comparison to my girl Liz Curtis Higgs! That made my day (month? year?)! :) As to the floor, it didn't cost me too much actual money. Cost to my sanity? Well, that's another matter. Thanks again for taking time to stop by and encourage me so greatly. Looking forward to hanging on your every word now that I've found you! :)

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    1. Thanks, Kelsie. I'm thrilled and relieved to be able to report that it has held up through summer's humidity! :) Thank you for stopping by!

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  11. My post today is called Confessions of a Non-DIYer, so it's pretty funny that I found you on the Welcome Home Wednesday blog hop today! I'm glad your floor turned out, and those bars look yummy! Why didn't I think of just using a GF cake mix for some of these recipes I've been seeing lately? Duh!

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    1. Well. Clearly, Jamie, this was meant to be. ;) I'm going to find your post RIGHT THIS MINUTE! And yes, the GF cake mix in these bars was one of the better light-bulb moments for me. I'm not GF, but I LOVE these bars. Do you think they count as breakfast? ;)

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  12. Aww ,t hat blue floor looks great, so good that if I show it to my daughter she might get jealous. Good mama!

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    1. Thanks, Mary! We mamas do what we can to bless our children--and sometimes, we do what we CAN'T! ;) Thanks for visiting!

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  13. I love that blue floor. It looks amazing and pops out so well. Thanks for sharing this post on Welcome Home Wednesday Link up party.

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    1. Thank you, Charlene. It's held up all summer in our non a/c Michigan humidity, so I think the thing is really going to take! ;) P.S. I love Welcome Home Wednesday!

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  14. I work at Sherwin-Williams and my heart always bleeds for the people who come in with this problem... there's nothing worse than finding out all the hard work you just went through to paint your floor is not only peeling but will have to be sanded, primed and then re-painted. ouch. At least it looks lovely finished... that blue is gorgeous! Thanks for linking up this week at the Welcome Home Wednesday Link Party! Can't wait to see what you link up next week!

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    1. Betsy, Betsy...I NEEDED you here! :) But at least I (and, more importantly, my daughter!) am happy with the result. Lesson learned! I love Welcome Home Wednesday and look forward to coming back every week. Thank you so much for hosting! P.S. Can I call you next time I'm painting something? ;)

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    2. Elizabeth... of course you can! Haha... I answer every comment on my blog... and every email sent to my inbox! ;) Forward your painting questions to me and I will do my best as a Sherwin Williams Assistant Manager to answer them!

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    3. P.S. I'm featuring your post in my weekly round-up... it will go live tomorrow (Saturday) morning!


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    4. Betsy! You rock! :) I might have to seek your wise counsel about a kitchen cabinet painting project I need to do...:) In the meantime, THANK YOU so much for adding me to your round-up. I am so honored! This really just goes right along with my approach to blogging: I tell other people how I've messed up, and they feel better about themselves! ;) Thanks for brightening my day!

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  15. Haha well at least you figured it out and the room looks great! And yummmmmmm I need one of those chocolate pb bars in my mouth right now!
    www.thenannysaga.wordpress.com

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    1. Right?! I'm a little slow on the DIY-uptake...I'm better with cookie dough. Which, if you think about it, is a better deal because that floor is DONE, but my family needs cookies like 3 times a week! ;) Thanks for stopping by...and thanks for leaving a link to your site. I love to check out the blogs of people who so kindly post on mine, but sometimes it's hard to track them down. Thanks for making it easy! :)

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  16. Elizabeth, you made me laugh with your story... I know, it wasn't funny for you while on the process but know you know for sure the laws of physics or chemistry are that, laws. Anyway, the floor turned out great, and I am sure Anna is really proud of mom.

    Thank you for sharing with us at Sweet Inspiration party!! Have a wonderful week!

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    1. Well, if my misadventure could make someone laugh, it's all worth it! ;) Really, that's my whole plan with this blog! Thank you for hosting the Sweet Inspiration party!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!