Winter 2016: A Family

Afternoons passed the slowest.  Particularly on these gray, winter days, with the wind incessantly rattling her windows in their panes and the impenetrable clouds blotting out every ray of light.  Not that the sunlight could really come through the plastic stapled over the windows anyway.  It would be hours yet before her evening guests-a family of squirrels in the attic, a bat in the upstairs bedroom, and a family of mice in the kitchen would scuttle in and wreak a bit more havoc.  How sad that she had begun to think of them as her guests!  What had become of her?  Once a warm and stately home, where mice were driven out immediately and a bat would never have considered attempting to enter?

Of course it was partly due to her age, she knew that without truly understanding what “age” was because the many people who had come, walked through, and left never to return over the past few years were always talking about her “age.”  But even more so, it was a lack of care.  The basement was full of empty coffee cans, once filled with fasteners and tools for this project or that and the stairs up to the pantry were creaky and musty.  The first story floors had all warped as she settled, her original supports having been replaced with temporary, ratcheting poles that had never been made permanent as intended.  The walls were stained, the wallpaper peeling, and all of the carpet was rotting where it lay, old and dirty.

The kitchen ceiling was cracked and sagging after that terrible leak in the roof.  The bathroom ceilings were stained as well, dry wall giving way to mold.  There was a new roof, now, but the damage remained.  Every available surface held evidence of the rodents that had taken over when the last, human occupant had left for good.  There were holes chewed through doors, excrement everywhere, and little piles of cracked acorn shells in the attic.  Who could ever want to live with me?  She thought to herself.

She had been truly beautiful once–the envy of the block with state of the art windows and so many in every room that sunshine poured in any time of day.  Six spacious bedrooms each with their own closet, a large yet cozy kitchen, two indoor bathrooms, and . . . oh . . . was that the front door was swinging open?  A moment passed before he crossed the threshold and she realized that the man was back again.

This one had come a bit ago and looked around.  They had talked of age again and he’d pointed out several of her more serious flaws.  Truth be told, it had been an entirely humiliating visit and she’d hoped to not see him again.  She no longer got excited when a person came to look, and this one had not been any different than the rest.  But now he was back and why?  Just to insult her further?  Mock her in her lowest hour?  He paused there, in the entryway holding the door open and she realized she had been so focused on her embarrassment reliving his last visit, that she had failed to notice he wasn’t alone.

At first, she thought it must be the other man or “agent” as she had heard him called.  He always came with whoever wanted to walk around pointing out her inadequacies.  Of course, it could also be Will, coming to check on things as he often did.  If it weren’t for Will, the pipes would have burst and all would have been lost after Mamie moved on.  Then she heard it, so faint at first, but getting louder . . . a baby!  There was a baby!  How long had it been since the sweet cries of a baby had echoed against the walls?  The pitter patter of tiny feet, the squeals, the giggles . . . oh how she missed having a family of her own.

They all grew up, of course, and grew old.  She had held some from their first breath to their last and it had been her joy and her honor to shelter them as they went about their lives.  Truly, it had been a fascinating two hundred and thirty or so years!  The way styles and gadgets had changed!  She would never forget when the wood stove for cooking had been replaced with propane! Or the day they turned her first light-bulbs on back in eighteen whatever it was.  So very exciting!  She’d had her doubts when they decided to move the plumbing inside, but it had worked out famously in the end and it filled her with pride to always have the latest updates.

But it wasn’t always easy.  There were hard times for the people she held and she could tell by the way they paced or sighed or spoke in low tones the children couldn’t overhear.  When the people worried, she knew she might not get her usual upkeep and she didn’t mind; she was built to survive such times.  But this had been different.  This time she had simply stood empty, something she’d never done before, and there were no people inside to care if everything slowly fell apart or became overrun with creatures.

First, the mice had come with their scratching and nibbling.  How horrifying that had been!  In no time at all they became quite bold, chewing holes right through the walls!  Climbing the chimneys to make each and every room their own.  Then it was the squirrels.  There were fewer of them, but the damage they could inflict was ten fold!  They chewed holes right through her solid wood doors!  Between that and the leak in the roof, she quickly found herself in state of wretched disrepair.  After which, began the parade of gawkers, none of whom wanted to take her on.  By the time the first bat slipped in through a broken, attic window, she could no longer muster any indignation.

A soft sigh brought her out of her sad rememberings . . . not the man, and certainly not the baby . . . it was a woman.  She must be the mother.  Had the man brought his family here to look?  If she’d had hands she would have been wringing them, but as it were, she could only stand tall and still with her terrible hope and her terrible fear known only to herself.  She had thought herself past the point of wanting, but to see a young family, it was impossible to not yearn for them to be hers.  And in her state???  What mother would want to raise a child in her rodent infested nightmare?

But before she could work herself up any further, she heard the woman quietly breathe the words, “It’s perfect.”

Perfect?

She said it with such awe . . . as if she couldn’t believe her luck.

They proceeded to walk from room to room discussing this or that.  The man would point out flaws, just as he had when speaking to the agent, and the woman would murmur some acknowledgment then start talking about paint colors and shelves and carpets and cabinets, counter tops, and windows, and curtains . . . she even picked out a room for the baby.  It was hours before they finally stepped out onto the crumbling, old welcome mat and locked the door behind them.  When the squirrels and mice came in from the cold to scratch and skitter about, she hardly noticed them and when the bat flew in to rest upside down behind a particularly large peel in the wallpaper she could not bring herself to care.

It was, without question, her best afternoon in years.

The Old House

 

 

 

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: So Many Things!

We are FINALLY moving our bed out of the living room today!!!!! : )

I unpacked the rest of my summer clothes and hung them up, so I am no longer using a cardboard box with five outfits in it for a wardrobe!!!!! : )

I cleaned and polished my beautiful bookshelf (still my favorite piece of furniture, sorry new couches!!!) and unpacked my beautiful books.   A house is just not a home until the books go up.  : )

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It was a lovely moment in time, going through my childhood books, combining them with all the books she’s been given, and putting them together on the bottom, two shelves where my sweet Sunshine can reach.  : )

We put the screens in our doors, so there’s fresh air all through the house!  : )

We now have big cans for our bottles, our cardboard/paper, and our garbage and all three of them are out of sight/smell but still easily accessible.

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We put our air conditioner in the living room window so we don’t expire of heat/humidity!  : )

We got a coat of paint on the pantry and, with my parents coming for two weeks, we might just get it finished!  : )

We completely cleaned/cleared out the entry way and organized all of the fix-it-up tools, tool boxes, ladders, buckets, etc upstairs!

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And, of course, we made time for some baby snuggles and giggles.  : )

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We have been busy!  Too busy to write.  And even though I’m technically still too busy to write, what can I say?  The coffee is hot, the baby is asleep, and here we are.  As we get things cleaned up, organized, cleared out, etc, I am falling in love with our house all over again.  For awhile after we moved in, everything was so desperately disorganized, it was difficult to live in, especially with a baby and often, I felt frustrated and overwhelmed.  Now, with my books on the wall, my furniture free of laundry, my clothes in an actual closet and the things we aren’t using tidily stacked in empty rooms upstairs: I can breathe, I can relax, and I am not constantly worried about what my Sunshine might find and ingest.

With my parents here to help, we are hoping to finally finish the pantry/laundry room and maybe, if we’re lucky, get the bedrooms and/or living room painted.  There isn’t much we can do to the kitchen this year because once we start, we’re going to have to tear up pretty much everything.  So, once the pantry/laundry room is complete, we’ll go back to sealing the house and begin work on the barn and fencing.

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I cannot wait to share more of our barn with you all!!!!!!  It is huge, it is old, it is beautiful, and it is full of random stuff!  Before my much-missed horses arrive, we’ve got to clean out the upstairs for hay, buy hay and get it up there, figure out some kind of solution to the sort of bat problem (they are only sort of a problem because they poop, they are sort of awesome because they eat all of the bugs I don’t like!), and get a fence up.  You know, just a couple of paltry tasks, should be no big deal . . .

So there we go!  Now you’re up to date and I’d best get back to work!  Happy Monday, everyone!  : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: The Water Problem

We have a water problem . . . er, water problems, I should say.  Back when Mac n’ Cheese Manor was first built (1790), sealed windows, insulation, and proper venting simply weren’t a thing.  And, while many updates have been made over the course of the 230 or so years she’s been here, many others have not.

Our unfinished basement leaks badly enough that where there’s a window under the pantry, there are plants growing.

We (read “Carl”) tried to replace the pipes under the sink in the bathroom and found that no matter how hard he pulled or twisted, the pipe going into the wall (which should pull off without difficulty) will not budge and we’re going to have to cut into the dry wall to see why.

There are no fans in the bathrooms and we found mold in the bathroom closet (Please note, if you find mold in your home, DO NOT read ANY blogs about mold in houses!  Go straight to the CDC website where there is excellent, science-based information on what to do rather than worst case, nightmare stories.).  This means we are going to have to cut a hole through the house to install fans.  I admit I’m kind of excited to cut a hole in the house since I’ve never done that before and I wonder what it looks like.

There are no vents in the roof.  This will definitely require a professional to fix.

Before the new roof was put on (fairly recently, though I can’t remember the year), there were numerous leaks that were bad enough and went on long enough that you can still see water stains in the ceilings of the bathrooms and kitchen and the wall under the stairs.  Not to mention a huge crack in the ceiling of the kitchen that sags a bit.

And so we are continuing to compile what we lovingly and only somewhat jokingly call our “Twenty Year List.”  : )

Luckily, my husband is rather handy (give that man a YouTube video and he can do anything!!) and has taken care of all the leaky faucets, fixed our kitchen sink so the water doesn’t spray everywhere every time you turn it on, removed the extremely gross sink from the laundry room/pantry, and replaced the PVC to the outside faucet so we can fill our doggie/kiddie pool (and properly bathe our stinky dogs)!

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Goals for this week include cleaning out the second, downstairs bedroom, continue going through our clothes and putting the fall/winter things away, and making as much progress on the pantry and furniture I am (still) trying to finish sanding/painting as possible.  It’s gonna be a busy week!  : )

 

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: The delivery guys who didn’t deliver and why is the toilet water hot?

The weather was rather uncooperative this past week so I have no updates on my adventures in learning how to make old, ugly furniture new again.  That said, we still accomplished plenty!

My first update relates to the plumbing.  The new septic is in and the company that did the work even re-seeded our lawn!  On their last day, while they were still cleaning up, Carl and I made ourselves mimosas and went to the side yard to chat while his mama was in the shower.  As we came around the corner of the house, I noticed water just bubbling up out of the ground!  At that time, we both thought they may have burst a water pipe with their heavy equipment, but no, in fact, it was a very old school system in which the grey water was piped into the yard and ONLY toilet water went through the septic system at all!  Ew.

Luckily, we noticed while the work was still in progress and once the issue was discerned, they scheduled a plumber to run all draining water through the septic system.  When he came out last week, we decided to go ahead and ask him about an issue that had been confounding us from day one:
Why is it that our toilet occasionally refills with hot water?

Now, I don’t know about you, but until living here, I had never once seen hot water in a toilet.  But sure enough, every once in awhile, we’d flush and steam would billow out of the bowl!  Also, it was hard to tell which valves were for hot and which were for cold on all of our sinks because it seemed all of them would go from cold to hot and back again!  Very strange.  And when we asked, judging by the confused/concerned look on the plumber’s face, I’m pretty sure he thought it was very strange as well.  He agreed to take a look and went on down into the basement.

Turns out, there is a little thing called a “sweat valve” that can be placed near the inlet to the toilet and if the water is cold enough to cause condensation on the tank, it will automatically mix in some hot water.  However, on our house, instead of using an actual sweat valve, there was a two-way, manual valve that just mixed all hot and all cold together for everything.  Thankfully, all it took was removing said, manual valve and we had normal, separate hot and cold water throughout!  Oh the things we are learning as we dig into this awesome, crazy, old house!!!!

Okay, onto the furniture.  : )

Some of you may recall that we bought furniture and it was delivered a couple weeks ago but the delivery guys said it couldn’t be moved in because it simply would not fit unless we took it through the window.

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Well, our ancient windows don’t just open up. I’d have to get the drill and literally remove the whole thing in order to do what they wanted.  Also, because they would not touch anything but the furniture under any circumstances, it wasn’t going to happen because even if I got the window unscrewed, I could never have safely gotten it down without another pair of hands.  I suggested we take the doors off the hinges and they said that wouldn’t work.  Needless to say, I was not impressed with them and even though I was pretty sure the furniture would fit, I decided I’d rather not have them try because they clearly weren’t interested in doing a good job.  So I had them take it to the barn where Carl and I could fetch it later.

Later turned out to be this past Saturday.  And, with just a few doors off the hinges, we managed to get both the couch and the chaise in-in no time!  I won’t say it was easy, but it was definitely easier than “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Delivery Services” made it out to be.  : )

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So now we have a couch!  And a chaise!  And after five months with no furniture other than a bed and a dining room table, it feels soooooooooooooo good!  : )

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The weather is supposed to improve drastically starting tomorrow, so we’ll hopefully be able to get back to sanding and painting shelves and such for the laundry room/pantry this week.

That’s all for now, happy Monday, Everyone!  : )

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: The Bat in our Belfrey and other Creatures

And, by belfrey, I mean master bedroom.  While my Mamatu and my niece were visiting, I received a text around 11:30pm (long after we had all gone to bed) from my mother-in- law asking me to send Carl to their room because there was something flying around in there and it sounded big!

Carl and I got up and went to their room, turned on the light and found this little guy:

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Now, I think bats are the most adorable rodents of them all, but even so, I don’t particularly want them flying in my bedroom at night.  Fortunately for all, this little guy was quietly and easily moved outside with the help of an Amazon gift bag and we were all able to go back to sleep without any more excitement.  Our adventures with the local wildlife continue!!!

We also (finally!) trapped this little guy who cleverly ate three spoonfuls of peanut butter from two different live traps without getting caught.  He has been safely relocated many miles from the Manor and will hopefully live a happy and full life not in our attic.  : )

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We’ll keep trapping and moving, but the fact remains that until the house is properly sealed, we will likely continue to running into critters here and there as we go about bringing Mac n’ Cheese Manor back to life.  My favorite part of the bat incident was the picture my talented niece drew the next morning on our whiteboard.  Gram is the one hiding under the covers, my niece is the one sitting up with the blanket over her head and Carl and I are under the bat.  LOL!

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Mac n’ Cheese Manor: No Rest for the Weary

It’s 10:30ish pm, the baby is fast asleep and Carl is outside cutting the lock off the barn because (after only a week in our possession) we lost ALL (there were five of them, but in our defense, they were all on the same zip tie) of the keys.  Part of me is begging me to go to sleep after a few rough nights in a row, but another part of me (the part who won, obviously) is saying, “Nah, pour some of that lovely beer from De Garde and write!”  : )

We took a break from working on the house today to march for science in Boston and it was awesome!  Thousands of people were gathered on the Boston Common.  It was peaceful, it was respectful, and it was heartening to see so many people out making a statement about what they value.  We bumped into one of Carl’s coworkers which resulted in us joining her crew for beers after the rally, which resulted in Carl and two others making plans for some neat S.T.E.M. projects at a high school where one of them works.  My sweet Sunshine was completely tuckered out after her first subway ride and first march, but had zero meltdowns and didn’t fall asleep until we were back in the car heading home.  All in all, a great experience.  : )

On top of all that goodness, Awkward Girl showed up and made quite an entrance at the restaurant.  That’s right friends, she’s back and coming soon to a blog near you!

Now, I’m literally falling asleep at the keys so I’m going to hit the hay and complete this post in the morning!

Aaaaaand, we’re back!  Having taken a day off yesterday, we are working overdrive today to try and be just a tiny bit organized for our house guests.  Mamatu (my amazing mother-in-law) and our lovely niece are coming this week!  Thankfully, they completely understand our current state of indoor camping/fixing up, so they aren’t exactly expecting a Hilton type experience.  In fact, we’re planning to put them to work!  That said, we do want to have bedrooms clean and ready for everyone and to not be sleeping in our living room anymore by the time they arrive.

To that end, we puttied like mad last week so we could sand and paint the floors this weekend.  In the (very) old days, the wood for the floors on every floor of a home had big spaces in between so when you swept, the dust would fall through to the next floor until it was eventually swept into the basement.  Nowadays, having such conveniences as the modern vacuum, we no longer need large gaps between each board.  In fact, for heating/cooling and cleaning purposes, gaps are bad.  Hence the need for wood filler, lots of wood filler:

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Thankfully, that part is now done and we are prepping to sand and paint today.  Once that’s finished, we have the unenviable task of moving most of our boxes to the upstairs rooms so we can start sleeping in the downstairs bedrooms.  Lots on our plate today, wish us luck and have a great Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: Let’s Play a Game . . .

Carl and I played a neat game this past weekend and I thought it would be fun to share it with all of you!  The game has no rules and there are only two parts.  Part One is called: What is that smell?  And Part Two is called: And where is it coming from?

We decided to play while in the middle of puttying the floors upstairs.  I came down to get something (I honestly have no recollection what it was now.)  and I smelled the most horrendous smell in our downstairs hallway.  My first thought was natural gas which completely freaked me out as my sweet Sunshine was sleeping in the next room.  But when I had Carl come down to give it a whiff, he said he’d smelled it faintly earlier and thought it was wet towels we’d forgotten to wash once we got our washing machine hooked up.

I informed him that the bag of wet towels we brought from the apartment was the first load of wash I had done when we got our washing machine hooked up and his brow crinkled in concern.  If not the towels and not natural gas, what could it be?  We noted it was much stronger at one end of the hall than the other and put part one of the game on hold to focus all of our attention on part two.  After sniffing and wandering for about five minutes, we pinpointed the strongest odor in the master bedroom (which is currently filled to the brim with boxes of our things.

It was at this moment, we both paused, looked at one another, and gave voice to our deepest fear: what if a squirrel died either in the walls or in one of our boxes of things?  The smell was certainly rank enough and that would explain why it had progressively gotten worse on a hot day . . .

Continuing on with our search, I noted how close we were to the half bath off the master bedroom and on a whim went inside.  I won’t say the smell got worse so much as it changed in an odd way that made me curious.  So I went to the toilet, which we have never used, lifted the lid . . .

And there it was.  The bowl was coated in blackish-green slime and there was no water.  The septic had backed up!!!!!! EW. EW. EW. EW!  As luck would have it, I had recently received a recommendation from our good friend Bri on a fantastic bleach/lysol toilet bowl cleaner.  I literally ran to retrieve it from the bathroom we have been using and liberally applied it.  Even though it says you don’t have to scrub, we scrubbed, we let it sit, and then, with a touch of fear in our hearts, we flushed.

It all went down leaving a sparkling clean, white bowl free from wretched odors!  And so ended our game, may we never have to play it again as long as we live.  : )

Even as I type, the guy who is putting in a whole new septic system (the sellers are putting it in because the old one was not up to code) is outside, hard at work!  And not a moment too soon.  : )
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