Adventure is Out There

So we moved.

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Allow me to introduce you to the R. A. Gray house. Mr. Gray was the longest-serving Secretary of State in Florida history, and he had this house built across the street from the Governor’s mansion in 1928. It was sold after his death and, in 1960, was moved to its present location on the northeast side of town.

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Looks great, right?

LIES.

We were initially outbid on this house, but the winning bidder ran for the hills after they got the inspection back. Every major system in the house needed to be updated – wiring, plumbing, roof, HVAC, foundation.

But on the other hand, the house had beautiful hardwoods, a grand foyer, cut-glass doorknobs, high ceilings, and character.

The house haunted me. We could save this house. We could make it amazing. We can fix this.

Jason, bless him, saw the fevered look in my eyes and agreed to embark on this adventure with me. So we submitted a much lower offer, sold our perfectly adequate, in-good-working-order house, and bought this fixer upper. Then we lit a pile of money on fire in the front yard.

The day after the closing, the electrician got to work. The house had a grand total of zero three-prong outlets, which meant that plugging in anything more powerful than a travel hair dryer was risky. Additionally, the breaker panel was located on the exterior of the house, which just seems like a terrible idea. The wiring they pulled out of our walls looked like it belonged to a nineteenth century electric chair.

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But soon we will have an indoor breaker box, and it’s SHINY.

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We will also have some drywall to patch.

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Because the power has been off in the big house, we’ve been living in the guest house, which was not built in 1928 and which we thought was in good shape.

MORE LIES.

The sink leaked, the bedroom fan didn’t work, and yesterday water began bubbling up here:

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There are many places where water is acceptable in a bathroom, but the base of the toilet is not one of them. Jason took the toilet up, which revealed a previously-broken flange and a poorly-done repair. This was beyond our capacity, tool-wise and knowledge-wise, so we’re calling in professionals.

That sums up our first week of home ownership.

SERENITY NOW!

 

 

 

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A (Farewell) House Tour, Part 3

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

It’s almost over.

The packing, the anxiety, the leaving. It’s almost done.

Here’s a picture of the master bedroom from the MLS listing:

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And here’s what we did: replaced the carpet with laminate, and painted. We also added a decorative Boston Terrier.

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Hollyn & Jensen’s room was a bit bland:

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The addition of a cat helped tremendously:

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Tyler’s room was a particularly vivid shade of lilac:

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Now it’s…. well….. a 12-year-old boy lives there. What do you expect?

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And finally, Hazel’s room – which was just a guest room when we moved in.

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This is the only room that I get a little choked up about. This is where I rocked my little newborn Hazel to sleep so many nights, where I sang to her and read her stories. Where we got to know each other.

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And that’s it. Five years of constant editing, re-arranging, and improving. It’s definitely been a learning experience.

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A (Farewell) House Tour, Part 2

Part 1 here.

Moving inside, because it’s hot as blazes out there.

Inside the house, we’ve replaced all the flooring (except in the bathrooms) and moved the HVAC from the crawlspace to the attic. We also painted. The sitting room is Behr Fashion Gray, and every other living space is Martha Stewart Sisal.

This is our foyer in 2011, before we moved in.

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We removed the tile, changed out the front door and light fixture, and accessorized.

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The living room circa 2011 was already starting to feel dated, with a high-contrast accent wall.

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After using the living room as such for years, we recently flip-flopped our living and dining rooms, with great success. We also added can lights in the ceiling.

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The old dining room was petite. Since the house doesn’t have an eat-in kitchen, we used the dining room frequently, and it just wasn’t practical for a family of six.

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The old dining room is now a sitting room, home of the octopus chairs.

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Next up: the kitchen.

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We refinished the cabinets, changed out the counter tops and appliances, and added a tile backsplash and enough undercabinet lights to perform surgery in there.

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The family room was perfectly inoffensive in the MLS pictures:

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After the fire, we vaulted the ceiling, which made the room feel much bigger. Recently, we created a coffee station in the corner and added some antique furniture. We added the cat in 2013.

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The previous owners used the sunroom as an office, which I don’t understand, as there was no AC to the sunroom when we moved in.

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The biggest change we made (other than adding a proper roof with AC) was re-vamping the wet bar. I will be sad to leave it.

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In the final installment of this series, we’ll check out the bedrooms. See you then!

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A Toasty Anniversary

Five years ago today, our house was struck by lightning and burned.

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It is an event which has come to shape my worldview in a lot of ways. Experiencing such a trauma taught me a lot about myself, about my marriage, and about my neighbors. I learned so many positive lessons from the fire, the most important of which were about kindness and generosity.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a great experience, though.

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I can still tell the difference between the smell of a wood fire and the smell of a house fire. House fires smell particularly sharp, an undertone of hot metal and burning chemicals.

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It feels a little like we will be abandoning this house when we move. We’ve been through a lot together, this house and the Taylors.

Ultimately, this house is just a pile of bricks and lumber like any other. The memories we’ve made here can’t be packed up in boxes, but they will come with us.

 

 

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A Bushel and a Peck

Saturday we ventured into south Georgia for an agricultural field trip.

First, we picked blueberries at a friend’s grandmother’s house. Hazel LOVES blueberries. She ate them off the bushes, after several reminders to only eat the blue ones. Jason would dump a handful in his bucket, and she’d scoop them up and shove them all in her mouth. Despite her best efforts, we still managed to pick nine pounds of blueberries.

Nine. Pounds. Of. Blueberries. That’s a LOT of fruit.

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We then headed to a u-pick tomato farm. Picking my own produce always reminds me of this delightful post from Stuff White People Like, so it was with a mixture of chagrin and amusement that I headed off down the rows with a five-gallon bucket.

The farm had several varieties of tomatoes, and we got a mix of beefsteak and Roma. I had visions of pasta sauce, BLTs, and caprese salad.

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Do you know how many tomatoes a 5-gallon bucket holds? Answer: A ridiculous amount of tomatoes.

It was not even lunchtime, and we had gathered an absurd amount of fruit. By the end of the day, we added six pounds of zucchini, several squash, and one cucumber to our haul. Our friends were probably laughing at us. Okay, definitely laughing at us.

Jason also tried to pet the cows on the farm. It went about as well as you’d expect.

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We returned to suburbia and got to work putting up our bounty.

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First up, I began freezing the blueberries. After a quick wash, I spread them out on baking sheets in two-pound batches and stuck them in the freezer. After an hour or two, they went into (labeled!) Ziploc bags for long-term freezer storage.

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After that, I shredded two of the zucchinis and froze them. I put two cups of shredded zucchini in a sandwich bag, flattened it, and put five such sandwich bags in a gallon freezer bag.

Then I turned my attention to the tomatoes. By this time they had exited their bucket and were plotting a bloodless coup.

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I took two pounds of the Romas, halved them, scooped the seeds, and put them in the oven to dry. They spent most of the day at 200 degrees.

For dinner, we had a tomato tart.

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After dinner Hazel experienced what can only be described as a Blueberry Blowout.

The next day, I used fifteen pounds to make an epic batch of pasta sauce, and oven-dried another two pounds of Roma tomatoes.

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I cored, scored, and blanched the sauce tomatoes, then put them in a ginormous stock pot with aromatics (sauteed onions, garlic, oregano, Italian seasoning, wine, and bay leaves) and let them simmer.

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After a few hours, they were starting to break down.

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I used my immersion blender to smooth things out a bit.

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After that it was a matter of reducing the sauce to the right consistency, letting it cool, and portioning it out into gallon freezer bags. We got six quarts of sauce.

…..and that took care of about half of the tomatoes. We’ve been eating the rest as fast as we can, but I have a sneaking suspicion I have Tribble tomatoes in my kitchen. Every time I walk through, they’ve multiplied.

So if you see us looking a little pink around the gills, it’s not sunburn – it’s tomato fever.

 

 

 

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A (Farewell) House Tour, Part 1

It’s been a busy couple of months here at the Taylor ranch. Long story short, we’re moving.

We love our house, and we have loved living in our house. I am not a believer in “forever homes,” because life is just too unpredictable and I am too restless. This was the right house at the right time for our family. But now we’ve been presented with an opportunity to move to a house that needs our creative energy (and our dollars, natch).

We bought this home almost exactly five years ago, on May 27, 2011. If you know me at all, you know that on June 30, 2011, one month after our closing, the house was struck by lightning and suffered massive fire/water damage. Jason likes to say that his “honey do” list went from 1,000 items to 5, because after that almost everything in the house was brand-new.

Despite the total renovation, we have continued to make changes and improvements – well, we see them as improvements. I thought it would be fun (for me) to look back to where we started, and compare it to the house we’re leaving behind.

This is the front in early 2011:

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And in 2016:

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We haven’t changed much about the exterior – but we did add a Bevolo gas lamp to the front porch. It remains one of my favorite things we did during the remodel.

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We also chose a lighter roof color, to reflect more sunlight, and replaced the windows with energy-efficient models.

The other big change we made to the home’s exterior was replacing the flat roof over the sunroom with a gable roof, which allowed the space to be properly heated and cooled.

2011:

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And today:

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The picture of the pool reminds me – I need to soak up as much pool time as I can before we move!

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To Jason

Today my favorite person turns 40 years old. Happy Birthday, Jason!

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This year also marks ten years –  A WHOLE DECADE – since I met Jason. Every single day I wake up amazed and deeply relieved that I haven’t screwed this up yet.

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It has been my great honor to walk beside him through the most recent 25% of his time on Earth. We’ve tackled major and minor crises as a team, and he astounds me with his inexhaustible energy and grace under pressure.

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He has caused my shriveled little grinch heart to grow three sizes. He inspires me by performing countless selfless acts of service, by constantly looking for ways to help. I have become a more generous, kinder person due to his influence.

May the Fourth be with you, my friend.

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