Friday, December 26, 2014


When I think back over the past year, I truly think my husband and I were sort of nuts this year. During the past 9-12 months, we have added a vegetable branch to our blueberry farm business and completely renovated a century-old house. Besides that, I also personally took on extra responsibility at my university by serving as interim division chair for one year, and I (only two weeks ago) published my second novel, A Permanent Home. Wow. The only thing on that list that was even remotely in our plans at this time last year was the novel - just goes to show what surprises life can throw in a person's path!

I thought those of you who have followed this year's sporadic posts might like to see a couple of shots of the finished house project. Well, it's not completely "finished"; we decided, after doing all the work to make it so nice inside, that we wanted to replace the mismatched, old, inefficient windows as well. However, our loan wouldn't cover that, so we'll replace one or two a month as we have the funds. So just ignore that ugliness. Also, our son moved in before I had a chance to go around and document all the finished rooms, but maybe it's nicer to see the house with some furniture, anyway.

So...let me take you on a virtual tour.

What is now the front door originally was one of TWO front doors, the one that opened into the master bedroom with two closets. The brick chimney was encased in wooden planks and drywall, and the hardwood floors were covered with nasty tan carpet. We also removed the wall that separated the two rooms that are now the living room and kitchen/dining room to create a very open "living" space. It's one of our favorite features of the house now.

Looking from the kitchen into the living room.
The kitchen still has quite a bit of work to finish. A friend from church is a cabinet maker, and he and my husband built the cabinet boxes. The doors aren't finished yet, which is ok with us, since the friend is being incredibly generous and giving us a great price on the cabinets. Another feature we like is the ebony stain on the cabinets. The wood to build the cabinets came from an ash tree that had fallen on our farm; the ebony stain is enough to make the cabinets dark, but the wood grain still shows through. The dark cabinets look great with the white appliances and the light countertop. I can't wait to see them with the doors.

And the dining area on the other side of the kitchen will be nice and bright once the new windows are in place.

I'm very pleased with the way the bathroom turned out. Almost all the tile for the shower was recycled, either from the remodel of our shower at home or from mistakenly buying too much tile for the floor. We originally had a pedestal sink, but the door wouldn't open all the way, and finally my husband got tired of listening to me complain about that, and we put in a new sink with a cabinet to hide the fact that the plumbing is off-center now. But I'm actually glad we got the cabinet; the bathroom needed a little more storage space.

The glass block window is another favorite feature. The previous owners had simply painted over and hidden a window behind a closet; we decided to try to save the window to get some natural light in the bathroom, even though the plumber advised us to cover it up with a wall. I'm so glad we didn't listen. My tile job around the window is not the greatest in the world, but having that window really transformed the bathroom. (And that is the original tub from the house - it cleaned up nicely.)

You can't really tell much about the master bedroom, but then bedrooms aren't usually much to look at, anyway. This is the room that had the terrible pet urine odor. So far, it hasn't returned (knock on every piece of wood we can find!). This is probably where we will start with replacing the windows. And don't you love the duct tape curtain rod!

There are two other bedrooms, but they are just empty rooms at this point. Well, not completely empty - one has wood scraps and one has the tools. They have two different laminate floors, since one was originally the kitchen and one was a back porch converted into a bedroom. The laminate, while different from the hardwood in the rest of the house, looks nice and gives each room a character of its own.

Finally, here's a shot of the revamped laundry room. The quarters are a little tight - there's only enough room to stand and open the dryer door - but it should be fine. It's a clean little room now compared to what it was before. We decided to keep some of the original look of the house in this room - if you look closely, you can see the bead board on the ceiling.

When we first bought the house, I made a video tour of the whole thing, but I can't find that video now, and we don't seem to have taken any "before" pictures before we started knocking down the drywall with sledge hammers. I think about all the work we've done over the past months - demolition, reframing, all new electrical and plumbing, drywall and the eternal job of finishing the seams in the drywall, painting walls and ceilings, painting and installing trim, sanding and refinishing the wood floors, putting tile on the bathroom floor and shower, gluing down the laundry floor (one of the worst jobs, actually), installing the laminate (harder than it sounded), putting up the cabinets and countertops. I'm kind of impressed with us, actually. The work is not perfect (thank goodness the pictures don't show in-depth detail, ha ha), but we did it. Jeff occasionally says he wants to do another house sometime; I haven't yet reached that point!

I also want to give a little plug for my new novel, which was published on 12-13-14 (intentionally). At the end of the first novel, I had included a promo page for the second one, with the line, "Coming in 2014." You don't know how many times this year I was afraid the circumstances of my life were going to make a liar of me! Fortunately, 16 of the 22 chapters were already written when the year began. I finished the last six chapters early in the year, and then slipped in some editing on and off as I had a little time. Thanks to some gentle prodding by another church friend who wanted to give the book as a Christmas gift, I decided at the beginning of December to put off grading papers one weekend in order to do the layout and get the book to Createspace. It took the entire weekend to do the layout (longer than I had anticipated). Then I had to resubmit the "final" draft several times because the cover image just wouldn't seem to be the right size. Finally, it was all ready to go, and I approved the copy to publish - only to find out later that night that I had ONE spelling mistake. ARGGGHHH! I made the correction and republished the files. I sincerely hope that is the only spelling mistake.....There was also a little issue with the Kindle version in that the decorative glyphs I had included in the print version didn't convert for Kindle, leaving me with a "ba" in every single section break. (I hope I've fixed that error, as well.) I'm a little disappointed and embarrassed to have let those mistakes slip through. Maybe I will have learned something so I can avoid them next time.

And here's my last image - the cover of the new book:

So, two big projects are at an end, and as with any ending, there's a sense of being at loose ends. I'm sure that won't last, though. I can't help but wonder....what's ahead for the new year???