The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

Porch addition051417Damn that #HGTV! Between #FixerUpper and the other home makeover shows I’ve watched for the past 10 years, I thought I was savvier than most. Frankly, I know nothing about home improvement.

Today marks one year since we closed on what I continue to call my ‘Happy Place.’ It’s

obvious to us now, we’re looking at a 10-year project. Unless we come into a bucket-full of money, we’ll renovate what we can ourselves and plan and budget for the major projects.

After just a year invested in this project, here’s my best advice if you’re considering a fixer upper:

  1. Be sure the bones of the house are in good shape: unless you’re buying a ‘knock down,’ be sure you have a solid home – from the windows and floors to the roof and walls.
  2. IMG_0390Location, location, location still rules; if you love you view, neighborhood, home site – almost everything else is cosmetic.
  3. Break projects down into smaller, manageable chunks. Doug managed to re-do the guest bathroom in a weekend. But we made sure in advance, we had all the necessary items including a new vanity and fixture, flooring, lighting, most major accessories, paint for the walls and cabinet, etc. We could not have completed the update in a weekend if we did not have all the items and supplies.
  4. Pick your battles: it’s easy to disagree about a project. Realize not everything will go your way. Compromise, compromise, compromise.

All this as I work in my office listening to a comedy radio channel blaring outside and our three artisans are literally hammering away at the screened porch addition. Doug is really admiring the craftsmanship (yay); I just want it to be done. Patience, Brenda.

We chose our contractor mainly because Doug really liked him. I yielded since Doug had a background in construction. So he is able to talk construction language with the contractor – which is hugely important.

Once this addition is done and we can enjoy New Hampshire days and evenings on the screened porch – then we’ll breathe a while – and figure out what project is next.

The fixer-upper truth may not be pretty, but we keep our eye on the prize knowing it’s a long game and worthwhile.

The Wolfeboro Project- Two Months In

The Wolfeboro Project- Two Months In

One step forward; two steps back – or so they say. Patience and persistence have been a challenge because this thing they call ‘life’ gets in the way. And it’s difficult to manage two households from six-plus hours away. We soldier on.

Our last visit to Long Stack was over the long Memorial Day holiday. In the meantime we have:

  • had outstanding handyman Rick take care of a laundry list of minor fix-it and safety issues including fire-proofing the garage and weed-whacking our tall front lawn grass.
  • had the radon remediation crew back to fix the electrical snafu they caused when installing the fan system that keeps the air flow going through the house to avoid radon build-up in the air we breathe.
  • contacted; scheduled; unscheduled then rescheduled three contractors to give us estimates on building a screened porch on the deck (more on that in a bit).
  • contacted and talked with two landscapers who will give us estimates on landscaping a six to ten-foot perimeter around the house.

All this from 350 miles away. It’s exhausting. The new normal of taking care of two homes, plus a business and family obligations is something I am wrapping my head around. And my head hurts – a lot – more often. I keep reminding myself to breathe and know things will work out. This is a long-haul project – there is no hurry.

The contractor schedule crashed and burned this past week. Doug has been serving on a criminal trial jury. That is challenging enough except the trial that was likely going to end with a verdict last week, ground to a halt when the courthouse transformer blew up and plunged the building into darkness. Repairs were made on a Thursday; but officials kept the courthouse closed Friday, too – which then cancelled our plan to head up to Long Stack on Sunday.

Yes, I know no lives were lost and no blood was shed; as they say, never let a good deed go unpunished. There’s my terrific husband NOT gyrating his way OUT of jury service and dutifully fulfilling his civic duty; and he ends up on this case that is now dragging on. The high hopes are that the case will indeed come to a close with a verdict – or not – this week. Then we’ll high-tail it north this coming Friday.

But wait; there’s more! Our long-time friends who ironically have a lake house up north; weeks ago invited us for July 4th weekend. The plan is we’ll spend a couple of nights with them, then enjoy our Independence Day (literally) at Long Stack where we will both work our jobs from our north offices.

And we have rescheduled the three contractors; we’ll call the landscapers this week to schedule appointments and I can tackle my daunting DIY project: scrubbing out the fireplace grit. (Borax + Dawn detergent + water + goggles + wire brush + plastic sheeting; scrub-scrub-scrub) And I found this nifty article about the cost of renovations.

Keep your fingers crossed that the wheels of justice squeak along; the case ends and we can again own our star-spangled independence.

 

The Wolfeboro Project: Money Pit?

The Wolfeboro Project: Money Pit?

The 80s film, “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long parodies what it’s like to buy the home of your dreams and fall into a black hole of dollars spent to make the home your own.

Our 6 Long Stack property is far from the movie (thank goodness), but it doesn’t stop me from worrying about spending money sooner rather than later or vice versa.

We spent a terrific Memorial Day extended weekend at our home up north. Beyond spending $4000+ on water and air radon remediation and meeting our wonderful handyman Rick, I thoroughly enjoyed yard sale shopping throughout the Wolfeboro area. For under $450, here’s just some of the 6 Long Stack goodies we purchased:

  • two lamps and a virtually new lamp shade
  • an old school Hamilton blender with glass blender jar
  • new sofa slipcover ($2) for the ugly, flowered sofa that came with the house (we don’t have to by a new sofa now)
  • assorted kitchen gadgets, glasses, cooking utensils
  • antique oak dresser and mirror (the most expensive find)
  • ladderback maple chair in great shape ($10)
  • maple rocker with flawless upholstery (a minor stain I can work with)
  • two wicker chairs and matching table in great condition

The cleaning continued. Dealing with the musty smell in the lower level where paneling has gone to die is frustrating. We’re hoping the ventilation system to remediate radon build-up will help. I believe only ripping up the 40-year-old carpet and replacing it with top-notch flooring will help – and that is a project down the road. So baking soda and vacuuming are my regular tools.

What really struck me during the visit to our new home is the need for landscaping. While we decided that adding a screened porch is a priority, we must spend some good money on good landscaping. That is the conundrum at the moment.

I’ve gotten what I had hoped are very good referrals from our new friends in New Hampshire and I’ve inquired on the Web site #Porch. So far the total number of returned phone calls and online inquiries is ZERO. I’m not counting the one call I got from a call center supposedly representing a franchisee or landscaping contractor in New Hampshire.

Yes, it’s IN season. You’d think a project clearing out brush; leveling an area for a parking spot and shoring up rock-lined paths around the house would be a no-brainer. It’s probably a two to three-day job that a crew of three or four can handle and we’ll even help as much as we can. I’ve even reached out to #DIY #Yardcrashers for help.

Our terrific handyman responded to us this morning and will be stopping by to trim up long grass that popped up close to the house. Most of the nearly two acres is trees; but we do have to plan and cope with the natural landscape so it does not take over the house. Also, Doug braved our tall trees and spent a half day taking down three trees to improve our view. He even survived the attack of the New Hampshire ticks – another reason we need to take down brush. (We will also contract with a bug company during our next visit.)

We have booked three contractors to come to the house during our upcoming visit to give us estimates on the screened porch project. That expenditure is something we hope to handle either this coming fall or early next spring so the screened porch is ready for summer 2017.

For now, anyone know a good landscaper who will return a phone call or email in the Wolfeboro area?

 

The Wolfeboro Project: April Fool’s to Friday the 13th

When you choose to take a journey, you might as well go all the way. As that fortune in my cookie weeks ago advised: Life is a daring adventure: or it is nothing.


When we reflect on the past six weeks, we laugh hysterically. We made the offer on Long Stack April 1st and it was accepted; final details for settlement were firmed up six weeks later – Friday the 13th. We went through settlement easily and learned factoids about our new home that I am so glad to know.

This adventure requires patience, persistence  and perspective. The three Ps will guide me as we inevitably go through ups and downs in the coming months. Keeping our eye on the prize is another key: we have a vision for this home and know it will become what we hoped and dreamed about when we first saw the listing on Trulia February 2016.

During settlement, Doug asked the trustee for the seller (the seller’s daughter) about how much the electric bill ran – since the house is right now – all electric. Doug and I almost fell off our chairs when  she said about $500 a month; and maybe $150 when no one was at the house. Yikes! Today, Doug called the Electric Company located down our mountain and within about five minutes received a .pdf of electricity charges dating to 1996. the largest bill was about $800 which accounted for apparently months and months of usage. Most months were either $0 or very affordable. Whew.

We are awaiting handyman Rick now. We went to breakfast at our favorite spot, Katie’s Kitchen this morning. Owner Patricia Lord gave me excellent advice; “Meet him before you need him.” Her brother is a contractor and all-around handy guy. Patricia says if you get to know this person, you’ll trust him to have a key to your place and check on things or fix things – especially when you are not around. She said you do not want to have to call someone in the middle of the night who you have no relationship with up here.

So handyman Rick who came highly recommended by our agent is going to give us good estimates on a batch of work we need to have done fairly soon. We also hope to get his recommendations on other items including replacing the sliding glass doors from the living room and master bedroom.

It sure would be great to have a bucket of funds to tackle renovations sooner rather than later – but I go back to those three Ps: patience, persistence, perspective. We’ll need expert advice on all major renovations which involve a little redesign here and there – especially in the kitchen.

For now, we are cleaning everything – top to bottom and will live in this house for days at a time over the next year to figure out what are wants, needs and must-haves are. We’ll reach out to contractors we find or who are recommended and we’ll start planning to renovate the home of our dreams.

 

 

The Finale

Not wasting a minute of our final day here in Moultonborough, we quickly planned a day on the lake. After a quick breakfast, the serene water pulled me in. Doug and I went for an awesome canoe trip to the point where we are and around the bend and one island. There were birds, bugs, rocks, a gentle breeze, warming sun, the occasional barking dog and such peace that it should be bottled and patented. If more people could experience serenity like this, there would be no toxic arguments – or at least there’d be fewer arguments.

After the ride back at the house, we tried to encourage Andrew & Adam to come with us on our last adventure on the lake for this vacation. I’d packed lunch for us all – but the boys decided they’d rather stay at the house and head out in the canoe a bit later. Believe it or not – they actually did take a canoe ride and eat lunch.

Doug and I first got some gas, then headed to a section of the lake we had not been to before. We went to the town of Glendale which included a marina, the N.H. Marine Patrol and “Snuffer” the fire rescue boat and the Lyons Den Restaurant which is supposed to be quite good. People were waiting for the place to open as we got there before noon. After a walk on shore and on the dock, we motored out, noticing all the beautiful houses – some large – some small – but all waterfront and just delightful. We headed to the shore of Ellacoya State Park. The shore was also dotted with homes; there were swimmers and boaters, but it just wasn’t quite right for what we were looking for. We continued along the lake passing Welch Island, then Sleepers Island – that actually has an old castle on it which is now someone’s home. Across from Sleepers Island was a cove where about a dozen boats were anchored in an area that had a great sandy bottom , with water shallow enough to just float around and enjoy the sun and the glorious day. We had lunch, lounged around in and out of the water; had a catch and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s also fun watching other people enjoy their family, friends and their boats.

After a couple of hours, it was time to move on. We pulled up anchor and headed around Treasure Island and back toward Rattlesnake Island. We made our way across The Broads and back toward Long Island. We were back at the house around 2:45. Unfortunately, it was time to starting the trip home by taking the boat out of the water. For the first time all week, I had mom-son time. Adam drove the boat the five-minute ride from the house to the public ramp at Long Island. It’s always easier to talk with your son with no other interruptions. That was the highlight of my day – that five-minute ride.

Adam expertly guided the boat onto the trailer with Doug acting like he was directing and airplane on the tarmac. (Quite amusing) Dinner took us to Tamarack near Weirs Beach. Doug had a craving for a lobster roll – certainly something you can’t get at home. I stuck with a salad and clam chowder (or chowdah as they say up here). I asked for lobster on the salad. I ended up with more lobster on my salad than Doug had on his lobster roll. The guys also chowed down with fried shrimp for Adam and a lobster roll for Andrew. It’s interesting to note that I have never stood in line for take-out food and faced a $73 tab. All that lobster is not cheap! But oh, is it ever good.

Now, it’s time to pack up our things along with our great memories of this wonderful place. My heart is here – I find true happiness here – I love this place – the loon will welcome us back as they always do.

Melancholy, Baby

We love vacation so much because we get to be somewhere out of our element; experience things we don’t see or do at home and enjoy the company of people we care about. In all the places I’ve been in my years, there is no other place that makes me feel so happy and fulfilled. New Hampshire has become more than a vacation destination – it feels like home.

This morning, the two of us enjoyed some breakfast then took the boat out for a spin on the lake. We had no particular destination in mind, we just wanted to glide on the clear, flat water feeling the warm sun and enjoying just being here. We ended up at Bear Island where you can see what’s happening on the lake via a web cam that is live inside the house right there on the point of the island. Check it out here. I texted my brother who is back at work that we were in front of the camera – and he saw us on the boat. Very cool.

We motored over to Greg and Theresa’s house to say, “good morning” and see them and the kids which was a treat. They paddled around in the water outside their house. The morning sun was getting much warmer. We saw a very small turtle sunning himself on a rock. We gave the Breskins a lift over to cousin Barry’s house so they could pick up their shared boat for a morning spin around the lake and take the kids tubing again. We headed back to our house for some lunch.

Adam and Andrew decided THIS was the day they were going to sleep – forever. When we returned at 11:30 a.m. – they were still fast asleep. The two of them wanted to go experience Monkey Trunks, a climbing, zip-line, rope adventure located next to Fun Spot at Weirs Beach. We headed there and dropped them off so they could tire themselves out some more.

That led me to my 2 p.m. followup doctor appointment. Not a lot of news there; just confirmation that I am healing and I could consider cutting back my mondo doses of antibiotics. Enough said there.

By the time we went back to pick up the guys at Fun Spot, they were finished on Monkey Trunks and spent more time playing games at the arcade. Driving back, I just couldn’t face the refrigerator of leftovers, so we decided to eat at The Village Kitchen. Funny, all the years we’ve passed the restaurant, I thought it was called “Country Cookin’. Those letters are larger on the sign than the name “Village Kitchen.” Anyway, we found what is probably New Hampshire’s version of a local diner. It seemed there were a lot of local folks there. The food was OK; the service very nice and the total bill for four people – $49. No complaints.

The highlight of the day happened as we came home offering Andrew a boat-driving lesson. He excelled – and enjoyed. A few rain showers that passed through left a rainbow; the lake turned a beautiful shade of pink with a purple and gray sky. If only this could be home.

 

 

The Skies Clear – Finally

After nearly two full days of rain, we awoke to sunshine – finally. They say even a rainy day on vacation is better than a day at work. But in all the years we’ve been coming to New Hampshire for vacation, we have never had so much rain.

We maximized the good weather because it appears more rain will be coming. The delicious baked french toast Donna made for breakfast was a great way to start the day. Doug took Erica and Don out for their farewell boat ride since they  were heading back today. Donna went for a long walk while I packed up lunch for a planned excursion on the lake. Arline came by and decided to join us. We made the trip to Green’s Basin in about 15-20 minutes. The lake was a deep blue contrasting with the baby blue sky. So many boats were zipping by and nearly everybody waved almost as if to say, “Hey, aren’t you just loving this day after all that rain?”

We revisited the big rock in the middle of the bay which is part of a state or county park. We anchored so Andrew & Adam could take a dip in the lake and swim to the boulders. They climbed up like monkeys; talked about how they would approach their first jump  – then – AHHHHHH… there they go! They did the jump a few more times. Adam then decided he wanted to swim from where we were anchored to the other big rock in the bay. It had to be about a quarter mile. I watched every stroke. He did breast stroke, a little side stroke and freestyle – and he made it. Nice job!

Donna and I along with Andrew swam from the boat to the rock and climbed up. I wish I could have my camera with me to shoot the scene on the rock and all around me. boats were going past – and an ice cream boat came up. The boys had Ben & Jerry’s bars. By then, Donna and I decided we should make our way back to the boat for lunch. I was happy I was able to maneuver on the rock much better than last year..thanks to the new hip.

We enjoyed our lunch, then headed back to our dock for a relaxing few hours. Doug & Arline paddled around in the lake; Adam & Andrew read or played on their computers; Donna and I chatted while sunning on the dock. While Doug and Arline boated to Greg & Theresa’s house to take the kids tubing, I prepared dinner which turned out pretty well – chicken on the grill, veggies and potatoes in the oven, corn and baked beans.

We invited the other Breskins over for dessert and they ate just about everything – we had ice cream, lemon poppy pound cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies.. almost all gone. The only odd thing that happened is we have a strange odor emanating from one spot in the kitchen. No, it’s not the trash can, under the sink, refrigerator or dishwasher. It’s just a strange smell that I hope is gone by morning.

Unfortunately, Donna will be gone in the morning. She will be flying home leaving just the four of us in this great house. The Breskins, Barry & Joan and Carol & Herb will remain – but our vacation is starting to come to a close.