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: Survival Tips

The Wolfeboro Project: Survival Tips

When you take on a new house project – especially a fixer – your tip list grows quickly. Despite bouts of fear and sticker-shock, we are still on the road to a home we already love in a town we are quickly growing more and more attached to.

Let’s get right to the tips – based on our missteps, lessons learned and a sprinkling of luck.

  1. Three Ps remain the mantra: patience, persistence and perspective – making measured, informed  decisions result in the project moving along at a pace that works with your budget and schedule. Trust your gut – if you have a shadow of a doubt on a decision, think it through again.
  2. Stick to the plan: we decided to work on this house from the outside-in. While we continue to talk about the ultimate interior renovations, other than some paint and a few window treatments, we are not planning a major investment on the interior until the outside is in shape – or close to it.
  3. Under-play your fixer – your family will be pleasantly surprised. We have told our families that we have a lot of work ahead; deferred maintenance are the words the Realtors used in describing the house (former owned didn’t do much at all to improve or even maintain the house). When our families visited the house this past month, they practically scolded us for describing the house as we have. They, too see the possibilities and  good bones of the house. Their collective responses amount to, “You made the house sound awful; it’s really lovely.” Of course, it’s not their project – but it is good to know we are not crazy and we have their support!
  4. Small-town, small steps. Figure out your possible DIY projects. In a small town – or any town – you can find someone to do anything for you – but you will pay in time and of course, money. Getting on a contractor’s small-town schedule takes finesse; be flexible and communicate with each contractor.
  5. Be specific: when  dealing with your contractor’s estimate continue to do research and ask people for help and advice. Doug reached out to his brother for advice since he had done major remodeling; we compared and contrasted details in estimates and asked contractors to provide more details. Be sure you have a timeline – or at least a finish date. Your two month-long project can stretch to months and months if you do not stay on top of details.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say, “No:”we nixed one project one of our contractors quoted because of price and the cross-over with another project and contractor. When in doubt put the brakes on.
  7. BREATHE: remember why you started this journey. Every day I love and enjoy this house and this town more. Every little DIY task or decision leads us to what will become our very special place. We continue to enjoy the lake, hiking, biking, boating. water-skiing, sailing; town concerts and cultural events; the local gym and shops; amazing lobster, ice cream and food that just tastes better here; getting to know people in town and spending time with them and becoming part of this community.

Those are seven tips for now; there are probably many more to come. With a full month under our belts here, we are heading back to our other home shortly. That will bring the inevitable culture shock (I haven’t waited a traffic light or been in a traffic jam for weeks!). We have a better idea of what to expect at this Happy Place; we have some big projects coming up at this house and we’ll be popping up for brief stays throughout the coming months. Being on this journey with an amazing husband and great family and friend support leaves me content and ever-hopeful of what this home will be in a few years.

The Wolfeboro Project: 3 Bids and a Headache

The Wolfeboro Project: 3 Bids and a Headache

At the beginning of this journey, I realized the three Ps: patience, persistence and perspective. Now, I just need a cocktail.

The good news is we love, love love the Long Stack house and its potential. We thoroughly enjoyed spending the July 4th holiday at Long Stack and experienced Wolfeboro in all its red, white and blue glory. We took a couple of swims at Brewster Beach in between working, cleaning, fixing and shopping. Plus we had lovely meals and of course a few runs for ice cream.

We’re managing two homes that are more than six hours apart. Any major life change involves adjustments, but sometimes, I’m just so confused! Thank goodness I took photos of some of my clothes in the Long Stack closet or I would not remember where some of my clothes are. I did the same thing with the kitchen pantry. So, if I wonder whether I need cinnamon at Long Stack because I have two containers of the spice here in Cherry Hill; I just go to the photo. So not only do I have cinnamon at Long Stack, I have a container and a half here in Cherry Hill. Oy!

Today’s title refers to the contractors who are preparing bids for landscaping and a screened porch we plan to add to the deck. Three contractors spent about an hour-and-a-half each with us at Long Stack considering and measuring for the project. One landscaper (the others I reached out to did not return calls or emails) is preparing an estimate for clean-up work necessary around our nearly two-acres of property.

Did I forget to mention the septic issue? About $500 later, our septic is more-or-less cleared out. There was a bit of a stoppage (it was constipated, my sweet husband quips) – fortunately, nothing major. It seems our septic tank had probably NEVER been cleaned out in 40 years! Are these homeowners crazy? It’s hard to believe people can live in a house and think that nothing needs to be cared for. Fortunately, that has ended with us in the house.

Meantime, we still have no decision on a new washer-dryer and refrigerator. Every time I open the fridge or press the ‘on’ button for the washer, I think I’m going to see sparks. Hopefully, my fear and loathing will subside.

We have begun to seriously think about getting out of the Cherry Hill house. It may take a year or two, but enough already; between the upkeep and crazy-high taxes, it’s time.

For now, I look forward to a month in New Hampshire – working and some vacation time  – while hoping that our son can check on Cherry Hill and make sure nothing happens while we are at Long Stack. Cross your fingers for us – we need some good luck.

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?

 

Happy Place…Revisited: Lake Winnipesaukee

Happy Place…Revisited: Lake Winnipesaukee

*This post was submitted and published by The Philadelphia Inquirer October 4, 2015. I have added more photos here. Enjoy!

Promise after you read this you won’t tell all of your closest

Westerly view from Tuftonboro, Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Westerly view from Tuftonboro, Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

friends and relatives about this amazing place, since crowds and traffic are almost non-existent. Lake Winnipesaukee is a bucolic, serene and truly happy place where lifetime worries evaporate in the fresh air (no need for air conditioning). Over the past 18 years, we have visited this New Hampshire wonderland as well as the White Mountains and Lake Ossipee region.

This summer’s two-week vacation combined the best of every experience we’ve had on the lake. Our three bedroom, two-bath lakefront cottage in Tuftonboro’s Melvin Village was the best rental house yet. Its wraparound eight-foot wide 20150801_192843porch became the dining, resting, and reading place. The renovated kitchen allowed six of us (family members) to enjoy dine-in meals in comfort. So what if there was no dishwasher; we had low-maintenance meals and several meals out that kept dishwashing to a minimum.

The 40-foot dock was our living room on this crystal-clear Sunset7_06lake. Our 20-foot Four Winns powerboat we trailered to New Hampshire was docked just steps from the house. Over the years, we’ve visited many parts of this lake that includes 244 islands and is 182 shoreline miles around.

The eastern side of the lake has drawn us over the past few years. The main town, Wolfeboro is a less than 20-minute drive and is quintessential New England with its Main Street mom-and-pop shops and restaurants (no Starbucks), Town Docks where you can boat from your house and dock to get ice cream at Bailey’s Bubble (low-fat Mint Patty yogurt is my favorite); and a terrific gym, Olympic Gym and Fitness where you can work out as much as you want for two weeks for $35 (or $5 per visit).

On the lake, we ventured to Ragged Island twice. You anchor close to shore and children swim in a sandy-bottomed, roped

Ragged Island

Ragged Island

off area or out to rocks that jut above the surface from the lake bottom. The Lakes Region Conservation Trust maintains this tiny gem with a dock and short walking trail with plants and flora marked with signs and wild blueberries that burst with flavor.

My adventurous husband encouraged me to try a hike along part of Rattlesnake Island. Visible from Wolfeboro and many spots along the eastern side of the lake, we boated to this distinctive looking, two-mile long island that rises 900-feet at its highest peak (370-feet above lake level). After docking, we

Rattlesnake Island

Rattlesnake Island

hiked up the rocky trail to enjoy breathtaking views of the lake. Other enjoyable family hikes accessible by land include

Hiking up Rattlesnake Island- What a view!

Hiking up Rattlesnake Island- What a view!

Mount Major and Red Hill. The Abenaki Tower in Tuftonboro offers the shortest, easiest hike with eye-popping 180 degree views of the lake and Ossipee Mountains.

Two weeks is becoming too short for this vacation destination.

Rattlesnake Island hike

Rattlesnake Island hike

From visiting High Meadows Farm and its horseback riding class to abundant farmers markets and enjoying countless day and night-time trips exploring Lake Winnipesaukee, this happy place is tops for a family getaway – but please, don’t tell anyone.

View from the Lake – Updated

View from the Lake – Updated

Our annual sojourn to Lake Winnipesaukee is underway. It occurs to me I have

Sunset from Tuftonboro

Sunset from Tuftonboro

amassed many stories and listened to others’ tell their experiences about this magical place – my happy place.

Since the author of the splendid piece – who I gave credit to in the earlier version of this post – does not want his story told, I update this post today to share a few words about bucolic Lake Winnipesaukee.

Everyone should have a place in this world where they feel true happiness; whether it’s relaxing with a beverage on your back patio or on a white, sand beach somewhere – happiness is a fleeting commodity.

Author; from Abenaki Tower with view of Lake Winnipesaukee

Author; from Abenaki Tower with view of Lake Winnipesaukee

Now that we’ve been home for three weeks, my perspective is every so clear: life will be better, happier, more content with long stays living by (or near) the lake.

During our two weeks this year, I enjoyed a vacation schedule with some work continuing. My husband and I have home offices; even though we were by the lake, we created a ‘home’ office in our vacation house which included a table, chairs, our computers and solid internet connection. During times when we had to get some work done, the view was spectacular. Work time motored along. We were rewarded for our efforts by being able to step into the boat and onto the lake.

The Post boys jumping from the amazing rock off Moultonborough, NH

The Post boys jumping from the amazing rock off Moultonborough, NH.

My gym time – normally two or three mornings a week – was not interrupted on vacation. I joined the local gym in Wolfeboro for two weeks (at $25 -it was a huge bargain) and kept to my routine. That routine was supplemented  by the short walk up to Abenaki Tower with a view that hugs your mind and soul.

Breskin, Kardon and Friedman families in NH - courtesy Sean Kardon

Breskin, Kardon and Friedman families in NH – courtesy Sean Kardon

While making the move to New Hampshire will be a process; the goal will be to choose a home and site that will fill our hearts and minds with the love we feel for each other as well as for the place known as the Lakes Region. This adventure will be about discovering the community; getting to know the people and further exploring the lake and splendid nature that stretches for miles and miles.

What really happened for us during this vacation was the realization that we can indeed make the move to the Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro region. After enjoying wonderful moments this time with our friends, the Posts from Connecticut and our family from Pelham, NY, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, we know that home for us is wherever we are together. So why not be in a place where we can enjoy nature, people, family and friends? While we may or may not be finished with working full-time when we find a home and settle six months a year in New Hampshire, one thing is for sure the feelings of happiness and joy that fill our days and nights when we’re there – will hug us until we can breathe no more. The timeline is evolving – but the goal is clear: New Hampshire will be home for at least six months out of the year.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Do you respect other people and then expect a least a little respect back? I don’t think that’s too much to expect today, but apparently, I’m wrong. I was listening to NJ 101.5’s Dennis and Judi show on the ride back from a client in Ocean County as I usually do. (Driving through the Pinelands gets a little monotonous and counting the number of dead animals along the side of the road just doesn’t do it for me.)
The question and discussion of the hour was “Have you ever gone off on a police officer?” I know it happens, but I could not believe the number of people who admitted to freaking out on a police officer. I always find it amusing when you see one of the police reality shows when the obviously belligerent or drunk person suddenly realizes he or she is in a heap of trouble and gets polite by calling the officer ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am.’ Um, it’s too late, pal.

A couple of summers ago, we were vacationing in New Hampshire. We’d gone out after dark for ice cream at our favorite dairy, Sandwich Creamery; which is way off the beaten path. (Isn’t everything in New Hampshire?). My husband was driving my brother’s minivan and I think six or seven of us were stuffed in the van. Well, Doug drove through the main part of Moultonborough a little too fast and a police officer tucked on the side of the road hit his lights and pulled behind us in seconds. Well, my sweet mom, who I guess lost her senses for a split second, was a bit annoyed we were getting pulled over. She opens the minivan’s sliding door to get out. We all yelled “Stay in the car!” Or words to that effect. We scared the wits out of her. She couldn’t understand why she had to stay in the van. Meantime, Doug got off with a warning – I can only attribute it to goodwill tourism AND that Doug was genuinely polite; fully admitted he’d gone too fast through Moultonborough and would never – ever do it again.

Police have a tough job. They serve us well. Respect is a given.