Fixing an Old farmhouse – The Stairway

“By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

I think that the stairway of this home deserves its own blog post in the Fixing an Old Farmhouse series. After all, it was my favorite feature inside the home. When we saw the interior of this old farmhouse for the first time, we did not think that we would be able to save the stairway. A few steps were broken, other steps were loose, however, the structure felt very solid. It felt stronger than the brand new stairway we had in our Jersey home. We knew that the steps could be fixed, and the wall it was attached to could remain as long as we patched it and painted it, so we decided to keep it, along with the unusual rounded post at its end.

I had selected a vintage green for the walls that I kept in storage for a little over a year. There must have been something wrong with the paint because when I opened the can it was as hard as a rock. I was disappointed. A little voice inside me whispered, “mix all those leftover paints.” Those were almost-empty cans of paint that we decided to keep from our former house. I opened them, and to my surprise, those were still looking good. The cans were over nine years old – sage green, blue, gray, and white. Because I had nothing to lose, I decided to try it, and I mixed the paints. Something magical happened. I was staring at the original color of the wall, the first layer of color that was ever applied. You can see it here.

We kept a section of the old wall as a reminder of where we had been, and all the work we put into it.

I ended up painting the wall that color. There was enough paint left to do the closet in the living room. Sometimes, a house knows what it wants; listen to it. We replaced some steps, patched the wall a bit, and reinforced what needed to be. We painted the steps Leather Brown, and put moldings where there were none originally. If you look at the wood above the wall, you can see the way it was cut originally. It is a rough cut, as opposed to the factory cut and finish we see today. I love that character. The stairway is one of my favorite features of this house. The handrail is made from a tree that hurricane Sandy knocked over in the back of our home in Jersey. We sanded and glazed it. It serves a purpose and it is a memento as well. Here are some pictures of the process.

Before.

View from the second floor after rough patching some parts.
We had to open up the wall to be able to bring materials upstairs. Here you can also see some of the steps we replaced, the idea of framing the hole on the wall, as well as the odd round pole.
Before opening up the wall. We opened up the stairway wall as well.
View of the steps and the ones we replaced.

After

Steps had been fixed, wall fixed and painted, and moldings applied. When we patched the wall, we left some of its character, sort of a rough finish.
Here you can see some of its rough character a bit better, and the rustic handrail.

I hope you enjoyed this post about fixing these old steps. I am glad we worked with their character and did not take them down. It would have been a mistake.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Living Room

Continuing with the series of blog posts on Fixing an Old Farmhouse, this post will be about the living room. Originally, the previous owner had set up this room as her bedroom, and built a bathroom adjacent to it when she became ill. The farmhouse was listed as a three bedroom house, including this room as a bedroom downstairs. I have no idea as to what the first owner of the house used this room for, or if it was considered a bedroom back then. We set the room up as the living room. This room was in fairly good shape compared to the rest of the house, and by that I mean there was no damage to the wood floor, but some of the walls were in bad shape as well as the ceiling. The closet walls were in good shape and we were able to save this part. We patched some areas, painted it, installed flooring, and set it up as a storage area and coat closet. Everything else we had to change.

For this room we used various materials – new, old, recycled, and contractor surplus, which is brand new material at a great discount purchased from a contractor/builder. Because this house has a center chimney, this room also had the other side of the chimney, and it was clogged up as well, so we had to cleaned it up, and seal it. Ideally, I would have liked to leave the brick exposed but it had a fair amount of damage. We ended up covering it, and we did this upstairs as well. I think this was the biggest challenge in this room. This room is square, measuring 15 x 15 feet (as most rooms in this house) which made things easier. Here are a few before and after pictures of the process.

Before/during.

Here you can see the damage to walls and ceiling. The closet walls were not that bad but we had to fix its ceiling. An old and dirty carpet plus layers of linoleum covered the floor. We removed it all and installed laminate flooring.
This is the other side of the room – dirty couch, boarded up window, and damage all around.
This is the opposite side.
The floor boards were in pretty good shape, however the spacing between each plank varied and would have been an invitation for critters to come inside, so we decided to install laminate flooring. Ideally, I would have preferred the original wood floors but I would not have been at peace with the possibility of bugs coming inside.
What was behind the sheetrock walls. Notice the old construction, horizontal boards. Most of the house is done in cedar wood, which is great, and the wood/beams are thicker than what is used in today’s construction. The wood is very hard and tough, and it was very difficult to screw in nails or hammer them. Cutting it was a challenge as well, and the aroma of cedar was still strong after more than 100 years. I regret not saving a piece of that wood that was so aromatic.
Ceilings. Once the sheetrock and everything else was removed, we had to vacuum and sweep the entire place before starting to work – floors, walls, ceilings.
We eliminated the door.
Wallpaper had been placed over painted sheetrock, and paint over the many layers of wallpaper, more recently by the last renter. I was told that when the house was not being rented anymore and fell in disrepair, squatters might have stayed in it very shortly . Neighbors would call the police, as well as the out of state heir, and the house ended up being boarded up – all windows and doors, after these were broken into. There was window glass everywhere.

After.

The rooms after they have been finished and furnished. We like a mix of old and new (when old is not possible), and our taste is more traditional/early American, and a bit eclectic. I understand that this might not appeal to everybody, but it is our taste, so bear with me.

The room almost finished.
The coat closet side.
Room as it is now.
The coat closet part.
Where the old door was removed. It connects with the dining room, and the main entrance.
Opposite side of the room.

This concludes the first floor of the farmhouse and what we have done so far. Upcoming blog posts will be about the second floor. I hope that you have enjoyed this renovation so far, and that it inspires you to see potential in areas where it might be difficult to visualize at first.

The Five-dollar Miracle

THE FIVE-DOLLAR MIRACLE

The inspirational story of how a small miracle – a five-dollar miracle – changed a stranger, a pastor, a congregation, and an entire country.

The Five-dollar Miracle is my latest published book. I have to say that this one broke the mold for me. It is different from my other novels, and does not follow the same style. It does have supernatural elements, however, not in the same way as my other novels. I would say that this book took me by surprise, as a writer that is, because I never expected to write it. It appeared one day as a title in my mind while I was writing Sunrise Souls, and it did not leave my mind until I sat to write it. I had no idea of what it was going to be about, neither did I have any notes or plot idea, only a title. So I went with it for the ride.

My biggest challenge writing The Five-dollar Miracle was to trust the process. With no preconceive ideas to start, it was a bit “nerve-racking”? Every day, I sat to write trusting the process. I had to trust it because I had already announced it as an upcoming novel; I had no choice. I wrote in faith. Although compared to my other novels it is short, the story did not need any add-ons. I tried to make it longer; it did not work. The story was what it was. It is different, and reader friendly.

Currently, I am writing The Girl Who Could Not Love, and I have to say that it has presented its challenges so far. Most likely, it will be ready for next year. As it has happened to many of you, the current affairs in the country and worldwide, have influenced my mood as a writer, and therefore my pen. This book will be ready when it is ready, and I am fine with that. This one, as all my other novels, will be made available via Amazon in paperback and eBook.

The Magic of an Ordinary Life

I am sharing with you something special today. I came across this YouTube video by The Elliott Homestead, and as I watched it, I felt a sense of serenity, peace, joy, beauty, gratefulness, and love. I decided to share it here because its main message is so beautiful and true. I hope it inspires you to appreciate the beauty that is all around us every single day. Thank you to The Elliot Homestead for making this lovely video and sharing it with the world. It truly touched me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Dining Room

Technically, this 1910 farmhouse is a three-bedroom house with an eat-in kitchen and bonus room (cat room). We set up the rooms in the way we live. There are two bedrooms upstairs, and the third bedroom is what we set up as the living room, adjacent to the bathroom. The original living room is what we set up as the dining room. One of the upstairs bedrooms is being used as an office, and the other, as our bedroom. These rooms can easily be changed back to their original set up by just moving furniture around. The mudroom could have been used as a dining room, but our cats deserved their own space; we love them that much. The kitchen can easily be converted back into an eat-in kitchen in the event that we would need the living room as a bedroom again, and the living room would move to what is now the dining room. The office could be moved to the mudroom if needed, thus reversing to the original bedroom. This house is very flexible because most rooms are square and measure 15×15 feet, and with the exception of the kitchen, nothing has a permanent fixture that would impede the use of the rooms in a different way. The furniture is moveable and I would not mind disposing of a few pieces if necessary. All rooms mirror each other because of an existing center chimney downstairs and upstairs, not including the kitchen and cat room, that is. This post will be about the dining room, what should have been a living room.

This room was in better shape than the others, meaning there was no water damage and no damage to the wood. The only issues were the condition of the ceiling and walls, and the “never cleaned” chimney that almost started a fire on one of the interior wood beams. We found a bit of charred wood when we took down the walls. It is a miracle that the house had not burnt down. The entire chimney was full of ashes inside. We had to vacuum it up, and because the bricks required extensive work and repair, as well as the inside of it ($$$), we decided to clean what we could and closed it up. Our heating source is a pellet stove, and electric fireplaces that we use as supplemental heat if it gets too cold. In the event of a power outage, the pellet stove can be hooked up to a portable generator. In the future, we would love to install a Generac system and ductless heating/air. Ideally, all that to be powered by solar energy; however, we are not there yet, and things work fine the way they are now. On the low budget end, the smart thing to do would be to install a wood stove, because in a real emergency, there would be no electric service, no gasoline or gas service, and the delivery of things would be disrupted. The more I think of it the more I convince myself that going with a wood stove is the right choice. In the event of a simple power outage, I have candlesticks and candelabras in every room, and there is a candle chandelier in the dining room. In addition, battery-operated candles are an extra option.

As I mentioned before, our style is more reminiscent of an early American rustic farmhouse, and that follows through into the dining room. This room was the third room we fixed. Here are a few pictures of the before and after condition.

BEFORE

The room was being used as the living room; its original set up. The walls were damaged, and we had to open up the stairway area a bit. Under the steps, there is a small storage area that one of my cats uses as a little apartment.
There were two windows in bad shape and broken in this room, and tons of abandoned furniture and debris.
An old cast iron stove was hooked up to a chimney. It was full of ashes and in bad shape.
Sheetrock and many layers of carpet and linoleum were removed. The stairway opened up.
Here you can see the bare wood in the ceiling.
During the mess.

AFTER

The room almost finished. Bella’s apartment under the steps is ready. The stairway is open now.
The other side of the room.
Room as it is now.
View from the stairway.
View from the kitchen.

I hope you enjoyed this room’s before and after photos. Compared to the other three rooms I have shown, this one was less problematic. However, as you can see, it was a ton of work. I hope these series of posts will inspire you to remodel a room in your home, take on a DIY project, or find that dream property that might not be so dreamy at first glance, and give it a little bit of life.

Moonlit Valley

MOONLIT VALLEY

Moonlit Valley is the first novel I published. It is everything I did not intend to write, an omen, and it practically wrote itself. The story morphed over the intended story, leaving me no choice but to go with it wherever it wanted me to follow. Characters revealed themselves, and rebelled against my pen as well. Jeremy Sandbeck, one of the main characters practically made my life miserable. In the end, he won. I have written about his rebellion on another blog post. I thank Jeremy Sandbeck for his insistence; it taught me much along the way. Moonlit Valley gave birth to The Dinorah Chronicles, unintended.

Moonlit Valley follows the story of a couple – Jeremy Sandbeck and Rose Carrigan – who can’t be more different from each other, their losses, and their secrets, as well as their supernatural destiny. It is a paranormal romance infused with a bit of mystery and a dash of suspense.

Rose Carrigan never imagined what awaited her when she left her New Jersey hometown to live in an old farmhouse located in a small southern town called Moonlit Valley. After a series of mysterious clues and unfortunate events, once more, her world turns upside down. This time, the man who she loves, Jeremy Sandbeck, her irresistible and seductive husband, is the one responsible. When she discovers his identity, she must decide between love and destiny, defying the surreal world that she has discovered. Jeremy struggles with love, and what he thinks is his true supernatural and divine duty.

The feeling of publishing your first novel is like no other. It is an indescribable joy that stays with you no matter how many books you write and publish after it. That first published book will remain your precious child forever. Each book is different and comes with its own set of feelings and emotions; however, one always has a special appreciation for that first novel. I have written about my experience as an indie writer and my writing process in other blog posts, as well as why I chose to pursue independent publishing. Writing has been a dream fulfilled for me thanks to today’s technology, and it is the occupation that fits me well. It is the one thing that I could do forever, and forever is a long time.

All my books are found on Amazon in paperback and eBook format.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Bathroom

My previous blog post was about the cat room, a room that had been a porch, and at one point enclosed to make room for a much needed bathroom a previous owner of the house required after becoming ill, hence why I decided to continue with this room next. I was told by a neighbor that at one point the farmhouse used to have an outhouse. There are no buildings in the property that would point to it, so we don’t know the location. Although there was enough room after enclosing the porch to build a bigger bathroom, the previous owner did not. The bathroom was small, and when we fixed it we decided to keep the same blue print for the sake of plumbing (which had to be replaced) and the future use of the mudroom/cat room. We concluded that the existing positioning of fixtures made the best use of the space. A larger mudroom was more important to us than a larger bathroom. Maybe the previous owner thoughts followed the same path, who knows?

If we thought that the cat room was the most challenging room to work with, the bathroom was the grossest room. It had fall into disrepair, was very dirty, had water damage, no water due to a non-working well and broken pipes, and overall, suffered from the condition of the house being abandoned for a while. It could surely make you gag at a glance. The room had to be completely stripped of everything – fixtures, flooring, walls … It was a big mess. There was nothing that could be of use or recycled. This is the reality of fixing an old house that has been neglected and abandoned through the years. These pictures may turn your stomach, fair warning.

Before.

Location of the bathroom is where the brown door is.
Yes, it is what you think it is. At least it was left empty.
A myriad use of materials throughout this tiny space? Paneling, wood, sheetrock, wallpaper … why?
The water damage is obvious here.
Another example of the many materials that were used in this small space by previous tenants throughout the years.

During and After.

We decided to install a fiberglass shower instead of a bathtub.
We kept the location of the door but had to change the door and framing. Eventually, we painted the door a nutmeg color.
The location of the new fixtures remain the same.
The location of the toilet remains the same, new toilet and fixtures were installed.
Instead of installing a shower door we decided a shower curtain would be easier to maintain and replace seasonally and as needed.

We kept the style of the bathroom simple and functional. Anything can be replaced easily in the future if necessary. I hope you enjoyed viewing and reading about this project. I hope it inspires you to take on a project with vision.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Cat Room

The previous post on “Fixing an old farmhouse” series of posts, was about the kitchen. Adjacent to the kitchen is what I call the cat room. This room serves many purposes now; however, it is the mudroom and where the old refrigerator with the rotten turkey inside was located.

Surprise, surprise!

Originally, it was a side/back porch which the previous owners enclosed and converted into a mudroom. I was told that when the former owner (the second owner) became ill and bedridden, the house required an indoor bathroom (it used to have an outhouse – we have no idea where it is). They decided to enclose the porch and use part of the room to build a bathroom. This is the reason why the cat room is shaped like an L. Now this room serves many purposes – first, a room for my cats, where the cat beds, food, toys, litter, and supplies are kept, side entrance, mudroom where we keep coats, rain boots, work boots, hats, cleaning equipment… We moved the water heater to this location; it used to be in the kitchen. The first part adjacent to the kitchen serves as a pantry. It is a generous size room although shaped like an L. It could have served as a dining room as well, but the cats needed their own space too.

I think this room was the most challenging to work with for many reasons besides its shape. It had water damage due to its proximity to the bathroom. It had a pieced-together subfloor that was in very bad shape and had to be replaced. Someone had attempted to reach the bathroom plumbing through this floor, hence the cut out pieces of subflooring. However, this worked out to our advantage because we had to replace the plumbing. All plumbing had to be replaced. It is where the side door is, and it had suffer considerable water damage on the floor, door, and door frame. This room had a natural inclination because it used to be a porch. On those days, many porches where built like that so when it rained water would not accumulate. We had to do many repairs before starting to work with the walls and ceiling. It was the last room we tackled. Here are some pictures of the process, before and after.

Before – Here you can see the location of the enclosed porch on the side of the house. The door, frame, and steps were damaged.
Water damage to door, frame, and floor – mudroom side entrance.
During the process of fixing the damage.
Another view of the damage that had to be fixed before doing anything else.
Water damage due to proximity to bathroom plumbing – pieced subfloor on section near the kitchen.
There was paneling done by a previous renter.
Here you can see that it was a porch enclosure. You can see the walls.
Another view – the existing ceiling. I do like that vintage blue green color.
What was behind the paneling.

The After.

Once walls/floors/door/windows were fixed and some cat décor placed. The ceiling had large openings in between boards so we had to seal and cover it.
The other side.
Side entrance fixed.
Now, part of this room serves as a pantry.
Accessible cleaning equipment area.
Cat sleeping area. Only one cat uses it. The others prefer the rest of the house. All art is cat related. The smaller framed art is from artist Anne Rymer.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Kitty cat approved.

This was not an easy room to work with, and there are a few things we would like to add such as a wooden cabinet for more food/supplies storage, and repositioning of the cat’s beds. Something to do in the future. For now, it is very functional. I hope you enjoyed this post.

The Dinorah Chronicles – Sunrise Souls (Book 3)

SUNRISE SOULS

“As light breaks the shadows so does my light will shine upon the Sunrise Souls. They will shine their light upon this world, and my light will pour in blessings to humanity. The planet will hear of my love, and from the four corners of the world a voice will sound as thunder, announcing my kingdom, the Kingdom of Love.”

(The Dinorah Chronicles -Sunrise Souls)

Sunrise Souls is the last book in The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy. It is the conclusion and fulfilment of Dinorah Sandbeck’s birthright. This book encompasses the main story, Dinorah’s story, and fulfills books one and two. The way the trilogy is written, each book stands for itself, and one can read any book without having to read the others first. However, the main story permeates all three novels, and there is a bond that keeps the trilogy together.

Writing this last book was challenging in the sense of pulling it all together – Dinorah’s quest and her reason for being, the prophecies, as well as each character’s role individually while weaving the main story. Every character came together in purpose. I enjoyed writing this book as it was taking me along with the ending of the story. Because I prefer writing single stories more than trilogies or series, it was also a relief.

Throughout the trilogy, the characters have evolved and this is more obvious in this book. Dinorah Sandbeck has fully accepted her birthright, and in the process accepted herself; her Human and Anarth sides have finally come together. Not only is she stronger but has found her peace. Sometimes the thing that we fight the most can bring us to the peace we crave.

All my books can be found on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats.