Home is Where the House Is… Sometimes

Craig removing loose paint from the foundation in the basement stairwell, August.
Craig removing loose paint from the foundation near the basement door, August.

One year ago at this time, we were packing our two-story-plus-full-basement-and-attic house in preparation to move 200 miles away. We’d already sold the house but were waiting for the buyer’s lender to complete all the details before the deal closed. That finally occurred on October 11, and we closed the sale and took possession of on our new place on October 16.

Almost as if to commemorate that event for its anniversary, Craig’s mom is selling her house, and has to be out by October 17. She’s in the Cleveland area, and we’re here in Maryland. We’ll be going to Ohio. Craig has two sisters and a brother in the area, as well as two nieces and a nephew, so it’s not as if Mom has to deal with everything herself. However, we’d like to participate, too, rather than leave it all to them.

She’s been in that house since 1957. She’s complained about “this dump” for the nearly 40 years that I’ve known her. Nevertheless, she’s not happy about leaving. It’s a big change for her, and I appreciate that it’s difficult emotionally. She’ll be moving in with her youngest daughter, Gail, and her three kids (teen and pre-teen), which will be a huge adjustment for all of them. But they’re delighted with the prospect and will make her very welcome there, and as happy and comfortable as is in their power.

This year's garden in its prime, August 15. (All that's left now is peppers, tomatoes, and green beans.)
This year’s garden in its prime, August 15. (All that’s left now is peppers, tomatoes, and green beans.)

I’m not fond of moving. It’s a lot of work! But I do enjoy the excitement of new people, new places, and new experiences. Both Craig and I are very happy we made the move last year, and we anticipate his mom will be glad, too, once she’s finally settled into her new home.

Our situation is very different from hers, of course, in many aspects. In some ways, there’s no comparison (except for the actual work involved in both moves). Rather than selling the house to avoid having to keep it up, we bought a house with the intention of changing it to suit us.

We have, in fact, made some major changes over the past 10 months. I showed you before-and-after pictures of the kitchen, our first big project, some time ago. This summer, we put in a garden, Craig built a new shed, and he (along the help of a professional tree-removal service and also from Scott, our son-in-law) did some serious landscaping work. You’ll see various pictures scattered throughout this post.

Front of house in November, 2012 (taken by the listing realtor)
Front of house “before” (November, 2012) (photo taken by the listing realtor)

I’ve discovered one unexpected consequence of this moving experience: it’s almost turned me into a neat freak. How so? Well, at first, we worked on the old house and fixed everything we could possibly fix (I give Craig the credit for this), even so far as patching and painting or wallpapering the inside of all the closets and built-in cabinets. When I say everything, that’s exactly what I mean. Then, of course, we had to keep it spotless for a couple of open houses and frequent showings. (This was much easier than last time we’d sold our house, as we had no small children or pets to mess things up.) After a while, I grew accustomed to having everything neat and clean.

Front as of September 25. Next year there will be flower-filled planters there, but otherwise, this is the "after" picture.
Front as of September 25. Next year there will be 3 flower-filled planters there, but otherwise, this is the “after” picture.

Then, we cleaned everything in the new house before moving in, such as washing walls, woodwork, windows, shampooing carpets, etc. Once we got settled in, every closet, drawer, cabinet and cubbyhole was clean, neat, and organized.

Now, it’s beginning to get that lived-in look—and that bothers me! Yesterday morning I defrosted and reorganized the deep freeze (which needed to be done whether I wanted to or not) and my spice cabinet in the afternoon. Over the next month or so, I hope to do the same everywhere throughout the whole house. Because, after having things clean and organized for so long, I’ve decided that, though I still don’t like the act of cleaning, I do like the result. And, much like with defrosting the freezer, it’s far easier to do it before it gets out of hand. So I might as well just keep up with things instead of waiting until things fall out of the cabinets when I open the doors.

Another view of the new-and-improved front
Another view of the new-and-improved front

For now, though, I think I’d better pack and prepare for our trip to Ohio tomorrow. Another moving day is coming up.

Oh, by the way: I’m still on schedule to release The Last Toqeph, the fourth and final book in the Gateway to Gannah series, in October.

Stay tuned for more news on that front soon!Lost and Found



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Six-Month Check-In

We’ve been in our new digs for about six months now, and it’s time for me to give you an update.

Our backyard Thursday morning
Our backyard in February

Our first winter here was wintry, as noted earlier. The weather in Ohio was much the same, though, so that had nothing to do with our relocation.

We’ve been (more accurately, Craig’s been) doing a lot of clearing out of old, overgrown vines, shrubs, etc. and cleaning out flowerbeds. Flowers are pushing up here and there, and it will be interesting to see what’s planted in the yard. There’s still much work to be done out there, but we’ll leave that subject for now and move back to the topic of it having been a hard winter in Ohio as well as here.

Some of the firewood we left behind.

One of the reasons we moved to a smaller house was because the utility bills at our drafty old house in New Philly were ridiculous. We had no water bill there, as we didn’t have city water or sewers, and we didn’t have natural gas. But even though we have water and gas here, our utility bills are significantly lower than they formerly were. When I think what it would have cost to heat that old house this cold, cold winter with the price of fuel oil being what it is, I shudder.

We left plenty of firewood for the new owners, but apparently at first they didn’t realize the expense of heating without it, because they didn’t start burning it until winter was well under way. If they burned nothing but fuel oil during December and January, I estimate it would have cost them about $2000 to keep the house at 68 degrees. That’s just for the fuel oil; add the electric bill, and you can figure close to $2500 for those two months. Ouch!

I’m happy to report that we’ve paid considerably less than that in utilities in the entire six months we’ve been here. We’ve also saved money on gasoline, because living in town as we do, everything is nearby. Saving money on utilities is just one of the many reasons we’re glad we made the move.


Several weeks ago we finally got rid of all the stuff in the basement. I don’t think I ever took a picture of it all, because it’s not the sort of thing I want to remember. But there was a lot of junk left in this house when we bought it. We threw away/recycled/Goodwilled several truckloads, and filled half the basement with the rest, hoping to make a little money selling it. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but the end of it is, last month someone paid us $100 for the whole mess and hauled it away for us. We spent the weekend cleaning walls, floors, etc., and getting the area ready for our son and daughter-in-law to move in, and now they’re living there temporarily.

Did I tell you all this already? The reason they’re here is because he got a job in the area, but they’re not sure yet where they’ll

...and after.
…and after.

be living. In the meantime, they’re our resident cellar dwellers. And it’s not a bad arrangement. In fact, they have more space there than they did in their apartment in Ohio.

Some of you have expressed interest in our kitchen remodel, and I said I’d post photos when it was complete. Well, it’s not done yet, but almost. All that remains is the back splash behind the stove and in the area between the counters and the upper cabinets. Because the kitchen is fully functional as it is, completing that last detail is pretty far down

Before #2...
Before #2…

on our list of priorities. Therefore, I’ve taken some photos of the kitchen to share with you now before so much time passes that it needs to be remodeled again.

As you can see from the before-and-afters, everything in the kitchen is new except the woodwork (which I’m not in love with, but it’s not so bad that it needs to be replaced), the microwave, and the refrigerator. I rather like the ‘fridge,

...after #2.
…after #2.

because it’s a side-by-side. I’ve always wanted one, but because they’re more expensive than the kind with the freezer on top, I couldn’t justify the additional expense. This one is old, but it works, and we’ll keep using it as long as it keeps ticking.

Two more things I’ve always wanted and now, finally, I have: a gas stove, and an exhaust hood. You can see them both in this photo below, which I took to show the Kitchen 2louvered bifold doors we put up in front of my spice cabinet-which-most-people-would-probably-call-a-pantry-but-I’ve-had-a-real-pantry-and-this-isn’t-one. Formerly, there was a dilapidated wooden accordion door there, and it was annoying. It didn’t want to open and close, and when it was open, it blocked your view of the contents of far left portion of the shelves. We took the old door down before we moved in, but the shelves were open until yesterday, when we finally hung a new door.

Note the tea kettle on the stove. That represents one of the few things I don’t like about the house: the hot water heater doesn’t get the water hot enough for washing dishes, even though it’s cranked up as far as it goes. Y’see, my dream kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher. Why not? Because, due to the lay-out, I had to choose between a dishwasher and an exhaust hood. And with just Craig and me here, that was an easy decision. I raised four kids, had a huge garden and did lots of canning, and have always been a serious cook, and I got by without a dishwasher all that time. Why would I want one now that I have a fraction of the dishes to wash?

2013-09-24 11.15.46
Last fall’s onion crop.

Though I’ve never had a dishwasher, I do like to wash my dishes in scalding hot water. So, since the water heater is such a wimpy little thing, I boil water on the stove to add to the lukewarm water in the dishpan.

Though we’re both very happy in our new home, I do have one sad thing to report. This evening I used the last of my Ohio-grown onions. Remember those?

The reds (in the back rows) are still growing nicely
Some of the same onions, last summer.

Though I’m pleased I was able to make them last until April, it’s sad that they’re now gone for good. We do plan on having a small garden here eventually, but I doubt we’ll ever be able to grow onions like that again. And I do love my onions.

Other changes to the house: we pulled up all the carpet in the living room, dining room, and hallway to expose the near-pristine hardwood floors beneath. They’re beautiful! Why would anyone want to cover something so nice with nasty, filth-collecting carpet? We don’t like carpet, but we did leave it in the bedrooms (one of which serves as my office). For now. Its days are numbered, though.

bathroomupWe’re also working in the main floor bathroom. Its biggest problem is its miniscule size. But addressing that issue would require us to knock down walls, and we’re not prepared to do. We also don’t like that weird tile floor, but again, that’s a bigger deal than we want to tackle at present. What we’re doing now is removing the wallpaper on the upper half of the walls and replacing the medicine chest, because the electrical socket in the chest was bad, and I need to use it on a daily basis for my curling iron. (Looking at the “before” photo above, I realize you can’t see the wallpaper. But trust me; it was bad. Not just ugly, but peeling.) We’ll deal with the awful floor and the amazingly dated pink tile on the lower part of the walls on another occasion. Oh, BTW, we got rid of the window and shower curtain a long time ago.

So that’s the news on the home front. In the writing news, we’re nearly done with the final edits on Ransom in the Rock, and I expect to begin the publication process later this month. I can hardly wait to release it, because I think you’ll love it. Want a sneak preview? Click on the “Gateway to Gannah” tab above and scroll down to the third book. There you’ll see the cover (don’t you love it?) and find a link to click to read the first chapter. I hope it whets your appetite for more!




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Honey, I’m Home!

frontOur move is finally accomplished!

It’s been a lot of work, but looking back on it, we had no serious problems, just the usual aggravation.

The truck came to load up our things on Thursday rather than Wednesday as we’d arranged, and delivered the furniture on Saturday (again, delayed). But the important thing is, it got here safe and sound. Moreover, the weather was perfect (unlike our last move, which coincided with a major snowstorm).

The photo above was taken by the listing agent last November when the house first went on the market. It still looks the same, so I didn’t bother to take a new pic. As you can see, we have some work to do in the yard in the way of clearing out overgrown trees and shrubs. But Craig likes having things to do, and this place offers plenty of projects, indoors and out.

As I said, our stuff was delivered on Saturday — and it didn’t arrive until 3:45 pm. And not until after the driver called to tell us he was lost because his GPS quit on him all of a sudden. We had to go looking for him, which was a little weird, but fortunately, though we weren’t sure where he was from his description because we don’t know the area very well yet, we found him quickly. Once he got the truck turned around, he followed us. But when we turned onto our road, he didn’t follow. Argh! So we had to go chasing after him.

Once they finally got here, the movers began unloading about 4 pm and were finished in time for us to get some supper at a nearby Mexican restaurant at about 9:15. (“Us” meaning just Craig and me — we didn’t invite the movers).

Then on Sunday, we went to Reston to deliver our bunk beds to our daughter’s family. It was the shortest trip we’ve ever taken there — but of course, our proximity to their house was the reason we moved here to begin with. We drove there, ate lunch, unloaded the beds and set them up, played with the kids for a while, then went home to get back to our unpacking.

By this evening, we’ve made an encouraging dent in the mess. The bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen are in pretty good shape. But the office, living room and dining room are still utter chaos, as you can see from the following pics.

The office
The office

However, we got our TV and internet service hooked up today, so this evening, Craig and I can sit in the mess and veg out in front of our respective screens. (In Craig’s case, conk out. As I sit here in the kitchen, I hear him snoring in the living room.)

As you can see from the picture of the office, I wasn’t kidding about it being utter chaos. Are you wondering what that little door is at the top of the wall? We’re wondering too. We opened it to take a look, and there’s nothing in it. I’m not sure what the purpose is, but since you need a ladder to use it, I doubt we’ll ever put anything in it.

living room
living room

The living room and dining room are more or less the same room, so you can see furniture from both in this shot. About all we’ve done there yet is set up the TV and clear a little spot on the sofa so Craig can watch it.

We’re going to do a complete kitchen remodel in a couple weeks. In the meantime, though, I’ve gotten the basic stuff unpacked and stowed in the cabinets so I can use the kitchen. Because I’m keeping a lot of kitchen things in their boxes and stashing them in the basement until I get my new cabinets, it was relatively easy to get the kitchen organized.

kitchenI don’t think I told you about the kitchen table. That is to say, I told some of you about it individually, but I don’t believe I blogged about it. So here’s the story: about 75 years ago, my grandmother sawed the lower part of the legs off her drop-leaf dining table in order to use it as an occasional table. (As I understand it, this was a sudden whim, and something that did not please her husband.) The table eventually went from my grandparents’ home to my parents’, and now to ours. The finish was all messed up but it was still good and sturdy.

Because our new house is a little ranch-style place with a small kitchen, there’s not much kitchen tableroom for a table. So we thought it might be fun to replace the legs on that old table, paint it, and use it for our kitchen. We did just that, and here’s the result. With one leaf extended and one dropped, it’s a perfect fit.

As you can see from the MacBook on the table, until the desk in my office is reassembled, I’m using the table as a computer desk. [Deb Gardner: are you out there? Do you see your gift hanging on the wall?]

See that floor? It’s carpet. And I think the carpet’s been there since 1970. Looking at these pictures, you don’t need to wonder why we’re redoing the kitchen right away.

I’m not wild about the kitchen, but I do like the table, and the house, and the neighborhood, and the town. I’m tempted to call our new home state Merryland.

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Strolling Through Life’s Garden

2013-09-24 11.13.13I’ve been keeping busy lately with a number of tasks (none of which included updating this blog, as you may have noticed). But this afternoon, I decided to take time to stop and smell the zinnias. Or at least, show them to you, along with some other scenes from the recent goings-on around the old house. Next month, I hope to be able to show you some updated scenes from the new house.

I started these little mini-zinnias from seed late last winter then put them out in the garden in May. I’ve never grown them before, but they surpassed my expectations, and I plan to try them next year in Maryland.

Last year, our beans didn’t do well. Though we planted them three times and picked them all the way into October, I wasn’t able to freeze enough to last all year. It bothered me that I had to buy canned ones to get us through. They’re not all that expensive, and I don’t mind canned beans. But I don’t like having to buy something I can grow myself. So this year, I was determined not to run short.

I needn’t have worried; now I have more beans in my freezer than Craig and I can possibly eat in a year–and I’m not sure how well they’ll travel. I tray-freeze them then store them in large zipper bags. Using that method, I can grab a handful if I want just a few, or cook more if we have company. The problem is, we have to carry them 200 miles from one freezer to another, and I’m concerned they’ll thaw enough that when they’re put back in the freezer, they’ll all stick together. Not a big deal–they’ll still be useable. But I didn’t go2013-09-24 11.06.47 to the trouble of tray-freezing them just so they could re-freeze in one big gob. (Okay, so it won’t be one gob, but a bunch of gobs. But you get the idea.)

In order to insure that we’d have enough, I put in a late crop again this year. But by the time they started ripening, I realized I didn’t need them. I’ve picked this last batch a few times, but this morning decided enough was enough–I pulled all the plants. There were weren’t many plants, and they were a little past their prime. But it’s still sad to uproot healthy plants that are still producing.

Speaking of plants, do you see all those little green growing things on either side of the pulled-up bean plants? Those aren’t weeds; they’re radishes. Tillage radishes, that is, planted as a cover crop. We tried these for the first time last year and found them to be remarkable things. The purpose is to benefit the soil, as explained in the link. But for us home gardeners, a secondary benefit is fresh, edible radishes from the garden even after several freezes. They’re gigantic white beasts similar to a daikon, and they have a 2013-09-24 11.08.13crisp, mild flavor perfect for sandwiches. It’s sheer delight to enjoy fresh radishes in the winter when everything else in the garden is gone.

On the subject of giant vegetables, our jalapeno peppers did extremely well this year, as you can see from this picture. Yes, that’s a jalapeno. And it’s as hot as it is big. I made poppers yesterday, and they were almost too hot to eat (in my opinion). Our new house has a small yard, but it should be big enough for a few tomato and pepper plants, as well as a couple rows of beans.2013-09-24 11.07.24

I have one more canning project ahead of me: applesauce. Our apple trees were over-achievers this year, and I’ll have to freeze some of the sauce because I don’t have anywhere near enough jars for it all. Frozen applesauce is okay, but I prefer to can it because it’s convenient to just open a jar when you want some. I don’t like having to thaw it before I can use it. Moreover, I’d rather pour it from a jar than from a bag; a plastic bag is too messy.

Either way, though, the apples are there, and I don’t want them to go to waste.

Remember my onions? This spring I showed a shot of them when they were just little sprouts; later, you saw them as they were
maturing. This is their 2013-09-24 11.15.46current state (on the right):

Now, let’s go indoors and see what sort of trouble I’ve been getting into there.

In a word, packing. I ran out of boxes this morning and will have to acquire more before I can continue, but we’ve made a good start. The big walk-up attic is empty; everything upstairs is packed except for our clothes and the bedding on the beds. On the main floor, all that’s left in the office are the things on my desk I use regularly, and everything in my curio cabinet and display hutches is also 2013-09-24 11.31.22packed. Furthermore, Craig’s finished in the garage.

Though we’ve been plugging away at it for an hour or two a day for the past week or more, there’s still a lot to be done. In fact, we haven’t touched the kitchen or the basement yet.

The pic on the left is a little dark because I forgot to use the flash, but I think it’s clear enough that you can get the idea. When the real estate agents were showing our house every few days, I had to keep it spotless; now, it’s going to ruin. Though my most comfortable state is something in between, I can live with the chaos temporarily. Good thing, because I have a feeling several of these boxes will have to sit around our new house for quite a while before I figure out where to put the stuff.

Finally, on the writing front: I’m still working on that too. Book #3  (Ransom in the Rock) is still in limbo, finished but waiting to be published. I’ve also finished the first draft of Book #4 (The Last Toqeph) as well as the first round of revisions. Now, I’m running it through my marvelous critique group (love those ladies!) and they’re helping me polish it to a delightful shine. I’m super-excited about the way the series wraps up; there are some twists in Book #4 I hadn’t anticipated, but they bring it all to an eminently satisfying conclusion.

When I’m finally settled into my new little house, I’ll get busy figuring out the best way to get these last two books published. For now, my three or four faithful readers will have to be content knowing that the rest of the series is, in fact, written and will be available for sale some time in the future.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read the first two, I invite you to fly through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure!


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Saturday Situation Report

reportMy gracious, but it’s been a long time since I’ve visited my own blog! Time to give all two or three of my loyal fans an update on what’s going on in the life of their favorite Christian sci-fi writer.

In a word, plenty.

In several words: we listed our house for sale earlier this month. It generated a lot of interest, resulting in an offer being made (and accepted) contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home. Because it’s not a sure thing (who knows when or if the buyer will succeed in selling his place? and if he doesn’t do it in 90 days, the contract will expire), the Realtor is continuing to market it.

Photo of my office taken by Broker Craig Barnett for the real estate listing.
Photo of my office taken by Broker Craig Barnett for the real estate listing.

In fact, they’ve scheduled an Open House for tomorrow. So if you’re a local fan and have nothing to do on Sunday afternoon, come on over and gawk. We won’t be here, but you’ll be able to see where I live and where all this creative wonderfulness originates.

For obvious reasons, we’ve been house hunting ourselves. And since Craig wants to live somewhere other than Ohio, that involves some traveling. We’ve narrowed the search to the Morgantown, WV and Cumberland, MD areas (though in Cumberland, the properties we’re most interested in are in WV as well, just across the Potomac river from Cumberland) and have another trip scheduled for both places early next week.

Also, our youngest daughter, Rustie (whose duck, Maxmafur, is featured in one of the photos the Realtor took of our house), came home in 2010 after being away for five years (college, then another year on her own). She hadn’t been able to find a full-time job in the Columbus area but did find one here — in little Sugarcreek, of all places — which is why she came back. She’s been living here and working in Sugarcreek ever since.

Too bad Maxmafur won’t have a room of his own in Rustie’s new place (this photo is also by Craig Barnett).

When we started talking about moving, though, she advised us to not consider her in our deliberations about where to go, because wherever we went, she didn’t plan on going with us; she was ready to go back out on her own. We figured she’d look for work in the Columbus area again because she likes it there. But Wednesday she surprised us by telling us she had an apartment lined up in Shaker Heights (the Cleveland area) and she’d given her current employer notice.

So we get to help move our dearly beloved Rustie to her new digs before our own move takes place. It’s sad that she’s leaving, and we’re not wild about the idea of her moving to the Cleveland area. But she has family nearby (all Craig’s and mine), and I pray she’ll find a job she loves, one that offers benefits and will provide for her well. (Not the best time or place to look for such a thing, but that’s my prayer anyway!)

Speaking of babies all grown up, let’s not forget about the garden. Remember the pic of the little baby onions I included in an earlier post about grass? They look a little different now, as you can see from the before-and-after pictures below.

baby onions
Before: Little onions nestled in their bed of grass clippings.
The yellow onions are ready to pull and white ones are almost ready
After #1: The yellow onions are ready to pull and white ones are almost ready
The reds (in the back rows) are still growing nicely
After #2: The reds (in the back rows) are still growing nicely


Though the onions are fabulous, most of my garden isn’t doing so well. There’s good drainage where the onions grow, but some of the other crops are suffering from a surfeit of rain. My parsley drowned altogether, my first batch of carrots rotted in the ground, and most other things are a bit delayed in their ripening. This might be our worst gardening ever — but at least it won’t be a total wash-out (pun intended).

Meanwhile, on the writing front: I finished my first draft of the fourth and last book in the Gannah series (yippee!). I love the way it ends (more yippee!). I’m currently revising, trimming some fat and tightening up the whole thing. Not sure yet what I’ll do with it, but I want it to be ready once I decide.

Earlier, I made plans to attend the first-ever Realm Makers conference in St. Louis, a gathering for creators of Christian speculative fiction and art. (Currently it’s just for writers, but they plan to expand to include other arts as well.) As it turned out, though, it comes at an inconvenient time, and I had to bow out. Though I’d already registered, I was able to find someone to transfer the registration to. It’s a relief not to have to take off halfway across the country while we’re in the midst of house-hunting; and I’m delighted to be able to help a fellow-writer get there who wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise. So I’m pleased with the situation’s resolution.

Fly through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure!
Fly through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure!

As far as sales of the two titles currently available? Not so pleasing. Basically dead in the water, in fact. Not sure at this point what I’ll do about it, but for now, the move is absorbing most of my time and attention. Once we get settled in our new home (wherever that may be), I plan to regroup.

If you still haven’t read The Story in the Stars and/or Words in the Wind, they’re available for sale on Amazon or Barnes & Noble in both print and e-book formats. If you’re’ local, you can also buy print copies at the Christian bookstore in New Philly. While you’re doing that, I’ll be doing some cleaning in preparation for the Open House tomorrow.

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