Monday Night Dinner

Last night we started a new tradition here in Indiana, one that is very near and dear to our hearts. When we lived in San Diego, our longtime dear friends would host a “Monday night dinner” (MND) every week and we attended for many years. It was always such a fun time of friendship and sharing a meal together. Super informal and nothing fancy, just food and friends. We are very excited to carry on this tradition/ministry here with our friends and neighbors!

There is just something magical about hanging out with a community of people each week. There is no pressure for our friends to come every week- just come when they can. We prepare the meal so no need to worry about cooking for that one day. We gather at 6pm, eat at 6:30pm and everyone is back home by 8pm since it is a school/work night. Easy peasy.

For our first MND, we made a simple Mexican lasagna which is a household favorite and one that is even better the next day (isn’t it the same with regular lasagna?!), Atom’s amazing Mexican rice, and a garden salad.

Mexican lasagna is so incredibly easy to make and doesn’t cost much at all. Here’s what you’ll need:

-Chicken (sometimes we will also use ground turkey as well)

-Corn tortillas (you can also use flour but we don’t think it tastes as good)

-Salsa, any variety.

-Shredded cheese

-Sour cream

-Black olives

(Preheat the oven to 400 degrees)

We use a medium sized disposable foil baking pan but you could make it in any deeper type or size of pan. Pre cook the chicken and shred or chop into small pieces. We usually season the chicken as it’s cooking with garlic & onion. You’ll start by layering the tortillas on the bottom to completely cover the pan. You’ll have to break a couple in half in order to cover it all the way. Then spread a thin-ish layer of salsa over the tortillas. You can either add a dollop of sour cream with the salsa or save it to add once it is cooked and served. Both ways work. Next layer the chicken, shredded cheese and black olives. Then repeat, starting with a layer of the tortillas and so on. I will usually just do two full layers and top with tortillas and cheese at the top. Then pop it in the oven for about 20-30 min. Since everything is cooked it’s just a matter of time for the cheese to melt and it all to get hot and crispy on top.

It is seriously the easiest thing ever to make and so delicious. Y’all know how I feel about tacos and this is like a delicious taco lasagna pie. Sometimes we will also add green bell peppers and onions, corn, and black beans as well. You can literally add anything you want/or change it up depending on your taste.

Here are some photos of the process:

I want to encourage y’all to invite a friend or neighbor over for dinner on a weeknight. Don’t worry about preparing a 10 course fancy meal, just something easy. Having time to connect with other people over a meal is very powerful and impactful. Who knows, maybe you’ll even start your own Monday night dinner tradition!

FAQ’s- You Asked, We Answered!

Ever since we purchased the building and even before we started renovations, we have constantly been fielding questions. I totally get it- it’s not a typical renovation project and the whole mystery surrounding the building and it’s history is quite perplexing!

Recently over on our Facebook and Instagram pages I did an “ask me anything” post and the response was absolutely amazing! Hundreds of comments and questions were asked on those posts and I wanted to compile the most common ones here in one place on the blog. I’ll start with the top 3 most asked and then add the rest after that.

TOP 3 MOST ASKED QUESTIONS:

1.) How much does it cost to heat the building?

I literally get asked this question a minimum of ten times per day and that is not an exaggeration. I actually have a typed out response that I’ve saved on my phone because it’s easier to just copy and paste rather than type it all out. Our first winter in the building when we actually lived here it was an interesting experience trying to figure out how to make the 73 original windows less drafty even with the storm windows closed. So that winter our highest gas bill was $450 for the month of January. Since then, our winter gas bill averages $250/month. Our winter electric bill is also averages around $250/month. I actually went back and looked at our monthly bills to verify the actual averages. The building has 5 separate high capacity high efficiency central heaters and 6 separate central a/c units. We can pick and choose what parts of the building to heat/cool and to what temperatures. We generally only really heat/cool the second floor as that is where our “house level” is. The building is built out of stone, steel and brick so it is naturally incredibly well insulated. The basement stays in the low 60s Fahrenheit during the summer on its own when it is very hot and humid outside.

2.) Why did you leave sunny San Diego and move to the Midwest? (aka WHY INDIANA?)

The quick answer is “why not?!” Atom and I were both born and raised in San Diego so it was all we knew. It is a beautiful paradise to live in! We felt that we wanted to move somewhere where we could spend more time with our kids and get away from the big city and try something new. We both had successful careers and lived very comfortably in a nice part of town with a house that we loved. We felt the urge to leave about 8 years ago but didn’t know where we wanted to go. The tie to Indiana came from my mom’s side of the family. My mom spent part of her childhood living in Indiana before they settled in Southern California for good when she was in high school. We would go to Indiana many times when I was growing up for family reunions etc and I always loved the beauty of the Midwest. Texas, Missouri and Washington state were also on our short list of places to potentially move to in case you were wondering.

3.) Is the building haunted?

If you have been following this blog for awhile (and our facebook and instagram pages) you will know a little bit about my background with paranormal investigating. I have been ghost bustin’ for going on 15 years now and professionally on a TAPS team for 7 years. I have had thousands of experiences that I cannot logically or scientifically explain and therefore absolutely believe that ghosts are real. But I will not try to convince you of such. Everyone needs to have their own experiences and come to their own conclusions. I was a skeptic for a very long time until I had my first experience. So back to the building. Is it haunted? We think so. All five of us have had experiences in the building that cannot be logically explained. Yes it is an old building and we will hear settling noises and such during the day and night. That isn’t what I’m referring to. I’m referring to the shadow people I’ve seen several times, the bare footprints that were between the third and fourth floor where no one goes that is very dusty that abruptly stop halfway up. The full bodied apparition of a man in the basement that I was convinced was Atom until I realized he was in the kitchen and not the basement. The incredibly difficult to open and close glass front bookcase doors in the library that will randomly be open after I securely closed them the night before. Need I go on? The activity isn’t constant though, its not like we live in a scary haunted house. We will go months without any activity and then something might happen and then back to radio silence of sorts for months again. Sometimes it is frequent for a few days to a few weeks. Having my background in paranormal investigating, my TAPS team focused solely on scientific investigating. 95% of what people perceive as being paranormal can be actually easily explained. Our kids aren’t scared. I’ve had many talks with them about how the vast majority of living people are good people and when good people die they don’t automatically become scary mean malicious ghosts if that makes sense. (If you want to read more about our resident ghosts click here).

How did you find the building?

In the summer of 2016 we were in Indiana for another family reunion and knew at that time we wanted to for sure move out of California in the next few years. We stayed an extra week after family festivities to drive all over the the state to look at old farmhouse type properties with lots of land just to get an idea of what to expect when it comes to prices (which were a fraction of home prices in San Diego. Our jaws were literally on the floor while looking.) We just so happened to be driving through a town after looking at a farm property and we were captivated by the town and how cheap houses were and we turned a corner and saw the building with a “for sale” sign out front. Literally that’s how we found it. We most definitely weren’t looking for anything like this. It found us. (To read more about how much of an incredibly faith building journey it was for us, click here).

How much did we pay for the building?

$89k

What is the building zoned?

Lucky for us, the building has always been zoned residential (R2) since it was built. It is literally in the middle of a neighborhood.

What do we do for a living?

I am a Respiratory Therapist and have been one for 16 years. My career is my absolute passion. I have severe asthma myself so my career was an easy choice. I am also a writer and write medical content (both as an advocate and as a licensed medical professional) for an asthma, COPD and heart failure website as well as moderate their online forums. Atom is a school bus driver and has been doing that for the past year. While I make enough money to support us and our renovations, we wanted to do them a bit faster so Atom started working this past school year. Since we are renovating debt free, we budget each month and decide what we can afford to do for that particular month. His job is so great for him because he absolutely loves kids and being a positive role model in their lives but it also gives him a nice chunk of time between routes to be home working on renovations. Prior to moving to Indiana Atom had a very successful job working for the local utility company and is extremely skilled in gas line work, construction, electrician work, and operating cranes to name a few. He’s definitely a jack of all trades which has sure come in handy with the building!

Do we have any regrets since moving in?

Nope! I do miss San Diego Mexican food terribly, but we make some pretty darn authentic tacos, tamales, and fresh corn and flour tortillas which helps fill that void. I may have grown up as a California city girl, but small town Midwest has absolutely stolen my heart.

How do you decide what projects to do next?

It’s different every time. It just kind of depends on necessity I guess. At any given point we have no less than a dozen projects in varying stages of being done. Many of the projects need time between for paint to dry etc so we work on things as time allows. Our priority number one when we first moved into the building was to renovate the bathroom on the second floor to include a shower since there weren’t any shower/tubs in any of the 6 bathrooms.

Any secret rooms or passages?

We are asked this quite often. The answer is no. We have all of the original hand drawn plans. There is a set of back stairs that lead from the access hallway on the third floor to a small area of the fourth floor. We refer to it as the “secret staircase” only because if you didn’t know how to get to it you probably wouldn’t easily find it. But it’s not hidden by a bookshelf or wall or anything like that.

Did you sage the building &/or have it blessed before you moved in?

Nope we sure didn’t. No need to as it is not an evil space. Everyone has some degree of intuition. You know how you can sometimes feel the tension in the room or good energy in another? Have you ever been somewhere and had the feeling like you needed to leave immediately? I can tell you with 100% certainty none of us ever felt any negative or scary energies when walking through the building when it was for sale. If I even had the slightest uneasy feeling there is no way we would have bought it & moved ourselves and our children in. I think it’s human nature to automatically think that just because an organization has secrets that those secrets must be bad or demonic or whatever. The masons that we dealt with throughout the process of buying the building and moving in were some of the most kind and caring people we have ever met. One other thing people tend to do is think that we are associated with freemasonry. We are not associated with the Freemason organization in any way. We merely stumbled across an incredible historical property and jumped at the chance to save it from being demolished.

Why did the masons sell their building?

The masons are still very much alive & well with their organization here in town. They decided to sell their building because with the aging members, they were literally having to carry the elderly men up to the third floor for meetings. Putting in an elevator would have cost a fortune in a building as big as this. Since the member count isn’t as high as it was in previous decades they didn’t need a building as large and moved to a smaller one story place.

How many rooms are in the building?

This is a really hard question to answer. The building isn’t set up traditionally. There are many open spaces and very tall ceilings throughout the entire four stories plus the basement. Even the rooms we are using as bedrooms are on average 20x30ft so much larger than a traditional bedroom. If you never saw our original live walkthrough video I did in 2016 right after we closed escrow (6 months before we moved in) click here.

How long until the renovations are complete?

Never? Haha! This will more than likely be a lifelong or at least several decade long project until we get it completely done and exactly how we want it. It’s a bit slower of a process since we are doing the renovations completely by ourselves and debt free as I have stated before. So I would say we are approx 6% done at this point? We have a long way to go and are absolutely loving the wild ride it has been! This project is a labor of love and I still pinch myself often & ask myself how did we get so lucky to be living this life?

I better stop there with the FAQ’s as this post is already super long. Whoops! If you have other burning questions let us know and I will more than likely make a part 2 in the future!

Our 10 year old son’s dream bedroom!

We finished our middle sons room (he’s ten years old) this past weekend and I finally had time to take some photos of the finished product to share! Too bad it was a cloudy day and not the best for photo taking but whatever. The former “card room” in the building is 20x30ft and we split it in half to make our boys rooms. So each boys room is now 15x20ft and still pretty darn big! Atom worked with both of our boys to help them design their own unique, one of a kind space. For our middle sons room he chose a Star Wars/Harry Potter/Lego mashup theme. Before starting construction, we pulled up the carpet and finished the original wood floors that were underneath.

After the floors were done, we had to figure out how to attach the wall frames. This wasn’t an easy feat because there is no drywall or wood beams in the walls. They’re stone and block. Good thing Atom’s handy and resourceful!

Our son chose to have a sort of balcony where his bed would go with a more open concept. He told us it would be a “cool hangout space.”

Then it was drywall time! I think we went through an entire bucket of drywall screws on this room alone. This next photo shows the long pass through closet area that connects both sides of their rooms. There is a set of sliding doors so they can get to each others rooms but only if they each agree as they both have a lock on their sides so if they both aren’t open the doors stay shut. They also have a rotating door up top between their bed areas that have locks (and a cat door!) to get to each others sides if they want. Privacy is important for preteen boys!

I’ll spare you all of the in-process mudding, sanding and painting photos and get to the final product. We let our kids choose whatever paint colors they wanted for their rooms. Middle son chose green and blue.

This desk was given to us and our son chose orange paint (it’s a metal desk so we are limited as to what we could do to it) to make it a statement piece. We glued large lego build plates to the surface and it has become our Lego obsessed son’s dream building space. The white dry erase board behind it folds down to cover the build plates so he also has a place to do homework and other things that need a smooth surface. Our son begged for the past four years for a “fancy” red leather desk chair and this year was the perfect year to get it for him and he was absolutely shocked and surprised on Christmas morning! He is also an aspiring ventriloquist and he wanted to display two of his antique ventriloquist dummies on the top along with his favorite completed Lego creations.

He chose a ladder to get to his bed vs a set of stairs (like his older brother wanted). There is a fun lighting strip along the top of his bed area that he can control from a remote and change the colors, make them blink etc.

For his side of the closet he opted for these square bins to put his clothes away in rather than a traditional dresser. He is quite the perfectionist and loves having his space neat and tidy and very organized. A rare quality of a 10 year old boy! The hammock can hold the weight of an adult man (aka Atom) and is a pretty neat space where our son likes to relax and read.

And now to the statement piece of the entire room.

THE DEATH STAR!

We love Star Wars and our son asked Atom to paint this mural on his wall. I know I have mentioned it in the past but Atom is an incredible artist. I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband and I love him. He really is THAT talented! He sketched this out entirely by freehand and it is 6ft tall and 6ft wide.

There are a few tiny details that you wouldn’t notice unless you look really close that Atom included in the mural.

There is a teeny tiny X-wing shooting a Tie fighter, and also the Tie fighter hangar hidden. I took some close up photos of those two parts.

And there you have it! We have one super happy son and our oldest’s room on the other side of the wall is now in progress and I can’t wait to finish it and give another before and after!

May the force be with you!

We made the national news!

Yesterday was a BIG day for us here at the mansion! The internet basically exploded over an article that was published by a national news outlet which made headline news. A month ago a reporter from Insider reached out to us after finding out about our project through our instagram page. He asked if we would be interested in speaking with him for an article he wanted to write about our project for Insider’s lifestyle section. We agreed and we were under the impression it would be a small side piece on their website. Boy oh boy were we wrong! The reporter was incredibly nice and we spoke to him for an hour over the phone a few weeks ago. After the call he messaged me and asked for as many photos as I could send him of our progress etc.

Yesterday I was at work and my sister called me. I answered because I knew it was early on the west coast so she must have had something important to tell me. Her words were “DID YOU KNOW YOUR HOUSE IS ON APPLE NEWS RIGHT NOW?” My heart skipped a beat. Wholly carp the story dropped! This is really happening! After I hung up the phone with her I checked my email and there was a message from the reporter saying the article went live this morning. Whoa.

The story wasn’t a small side piece by any means, it was a HUGE front page news headliner. It was well written and we are pleased with it and that the reporter didn’t try to spin any angles to make it more “newsworthy.” He told our story as we told it to him. Within 30 min my phone started to blow up with literally thousands of facebook notifications (the story was shared to Insiders facebook pages as well as their websites and other news outlets), calls, texts and emails. At this point I was shaking and could barely breathe. What the heck just happened?! I had to leave my phone in my bag and ignore it for a good part of the day because it was so overwhelming and I couldn’t keep up if I wanted to.

I shared the link to the article on our facebook renovation page yesterday and as of 9am this morning it has been viewed 193,180 times, shared 625 times and has 261 comments. This is just from me sharing it to our page. These numbers don’t include the shares that have snowballed exponentially from the initial sharing from Insider themselves.

We have been contacted by local news stations, nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts and a couple podcasts all asking for interviews. It’s bananas!

And of course, along with overwhelming majority of amazing comments, there are a few bad apples who actually take the time to say mean things about our renovations. I can honestly say those comments do not bother me at all. It comes with the territory of being pseudo internet “famous”. I guess I was just raised better to not say anything at all if it wasn’t nice. People who find joy in tearing others down online are very clearly lacking joy and passion in their lives and I can only pray they somehow find it because it is a very lonely sad life to be so negative all of the time. And I can guarantee that those keyboard warriors wouldn’t have the balls to say some of those things to our faces. We totally get it, what we are doing is a very unique project that very few would have the guts to take on and of course not everyone will like what we do to the inside of the building or how we decorate it and that’s totally okay! But the difference is that I can’t even fathom seeing a photo of someone else’s home online and telling them I didn’t like it or that it was ugly. Again, I can only thank my amazing wonderful parents for raising me to have love and respect for others.

I wanted to take a minute to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts to our readers. I feel like I can’t say thank you enough for showing us grace, love and support over the past 3 years since I started this blog, instagram and facebook reno pages. Y’all have been so great and are the reason we continue to document our progress on this incredible journey. I don’t know how we got so lucky to have you all in our lives but we thank God everyday for it.

I want to encourage you to be intentional in your interactions online. Social media is a wild place and can have such profound impacts both good and bad on peoples lives. Don’t forget that. Also, take a break from social media every once in awhile. While I make part of my income online (not related to our renovation- we make zero money from it) even I need a day to recharge without social media. You’d be amazed how much better you will feel! Go meet a friend for coffee, call your grandmother and just TALK! Or do what I will be doing today which is setting up my 2020 planner and decorating the first couple weeks. (Where are my fellow llamas at?!) It is okay to take time for yourself. That sink full of dishes can wait.

Oh yeah, here’s the Insider article for your viewing pleasure. Click (here)

Stay tuned for another post very soon with the before and after of our sons bedroom!

Be kind to one another. Always. ❤️

Campfire Muffins

What a month October has been! I have been meaning to get this post written for weeks but unfortunately my body had other ideas. After an amazing week of camping in the West Virginia mountains for my birthday and then me flying to Philadelphia for a medical conference my body was done. I ended up with pneumonia and pulmonary edema. I’m so much better now thankfully, no where near 100% but I’m getting there!

Ok back to camping! Our original plan for my birthday camping trip was to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and stay at Pictured Rock state park but when we saw the weather forecast calling for snow we had to quickly make other camping plans. So off to West Virginia we went! We had never been to WV before and we’re pretty excited to explore.

The fall colors were unlike anything I’d ever seen before and I think Atom got sick of me saying “WOW” over and over on the drive there. Our campsite didn’t disappoint either.

The first couple of days were drizzly which made for perfect hiking conditions. Once it cleared up the trees around us literally looked like they were on fire in the afternoons! It was absolutely incredible!

One of my birthday gifts to myself was a new vogmask and I was stoked to break it in on this camping trip. They are a severe asthmatics best friend. I carry mine in my purse wherever I go.

I was most excited to make my absolute favorite muffins while on this camping trip. They are a family favorite and easy to make.

I wanted to share the recipe and how we make them because they are *that good*.

We made six of them, one for each of us plus an extra.

Things you’ll need:

2 boxes jiffy blueberry muffin mix

6 large oranges

Foil

Campfire

Prepare the muffin mix according to the directions on the box in a bowl and set aside.

Hollow out all of the oranges & be sure to keep the halves together. (Eat what you scoop out or save for later to eat)

Fill up one half of each orange. Then place the other half on top.

Wrap each orange in 3 layers of foil. Don’t skimp here. Use 3 pieces big enough to cover the orange completely.

Then toss them in the fire. Make sure they are down in the fire & not on top or next to it. They will not burn. The orange peel and foil will insulate them.

Turn them over every couple minutes. They take about 10 min total to cook. Don’t be afraid to pull one out & open to check if it’s done. Just be careful & don’t burn yourself!

Voilà! The most amazing orange blueberry muffins you will ever taste in your life! Grab a fork & dig in!

Back at the building, Atom spent some time last week digging up the overgrown areas in the front and prepped the ground for winter and also planted a ton of tulip bulbs. I can’t wait to see them and my beloved stargazer lilies bloom in the spring!

Last but not least, my favorite tree turned colors a couple weeks ago. The leaves have since fallen due to the snow (!!) we received on Halloween. That was definitely a first for us to experience!

Bringing an Old Oven Back to Life

In preparation for the giant Taco Party we hosted earlier this month, we worked our tails off getting the basement and the kitchen (mostly) done. The massive commercial kitchen in the basement is such a neat space. Often times when I am down there I imagine all of the thousands of meals that had been prepared and all of the people who were fed over the past 93 years.

One feature in the kitchen that wowed us when we initially walked through the building was the sheer size of the stove and ovens. There are ten large burners on the gas stove and five separate ovens all covered by an impressive huge functioning ventilation hood. We aren’t sure how old they are but I’m pretty sure they have been around for many many decades and if anyone knows, please tell us! Lucky for us, Atom spent 15 years working for the local utility company in California and over a decade working on natural gas lines, so he was able to inspect everything and replace any necessary parts if needed.

From all of the decades of use and then us doing some pretty huge renovations in the basement it left a pretty big mess covering the entire kitchen, stove and ovens included. Here are a couple before photos:

The first thing we did was remove the cast iron grill burner plate/covers and clean them and polish them with special stuff that is specifically for cast iron. And of course we seasoned them afterwards.

With a bit (okay a TON) of elbow grease we scrubbed the oven exteriors and backsplash and added some fresh pretty expensive specialty high temp oven paint.

Voila!! Here’s what it looks like now:

They literally look brand new and we couldn’t be happier with the end result! Our friends were shocked when they walked into the kitchen at Taco Party! We still have a ton more to do in the kitchen including removing the old crumbling sticky tile flooring and putting something better down, and scraping and painting all of the walls and ceiling where it is peeling. That will come in time.

These appliances may be OLD, but they still have a lot of life in them and we are happy to still have them in the building!

Perspective

It’s no secret that I am obsessed with Tacos.

This past weekend we hosted a gigantic taco party for all of our friends. It was something we had been planning for awhile. We worked our tails off to get the basement presentable. I took this photo before the party started and when I initially looked at it all I could see was how much we didn’t get done before the party.

But then today I looked at the photo again, debating on whether I was going to post it or not. Today I feel damn proud of how much we have done in the 6,000 sq ft basement since we moved in. The plaster walls were once literally falling off, the drop ceiling with the acoustic tiles was in various stages of decay, water leaking into the basement from shotty patchwork done in the past that clearly didn’t hold and a plethora of other projects we had to fix.

We tore down the drop ceiling, which painstakingly literally took an entire year to do and dispose of. The plaster from the walls and pillars was removed, wire brushed and power washed the brick to get the plaster residue off. We painted the lower half of the walls with a God awfully expensive high psi waterproofing paint (after fixing the poorly patched drain pipes in the walls). The 16” steel beams were hand scraped by Atom to remove the rust and plaster stuck to them for almost a century.

I could choose to look at the photo and see that while we stripped the floors before the party, we didn’t have the time to seal & wax them. We didn’t get the pillars, ceiling & area below the stairs all painted, nor the new lighting hung. Instead I’m celebrating all that we have been able to accomplish so far to bring the massive basement back to life.

We do now have a pretty neat taco spray painted on the wall! The stage wall has a few holes in it from unfortunate mishaps when the ceiling was coming down. It will eventually be replaced & until then we will have a giant taco mascot. Tacos are my FAVORITE!

The rest will come in time which is the story of our lives and we wouldn’t have it any other way. ♥️

Reuniting a postcard with family

This is going to be a super quick & short post but I had to share something really amazing that happened this past week! I know not all of our readers are on facebook so I wanted to be sure to make this post here as well.

Early last week I found some old papers in a box in the building. I posted a photo of this postcard on our facebook renovation page. The postcard was sent in 1944 from a man who was a Freemason and at the time stationed on the USS San Francisco while in the Navy. The temple had sent him and his shipmates a box of candy for Christmas.

Very soon after people started commenting on the photo saying that the man who wrote the postcard (Don Purviance) and his family are well known in our community. Within only a few hours and several tags in the post, I was able to connect with his son! Andy messaged me and I was thrilled to be able to set up a time for him and his wife to come over. On Saturday afternoon, Andy and Donna came over and I was so happy to give them the postcard and a tour of the building!

They are the nicest people and they were so happy to receive the postcard and I was absolutely thrilled to give it to them and for it to be in their family where it belongs.

What makes this story even more incredible is that when I was talking with Andy I learned that he & Donna spend part of the year in San Diego and attended the same church that we attended for nearly a decade before we moved to Indiana!! Talk about the epitome of a small world!!

Now I have a feeling I’m going to be on a mission to find the family members of any other hand written letters/notes/etc that we may continue to find in the building for years to come!

Summer Wrap Up!

Summer sure has flown by! It is hard to believe school starts this week for our kiddos. What a summer this has been! I wanted to start out by saying THANK YOU for all of your prayers and well wishes for Atom.

We received his pathology results and they got all of the cancer during surgery and it hadn’t spread!!

His lymph nodes that they removed were clear! Words cannot express how relieved we were when we heard the news! He will have to be followed by oncology dermatology every few months for a few years to keep an eye on things but no chemo or radiation needed! Getting Atom to relax and not do too much was a challenge and if you know him well, you know he doesn’t sit still very well. But he listened to doctors orders and is almost back to his regular self, with a shiny new 8” scar on his shoulder and a 5” one in his armpit. I told him it makes him look extra tough. Haha!

My parents officially retired and moved to Indiana at the end of June! We couldn’t be happier to finally have them close and be able to spend more time with them. The past two years have felt empty without them being close. We had a wonderful 4th of July. My sister and family flew in to surprise us! Our kids had so much fun with their cousin and it was a week of relaxing and spending time with them all. We continued our (second) annual fireworks extravaganza and launched fireworks off of our roof and put on quite a spectacular show for our neighbors who all came to watch from our parking lot.

I shared on our facebook renovation page awhile back that half of our stargazer lily plants were vandalized and ripped apart by a child while the parents watched and it was all caught on our security cameras. I was really upset because Atom had special ordered these lilies for me and they were not cheap! I was really excited for them to bloom and was pretty sad to know only half of them would bloom and the front of the building would look lopsided. The ones that were torn up should hopefully come back next year and it’s all good. The rest of them on the other side of the front of the building all bloomed and it was magical and smelled heavenly!

I have a feeling we will continue to find things in the building for many years to come. Just when I think I have explored every single nook and cranny I turn around and find more. Back when we first closed escrow on the building and we looked around I remember opening these cabinets and seeing a bunch of antique glass ice cream dishes. A couple weeks ago I was down in the basement and I moved some things around in the hallway between the large open room and the commercial kitchen so I could really open the cabinet doors and see how many there really are!! There are hundreds of ice cream dishes, glass coffee cups, and more salt and pepper shakers than we will know what to do with!

I took some time during Atom’s recovery to give the piano that was left behind in the basement a good cleaning. Even though it has been covered during the basement during the work we have done down there over the past year, it was in need of a good scrub. I polished every single key as well as the wood. It was quite the slow process but I got it done. It’s not a 100 year old piano (at least it I don’t think it is), but I really like it and it’s in great shape. Having taken piano lessons all throughout childhood I have a deep rooted love for piano as it was the first instrument I learned to play. As I was making my way around it cleaning every nook & cranny I opened the bench. Inside I found several very old music books and hymnals, many with hand written notes on the pages.

We have spent a lot of time as a family this summer which has been so great. Between Atom recovering from surgery and having my parents here and my sister & family in town our hearts are so full and thankful. Our pup Stewart has especially appreciated the extra family time and trips to the park.

A friend of mine recently recommended a semi-local blackberry farm and we visited it a week ago. Atom LOVES berries (specifically blackberries and raspberries) and was absolutely thrilled to go! The blackberries were gigantic and delicious and the owners were so sweet! We picked just under 11 lbs of berries in about 30 min. The kids had a blast and I have a feeling we will be planting some blackberry bushes on our property in the spring.

The renovations were at a standstill for the past couple months and now that Atom is just about healed from his surgery and cleared by his surgeons, we will be picking back up where we left off. We will be continuing to work on the basement, adding murals to our boys rooms (if you didn’t know, Atom is quite the accomplished artist and muralist) as well as finally starting the third floor “Egyptian” room & bathroom complete remodel.

Again, we want to thank you all for your incredible support over the past couple of months! It has meant the world to our family and we are so so grateful!!

Renovating while remaining debt free!

If you would have asked me ten or even five years ago if I thought we’d be completely debt free in our mid 30s and renovating a gigantic building without any loans or debt I would have told you that you were insane. Yet here we are, completely debt free.

I have been contacted by many people over the past two years who are considering purchasing a historic building or house asking how we were able to get a loan on a building that is so old and needed so much work as it is a hurdle they are currently facing. I wish I had some advice to offer but I don’t as we paid cash for our building.

I have thought about writing this post for a long time, pretty much since we purchased the building. It has always been in the back of my mind but I wasn’t exactly sure how I would write it. Today I figured I would just bite the bullet and just go for it.

Living a debt free lifestyle in this day and age isn’t easy. It’s not always glamorous but it is possible with hard work and a lot of determination. Our lifestyle in San Diego was vastly different than our life here. You could definitely say we were bound by the golden handcuffs. We made pretty darn good money, lived in a really nice desirable neighborhood, and were able to live a lifestyle without needing to budget. The only debt we had was our mortgage, which if you know anything about the housing market in California, it wasn’t a small one. We have always paid off our credit card every month to maintain a zero balance and we have never had to pay interest. This has also helped us maintain sterling credit for going on two decades. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone and others may choose other means (like using only cash to pay for things as part of the budgeting and debt pay off process) but it has worked really well for us.

When we stumbled across the building and fell in love with it, at first it felt like we were thinking impulsively. After spending 2 hours inside absolutely mesmerized by its beauty we told the realtor we would have to think about it as it wasn’t the farmhouse with land we were looking for. (If you are newer to this blog and want to know how the backstory of how we came to find and purchase the building click here).

We spent a couple of weeks researching our tails off regarding details like how much it would cost to heat and cool the building, electrical bills, rough renovation cost estimates, taxes, insurance, potential business possibilities etc etc etc.

We paid cash for the building and sold our home in San Diego before making the big move east. Cue instant debt free status. The money we had left over after paying our mortgage off on our San Diego house was enough to fund many of the major renovation things upfront right away.

Before we purchased the building we had a long chat about me working full time while Atom jumps into doing full time renovations on the building while also being a stay at home dad to our children. We knew this would make things financially tight and I’m not going to lie- it was a HARD transition to make. Prior to our move I worked part time in a hospital in California and spent the rest of the time at home with our children and Atom worked usually 6 days per week. I have absolutely loved jumping into full time employment here at the hospital. It was definitely an adjustment for Atom to be home but still working on the building at the same time. There is absolutely no way we could have been able to afford contracting the renovations out. The building is just too massive. Maybe if we won the lottery? Wishful thinking!

Living off one income is possible for us and we are pretty comfortable doing so, even if it is nowhere near what we made in California. Learning to stay within a budget has been a team effort and is honestly something I never thought I’d be able to do prior to moving here. This is the reason we are taking our renovations significantly slower than many other people who take on these massive historical buildings that need saving and brought back to life. We aren’t taking out any loans for projects and going at the pace we can within our means. We still pay off our credit card every month and maintain our perfect credit. Moving at a slower pace not only is better for our budget, it still allows us to spend time together as a family and not focusing every minute of every day on the building. And that makes this whole process even more worthwhile.

We were able to break free of the golden handcuffs and it feels pretty darn good!