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!

F**K Cancer

Hello friends!

I wanted to take a minute to ask y’all for some grace. If you have been following along with our blog since the beginning you will know that we believe in transparency and keeping it real. Well recently things got REAL. Last month Atom was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. It was quite a shock to get those results after he had a mole removed a week prior. We thought having the mole removed would be the end of it but as it turns out, it is just the beginning of his cancer journey. On Monday, Atom had a big surgery to excise extremely deep and wide into his shoulder (that incision is 8” long with a drain that will be in place for awhile) as well as removing lymph nodes from his armpit (another gnarly incision.) We are hopeful and praying that the pathology results will come back clean from the lymph nodes that were removed. If not, he will soldier on with the next steps on his cancer journey. It is very scary as to what the future holds but we will fight it every step of the way and lean on our faith to get him through this and kick cancer’s ass. We have an incredible support system here in our community which has helped tremendously especially this past week. From flowers to meals and calls/texts/messages that has brightened his day and meant so much. While Atom is only day 4 post op, he is doing remarkably well all things considered! He has minimal pain and is up and around. If you know Atom well, you will know how difficult it is going to be for him to take it easy over the next 4-6 weeks….

With that all said, our major renovations will be placed on hold for the summer while Atom is recovering. This is where we ask for some grace with us as posts may not be as frequent or exciting for a bit. I’ll still try to take & upload photos and update as I am able and give updates as we know more.

Thank you all in advance for any good vibes, prayers and positivity you wouldn’t mind throwing our way! It means the world to our entire family. Atom will kick cancer’s ass. He is the strongest man I have ever met and he’s got this!

Cruising into Summer

We have been all over the place over the past couple of months. Working on various projects in the building (story of our lives) as well as starting to make a projected short term and long term business plan. I wanted to make this post really quick to share some things we have done in recent weeks.

We won a battle against a wasp nest we discovered in the space between the wall and window in the stairwell between the second and third floors. They must have been there awhile or were hibernating because we started noticing wasps on the ground in the stairwell that weren’t dead but couldn’t fly. Anyway, Atom was able to take the window out and put his little bendy camera into the open space and gasped as there were hundreds of dazed wasps inside. He was able to get them out (without getting stung once!) and seal up the open space as well as restore the window in the process. One window down, 69 left to go!

One thing we noticed while pulling another window out to fix was that the wooden sills on the side of the old windows are numbered with carved roman numerals. Pretty neat!

We are a fun and silly family (at least I laugh at my own jokes so I think I’m funny) and as far back as I can remember in my childhood my grandparents always had a mannequin or two at their house and they’d dress it up for lavish parties they hosted over the years. I told my grandpa I wanted to follow in his footsteps and get a mannequin for the building. He surprised me last month when they came to Indiana for the summer with a mannequin he had from his collection! I was so stoked! We let the internet decide her name on our facebook renovation page. Her name is Tilda (after the actress she looks like, Tilda Swinton.)

A few days after Tilda joined the mansion family I found another mannequin for sale and of course had to buy it from a really neat guy. We named him Manny the mannequin. He’s missing an arm and part of his nose but that gives him character.

For fun, we put them both in random windows and had them under lit for some nighttime fun for passers by. Not going to lie, they look really REALLY creepy when it’s dark outside.

Here’s what Tilda looks like inside at night. I need to find her a really fun retro glam dress & faux fur shawl to get her into time period appropriate clothing. Atom just threw an old T-shirt & hat on her for the time being.

Now that the weather has warmed up a bit we got our entryway put back together so we can have a mosquito free area to have “porch time” with our neighbors! Mosquitoes love me for some reason and I react to bites very badly. What’s nice about this area is no matter how warm it is outside it’s always nice and cool in the entryway.

In a past post I shared some weather photography which I have recently found a love for. We had another wicked thunderstorm a couple of weeks ago and I was able to capture some awesome lightning photos from our parking lot.

The basement is coming along and we have some fun things planned for it (including a bungee harness workout area!) Atom has been working on power washing the bricks which is a long and labor intensive process to get the rest of the plaster off to get the bricks and the bottom concrete sealed with some fancy waterproofing paint that I forgot the name of.

Here’s what the walls looked like once the plaster was all taken off.

And here’s what they look like now.

Talk about a HUGE difference! I seriously love how industrial the basement is looking now! We can’t wait to hang out in our 6,000 sq ft living room! It is going to be such a fun space with so many possibilities!

Yesterday Atom made two triple berry pies to take to a cook out with our church small group. They turned out as amazing as they always do!

Last but not least, our first two (of many) lilies bloomed! Stargazer lilies are my absolute favorite flower and Atom surprised me by planting three different types in the front of the building last fall. Within the next week or so we will have a TON that should open up around the same time! I cant wait!

Ok I lied. One more photo I have to share because it is so funny. Our son’s dog Stewart was neutered yesterday and came home in a “Sputer Shirt” instead of a cone. It’s pretty hilarious and he looks so darn cute. It’s basically a cross between a hospital gown and a onesie.

Hope y’all are having a super week!

We have an announcement!

Have you ever wanted to come visit the Freemason Mansion?

SOON YOU WILL BE ABLE TO!!

(And we hope you will!)

Atom and I will be starting our next project on the building next month and we are pretty darn excited about it. Remember the room up on the third floor that we have dubbed the “Egyptian” room? We are going to be starting a top to bottom renovation (along with the bathroom down the same hallway) and starting in spring 2020 (or sooner!) offering it as an Airbnb suite!

We have wanted to have a proper place for family and friends to stay when they visit and thought how fun it would be fun to offer it to rent through Airbnb as well!

This will be quite a big undertaking to get these two rooms ready. Atom ripped up all of the carpet this morning and we will be finishing the original wood floors. The bathroom is similar to the one on the second floor with stalls and a urinal that we put a shower in the first month we lived in the building. We will be tearing everything out and adding a shower/bath and make it more accommodating. The room itself is just about 300 sq ft and the entire suite will total about 450 sq ft which includes the bedroom, bathroom and private hallway. We will also be building a small kitchenette in the bedroom to make peoples stay more comfortable. Here are a few before photos:

Stay tuned for updates as we are getting the suite ready! If you missed it, head over to our renovation facebook page for a live video I filmed this morning showing where your next sleepover could be!!

And because I know what y’all are thinking, YES a tour of the building will be included with every stay!

COME VISIT!

Bit by the weather bug

I used to be terrified of inclement weather. Back in San Diego I was terrified to drive in the rain and would only do it if it was somewhere I absolutely had to go. And to clarify, “rain” in San Diego is nothing like rain here in the Midwest. This I learned VERY quickly when we moved here. There are a ton of drivers in Southern California who do not know how to drive in the rain. People don’t slow down on the highways and there will be over 500 accidents on any given weekday morning when there is even a sprinkle of rain. The roads also aren’t really built to withstand rain and every time it rains the roads turn into giant oil slicks and makes for very hazardous driving conditions.

Naturally when we moved to Indiana I was extremely nervous to drive in ANY weather that wasn’t dry (rain, snow or ice.) This was something I had to face and get over. I’m still very nervous to drive in snow/ice and I think it will be something I will never get comfortable with.

One thing that has really fascinated me since moving here are the absolutely incredible cloud formations that occur. I could stare at them all day! Two weeks ago Atom and I went up onto the roof (and the top of the dome on the roof!) so I could take some photos of the clouds.

The next day we were hammered with a gnarly severe thunderstorm. Our phones were going bananas from all of the severe weather warnings and alerts. We were just about to put our kids to bed when the lightning started. We watched out the dining room window on the second floor and then all went up to the third floor and opened the fire escape door so we could have a better view from inside. I do love a good Midwest thunderstorm!

At first the lightning and thunder were all we got, and then the rain started and before we knew it the rain was super loud and when we looked down we realized it was HAIL!! Not just the tiny pea sized hail I had been used to in San Diego, this was the biggest sized hail I have ever seen in my life!! In our part of town the hail was the size of golf balls and just north of us the hail was the size of softballs!! Our suv has about 6-10 small dents on the hood from the hail but we were lucky because many others had windshields shattered and our neighbor had his side mirror taken off by a huge piece of hail!

After the hail and rain was done literally everyone in town was outside surveying the damage to vehicles and roofs. The sky was still super eerie and there was still some lightning.

You’ll see in these next 2 photos what happens when lightning happens when I was taking a photo. It was pitch black dark outside at this time.

We all stood outside (the adults- everyone’s children were in bed by this time) talking (have I mentioned how amazing it is to live in a small town where neighbors all get together and look out for each other???) and we watched how fast the clouds were moving and there would be sudden cold-warm wind shifts which our neighbors told us that’s a sign of potential tornadoes. Atom and one of our neighbors were keeping an eye on some swirling cloud formations for a while there but thankfully they fizzled out and didn’t turn into anything.

Sunday evening once again we were under severe weather alerts and as I was making dinner I watched out the window as the sky quickly turned black. I went outside and took these two photos in the parking lot.

The craziest part about this was the clouds were moving so incredibly fast and I could literally hear the wall of rain approaching. It was wild!! I ran & made it inside exactly at the time the sky opened up and started POURING. Our street and parking lot were flooded within a minute if that.

Last night Atom and I were taking our dog for a walk at about 9pm and the sky looked like blue and purple cotton candy. It was so neat!

While I’m definitely not brave enough to be a storm chaser, I am going to start learning the ins & outs of weather photography- specifically cloud formations. I am by no means a pro photographer and I don’t plan to be one, there are plenty of pro’s who spend years and years perfecting their craft. I’m just a gal who’s awesome husband (Atom) bought her (me) a fancy camera and a couple lenses (thank you Costco) yesterday. The user manual is the size of a textbook and currently I am very thankful for the “auto” button until I learn what the heck I’m doing. Haha.

To our friends and followers in tornado alley, y’all have had such a rough week. Please know that we have been praying for a blanket of safety for you all during the horrible storms there and will continue to pray for the weather to ease up. ❤️

Stay safe, friends.