Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall in New England

I'm posting here again as a reminder that I have moved to a new blog.  Fall is in full swing here and I'm loving writing about it and taking tons and tons of photos!  Visit me at www.newenglandliving.org to see my New England in its best time of year! :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Moving On

It's been nearly a year since I last posted here, and I thought it was about time I get back my blogging mo-jo.  I have moved on to another blog.  I'm now at www.newenglandliving.org so please visit me there!  I also have a new email address, alyson@newenglandliving.org , if you want to get a hold of me.  I'm really excited to have a domain that corresponds to my blog name, and to what I love.  I also have a new design, which incorporates the black bird, a symbol very important to me.  I upgraded my camera recently, and am looking forward to posting my photography, because I just love shooting my beloved New England.  Looking forward to seeing you guys at my new pad, and visiting you at your's again!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Moody Day in Boston

Our internet has been out for about two weeks.  Long story (let's just say we're not big fans of comcast customer service), but we finally got it back today.  I've been wanting to post, as I've been backlogged with photos and thoughts, but for today I'm just posting quickly about our weekend.

Generally, I love rainy days, especially in October.  Moody weather in October is perfect for sparking the Halloween spirit.  However, on the weekends, I prefer sunny weather to get out with the family and enjoy the autumn atmosphere.   Our weekend plans were to go apple picking and to visit Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH, but with continual rain, I did not feel like going mucking around in mud to pick apples.  I love the outdoors, but am not a dirty outdoors kind of girl.  Change of plans and it was to Boston we went instead!  This is exactly why I wanted to move near Boston - so that during inclement weather, particuarly in the winter, we would have a big city near us and would have easy access to museums.

We have a membership to the Museum of Science, which I recommend if you ever find yourself in Boston, so we spent some time there.  The museum itself straddles the cities of Boston and Cambridge and its got an amazing view of the Charles River.

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Another thing I love about moody weather - taking photos of moody skies!

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We also went traipsing around the city.

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Part of my family walking the streets of Boston.

And we hit Quincy Market for some Italian ice and ice cream.

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Thank you, Boston, for saving our rainy weekend!  I am in love with this city.



(All photos taken by iphone 4 and edited with iphone apps)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life At The Farmhouse

Life has changed at the old farmhouse in the last few weeks.  My children started school, and for the first time in 14 years, I do not have a child home with me most of the day.  My fourth baby started 1st grade this year, and my first baby started high school.  It feels like a new stage in life for me.  It's a new era and I'm excited to explore what my life is going to be from now on.

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I've spent many days, since the start of school, pondering my next steps.  Life has changed so much, not only this milestone of all of the kids in school, but a new house, a new state, and a new career for my husband - a career which takes him on the road much of the time.  I am left with this odd sense of freedom and time and trying to figure out what exactly I should be doing with it. 

I've explored pursuing photography - going back to school, studying it, and make a career of it, but the only way to make money being a photographer is to take portraits and I don't like taking portraits.  I prefer landscapes, architecture, and taking pictures of people as life is happening in candid moments.  I don't like setting up shots and telling people how to pose.  It's just not something I enjoy.  So, photography will just remain a really fun hobby.  Besides photography, I have explored getting a degree in early American history.  I've explored pursuing many, many of my interests.  However, it came down to this, on my death bed, what would I regret not doing?  There was only one thing, and it sprang immediately to mind.  The one thing I would regret not doing is pursuing my writing.  I've said that I've wanted to be a writer since I was 5.  It is part of my soul and I must go after it.  Even if I am never published, I must try.  That's all that matters.

I've thought about writing a memoir, which is something that has been on my mind for a couple of years now.  I've always wanted to reach out and help fellow survivors of childhood abuse.  I've also thought about writing straight fiction, or a combination of both - my true story interwoven into a fictional story.  I haven't come to a conclusion quite yet, but something strange happened as I was pondering all of this last week.  I suddenly had the thought that I needed to find out the history of my house, the history of the people who lived here.  I had the sense that the answer to my writing may lie in discovering the mysteries of this house.

No one could quite tell me the history of this house or exactly when it was built.  However, the owners of this home from 1976-2009 left a big, fat folder of paperwork pertaining to this house.  To make a long story short, after contacting my town's historical society and going through paperwork and information on the web, I discovered that the man who built our house was Deacon John Craig (deacon in the presbyterian church for 30 years) who lived from 1762 to 1837.  I also discovered that our house once sat 2 miles from here in a neighboring town and was moved to its current location in 1976.  His wife was named Janet or Jenet, spelling varies from record to record.  Her maiden name was Gilmore, which means that this house originally belonged to a Gilmore girl!  He was 9 years her senior and they married in 1794, and at least 4 of their babies were born in my home.  Not only was he a deacon in the church, but he also served on the board of selectmen of his town and in records he was called a yeoman.  Doesn't that sound positively medieval?  In 18th and 19th century America, a yeoman was a small family farmer.  He was a dairy farmer and most likely farmed fruit, as well.  So, my house is an honest-to-goodness farmhouse!  Something I've always wanted.  Everyone that lived in this house was listed as a farmer at least through the early 20th century.

I still do not know the date of construction, but through a lot of research I believe it was built in the early 1790's, though I still plan on researching until I find out for sure.  The odd thing about all of this is that I discovered a plethora of information about John last Saturday, the 10th.  All of this information just came pouring out on that day.  Then, at the end of the day, I found out the date of his birth.  It was September 10th, the exact same day!  It was John's 249th birthday when I found out all about him.  Gave me the chills.  I also found out where he was buried.  So, on Sunday we visited him in a quaint old graveyard, surrounded by lush green farmland, and wished him a happy birthday.

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I am now addicted and plan to dig deeper into the history of my home and the people who spent their lives in it.  I feel that it will lead to something, and if nothing else I feel a deeper bond to those people who loved my home; who lived here, who were born here, and who died here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

After: The Great Room

I'm finally back! Whew, it's been an intense couple of months. Any free moment was spent painting, painting, oh and more painting. And let's not forget the striping of hardware. That is some intense, detailed work. With all this work, I have totally neglected blogging, both writing and reading. Let's just say blogging isn't the only thing I've neglected...I try to avoid making eye contact with the beast that has become my looming pile of dirty laundry.

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I turned what is normally used as a dining room in old cape homes into a great room. I really liked the idea of having the tv room be a part of the kitchen. It brings the family closer together and the person cooking doesn't feel so cut off from everyone else. Besides, there is another dining room and I didn't see the sense of having two dining spaces. I mean, how much of your day do you actually spend dining, anyway? Here's the first shot:

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This first photo was taken from the kitchen looking all the way through to the mudroom (the mudroom is still a work-in-progress, as you can see from the blue tape still on the window panes). Where the wood stove once was, now our tv and entertainment center reside. I was originally thinking of painting the walls a light olive, but felt it needed a warm color, like this gold, to balance out the cool tones of the painted black and white floor. I love it! If you look at my last post, you'll see that the walls were an odd sort of clay color and the windows and baseboards were teal. Very strange and ugly combination.

Painting the walls was a totally different experience. There is only one short wall made of drywall, but the rest is 200 year old horizontal, floor-to-ceiling wood paneling. So different than anything we had worked with before, but I found it fascinating.

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We painted these old built-ins an ivory color. Before they were the same clay color as the walls. I also kind of dig having the tv hanging on the brick. I adore the contrasting textures.

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This is the view from the mudroom. We will ultimately gut the kitchen and make it amazing, but with my husband just starting his own business, it's best to wait until next year to be sure all remains financially stable. In the meantime, we will paint the cabinets a deep, country red.

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Ollie managed to get his cute, little hiney into this shot. Maybe he just wanted to model with his new digs. But the point of this shot is the door. This is one of the doors I worked on, endlessly, to strip the antique hardware of paint. It was all painted white before I scrubbed and scrubbed and steamed and chipped and picked all that white paint away from the beautiful ironwork. Here's a close-up of the door latch:

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This is a closer shot of the horizontal wood paneling. I love the big slabs of uneven wood. Oh, and I bought these wall hangings from etsy back in December. They are printed on old dictionary pages. Two represent my husband and two represent me. Any guesses as to which goes with whom?

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I found this amazing Boston subway sign last month. I'm completely in love with it. This shot also gives you a sneak peak into the living room, which I finished painting and decorating very recently. Can't wait to show you that room!

Life has been extremely hectic since making the move to southern New Hampshire, but we have managed to take some really fun day trips too. We've been up to Lake Winnipesaukee and also up to Maine. We've gone into Boston and Salem. Being so close to places like these is the reason we moved up here in the first place and we wouldn't dare let this summer come to a close without taking full advantage. Now I'm looking forward to another stunning New England fall and to dolling my home up in its autumn glory.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Checkerboard Floors

When we first walked through what is now our home, I was completely unimpressed with the colors, the decor, the outdated kitchen and bathrooms, the worn out floor in the kitchen/great room, and the painted over antique hardware. However, I'm one of those people who easily sees potential and I have no problem looking past the cosmetic fixes. I saw the 200 year old wainscoting, wood planked walls, exposed beams, gunstock corners, and wide plank pine floors. And the first thing I thought when I saw the worn out kitchen/great floors was, "YES! I finally get to do the wood checkerboard floors I've been dreaming about for years!"

I first fell in love with wood checkerboard floors when I saw them in a New England magazine, done beautifully in a historic home in Connecticut. I totally coveted them, but in my 1970's house, with it's ugly ceramic tile floors, I didn't see it happening. Then this sweet old cape came into my life and here we are! I did research on wood checkerboard floors after first seeing them, and that's when I found out American colonists were painting their floors as early as the 1700's. They didn't stain and and varnish their wood floors like we do. They either left them raw or they painted them and they often painted patterns. One pattern they favored was the checkerboard, to mimic the marble floors in grand estates in their native Europe.

We didn't paint our entire house in checkerboard. We only painted the long room in back, which is our kitchen, family room, and mudroom. Here's a before shot of the kitchen/great room:

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The floors were rough and worn and the floors in the kitchen were just raw, dirty wood. The first thing we did was to remove the wood stove because it came so far out into the room that it would have been impossible to set up our family room in this space if we had left it.

Since this photo was taken, we also painted the walls a lovely gold color, the windows and baseboards have been painted ivory. We plan to do a complete remodel of the kitchen, but until then we will be painting the cabinets a deep red color. We also plan to knock out the popcorn ceilings and expose more beams in the family room.

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See what I mean? Rough shape! I can see why it took so long for the owners to sell this house. A lot of people can't look past a lot of cosmetic work, but if you can, you can get a pretty sweet deal!

After removing the wood-burning stove, we painted the entire floor ivory. We used an oil-based floor paint, which was recommended because the oil-based is more durable. Thank goodness we painted the floors before we moved in, however, because the fumes were very strong.

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So here it is all white. Then my husband went to work measuring out the squares and penciling them in. That's the one part he did by himself since my mathematical skills leave much to be desired. After the penciling in, we blue taped the entire floor.

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The taping was quite a job! Actually, the entire process was quite a job. After we were done my husband said he'll never do that again, and I don't blame him. Not only was it labor intensive, it took several weeks to cure. But it was worth it! These floors truly make the room.

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And after we pulled up the tape, this is what we got:

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And look, my apron was made to to go with these floors! :)

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As I said, we've since painted walls and trim and have the furniture moved in. I will post pictures after we finish the touch up work this weekend.

Friday, July 1, 2011

This Old Cape

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I can't believe that it's been nearly 3 weeks since moving day. I naively thought I'd be back to blogging within a week, but instead I still sit amongst stacked boxes and cans of paint. This has been one of the more difficult settling-in phases for us as we are not only attempting to unpack our things, but also restoring old hardware and painting every surface. We haven't even gotten into the major remodeling stuff yet, but if you add up all the small things we must do it is moumental. However, most importantly, we did manage to paint the wood floors in the kitchen, family room, and mudroom in a black and ivory checkerboard. It turned out beyond expectation, and I will share it on my blog next week. Is it possible to be completely head-over-heels, in love with a floor? Because I do believe that I am!

For now, I'm posting this photo I took of our front door light with my iphone. This is a prime example of what I love about this house. All of the antique detailing makes my heart go all aflutter! This is the sweet, antique cape cottage I've been dreaming of, set in the sweet New England village I've been dreaming of, and I still feel like I need to pinch myself to make sure this is real.

I wish you all a wonderful July 4th holiday! As for us, we will try to balance between working on the house, but also indulging in our town's celebrations and grilling up some Fenway Franks.

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A front/side shot of my house taken with my iphone. I love that day lilies are all over my land!