BROWN BOX CRACKER MINI MEATLOAVES with BROWN BEER GRAVY aka MEATLOAF with A SERIOUS KICK

I found these awesome crackers a while back and then was pleasantly surprised to find that they were a local mom & pop operation.  Imagine my even bigger surprise when I’m eating these same crackers at my uncle’s house on Christmas Day later that year and find out that Brown Box Crackers was my own cousin’s company! I asked her if we could share this recipe with you and introduce you to her awesome products. I shared this quite a few years ago and unfortunately the crackers are no more as she passed away in 2014 and no one was able to find her recipes.  They probably existed on her hard drive, but alas my uncle never bothered to search and the hard drive is rotting away in storage, probably under water or too wet to be salvaged.  I have made some substitutions to make it similar to her original recipe.

Beth described this recipe perfectly: ” love comfort food, especially when it makes leftovers that taste better the day after. Meatloaf is one of those comfort foods and I like mine with rich, brown gravy…not with that tomato-y, ketchup-y topping some folks use. I want mine with rice and some kind of fresh vegatable to make it a healthy thing. Thank you, Mom, for putting me on the right path to meatloaf.”

MEAT LOAVES
1 pound Lean Hamburger
1 LARGE egg
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Salt (or more to taste)
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 cups Brown Box Cracker Crumbs (I now use a combo of wheat thins, ritz and Keebler garlic butter)
2 medium Onions, chopped
1 Jalapeno, chopped
4-5 Cloves Garlic, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Process onions, jalapeno and garlic in food processor.
  • Adding just enough water to form a paste.
  • Combine all ingredients except for the cracker crumbs by squeezing though fingers JUST until blended.
  • Once the ingredients are mixed well add the crackers and mix them through.
  • Divide burger mixture into four (4) equal portions and form into mini loaves or form one large loaf.
  • Place in a casserole or large, heavy oven-proofing frying pan.
  • The heavy frying pan is excellent for getting all the “good stuff” for the gravy.
  • Bake approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

BROWN BEER GRAVY
3 tablespoons Drippings or avocado oil
1/2 cup Wondra Flour
1 cup Dark Beer (Shiner Bock is excellent)
1 cup Beef Broth
Salt and Pepper, to taste

  • Heat drippings/oil to bubbling.
  • Add flour and stir constantly to a bubbling caramel roux.
  • Add beer and broth continuing to stir constantly. The roux will smooth and thicken.
  • Add more broth if necessary.

Serving Suggestion:  Slice meat loaf and top onto a mound of rice, cover in gravy and serve with a side of fresh sliced tomato.

NOTE: Use beef broth INSTEAD of water when preparing rice. You will be pleased!

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DAY 500 update postponed to DAY 606 due to a contentious family betrayal and the perfect example of how you WILL USE algebra in your everyday life someday!

This is a little long, but all encompassing including a link to the before and after pictures.  If you read nothing else, the RECAP below will give you the BIG picture. The original update post with the before and after pictures also known as what did we get ourselves into is here.

We were on day 500 and still finding things to donate and un-clutter from our lives as we struggled to finally finish this horrific rehab project. Unfortunately, on day 476 as I was planning the BIG day 500 post, we received some distressing news. I was going to go ahead and do a follow up post, but was so emotionally distraught from the frustration and hurt of my uncle’s contentious betrayal with that news, not to mention that we were now about to be embroiled in a legal battle, that I felt it best to wait and not say anything until after it was over. Well, it’s pretty much over, at least legally. The very definition of those two words (contentious and betrayal) sums up who my uncle has become.  Needless to say these attitudes do not go together well with good family relations.

  • Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence which produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship among individuals. Often betrayal is a complete break from previously decided upon or presumed norms by one party from the others. Someone who betrays others is commonly called a traitor or betrayer. In this case the betrayal actually borders on being defrauded or swindled since we were NEVER told the true depth of the situation. He glossed over ALL the important parts making them non-issues when they were HUGE issues in actuality.
  • Contentious is the likelihood of an argument or vexing issue being at the root of your problem.  In our case my caustic, toxic, self-centered uncle has become the actual issue complicated by what appears to be medical issues that are being NOT being diagnosed or dealt with.

I am so thankful that I have kept an active chronicle of descriptions, hourly work logs and pictures of our work (so were the lawyers), Chronicles of My Misguided Cousin Beth, Life in Remodel and Rehabbing Grams and Gramps House. No matter which category you choose, it all adds up to A House from Hell!

So, now here we are at day 606.  The house is done, the legal battle is done and so are we! In the end we’re still on the hook for $70,000 more than we should be for the whole project, but at least we can sell, not even beginning to break even and move on to begin again, but know that we did the right thing to help family, even if they are unappreciative.

I do realize that his contentiousness and betrayal is probably exacerbated by some yet known factor such as his possibly having Alzheimer’s himself or some form of dementia brought on by age as well as the undue influence of the new “girlfriend”the one he was having a virtual affair with for months before his wife of 59 years, my aunt’s death and announced he was marrying before we even had my aunt’s memorial service. The girlfriend appears to be calling all the shots now, but that does not lessen his actions or move me to forget the horrific pain and suffering he has caused us.

He is literally writing off what little family he has left to start a new one several states away. His normal cantankerous nature coupled with being an old man raised in the south (entitled and racist) and his overall caustic toxic nature is also being exacerbated by yet known factors. He believes the world and everyone in it owes him everything! He truly believes he can say “JUMP” and all those around him should do it immediately!  

I am not a doctor, but have spent the past 10 years dealing with those who do have Alzheimer/Dementia (including the aunt he was married to) that I am able to recognize the potential  symptoms (memory loss, constant repetition, personality changes and increased agitation by everyone and everything not to mention the delusions of grandeur and that everyone is one of his minions to control).  I also am doing nothing but stating my observations here so do not believe I am violating any HIPAA regulations as I do not have access to actual medical records. Many times these symptoms go unnoticed because there is not daily contact with the person experiencing them. I personally believe if he were to be properly diagnosed by doctors they would see he needs a legal guardian (like his son & NOT the girlfriend who appears to be a gold digger) and that he really shouldn’t be making decisions for himself or anyone else.

My uncle lured us down here (from 2000 miles away) with the promise of a good deal (we had the potential of making about $45,000) if we did the work to clean out and paint my grandparents old place, to help him with my aunt and be near family. According to my uncle the flooring, appliances, fixtures and furniture were good and would get us started. He swore all it needed was lots cleaning and paint. He was supposedly helping us get back on our feet after the years of the VA pulling the rug out from under us and stringing us along while we continue to fight for what is ours, my cancer and all the multiple surgeries as well as all the life issues that came with dealing with both of those LARGER than life altering issues at the same time!  We have yet to be able to start any of that with the immediate need to make this property livable as we worked day and night for over 16 months to make that happen.

We should have turned around and walked away the day we got here, but we stayed because we came to help family and obviously they needed more help even than they realized. Now that we have spent 20 months living in and cleaning out the filth and decay that his daughter created (with serious multiple bacterial infections incurred by me during that time), my aunt’s death, over 6000 hours of our blood, sweat and tears equity as well as over $50,000 of our own money to do the job, he literally wanted to steal it all away from us by forcing us out so HE could reap ALL the profit. He kept promising to get all the paperwork together so we could finalize the sale, but never quite got there.

The blood, sweat and tears equity is worth over $200,000 alone. Somewhere around the end of our first 1000 hours which ONLY dealt with getting rid of my cousin’s things and ridding the house of the vermin, transporting donations to donation centers, a TON of garbage and filth which included all the appliances, fixtures and flooring was when he realized how bad this place was with the added need for now new electrical and plumbing also, not to mention bringing EVERYTHING up to code and on December 18, 2015 he FORGAVE our $10,000 down payment and also agreed to a much reduced price from what we originally agreed to since the original price included working appliances, fixtures, flooring and furniture that didn’t exist in reality. 

WORD OF WARNING: GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING – EVEN FROM FAMILY!!!! ALWAYS!!!!

The only piece of salvageable furniture was my grandparent’s headboard from their original bed in 1935 and he tried to take that too after repeatedly giving it to me again an again.  I was able to salvage a few mementos that are mine now as they were shoved into forgotten corners and left untended and un-cared for. Things I will truly cherish forever, one being my grandfather’s original postal badge from when he was a special deliveries carrier many, many moons ago and the other my great grandmother’s quilt.  Hubby found the badge in an old coffee can full of dead cockroaches with nuts and bolts.  I found the quilt wadded up in the corner of an upper bathroom cabinet that had been built above the shower so it was exposed too often to moisture.  I have been able to salvage it quite well.

Grandpa’s badge is laying on great grandma’s, his mother-in-law’s quilt. The head board is leaning against the horrible wallpaper that is now fortunately gone for good! Other than the head board, we were forced to purchase ALL new appliances, fixtures, flooring and everything in between including new furniture.

The minute he hired a lawyer to try and force us out by stating we had not done anything to contribute to the property during the time we have been here HE was the one that severed ALL family ties. You do not treat family or ANYONE like he treats people.  That is for him to answer to God about and I KNOW the Karma explosion will be knocking on his door VERY soon!

I am so thankful that I have kept an active chronicle of descriptions, hourly work log and pictures of our work (so were the lawyers), Chronicles of My Misguided Cousin Beth, Life in Remodel and Rehabbing Grams and Gramps House. No matter which category you choose, it all adds up to A House from Hell! My uncle recently told my mom what a deal he gave us on this house.  Evidently his idea of a deal uses his family and their money to his benefit and then he kicks them while they are down.

We had to hire a lawyer (which is adding up to more money quickly also) to deal with his lawyer to force the sale and protect ourselves and the financial investment we already have invested. So, yes he is being quite contentious and is betraying his own blood. The lawyer that sent us the letter to vacate is the same lawyer my uncle said was drawing up the contracts over a year ago. Ironically, the lawyer says he never knew that and now that he is getting the bigger picture he has advised my uncle to get this settled because he would not continue to represent him if it went to court.  All telling signs in my book. Even with the lawyer it took another 4 months to settle as “THINGS” kept coming up in the title search like the unpaid bills he had against him for the foundation work and subsequent underground plumbing work from hiring the “cheaper” company and their trying to do things in places they shouldn’t. They also found that he had filed the paperwork in the wrong county when my grandparent’s died.  So for those reasons and a few others we are almost glad this was not a simple sale as it would have complicated things massively when we later sell.

Just to get this settled so we can move on with our life has forced us to agree to things (like paying the down payment anyway) that were just wrong in general and especially on principle (like also paying the originally agreed upon price even though the house was not worth it), but necessary evils unfortunately to keep a roof over our heads and not lose the investment of time and money from the last 20 months.  According to our lawyer going to court we would have won on principle, but spent the same amount anyway.  At this point we just want to be rid of this mess and the now bad memories, but first we have to pay him off.  In the end we will be completely upside down financially, emotionally and also over the moon to be rid of this mess!

RECAP: The original update post with the before and after pictures also known as what did we get ourselves into is here. Coming here was supposed to accomplish three things.  The first being a place for us to settle and re-group our life after the Cancer, multiple surgeries, years of care giving for multiple people and have time to deal with the VA claim from hell.  Well, that has YET to happen as we have spent every waking hour just making this place livable. The second was to be near family – the same family that now that now that we’re here can’t seem to take time to spend time together unless there’s an emergency. The third was to help out my aunt and uncle after my cousin’s death.  My uncle had his hands FULL since my aunt’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  We were glad we could be here to help him especially after the fall that shattered her knee, the surgery for that shattered knee along with the hospitalization and skilled nursing for the rehabilitation and the infection that ultimately took her life.  We did NOT expect him to decide two weeks later he was getting re-married and moving 5 states away.

I ask myself why did this happen this way? Repeatedly!  Even our lawyer asked what was he thinking?  This was supposed to be a simple transaction to help family.  He held ALL the paperwork necessary to make it go smoothly.  LITERALLY! He held ALL the necessary pieces for EVERYTHING to fall into place, but yet he went from toasting his wonderful niece and her husband for coming to help save him from this holy hell at a family dinner to sending me a text telling me to feel better and thanking him for providing him with some information he needed to suing us for doing nothing to aid him or the property in our time here.  Obviously some undue influence (disease, new girlfriend, etc..) is affecting his ability to think clearly. In the end his wrongfully suing us brought to light his own issues that would have left us with thousands of dollars of encumbrances and ensuing legal battles done by his actions had we followed the simple plan he had originally laid out, not to mention we found out during this process that he had done the paperwork when gramps died and it was filed in the wrong county and such. This could have taken years to straighten out.  Hiring a lawyer cost us A LOT, but saved us more in the long run probably.

He recently told my mom what a deal he gave us on this house.  Evidently his idea of a “deal” uses his family and THEIR money to his benefit and then he kicks them while they are down.”  He has even been known to be “bad mouthing” us and our actions to his girlfriend – we know this because he fails to disconnect his phone from calls before having those conversations. The mere fact that he calls my mom just to chat like he isn’t screwing her little girl takes a lot of balls! He will have to answer to God for what he has done and I KNOW Karma will be knocking on his door VERY soon.  You don’t treat people like crap without it coming back to haunt you. I don’t even need to witness the KARMA EXPLOSION to know it will be HUGE.

Personally, I have NO USE for anyone, let alone family who uses ANYONE and basically steals everything from them, but especially from the family who is helping you and you are supposed to be helping too.

The house is done, the legal battle is done and so are we! In the end we’re still on the hook for $70,000 more than we should be for the whole project, but at least we can sell, not even beginning to break even and move on to begin again, but know that we did the right thing to help family, even if they are unappreciative.

For the past several months he has been jumping up and down like a child throwing a tantrum DEMANDING that we close this transaction immediately. We stuck to our guns as he had yet to satisfy the liens and such.  We refused to sign anything or invest anymore monies in this property without him making things right with HIS creditors.  For some reason even now he believes he has been right all along and that we have NOT done anything to better the house or HIS situation.  I never even factored in all the days I worked 10-12 hours on the house, took a quick shower and then spent 4-5 hours at night sitting with my aunt so he could get out and do what he wanted.  AND he will be getting a bill for the first 1050 hours that dealt only with cleaning out the property from the vermin infested mess it was.

You know how people say you’ll never use algebra after you get out of school? Well, I’m here to prove them wrong.  I loved word problems and algebraic equations and find I really do use them all the time.  This house is a perfect example.

X (minimum cash outlay) + Y (reasonable sweat labor done at a reasonable pace) + Z (fair price) = (PLACE TO SETTLE at a reasonable cost while helping family and regrouping)

Seems like a simple equation right? That was before when my uncle said all the fixtures, appliances and flooring were good.  He did say the garage and backyard needed some cleanup as well as the house needing cleaned up and painted.

He did NOT say that the garage leaked like a sieve and would also need major work. So now ALSO factor in the ALL the things he DIDN’T tell us about “correctly” – like ALL fixtures, appliances, flooring, windows and doors, electrical and plumbing needing to be replaced, city and county code infractions, major drywall repair, bug and rodent infestation, as well as the fact that my cousin was a pack rat/hoarder who didn’t clean and that it would take 2 1/2 months of 12+ hour days, 7 days a week JUST to clear out ALL her trash and potential donations, not to mention the $900 or so of beer and soda to keep the trash guys happy so they would take everything each trash day (which is twice a week fortunately) and that she was a chain smoker that left everything covered in a layer of tar and nicotine.

So now the equation looks something like:

16X+ (maximum cash outlay) + 20Y+ (maximum sweat labor done at a breakneck pace just to make it livable) + 16Z (no longer a fair or reasonable price because uncle wants same amount he did originally and then some) = (PLACE TO FLIP because it has become a money pit) AND (leaving us completely upside down in time and financial means, but at least we helped family whether they appreciate it or not!)

 

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ALMOST FINAL BACKYARD UPDATE on the HOUSE FROM HELL

Here is the next to final update on the backyard. We still have the shade cloth to put up, but that is EASY by comparison to hauling and leveling 6000 pounds of sand, 2400 pounds of Pavers (80 at 30 pounds a piece), 960 pounds of river rock, 16 cubic feet of top soil and 200 pieces of sod. As a reminder this was midway through cleaning out the backyard.

This was after the first load of sand. We were able to use many of my cousin’s broken bricks and pavers as a base to support the leveling sand. You’ll see in a later picture hubby was able to use the leftover fence boards to make an AC privacy fence to cover the utility area.

I’m using my old herb rack in this corner to get the pots started out of the direct sun.
Here is what we look like as of today.  All fertilized, watered and starting to take hold.  Too tired to grill, but as soon as we get that shade cloth up we will.

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Backyard UPDATE on the house from hell

Just a quick update with a before and after picture that kind of says it all.  We’re still not done, but oh so much closer! The above pictures were after we had been cleaning out crap for over a month.  The pictures below is the same area cleaned out with the new interior fence and at least the sand and a portion of the pavers. Hubby also built a small fence to block the view of the A/C and utilities.
We’ve been working hard on the backyard.  Since we had to bring in leveling sand anyway, we used all the various bricks and broken pavers as filler first. So, 6000 pounds of sand, 960 pounds of river rock, 1320 pounds of pavers and several flower pots later we’re getting close!  We still need to order the top soil and sod to be delivered, but within 2 weeks the backyard will be done! I’m using my old herb rack in this corner to get the pots started out of the direct sun.

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Just a little chat and update on MY life plus a review of my first Blue Apron recipe

THANK YOU Carrie!  My first Blue Apron box came today.  Such pretty vegetables and all the fixings for  the next 3 days. They also included wonderful recipe directions that were really easy to follow. I couldn’t wait to make dinner.  I let hubby choose the recipe and he chose the Chicken Under a “Brick” for our first meal. I have to say I was thoroughly impressed! Definitely a meal we’ll have again.

We also thought it might be a good idea to do a “Vision Board” for our search of the next house project. We would really like to find and old church, train station, fire station or school to rehab into an open floor plan and make a forever home.  Anyone know of anything in any of these states?

 

Day 478 HOUSE from HELL Update

You know how you have a picture in your mind of how a holiday is going to go?  I did for Valentine’s Day.  I was making Chicken Cacciatore ala Slow Cooker and the perfect Tiramisu cake.  We were going to have a nice bottle of Peach Moscato to go with our salad.  We were going to have an easy day because of the incoming rain, stay in, watch a movie and enjoy each others company.

Well, Mother nature had another plan!

I had just started the slow cooker with dinner and was sitting down to have my second cup of coffee before I went to shower.  The rain started dumping in buckets and the winds picked up beyond belief – so much so that I moved to the other side of the room and away from my favorite windows because the wind was actually a little scary. Tornado warnings started coming across my phone fast and furiously abut that time and then I heard water pouring into my laundry area through the ceiling.  If that wasn’t bad enough, water also started pouring in through the window I had just moved away from.

Wasn’t much we could do besides grab a bunch of towels and wait it out. I did call the roofer to put him on alert.

Once the worst was over, hubby went up into the attic to assess the damage and the roofer showed up almost immediately to replace the shingles and fix the roof.  That was the easy part.

Fortunately we had just recently bought a new box of contractor heavy duty bags. We then spent yesterday in the attic trying to clean up the mess of wet insulation.  Up until now we had pretty much ignored the attic because we didn’t plan on using it, only clearing away around the opening and air conditioning area, but yesterday we found some really odd things up there.  The bricks we found were the oddest things.  We also found some disassembled OLD, and I do mean OLD cabinets, disassembled bookshelves, old paneling as well as a “roll” of 40 year old linoleum.

 

Compared to other areas around town that were hit with the “tornado weather”, we got off easy.  Just a bunch of clean up and repair, but no real substantial loss besides our time. Seven 55 gallon bags later we called it a day and showered BIG time!

We spent today dealing with the window leak. It’s a 40 year old window that was installed into a brick wall 40 years ago without any insulation or flashing.We have completed the inside repairs and after a bit more dry out will also seal everything from the outside.

Fortunately, we were home when this all happened and were able to get the church pew and great grandma’s quilts away from the leak.

On the up side I was able to get the spice cabinets organized and cleaned up.

 

 

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HOUSE FROM HELL day 458 update

I’m still under the weather, but trying to get some things done none the less so I try to pick an inside project each day that I can come close to accomplishing.  Unfortunately I’ve entered the “Full Flare” phase of Systemic Lupus and Fibromyalgia.  These are two really horrible diseases to have to begin with, but together they equal complete misery – every joint and nerve ending are on fire between shooting pains.  The SLE makes you beg for death some days with aching joints and the shooting pain and at the very least think about staying in or going back to bed.  Then the Fibro has you crawling the walls with pain, but ironically that pain feels better if you get up and move.  My motto since I was diagnosed all those years ago has been “GET UP & GET GOING” no matter what!  Eventually I feel better as the day goes on even I do crash by 8PM. I’m doing pretty well for someone who is supposed to be living a stress free life and still dealing with this house the past 14 months.

Last year I did the “turn your hangers around and anything not worn during the year you donate” challenge.  Well, I used to have an office job – the kind that actually required nice dresses and heels. I’ve moved those clothes around with us the last several years thinking they’d be good for church and nice nights out, BUT I don’t need so many of them.  So, I went through them all today (my project for the day) as well as my skirts, blouses and slacks and was able to seriously clean out my closet by 52 gallons, four 13 gallon bags full to be exact. Since I’m continuing the minimizing challenge this year, logging everything has helped A LOT!

Tomorrow I’m thinking about doing the spice cabinet or the desk.

Hubby on the other hand worked outside and  has taken over my digging on the stump trying to get all the small roots out of the way.  It took him several hours, but he made good headway today.

We’re still looking for someone to at least chainsaw off as much as possible though we’d prefer to find someone to grind it out!

 

HOUSE FROM HELL update ~ day 457 ~ going to take a MULLIGAN

Just a quick update on the House from Hell. Hubby has been working diligently to get the backyard and garage under control.

We still haven’t found anyone that can grind the stump of the old Magnolia tree out because of its proximity to the fence, garage and gate so hubby has been going at it with an axe trying to at least break away the roots from the stump.  The entire thing sticks up horribly into the pathway.  We have a few ideas for building a planter around it, but the roots have to go first to be able to do it efficiently.  I do worry that he will get as sick as I’ve become from messing around in that dirt, but he’s taking precaution and doesn’t ave the same compromised immunity that I have and has promised that he’ll wait a day or two before really getting in there.  Now that he’s “released” the area.

 

Many people don’t realize that many times there are viruses harbored in the soil.  This area in particular was a “cat box” for lack of a better description and though we have been working hard for over a year to treat the area, down deep may still be questionable.  I remember after the 1994 Northridge earthquake when people were getting mysteriously ill and it was later named “Valley Fever” from the dust cloud caused by the force of the earthqauke.  As I remember at least one person died from it.  It was a “THRUST” quake that came from down deep bringing with it everything that had been buried deep for years!  Under my house that was termites and ants from the old orange orchard stumps that had been turned under to build the new tract of houses 40 years before.

On another note, I did find some beautiful artichokes, but didn’t have a steamer big enough to cook them the “normal” way so tried using a new method and it worked really well.  I sliced them in half and laid them in my flat steamer.  I then sprinkled salt, pepper, garlic powder and powdered Parmesan cheese on them and started steaming. Not only were they delicious, but they were also easier to serve individually and took half as long to cook!

I have a new pet peeve.  UPS and FEDEX in our area just throw the boxes on the porch and DO NOT ring the doorbell anymore to let you know they have been there. I was waiting on a box from AMAZON yesterday and kept checking the front door as it was getting late and had yet to be delivered.  Amazon is good about packing and sealing, but when this box arrived after 7 pm last night, it was all beat up, had been opened and VERY poorly re-taped!

Since I’m still under the weather and having trouble getting my energy back I have been taking on only small projects, but have been making headway.  I have the car full again of donations. We’ve decided that since the past 14 months have been so trying and have averaged out to us BOTH working over 50 hours a week for 63 straight weeks in addition to normal life that we are going to take a “MULLIGAN” on many things.  One of which is the totes of items sitting around waiting to be ebayed. It is just not worth the time and effort to take good pictures, list, sell, pack and wait to get rid of many things.  So, we have set a price minimum.  If an item won’t bring that minimum price then it is being donated immediately and eliminated from our sight. I have also given much thought to my “hobbies” (never met a craft I wouldn’t try at least once!) and am paring down my art supplies tremendously. Some lucky person is going to be VERY happy when they are able to find my tools and supplies at the local women’s shelter re-sale store.

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DAY 446 of the HOUSE FROM HELL

Before I begin today’s update let me remind you what this are looked like on Day 8 after we had been clearing a path through it. It took weeks to clear out the rotted doors and furniture as well as all the bits and pieces of broken flower pots etc…

I’m trying to do daily updates to keep my spirits up.  We are back to the point where my cuts have cuts, bruises have bruises and joints swear they are 90 years old.  Once again I say, “This is not what we agreed to or signed up for”.  Anyway, on to today which was grueling with 80 degrees and 90% humidity, but also having to do the digging around the old stump with a salad spoon.  Yep, I said a salad spoon.

The roots were let go for so many years that they are everywhere! On top of that while digging out the area so the boards for the fence would go in properly I also encountered about 200 pounds of volcanic rock, you know the kind that goes in barbecues?  I can’t say why it was there, but can say it was there long enough that the roots had grown around it.

I was able to rake most of the volcanic rock into areas that will be leveled with sand so at least we won’t be having to try and dispose of them and they’ll help make a base under the sand.

Hubby did a wonderful job with pre-drilling all the screw holes so we could install it more easily.

I played the grunt today, cutting boards to length for hubby and holding them in place level so he could do the 6 screws per board more quickly.  Things tend to warp around here because of the rain and humidity so by pre-drilling and installing screws more evenly this fence will last a lot longer than most.

Somehow we ended up a few boards short, but that was just as well because the play-offs were about to start and we were EXHAUSTED so it was a good place to stop for the weekend.  We have not found anyone who will come and grind the stump out because their machines will not fit through the gate and quite honestly we are concerned about rocks etc… that are still intertwined around those roots so we are going to use stump killer on the stump and then build a planting box around it.  Not our first choice, but our best choice.

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DAY 445 UPDATE ~ HOUSE FROM HELL

We are anxious to get the backyard done in time to enjoy it for a bit before the weather gets any hotter which won’t be long here.

This is today’s rock and brick find.  My fingers will NEVER be the same. Even with gloves on and using tools to dig everything has been buried deep and the roots from the overgrown Magnolia tree we had to take out. It is also slow going because of the roots and the clay base. At one point I was using a serving spoon to try and get into some tight areas.

When the last repair was made here, it was a serious crap job sloped and mounded and made of low quality cement. It was a serious accident waiting to happen. Hubby is installing everything to code and keeping it level to create a regular step that is safe. Because of the humidity and moisture here he did a little overkill on the bolts to keep all the pieces together.

He has the step framed and I was able to use most of today’s brick and stone finds to help hold the brace board (the board we will be leveling up to from the rest of the yard) in place. We’ll order the sand this next week.  We think it will take even more sand than we originally thought so will be doing this like an archaeological dig and cordon the area off in sections.

Tomorrow’s job is to start getting the fence planks below into place for the “inside” “PRETTY” side of the fence.

 

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DAY 442 UPDATE of the HOUSE FROM HELL

We began the work on the backyard this past week.  It seemed like it was going to be a straight forward project, but alas this too is a HORRIBLE pain in the butt. As with everything in the house nothing outside is square or level either.

We knew it would need some serious leveling, but we have spent days just digging up these pieces of broken block, concrete and pavers that were sticking up everywhere!  These are just what we dug up in an hour setting the base for the new gate. Unfortunately you are not allowed to throw these away in the trash and so we are are having to “break” them all apart into much smaller pieces and then use them under the sand layer we are putting down. It appears 6900 pounds of sand is not going to be enough even with using all the odd pieces of broken concrete blocks to properly level everything.

After we get it leveled with the sand we will still need a couple pallets full of pavers and sod before we can even sit and enjoy a glass of wine on the new patio. This is before the “PRETTY” side goes up.

Fencing is “supposed” to be part of the HOA fees, but we’ve been on the list for over 10 months with no hope for it getting done any time soon and figured the termites don’t care about the list so we just needed to get it done.  This is one of the better looking boards.  A good wind would knock this fence down.

I secretly believe the HOA makes everyone wait hoping they’ll do it themselves so the HOA won’t have to foot the bill. Since we are footing the bill we are building an “internal” “PRETTY” side to the fence so that in the future whoever lives here won’t be inconvenienced when the outer fence needs done again. It will also help with the leveling and paver process as we try to “square” up this mess.

Hubby did have wonderful progress on the gate.  I was able to paint the old hardware to reinstall it and we will be picking up the boards tomorrow to finish the inside of the fence before leveling the sand up against it. It does need a bit of tweaking and leveling, but we need to pick up longer bolts tomorrow before we can do that.

There are several things we would do different if we were staying, but all in all it looks like it will turn out well and at the very least be “turnkey” for the buyer.

I just pray that the vision in my head comes close to the reality when this is all said and done. I figure at the rate this is going with having to dig up all the broken bits and the fact that our backs are KILLING us from all the manual labor and sledge hammer swinging, we should be able to sit and have that first of wine sometime in late February or March.

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BEFORE AND AFTER UPDATE ~ AKA WHAT DID WE GET OURSELVES INTO?????

Our original thought as we walked through the door (after braving the jungle of a backyard) 431 days ago was WTF did we get ourselves into here.  We were weary and tired, the dogs and cat were miserable after 6 days on the road.  We honestly considered turning around and going straight back to Oregon for about 10 minutes, but that made us even more tired when we thought about it. ALSO, we had moving trucks from where we had things stored in two different states already on the way and had already spent a fortune to get here.  PLUS this was to help family so we stayed to see it through and have been working REALLY hard ever since.  I know grams is no longer turning in her grave at what her house became and is resting peacefully seeing it restored.

Coming here was supposed to accomplish three things.  The first being a place for us to settle and re-group our life after the Cancer, multiple surgeries, years of care giving for multiple people and have time to deal with the VA claim from hell.  Well, that has YET to happen as we have spent every waking hour just making this place livable. The second was to be near family – the same family that now that we’re here can’t seem to take time to spend together unless there’s an emergency. The third was to help out my aunt and uncle after my cousin’s death.  My uncle had his hands FULL since my aunt’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  We were glad we could be here to help him especially after the fall that shattered her knee, the surgery for that along with the hospitalization and skilled nursing for the infection that ultimately took her life.  We did NOT expect him to decide two weeks later he was getting re-married and moving 5 states away.

You know how people say you’ll never use algebra after you get out of school? Well, I’m here to prove them wrong.  I loved word problems and algebraic equations and find I really do use them all the time.  This house is a perfect example.

X (minimum cash outlay) + Y (reasonable sweat labor done at a reasonable pace) + Z (fair price) = (PLACE TO SETTLE at a reasonable cost while helping family)

Seems like a simple equation right? That was before when my uncle said all the fixtures, appliances and flooring were good.  He did say the garage and backyard needed some cleanup as well as the house needing cleaned up and painted. He did NOT say that the garage leaked like a sieve and would also need major work.

So now factor in the ALL the things he DIDN’T tell us about “correctly” – like ALL fixtures, appliances, flooring, windows and doors, electrical and plumbing needing to be replaced, city and county code infractions, major drywall repair, bug and rodent infestation, as well as the fact that my cousin was a pack rat/hoarder who didn’t clean and that it would take 2 1/2 months of 12+ hour days, 7 days a week JUST to clear out ALL her trash and potential donations, not to mention the $900 or so of beer and soda to keep the trash guys happy so they would take everything each trash day (which is twice a week fortunately) and that she was a chain smoker that left everything covered in a layer of tar and nicotine. So now the equation looks something like:

5X+ (maximum cash outlay) + 20Y+ (maximum sweat labor done at a breakneck pace just to make it livable) + 5Z+ (no longer a fair or reasonable price because uncle wants same amount he did originally = (PLACE TO FLIP because it has become a money pit) AND (leaving us completely upside down in time and financial means, but at least we helped family whether they appreciate it or not)

So on to the before and after pictures. Hubby is upset that the before pictures don’t truly show how HORRIBLY DISGUSTING this place really was. I just hope the after pictures show how truly GREAT it is now – it really is turn key now!

MASTER BEDROOM & BATHROOM BEFORE

There was “STUFF” everywhere!  The walls where all stained from who knows what and the carpeting was full of melted wax and cigarette burns even in the closet.  I have to say that my cousin was evidently suffering from some form of mental illness because this is NOT how she was raised!

The picture above is what I got out of the bedroom carpet on the first pass of available floor with my Rainbow Water Vacuum. Disgusting does not begin to describe how it looked or felt.  Below was just one of the cracks to be repaired that was caused by the foundation issues.

The master bathroom didn’t look too bad until you looked close or opened a door and saw all the mold in the wood. So, it ended up getting gutted too. It took me 2 weeks, but I did get the tile clean in the shower, but we still need to find someone to professionally refinish the tile.


MASTER BEDROOM & BATHROOM NOW 

Finally a new window and completed bedroom. We used wainscotting floor to ceiling for the new bathroom walls.

SPARE BEDROOM BEFORE

The spare bedroom was stacked to the ceiling with junk!  It also housed much of her “business” food products.  What was the city thinking when they gave her a food license to operate out of this house? Not to mention it is completely against the H.O.A. rules and regulations for this neighborhood. In the photo below the bottom left hand corner was mouse droppings. YUCK!!

SPARE BEDROOM NOW

KITCHEN/DINING/LAUNDRY AREA BEFORE
THERE WAS “STUFF” EVERYWHERE.  NOT ONE CABINET WAS CLEAN OR ORGANIZED .
THE CABINET HANDLES THAT WHERE THERE WERE GREASE AND DUST COATED. THE CABINET DOORS WERE HANGING BY A THREAD.

THE REFRIGERATOR WAS FULL OF SPOILED AND SPILLED FOOD, MILDEW AND MOLD – A SERIOUS SCIENCE PROJECT IN THE MAKING AND ONE THAT THIS IMMUNITY CHALLENGED GIRL WAS HAVING NO PART OF.  THE SEAL ON THE REFRIGERATOR DID NOT WORK AND HAD BEEN LEAKING OUT FOR SOME TIME. THE FREEZER WAS ANOTHER ISSUE TRYING TO GET THINGS OUT SINCE THEY HAD FROZEN INTO ONE BIG GLOB BECAUSE OF THE LEAKING SEAL.
This is the pantry floor as clean as it would get!  We scraped off all the linoleum and sanitized the foundation before re-flooring.
BEHIND THESE DOORS (which are off their hinges and just propped there) IS THE LAUNDRY AREA AND ONE OF THE SCARIEST LOOKING AREAS.  THERE WAS A RATS NEST UNDER THE COLLAPSING, NOT TO CODE WATER HEATER base.  THE DRYER WAS NOT VENTED TO THE OUTSIDE AND HAD NOT BEEN FOR SOME TIME AS THE LINT WAS EVERYWHERE AND THE WASHER LEAKED LIKE A SIEVE!

This 10 pound bag of sugar was spilled ALL over a pantry shelf and was one of the biggest sources for the ants, cockroaches and mice.

KITCHEN/DINING/LAUNDRY NOW
STUDIO BEFORE
STUDIO NOW
ATRIUM BEFORE
ATRIUM NOW

 

FOYER BEFORE

The door would no longer open due to the foundation issues and she used this 24 square feet (8×3) as a “CAT BOX” area.  I hate to admit that this was the MOST disgusting of ALL the house and required several bottles of hydrogen peroxide etcher after we removed the toxic 2 layers of tiles.

FOYER AFTER

New floor, new door and new paint are done and looking good. I LOVE how much light the new door lets in.

LIVING ROOM BEFORE

These are cracks, tears and stains in the atrium/living room carpeting.

It took weeks/months to get the living room to this organized point LOL.  Notice the crack near the vent?  It went all the way to the floor and was 3 inches wide.  It is also why we waited over 3 months for the highly recommended dry wall guy that turned out to be a HUGE joke. The picture below is the living room after we finally got it emptied and ready to start painting.

This is one of 3 sections of the living room carpet that had melted candle wax all over it.  She had just arranged the furniture over it.

 

LIVING ROOM NOW
We made built in cabinets in the living room to hold things like the DVD player, WiiU, movies and games, etc…

I could not get Whiskey to move so she’s in the picture! There are still many Christmas things sitting around as I get them pack up to put away, but all in all it’s looking good.

SPARE BATH  BEFORE

There was a funky built in area above the tub for linens that needed to be removed and the walls had to be re-done after the 2 layers of wall paper were removed and the wall board was peeling away. 

SPARE BATH NOW
GARAGE  BEFORE

This was after hubby spent 4 weeks cleaning and and making a path for donation and trash.

GARAGE NOW

Hubby has done wonders at creating a neat and organized garage!

It took months to get to this freezer and then weeks to get into it.  The key wouldn’t work!  Turns out the seal had failed and there was a HUGE layer of ice sealing it shut.  It then took hubby days to chip away ALL the ice and bag the food that was there. 

We are SO thankful for our trash guys.  For a case of beer and soda twice a week they took ALL we gave them.  Way more than they were supposed to or should have.  We thank them for going ABOVE and BEYOND!

ATTIC
From this point in the attic you can turn 3 directions, but they all look about the same.  We got as much stuff out of the attic as the house it seemed. It is now ALMOST empty except for some insulation that needs bagged and the storage boxes I added just around the opening for when we move.
I tried to salvage these globes covered in nicotine and dirt, but in the end it was a lost cause.
JUST A TYPICAL TRASH DAY.  It looked like this, sometimes double this EVERY! trash day (2 times a week) for 9 months!
The wiring had to be all re-done as gramps and possibly Beth’s boyfriend, Tom had done some really scary Mickey Mouse jobs that left us thankful the place hadn’t been burnt to the ground.  We found an awesome Electrician and while Tommy was expensive, he is a Master Electrician and left us with a safe feeling allowing us to sleep at night.

This was the path hubby created through to the back gate. We are anxious to get this area done next month.  Right now it is empty, but very uneven so we will begin with 100 bags of leveling sand and see where it goes from there.

Did I ever mention that the neighbor next door in a 2 story tried to buy this place because he loved the floor plan, but my uncle wouldn’t sell until the foundation work was done? In ALL honestly this house would still be sitting here in the same condition we found it if we hadn’t come long when we did.  Unfortunately for us it appears my uncle does NOT appreciate any of this. He still wants more money than it was worth and said if he’d realized it’s condition, he would have just dumped it.  If that is the case I have to wonder why he didn’t sell to the next door neighbor to begin with and honestly if he’s going to “DUMP” it why not do so to the people who spent the money for the parts and labor AND did the back breaking work for over a year?

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