DAY 948 aka 2 1/2 + years in PURGATORY ~ UPDATE on the HOUSE FROM HELL and LIFE


While I was cleaning up the kitchen and dinner dishes recently I realized I’ve been posting quite a few recipes, but have been severely lacking on my actual “writing” about what is going on in our lives. For years I have worked really hard at keeping this an eternally optimistic blog full of grace for the great and wonderful blessings in my life, always trying to live by the old rule, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”BUT, there comes a time to call out the crazy acrimonious instigators and tell it like it is, if for no other reason than to get it out of my head so I can be more at peace.

Well, today is the 2 1/2 year mark (though it feels like 10 years), the house is sold and we are completely packed and CANNOT WAIT to have this horrific experience in our rear view mirror.

You all know my categories for this place,  A HOUSE FROM HELL, REHABBING GRAMS & GRAMPS HOUSE, CHRONICLES OF MY MISGUIDED COUSIN BETH which fit REALLY well, but in the 2+ years since we started this project there are a few tags that could be added that now fit even better like GOLD DIGGING WITCH WITH A GOD COMPLEX, THE FOX IS LOOSE IN THE HEN HOUSE, NO BALLS COUSIN and LOONEY TUNE UNCLE.

ALL of this is so sad to admit, you never want to believe the worst about your own family.  This experience has lent credence to the adage that family isn’t always blood, but those you chose to love. It still baffles me that anyone can turn their back on their family, their own flesh and blood,  for money which is exactly what my uncle did when my aunt passed away and he took up with the apparent GOLD DIGGING WITCH WITH A GOD COMPLEX.

He became an even more arrogant, egotistical and abusive cheating bastard after taking up with her. Almost immediately she had his power of attorney and things took an immediate turn for the worse as they tried to swindle us beyond belief. After hiring an attorney we were able to force the sale, but are still losing a ton money on the deal. My uncle used us and our skills as well as our cash to get the work done on the house and then tried to evict us claiming we had done nothing to better the property.  Fortunately, I kept a chronological progress here on the blog, every receipt to the tune of over $50,000.00 and a detailed log of hours which adds up to over $200,000.00 of labor. So, unfortunately, my blood uncle did swindle us in the end, but worse than that he abused a sacred blood relationship.

The definition of swindle is: swindle – to use unscrupulous trickery or deception to defraud others or cheat someone to obtain money or other assets. 

Many of you remember how disheartened we were when we arrived here to find NOT what we were told, but the HOUSE FROM HELL full of…well just FULL and filthy!  It was a rodent’s dream AND it was a hoarder’s nest. It was full to the rafters and even the rafters were full and so was the backyard and the garage.

The agreement with my uncle was that the house was ours for a discounted price if we came to help clean it out and care for my aunt.   He was offering to help get us back on our feet after the cancer, surgeries, VA claim issues and health issues.  Ironically, if he really loved me he would have never exposed me to this house which ultimately left me with the bacterial infections one after another that culminated in my bypass surgery. Supposedly we were going to use our abilities in the process of helping him and make some money for us too, NOT end up completely upside down and worse off than when we got here both financially and physically not to mention we never even had a chance to work on the VA red tape mess.

Here are the BEFORE and beginning AFTER pictures to refresh your memory

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!

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.

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

This is the pantry floor as clean as it would get!  We scraped off all the linoleum and sanitized the foundation before re-flooring.

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.
unfortunately we can’t seem to find the picture that shows this room stacked 10 feet tall of papers, cabinets and “crap” so have to start with this empty picture.
ATRIUM late 2016
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 2017
New floor, new door and new paint are done and looking good. I LOVE how much light the new door lets in.
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 late 2016
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.

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. 

 This was after hubby spent 4 weeks cleaning and and making a path for donation and trash.
GARAGE late 2016
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 and some “special” bottles at Christmas they took ALL we gave them.  Way more than they were supposed to or should have.  We thank them for going ABOVE and BEYOND!

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.

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?

Here are the FINAL AFTER pictures of an empty sold house:

I would like to say I am thankful for this experience and the lessons learned, but I just can’t. I do know grams is no longer turning in her grave over what her son and his daughter allowed her home to become because we have restored it and made it better.  The girl scout in me has taken over though and we are better people for having done the right thing by family and are DEFINITELY leaving it better than we found it.

I can say I am glad it’s over and after taking some serious time to rehab at the gym and in the pool to regain my strength this summer elsewhere, we will move forward to something better FAR FAR AWAY from any influence of my caustic, toxic, back stabbing uncle who gave such a wonderful speech at our first Christmas about how lucky they all were that we came to the rescue when they were in over their heads because of my Aunt’s Alzheimers and dementia after my cousin died and left this place such a shambles.  He went on and on about how he would make it worth our while because he had no real idea what an F***ing Pig his daughter was until we spent months just cleaning out the place to begin this project.  Calling his daughter, my cousin an F***ing pig were his words, not mine, but then he turned around and literally swindled us out of our time, my health, our trust and our money.

My rant is done.  I know Karma and God will take care of the rest.


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.




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.




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.





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.




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.






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.





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.




I’m still working on the before and after update that I hope to have done tomorrow or Friday, but we are elated today, day 400 of the House from Hell as we finally got carpeting!  It’s been a REALLY long haul and we are exhausted, but I couldn’t wait to get a few pictures and a brief update posted.

It was supposed to be installed on the 5th which I was dreading because it was supposed to be raining, but the phone rang yesterday mid morning and they said there was a cancellation for today and did we want it?  Hell yes we wanted it.  So we spent yesterday moving everything and stacking it anywhere it would fit to be ready for this.

While we were moving furniture out of the room to be carpeted, we “installed” sliders onto the bottoms of the heavier furniture. These are on the oak church pew. I have to say that it was an ingenious idea that we really appreciated today while putting the room back together.
We piled it as high as we could!
Empty to the slab and completely ready!
YAY! I love purple LOL don’t worry this is just the padding.
I’d never actually seen the seaming process take place – it was really interesting and the most time consuming part.
ALL done and ready to be put back together.
This is actually the table that usually sits in the atrium, but we removed the legs and tucked them underneath to use the table as a supportive base for the Christmas tree.
Working on getting it all put together.
EVERYBODY seems ALL settled in now.


So far it has been a VERY productive week.  We decided to take a break from flooring today -since we need to go buy more flooring plus it’s getting hard to scoot around on our butts day after day.

So hubby worked on the spare bathroom and a few odd projects while I started on the studio paint.

I could NOT wait to get rid of this horrible yellow in my studio.  Don’t get me wrong, yellow is a perfectly acceptable, bright and even pretty color.  BUT, it belongs on flowers and such NOT walls!! And of course this room needed the most patching so it also took the longest! It took me ALL day, but the entire room and ceiling has now had 2 coats and ALL the yellow is gone! Now to find the right flooring for here!
Have you ever seen this trick?  I taught hubby today and he thinks I walk on water now.  He was putting up the Wainscotting in the spare bathroom and came across an area that had 3 cut outs.  You can measure and draw it all out, but I read somewhere that if you use lipstick and then put your wood up against so you’ll know EXACTLY where to cut.
I don’t normally pay much attention to other people’s trash, but this mirror that my neighbor was throwing out caught my attention the other day.  It was actually quite ugly, but I figured painted it white it might just be what we needed for the spare bathroom.
So I taped up the actual mirror and started on all the crevices with canned air to clean it up. Then 3 coats of white paint later we have a winner for the spare bathroom. It was getting humid outside so I brought it in to finish drying, but forgot to get a better picture before I set it aside to finish drying.
But the true high point of the day was my dining room rug was delivered! We just LOVE it!
And a sure sign of spring, my air ferns started blooming!