Manor Life

In Which I Realize The Manor Will Be the Death of Me

The house is killing me. At least twice a day I am convinced we made a huge mistake in taking on this behemoth that seems to be falling apart faster than we can (afford to) fix it. I'm counting on the fact that back in 1907 houses were "made to last" and thus should hold up for another couple of years at least.

I've narrowed my despair down to four main culprits:

  • I've been really busy at work lately. More work = more stress = more grumpiness. Plus, I've had less time at home to tackle small projects or do the daily organizing that keeps my family's disheveled habits in check. It's a bit of a vicious cycle -- clutter makes me anxious (which reads as "bitchy" to my family) so when I'm busy at work, the house gets messy, which makes me more stressed, which makes me more tense at work. Yada yada yada. 
 Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.

Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.


  • I was sick over the holidays. I caught the flu the day after returning from a trip to Bangkok in mid-December and that flu virus turned into a cold, which lingered until it became bronchitis. In all, it was a full five weeks of misery before I turned the corner. I felt off my game for Christmas and New Years, and it drove me crazy that the time I took off (almost 4 weeks out of the office) was devoted to laying on the couch and coughing rather than tackling any of the dozens of house projects on my list.
  • Bill and I are not on the same page. We've had a string of disagreements lately about project choice, scope, design, and budget. The Manor is a hard enough project to tackle, without being on the outs with your partner in crime.
  • Several of our projects have gone wrong, or haven't been finished. The expensive paint job we did on the front porch last year has bubbled and peeled, making it an eyesore every time I have to go through the front door. The plaster ceiling repair we did on several parts of the house looks fantastic, but there are still multiple areas in other areas where the ceiling is peeling away. The chicken coop paint job isn't done, nor is the new ramp to the back door. Living "in between" is hard.

I'm hopeful that the impending spring weather (although it snowed again last night) will create a renewed sense of optimism about The Manor. Otherwise, I've noticed some very attractive downtown lofts available for a steal.

That said, there have been some nice points over the last six months. Here are a few of the highlights

Sewing Projects

 Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

 An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

 Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Small Home Improvement Projects

 We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

 ... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

 We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

 We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

 Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Happy animals

 My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

 This fall, all was bliss...

This fall, all was bliss...

 And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

 And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

 Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

 Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

 I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

That's all for now!

Fall 2015 at The Manor

 Maude, one of our remaining chickens who *mostly* has the good sense to stay away from the dogs.

Maude, one of our remaining chickens who *mostly* has the good sense to stay away from the dogs.

When I last left you, dear reader, the basement was flooded, Bill was out of town, and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I'm happy to report that Bill is back and the basement is dry. The nervous breakdown seems to have stepped back a pace, but is ready to launch at the slightest provocation.

What's going on with the basement?

I'm so glad you asked. After pumping 800 gallons of water outside, the basement continued to flood for the rest of the weekend. A specialist came out to examine the problem and told us that because our house has a double-brick foundation, we can't do exterior waterproofing and instead need to consider digging up the concrete to put in gutters and pipes along the interior walls of the basement, which will then divert water into a (new) sump pump. Cha-ching.

Oh, and our insurance doesn't cover water damage from flooding, so we had to pay for the emergency help out of pocket. We don't have flood insurance. Remind me again how my husband's job is convincing communities to require flood insurance for just such occasions...

What's going on with the chickens?

Well, we're now down to 10 chickens. You'll recall that Doris (our firstborn!) turned out to be a rooster and was re-homed over the summer. A couple of weeks ago, the chickens started venturing over the fence from their safe and secure stable area into our backyard. Where our dogs roam. With a taste for chicken.

Sadly, one of them wasn't quick enough to make it back over the fence, and was killed by the dogs. In a matter of second, the air was full of feathers (seriously, it was like a feather pillow exploded) and the chicken was dead on the ground with a broken neck. No spurting blood (thank goodness) but it was pretty disturbing to have to pick it up off the ground and get it disposed of in the three minutes before the kids arrived home from school. 

At least the chickens have mostly decided to stay on their side of the fence. We're planning to clip their flight feathers this weekend so help minimize their explorations. Stay tuned for that horror story soon.

 There doesn't seem to be much mourning for dead "Brown Chicken #6". It's business as usual in The Manor stables.

There doesn't seem to be much mourning for dead "Brown Chicken #6". It's business as usual in The Manor stables.

Fighting "The Man"

The new grass seed is coming in nicely, and the stable is looking less desperate. This comes at a good time, since it turns out that our city is doing a comprehensive review of the zoning ordinances and is proposing that a property lot under 5 acres be limited to four chickens and no animals over 50 lbs. That means that our very spacious "almost 2 acre" property would be over the limit on chickens and would not be allowed to have goats.

Heresy! Here is a photo of approximately 1/8 of our property. Does this photo look overcrowded with livestock? I think not.

 This is a tiny portion of our backyard -- does it look like we have too many chickens? Absolutely not.

This is a tiny portion of our backyard -- does it look like we have too many chickens? Absolutely not.

And here is a photo of another angle of our backyard -- this is separate from the stable area where the chickens roam, and there is another 2/3 of the backyard not pictured. Does it look like the goats are being mistreated with lack of space? Or that our neighbors mind living next to these pets?

 I think you can probably tell from their little pot bellies that these goats have plenty of land upon which to gorge themselves.  

I think you can probably tell from their little pot bellies that these goats have plenty of land upon which to gorge themselves.  

All of this is to say that Bill and I are moving into high gear. We're in the process of figuring out the best way to advocate for more reasonable zoning rules regarding chickens and livestock. Bill's in communication with the local extension agent and I'm going to be reaching out to members of the City Council and the planning department. Wish us luck!

Spring Wardrobe

For the last couple of weeks, I've been working my way through my fabric stash. For so long, I've hesitated to cut into the lovely piles of fabric--not wanting to ruin the perfection of a beautifully folded swath. But the time had clearly come--I was running out of space in my sewing room and it was getting hard to justify any new purchases. So I got busy and made Sarah a spring wardrobe. And lazy afternoon was the perfect time for a fashion show.

A Pretty Easter Dress

An Ice Cream Dress

A Long Tree Dress

A Purple Ruffle Dress

A Chevron Bubble Shirt

A Pastel Flower Bubble Dress

A Peplum Top

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A Flower Dress with Pockets

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Of course, the fabric stash is hardly dented.

Clearly I need to continue the mission.

February Slump

The month of February brought two major snow events to The Manor (and seven days of closed school, plus multiple delayed starts). Between the miserable weather and a full week of stomach virus, I haven't done much around the house. 

This weekend, I did manage to complete two projects, while BIll began another. Let's start with me.

Reusable Paper Towels

I saw this tutorial on Pinterest, and thought it would be a great way to use up some of my fabric stash. And who doesn't like the idea of using fewer paper towels?

I used diaper cloth for the backing, which has an absorbent white cotton weave that should hold up well over time, and will take repeated washing with hot water.

I opted to skip snaps/velcro, since the diaper cloth has nice "grip" and holds on well when wrapped around the tube. Besides, I was never going to snap up 15 towels each time I ran a load through the laundry.

Spring Dresses

I've continued my crusade to fit out Sarah's spring wardrobe with handmade pieces. I lucked out with a 3 for $5 pattern sale and stocked up on a variety of new dresses and separates. The one I whipped up today is actually a shirt, but turned out to be tunic length. (We'll add some leggings under this one for "real life.")

The pattern photo shows a much more ruffled panel, and so next time I'll add more width to the fabric to make more substantial gathers all the way around. (There are virtually no gathers in the back at all.) Still, Sarah is pleased with the result. 

The back buttons up, which is a cute way to add a little personality with contrasting colors. I also opted for contrasting top-stitching.

Next up, I'm going to use the same pattern to create a bubble dress -- I've always wanted to try one and finally thought to look up a simple tutorial. I can easily use the bodice of this pattern, which fits well now but also has room to grow, and play with the bottom sections -- adding more ruffles, a bubble bottom, or a proper skirt length. 

While I've been sewing, Bill's decided to tackle a totally different project...

He's decided that The Manor will be greatly improved by fixing up the trim throughout the house. The previous owner was a bit slapdash in throwing a coat of paint on the doors, trim, and paneling, and it shows. 

We're starting with a single transom window over the master bedroom doorway. This is a test to see how long it takes to strip the old paint (and the best way to deal with lead paint layers), whether we can strip and re-use the old hardware, and whether our finished product actually looks better than what we started with. Keep your eyes peeled for another post from Bill detailing the process.

Polar Vortex

We made it through the summer without turning on the air conditioner. I won't lie -- there were a couple of rough weeks in June, but I am eternally grateful to the Polar Vortex that helped bring temperatures down in mid-July and keep them at "spring-like" 70-85 degrees most days since then. 

In fact, today it is only 68 degrees. Marvelous, marvelous!

 The pets have found all the comfortable places to nap. Usually by an open window or door.

The pets have found all the comfortable places to nap. Usually by an open window or door.