It’s Been a Busy Fall

Dan proposed to Megan on 8 May 2008 in Lowell, MA, as they were on their way to dinner at Cobblestones.  After four months of thinking and deciding, the wedding date was announced: 17 October 2009.  Then all the real work began…

October 17th, 2009, the long-anticipated day, finally arrived!  We had been worried for the entire week leading up to the date because the weather forecast in our neck of the woods was for a good old New England “Nor’easter” storm, with blowing wind and torrential rain, from Friday right through Monday.  But Megan had been planning an outdoor autumn ceremony for over a year!  So we had the classic battle of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, and the weather lost the battle!  Friday’s weather was a fright, with snow and rain and blowing wind.  Saturday dawned bright and sunny, blue skies with not a cloud in sight.  There were some puffy clouds by the time the ceremony commenced at 1pm in the garden of the Stonehedge Inn and Spa in Tyngsboro, MA.  The weather was spectacular; crisp and cool, clear and bright.  A breathtaking day!  And then Sunday was back to blowing snow and gusty wind, another miserable day just like Friday!

The day itself was picture-perfect in every possible way.  Megan was a vision of beauty and grace, Dan was handsome and elegant. The ceremony was stupendous – people laughed, people cried, it was emotional and meaningful and memorable.  The reception was wonderful, the food was awesome, the music was perfect, the dancing was lively and energetic. It was just a wonderful day in every way to celebrate the marriage of Dan and Megan in profound style!

I was forbidden by my wife to take pictures at the wedding ceremony or the reception, but my sister wasn’t so restricted. She passed me a passel of her photos to post.  The first three pictures are a few from the rehearsal dinner the night before, then the next 18 pictures are ones I snuck out to take before everything got rolling. The rest are my sister’s photos from the wedding itself:

Lynn and I have been casually looking at real estate in mid-coast Maine (in or near Damariscotta) for the past three years or so. The plan is to retire up there in ten years or so, so we wanted to get our foot in the door (so-to-speak) by picking up something for vacations and weekends, and then either converting it to a retirement home over the ten years or so, or leap-frogging into a suitable year-round home after a few years of getting used to the area.  We’d take our two weeks vacation in the area each year, and work with a real estate agent we trusted and had worked with for a few years, looking at a dozen or so houses each time we were in the area.

Alas, everything we were looking at in our price range fell into the “handyman special” category. I’m fairly handy, but having a handyman special 3-4 hours away from the primary domicile makes it difficult to spend much time working to fix the place up.

But then, lightning struck.

This past September, on the last full day of our two-week vacation, we looked at a converted carriage house that we fell in love with.  It had originally been built in the 1860’s as a real carriage (e.g., buggy) house, on the shores of the Damariscotta River in the town of Damariscotta.  In the early 1980s it had been converted for human habitation, and then in 2007 it was literally picked up and moved 4-5 miles to a 2.6 acre plot of land in Newcastle Maine (the town next to Damariscotta). It was then totally renovated again, so now it had the 1860s charm of a carriage house (with wide pine floors, and exposed beam ceilings, and the original carriage house sliding door still attached for effect), but it was on a brand new foundation, with all new plumbing and electrical, a new well, new septic system, and new Rinnai direct vent propane heaters on two floors.  It had lots of light, and was charming in every way.

The sale was a “distress” sale, the result of a break-up. The couple never got to finish the renovations before the split, so no-one has lived in the house in its new location.  We saw the house for the first time on a Friday, really liked it,discussed it over dinner Friday night, slept on it, and decided Saturday morning to make an offer on the house while we were packing up at the end of our vacation to go home. We stopped at the local bank Saturday morning to pick up a mortgage application, stopped at the real estate office to make our offer (with an expiration date/time of 5pm Sunday), swung by the house one last time to look at it (and show it to our daughter and her fiance who happened to be in the area), and then drove home to wait.  At 5:05 pm on Sunday, we got the call that the offer had been accepted.  The arrangement we agreed upon was that the heating system, electrical, and plumbing (including the dishwasher) would all be functional.  Everything else (unfinished hearth in the living area, missing shower rods and towel bars, doors that needed painting, etc.) would be our responsibility.

The inspection went great, with very few problems uncovered.  The closing on the house (on the 23rd, six days after the wedding) went smooth as silk. It was the fastest closing we’ve ever been a part of. Zip, zap, and we were done, about a half hour.  From there we stopped at the insurance company to pay the hazard insurance premium, then off to our new house to meet with a workman who is going to fix an expensive Anderson patio door that isn’t working properly and is too complicated for me to work on.  We closed on a Friday, and came to the closing with van packed to the gills with “first load” stuff – two cot beds, seven chairs (an antique Morris rocker, four metal folding chairs, two cloth fold-up chairs), a kitchen table, a blow-up queen-sized mattress, sheets, linens, towels, pots, pans, a coffee maker, tools, mops, brooms, cleaners, etc. 

We say that lightning struck because this house was fully renovated, ready to move in, fully winterized and ready for year-round habitation, and was definitely not a Handyman Special.  We were able to grab it before it hit the MLS system, so we were the only ones who looked at it.  It was a dream-come-true for us, and we were also able to meet the needs of the seller.  Lightening struck.

Lynn spent the weekend cleaning and starting to figure out what is needed, and I spent the weekend putting things up that normally come with a “used” house, but because this was a total renovation, it’s more like a new house.  We were missing things like toilet-paper holders, towel racks, shower curtain rod, door-stops, coat hooks, yada-yada! 

Apparently nobody in Maine – at least in this section of Maine – ever locks their doors. The key to the main entry door had never been seen by the previous owner.  It had a dead-bolt with a latch so you could lock yourself in, but you couldn’t lock the door when you left; no key.  The latch-deadbolt combination was an older version of a Schlage handleset latch, but the deadbolt part is smaller than the standard deadbolt, so it couldn’t be swapped with a stock deadbolt, and because I didn’t have a key, it couldn’t be re-keyed.  So I had to buy a new handleset to get my hands on the smaller-sized deadbolt, but the closest one in-stock was at a Lowe’s about 30 miles away.

I also had to put a throw-bolt on the large, expensive Anderson patio door that has an intricate three-point locking system that doesn’t work yet (probably because the house was moved from its original location and it got out of alignment during or because of the move).  The door would close, but not lock, so that was another security weakness.  I had to mortise the throw-bolt strike plate with a box-cutter, since I forgot my chisels!! The third security weakness was that the vertical throw-bolts in the three French doors in the basement had never had a receiving hole cut for them, so I had to do that to each of them in order to be able to secure them shut.

Lots of work to do, but plenty of time to do it! We’ve got cot-beds and a coffee pot and a toaster when we’re up there, what else do we need??!

One of our weekends at the new house was exciting.  All the stores in downtown Bath ME were participating in an “early-bird” sale Saturday morning from 6am – 9am, so Lynn and I got up at 5am and headed down to a furniture store that Lynn had found previously and liked the style of.  We bought a queen-sized bed frame and mattress and box-spring, a queen-sized fold-out couch for the living room, a round kitchen/dining room table and four chairs, and three end tables that Lynn liked.  The deal with this furniture store for the Early Bird sale was free delivery, and at the end of the transaction you popped a balloon and got the % discount off the total price that was marked on the paper inside the balloon.  Minimum was 10%, then there were some 20%, a few 30%, two or three at 40% and one at 50%.  Lynn got 20%, which still saved us about $600!

There’s a giant cell-tower about a mile line-of-sight over on Route 1 (we can see it from the house), so the EV-DO signal is eight bars strong for internet connectivity, and cell signal is also great!  We’ll eventually get broadband TV cable and cable-based internet access (Time-Warner), but the cell phones work so well we may never bother with a land-line phone. 

We call the new house the Ballot Box.  It’s left as an exercise for the reader to figure out why…

Update 23 Nov 2009:
It was a three-ring circus last Saturday morning at the Ballot Box!   The Time-Warner cable installer (originally scheduled for an afternoon install) called to ask if he could come in the morning instead (we said yes); the furniture (dining room table and four chairs, fold-out couch, three end tables, and a queen platform bed with mattress & box spring) was scheduled to be delivered sometime between 10am and 11am, and Kristine and Gail were coming to visit and see the house around noon.  All were here at the same time!

Pictures have been posted of the dining room set in the dining area, and the couch and end tables in the living room area (last ten or so pictures in the “New House” set).  The bed wasn’t set up since we’re having a flooring guy come by this upcoming week to sand and finish the master bedroom floor (the one floor not refinished upstairs because the heat circulation vent hadn’t been cut and finished when he was here before purchase).  He’s also coming in a couple of weeks to finish the living room floor – we decided to skip installing the hearth and just have wood flooring.  We can always put a propane fireplace or propane stove in at a later time with just a fire mat, but we don’t need it for heat since there’s a Rinnai propane furnace eight feet away on the same wall.

The cable install went well.  There are three underground conduits that run from the front side of the house to the telephone pole out by the street (~300 feet). One carries the electrical power line for the house, but the other two were empty except for a pull-rope in each.  The cable guy pulled the RG cable out to the pole from the house, installed a junction box on the outside of the house, then installed the cable router drop in the cellar and the TV drop in the living room area.  He then activated basic TV (just the local channels, cheapest possible) and entry-level internet (more money buys more speed, but I wanted to see what the entry-level was like before I opted for spending more money).  I had brought up a house print/web server (an old Pentium-4 tower with 2 GB memory and a half-terabyte of disk space running Windows Server 2003), a laser printer to hook up to the print server to provide print capability to any laptop connected, and a wireless router to tie the server and any laptop that shows up (and has the security code) to the internet.  Everything except the server (which doesn’t appear to have survived the ride up; I need to bring a monitor and keyboard up next trip to trouble-shoot) is working, and the internet speed appears to be VERY acceptable!

We’re getting there!

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