Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A cruise around my "neighborhood"

My family (parents, brothers, sister, etc...) may not share my enthusiasm for historic architecture, but my brother and my father DEFINITELY love historic automobiles.  Dad had a body shop when I was a kid, and one of my favorite restorations was a 1934 Ford that he transformed from a neglected, dented body rusting in a field into a sexy hot rod painted Candy Apple Red.  Dad bought me a 1957 Willys Jeep (pink) when I was 14 years old and I still have her.  She needs a new restoration (this makes me feel very old!) and hopefully her facelift will get underway soon.  She's currently huddled on the front porch of this dogtrot until further notice, making us look somewhat redneck.  But you know what?  I'm not sticking her out in the rain, so until I have the spare time to build her a little pink garage of her own, the front porch is where she will stay.   

I'm not the only one of my siblings who loves old cars, though.  My brother also inherited Dad's love for antique automobiles, and this morning said brother (Leo) stopped by the dogtrot in his 1963 Corvette.  He insisted that I stop working for a few minutes and go for a little joyride around the "neighborhood." He didn't need to twist my arm.  ;-)

Is there anything better than sunny skies, beautiful temperatures, the smell of burning rubber, a revving engine, the golden oldies playing on a single speaker, and hysterical laughter?  Methinks not.

Cruise along with us for a few minutes with this video and take in the country road that leads to THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK.  You'll see that northern Louisiana is very hilly, unlike the swampy, alligator-infested movie version of the entire state.  (Don't get me wrong, we do have gators--but they're in the lakes and bayous.)  One thing that I love about Claiborne Parish: my nearest neighbor is miles away, and the roads wind over the surprisingly tall hilltops and snake through the pine-scented valleys.  These two lane roads in the woods are heaven on earth to me.  But they also serve another purpose: they're the perfect setting for a stick shift....



Monday, September 8, 2014

You can't sing the blues when you play the ukelele

I'm more than a little bit nervous about this, my first-ever video blog
post, because this video features me somewhat awkwardly singing the song
I wrote last summer for my sweet boyfriend Chris.  We met last summer
and he made the move down from Ohio in September so that we could get to
know one another better.  Long story short, he has become a very
important part of our lives.  The kiddos love him.  I love him.  And THE
HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK loves him, too!

Chris has worked hard to help us turn this old house into a home.  From
building decks with reclaimed wood, to using his creativity to create
projects that knock our socks off, Chris isn't afraid of hard work OR of
thinking outside of the box.  


 Chris working on one of his creations: a Mason jar window!


The point of this post is simple.  Loving what you do is a blessing in
this life.  I love restoring this house!  But to not only love what you
do, but also WHO you're doing it with.... well... that's pretty much
heaven on earth.  I wanted to share this part of my life with you
because I've never been happier.  I've never been more in love. 
But don't worry--I'll spare you all of our lovey-dovey, incredibly
romantic first date details and get straight to the giddy little number
that still makes me smile.  :-)




Saturday, September 6, 2014

LIVE LIFE THE OLD FASHIONED WAY: MORTGAGE FREE! (And save history in the process!)

So what’s a southern gal to do when she wants to stretch her family’s renovation budget enough to restore an abandoned, historic home without the assistance of an enormous loan? In my case, I turned my back on a financial establishment that was really no help at all.  I began researching websites, reading message boards, pouring through magazine articles, and watching YouTube videos until my eyes were red-rimmed with exhaustion.  I learned how to tile and grout, saw, drill and hammer, and by the time I started on my kitchen renovation I was clever (and resourceful) enough to cut an antique upright piano in half and create the prettiest little kitchen island/piano bar (complete with oven and dishwasher, mind you) south of the Mason-Dixon line.  And in my successful attempt to make my home restoration fit within the strict guidelines of my ridiculously small budget, I discovered firsthand that anyone can afford to restore an abandoned historic home without taking out a loan from a bank—just so long as they’re brave, creative, and they refuse to believe the people who tell them it’s not possible. 
I'm a Disabled Veteran, y'all.  My monthly income places me on the poverty line, though I manage my money fairly well.  (Honestly, I could do even better!)   I work part-time and bring in a small supplemental income by teaching, so for the most part this renovation is (by necessity) FREE.  Yes, you heard me right.  It's FREE.  And no, I have never received a single grant to help with this restoration.  So how do I do it?  I don't take out loans.  I put the money I would pay a bank mortgage back into this house every month, and stretch those dollars by doing the work myself.  I work my butt off, and so do others in my life who believe in the old-fashioned American dream.  
My kiddos, my boyfriend and I have been tearing down another abandoned house (with permission, of course) and we use every little thing we salvage to bring this home back to life.  And we are blessed beyond measure--not with money, but with things that are much more valuable than dollar bills.  Allow me to explain, because here comes the really cool part...


 This is my sweet boyfriend, Chris, standing on the 2nd floor of the 
abandoned house we're tearing down for architectural salvage.


There's a link between the house we're tearing down and the dogtrot that we're restoring, y'all.  And it sends chills down my spine when I think of the past and the present merging in such a way that makes the word "coincidence" seem trite.
Mintie Simms Robinson (and her husband Willie) inherited THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK in 1912.  They abandoned their former house, with four kids already in tow, and moved into this dogtrot immediately.  When I heard of the house that they abandoned for this dogtrot, I assumed that it was a little shack.  And I also believed that it would be termite-infested and of little architectural significance.  SILLY ME.  I couldn't have been under a more wrong impression.
Last year, Jack-Jack and Debbie (the last owners of this dogtrot) asked if I wanted to go take a peek at Mintie and Willie's old house before the new owners burned it down to make way for a little cabin.  I said yes, of course, but when we passed through the gate, drove into the woods, and then came upon the old home my eyes almost popped outta my head.  It wasn't a shack.  It had been a mansion in its day, and within a few minutes Debbie and I had made our way to the 2nd floor of the leaning structure.  
Two things I knew for sure: 1) the house could not be renovated without a million-dollar overhaul, and 2) I wanted to salvage as much as possible.  The new owners of the house agreed to let me salvage whatever materials I could manage to free of the leaning structure.  Honestly, I thought that my best work would produce only a few rooms worth of salvaged wooden walls.  But then my sweet boyfriend Christopher had other ideas.  He wanted to salvage EVERYTHING from the rustic tin roof to the beams beneath the house.  And he has really been a Godsend on that project.  (And in many other ways!)
As of this moment, Chris, the kiddos, and I have salvaged the entire roof and ALL of the 2nd story.  It's a one story house now, after a LOT of work to make it that way, and I honestly don't know if we're finished reclaiming materials or not.  It's incredibly tiring work, but so far we've brought home (and used) tens of thousands of dollars worth of material.  



 Miles, age 12, and Pres, age 8, 
hauling salvaged materials from 
Mintie and Willie's first house to the truck.




We even save the square nails, and it's eight year old Preston's job to straighten them out for reuse.


Preston is learning that hard work is good for the soul!


Now for the creepy (and awesome) coincidence... my grandparents were not wealthy.  But they did save as much money as possible, and just before I was born a lady approached them and asked for their help.  She was newly widowed, and she couldn't afford to live in the house that she and her husband had shared.  It was an old plantation, located almost an hour's drive away from my grandparents' home in Cullen, Louisiana.  She wanted them to buy it from her and made them an offer that they could not refuse.  I was born after Nanaw and Papaw purchased the old homestead and made it their weekend home.  
I fell in love with historic houses because of Nanaw and Papaw's "farm" on Arizona road.  I spent hours and hours and hours touching the old wooden walls, opening the little door beneath the staircase and going through the vintage items left behind by the previous owners.  I wandered the woods and gasped when my cousin showed me the old slave water well.  I saw my first ghost there.  And from that point forward, I was hooked on history--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I wanted to know it all.  And I've never stopped feeling this way.





My grandmother (Lonna Alice McGough Tripp)
with my Momma (Paula Palmer Tripp Wright) and 
a baby version of me in front of the old plantation 
my grandparents bought before I was born.


Between the main road and Nanaw and Papaw's old plantation there stands a very special chimney.  Though the historic marker was stolen long ago, the legend lives on through people in our community.  Stories still run rampant in our community about the factory that once surrounded the enormous chimney, for it was the very first major factory in northern Louisiana.  Though the factory never had the chance to go into full production because of both war and poor shipping capabilities, I've loved that chimney since I was old enough to toddle up to it and place my little chubby toddler-sized hands on the well-worn brick.  I didn't know the historic significance of the stories-high brick tower, and I certainly didn't know that it would have a direct effect upon my life when I grew up.  But I know now that this chimney has a  connection to THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, the amazing dogtrot that my family is restoring.
Here comes the creepy part.  When Willie Robinson decided that he wanted to marry Mintie Simms, he was short the cash that he needed to buy a home for them to occupy.  He needed a miracle to earn the moolah required to take Mintie's hand.  And so he helped tear down the old factory, loaded the bricks into a wagon, and sold them in Homer, Louisiana.  He salvaged the old factory so that he could marry the woman he loved.  And today, all that remains of his salvage job is the old chimney that is on the property my grandparents bought before I was born.
My kiddos, my boyfriend Chris, Jack-Jack, Debbie and I have been salvaging the old house that Papa Willy bought with the money he earned by salvaging the old factory on my family's land.  And so life has come full-circle through many, many generations.  When we're pulling down boards, I know that we're doing something very important.  My family is now a part of the history of these old structures now, just as much as Papa Willie and Mintie, and just as much as my Nanaw and Papaw.  And this "coincidence" is one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me and my kin.



 Chris and I salvaged every single board 
in this photo.  We're passionate about
low-cost, historically significant restorations!


Low-cost restorations are important, y'all.  We live in a society where the majority of Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities, and the majority of historic preservationists are at a loss for words.  Architecturally significant buildings are being destroyed because the average American believes that historic renovations are cost-prohibitive—and with self-help television shows, magazine articles, and books reinforcing the notion that restorations are for the wealthy and not the middle and LOWER classes, it’s no wonder that so many of our historic structures are being razed.  Americans have come to believe that the old fashioned homestead was just too much work.  We no longer grow our own fruits and vegetables, opting instead for spray-painted, herbicide and pesticide riddled fruits that are shipped into our local markets from thousands of miles away.  We visit psychologists an beg for help to finding inner peace, when all the while it is waiting for us in the countryside.  Life doesn’t have to be this way—the mindset of America can change.  The restoration of abandoned historic homes and resurgence of small homesteads in rural America, particularly the Deep South, can transform not only the landscape, but also the overwhelming sense of economic hopelessness that is sweeping across this country.  
I don’t quite know how or why it happened, but I truly understand that our founding fathers and mothers—those tough men and women who carved a place for all of us within these tall, summer sun-baked, vine-wrapped forests—had strength of character that is rarely seen in modern society.  Somewhere between the day that the first boatload of pilgrims floated their way to America and the day that Sears & Roebuck stopped selling DIY home kits in their mail-order catalogues, something dreadful happened to Americans—and no, I’m not talking about the war between the states.  In the olden days, men and women could cross half the country by covered wagon, pick out a nice spot on a hilltop in a barely tamed land, cut down gigantic trees by hand and saw those logs into lumber, help build their own houses, sew their own curtains and quilts from scrap material, plant their own gardens, pluck the feathers of their own chickens, and give birth to a dozen kids without the help of an epidural.  But as the years passed and each generation of Americans inherited less and less of our paternal and maternal heritages, our definition of what it means to be an "American" has changed drastically.  
Modern day Americans don’t bat an eyelash when it’s time to pay for the extras that we consider necessities.  From two hundred-dollar a month phone bills to seventy-five dollar Internet plans, we’re stuck in a rut of unnecessary debt.  We write checks for our mortgages and swipe our debit cards for dinner, and all the while we’re content to drive at warp speed and text even faster. And in our hurry to buy the "life" of our dreams, we don’t take the time to make certain that we can really afford the payments.  
As a single mother, living in the rural woods in an old abandoned house that my children, my friends, my family members, my boyfriend and I are renovating ourselves without the assistance of a construction loan, I have the keen awareness that I am challenging the societal expectations of other Americans.  I find the bewildered expressions on the faces of many modern men to be very amusing.  Many people are completely surprised when they see me working on this old house.  But I LOVE doing it.  And more than I love the deep, woodsy, musty and yet somehow sensual scent of reclaimed wood—even more than I have come to cherish the history that I am saving with every square nail that I tap back into these reformed walls—I am enamored with the sense of accomplishment that can only be achieved by a woman who is on a mission to define the difference between being in debt to societal expectations and being indebted to the strong-willed spirits of our ancestors.
Please believe in yourself.  If I can do it, YOU can do it.  You can live a mortgage-free life.  You can save our history, y'all.  You can reinvent the American dream.  We can save our struggling economy.  And we can save ourselves in the process--I know this for sure, because it's the life that I am leading. 

With peace, love, and light....

Jacquelyn


Friday, September 5, 2014

RESTORATION MUSIC by Elvis

Something cool happened this morning.... an Elvis song suddenly appeared in my iTunes. I didn't buy it. And I've had Elvis on the mind lately, so I pressed play.

Whoah..... this is my outlook on life. If mankind did exactly as Elvis suggests, we would have peace. And love. And understanding. The gap between the rich and the poor would shrink drastically. The hungry would be fed. The angry would find comfort. The sick would be healed. And this hippie would be on cloud 9!!!!!


I'm up bright and early this morning planning out my next house restoration project.  Much is left to be done, but that's not a problem.  This house is coming back to life one room at a time, and so am I.

Happy day, y'all. I love each and every one of ya!!!!

Jacquelyn


-----------------------------------------


"Walk A Mile In My Shoes"
(As sung by Elvis)

If I could be you, if you could be me
For just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside
Each other's mind

If you could see you through my eyes
Instead your ego
I believe you'd be, I believe you'd be surprised to see
That you've been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

Now there are people on reservations
And out in the ghetto
And brother there, but for the grace of god
Go you and I

If I only had the wings
Of a little angel
Don't you know, I'd fly to the top of a mountain
And then I'd cry, cry, cry

Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mzVD3Cqrlw

Thursday, September 4, 2014

HISTORY MYSTERY, ANYONE?


I'm not exactly sure where to begin this story.  Maybe I should start with the USHER pin we found beneath the floorboards of this dogtrot's 2nd story.


 Me with an antique USHER pin from 
St. Luke Baptist Church.


Or maybe I should start with the little country church where I spent almost every Sunday morning between the ages of two and eighteen.   I could talk about bluegrass music and sweet southern voices echoing off of historic walls once built by early settlers of Rocky Mount, Louisiana.  I could sing you a song of grace and hope and old time religion, and explain that my grandfather was the pianist after learning to play completely "by ear" with no music lessons to guide him.  Or I could tell you about the time I went to my friend DeAnna's Assembly of God Church and it scared me so badly that I finally overcame my shyness and took off down the aisle to "get saved."  But what I'd like to share the most about my childhood experience with religion is that my childhood Preacher, Brother Gene Ingram, was one of the kindest people I have ever known.  He was selfless and an amazing example of what it means to be faithful.  He took his paycheck from the church and put it back in the offering plate every month.  He worked full time at the VA Medical Center in Shreveport and told us stories of people on death's doorstep who were either filled with grace and peace or burdened with anger and frustration.  He smile bigger than anyone I have ever known, despite the fact that a childhood illness had left his face paralyzed and he couldn't blink, much less lift the corners of his lips to give you a cheesy grin.

Brother Gene taught me a lot.  But there's one thing about him that I've rarely shared with anyone else-- he just KNEW things.  Unexplainable things about himself and about others.  He had the uncanny ability to know what was going on in your life even before you told anyone about your troubles.

And now comes MY big secret.  I grew up having strange dreams.  I would confide in a few of the grown ups in my life, and they just couldn't explain the seemingly unexplainable.  I'd dream something, such as a conversation between myself and someone that I didn't know very well, and then I'd forget about the random dream within a few days.  Then after the memory of the dream had left me,  it would happen in real life and even the tiniest of details would be before my very eyes.  The dream would come flooding back and I'd have a very strong, powerful feeling that can only be described as DEJA VU.  

I don't think that Brother Gene, my preacher growing up, knew exactly how in tune he was with me.  (Or as I know now, how tune he was in with God and the unexplainable universe that surrounds us all.)  One day Brother Gene stopped a sermon mid-word, turned toward my mother and I, and said something like this: "Paula, if Jacquelyn tells you that she didn't forge your signature, you need to understand that she might be telling the truth."  What Brother Gene didn't know in that moment was that we were having issues at home.  I was in the fifth grade and my teacher had accused me of forging my mother's signature.  It has no bearing upon my life now to either "tell the truth" or "lie" about the issue.  Believe me when I say that I honestly didn't do it, because I didn't.  But despite my tears and my honesty, my teacher was CONVINCED that my mother's signature was forged.  My Momma (as many Mommas do, myself included!) sided with my teacher and decided that I was lying.  I was dying on the inside, because I didn't want my family to be disappointed with me.  And the following Sunday Brother Gene cleared the air because he went with the little voice inside of him and followed it verbatim.



Brother Gene baptizing a teenage version of me in Lake Ivan, 
located between Plain Dealing, LA and Cotton Valley, LA.


I'm an adult now, and these dreams have rarely left me.  Sometimes they're simple and pointless: a conversation with someone I barely know about something casual.  Sometimes they're terrifying: the knowledge that someone unrelated to me is GOING TO DIE before it happens.  But when these dreams and their corresponding DEJA VU moments happen in my daily life, I cannot deny that there is something big and powerful at work in this universe.  And after years and years and years of being upset with the religion and restraints upon both mankind and God, and struggling to figure out exactly what it means to have dreams of the future, I have finally been guided to a better way of thinking. 

I'm a HIPPIE.  It's pretty apparent if you know me, and usually apparent even if you don't.  I dress to the beat of my own drum, which usually sounds very Native American.  My bloodline includes many Native tribes, including Eastern Band Cherokee.  I have cousins who look full blooded Native American, but I came into this world the first pale-skinned redhead born to my family in generations.

I am a pacifist.  I believe in love, light, and flower power.  I hate shopping in cookie cutter stores where PROFITS are the most important aspect of the business.  I roll my eyes and feel like vomiting when I see the signs that corporate America is becoming the ONLY America.  I study the works of many world leaders and cling on to the passages that inspire me to be a better person.  I adore quotes by Gandhi,  Deepok Choprah,  Malcolm X,  Nome Chomsky,  Amelia Earhart, Henry David Thoreau, JFK, Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and at least a thousand others.  And my thirst for knowledge confuses the heck outta people who think that a Christian is supposed to be stuck inside of a box that contains only the teachings of other Christians.

Unfortunately for our society, many people living today believe that being a HIPPIE and being a CHRISTIAN are two incompatible thaaaangs.  These two things are one and the same, believe it or not.  If you actually read and follow the teachings of Jesus, well, your life will not be one of excess.

You see, there are issues in this country that we aren't really dealing with very well.  I have come to believe that churches are the most segregated entities in America today.  I can't step foot into what I refer to as a Mega-Church without feeling upset.  There are people starving all over the WORLD, y'all.  People are being murdered for their beliefs.  People are afraid and alone and need our help.  God never said to pass the offering plate so that a church could have stadium seating and high-end surround sound and a coffee shop in the lobby.  Got Gossip?  You don't got God.  Got fear?  That's not from Him, either.  Got hatred for people who don't look, live, or think the way you do?  You've gotta get a grip.  Got a McMansion, an eighty thousand dollar SUV, and a middle-class income that you can barely stretch to pay for the high-end clothes you need to wear to church?  You've gotten DUPED, my friend.  Shake off this messed-up culture and get real with yourself and your maker.  

Get rid of the excess and start giving more than you keep.  Get your hands and knees in the dirt and plant seeds.  Watch them grow and you'll grow, too.  Get busy doing things for others--remove the constraints you have placed on your relationships with both your maker and with people and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  Love more and live for yourself less.  Sing like you're an opera star.  Dance like you're the Belle of the Ball, even if you are the most uncoordinated person you've ever met.  And of all things, even more important than singing and dancing and getting dressed up on Sunday mornings, LISTEN to the quiet, peaceful voice that speaks to you when you need it most.  That voice, my friends, is very important.  It is the link that binds you to God and the beautiful, unexplainable universe of souls that surrounds you.

I have come to realize that we are all a part of a spider web.  Your life intersects with mine, and mine intersects with others.  Our whispy-stranded lives link with others, and together we form the web of humanity.  What you do has a tremendous effect on not only those who you see physically, but also on the lives of the people that they are connected to in this web of life.  Be kind.  Be patient.  Be wise.  Be humble.  And be willing to do your part to make the web stronger.

Allow me to reintroduce you to someone.  The photo below is Pot Sumlin, and his wife Jo Ella was once the proud owner of the USHER pin that I began to describe in the beginning of this post.  When I found the pin, I already knew that the Robinsons wanted Pot and Jo Ella to move into THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK after their house burned.  If I'm not mistaken, they were the last official full-time residents of this home.

Many people in the Robinson family, the former owners of this house, say this when describing Pot: "He was my best friend."  

Pot and Jo Ella were LOVED very much.  And I'm so happy to share this story of true friendship in the deep south, where our reputation for hatred and bigotry precedes us. 


     

Pot Sumlin beside THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK in the mid 1940's.



The friendship between the Sumlin family and the Robinson family is no secret.  And neither is the little cemetery in the woods behind this house, where two different races were buried beside one another a hundred plus years ago.  This property was once the melting pot of one of the first interracial bands in our region, and if rumor serves correct I shall have my hands on an old video of them playing on the front porch of this dogtrot.  Every Juneteenth for years and years, the community gathered in the field beside this house for a freedom-themed baseball game and an old-fashioned potluck.  The members of St. Luke gathered here, in this dogtrot hall, for a potluck after their yearly cemetery cleaning day.  And these beautiful moments of our community's history, my friends, are exactly why love this dogtrot so much.

Last year, just after Shaun and I separated, I felt the urge to take the USHER pin to St. Luke Baptist Church on a Sunday morning.  What happened next shocked me.  I felt free there, sitting on a pew in a humble church that truly focused on the things that matter the most in life.  I was given the biggest hugs and smiles I had ever been given.  And I knew, on that day, that I wanted to go back for more than historic purposes.  

I felt like I belonged there.  And I still do.

Three weeks ago, I joined the choir.  Now I'll be honest--this lil' white lady cannot dance and clap at the same time.  And I grew up on BLUEGRASS music, which is the polar opposite of southern soul.  But a little voice told me that I was meant to be there, singing in the choir, and that wonderful things are about to happen.  So I joined.  And that was just the beginning....  I've experiences so many moments of DEJA VU that I know, without question, that I'm on the right track.  I've somehow discovered that my history, my mysterious dreams, this houses' history, my culture's history, southern faith, the beautiful web we call humanity, and God are all joining forces to do something big in Sugar Creek, Louisiana.  I don't know where the story will go from here, but I do know that I've never been happier.  And I've never felt so blessed in all of my life.

I hope that this story, even though it is unfinished, serves as a blessing to you, too.


Happy day, y'all!  Be strong, be brave, and be fearless.


With love from Sugar Creek, Louisiana,

Jacquelyn

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

JACK'S BACK!

Good morning from Sugar Creek, Louisiana, y'all!

Yes, I know that it has been ages since I've dedicated my free time to blogging about the restoration of our darling 1888 2-story dogtrot house.  But so much has happened that I just didn't know where to begin.  I was embarrassed, I suppose.  The end of the twelve year marriage between my former restoration partner and I was difficult for me, not because I was heartbroken, but because I was AFRAID.  I was afraid of being solely in charge of this restoration, even though I knew in my heart that I could handle it.  But despite my desire to learn and complete this restoration, I wasn't comfortable with sharing my struggles on this blog.  I couldn't step out on faith and just blog about the changes in our lives because I couldn't quite understand them enough to realize that ALL OF THE CHANGES were major improvements.  I didn't know where to begin again with my online journal, so I just stopped and waited until I felt "right" about continuing a very public restoration.

I know where to begin now, though.  And it feels oh-so-right.

A lot has happened since I booted my X out in January of 2013.  Y'all look into the eyes of the gal in the photo attached to this post--it's me.  I'm happy.  VERY happy.  I've learned to use saws and drills and crow bars and jacks and I've thrown my energy into creating a home that will not simply comfort us, but also others.  You see, this house will one day become a Bed and Breakfast retreat that will help many people find the joy and peace that I have found.  I've known that this would be our dogtrot's purpose for a very long time, but so many "coincidences" have happened lately that there is zero doubt in my mind that we are on a very special mission to heal wounds in the deep south.  My spirit has grown exponentially.  My confidence is at an all time high, and this house has come a long way.  My children have grown like native plants beneath a southern sun.  And now it's time to share our journey.

The house isn't finished yet, so know that there will be a gazillion posts coming soon about the restoration journey we're still undertaking.  But first I must step back in time, back to the day that everything changed for us.  The children & I have redefined our idea of the word "family."  We have learned to be strong, even in our weakest moments.  I joined the choir in the old church behind our dogtrot--the church with strong historical ties to the house--the church that was begun by slaves before the civil war--the church that accepted us just as we are and taught us to understand what FREEDOM truly feels like.  And that's exactly where I am going to begin with my next post--I'll begin with the historic church that stands high upon a rocky hill just behind this dogtrot home and the little piece of history I found in the attic that made me walk through their doors one Sunday morning... this ain't a religion thaaaang.  It's an inner peace thaaaang.  It's a culture thaaaang.  It's a revolution, so to speak.  And it's an amazing story that I can't wait to share with all of you. 

So until we meet again (and we'll do so very soon) HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!  I'm sending love, peace, and tons of light from THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK to you.

Jacquelyn



Thursday, June 13, 2013

CHEAP YET GORGEOUS STORAGE, ANYONE?

Do you need extra storage space?  Are you leery of spending a mint on a place to simply HIDE things?  We've all had the conversation before... 

FRIEND: "Oh, Jacs, that's a cool pie safe.  Humm... I didn't know that you collect thimbles.  Wow.  That's a lot of thimbles.  A lot."

ME: "I don't, actually.  Don't remember where they came from, so I don't wanna throw them away.  What if they're important?"

Yeah, don't judge me.  We ALL have junk that clutters up our lives.  Incidentally, I don't have thimbles.  But it's like pulling teeth to get me to throw away a candle, even when it has burned down to a charred remnant of a wick and only a sixteenth of an inch of wax remains in the bottom of the jar.

And because I need a place to hide my candle graveyard, I came up with this idea for a storage solution.

TURNTABLE TURNED WINE BAR

How'd I do it?  


Take one console style record player, unattractive in nature, and rip out all of the components.  Unscrew and remove speakers, wire, radio, etc... and cut out the wooden speaker mounts.  Sand lightly and paint the entire project silver, inside and out, and you'll have a precious little liquor cabinet or junk holder.  Mine is tucked away behind a sofa, and it will be used as a wine bar.  (and candle storage facility, of course.)

And the best thing about this project?  (Besides the good looks.)  The price.  $15 for the record player.  $8 for spray paint.  And the smile on my face was absolutely FREE in the moment that I finally found the right sized screwdriver to take apart the speakers.  

WORD OF WARNING: This project wasn't quite as simple as I had hoped, but it was well worth the trouble.  



Y face 



Monday, June 10, 2013

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!

The world is changing, no doubt about it.  We're texting and Tweeting and posting and blogging and... well, you get the point.  From my little house in the woods, it's easy to forget that there's a big ole' world out there.  We're surrounded by crickets and cicadas and wolves and coyotes and an enormous list of other wild thaaaangs, but THANKFULLY I can keep in touch with other adult-sized human beings by turning to the internet.

Follow along if you dare @jacquelynlewis.  I'm new to Twitter, but I can already tell that it's going to be a fantastic outlet for all of my fears, frustrations, joys, and (last but not least) renovation successes.  So here goes nothing....   

Monday, June 3, 2013

SAY HELLO TO THA CREEK

We've touched upon it before on this blog, but I want to show y'all the precious creek that nourishes the land around my house.  This is a picture of the always beautiful Sugar Creek--named after the sack of sugar that fell off of the back of a Gypsy's wagon years and years ( and years!) ago.  Isn't it lovely!  My two kiddos will be baptized in this creek when the water warms up a little, and you can bet your bottom dollar that we'll share their experience on this blog.  :)

Ain't it grand to be a native southerner!  We just love living out here in the sticks.




Mintie's Pattern

I've just tapped a new nail into the old, wooden dog trot hallway, and look what's hanging on it now.  This was an old dress pattern that belonged to Mintie Robinson.  She inherited this house in 1912, and I am so pleased at the way her pattern looks on the wall.  Check out the phone number on the cover--it makes me smile this morning.

And I'm positive that it will make me smile for years and years to come.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

TOTAL RESTORATION

So this blog will change up just a tiny bit and include a bit more than restoration info and photos, but I think you guys will like it.  There's nothing like hippie zen to go with an environmentally friendly house restoration project, right?  Remember, I'm serious about not just restoring this house--the restoration of this house is restoring ME, too. 
 
For the past month or so, the kids and I have been repeating positive affirmations. It's amazing how much spiritual strength and power one can develop when they simply take the time to THINK about their lives. My very favorite affirmation, and in fact the very affirmation that seems to resound within my soul the strongest, concerns my very PRESENCE. I have focused intensely on this affirmation in particular, and I will continue to focus on these words until I no longer need to remind myself to think this way. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a very, very easy concept on paper--but applying this affirmation to my life is far from easy.

Y'all give the following affirmation a try, too. It's a life-changer.

"Today I will find my soul, here and NOW. Make this your promise for today: try to be as present as you can, and when you become aware that you have wandered away from the present moment, ask to be brought back. The mind easily slips out of the now. We fantasize about the future. We reminisce about the past. When we feel distressed, we anticipate the pain to come or remember the pain from before. Each detour takes us out of the present moment. Yet the HERE AND NOW is the ONLY meeting place where you will find your soul." ~ Deepok Chopra

~ with hugs from Sugar Creek ~
 
Jackie

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

HIPPIE CHIC DRAWER PULLS!

When you're missing knobs on a shabby antique, don't spend your money on expensive reproduction handles. Old wooden spools are literally a dozen for a dollar. Clear fingernail polish secures loose thread. One long screw for each spool, a big grin, and you're finished. Easy as pie!
 

HELLO AGAIN from SUGAR CREEK, LOUISIANA!

I'm baaaaack, y'all!

For those of you who do not know me personally, I should probably go ahead and mention why there has been absolute, unwavering silence from my blog during the past six months.  Things have been interesting, to say the least.

During the past half year, THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK has come a long way.  Unfortunately, I couldn't share the progress with you because I've been going through a major life change.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite sure how (or when) to announce that I, Jackie Lewis, am restoring this house on my own.  I didn't know how to casually mention that there is no more "we" in this renovation.  The truth of the matter is that I'm restoring this house all by my dang self now, as a single momma on a mission to live in the most unique house she has EVVV-AH seen, and it has taken me six months to make certain that I am, indeed, capable of performing such a major feat.  I didn't want to log on to the internet, throw a few words on this blog that talked about how excited and enthused I was about the project, only to discover later that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  So instead, I went silent.  I shut my mouth and stayed away from this restoration blog. 

And in the blogging world, six months is a very long time to be silent.

I really NEEDED to make certain that I felt comfortable sharing my crazy journey with y'all.  I had to discover that I am capable of finishing this house on my own.  And after much thought, a few rounds of frustrated tears, and hundreds of hours of very, very hard work, I've finally decided to share my lovely little dog trot house with you again. 
  


DISCLAIMER:

Things will be different on my blog from hereon out.  In short, I'm a red-headed gal on a mission to complete the most inexpensive (and yet GORGEOUS) restoration in the history of the rural, ragged south.  I'm intent on proving, once and for all, that it's not only possible to save gorgeous pieces of American of history, but it's also incredibly economical.  I'll be sarcastic and witty at times, and really frustrated at others.  I'll cuss like a sailor if the mood strikes me, and I'll not bat an eyelash when it's time to post about failed projects.  (Believe me, I've had plenty of those in the past six months!)  But if you want a little inspiration in your life and you're not afraid of diving into my crazy world for a bit, then you and I will get along just fine.

Over the past six months, I've come to realize that the restoration of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK isn't just about painting wood, refinishing floors, and polishing worn surfaces.  Yes, I'm restoring this house.  I'm working my ass off and it's one of the most liberating experiences of my life.  I'm learning to do EVERYTHING on my own, from drywall mudding to operating air-powered nailers, and I cannot wait to teach you everything that I've learned.  I can't wait to show you that it's not only possible to restore a historic abandoned home all by ya dang self, but it's one of the greatest (and most brilliant) experiences that you will ever have.  In short, I'm a busy single momma, hell-bent on restoring this formerly abandoned historic house.  But there's another really amazing component to this renovation that I didn't quite understand when I first saw this old homestead two years ago.  Yes, I'm happy to say that I am restoring this house.  But I'm even happier to admit that this house is restoring ME, too.

Six months ago, I was afraid that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  I stared at the drywall in the living room and worried that I might not be able to tape, float, and mud.  I felt a tightness in my chest and knew that I had two choices: either 1) allow the anxiety, fear, and worry to consume me and prevent this house from being restored, or 2) decide that it's time to be the same kick-ass woman that I've ALWAYS been, only take it up a notch or two by adding power tools and MAJOR construction into my daily life.

The decision was easy.

I chose to be a kick-ass southern woman.

And there ain't a doubt in my mind that YOU can buy a historic, abandoned house and learn to be a kick-ass southern woman, too. (OR a kick-ass southern gent if you'd prefer.)
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Alternative to Restoring a Historic Property

From time to time, I think of Land's End--the lovely little home (and by little, I mean HUGE) on Long Island that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.  Can you imagine standing before the enormous house, watching party-goers of the Flapper era as they sipped on champagne and danced the Charleston?  If you were fortunate enough to stand before the house and dream of days gone by, you have something money can no longer buy.  Land's End is just a memory now, after being razed last year to make room for modern homes.  (Click on the link to learn more about the destruction of the home behind The Great Gatsby.)

Sometimes I worry that Americans have lost touch with the importance of saving historic structures.  It literally breaks my heart to see the homes of our past crumble to the ground.  I guess that's why I blog about the restoration of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK.  In my own way, I'm trying to help encourage other people to save buildings that would otherwise be destroyed.  Whether you're saving an old farmhouse or restoring a mansion that inspired one of the most popular novels to come from this country, every moment you spend doing historic preservation work is important.  If you don't believe me, take a look at the alternative.

Goodbye, Land's End.  If you had been in the rural south, and if you hadn't been so expensive, I would've done everything possible to save you from such an awful fate.  


Monday, October 22, 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES of our BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR SHOOT

I don't know if it's possible to explain the number of insects that come with an abandoned house.  Try to imagine what it's like to move into a home that hasn't been lived in for years, and you'll probably imagine spiders, scorpions, mosquitos, and the occasional bee.  In my mind, I thought we'd be battling tiny creatures for a few months and then everything would be okay.  And for a little while, I was right.

Summer hit with an intensity that took us by complete surprise.  We imagined the high temperatures outside and inside of the house, and we welcomed the challenges of taming a little home in the middle of the wild woods.  But good Lawdy, we couldn't have possibly imagined the number of red wasps that called THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK home.  By early May, the wasps had completely taken over the front porch.  By June, we were going through a can of wasp spray a day.  And by July, we couldn't so much as swing a hammer without irritating our unwelcomed houseguests and finding ourselves under the constant airstrike of miniature Kamikaze pilots.  I used one four-letter word at least a zillion times this summer: OUCH.  And when the wasps seemed to double, then triple and quadruple in numbers, I knew that it was time to call for professional help.



I guess this sets us up nicely to tell the story of one crazy day in July.  The birds were singing, the sky was a crisp blue, and there were approximately eight hundred and one redheads in my house.  (Me and eight hundred red wasps!)  I had spoken with VEXCON and knew that BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR was on his way to THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, but I knew that my red wasps were going to give Billy a run for his money.  Billy's a trained professional and all that jazz, but our red wasp infestation was no joke.  We were being stung at least once a day, and I had the strange feeling that Billy wasn't going to be impressed with our wasp collection.  In all honesty, I didn't know if he could actually kill them all.  There were so many red wasps that I didn't think ANYBODY could accomplish such a feat.

The camera crew arrived first, and they were all grins right up until the moment that they stepped out of their cars.  It only took a few minutes for the wasps to make their presence known--they pegged a few members of the crew and the hollering began.  Our neighbor (JACK JACK) rushed to the aid of the surprised crew with kerosene and cotton balls, and that seemed to help.  But within a few minutes, everyone on the set looked like this:





I have to admit that I giggled when I saw Billy walking up to our little dog-trot home.  I  was impressed with our local reality show superhero, of course, but I couldn't help myself--my twisted sense of humor took over when I saw his eyes grow wide as he started counting the number of wasp nests on the front porch.  







You know it's bad when a trained professional is surprised by an infestation, and within a few minutes Billy said that we had the worst red wasp problem that he had ever seen. 




I don't know how long Billy typically stays on a set when he's filming for BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR, but I can tell you that he and the crew were here all day and late into the evening.  They arrived around 10:30 in the morning and didn't leave until the sun went down, and they were an absolute riot.  We were literally sad when they left, because we loved the entire crew!  And though I honestly didn't think it was possible before Billy arrived, by the time the crew packed up and left the wasps were dead!  Billy did every bit of the work himself, too.  The crew simply documented every step he took.  In short, Billy is the real deal.  We adored him.  He's incredibly smart and quick-witted, and he packs a mean punch when it comes to wasp infestations.  Shaun and I are definitely fans for life! 





There were so many things that didn't go into the show.  I can't imagine how much work it was to take the hours and hours and hours of video and compress it into an eight minute summary, but the crew did an amazing job.  Our episode (# 75) is titled WASP WARFARE, and the title is no joke.  We love the way it turned out, and we're so happy that we have such wonderful documentation of the unrestored sections of the home.  



Here's Billy with the great-great-grandchildren of Mintie Robinson, the last Robinson to live in our dog-trot full time.  Buzz and Kate were thrilled to meet Billy, and our kiddos are extremely jealous that they weren't here.  (Miles and Preston were visiting their grandparents in Indiana when the wasp infestation got out of hand, thankfully!)

There were a few things that you didn't get to see, of course, so I'll share them with you now.  For one, Billy is incredibly smart.  He knew things about historic architecture that I never expected him to know.  You've got to remember, y'all--I'm a history junkie.  I love it.  I live it, breath it, and write it down.  Billy is the same way, too.  He knew a lot about local historic sites and even told me a few things about THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK that he couldn't have known in advance.  He clued right in to the original builders and showed me the tell-tell signs of Masonic roots.  The Taylors were Masons, but Billy didn't have any way of knowing such a thing.  Like Billy, I was saying WHOOOOAAAA when we were talking about history.  

So from the bottom of our hearts, we'd like to send out an enormous THANK YOU to the cast and crew of BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR.  You guys rocked it out at Sugar Creek!






Tuesday, October 16, 2012

THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK on A&E

We have big news, y'all.  THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK is going to be on BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR!  Billy and his crew rescued us from a kabillion angry red wasps, and the episode will air on A&E this Saturday, October 20th.  To see a preview, visit the BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR page on A&E's website and click on Episode Guide.  Our episode is called WASP WARFARE.  We had a blast, despite the ridiculously hot temperatures and the hundreds of angry wasps--and with Billy's help, we were able to get back on schedule again.  The house already looks way different, so we're incredibly grateful to have Billy not only kill the red wasps, but also document this house in the pre-restoration state.  THANKS, BILLY!  WE LOVE YOU AND YOUR AWESOME CREW!



MORE FREE HISTORIC HOUSES

It's not a secret--I love historic homes.  Especially abandoned historic homes that are in danger of being lost to history.  So when I ran across yet another article about free historic abandoned houses, I immediately knew that I should share it with y'all.  Click on the link and prepare to be amazed by some of these properties in Detroit.  I wish that I could pick up a half dozen of these gorgeous homes and bring them to Sugar Creek, but I'm afraid it's not in the budget--maybe someone out in cyberspace can read this article and bring one of the jewels back to life again.

http://www.businessinsider.com/abandoned-houses-detroit-2011-2?op=1


Monday, October 1, 2012

ON THE MENU for the first week of October

This month is going to be the craziest month of our restoration project, hands down.  With a chilly breeze already sending chills up and down our spines, we're battening down the hatches (quite literally!) and replacing missing window panes, missing windows (yes, I'm serious), and repairing the missing sections of siding in the back of the dog-trot.  With winter quickly approaching, we're getting serious about insulation.  So what's a busy couple to do when there's little or no time to cook, and no kitchen to make it all happen?  The answer has been the same since last spring: CROCK POTS.

Here is this week's crock pot menu.  Y'all feel free to steal our recipes and/or make your own heavenly fall foods this month... and also feel free to send me your very favorite crock pot recipes.  My email is lewisfamily1908 (at) bellsouth (dot) net.  Happy fall, y'all!

Love and hugs,

Jackie




CROCK POT MENU for the FIRST WEEK of OCTOBER

GREEN BEANS with creole-mustard infused BACON
This recipe is super simple.  Open your favorite package of bacon, cut it into one inch squares, and throw it in the bottom of a crock pot.  Turn the (large) crock pot to high.  Add four tablespoons of creole mustard (wet, straight from bottle) to the top of back and stir the mixture every hour.  Cook for four hours, then add (3) 28-ounce cans of whole green beans.  Add lid.  Cook for an additional three hours, stirring ever so often.  You won't believe the flavor that the green beans absorb... it's delicious.  I don't cook with salt, but feel free to add salt and pepper to taste.

PETER PIPER'S BBQ Sammies
You've heard the old nursery rhyme a million times... Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  But have you ever wondered WHY Peter picked them?  The answer is simple: he wanted to make BBQ sandwiches!  His recipe is super simple, and the flavors are delicious--y'all are gonna love this one.  Buy your choice of beef roast and place it in the bottom of a large crock pot.  Add one half of a jar (8 ounces) of Mezzetta SWEET CHERRY PEPPERS (found beside the pickles in your grocery store) and half of the juice.  Add lid.  Cook on high for eight hours.  Remove roast and place in large dish.  Shred the tender meat with two forks, remove stems from pickled peppers and shred the cooked peppers.  I keep the seeds in the recipe to give my BBQ an unexpected punch.  ADD your favorite BBQ sauce (hickory smoked sauce works especially well) and add 1/8 cup of honey.  Stir and add BBQ sauce until you get the desired consistency.  I like really wet BBQ, so I often use to bottles for this recipe.  For the bread, I use either homemade rolls or Sister Schubert's frozen rolls from my grocery store.

Crock Pot PEACH COBBLER
 I know what you're thinking--it's impossible to make peach cobbler in a crock pot, right?  Wrong.  It's as easy as pie.  (Actually, it's a bit easier.)  Add (1) 28-ounce can of low-sugar peaches and their juice to the bottom of a small crock pot.  Add 1/2 of a butter cake mix and spread dry mix across top of peaches.  DO NOT MIX.  The dry cake mix will float on top of your peaches.  Cut one stick of IMPERIAL butter into 1/4" thick squares and spread evenly across top of dry cake mix.  Add lid.  Turn crock pot on high and cook for eight hours.  I kid you not--it's delicious.  WARNING: I make this recipe in the small crock pot because it works much better.  When I've tried to double the recipe in a large crock pot I have been sorely disappointed.

BREAKFAST casserole (good morning, noon, or night)
This recipe is so incredibly simple that it makes me feel guilty!  Open one package of frozen hash browns, dump into crock pot, and chop one white onion.  Spread onion across hash browns.  Mix nine large eggs in a bowl, adding pepper, just as if you're going to scramble them.  Pour eggs evenly over hash browns and onions.  Cover with one large ham steak and add lid.  Cook for six hours on high.  Remove lid, add cheddar cheese to top (I put 8 ounces, but you can add more), and cook for an additional half hour.  If you're southern, serve with ketchup.  (I ain't kidding.)

That's it--everything we're making this week in our crock pots.  But the microwave the toaster oven are a different story entirely.....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Throne Room: breaking the rules in modern bathroom design

Allow me to introduce you to a little shabby room that has come a long way.  The photo below was taken during the very first week of our DIY restoration.  I vaguely remember taking the picture--though it seems that I've already forgotten the old paint, dust, and cobwebs.  Staring at this photo now, I can barely believe that it's the same room.




When we began this restoration, Shaun and I knew without question that we would need a bathroom.  But imagine what it would be like to walk through a dust-covered, abandoned home and choose your future bathroom from the empty rooms.  Hubby was completely overwhelmed.  Should the downstairs bathroom, or bathrooms, be near the bedrooms?  And which rooms should be our bedrooms?  Where should we put the kitchen?  Should we knock out walls and have an open space for the kitchen and living room, or should the two rooms be completely separate?  The questions were endless.  But to be honest with you, I knew from day one that THIS room would be absolute perfect for our future bathroom in the moment that I saw it.  I could immediately envision a claw-foot tub in front of the historic nine-over-nine window.  I could imagine double sinks, a bathroom cabinet in the form of a repurposed antique, and a modern toilet hidden away behind the bathroom door--but the decision wasn't mine to make alone.  

It took months for both Shaun and I to agree on the location of our future bathroom.  We had plenty of time to hash things out though, because we were busy restoring the Master Bedroom a few doors down.  But when we would leave the dog-trot at the end of every weekend and return to our home in historic Minden, I would submerge myself in a sea of magazine photos, design books and pins on Pinterest, until at last the bathroom had completely taken form inside of my head.  But how does one get the bathroom out of her head and into a room like this one?  The answer is simple--you work like a dawg.  

A little more than a year later, the former bedroom turned dream bath is nestled in the front of the home, with a door opening to the dog-trot hallway and two enormous windows taking in views of the grassy field beside THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK.  I can't even tell you how many hours it took us to bring the dream to reality.  The walls, ceilings, and floors of the former bedroom are all original and wooden.  Just as in the master bedroom and laundry room, I had to remove old nails, fill the nail holes with wood putty, sand, and scrub.  And just when my arms were beginning to show hints of muscle tone, the hard work began.  I started painting.  And painting.  And painting, and painting, and painting.  I painted the floor.  I painted the ceiling.  I painted the walls, the trim, and then I painted the ceiling again.  (HINT: In the end, we learned that it was important to use a paint and primer mixture that we purchased at Ace Hardware as opposed to normal paint.)  

The last step of the painting process involved covering the floor in several layers of polyurethane.  I lost approximately three pounds in the process, and my arms began to change shape; my reflection was changing almost as quickly as the house surrounding it.  

Here's a photo of hubby working to install the plumbing through the "new" bathroom floor just after I finished painting the bathroom.  At the time the picture was taken, we were only a few weeks away from moving into the house, and we were working at breakneck speed.  Our goal was to finish the bathroom before our move-in date, and we almost succeeded.





So there we were--we had finished painting the bathroom and hubby was installing the toilet when a dear friend mentioned that her mother had one of the original claw-foot tubs from the MINDEN FEMALE COLLEGE in historic downtown Minden, Louisiana!  My friend's mother had realized that the bathtub was going to be trashed when the historic MINDEN FEMALE COLLEGE was being demolished, so Mrs. Carolyn had it moved to her basement where it has been safe and sound for forty years.  The following photo features the Alumni of the 1875 Class of the Minden Female College at their 20-year reunion.  (Courtesy of Webster Parish Historian John Agan.)  The MINDEN FEMALE COLLEGE is in the background.



I can't really explain how I felt when Mrs. Carolyn said that we could have the bathtub from the historic school if we'd simply take it out of her basement.  I was beyond ecstatic, because my great-great-great grandmother was a student at the MINDEN FEMALE COLLEGE until she eloped with my great-great-grandfather and began a new life for herself.  (Her family wasn't happy--they were wealthy Californians, and my grandmother's choice for a husband wasn't what they expected.)  As you can imagine, I was floored by the opportunity to restore an original bathtub from my gr-gr-gr-grandmother's Alma Matter.  The tub wasn't there in her day, of course, but it's still an exciting prospect nonetheless.  


Here is a photo of the bathtub on the day we moved it to Sugar Creek.  My husband was more than skeptical and had turned the tub restoration over to me completely.  He wanted to buy a full-sized shower from a home improvement store (gasp!!!) and I was terrified that if my project failed, Shaun might get his way.  So what's a southern gal to do when she needs to perform a miracle?  Yep--you guessed it.  She turns to YouTube and Pinterest for advice.






The first step of the restoration was to clean the tub, and amazingly enough my hubby felt sorry for me and decided to help with the process.  Shaun and I cleaned the outer surface with a special chemical (purchased at Home Depot) and a set of wire brushes.  (Warning: this process required a ventilator to protect us from the harmful fumes.)  My Dad helped with the broken legs by reforming them and welding them in place.  Two legs had been completely broken off, and one was missing... but fortunately, Mrs. Carolyn had picked up a similar leg years ago and gave it to us with the tub.  It's a teeny bit shorter, so my Dad had to work some magic for me.  

Here are the markings I found on the bottom of the old tub after we cleaned it and Dad finished welding the legs in place.  






Next we sprayed the exterior surface of the tub with a paint designed for metal tubs.  When the painted surface was dry, we began working on the porcelain.  It was in fairly good shape, though it was far from being beautiful.  We bought a porcelain tub refinishing kit from Home Depot and I spent an entire week mixing the epoxy kit, spraying it evenly over the surface, and touching up any bobbles I made during the process.  It took almost a week to cure, and then we were ready to install our new faucet.  Don't get me wrong--the restoration was an enormous pain in the butt.  It took an entire week of my time.  Yes, an ENTIRE week.  It wasn't a difficult project, but it wasn't what I'd call easy.  On a difficulty scale of one to ten, I'd give this project a seven because of the weight of the tub and the time it took to turn it over FOUR DIFFERENT TIMES during the painting and refinishing process.  Ugg.  On the last few days of working on the tub, I decided that it would have been worth paying someone else the fourteen hundred dollars required to have a professional refinish the tub for us.  But in the instant that the tub was finished, I changed my mind.  The following photo is the tub after the first step of our porcelain restoration kit.  Talk about a difference!




The tub had to cure for a week after the final coat, so I busied myself with finding a new faucet.  I was in for quite a shock, too.  OH MY LAWD those things are expensive!  Never in a million years would I have imagined that a wall-mount faucet would be in the two thousand dollar range.  And neither hubby, nor I, were going to blow that kind of money on a flipping FAUCET.  We had been given a wonderful claw-foot tub, we had restored it ourselves, and suddenly we realized that the FAUCET was going to be the deal breaker?  I couldn't accept it.  I was not going to have a stupid plastic shower in my dream bathroom.  But if I couldn't find an affordable faucet, Shaun was going to pull the plug on my claw-foot tub project.  

My left eye started twitching that week.

Let me just say that buying a faucet for a historic clawfoot tub is one of the most horrifying experiences we've gone through in this restoration.  We restored the tub ourselves, saving a whopping $1300 in the process, and brought the tub back to life for only one hundred dollars.  But afterward, it took me THREE WEEKS to find an affordable faucet.  Thank heavens for Ebay.  I bought our new faucet (and the pretty drainpipes needed for the plumbing) for less than three hundred dollars.  If you're looking to restore a historic tub yourself, don't dare go to a home improvement store for the faucet and the plumbing parts.  Save yourself a lot of money (and the headache of walking aimlessly down the long aisles) by using Ebay.  It may take longer, but you'll save an enormous amount of money.

Here is our tub during the installation of the faucet.  We had to grind a little on the original faucet holes to install our new faucet, and it made quite a mess in my newly restored tub.  I was not a happy camper until we cleaned the iron shavings and I saw, with certainty, that the tub had not been scratched during the installation of the faucet.  






The next step involved really making my husband angry.  Not only did I want to move the heavy bathtub inside, but I also wanted to play house for a little while.  For nearly an hour, we moved the refinished tub to every single corner of the room.  I tried placing it in front of the windows, alongside a wooden wall, behind the bathroom door, and every possible combination imaginable.  

Hubby was patient for a good twenty minutes, but then he lost his cool.  "It's just a bathtub, Jackie.  Come on."

I wasn't happy.  "It's not just a bathtub, Shaun.  It's THE bathtub.  And it's going to sit in the same spot for the rest of our lives.  This is important!"

It was about that time that my hubby's eye started twitching.  We had come full circle.

Here's a photo of the bathtub during the evening of "location scouting" that involved moving not just the tub, but every other piece of furniture around the room to see how things would work together.  It was not a pleasant night.






When the final location had been chosen, hubby started smiling again.  He installed the plumbing and our new faucet, which is the most amazing faucet that I've ever seen in my entire life.  I don't know how I lived without one of those handy little hand-shower thingies that looks like the handle to an old telephone.  It's the greatest invention ever made, y'all--I ain't kidding.  I can wash a dog in two minutes flat now.  I don't even have to yell down the hall when I'm washing Montana and beg for someone to bring me a cup from the kitchen cabinet.  This faucet was worth every penny!  






Next we installed the matching pedestal sinks.  I wanted his and hers sinks to flank a piece of antique furniture that would serve as our bathroom cabinets.  The cabinets I initially chose did not quite give me the effect that I had in mind, but that problem was easily solved by taking an enormous primitive piece out of my office and using it for display shelving.  Isn't it gorgeous!





Open shelving in a bathroom is asking for trouble, I suppose.  I couldn't very well have all of my extra shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and body wash bottles there in the open.  I don't care how cute the rest of the bathroom looks, if you've got a dozen bottles of Irish Spring cluttering up your open shelves it's going to look tacky.  So I thought for a while and came up with this solution... Mason jars!







Hubby and I poured all of our excess shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and body washes into these handly little Mason jars and then ordered Mason Jar lid pumps.  I have to admit that I love this idea so much that I can't imagine using a normal bottle of soap ever again.  Look how cute my soaps and shampoos are in their little cubby holes!






My friend Vicki gave me two hand towels embroidered with THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK for my birthday, and they're absolutely adorable in our "new" bathroom.  We're still not completely finished--we need electrical outlets, new windows, and we need to install quarter round around the baseboards and put crown moulding around the ceiling.  But the vast majority of work in the downstairs bathroom has been finished, and we're delighted with the outcome.  We have effectively mixed antiques with other antiques to create a space that is both functional and inviting.  What do you think about my crazy mustard-colored walls?  I love them with all of my heart.  





Here are a few additional photos of the finishing touches.  I absolutely adore my "new" bathroom!  Believe it or not, the total cost for the bathroom renovation was less than a thousand dollars.  The lovely wash stand beside the bathtub (also bought at auction) was only $40.  I did some work on it to make it come to life again, but it was in fairly good shape when we bought it.  The bathtub was free, plus the hundred dollars to restore it, plus the cost of plumbing and the faucet.  The sinks were less than a hundred dollars apiece, bought at the Home Depot, and were very simple and basic.  The faucets were very inexpensive as well--around thirty-five dollars per sink.  Paint and rollers, brushes and tape came up to a whopping $200.  (Like I said--buy paint with the primer IN it and your life will be much easier.)  The primitive cabinet didn't cost us a dime because we already owned it.  The curtains were on clearance for around $10 per panel.  The rug was given to us by our neighbors, but we will replace it after the construction is over.  It's already covered in sawdust from the living room/kitchen project we're working on now.  The chairs were only $5 each, and I already owned all artwork.  The quote transfer sheet (below) was around $15.

It IS possible to renovate a historic home and have magazine-quality results without spending a mint.  You can absolutely do what we've done--you just need to think outside of the box.  Stop worrying about what other bathrooms are like and start imagining what YOUR dream bathroom looks like.  Create it inside of your head and then go make it happen--and when you're finished, send me a picture of what you've accomplished.  We really do hope to inspire others to tackle projects that they're afraid to begin.  Just remember: if we can do it, so can you!  Happy renovating!















These two historic chairs we bought for $5 each at a local auction--ironically enough, they belonged to the Robinson family.  (The Robinsons bought THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK from the Taylor Family in 1902.)





Quote from a transfer sheet that I adore.  I found it at ROSS, but it was one of my favorites long before I transferred the letters to our bathroom wall.





These curtains from JC Penney are just the right length.  If you have windows that are more than 84" tall, visit their website to find affordable curtains in your desired length.  It's the ONLY place I've found on the internet that sells the 110" panels that we need for this old dog-trot house.