Living in a Fairy Tale – Part 2

…now for the rest of the story. For those of you who are already lost, just go to the first part here: Part 1 then when you’re finished, you can read this post. This is a bit of a longer post, okay, it would be classified as a short story, but trust me, the ending is worth it!

So, this wasn’t just any old estate sale that my husband and I went to. Maybe I need to start at the beginning.

 

Once upon a time…well, just about!

This story started many years ago, somewhere around 15 years ago. I’d been shopping with a dear friend at Monches Farm, in Monches, Wisconsin. Monches is a small township straddling the border between Waukesha and Washington Counties. To the south is North Lake and Merton, to the North, Erin and Holy Hill. If you’ve never been to Monches Farm, I highly recommend it! It’s garden center/nursery combined with antique shop.

They had, sitting on their counter, a card for a B&B just up the road that served lunches. I took one of those cards, and it sat, pinned by a magnet to my refrigerator for over a year. Finally one day, I called that same friend and asked if she wanted to try the place. It was a little different than your usual restaurant. There was no menu to choose from. You would be served whatever they made that day, with ingredients fresh from the garden. The timed reservations were very specific, they had limited space. The meal was a set price, which if I remember, at the time was only $7.00 per person.

 

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From the front entrance we were guided into a bedroom/sitting room to the right of the foyer. The sun poured in through the large windows and door that opened onto a second story porch. We were served a non-alcoholic aperitif in antique glasses. I’m pretty sure it was white grape juice and ginger ale, but the light, sparkly beverage was perfect. There were two other women seated in the room with us, and we all talked about how lovely the inn was, and how nice it would be to stay there.

Once our table was ready, we were led through the foyer into an open room graced by a huge fireplace. Our table was alongside the wall opposite the fireplace, next to more large windows overlooking a pond. From where we were seated we could also see out to a rustic outdoor porch. We had mentioned to each other that although the room we were in was beautiful, we would have liked to sit out on the porch. I have since learned that the porch in question has acquired the name “The Forbidden Porch” because all the lunch guests wanted to sit out there, but none were allowed.

The first course was a salad, followed by soup. I can’t remember what soup we were served, but I do remember that we enjoyed it. The main course was an herb quiche that I later tried to reproduce because I liked it so much. There were fresh baked rolls and, for a beverage, we had Russian Spiced Tea over ice. I had been making this same spiced tea mix as gifts for years. Dessert was a homemade lemon sorbet.

After lunch, the gracious server encouraged us to explore the grounds. There was a picnic table and a canoe along the shoreline of the pond. We walked brick pathways through the gardens. We wandered past the tennis court and peeked into the barn, which actually had a romantic rustic bedroom set up in one end.

 

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“Wouldn’t this be an amazing place to live?” We absolutely loved it and vowed to come back.

But life got busy. I kept that creased card, that I had picked up at the nursery, clipped to my refrigerator for years. It moved from refrigerator to refrigerator, as we moved. Truth be told, I think the card finally got tossed in this last move. I figured if I ever got the chance to go back, I could look them up on the internet.

And I did – just last year. When I was planning on taking time off to finish writing a book, I considered finding a room in a B&B. Sometimes my family doesn’t understand that even though I’m home, I’m really at work. I was disappointed when I couldn’t find a website.

Fast forward to this June. I was getting ready for work when my husband, Jim, who was looking at available properties for work on the internet, called out to me. “Hey, didn’t you and Marlys eat at the Monches Mill House once?”

“Yes, and it was wonderful!” I replied.

“It’s for sale,” he said, “and at affordable price.”

I ran into the living room, still dripping from the shower, to look at the pictures over his shoulder. It hadn’t changed. I pointed out the room we first sat in, and the room we had lunch in. “Buy it for me!” I squealed.

I was serious with my request, yet didn’t think he’d really consider it. We had just bought the house we’re in two years ago. I asked if we could go in and get a look at it anyway. So he called our real estate agent, and friend, and set up an appointment.

The first time we went through, I went with a vision of the property I’d seen years earlier. In reality, it hasn’t changed all that much, although time has had it’s effect. I realized just how big the property was, and although I loved it, wasn’t sure I wanted to take on such a large project at this stage in my life.

The next day, as my husband and I talked about it, it was clear he was hooked, and I quickly followed. We talked, and we talked some more. In the end, we knew we’d always wanted an old house. Usually old houses come with a list of negatives that aren’t things that can be changed. They are generally located on busier roads, or their floor plans are totally dysfunctional. Either they’ve been updated poorly, loosing their original charm, or they are in such bad condition the task seems insurmountable. If they have been updated correctly, the price tag is through the roof, and there is nothing left to do.

This house is in a quiet town, right where we wanted to be. We lived most of our adult lives in the Merton area and were hoping to eventually get back there. The house is original – every bit of charm still intact. It needs work, but isn’t ready to fall down. It’s sitting on 2 acres, with gardens, a barn, gazebo and tennis court and is situated next to a mill pond. Even the floor plan is great. If we didn’t try for this old house, then there would be no old house – ever.

So we decided to go for a second showing with the intention of putting an offer on the house. Just  before the showing we found out that the owners had just accepted another offer. We went anyway. After we looked at the house a second time, Jim started to look into financing hoping that we could put in a better offer. The bank wasn’t as in love as we were. It seemed it was not to be.

We put the house out of our minds the best we could and continued working on our current house. Then one day, Jim drove past the house on the way back from a job site. The shortest path between where he was and where he was heading, led him right past the Mill House. I still remember the excitement evident in his voice over the phone. “You’re not going to believe this, they dropped the price!”

We figured that the offer they currently had, must not have been that good of one, if they were lowering the price while under contract. We called and set up a third showing. This time we secured  financing before we went. It turned out that the first offer was contingent on a sold subject. In other words, the buyers had a house to sell before they could finance and close on the Mill House. There is a bump clause in the contract, so if the seller accepted our offer (without that contingency) the other buyers would have 72 hours to drop their contingencies and go to closing. We offered cash, no contingencies other than a septic inspection.

Again, just before the showing, we got bad news. We found out that the first buyers had just gotten an offer on their house. We weren’t completely defeated, they would still have to feel confident enough in their offer to drop the contingencies on the Mill House purchase.

Our offer never made it that far. The sellers had developed a bond with the first buyers and wanted to give them a chance. We were rejected.

By this time we had been trying for this house for three months. It was time to give up. Jim started looking at properties, but I couldn’t even consider them. I told him that until the house was absolutely sold, I couldn’t commit to anything else. “It isn’t over, until it’s over,” I told him.

Jim drove by the house several times, once seeing the vehicle of the potential new owners – no doubt there to take measurements for renovations.

September arrived and I receive an e-mail from the same nursery that started all of this, that the Monches Mill House was having an estate sale. It felt like the last shredded strand of hope was gone, there was nothing left to hold onto. If they were selling all the furnishings, they must not need to keep the house staged. The deal must be going through.

I wavered back and forth. I wanted to go to the sale – the house was filled with gorgeous antiques, but I knew it’d be a stab wound to my heart. Then again, maybe I needed to say goodbye to the house, and the dream. My husband made me promise not to pout while we were there.

 

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The estate sale was amazing and we bought quite a few items, including some larger pieces, necessitating several trips. I was moping a bit during one of the trips. Jim tried to tell me that I needed to get over it. I told him, “You never know, the sale might still fall through.”

When we returned one of the sellers, who is the daughter of the woman who ran the inn, helped us to load our vehicle. She asked if we were antique dealers since we had purchased big items, and we told her we just loved antiques and the history behind them. We told her we didn’t even have a place for the 1800’s highboy dresser we bought. I would need to decide what piece of furniture to get rid of to fit it in.

The woman said she hoped we’d find a spot for everything. I replied that we just needed to find an old house to put it all in. She said, “There’s plenty of old houses out there.”

That’s when I broke my promise. “I really wanted this one,” I answered … with a pout.

“Did you hear? Our offer fell through,” she said.

I’m pretty sure there was dirt clinging to my chin after my jaw hit the ground – hard. The first question that popped into my head was, “Why didn’t your real estate agent call our real estate agent?” What came out of my mouth was “OH MY GOD!” Then I said, “We were the people with the cash offer.”

Now that the first buyers were out of the picture, I figured we could go back to resubmitting the offer that we’d submitted earlier.

What I got in reply was a stutter and a puzzled look. I turned to my husband who had returned from the other side of our car. He had been standing there, listening to our conversation. What I didn’t know at the moment, was he was holding his finger up to his lips, cutting off the seller from saying anything more. Finally in the awkward confusion, he just shrugged and said, “My wife doesn’t know anything.” Then he said, “We’re the people with the above asking price offer on the table now.”

“WHAT???”

My husband had submitted a second, higher price offer without telling me. By total coincidence, he put the offer in just hours after they had found out the first buyer’s offer was in question.

I gasped, I laughed, I cried.

We were introduced to the other two sisters, and various family, and friends. We hung out at the estate sale for two days. We felt as though we’d been adopted. The sisters even gave me a bowl that their mother had hand painted because, “they wanted me to have it.”

It turns out I look just like their mother, and their aunt’s name was Dody. It seemed like it was all meant to be.

Ha! It may have been meant to be, but that doesn’t mean it got any easier. It took another month of wrangling with lawyers and the county about easements and driveways, and the first buyers were still technically under contract even though the offer on their own house had fallen through – but it’s finally happened. On October 2nd we got verbal notification, and on October 4, 2013 we received the paperwork, our offer was accepted! We still have a septic inspection and the closing to get to, but barring any major calamity we hope to start renovations by the end of the month.

So in the end, we went to the estate sale, and bought the estate!

 

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Living in a Fairy Tale

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Although this blog is intended to be related to my writing, in the end, everything that happens in my life is related to my writing.  That couldn’t be more true than this weekend. It was a fabulous weekend, almost like a fairy tale.

Summer is waning and there is the nip of autumn in the air. I love this time of year. Autumn is especially nice in the country. It draws up images of pumpkins and scare crows, hay bales and country barns framed in russet leaves.

I grew up in the city, and although my husband and I have spent all our child raising years in the suburbs, pretty far out in the suburbs, I wouldn’t say we lived in the country. This weekend, we got a real taste of country life.

On Friday, we went to an estate sale at a 171 year old house, which is unquestionably out in the country.  Where as I’ve had a variety of stores within a short distance of anywhere I’ve lived, this township has no store. The nearest one is in a neighboring town almost ten miles away along a winding country road.

Despite the previous chilly night, the sun came out and the day was warm. The estate sale was incredible. There were tents covering tables of smaller items, and a barn full of furniture. There were people everywhere. It almost seemed like a competition, people racing to tag something before anyone else did. The items for sale were of high quality, and priced to sell. We had to take two trips to bring home all our purchases, even though we drive an SUV.

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Among our treasures is an 1800’s Chippendale highboy dresser, a wicker chair, a fireplace screen, an antique folk art table, a huge oriental rug, an antique handwoven wool rug and a 3 quart Le Crueset Gratin that was priced at only $5.00.  For those who don’t cook, or don’t know Le Crueset – trust me, that was the deal of a lifetime. For those of you who do understand –  take some slow, deep breaths –  and please don’t hate me.

Saturday morning, the sun returned, chasing away the morning chill. I started my day by hitting the local farmer’s market. There was everything from brightly colored vegetables, to fresh baked bread, to golden honey from local bees, and buckets overflowing with sunflowers. From there I went to a house just out of town from where I live. The woman who lives there raises chickens, and I was hoping for some fresh eggs for breakfast. Luckily she had just collected a dozen. You can’t get any fresher than that.

My husband and I were going to be having dinner at another couple’s home that night, and I still needed to make a dessert.  My “egg” lady also happens to have several apple trees. I asked her if she ever sells her apples. She said she just didn’t have the time to bag them and sell them. Then she said, if I  wanted some, I could pick as many as I’d like, no charge. She also pointed out which tree had the best apples and assured me that she didn’t use any pesticides, but I wouldn’t find any worms in her apples – she  sprays them with mineral oil. She also said that the apple tree I was picking from was called a Wolf River apple, and that the semi-dwarf variety isn’t available anymore, so if I wanted to, I could save some seeds and plant trees of my own. I took a grocery bag, and picked enough apples to fill it.

I made it home just as my family was waking up. I whipped together a breakfast of fluffy ham and cheese omelettes, bacon, toast with jam, coffee and orange juice. Then I went to work on my dessert. My egg (and now apple) lady was right, the apples were huge –  almost a pound each, and not a bug or worm in sight.

 

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I threw together an apple crisp – nothing is easier than apple crisp. I didn’t even follow a recipe, but I can share my non-recipe with you.

 

Apple Crisp

4-5 lbs. of apples,peeled, cored, and  cut into chunks (this is a guess, I just filed the pan – the $5.00 Le Crueset one.)

juice of half a lemon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

Toss together and place in ungreased 9 x 13 pan or 3 quart casserole .

In another bowl mix together:

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 1/2  cup flour

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 sticks butter, melted

Spread over the top of the apples.

Bake at 400 degrees (Fahrenheit) for one hour.

Serve warm with ice cream.

 

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While my crisp was baking, my husband and I went back to the estate sale, this time joined by our best friends. By this time the family running the sale knew us. They shared the stories behind each item we picked out. They told us how the antique chamber pot I purchased was used by their grandmother, when she was a little girl, and how their mother hand painted the folk design in  a wooden bowl that will be displayed with honor in my home. To those items we added an antique candle stand, a lamp, two ladder back chairs, a federal style mirror, a Victorian boot jack, and a shabby chic metal menu board.

Before we left, our attention was drawn to the water’s edge where a man in a pumpkin boat was making his way down the river. I don’t mean a boat that looked like a pumpkin. He was sitting in a ginormous carved out pumpkin, with a trolling motor mounted on the back. He was also paddling. I can’t imagine a pumpkin is very easy to steer.  The bridge over the river was crowded with people, cheering the pumpkin captain along. Then, like something out of a movie,we heard the clip clop of horses hooves. Along came a carriage full of people, lead by two beautiful black horses.

 

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It seemed like the tiny township was putting on a show, just for us.

We finally said goodbye to our friends, both old and new, and tore ourselves away. We had to get ready to go to dinner with our other friends.

 

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Drinks on the patio, a delicious dinner of prime rib, and relaxed conversation made for a very enjoyable evening and a great end to the day. The dessert was a hit, and the crisp looked so pretty in my $5.00 Le Crueset pan. Yes, I’m gloating!

 

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Sunday morning  was cold and rainy, but we didn’t let that dampen our weekend. I made a large batch of Tex Mex chili topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and onions. We drank apple cider, and made a second batch of that yummy apple crisp – and yes, I did save the seeds. I just might plant myself an apple tree or two. Maybe this “country” weekend is the start of something. I kind of like this country girl thing. I do believe that this fairy tale  isn’t over yet. It’s very much a case of –

to be continued…