About Cecilia

Before I introduce you to Cecilia the house, it might best for you to get familiar the lovely micro nation we call Cecilvannia.  We really do refer to it as Cecilvannia, incidentally.  The kids came up with it five or six years ago. They wrote a Constitution, assigned offices and and everything.  I'm the queen, obviously.  Jeremy turned down being king so he could start up the Cecilvannia space program which largely involved he and Tucker setting off fireworks, looking through telesopes and/or flying remote control helicopters.
Anyway, we have just a few feet shy of an acre of property, and no idea what to do with it.

 On a prideful note, our lawn, so called,  is actually green, not brown.  The satellite photo was apparently taken a few days after we mowed it.  Our lawn tractor is sad, prone to breaking and desperately needs to be replaced, but they are expensive and its a low priority (which in Cecilvannia speak means we'd rather spend the money on computers and gaming consoles).  The blades don't mulch very well, so they leave piles of cut grass along each side as it moves.  It looks just as bad in real life as it does in the picture and is one of the reasons I don't take many outdoor pictures during the summer.  Eventually things get blown around and it disappears, generally right before its time to mow again.  This year, after much experimentation, Harper Ann came up with a way of mowing that all but eliminates the dead grass piles.  Anyone know how to make the Google satellite come back?

Map Key:Front:  Pretty self explanatory.  The arrow points to our front door.

Neighbor:  A very nice elderly couple.  He has an amazing little garden and gives us squash and tomatoes 'round this time of year.  We had some the other day on the grill.  Delicious.  I also use his front yard trees in photographs a lot, particularly action ones as they are lovely trees, much more maintained than ours and I can photograph them from the front porch.

Nature Preserve:  Okay, this will actually take a while to explain, so I'm saving it for a future post.  Once its up, I'll link to it here.  Suffice it to say its creation was a triumph of will coupled with lawn tractor laziness.

Cows & Also Cows:  The neighbor that owns the land immediately behind and to the side of Cecilvannia recently started renting out his hay pasture to a...not sure of the terminology here...cattleman seems extreme as there aren't that many cows, and cow farmer or cowman can't be right, so I have no idea.  The upshot is we have cows surrounding us and it is awesome.  They aren't there everyday, just in three or four day stretches twice month, but they make us very happy when we see them.

Apple Tree:  The apple tree ends up getting photographed quite a bit.  I think its pretty, and it sits atop Mt. Cecilia.  I use it to demonstrate the weather.  Which is weird, but, you know, I find it interesting and its my blog.

Fire Pit:  Really, its more of a campfire but I wanted to sound swanky.  The kids put it together years ago.  Now a days they primarily use it to make s'mores.  It sits at the peak of  Mt. Cecilia, and the view from it is amazing.  At one point we had an above ground 5ft deep circle swimming pool there. Unfortunately we had drained the pool just when it started to get cold, but didn't put it away immediately.  Over night a big wind came up and blew it onto the barbed wire fence and it was shredded.  Two lessons learned from the experience: Cecilvannia is prone to high winds and always put away you swimming pool right after draining.  Now we have a slip-n-slide which when put on the downward slope running from the garage to the side yard is great fun for teenagers.

Bunny Briar:  The bunny briar started out as a small wild berry patch growing half on our side and half on the neighbors.  He cut his half down.  Our half exploded.  It all happened rather quickly and before we knew it there is a whole warren of bunnies living in it and now we don't have the heart to take it down.  Once a year Jeremy and Tucker head out and trim it back some to keep it from eating the whole yard alive which is why it is an oddly shaped triangle.  

Garage:  In his infinite wisdom, the builder of Cecilia decided to put the garage at the end of a steep sloped and sharp curved gravel path that make it impossible to actually get a car down there.  Often times over the years the "driveway" has been piled up with construction debris and stuff we've decided to get rid of.   Tucker recently did a lovely job of cleaning up the interior of the garage so its much less serial killer basement down there at present.  And Jeremy, Tucker and Luke (Harper Ann's boyfriend) built me a clothesline that I am very excited about.

Dog Yard:  We are a pet family.  At present, we have 3 dogs: a fat beagle (The Doctor, aka Doc), an elderly jack russel terrier (Alice) and a minature pinscher/chihuahua mix (Poosh); and 2 cats: Boromir the Brave and Mac.  All of them were found at the local shelter.  We decided we needed to fence in a part of the yard, immediately out back, to give the big dogs a safe place to spend their time during the day.  Jeremy and I put it up over one, very hot, summer week-- its just chicken wire and those metal pole things you jam into the ground to support said chicken wire.  All sorts of plants, mostly weeds but some wildflowers and berry type things, have grown over it.  It sags in a lot of places, but it does its job.  I'm rather proud of it.

Now for Cecilia the house and capital of Cecilvannia.

She was built in 1971 for no apparent reason, and clocks in at 1500 square feet of living space with a full, unfinished basement.  There are a few nice spec homes on our street,  so we figure the same builder used what he had left over from those jobs to build Cecilia.  He used paneling instead of drywall in most of the house, didn't bother to level pipes coming out of the walls, didn't put in insulation in a few rooms, glued on bathroom tiles onto regular dry wall with liquid nails and so forth.

I was told that sometime in the late 70s/early 80s, the owner decided to update the house while his wife was on vacation, which was a bad idea.  The finished product was a nightmare, even by early 80s decorating standards-- and was the last time Cecilia was updated before we moved in.  On the plus side, he added insulation in the attic space and put in double hung windows that pivot inward for easy cleaning, so credit where credit is due, but everything else was tacky and not in a good way.

The first owner then sold Cecilia and she became a rental.  This began a period of abuse that went on from the late 80s until we took over in 2005, with the exception of 94-96 when she was purchased and lived in before becoming a rental again.  The final tenants were evicted for not paying rent, which is where we came in.  We got her because the price was right, the view was beautiful, we had an inflated view of our own fixer-upper abilities, and the location was perfect-- she is only about ten minutes from the large college campus, fifteen from the kids' school and the city, yet is completely rural, which isn't a combination you find every day, even in the Tennessee mountains.

All that aside, there was just something about her.  She was a low rent beauty queen dying to be taken care of in the manner she felt she deserved.  She needed saving.  She isn't what most people would find attractive, I get that, but I loved her the moment I saw her.  Well, not the exact moment, but very shortly thereafter.

You see, when we got her, she was for all intents and purposes a rural crack house.  There were piles of garbage everywhere, both outside and in,  because the tenants had stopped paying the city to pick it up.  There was damage to everything.  I can't even begin to describe the interior really, and I don't know if I want to-- I want our friends and family to continue to come over, you know?  Suffice it to say that it was so bad I decided not to take any "before" pictures because I was afraid the kids would refuse to live in her if I did, and frankly I didn't want to remember her that way.

We spent one month just cleaning her up over the course of winter break '05.  I would start work on her in the late afternoon and keep going to the wee hours of the morn.  It was during this period she got her name, and subsequently the name of this blog.  I had brought a CD player to keep me company and was listening to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel.  I came up with a whole set of lyrics to their song Cecilia to amuse myself as I worked, and in my delirium played it on repeat a lot more than is healthy.  "Oh Cecilia I'm down on my knees, I'm begging you please become home."  Probably will do a blog post on it someday...

We moved in somewhere around Christmas that year.  For the next year we settled in, did some painting and general maintenance and made plans.  In 2007 we started things off by demolishing the kitchen (which is when we discovered the kitchen cabinets had been hung with roofing nails), and the real work began.  Since then, with the exception of having workers install new counter tops, wood flooring, an energy efficient hear/air system and the tin roof (which is one of the best things ever), and calling in an electrician and a plumber twice, we did all the work in her on our own.  My parents kicked in a lot-- especially my mom.  She was with me when I shocked myself so bad my fillings hurt.  Good times.  In the end, we made her home.

We love her.  She is ours.  And we are never going to move.

I picked up this framed print at a junk shop shortly before we bought Cecilia.  When we were moving in, the kids declared this girl to be the human equivalent of our house, which made us owning Cecilia our destiny.  I tend to agree; Cecilia is cranky, petulant and prone to throwing tantrums so having her  likened to a teenage girl seems appropriate.  This print has hung in several rooms of Cecilia so, as the kids explained, she can get a good look at what we have done to help her.  Right now she hangs in the living room where she can watch us all come and go.
Since we have no intention of moving ever, and since I like to viciously rearrange my environment from time to time, there is always something new happening in Cecilia.  I've never been the sort who wants to decorate in a way that lasts and lasts-- I want to decorate for how I want it now, and if that happens to last a few years then awesome.  Jeremy jokes that the house is insulated soley by the number of coats of paint I've put on the walls over the last nine years.

I hope you'll join us for our adventures in Cecilia ownership.  Actually it would be truer to say Cecilia owns us and she knows it-- and we really don't mind a bit.

If you have questions, thoughts or suggestions, please leave a comment or feel free to email us at theclosetintellectual(at)gmail(dot)com

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