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Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Can You Take It with You?

picture of us at Biltmore

This past weekend I was reminded strongly of the folly of living for stuff. A few weeks ago a friend gave us tickets to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. We had not been there since the day we got engaged, almost 33 years ago. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, even though it was cold and rainy. We could not believe how many visitors there were! It was a packed out house (or as I love to say, a packed outhouse)!

As we toured the house many thoughts went through my mind. Some of the rooms were literally so large that our entire little house would fit inside them. The 175,000 square-foot (16 300 m2) house with its 255 rooms and beautiful gardens reminded me of the châteaux we have visited in Europe. Although today's liberal politicians would try their best (or worst) to incite us to class envy by criticizing George Vanderbilt for using his own money to build the house he wanted and could afford, the building project and maintenance afterwards provided jobs for many people. I said to my wife that since Obama wants to create jobs, he ought to build a house like this. One difference would be that he would not be doing it with his own money.

As I viewed some of the amenities in Biltmore, my mind went to a post I did called Changing Times about what life was like in the US in the year 1900, which is right at the time Vanderbilt had just moved into his new estate. There was quite a contrast between what we saw in Biltmore and what most Americans considered the norm in 1900.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but I was able to find some online to show some of the amazing features.

The first thing you see upon entering is the "Winter Garden." There were many plants and flowers throughout the house, and as far as we could tell by what we touched, they were all real.

picture of winter garden

Here's a view of just part of the banquet hall. The table can be extended to a length of 40 feet. Notice the triple fireplace at the far end.

picture of banquet hall

In the basement of the house we saw the Vanderbilts' two-lane bowling alley.

picture of bowling alley

Although there was no water in it, we were able to see the world's first indoor swimming pool in the basement.

picture of swimming pool

After visiting the house we stopped at the River Bend Farm on the Biltmore Estate. Even though it was winter and rainy, we were glad we visited it. As we watched a film inside the barn we learned much of the good that had come to the people living in that area as a result of George Vanderbilt's having built his mansion there. His interest in horticulture and his goal of running Biltmore as a self-sustaining estate was extremely beneficial to people in the area and added to advances in farming techniques in the United States.

Near the barn we visited the woodworker's shop, the blacksmith's shop, and the mercantile. The blacksmith was particularly entertaining and informative.

picture of blacksmith

There was a barnyard with animals to pet, including two huge horses. Here's one of them.

picture of horse

We enjoyed petting the adorable baby pygmy goats that were the size of our cats.

picture of baby goats

I don't know how much George Vanderbilt obsessed about his mansion, but I do know that he was able to live there for only a short time 1898-1914, dying at the age of 52 of complications from an appendectomy. And his magnificent house is still here – he couldn't take it with him. It made me think of a story to share.

There once was a believing rich man who was dying. While on his death bed, he tried to get the Lord to let him bring his earthly treasures with him to heaven. "Lord, please, I have worked so hard to accumulate all these riches. Can't I bring them along?"

The Lord spoke to his heart, telling him, "I never grant this request. Go ahead and plan what you would bring if I permitted you to bring just one suitcase, and we'll talk about it once you're in heaven."

The man immediately began to think about what he could take in just one suitcase. Finally he had a servant fill a large suitcase with gold bricks. Shortly thereafter, he died.

When the man got to heaven, he was amazed at the beauty surrounding him, and to say he was overwhelmed when he saw the Lord for the first time would be a huge understatement.

Enjoying the splendors of his new home, the man completely forgot about the suitcase he had wanted to bring along, until the Lord asked him about it. "My child, tell me what you planned to put into that suitcase you wanted to bring."

"Oh yes, Lord. I forgot all about that! I had my servant pack a large suitcase with bricks of gold."

The Lord said, "I know you haven't been able to see everything up here yet." He continued by asking him kindly, "But what in the world were you thinking when you decided to bring pavement?"


Have you ever visited the Biltmore or other mansions of the world? What were your impressions? Becka reminded me Saturday of a quotation from Joan, a friend of my mom, "Europe is a nice place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to have to dust it!"


"Possessions have a way of possessing us as they take the place of God in our hearts." - Dr. Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.

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It’s for the Birds!

house wren update...

There are now six eggs in the house wren nest in our bird house. That number has not changed since Saturday, and so I think the female is done laying eggs. Here's a picture of the six little tan eggs....

six little wren eggs

I found a picture online of a house wren....

house wren

One great thing is to hear the wrens singing at all hours of the day. If you'd like to hear the song of a house wren, click here.

I realize that some people who read my blog are not bird enthusiasts, but there are probably as many readers who are bird enthusiasts. You non-enthusiasts can scroll on down to today's iv....

Here's a picture of our bird house - the prime real estate in our subdivision! The lid is on hinges, allowing me to take the pictures I post on my blog.

our bird house that sits in our red raspberry patch

Below is a picture of the bay window in our kitchen. If you look carefully, you can see the hummingbird feeder on the left, the bird feeder in the middle, and the bird house off in the distance.

the window where we watch birds

Here's a picture from the outside....

our birdfeeders

Here's a close-up of the main bird feeder....

our main bird feeder

After squirrels have destroyed two "squirrel-proof" feeders from Lowe's, I decided that we should just spring for the top-of-the-line "Eliminator Squirrel Proof Birdfeeder" from Wild Birds Unlimited. Since it comes with a lifetime guarantee, at the rate we were going, this one will pay for itself in no time.

A former student who lives in Tennessee has sent me several pictures that he's taken recently of some woodpeckers nesting in a dead tree. He's been looking for this nest for over a month. He said the nests are easier to find once the red heads start poking out.

Here's a picture of two babies being fed through the hole in the tree...

two woodpecker babies

He wrote today to say that the last baby fledged. Here's a picture right before the last baby left the nest....

the last woodpecker to fledge

He said that in the same tree, a different type of woodpecker is nesting at the top. He went on to say, "There was a lot of drumming going on in that tree. Each variety of woodpecker has a different rythym. It seemed to be an annoyance to one variety when the other one was pecking."

Here's a picture of the other woodpecker nesting in the same tree....

another kind of woodpecker nesting in the same tree

Last week another reader sent me a link to a neat story about a very smart parrot. You can read it by clicking here.

There are all sorts of things that people say are "for the birds." One of those things that some would say is for the birds is housecleaning. The piece below even mentions birds in the first item....

Philosophy Of Housecleaning
author - an unknown, but witty woman

1. I don't do windows because ... I love birds and wouldn't want one to run into a clean window and get hurt. (I am compassionate.)

2. I don't wax floors because ... I am terrified that guests will slip, hurt themselves, and then I'll feel terrible - and they may sue me! (I am careful and poor.)

3. I don't mind the dust bunnies because ... they are very good company, I have named most of them, and they agree with everything I say. (I am imaginative.)

4. I don't disturb cobwebs because ... I want all creatures to have a home of their own, and my family loves spiders. (I am kind.)

5. I don't do "Spring Cleaning" because ... I love all the seasons and don't want the others to get jealous. (I am fair minded.)

6. I don't do yard work because ... I don't want to get in God's way - He is an excellent designer. (I am courteous.)

7. I don't put things away because ... my family will never be able to find them again. (I am considerate.)

8. I don't do gourmet meals when I entertain because .... I don't want my guests to stress out over what to make when they invite me over for dinner. (I am thoughtful of others' fears.)

9. I don't iron because ... I choose to believe them when they say "Permanent Press". (I am trusting.)

10. I don't stress much over anything because ... "Type A" personalities die young, and I want to stick around and become a wrinkled up crusty ol' woman!!! (I am very practical.)


This is Rob again ... several bits of irony in our own lives - just this evening while I was watering flowers out front, I hear a huge thud on the neighbor's house. When I looked over, I saw a brown thrasher falling to the ground below the neighbor's big picture window. The poor bird's neck was broken and it died. The irony is that the window is not very clean. Another irony is that in our house, we think that spiders are for the birds! I just killed two black widow spiders in our attached garage when I was sweeping it out this past Saturday! YIKES! I had killed another one a few weeks ago. Being very glad that those black widow spiders are now dead, I do not think that housecleaning is for the birds! How about you? 🙂


"You cannot keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there!" - Dr. Bob Jones Sr.

=^..^= =^..^=

When your pet bird sees you reading the newspaper, does he wonder why you're just sitting there, staring at carpeting?

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Weekend in Cincinnati

This past weekend Becka and I drove up to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the wedding of our nephew Matt, the son of Becka's sister Pam and brother-in-law Jim. We left right after my last class on Friday and arrived in Cinti six and a half hours later. The travel conditions were basically perfect, much to our delight. Megan, Jim, and Drew drove down from Detroit on Saturday. While waiting for them to arrive in time for the wedding at 1:00 p.m., Becka and I had Saturday morning to explore a little.

We decided that the hotel where we stayed could be where we'd like to retire to some day. It reminded us of the something in my files that I will have to post some time called "No Nursing Home for Me" where you learn that it would be cheaper to live in a hotel than to go to a nursing home. That was the case with our hotel, a Comfort Inn very close to Kings Island amusement park. With our discount with the BJU Alumni Association, our room was under $50 a night. This included free cable TV (which we don't even have at home!), free high speed internet, and a nice continental breakfast. A one-minute walk from the front door is a White Castle hamburger joint. (no thanks!) But also within easy walking distance are McDonald's, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, and many, many more.

We had long heard of Cincinnati chili, but we got to experience it for lunch on Saturday at Skyline Chili. We each got a 5-way chili on spaghetti, and WOW! What a treat! The young people working in there told us two of the secret ingredients that they knew of in the chili sauce - cinnamon and chocolate. It sounds potentially ghastly, but it was really good! Becka had actually guessed cinnamon when she tasted it, but the chocolate was a surprise.

We had hoped to try Graeter's ice cream, another Cincinnati legend and supposedly the best ice cream in the world, while in town, but we didn't get a chance. Next time....

We really enjoyed getting to be at the wedding and seeing Pam, Jim, and their family. Here's a shot of all of our nephew Matthew's side of the family who were at the wedding...

And of course, we thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Jim, Meg, and Drew and get another "grandparent fix." Though the wedding reception was lively and fun, Drew found it tiring...

Saturday evening the parents of our new niece Katy, Matt's bride, invited all family members to come to their house for dinner. It was good to get to know some of Katy's family and to spend some time with our own family too.

Here's a picture of Becka and her sister Pam with their grandsons...

Here's a picture of our niece Shannon, our daughter Megan and their sons...

That evening back at the hotel, Becka and I enjoyed giving Drew a bath in our sink. Here's our little bathing beauty...

After spending Sunday morning together, we had to go our separate ways. Alas! Becka and I drove back to Greenville, and Megan, Jim, and Drew took in Drew's first baseball game. Here's a picture of them before rain ended their fun in the 5th inning and sent them on their drive back to Detroit...

Since Cincinnati is on the Ohio River, there are several bridges joining the Ohio and Kentucky parts of the city. This weekend I received an e-mail about a bridge incident that seemed like the perfect thing to share in this blog post about our weekend in Cincinnati.

Engineering Question of the Day

Q: How much does a house weigh?

A: Just a tad more than a rural two-lane bridge can hold, apparently.

So would this be accident be covered by house insurance, car insurance, or would it fall under roadside assistance?

And how in the world would you get the house picked up without ruining it?


Carolina chickadee update...

Here's a picture of the babies this afternoon, five days after the last picture I posted...


"Be a good commercial for God with your body." - Dr. Daniel Borkert

=^..^= =^..^=

If all those psychics know the winning lottery numbers, why are they all still working?

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Your House

I've been hearing the "doom-and-gloomers" (a.k.a. the "drive-by media") going on a lot lately about the housing situation here in the USA. (I suspect it's in an effort to remind us how desperately we need Hillary). Anyway, it made my mind go to an e-mail I received a while back about how various people view your house.

your house as seen by...


as seen by a potential buyer...

as seen by the lending institution...

as seen by the buyer's appraiser...

as seen by a general contractor...

as seen by the local Historical Preservation Society...

as seen by a nosy neighbor...

as seen by the tax assessor...


"The certainty of future events should drive us to testify." - Dr. Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

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Our Summer Housing

As I promised, here is an entry about our housing this summer. If you go back into history in the Asian blog entries, you will see that our apartments this summer were a definite up-grade from last year's and that we are far from suffering. Our apartment last year was one of the ones where they house their foreign teachers. It is in one of those that our friend Ruth lives. Apparently none of those was available this year, so they found Chinese staff members who would be traveling on their summer break and subleased their apartments for us. My wife and I have been staying in the apartment of a married couple who teach here. He has a doctorate, and so their apartment is quite nice. Below are two shots of the living room in our apartment, one from each direction.

living room

living room

The kitchen is also very nice. Below are two shots of the kitchen. The first one shows the counter on which is sitting the bottled water we must drink since tap water isn't safe.

kitchen counter

This picture shows the one side of the kitchen where we have a microwave, dish sterilizer, and refrigerator. (We don't know how to use the dish sterilizer, so it is just for dish storage. It helps keep the resident ants and roaches off the clean dishes.

kitchen appliances

Our bedroom is quite comfortable and beautiful with a bed larger than ours at home.


The bathroom is quite nice too, as you'll see below.


There's an office with one wall completely lined with books. On the other side of the office is "IV Central."

IV Central

Becka has especially enjoyed the laundry facilities this year. Below are two pictures - one of our washer and another of our "dryer." And it's all on a screened-in balcony.

our washer

our clothes drying facilities

From that balcony, we feel like we're in a real-life version of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "Rear Window." We can observe and hear the goings-on of the 18 apartments across from ours. We hear piano practice, singing, arguments, and you name it. Last Saturday we were awakened for the first time to a rooster crowing. We didn't hear it the next morning. Now, where could that rooster have gone??? Here's a view from our "rear window."

rear window

In addition to the roaches and two kinds of ants, others share our apartment with us. Most notably are several geckos. It's really weird and scary when they scream for no apparent reason! Below are two pictures - one near the ceiling and the other silhouetted on a window.

gecko near the ceiling

gecko in silhouette

Jean and Yvonne stayed in our apartment for the first four nights until a dean left on vacation. They insisted that Becka and I take the bedroom and they would sleep in the living room. Below is a picture of our living room where Yvonne slept in mosquito netting on foam on the floor and Jean slept on our couch. This shot is Yvonne trying to get the fitted sheet onto the foam.

Yvonne getting in tent, not intense

So when they moved into the dean's apartment, they were *really* upgraded! However, since the dean's forte does not seem to be housekeeping, we are not able to show as many pictures of their place. Below you will several rooms of that apartment so you can see how beautiful it is. First the living room, complete with a huge plasma TV.

the dean's living room

Here's a peek into the kitchen....

the dean's kitchen

Here's a view down the hall leading to the three bedrooms....

the hallway

Here's a shot of the master bedroom....

master bedroom

I will probably not be able to add an entry about our classes until after we're back home and I have internet access again. Tomorrow is our last day here, and I will not have time to do any blogging. Fortunately, there will *always* be time for blaguing.

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