My husband, Ken, and I both grew up in Indianapolis and married in 1972. (Which means we’re getting really close to that 50 year mark. Holy Cow!) Between 1973-1987 we lived in Texas (Dallas, Ft. Worth & Richardson), Oregon (Beaverton), North Carolina (Raleigh), and Virginia (Burke.) No, we weren’t military – Ken was in sales. Our daughter was born in Texas, and our son was born in Oregon. During these years I worked as a dental hygienist (IU grad.)
In 1987 we took a leap of faith, left our jobs in Virginia and moved back to Indiana to open a B&B in the historic river town of Madison. BEST. DECISION. EVER. From there I began a life based in creativity, from home decor, food preparation and needlework to tourism development and marketing consulting.
Our first downtown fixer upper project began in 1987 when we purchased an 1840s private home and transformed it into Main Street Bed & Breakfast. We were lucky enough to have our inn covered extensively by media of the day, and we hit the ground running. Shortly after we opened, the Indianapolis Star wrote a feature article on our family’s move from the metro D.C. area to small town Indiana to open a bed and breakfast. Colonial Homes Magazine’s feature on Madison in 1988 created a significant upturn in tourism, and we benefited as well. The article on our B&B included beautiful photos and several of our guest’s favorite recipes (Homemade Granola, Hoosier Peach Jam, Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, Giant Blueberry Muffins.) In 1990, Innsider Magazine featured three Madison inns, including ours. Once again, the feature and the photos were good for business. After all of the media attention and subsequent room bookings, we were approached in 1992 to sell the inn. And we did!
Our second downtown reno began after the sale of the B&B. This time the goal was returning an 1854 home comprised of two apartments back into a single-family home. A labor of love, the process involved all four of us, and our adult children still tell the tales of endless wallpaper stripping and petrified bats in the chimneys. Once completed, Midwest Living Magazine featured our gourmet group in a 1999 article, “Good Food, Good Friends”, again including photos of our home and recipes. I had started a side business, Interiors of Madison, while at the B&B, and the continued media coverage kept the home décor consulting rolling.
After the kids went off to college, we decided to downsize and build a new home on a wooded lot just a mile from town. Although much larger than our new 1872 fixer upper project, this house was half the size of either historic downtown properties, and the state park-like setting was literally a breath of fresh air.
I LOVE to cook. LOVE. Fine dining experiences at home for Ken & I, or batches of cookies for the grands, I am super happy in the kitchen. I should also mention that I love tea. Love to enjoy it in a posh or humble setting. Love to serve it to my friends. Most memorable tea experience was the “Afternoon Tea & Cakes” cooking demonstration by Darina Allen (pictured with me above) at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. Someday I WILL master “the perfect sponge!”
I watched my grandmother make absolutely beautiful clothes for my treasured dolls, and I’ve spent many hours at the sewing machine fabricating outfits during my teen years, draperies and pillows for clients, and wedding gowns and veils for family and friends. I’ve quilted, needlepointed, embroidered, cross stitched, crocheted and knitted. I’d like to try weaving, and I drool over ribbon embroidery. Needlework is more than a passion. It’s part of the fabric of my life. And more often than not, there’s a stop at a shop on any travel itinerary.
Now with Social Security & Medicare cards in hand, the R&D discussion (retirement & downsizing) hinged on returning to the small town “urban” location, walkable to the library, farmers market, riverfront, local festivals and several friends. We thought we were “just planning”, right up until the auctioneer looked at us and said, “SOLD!” I hope you’ll follow as the progress unfolds on our new 1872 Fixer Upper project. (BTW I’m currently taking volunteers for wallpaper removal. Plenty of opportunity for all!)
I’m excited to share what I’ve loved and learned over the past 6+ decades, and look forward to hearing how these experiences may coincide with your own.