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A lemonade recipe for tough times

At the end of 2006, my family and I moved into an old Victorian house in a small town called Nyack. It is a quirky town on the Hudson River about 19 miles north of New York City. The street that the house is on is considered old from an American perspective. The town was settled when the Dutch were building New Amsterdam. The house that I live in was built in 1893, the same time as the famous Chicago World’s Fair. Over the last century, several people have called the house home but few treated it as such.

My wife and I are optimists by nature. When we looked at the house for the first time we did not see what was wrong with it. We knew the place needed work, but what house doesn’t? We were thinking with our hearts and not our heads. It was not until we moved in did we fully comprehend the task that awaited us. Our lapse in judgment would see us spending the next year or so tiring to breathe life into a house that seemed to be against the idea, at least initially.

There were several challenges that we knew of when we agreed to buy the home. We knew that we would have to replace the roof and the Kitchen. The siding was in bad shape and the windows were original to the home. We were also aware that the furnace was old but there was a good chance that it would be serviceable for at least a few years to come.

What we were not aware of was all the other issues that soon made themselves known soon after our arrival.  Within the first few months we had no less than three major unforeseen problems including 600 gallons of standing water in the basement, bed bugs that had infested all of the bedrooms and a heating bill that was so big that it could not possibly be correct  (it was). To add insult to injury, one morning we awoke only to realize that the heater had stopped working sometime in the night. The house was a balmy 47°F by the time we were able to rig it to last a few more months. We ended up having to replace the roof, all the windows, most of the electrical and the furnace.  

We had the place fumigated for bugs and took a jackhammer to the foundation to stop the flooding issues. Over that first few months we spent a good deal of time perfecting profanity and coming to hate the house. It soon occurred to my wife and I that it was going to be tough year. By the summer, we were mentally, physically, and fiscally exhausted. As we worked we watched as our house decrease in value as the US housing market collapsed around us. All and all it was a memorable year.

By June I was ready to throw in the towel. I would have gladly walked away from the house if that were an option. Lucky by then the worst was behind us. The First ray of light came in the form of a cold glass of lemonade.  For father’s day, my wife and children chipped in to give me a wonderful gift. It was a citrus juicer. “Now we really can make lemonade!” my wife said as I opened the package. The gift was completely apropos considering the challenges we had to face that year.  The physical personification of our challenges made me laugh like I had not in months. Over the next few weeks we worked on the house and made a lot of lemonade.

The girls and I perfected our version of the simple but timeless beverage. We would make a batch and sit on our porch and dream of what the place would be like when all of the problems were finally behind us. We were still not crazy about the house but we did start to warm to it while we quenched our thirst and counted the days until we would have a good house. I probably owe my sanity to a beverage and my wife’s good sense of humor.

We certainly have a long way to go on the house and our to-do list is long. That being said there is something rewarding in living in an old house, sitting on the porch like many before us drinking what is the purest from of making the best of out of a sour situation.

Here is my version of the best, simplest lemonade you will ever have:



One gallon water in a pitcher
8 medium sized lemons
1 cup sugar


Pour a cup of sugar and a cup of water in a pot and heat until the sugar is dissolved making a simple syrup.

Extract the Juice of 8 lemons and pour into a gallon pitcher

Add about 8 cups of ice to the bottom of the pitcher and then add the simple to the lemon juice and Ice. Add water until you are satisfied with the taste usually about 1 gallon.

Fill a tall glass with plenty of ice and pour in the lemonade.

Serving suggestion

Sit on a front porch or patio and tell fish stories or dream of better days.