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The World’s Most Beautiful Kitchen…

February 21st, 2019 Sears Homes 6 comments

When I moved into my current home in Suffolk, it was my intention to stay in this house until I breathed my last. And it did work out that way - sort of. On September 5th, 2018, I was carried out of my house and transported to a local ER when - despite the efforts of the medical staff - I bled out, had a heart attack and died.

The heart attack had nothing to do with my heart - except basic hydraulics. When there’s not enough hydraulic fluid in the system, the pump shuts down.

When my heart stopped, I popped out of my 59-year-old body like toast out of a toaster. As I floated away, I had the time of my life - literally. Nonetheless, as my buddy Dales says, heaven sent me back.

Subsequently, I came to realize that I wasn’t living my life the way God intended. I had been miserable. Lying in the hospital bed for five days, I had time to think and reflect and I decided that I had to make some big changes. And I did.

Now I’m planning to move to the Midwest, and as part of this new life, I spend way too much time looking at Midwestern houses for sale, and I have found my dream kitchen.

Enjoy the pictures below, and if you are in the Williamsburg area on Saturday, come to my talk about my “temporary death experience” at 11:00. More information here.

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This is an actual image of my heart when I ran low on hydraulic fluid.

This is an actual image of my heart when I ran low on hydraulic fluid.

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Abso-galootely - the most perfect kitchen that I've seen in my house-hunting zillow-loving searches.

Abso-galootely - the most perfect kitchen that I've seen in my house-hunting zillow-loving searches.

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From every angle - perfection.

From every angle - perfection.

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Whoever designed this kitchen should have received the Nobel Peace Price for "Perfection in Design".

Whoever designed this kitchen should have received the Nobel Peace Price for "Perfection in Design".

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The exterior of the house that contains the World's Most Perfect Condition™.

The exterior of the house that contains the World's Most Perfect Kitchen™.

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Link to the house shown above.

Click here to see another blog on beautiful kitchens (of the 1950s).

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Thus Begins The New Chapter…

February 7th, 2019 Sears Homes 4 comments

I died. But apparently, it was only a “temporary death experience.” I’m hesitant to use the word “near-death experience” because I was good and dead. No vitals for more than 10 minutes. Seriously, completely gone. Kapoot. Out-of-town with no forwarding address.

Good times. (Actually, it really was a great time!)

I’ve shared the wonderful story with a handful of friends, but now I’ve been invited to share this story with a group in Williamsburg, Virginia. I’m in the midst of moving out of the area, and I don’t know when I’ll be back. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you might want to attend.

The talk is Saturday, February 23rd at 11:00, at the Williamsburg Mennonite Church, 7800 Croaker Rd (near the library). Seating is limited, so come early!

In the meantime, I’m scurrying to complete a book that offers details on this heavenly preview.

And in case you’re a faithful reader of this blog, this explains (in large part) the many, draconian life-style changes. Once you get a view of what’s coming, nothing on earth seems quite the same.

Want to learn more about what happens when a loved one has an NDE? Click here.

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More sunflowers

I didn't see this in heaven, but I do hope that when I get through that door, and see what awaits, that it's going to look a lot like a sunflower field in Alabama.

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Want to buy a book? Best hurry. :D  Two titles are now sold out and “Finding The Houses That Sears Built” will soon be gone too.

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The Final Touches of a Career…

February 3rd, 2019 Sears Homes 9 comments

When I started the “Sears Kit Homes” group on Facebook in 2009 (thanks to Rachel for remembering!), I dragged 12 friends into the group just so it wouldn’t look so pitiful. As the years passed, the group grew in numbers and I was gobsmacked when we passed the “1,000 members” mark.

In Fall 2018, when Sears started circling the drain, interest in the old kit homes was renewed, and I was doing 3-4 interviews per week (with the media) and that’s when membership in the Facebook group exploded.

As of today, it has 3,234 members and is still growing by leaps and bounds.

Yesterday, I mentioned (within the group) that I didn’t have many books left, and when these went, that was the end of it. Within hours, I sold more than 50 books (several different titles) and stayed up last night until 2:30 getting them packaged and ready for Monday’s mail.

As I said in a prior blog, I’ll always love the old kit homes, and I’ll still spin my head around when a pretty one passes me by, but the days of staying up until the wee hours inscribing, signing and packaging books are behind me.

Soon, I’ll be packing up my house and moving to the Midwest. Perhaps once I’m settled, I’ll revisit the question but for now, I’m done.

There are still 18 books left in my basement. It’d be swell to sell those last few before I head out! (Hint, hint!)

To buy the book, click here.

Join us on Facebook!

And if this book has brought you a blessing, please leave a comment below.

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In 2011, I snapped this photo in Edwardsville, IL and it still takes my breath away. I was there to do an architectural survey, and I stumbled upon this view and it reminded me of why I love the Midwest. I'm seriously considering moving to Edwardsville when I get to the Midwest.

In 2011, I snapped this photo in Edwardsville, IL and it still takes my breath away. I was there to do an architectural survey, and I stumbled upon this view and it reminded me of why I love the Midwest. Edwardsville has become a beautiful community, filled with shops and history and bucolic beauty. It may be where I land.

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The group now has more than 3,000 members and is still growing.

The group now has more than 3,000 members and is still growing.

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Saturday night, I stayed up until 2:30 am, signing, inscribing and packaging books. I'm still not sure how I'll get these to the post office.

Saturday night, I stayed up until 2:30 am, signing, inscribing and packaging books. I'm still not sure how I'll get these to the post office.

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First printed in 2002, this book has taken me to many wonderful places. It's been a fun run, but for now - for the first time in 17 years - it will be out of print. It would take another book to explain the many blessings of this book but in short, it was published just as my mother died and my marriage of 24 years came to an end. This book (and the grace of God) not only saved me, but it transformed my life and gave me a purpose. Best of all, it introduced me to hundreds of wonderful people, some of whom became lifelong friends.

First printed in 2002, this book has taken me to many wonderful places. It's been a fun run, but for now - for the first time in 17 years - it will be out of print. It would take another book to explain the many blessings of this book but in short, it was published just as my mother died and my marriage of 24 years came to an end. This book (and the grace of God) not only saved me, but transformed my life and gave me a purpose. Best of all, it introduced me to hundreds of wonderful people, some of whom became lifelong friends.

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Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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Blame Canada…

January 31st, 2019 Sears Homes 7 comments

Every now and then, I get requests to ship my book out of the U.S., and typically, I refund the buyer’s money (go Paypal), and call it a day.

But last month, this nice fellow talked me into shipping a couple books to Canada, and I hesitantly did so, explaining that the postage would be a lot more than the $5 charged at the website.

He agreed to pay the extra shipping cost, which turned out to be $25.15! And - this is much worse - I couldn’t “click and ship” and send the books out via my mail box, but I had to peel off the bunny slippers, put on real shoes and GO INTO THE POST OFFICE and engage with society.

Unfortunately, Nice Fellow couldn’t get quite manage the extra funds via paypal, so he sent me a money order for $25.15 in American dollars.

Last week, I took that money order to my local bank (again, sans bunny slippers), and I think there would have been less commotion if I’d handed the teller a hastily scribbled note with the words “Give me all your money now.”

After much consternation, I was given $25.15 in cash, per my request.

Today, the branch manager called.

“M’am, did you know that there’s a $50 fee for cashing an international money order?”

I replied as one might expect.

Fortunately, the bank waived the fee this time but it cements my theory that shipping anything internationally is simply not worth the effort.

It just made me appreciate Paypal even more.

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My books are shipped right from my house which is very convenient. Here's a stack going out in yesterday's mail.

My books are shipped right from my house which is very convenient. Here's a stack going out in yesterday's mail. No more international sales for moi!

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Not a lot of these left anyway!

Not a lot of these left anyway!

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To learn more about Sears kit homes, click here.

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The End of an Era…

January 24th, 2019 Sears Homes 11 comments

Sears appears to be going out of business, and in a few months, my little book business will follow suit.

In 1999, I started working on a book about Sears kit homes. In early 2002, it was self-published, and I used 50% of my net worth to produce 1,000 copies. In 2004, I did a comprehensive revision.

That fun little niche book changed my life in so many ways, and all of them good. Suddenly, I was “The Author” and was treated with much respect and admiration by many lovely people.

By 2004, I’d appeared on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, and my little book even made it to Jeopardy in the Summer of 2004. In print, the story of my unusual career had been featured in countless newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News (and about 100 others).

Before my lectures, I’d often get invited to join a group of history lovers at a local restaurant, and even though I never could eat a bite before my talk, I enjoyed getting to know folks. At one such dinner, a woman said to me, “We’re in the midst of a celebrity!” Excitedly, I glanced around the table and whispered, “Really? Where are they?”

She laughed and said, “No, I’m talking about YOU!”

In California, a faithful reader took me aside and said, “I’m so excited to meet you. In my world, you’re a rock star!”

At a hotel in Iowa, the clerk that was checking me in extended her hand across the tall granite counter that separated us and said, “Mrs. Thornton, I’d like to shake your hand. I read about you in yesterday’s paper, and I’ve always wanted to shake the hand of a real author.” (I remember thinking, “I hope you meet a real author one day!”)

There are no words to say how much those kind words touched my heart and lifted my spirits. And now it’s time to take a step of progress to The Next Super-Dooper Thing™.

In the last 20 years, I’ve written nine books, hundreds of newspaper articles and thousands of product blurbs. (Writing product blurbs on architectural products was the most difficult writing job I ever had, but it paid the bills.)

In the last 20 years, everything has changed, and now it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know it’s time for a seismic shift. I’ll still write blogs on old houses, and I’ll still turn my head when I drive past a pretty Sears House, and I’ll still sign a few books for interested enthusiasts, but the halcyon days of Sears, and Sears kit homes are in my rear-view mirror.

In a few short weeks, I will hit the road in my little red Prius C. If you’d like to meet me, and you’re somewhere between Suffolk, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri, please leave a comment below.

You can hear Rose on a one-hour podcast (99% Invisible) here.

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Last week, I donated three boxes of Sears House ephemera and materials to the ODU Library (Norfolk, Virginia). This is the view from my windshield, as the archivist wheeled the cart from my car and into the library.

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In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

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When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

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There they go!

More than 3,000 35mm slides and a whole lot of history - going into ODU.

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Please leave a comment below!

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Road Trip!

January 12th, 2019 Sears Homes 6 comments

I’m thinking about hitting the road, and taking a long trip.

In the last few weeks, I’ve met so many wonderful people (all of whom are history lovers) and each and every one of those people have brought me such a blessing. Each encounter has lifted me up a bit, and helped speed my progress.

These days, I crave beauty and light.

Maybe I need to go looking for beauty and light, and see what I find. It might be great fun to go meet new people and see new sights and look at old kit homes, and just see what happens along the way.

Someone even mentioned, it might make for an interesting series of blogs: Seeking Sears Homes and Finding Peace.

I’ll be leaving my home in Suffolk, Virginia in a few weeks and heading south and then west. If you’ve got a beautiful old soul, a passion for history, a heart full of love for the weary wanderer, and an appreciation for us creative types and you’d like to meet The Author Formerly Known As Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Boo asks, will you come to my party? Maybe the question is, Can I come to YOUR party?

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Perhaps its time to take my love of houses on the road.

Perhaps it's time to take my love of houses on the road.

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My father

My father thought he was posing me for a picture, but I was actually assessing the thermal efficiency of these original wood windows. If only I'd been able to talk, I could have given them an ear full.

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These days, I crave beauty and light. Intensely.

These days, I crave beauty and light. Intensely.

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Architectural History and “Facebook” are Just Not Compatible

January 7th, 2019 Sears Homes No comments

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

That’s a quote from Jonathan Swift, who died in 1745. (For the youngsters, that was a couple years before the internet was invented.)

There’s a photo of a purported “Sears Roebuck” house that has now had millions of views (thanks to Facebook), and people are eating it up with a spoon.

As a historian, it is painful to see misinformation spread like wildfire.

First and foremost, if it’s a “Sears kit house,” it should look like a Sears kit house. If it can’t be matched to one of the 370 designs that Sears offered in their 38 years in this business, then you’ll have to find other ways to authenticate (original blueprints, marked lumber, shipping labels, etc.). Absent that, it’s just not a Sears House.

And if it was built pre-1908, it can not be a “Sears & Roebuck” house.

Every now and then, I’ll try to jump into these frays on Facebook and I’ll state, “It’s a lovely house but it’s not a Sears House” and invariably, I’ll hear the same comments from the percipient literati of that site:

1) You don’t know everything. Maybe it’s a new model.

2) And what makes you think you’re an expert?

3) The Realtor couldn’t post that if it wasn’t true.

4) My grandmother said it is, and you say it’s not. You’re just wrong. Accept it.

5) U R a moran.

And worse. Much, much worse.

Take a gander at these photos. They’re worth a lot of words!

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FF

The listing states that this house was built in 1926. Okay, that's believable - IF they used building materials salvaged from a house built in 1885. This house predates the 20th Century. Of that, I am sure. Thin porch posts, frippery and fretwork and gable ornaments are all classic indicators of a late 19th Century house.

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FF

Yes, it's a great house but it is NOT a Sears House.

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Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

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Nice

Nice porch on this not-a-sears-kit-home house!

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If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Heres the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image.

If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Here's the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image. Those two pictures are a good match!

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Come see Rose in person on Monday night!

Want a laugh? Check out these pictures from Zillow.

Penniman Houses in Norfolk! Enjoy the pictures!

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If I Could Wave a Magic Wand…

January 6th, 2019 Sears Homes 1 comment
Four months ago, my heart stopped for a bit and I got a glimpse of heaven. Ever since that day (September 5th, 2018), I’ve had a new view on life*, and it’s time for me to enjoy whatever remains, because some times, everything can change in the blink of an eye.
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Despite that little “hiccup,” one thing that hasn’t changed: I’m still hopelessly in love with early 20th Century American houses and automobiles and all the accoutrements.
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If I could wave a magic wand, I’d go back to the 1920s, for that is where I would love to be. Perhaps when I travel to heaven on a permanent basis, I’ll find my 1920s lifestyle!
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1921 Martha Washington

The Sears Martha Washington (1921) is one of my favorites. I've always had a soft spot for a handsome Dutch Colonial, and this one is a beauty!

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house

This is a Martha Washington on Baltimore Street in Bedford, Virginia. This house has been beautifully maintained through the decades, and is one of the prettiest examples in the country.

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This would be my kitchen, but I might update with some knotty pine cabinets.

This would be my kitchen, but I might update with some knotty pine cabinets. One day. Maybe. Or maybe not. I do like this kitchen - a lot. Just need to find a vintage stove. And a 1920s microwave. Oops.

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My favorite image is from the 1923 Gordon Van Tine catalog. Gordon Van Tine also sold kit homes, and their kitchen nooks were shown in the catalogs - in COLOR!

The kitchen might have to be altered a bit to make room for my dining nook. This is a must have. In 1969, I visited the Heeley family on Riverside Drive (Portsmouth, Virginia) and saw a kitchen nook tucked within a bay window. I was a mere lass of 10, but I was smitten. I need me a nook.

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My Living

My living room would look like this.

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Beck

And this would be my dreamy sunporch. This is a picture from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, featuring the Alhambra, but in fact, the Martha Washington and the Alhambra have the same floorplan. So...this will work! I love everything about this room.

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And

Years ago, I was at a bungalow convention in Los Angeles ("Bungalow Heaven") and I met a husband and wife that were dressed in 1920s period clothing and came into the event driving a 1920s automobile. I stared at them for the longest time and I thought that they were the luckiest (and probably happiest) couple in the world. Yes, I would wear vintage clothing too! :D

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Desuenburg 1923

And if we're busy waving that magic wand around, I'd have this parked in the driveway of my 1921 Martha Washington. It's a 1923 Duesenberg Model A, touring car. Baby will you drive my car?

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Baby, will you drive my car?

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Norfolk and Penniman: A Talk on January 14th! OPEN TO ALL!

January 2nd, 2019 Sears Homes 4 comments

Everyone loves the story of a ghost town, and the story of Penniman is especially intriguing because so little is known about this WW1-era village, which was home to more than 15,000 people at its peak!

And, it’s especially important to Norfolk, because about 70 houses from Penniman were transported by barge to Norfolk and surrounding communities.

Monday night (the 14th), I’ll be giving a fun talk on Penniman for the Colonial Place/Riverview Civic League at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 LaValette in Norfolk (near the Norfolk Zoo).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) starts at 6:30 and there will be books to sell (and sign) after the talk.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

All are invited to come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.

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Freckles

The caption on this photo says simply, "Freckles: The Trial of All of Penniman." At a lecture someone asked me, "How do you know that the caption was referencing the DOG?"

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Thanks to Steve Beauter, we have pictures like this, showcasing life at Penniman. Steve found this on eBay.

Thanks to Steve Beauter, we have pictures like this, showcasing life at Penniman. Steve found this photo album on eBay.

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His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?

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This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.

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ffeeee

After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and about 70 of the houses landed in Norfolk.

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ffeeeee

Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.

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Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Built in 1907? It is NOT a Sears House!

December 28th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

Why do all the wrong things go viral?

This 1907-built farm house (shown below) is being promoted online as a Sears Kit Home and there’s so much wrong with that. And that post - with an accompanying photo - has gone viral on Facebook.

Sears didn’t offer their first “Modern Homes” catalog until 1908. And there’s this: There’s nothing about this house that has any resemblance to anything offered by any kit home company.

Ugh.

NOT a Sears House!

NOT a Sears House, and yet this image is spreading far and wide via the internet.

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Dolly and I get exasperated sometimes...

Dolly reacts to the picture above.

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