Sunday, September 30, 2012

Haiku Monday: My addiction

Nude equestrian
gallops forth with box of gold
assuaging my need

In every season
one should indulge  this pleasure:
Deep. Rich. Chocolate.

There is no such thing
as too much cholcolate love
for ghoulish delights

Hearts styled with panache
etched in limelight arabesques
dark sweet obsession

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Here is a bit of free advice: do not go online to identify the spider who bit you. The images you find will make you ill. Seriously, why do we spend zillions on high tech weaponry?  Just unleash a load of biting insects on the enemy and you win.

Last week I went to a  very nice neighborhood along the shores of a beautiful
mountain lake. There I carefully noted the wish list for a porch addition to the
existing house. One of the things the owner said, which I did not take seriously enough, was she loved being outside but did not love insect bites.
In fact she said, " I am not from here. I do wish my realtor had mentioned  the need for a screened porch in this part of the world. Of course we do have these wrap around lake side decks but we never use them. If I had been informed I would have never bought a property without a screened porch."

After our chat about the scope of  the project I went  outside to start all the measuring and photographing  necessary to construct an addition. I was wearing long pants, thick socks, hiking boots and a shirt  with sleeves rolled and tabbed to three quarter length. I started the measuring on the decks before descending to the ground to measure for footers and so forth.  It was a beautiful day, in a beautiful location with a beautiful design taking place in my mind as I measured .

When I returned inside the client and I enjoyed a glass of lemonade tea  while we reviewed design options.
It is always important to integrate an addition so it will look correct architecturally, will have good flow, will not block the view of the lake from most of the water side rooms and will be large enough to meet the identified needs.

As I was reaching for my glass the client suddenly said, " Oh dear!" then stood and left the room. She returned with a tube of cortizone ointment  and said ,  "Let's get this on you right away." I had no clue what was happening. " Your arm," she said pointing. There in the middle of  my left forearm two red welts were rising.  "I believe these are spider bites. I don't really know what kind of spiders they are. We never see them and we never feel the bite when they happen. But tomorrow you will be suffering. I am so sorry. I really do need a porch! Is there a screen which will make a porch an insect free zone?"

Still looking at may arm I asked the client if she had any tea bags. She did and we promptly microwaved one in some water and placed  the hot tea bag compress on my arm while we continued our meeting. As I was saying my good byes she said,
" I hate you have these spider bites but at least you did not step into the chiggers."

" The chiggers are much worse bites than the spiders, it takes weeks for those wounds to heal. Really, if I had known this region was so buggy I would not be living here. There is no way we can leave without a loss if we can sell at all. I am hoping the porch will be the way to enjoy this beautiful spot. I think this house was built on top of Pandora's box!"

For a brief moment I felt intense hostility toward this woman. If she knew her property was a high risk insect zone why did she not offer me some deet before letting me outside to measure?

" Actually a screened porch can offer only so much protection from insects. It sounds like you have multiple infestations  which need attention. Do you have a pest control program? "

" Well, yes we do. Because we are on the lake we limit our treatments to natural or green corrections."
" Corrections seem a bit optimistic. Maybe you could ask your service to either come more often or  use other methods."

Her damn chiggers rode home with me, apparently having crawled round the top of my boot munching away.
My right ankle is ringed with chigger bites, My left ankle has a few and some of the more adventurous critters made the journey to the back of my left knee.  My left forearm remains welted and swollen from the spider bites while my right forearm is  rashed  in what the docs are guessing was from a poisonous plant.

I have had the Fizz fumigated. Since I did not know about the chiggers until the next day, my bathroom had to be fumigated while all the laundry in the hamper had to be fumigated and put through a 2 hour sanitizing steam cycle in the new washer. The bedding has been stripped, the mattresses fumigated, the sofa slipcovers removed and sanitized, the curtains sanitized the rugs sent out for cleaning.

The docs wanted me to have a steroid dose pack. I declined but,
 I do have prescription meds for what has been classified as a " systemic response to multiple toxins". Seems my body just does not know how to deal with chiggers, spiders and plant poisons simultaneously. There is a table top of pills, unguents, sprays. So far none of the sites have become infected . This is a victory. But I still itch. Intensely. Everywhere.

The day after our appointment I called the client to suggest she have the service come out immediately to deal with her infestations. I related  to her the difficulties I was experiencing . She offered sympathy.
I did wonder if she realized our on site appointment for her porch addition had cost  hundreds of dollars  for the visit to the UrgentCare Center plus prescriptions and, an immeasurable amount of misery? I am trying to not be angry with this woman but in all truth ...  I'd like to plant her in her own back yard.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Designer's House.

Back in July a little plastic thingy broke on our washing machine causing a flood and a chain of events.
We had the plastic thingy replaced. We also replaced the Laundry Room floor before resuming  normal life. We were okay, for a day, until the washer decided to go for a walk about every time we turned it on. Whatever that appliance repairman did while replacing the little plastic thingy has cost us a fortune. Have you priced appliances lately?


Just one of these new machines cost more than I wanted to spend.  Unfortunately,  today's fibers are not too washboard friendly.  These new machines are big, so we had to remodel the Laundry Room. There was a war about who would do the remodeling. Blowfish was opposed to hiring a contractor to do a thing he could do. I , on the other hand, do not hold his construction talents in the same esteem as does he. Perhaps some of you remember how he "fixed" the hammock or how he painted the tree instead of the chain?  So one day while Blowfish was pouting over my bad attitude I hired someone to remodel the Laundry Room. In truth I think Blowfish was relieved because it was done in a day and did not require his funding. I know it probably saved his life.

The Laundry Room remodel meant we needed to get a painter in. Again, Blowfish and I had a difference of opinion on the skill level needed. About 5 years ago I had gotten an estimate to have our entire interior painted. The best bid was a bit over $20,000. The going rate is about $4 per square foot with additionals for things like period trims, paneled doors and the use of high gloss oil  paint. So over time we have had the exterior painted and had the interior painting done a section at a time as budget allowed.  Since we had to have the Laundry Room painted I thought we should bite the bullet and get the last of the interior repainted, which is the Foyer, the downstairs hall, the stairs, and  the upstairs hall.  This includes lots of trim moudings, about 20 paneled doors, ballusters, stair risers, stair stringers, and  both Hall Baths. We also needed to have some corrections done at the Entry from a problem with a primer which did not hold.

 We hired a pro. A good one.
In the beginning there is a lot of prep work, draping the house in plastic and so forth to get ready for the real work. In our case all the oil based paint would be done first . That included both baths, the laundry room, all doors and trims, etc. a lot of square footage to be sanded smooth first. A messy process.

Because the paint was high gloss, the trouble was not immediately apparent. On the third day the project came to a screeching halt as all the trims, and doors were "ruined". No longer the smooth, beautifully crafted hardwood detailing which has always graced our home. Now we had awful looking , sandy textured doors and trims which looked too horrible to put in a repossessed double wide.  The painters on site had no clue what the problem was or how it had happened. The contractor came and said, " Wow Fishy I've never seen this but we'll  find out and make things right." As it turns out, the manufacturer of the $80 per gallon top of the line paint, had a production flaw with  some sort of fine grit  in the cans. They stood behind their product, replacing the paints and paying the men  three full days of labor costs to remove the offending paint. I cannot express how horrible the mess all over my house is.  The men were careful, the process is just hard to contain with the air filled with  newly airborne paint   fine as cake flour.

A week ago, one of my siblings called  for a chat. Right after I said, "Hello" she responded with this question,
"Fishy, are you crying?"
" No. Just compacted and miserable from breathing in paint fumes and dust."
I filled her in on the difficulties.
" Get out of there and come here! Staying in that house is not healthy!"
" I cannot leave Blowfish here to deal with things alone."
" Does he sound as bad as you?"
" No. He is unaffected. No congestion, no swollen sinuses, no inflamed throat or eyes. Sleeps like a log."
" Get out of there! Just get in the Fizz and escape!"
" I cannot leave Blowfish here to make any decisions."
" Why is that?"
" So Mermaid won't have one parent in the ground and the other in jail".

Today, some three weeks after starting a job which was going to take one, the painters are getting to the finish line.  When they leave tomorrow they will not be coming back. Once they depart, my house will still be in disarray. There is that fine paint powder everywhere. There are piles of artwork, mirrors, rugs, furnishings stacked in adjacent spaces. Everything will have to be cleaned by hand before it can be placed into position. Our Laundry Room also is part Utility Room and part Storage Room. All of that stuff  will need to be cleaned, organized, placed. I have a  professional service coming to clean the floors in the halls, foyer, stairs, baths. The painters were neat and orderly but it rained most of the time and so there are dried footprints  imbedded in the hardwood floors. I have decided while things are in disarray I might as well go ahead and have the man come to re-glaze two of our vintage pedestal sinks and one of the bath tubs.

 I also am having the services come in to clean and then seal the grout on the floors and walls of four of our bathrooms. I have an electrician coming to replace light fixtures in two of the baths. I am still deciding on hardware changes for  the baths, keep the original chrome fixtures and send them out to be re-chromed or just replace them with new?

 If I find the perfect replacements, I might change out the Kitchen hardware too. In the mean time I am searching the online jobs listings as I might need to get a night job.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sue's 9/11

In October of 2001 I met a  woman named Sue.
People were still talking about where they were,
how they were impacted by the events of 9/11.

Sue has two daughters she raised alone.
Her first husband died during her second pregnancy, leaving  her with two children under the age of three.

Her "girls" are now smart accomplished women.
They grew up,  moved out of the nest, away from Mom but still close. Sue  married husband number two in 1999 and moved  with him to our region in 2000.

On 9/11 she was home alone. She had slept in and was having her first cup of coffee of the day when her sister called to ask if she had heard from the girls.

That is when Sue became terrorized.

Her older daughter worked in finance in the
World Trade Center, the other daughter worked in
the Pentagon. Sue could reach neither child.

Her description of her day still haunts me.
Both of her daughters are fine.
The financier had gone into work early to prep for a meeting.
Once her preparations were complete she took an elevator to the ground floor to treat herself to a latte.
It saved her life.
The military contracts daughter was late to work, caught in traffic  and was just coming
through the Pentagon check point when the plane hit.
Her tardiness saved her life.

It was most of the day before the girls were able to call Sue to let her know they were fine. Her description of that day haunts me still. The abject terror in her voice in the telling made me quiver in fear.  It is true many, many families suffered terrible tragedies while Sue was graced with the best news possible. Both girls spared.
But every year when all the media forms are using the term "terrorist attack" I think of Sue.

Sue's story is, for me,  the explanation for the term "terrorism".
Her first post 9/11  action was to take an overnight train to Washington to hug her youngest, then together they went to New York to hug the elder daughter.  Sue's telling of this day made me sob. It still does.
And yet, this is a family in tact.
A family who did not lose a love to the attacks.
They were subjected to the torture of terror. It drives home the message of the possibility of random, senseless, non specific destruction of our  very personal lives at the hands of the  unknown and deranged. There is no logic, no protection, no plan of action to thwart the unthwartable.

No other attacks are actually necessary. Because the terror remains  in us all.
Yes we have all straightened our spines, squared our shoulders and soldiered onward.
We have sworn to not cower to the unknown and to keep our values strong.
We have communally declined to be terrorized.
We have rejected their insidious fear mongering.
Lurking behind all of this there is the knowing.

I loathe this reality.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Haiku Monday Happy Hour

Tub full of bubbly ,
aroma therapy foam.
My happiest hour 

First morning cuppa,
hot tea with cream and sugar.
Damn! Spill'd my happy. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Rambling Birthday

I've had another lovely birthday.
This year Blowfish took me off to the mountains to explore the wonders of Lake Burton in the NE corner of Georgia. A special present was Mermaid joining us for lunch! She has a new position which requires her to travel the South. She was able to organize her schedule to come hug her Mama on the day. What joy!

We met up and had a great lunch at the Chophouse Grill at LaPrade's Marina. Since
grouper is my favorite fish I was thrilled to find it on the menu. It did not disappoint.

Neither did the environment. We lunched outdoors on  a lodge pole porch with a long view up the lake to the surrounding mountains. It is spectacularly beautiful.

 This lake was created in 1919  by building a dam and filling a valley  along a 10 mile stretch of the Tallulah River. The northern most lake in what is known as the Tallulah River Watershed. The initial reason for this was to produce hydroelectric power for the growing city of Atlanta. Just 54 years after Sherman came burning.

It is named for the town of Burton which now lies
beneath the lake. Others refer to this lake as the
"Adirondacks of the South". Mostly because the architectural styles of some of the waterfront estates are similar.  The prices are shocking. A two bedroom , one bath shack, in a ditch, between the road and the lake is a million bucks.
Actually $1.3m.  I get you are buying the location, not the structure but an almost impossible to build on strip of land? Seriously? I would be afraid on Friday nights the local teens would miss the curve and drive through my roof!

On the scenic front, the homes along the wateers edge evoke idyllic family  summers at the lake house.  Then too, just the design of boat houses seems to be a regional architectural specialty.  Some of these boathouses are so gorgeous I told Blowfish,  "who needs a house!"  Well, indoor plumbing in the Winter is a desirable thing but ...I have relatives in Florida who might give me a bed in the cold months, if I share with them in the Summers.

This property is on the market for $10.5 million. I have no need or desire for one of these fabulous estate homes for myself. For a client.....oh yes I would be happy.

This property, which may actually  come with that vintage woody ChrisCraft is a
bargain at just $8.5 million. I do love the way the shoreline has been left wooded and how the main house is nestled into it's environment. For me though, I could happily live in this oh so wonderful boathouse. Blowfish pointed out it would probably be beyond our budget to rent the boathouse. I laughed and told him I thought we probably could not afford to rent the mailbox!

Actually many of these lake places do not have mailboxes because they can only be accessed by water.  While we were lunching we observed families of duffle toting folks loading up the boat for the ride to the house.  Others come by private helicopter or sea plane. Good for them!

I love this place! Also on the market and can be titled to you and your loves for just $ 3 million.
This one to me is more architecturally a "lake house" vernacular. For me, this is a picture of life lived in real time. I can look at this picture and hear children laughing, smell the barbeque and feel the summer breeze. Plus there is  just something  extra wonderful about a location which is bathing suit hot during the day but requires snuggling to stay warm in the evenings.

Do I actually have to say out loud how hard I fell in love with this boathouse?  Okay, it does need a few flowers and  there is no place to park but I did not care. Of course it is a satellite to a monster house just across the street. Some of these properties are not lakefront  they are across the street from a narrow two lane country  mountain road. But they have  deeded access to the lake and so there is boathouse after boathouse along the shore. Sigh. Maybe if I win a lottery ....

I did pick up some real estate magazines while I was in the area. Take a look at this property listed for $789.000. It is a 2bed, 1 bath mess of a house. Someone will  buy it, tear it down and build something new on this site. This once loved yellow cottage at the lake will be gone, except in memories and old photographs of the families who once  gathered here.

                                                           Here is why

                             This is the boat dock for the yellow cottage  
                                     here is the house across the lake

                    Here is an even better view of the mountain at the end of the lake

One of the things which called to me about this lake is the  limited access and the intimacy.
Here in Pondtown our big water lake is ginormous. Almost a thousand miles of shoreline.
Lake Burton has 64 miles of shoreline. Because the valley was small,as valleys go, there are sections which are relatively narrow and areas  of quiet little coves. All of it is beautiful. I get not everyone wants to spend a birthday rambling around the countryside admiring what they can never have. In my case this was a present of a day because I love nature, architecture and glimpses of what I think of as true idyllic Americana. So for me it was a visual feast and a bit of a memory trip to the America of my youth. I loved the day in it's entirety. These days it can be a rare experience to live in  a Norman Rockwell painting for a day. For someone who raised a daughter to believe it is more important in life to spend your time and money on experiences rather than things.....this was a really good investment.

As we were leaving I did tell Blowfish if he wanted to surprise me, this would do nicely.

Blowfish heard me. 
He stopped to buy a lottery ticket on the drive home.  
We did not win but this will not keep us from dreaming.