We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know



First off, now that I’m “back”, I want to thank you all for hanging in there.  (Although truthfully most of the emails I got are questions about our Katrina Cottage – a/k/a The Crab Shack.)  It’s been a while, I know – but I just didn’t feel like writing.  And here’s why…..

As you may remember, we moved down to Maryland a year ago – and we were moving along nicely for a while with our house plans.  Then our draftsman got sick, and we didn’t hear from him for months (and months and months)!  It was very annoying discouraging.  When we did finally get them back, of course, there was another change or two we wanted done, and that took another few weeks.

House Plans

Finally the day came!  The plans were all done and we were going to give them out to three builders.  Two local regular builders and one modular.  Believe it or not, that process took much longer than we anticipated also!  The two local builders had to come to the property a few times to check out the road, or measure something, and the modular builder (who I dealt with only online) hardly ever wrote and didn’t even acknowledge receiving our plans for two weeks!

I’d say it took at least another month before we were able to make an appointment with each of the builders to go over their proposals.  When we met with the first builder, we went over each and every page, with them practically reading each page in its entirety.  When we got to the last page, our jaws dropped – over a million dollars!!  Yep, you read that right.  I mean, how stupid were we?  We never thought it would have been that much!

Now yes, this was the highest bid, and we knew it would be.  The other local builder was somewhat less, coming in around the $840,000 range.  (Between us friends – this was the one we secretly figured we’d be going with.)  And as expected, the modular builder’s bid was the least – however, they did not have a lot of things included in their price that would still have to be added in, like wood floors throughout, and granite counter tops – among many other things.

OLD HOUSE PLANS 1st FloorAfter waiting ALL THAT TIME I was so disheartened.  And I’m not even just talking about waiting for the plans to be finished and the bids to come in.  I had been working on these plans for years!  I scoured probably a hundred house plan books in libraries and bookstores, I bought at least 10 of them, and looked at thousands of plans online to draw up what we wanted in our dream house.  Then we had the draftsman draw them up, and we changed them many, many times making these some of the most expensive plans you’ll ever see.  If we only knew then what we know now!   I was done.  I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm to continue talking about house plans.  We told the builders the bad news, we were just going to shelf everything for a while and then see what we wanted to do.  John at first thought we’d start planning right away.  But I didn’t want to.  I didn’t have the enthusiasm for it.  It was our first full-time summer down here and I wanted to enjoy it, not only getting a break from all the house plan talk, but I also didn’t want people coming down to the property all the time checking on wetlands, and height requirements, and setbacks or anything else.

By the way, here is the best piece of advice I can give you…..if you are planning to build a house – buy plans that are already made up.  You can always find a draftsman or house designer or even an architect to change them.  But drawing up plans from scratch, and then making all the changes that will be necessary is unbelievably expensive. Trust me on this one.  And by the way, we have a full set of house plans for sale. :)


So we took a break.  And enjoyed the summer.  We fished, we went out in the kayak, we took sunset cruises, we toured around the area a little, we barbecued, we had company, and we relaxed.  It was heaven!  And then we decided to get back to business.

Come back next time to see what we’ve been up to.


In the Words of Etta James….




You probably know how many times I’ve mentioned our Metal Building.  Or our lack of Metal Building.  We bought the building back in early October from Diamond Pole Builders in Delaware.  And truly, they have been great.  But because of permits, and surveys, and soil testing and planting plans, oh and yeah,  the weather, our building has been delayed many, many months.  But now, we have a Metal Building.

We had to build up the soil by 2 feet

We had to build up the soil by 2 feet

This is looking towards our gate and entrance way

This is looking towards our gate and entrance way

I know it may seem a little crazy to keep talking about this, after all it is only a metal building.  Practically everyone down this way has one.  And all it will do is house the “toys”, the boats, the tractor, the ATV, etc.  But to us it represents progress.  Moving forward with our plans.  We will move stuff from the garage to this metal building, and then we can move the bins and boxes we’ve packed up here in New Jersey to the garage down there.

They dropped off stuff

They dropped off stuff

And then in snowed again!

And then in snowed again!

After we move the bins and boxes from our garage and living room, we can proceed with fixing up this house to get it ready to sell.  We’ve done quite a bit so far, but we need to fix up the garage, redo some sheet rock and paint it, and paint the outside of the house.


They started building on Monday, March 24th

They started building on Monday, March 24th

This is what we saw when we arrived on Thursday, March 27th

This is what we saw when we arrived on Thursday, March 27th


So finally, now we can start working again.  We originally thought we’d be able to move down there in May while we put this house up for sale.  How naive we were!  Everything has taken much longer than we thought, especially the permit process!

One cupola

One cupola


The other cupola

The other cupola









The company, Diamond Pole Builders, uses the Amish to build their buildings.  And they are working machines!

They arrived before 7 a.m. on Friday

They arrived before 7 a.m. on Friday

They wanted to get as much done as possible on Friday

They wanted to get as much done as possible on Friday

Late afternoon Friday

Late afternoon Friday

And by Friday night, March 28th our building was done!

The side we see when we come out our gate

The side we see when we come out our gate

The inside. We will still add some dirt and rocks on the sides to close it up

The inside. We will still add some dirt and rocks on the sides to close it up



John is happy it's finished!

John is happy it’s finished!

The front

The front

So now, back to work.  We are ready to move forward.  And our two thoughts, exactly how long is it  going to take to get the permits and soil testing and survey when we want to start the house? And can we get the Amish to build it? They were amazing!



Modular Construction Part 2



We may, just may, be getting closer to getting our metal building built!  Hooray!  The “pad” is ready now, and a part of the building has been delivered.  They tried to deliver the whole thing, but the truck was too big to make the turn into our driveway and they had to take it back to the main store.  So now they have to deliver it in different loads, but hey, it’s progress!  We’ll be down there over the weekend, and we are hoping they’ll be able to start while we’re there.  We’re very optimistic people.

The "pad" for the metal building

The “pad” for the metal building


So, last time I talked about Modular Construction, I included an article explaining what it is, how it’s different from a “stick built” home, and the pros and cons.  You’d think I was working for a modular construction firm.  What I’m really trying to do is figure out of this is a viable alternative to building the entire house from scratch, or if we can incorporate at least “some” modular sections.

Now I’ve heard another term in addition to modular  -  panelized!  It’s similar to modular in that it is built off-site, but according to the National Association of Home Builders, it’s “a construction technique that uses advanced technology, quality materials and a controlled work environment to build floor, wall and roof systems to construct an energy-efficient home in less time.”

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

It sounds like the walls, and floors and the roof are built off-site, just like the modular homes, but instead of being trucked down in “modules” or whole components, it is trucked in “panels”. For now, it seems the most common use of these panelized firms is for the pre-building of floor and roof trusses.  Now that we realize the truck hauling the metal building couldn’t make it down our driveway, we might have to use a panelized construction firm instead of a modular one if we want to do part of our house this way!  I have yet to figure out, however, if they would be able to construct panels according to plans that I have, rather than having to use plans that they offer.  They do say they can customize the plans they offer, but we already have our plans.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

There are panelized firms, according to Design Basics LLC. that will help you through the entire building process, but many whose involvement ends with the delivery of the materials.  Other manufacturers will provide a small crew and a crane to help your general contractor.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

Our previous builder, who, as you know, moved away and left us, would be able to find all this out, as he already dealt with a modular builder and incorporated even just parts of the house the modular way if you wanted.  He was very flexible and I guess he had a good relationship with that company, so he didn’t have to buy the “whole” house.  He would, I know, find out about these panel manufacturers and let us know if this was a viable way to go.  I wish he’d move back to Maryland.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

I’ll be looking more into both these options and will report back.  In the meantime, if anyone has any experience with either the modular or panelized type of building, please let us know!  We’d love to hear anything about it from the consumer’s point of view!

Mistakes to Avoid When Building a House



As you know, we are going to be building our dream home.  It’s also our retirement home.  We are not, however,  following the usual “guidelines” for a retirement home, mostly because it’s going to be bigger than any home we’ve ever lived in.  Most people downsize.  We’re going the other way.  But as you look at the property, you can understand why.  It’s a big piece of land, it’s actually more of a “compound” at this point since the buildings are so spread out.  Most of our family and friends won’t be living nearby, and when people visit they’ll be staying over.  And we wanted to prepare for that.  We also like to have a yearly Bocce Party.  And that includes many, many family members and friends.  So, believe it or not, we also wanted to prepare for that. Plus on holidays we’ll have company that will stay over.  There’s been a lot of planning, and designing, and changing of plans so far, and we haven’t even started on the house yet!

Here's our split level house

Here’s our split level house

I saw an interesting article a while ago on freshome.com.  Have you checked out their site yet?  It’s an amazing site for anyone interested in building, designing or renovating.  It talked about mistakes people make when building a house.  We all spend a lot of time figuring out what we want and need, but do we look at it from the other angle?  What we really don’t need?  Of course budget usually leads the way, the money dictates not only the size of the house, but how upgraded it can be.  So planning for what you need AND what you don’t need is very important.  Here are some examples:

1.  Don’t over build or under build your HVAC system.

You could wind up with moisture and mold growth! Also, if your system is too small it won’t perform properly and your house will be too cold in the winter, and too warm in the summer.  On the other hand, if your system is too large, you will utilize too much energy and waste money when you don’t need to.

This was our house in PA

This was our house in PA

2.  Poor Space Planning and Overall Planning

The design and space planning of a house is very, very important.  You need to look at how you really live. We all need storage space, so you want to have enough, but you don’t want to build in so much that you take away floor space that could be better utilized as living space. Will you primarily come in the back door?  Maybe that’s where the coat closets should be, instead of at the front door. Also, you need to take your lifestyle and habits into consideration.  Will you need safety features as you’re getting older.  Will you have grandchildren often in the house?  Do you need safety features in place for that?  How about stairs, bathrooms?  Will you have guests often?  Placement of bathrooms becomes very important when you think about it this way.

This is the house I grew up in, and the people changed it so much it looks NOTHING like it used to!

This is the house I grew up in, and the people changed it so much it looks NOTHING like it used to! And where did that fire hydrant come from?

3.  Poor lighting

There should be plenty of light fixtures and outlets.  And also plenty of windows!  Natural light should be the main source of light, but having a well-lit home, especially as we age, is also extremely important.

4.  Under utilized rooms

Having a game room or a home-theater room sounds like a fun idea.  But how often will you use it?  If you are buying a home that has a game room or a theater room already -  and we see these often on House Hunters on HGTV – that’s one thing.  But when you are building a home, especially a retirement home, every square foot counts.  And paying $150 to $200 a square foot brings you to the reality that these rooms would be used a few times a year and might not be worth what they cost.  Now maybe for some of you, it will be worth it.  But that’s what you have to decide ahead a time.  I was thinking I’d want an exercise room in our new home.  But the reality is with all the other spaces that I really wanted – a large pantry, a mudroom, a laundry room, an office for John and a separate one for me, and a craft room – the exercise room just became one room too many.

The house John grew up in.  Also looks completely different now.  Better than mine looks though!

The house John grew up in. Also looks completely different now. Better than mine looks though!

5. Placement of your Laundry Room, the Master Bedroom, the Kitchen and the Garage.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but in every house I’ve lived in these rooms were not strategically placed.  I’ve never had a “real” laundry room, and I usually have had to carry laundry up and down several sets of stairs to the basement.  I’m in a split-level right now, so it’s three sets of stairs!

Our bedroom – in the many homes we’ve lived in – has usually been upstairs like ours is right now.  It is also just above the garage, so it is not only frequently noisy if the garage is opened, but it is somewhat  very cold.  In our new home, of course, the master will be on the main floor, but we want to place it as far away from the noise and traffic as possible.

The kitchen/garage placement is extremely important.  These days I’ve mostly seen it placed correctly, the kitchen is off the mudroom and/or off the garage.  That’s how our new one will be.  But yet, there have been places we’ve lived where the kitchen was not near the garage, and carrying groceries in was not all that convenient   a real pain.

This house, by architect Dan Sater, is what we'd like our new house to resemble.

This house, by architect Dan Sater, is what we’d like our new house to resemble.

These are just a few ideas to think about when you are planning to build your dream home.  And while it’s very important to discuss all these issues with the professionals you hire as your “team” – it is more important for you to decide what YOU need and don’t need.

You Can’t Stop Progress



You’ve probably noticed I haven’t written in a while.  Mostly it’s because nothing has been happening on our building!  Whoever coined the phrase, “You Can’t Stop Progress” never tried to get a building built on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I guess as John would remind me, that’s one of the reasons we are moving there, life goes by at a slower pace, we don’t have to rush, rush, rush all the time.  But still.  Slow is one thing.  Not moving at all is quite another.

As you would imagine, there are quite a few “gotchas” when you are building on the water.  Of course you have to take the weather into consideration.  The house and roof have to be built stronger than an inland home since the storms can be very severe.  Also, you need to build it up off the ground more, either by adding more soil, or adding more foundation, or doing both, as we will do on the house.  So, even though we were going to build up the soil for the metal building, we found out we have to build it up even higher. Resulting in more time lost and more costs!  Another “gotcha” -  if you add a building where there wasn’t one “grandfathered” in, you need to plant trees and bushes equal to the square footage of that building.  And they have to be native Maryland plants to insure they will grow.  Now I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s a good idea.  But I think it’s human nature not to like being told you HAVE to do it and what you can and can’t plant.  So, anyway, after these few hurdles,  slowly but slowly things are kind of moving along.  Sort of.  The company building the metal building is now backed up because of the weather.  So we’re hoping around St. Patty’s day is when we’ll start to see something going on.  (We originally thought we’d have it up before Thanksgiving!)

This is really what has been going around here:

February snowstorm

February snowstorm


Back Yard

Back yard


A friend of mine

A friend of mine


It did melt a little this past weekend, so today it looks like this around here:





This and That 2014 004


Here's my friend again today

Here’s my friend again today

And her friends

And her friends


The other day there were a couple of foxes in the back!  The animals  are having a hard time finding food.  And one thing I’ve learned about foxes…. they are very itchy.  Must be dry winter skin.

Little Choptank 2014 B Feb. 21-23 112

Little Choptank 2014 B Feb. 21-23 089

Last weekend we decided to take a quick trip to Maryland, and there’s NO SNOW there!  Another reason why we are moving there.  The winters are shorter because the weather isn’t as severe!

Looking toward the entrance

Looking toward the entrance


Our Bocce Court (Just past that little tree on the right is where we will build the house!)

Our Bocce Court
(Just past that little tree on the right is where we will build the house!)



Looking across the water

Looking across the water



And of course, our beautiful sunset

And of course, our beautiful sunset

Modular Construction



We are in the middle of construction here at our house in New Jersey.  We’re still shooting for an early May target date to put the house on the market and move to the Crab Shack while it is being shown.  We hope to have most of our belongings packed up and moved to the garage in Maryland, not to leave house empty, but to de-clutter and save ourselves all the packing and moving in a rush when the house is sold.

Then, in the middle of all this mess in the house, and having only one working bathroom, my daughter came home from VA for two days. She took off from work so we could go to “Media Day” on Tuesday and Super Bowl Boulevard on Wednesday!  Did I mention I’m not really a football fan?  But she and John are, and my son is somewhat of a fan, at least more than I am, but three of us are Peyton Manning fans.  (Jackson’s rooting for Seattle. Puh!)

So anyway, I want to start talking about modular construction.  This will probably take up a few posts, and I hope I will hear from you about it — if you have a modular home, or know someone who does,  know nothing about it, or even if you would never consider building this way. I’m very interested to hear all sides of this debate.

Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes 222.iconlegacy.com

Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes

Here’s an article introducing you to the modular design, originally written on Fresh Home (freshome.com)

10 Basic Facts You Should Know About Modular Homes

What is a Modular Home?

A modular home is one that is built indoors in a factory-like setting. The finished products are covered and transported to their new locations where they will be assembled by a builder. A modular home is not a mobile home; it is simply a home that is built off-site as opposed to on-site. These homes are often called factory-built homes, system-built  or pre-fab homes.  Modular and Manufactured homes are NOT the same. Manufactured homes are not placed on permanent foundations. Manufactured homes, sometimes referred to as mobile homes, but are not always mobile homes, can be moved from one location to another. There are specific laws and regulations regarding these relocations.  Thanks to publications such as Dwell, the popularity of the modular home is growing.

Pinecrest Modular Homes www.pinecrestmodularhomes.com (Long Island Modular Homes)

Pinecrest Modular Homes
(Long Island Modular Homes)

How do Modular Homes Differ from Houses Built On-Site?

Because modular homes are built indoors they can be completed in a matter of a few weeks as opposed to months. These home constructions do not see the typical on-site delays that are predominantly caused by the weather. Modular homes must conform to specific rules, guidelines and building codes that often surpass those of traditional on-site homes. However, it is important to shop around. Not all companies that make factory-built homes are alike. There can be significant differences in quality, price and service.  As with purchasing or building any home, it is crucial to do your research.

Modular Home Facts

  • Modular homes appraise the same as their on-site built counterparts do. They do not depreciate in value.
  • Modular homes can be customized.
  • Most modular home companies have their own in-house engineering departments that utilize CAD (Computer Aided Design).
  • Modular home designs vary in style and size.
  • Modular construction can also be used for commercial applications including office buildings.
  • Modular homes are permanent structures – “real property.”
  • Modular homes can be built on the following on crawl spaces and basements.
  • Modular homes are considered a form of “Green Building.”
  • Modular homes are faster to build than a 100% site-built home.
  • Home loans for modular are the same as if buying a 100% site-built home.
  • Insuring your modular home is the same as a 100% site-built home.
  • Taxes on a modular home are the same as 100% site-built home.
  • Modular homes can be built to withstand 175 mph winds.
  • Modular homes can be built for accessible living and designed for future conveniences.


Do All Modular Homes Look Alike?

Contrary to popular misconception, modular homes do not all look alike. Modular homes have no design limitations. You can create any modular style home you wish from a traditional center hall colonial to one that is Mediterranean in style.  You can add any style window or architectural detail that you desire. Nearly all host plans can be turned into modular homes, and you can therefore create your “dream home.”

How is a Modular Home Assembled?

A factory-built home starts out as sections that have already been built in a climate controlled area. The finished sections are transported to the building site and then assembled with giant cranes. This process quite resembles a child building with Lego blocks. Modular homes cannot be moved after they have been placed and set on to their foundations. It is important to talk to your manufacturer as each manufacturer operates with a different set of guidelines. If you are designing your own home, it is important that you ask very specific questions. Modular homes offer hundreds of personalized features that include but are not limited to: ceramic floors, solid surface countertops, various cabinet styles and wood species, exterior finishes, plumbing fixtures, etc. You can, essentially, customize your own home.

Westchester Modular Homes of Greater Boston, Inc. info.greaterbostonmodulars.com

Westchester Modular Homes of Greater Boston, Inc.

Are Modular Homes More or Less Expensive than Those Built On Site?

Pre-fab homes can typically save you quite a bit of money.  Because they are constructed in a factory they can be built fairly quickly, a matter of weeks as opposed to months, which can be quite significant. The reason for this is that there are no extreme weather delays. Furthermore all inspections are performed at the factories during each phase of construction by a third-party inspector, and are completed before the homes are transported to their new locations.

It is important to note, however, the more complex the design and specs, the more money your home will cost you. Other factors to consider such as electricity, plumbing, duct-work are often not factored into the initial pricing, so your final cost may be 20% more than what the builder is quoting you. You may need to install a septic system, install natural gas or a basement, these too will add to your bottom line.

Quality Crafted Homes (a division of Custom Modular Homes of Long Island) www.qualitycraftedhomesonline.com

Quality Crafted Homes
(a division of Custom Modular Homes of Long Island)

What are the Benefits of Owning a Modular Home?

Modular homes can be more affordable. Their shorter build time will save you money on the overall construction. Home inspections are not needed as these are all done in factory. They are much more energy-efficient, therefore your monthly expenses will be substantially less. Modular homes are environmentally friendly due to their efficiency. There are a great variety of homes from which to choose, there are many top architects that specialize in designing modular homes. As with any home, modular homes can be built on to and expanded.

A homeowner must own the land onto which the home will reside. In many cases one may end up spending upwards of $100,000 just for the land. Unlike regular homes, the lots cannot be built on subdivisions. The initial fees can be cost prohibitive for some. When building a modular home the builder must be paid first, and in full, before the process has begun or has been completed. You will need to use your savings or get a special construction loan.

This loan is valid for one year and when the work is completed the dealer will pay the loan, then a traditional mortgage will be issued. It is therefore important that you know your budget and shop around. It is important that the rules I have mentioned here apply to US residents. If you live in Canada or in Europe you will need to check your country’s guidelines.

It’s all very interesting, I think, and definitely something to consider.  I’ll be back to this discussion again, and I hope I’ll hear from you whether you’d consider building this way or not.


Baby Boomer Housing Trends


Here’s a good article by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders).  They say that baby boomers dominate new housing trends.  And if we are any indication – being both baby boomers, and on our way to building our retirement home, then what they are saying is very true!  See if you agree.

The largest American generation is either retired or quickly nearing retirement age. Baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 and who count more than 76 million, may be getting older, but they are definitely not ready to head to an elder care facility! 

I love this design!

I love this design!

The boomer generation is more active than generations past, has a more sophisticated style and wants options and choices in their homes. Whether they are selling the homes where they raised their children and heading to sunnier pastures, or staying put and redesigning to accommodate their retired lifestyle, boomers are making an impact on new housing trends. Some features that home builders and re-modelers are seeing as they begin to cater to the boomers include:

Home Offices – Many, many boomers are continuing to work past the age of 65 either because they love their work, or because their retirement savings lost value in the recession. As they transition from a traditional 9-to-5 job, however, many want home offices for flexibility. A second career or part-time employment often eliminates the hassle of commuting while keeping them active and bringing in supplementary income.   

Technology – The tech-savvy boomer generation wants a home that will support all their personal technology. That can mean structured wiring that can drive a network of services that include lighting controls, a security system or a home media center. And they may want a wireless home network with broadband internet access for laptops, tablets and streaming movies.  

Wider Doors and Hallways – Designing a home that is livable now but can transition and be functional as the occupant ages is important in ensuring that the home will be a good long-term investment. Wider doors and hallways are useful for moving larger furniture today, and will allow the home owners to use mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, should they become necessary.

Better Lighting/Bigger Windows – The need for more lighting increases as we grow older. To accommodate this, builders are adding more windows, making them larger to let in more natural light, and making them more energy-efficient as well. They are also adding more light fixtures in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and stairways, where dim light can lead to accidental injury. Switches at the top and bottom of a stairwell, and the use of dimmer controls to eliminate glare are other helpful options.

This one from Great Falls Construction is also beautiful!

This one from Great Falls Construction is also beautiful!

First-Floor Bedrooms and Bathrooms – NAHB data shows that 73 percent of buyers aged 55 and up don’t want a second-floor master suite. Boomers wishing to save their joints and avoid stairs have helped fuel this trend. Today’s bedrooms are also bigger, with larger walk-in closets and bathrooms that often have a separate tub and shower and dual sinks.

Easy to Maintain Exteriors/Landscaping Yard work, painting, and other landscaping chores may no longer be enjoyable to aging home owners. People who move to a new home when they retire may opt for a maintenance-free community. Those that choose to stay in their homes might make improvements to exterior surfaces such as installing stucco, brick or low-maintenance siding. Lawns are being replaced with outdoor rooms, decorative landscaping, or flower beds for gardening enthusiasts — either at ground level or raised for seated access.

Our new house will be similar to this design by Dan Sater.

Our new house will be similar to this design by Dan Sater.

Flex Space – Flexible space has become more prevalent in both new homes and remodeling. Flex spaces are rooms that serve the present home owner’s needs but can adjust to changes as they occur. What may have once started out as a child’s bedroom can be redecorated to serve as a hobby room, library or home office, and can be repurposed later for a bedroom for visiting grandchildren or for an in-home caregiver. This flexibility allows home owners to stay in their homes longer, meeting their needs throughout life’s stages.

We will actually be following all of these examples.  We plan on having two home offices, we’ll keep our master on the first floor,  our home will be more technologically advanced, the doorways will be wider, the lighting and amount of windows will be greater, and we plan on keeping the grounds as low maintenance as we possibly can.  I was also planning on adding closets to the room that will be dedicated to storage, qualifying as flex space because it could then be turned into a bedroom if needed one day.  We’ll be going against the tide in a way, since we will not be downsizing, but we will still be following what will be the norm for the baby boomer generation.  Will you be following these guidelines also?

December sky in the backyard.

December sky in the backyard.

Back to Work



I’m thinking it’s about time I get back to blogging.  With the holidays, and packing up for our move, writing has kind of fallen by the wayside.  But now there’s a little bit of progress to report, so hopefully you’ll see consistent articles in the future.

(I write that as if I’m not the one in control.  Hahaha.  Hopefully some blogs will get written, let’s look at the page and see if something magically appears.) 

We always go into the city to see the tree

We always go into the city to see the tree

We had a very nice, if low key holiday. We took our annual trip into New York City.  We went to the Shake Shack for the first time, then to Rockefeller Center, to the store in the N.Y. Public Library, and then to Bryant Park.  The weather was good and the four of us had a great time. 

This year I decided not to take down every single Christmas decoration since we weren’t hosting Christmas and, well, because I just didn’t feel like it.  Our plan over the past few months has been bringing down boxes from the attic, cleaning them out, and then packing them up for the “move” by putting them in the garage.  And our attic was stuffed.  So now it’s the Christmas boxes.  I actually still have them in the living room, some still need to be weeded through.  It’s hard getting rid of some of the old decorations.  They go back a lot of years, and even if I don’t decorate with them anymore, they still bring back memories. It’s not easy letting go. 

St. Patrick's is getting a makeover

St. Patrick’s is getting a makeover

We thought our metal building would be done by now, and we were going to bring down lots of our stuff, so that when we put the house on the market (target date is this May) the house will be somewhat empty, and when the actual move happens, there won’t be that much to take.  I’m not taking a lot of the furniture.  It fit in this house, and I’ve had it for 20 years but we’ll get new stuff for our waterfront house.  Which, you will probably remember, isn’t even built yet.  We will be moving into the “Crab Shack.”  Then, hopefully in the fall, after interviewing builders and finalizing our house plans, we will start to build!  It’s so exciting. It’s THIS YEAR that we’ll be building our new house!  I can hardly believe it!  It’s been 7 years since we bought the property, and the time is almost here!  Of course living in 1000 sq. ft. cabin for a year will be a bit challenging.  Especially because I’ll want to bring a lot of my “stuff” into the Crab Shack with me. (Winter clothes, small kitchen appliances (and I have a lot), all the stuff from my office!)  But I have a feeling most of it will be in bins in the garage.  I plan to mark them well, with “things to leave in front” actually placed in the front of all the other bins.  Will that actually happen? Eh, it’s a toss-up. 

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Skating is FREE!  You can rent skates, but if you have your own, it's totally free!

Skating is FREE! You can rent skates, but if you have your own, it’s totally free!

So, on to the metal building update:  we met with Nick from Diamond State Pole Buildings in October.  That’s OCTOBER, over three months ago!  We thought the building would have been up before Christmas.  And it was no fault of Nick’s.  He sent his guy to our town hall to apply for the permit, a service they provide when you buy a building.  But here’s the catch.  When you are building anything on the water, there are rules and regulations and protocols you must follow before anything gets approved.

The Chrysler Building had just that minute turned on it's lights.

The Chrysler Building had just that minute turned on it’s lights.

So did the Empire State Building

So did the Empire State Building

We needed to get a surveyor down to the property to map out the surrounding area, and presumably to draw in where the building would be.  But, this area has parts that are in the “buffer zone.” Yes, the dreaded “buffer zone.”  You are discouraged from building in the buffer zone, it would be a whole other rigmarole to get approval, and we had enough property that the building could be moved a little to make sure it was in the safe area. (Yes, maybe some of the regulations are warranted, it saves the shoreline from erosion and the Bay from pollution.  We get it.)

The water around the boat froze.

The water around the boat froze.



However, we now needed another guy to come down and draw up where the buffer zone actually was, and to test the soil to make sure it could hold the weight of the building.  And this is where we lost track.  That person was unknown to us, it was around the holidays, and nobody but us cared about the time factor.  We lost a month waiting for him to get down to the property and submit his drawings.  When that finally happened (two weeks ago) we realized that we now had to add plantings (trees and shrubs) to the property in the amount of square footage of the building.  You take away with one hand; you have to give back with the other.  So I researched plants native to Maryland (a requirement) and drew up a map of our property placing the trees, large and small, and the shrubs, and we went down to Maryland to our town hall to submit our plan.  After meeting with three different people in two different parts of town, we got verbal approval.  However, the actual permit won’t be issued for two to four weeks, at which time Nick will order the building, taking another two weeks to get delivered.  Seeing the pattern here?  SLOW.  Everything is slower than you want, and you need a lot of patience!  I said to John that when we move down in May we should start applying for our building permit for the house, which we won’t need until October.  And hopefully we will get it in time!  

Lots of geese flying in

Lots of geese flying in

Ice is gone, all is well

Ice is gone, all is well


Beautiful vs. Practical


When I did my post on kitchen sinks, I actually was going to start writing about a post I read regarding a square sink.  The inside was totally squared off, and people were weighing in on whether it was worth it because it was such a pain to clean.  One person commented she would take beauty over easy any day.  And that got me thinking that I was probably the opposite.

Maybe it’s because after 30 some years of marriage and motherhood I’d rather take an easier route.  But if I want to be honest here, I think I was always that way.  I just think things should be practical.  Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful also.  Both would be nice, but if I had to choose?  I think practical would win.  For instance, let’s go back to sinks for a minute.  There is a style of sink that is totally squared off inside.  It’s an interesting look, but I’ve read it is very difficult to clean in the corners.

square sink

square sink3

square sink2

This last picture actually shows (to me anyway) how it can get gunked up at the bottom.  Beautiful design? Yes.  Practical? No!

There are other applications that I also would choose the practical, like for instance the rope handrails.  As you know, we will be building a house on the water.  And yes, we love the beachy theme.  Rope handrails would fit right in as a design element.  But could you even use them as an actual handrail?  Can you lean on them to any extent?  Or, when you’ve just been through knee surgery and need to hold on for dear life going up and down the stairs, will a rope actually do the job?   Okay, that was me recently, but I digress.  Here are some examples:

rope stair rail

rope stair rail2

rope stair rail3

Again, beautiful, but I’ll stay with the normal a/k/a practical.

The next item, and this is something I have to admit I have never understood, is the “for show” towels in the bathroom.  I mean, really, what’s the point and how am I supposed to dry my hands?  Yes, sometimes people put out the little paper towel holders, we can each take our own little paper napkin so we don’t spread germs.  But here are gorgeous matching towels hanging on a beautiful towel rack, just asking to be used, and I can’t touch them for fear of messing them up.



I get it, I really do, and I’m only half serious.  I’m somewhat of a germaphobe myself, so I understand how useful it is that we all get our own little paper napkin.  But people don’t actually live like this with towels hanging just for show, do they?  Do you?  We don’t.  We have one big towel hanging for people to dry their hands on after they wash them.  The hands are clean at that point, right?  Do people live like that when company isn’t around?  I’ve always wondered that.

I also have issues with a product that, I have to admit, I have chosen the “beautiful” in the Crab Shack.  Glass shower doors.  In my present older home, we haven’t completely redone either bathroom, one has glass doors but it’s that old-fashioned patterned type of glass that doesn’t have to be wiped down every time, so not the same.  In the Crab Shack we wanted the clear glass that is shown all over now, and is truly beautiful.  But…. come on, you’ve got to agree with me here, it’s a total pain to squeegee it down all the time!  I try to get into the shower before John does sometimes just so I won’t have to do it!  (Don’t tell him.)

glass shower doors2

glass shower doors

We’re trying to come up with ideas for when we build the house.  We’ve tossed around the idea of glass blocks (John just loves these, me… not as much) or a curved type of tile wall with no actual door.  Do you have any ideas for us on this issue?   There are some frosted or patterned glass doors, maybe they wouldn’t show the water as much:

glass shower door frosted2

glass shower door frosted

But, yeah, they’re not the same.  I really haven’t come up with a solution to this yet, but I really, really, really don’t want to be cleaning those glass doors every morning!  I have better things to do, like go fishing, or kayaking, or reading, or cooking, or writing, or thinking or watching tv or having my teeth pulled.  Okay, not that.  But you get what I’m saying.

I’d go for the practical.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Am I the only one?

Thank you to “Houzz” for all the pictures.


Let’s Talk Kitchen Sinks




I was browsing around the Houzz site the other day, when I saw a discussion about sinks.  I haven’t decided yet on what type of sink I want to install in the kitchen of our new house, (although I know I want just the one bowl, very large and deep) and I’d love to hear your opinions on what you have, and why you love it or hate it.

In the Crab Shack I have a stainless steel sink, and here at my present home I have a Corian sink, since we have Corian counters and I wanted a totally seamless design. (This kitchen was put in over 20 years ago, and Corian was a big upgrade.  I didn’t realize how much I would have loved granite!)  In other places we’ve lived I’ve also had stainless and clay, now updated to be called “fireclay.”  I suspect all of them have their good points and bad points.  There are some new materials I didn’t know about though, or didn’t realize were being used as sinks.   Here’s a rundown:

Stainless Steel: this is the most popular material for a sink by far.  Many people have it and love it. I have it in the Crab Shack because Lowe’s gave it to me free with the Granite counter top.  (Yes, we bought the counter top at Lowe’s.  It was the same one as in the kitchen store we were looking in, for about half the price.)  I’m going to admit something here because we’re buds and I know you won’t judge me too harshly….   I hate stainless steel.  There I said it.  And the ceiling didn’t fall in.  I just cannot stand the fingerprints.  It never looks clean, even after it’s just been cleaned. The sink has marks that look like scratches and constantly shows water spots. I want to love it, it looks so professional. But I just don’t want to spend that much time trying, without too much luck, to keep it shiny and finger-print free.  And no, my mind hasn’t really changed.  This will be an issue in my new kitchen.  I’ve already planned on getting the refrigerator with the panels that look like the cabinets (I have that now and love it!!) but I’ll probably be getting a stainless dishwasher, double oven and microwave.  But not a stainless sink, that’s for sure.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Apron

Composite Granite: These sinks are 80% granite and 20% acrylic resin.   They are supposed to be very durable and come in a variety of hues. They have been known to crack during shipment, so it must be inspected carefully when it arrives.  It’s only available in matte and the finish can dull over time, but people have noted that this adds to the personality of it, and it’s not a “bad” thing.  The dark colors seem to be the overwhelming favorite because they don’t show the spots. It’s been recommended to clean and dry it with a dishcloth every night, which seems like too much work, (the drying, not the cleaning)  but again, people have noted that it’s not that big a deal, and with the darker colors, this isn’t even necessary.  These sinks are very pretty, I’m adding it to my list of possibilities.

Composite Granite

 Fireclay:  These clay sinks are highly resistant to scratches but can stain and chip!  Cleanup, however, is easy.  If you want a white sink, this material comes highly recommended.  It is mostly seen in the “Farmhouse” or apron style sinks.  It doesn’t come in a large variety of sizes, although I wouldn’t think this would be an issue.  It is very heavy, and would need adequate support and it’s not “friendly” to dropped dishes.  I’m probably not going with this one.

Fireclay apron sink

Enameled Cast Iron:  This sink is smooth, glossy and shiny, which gives it some appeal.  It won’t crack or dent, but I don’t think most sinks would dent.  (Maybe stainless)  It would be a consideration if you know you want a white sparkly sink.  (Although other colors are available.) It is also very durable, but can chip, and show stains and nicks.  Some people have said it shows pot “scrapes” and it is very, very heavy!  This (like the clay sink) will not be one of my choices.

cast iron

Natural Stone:  There are a couple of different “stone” sinks on the market, I hadn’t heard about them before but they are beautiful.  Like all the other options however, they have pros and cons.

Soapstone -  This sink is non-porous and unaffected by heat, bacteria and stains. It’s a little “softer” than other materials so some care has to be taken with it because it could get scratched or nicked.   I’ve read it’s not easy to install, but compared to the heavy cast iron or clay sinks, how hard could it be?  Also, I’ve read it’s not cheap.  But who wants a cheap sink?  If you buy cheap, you get cheap, that’s my motto.  (Well, it is now.)  The one thing in its favor is it’s absolutely beautiful!  I’m going to have white cabinets and this sink would be just gorgeous!  I wasn’t thinking about getting soapstone counters though, I was thinking granite.  And with the veining in the granite, do I need a sink with veining also?  I’ll put it on my list as a possibility for now.

soapstone sink

Slate -  I did not even realize this was a sink material.  However, it is resistant to fading, burning and scratching.  And custom designs can be sand blasted into it to make a truly custom look.  This feature would only be helpful if you have having the apron type sink, which I am not leaning towards, but am still undecided about.  It is a material that will last forever, and people have written it keeps its beauty, and even if it got a nick or two, it’s hardly visible.  The etching on this one is adorable, especially since our house is on the water, and we love the “water” theme.

Slate Sink


Quartz -  This sink is made from 70% quartz and 30% resin filler.  It is a step below the granite composite in terms of wear and durability, but still a good choice.  It is resistant to dings, dents and stains, but the darker ones tend to show scratches more than the lighter colors, on ones with more of a pattern.  It would be a good choice if you’re using quartz countertops and want a seemless look.






Copper:  Copper comes in various thicknesses like stainless, and that will be reflected in the price.It’s easy to shape so can come in a wide variety of sizes.  It is anti microbial, which is good, but people have written they would be worried about the copper leaching into food, such as vegetables soaking in the sink.  The finish will almost certainly change over time, this could be either a pro or a con, depending on how you feel about that.  For me it’s a con, the copper is pretty when it’s brand new, but I don’t like the change.  The thinner variety can dent and scratch.  The hammered sink is very pretty, in my opinion, but I don’t think this is one product that I will consider.


The last two sinks I looked into and have pictures of are tile and hand painted.  But these, along with glass sinks, are better left as a “show” sink in the powder room.  Yes, they are beautiful and different, but keeping them clean and free of dings would be difficult in the hard-working kitchen area.

Tile -

Tiletiled sink

Hand painted -

Hand Paintedpainted


Well, suffice it to say today we have many, many choices when it comes to kitchen sinks.  It’s overwhelming at times.  But by narrowing it down, and doing a little research, and by being honest about how much you are willing to clean, or live with in terms of water spots or nicks, you and I  will finally figure out which one is the best choice.  I hope.