Back to Reality



It was not easy coming back to “reality”. We spent a little more than a month in Maryland, the site of our future home. It was the first time ever in our 32 years of married life that John took off so much time in a row. We love it there, we truly do, but we wondered, will we get bored? It is in some ways a quieter life. There are less stores, and as of now, no internet to speak of. Will we regret that we picked this place to retire to? We both grew up in New York, John in Brooklyn, me in Queens, and just moving early in our married life to Long Island was a big adjustment. How will it be moving to a more remote area? Well, suffice it to say, we didn’t want to come back.

It is quieter in some respects, but much more active. A lot of our time is spent outside down there. We cook and eat outside more, we kayak, we fish, we ride our “Gator” up to the mailbox. We take our coffee down to the beach in the morning to look for the herons and plan our day. Some days we plan a trip to the dump! Yep, then it’s Dump Day! Even that’s an experience. We have so much to explore since the area is new to us. So if the weather is rainy or cold and windy, we’ll take a drive and explore a new town. We found a restaurant in a cute waterfront town with a little gift shop, and bought a pretty piece by a local artist to hang over our bed.

Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 444

I don’t think we were bored for one single minute!  And even though I was (and still am)  recuperating from knee surgery, we still managed to do a lot and keep ourselves occupied.  We kind of figured – but now we know for sure, that we have absolutely no regrets about moving there.  Actually, we can hardly wait!

But first, back to reality.  And the reality is, John is very busy with work.  And the house up here needs updating, sprucing up, and cleaning out.  It needs work  that today’s young “marrieds” and lots of bloggers are finding fun, but which to me are just a chore.  Cleaning out 22 years of living in one house, yikes!  Like George Carlin once joked, our stuff has stuff!  And when we first move to Maryland, we’ll be living in the little Crab Shack – most likely for a year – while we interview builders and get the house built.  As a result, so many things will need to be stored, but… not everything.  So packing up now has to be divided into what will come to the Crab Shack, what I might need sometime, but I don’t have room for IN the crab shack so has to be stored close by, and what can wait till the house is built.  And then there’s also the “kid’s” stuff.  And by kids I mean two grownups who have left a lot of their treasured belongings here at the house.  Some they can take now, some they also don’t have room for yet, so that has to be stored in Maryland. But it means waiting till they can go through all that stuff.  I ought to buy stock in plastic bins at the rate we’re buying them!

This and That 2013 079

But at the end of all this clean up and clean out…. ah….   paradise.  At least to us.

Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 095

Looking Out My Back Door

August 7, 2013

We are spending August in Maryland, at our future (semi) retirement property.  We’re very comfy, with our garage, our dock and our “Crab Shack”, but what we don’t really have is great internet. Or even good internet.  It’s a problem down here because there isn’t enough people (a/k/a customers) to warrant internet providers installing anything like we’re used to (Fios)  – or anything at all, really.  So, it’s on our list of things to research this month because as much as we would love to have good service now, we’ll absolutely need it once we move here.  (Probably spring of next year.)  John’s job depends on it, plus really,  how could we live without it at this point!

So, all this to say, I plan on posting probably once a week until after Labor Day, and hopefully on Wednesday.  I hope you’ll visit each week, and if you have some ideas about getting good – and by good I mean fast – internet service, please let me know!  This is serious, people!

Here are some pictures of what I see from my back door….

Sunset, first day of vacation

Sunset, first day of vacation

Little Choptank 2013 H August 2 to Sept 006

Dock, with new light out there by the boat

Dock, with new light out there by the boat

Light's fixed on the flagpole! It was flooded in the spring storm.

Light’s fixed on the flagpole! It was flooded in the spring storm.


Osprey checking things out from the tree on our property

Osprey checking things out from the tree on our property

Sundown.  Or sun's down.  Sounds more grammatically correct.

Sundown. Or sun’s down. Sounds more grammatically correct.

Crab boats are out early in the Little Choptank River.

Crab boats are out early in the Little Choptank River.



Our new pedal boat! I can’t try it out till my knee is better.

Our new pedal boat! I can’t try it out till my knee is better.


Kyle and crew planting our new experiment, palm trees!

Kyle and crew planting our new experiment, palm trees!


Aren't they cute!  If they grow, we'll plant  more.

Aren’t they cute! If they grow, we’ll plant more.

Okay, that’s it for now.  It took me two days to be able to get this post up!  So put on your thinking caps, we need some good internet ideas for rural areas.  We’re using either my Ipad hotspot, or John’s phone’s hotspot, but the service is spotty.  We could use the MiFi from Verizon, but the service would be the same as the Verizon hotspot we’re using now, I assume.  So if anyone has a Hughes Satellite, I’d be interested to hear if that’s a good option.  Thanks!

Building Advice and Tips



After John read my blog on Monday, he thought it would be useful to have some specifics about the garage and Crab Shack, and about building in general.  So I’d like to share some of our experiences with the hope that they’ll help you make more informed decisions.  We were total novices.  We’ve remodeled.  We’ve put on additions.  But we had never taken on a job of this magnitude.  So in other words, we knew nothing.  And we made mistakes.  Maybe this will help you avoid them.

Before we even began doing anything, as mentioned in a previous post, we had to take down two buildings.  We found out, through a contractor, that our local Fire Department would consider burning them down, and use the experience as a learning session for new recruits. We gave these wonderful people a donation, and it was a win-win experience. I’m not sure if they do this in other areas, but if this is at all a possibility for you, it’s truly a great way to go.

Little Choptank Dec.07 004

We began to “design our retirement” with the stand-alone garage.  I like to say we started the building process backwards, doing the “out” buildings first, and leaving the house (which we won’t start probably for another year) till last.  But we had our reasons.  (We needed a place to put the “stuff” from a PA vacation home that we sold, and we knew we wanted this garage for the tractor, and the other vehicles right away.)  For this building John found plans online that he liked, and we had them tweaked a bit by a draftsperson.  (Also known as a Residential Designer.)  After we decided that Thom Huntington (of Huntington Construction) would be our builder, he drew up a contract (Time & Materials) and he built it.  It was a very smooth operation and there were no surprises and no cost over-runs.  As for the structure of the building, we went with 2×6 lumber for strength, regular roll insulation, a large propane heater, an on-demand hot water heater (more on this another time) and because we are building on the water, we needed to raise the garage up, which meant building up the soil all around the building to allow for a gradual incline – expensive, but a necessity for a place where hurricanes and flooding storms are likely.

Little Choptank copy 020

The second, and more “exciting” building was (going to be) the Boathouse. (Blog post here.)  This was where we made many of our mistakes.  We had a dream, a vague vision, and needed to have someone draw up this vision for us.  Of course, we again used Michael, the Residential Designer we used on the garage.  Now, because of our inexperience, the costs of these plans (in total) were sky high.  We kept changing things, and having the plans re-drawn.  Many, many times.  (At great expense.)  Then, in one instance, Michael was doing “due diligence” making sure the ground would support our Boat House, and had our soil tested.  I can now tell you what our soil looks like for 16 feet below sea level. It’s interesting, but we weren’t expecting that charge.  And, as already mentioned, this all happened during the collapse of the economy.  So, $20,000 later, rather than scrap all of our plans, we scrapped the building, and bought plans online from Lowe’s at a cost of $500!  (The Crab Shack.)  I’ll speak more about house plans another time, but here’s another tip:  if you can find plans you like online or in a book, use them.  Believe me, you will be saving yourself a ton of money.  Even if you just use them as a starting point.  Or cut out parts from different plans. You’ll thank me later.



For the structure of the Crab Shack, we again used 2×6’s, but went with the spray insulation.  And I can definitively say this type of insulation is excellent. The building cools down instantly when we need the air conditioning, and heats up and stays warm in the winter when we need the heat.  For both buildings we decided on the strongest metal roof available, which has many, many benefits.  It’s great against the elements, being rated to withstand over 200 mph winds; it saves in home heating and cooling energy costs;  there are energy tax credit incentives available; it’s good for the environment , (considered a “green” solution) and comes with either a 30 or 50 year warranty – depending on the roof you buy.  All this, and of course it has that “coastal” look.   In the “con” list, the only thing I could say is that it costs more initially to put in than a traditional asphalt roof.  But it pays for itself in other ways.  I was worried that it would be noisy, especially during a rain storm, but I can tell you honestly, it’s absolutely not.

We also built it up high, knowing the area could possibly flood if there was a bad storm, (like Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy) and built it with flow through vents in the foundation that allows the water to literally flow through and prevent any structural damage. (You can see them in the photo.)

We used vinyl siding on the Crab Shack, for one reason, to keep the costs down, but next time – for the house – we’ll go with Fiber Cement.  It will be stronger and better looking.  We’ve had a few pieces of the siding come down in both storms, and although not a huge deal, we had to have someone repair it.  We went with Anderson windows that are strong enough to withstand hurricanes and have shutters inside just in case anything should come flying through.  On the house, however, we’ll look into getting something installed on the outside of the windows also, either workable shutters, or hurricane screens.  The decks are made of composite material; we want our semi and real retirement to be as low maintenance as possible.

I hope some of these ideas will help you, and if you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear them!


Little Choptank 2013 May 20-22 115wtmk


Katrina Cottage a/k/a The Crab Shack





The Katrina Cottages were originally designed as a dignified alternative to the FEMA trailer.  They have now evolved into a nationwide option for guesthouses, resorts, camps and affordable housing.  They can range from 308 sq. feet to 1800 sq. feet, and John chose one that was just about 1200 sq. feet for our replacement of the “Boat House.”

Here are some of the choices:



After we found out how much exactly our “Boat House” would have cost, and with the economy doing what it did, this became a good alternative so that we could continue with our plans, but not spend all of our “house” money on what will eventually be a guest cottage.   These Katrina Cottages were designed by Marianne Cusato and her design team.  They now partner with Lowe’s, and after having all our floor plans drawn up by a draftsperson, we wound up buying the plans from them!


Here is the one we chose:


We showed the plans to Thom (our builder) and he recommended we make the back of it a little bigger.  He said the bedroom was kind of small.  Here are the floor plans:


We were so glad we took his advice.  Here is the finished product on the outside:

Little Choptank Aug. 7-14, 09 001wtmk


And here’s the back:


Little Choptank 2013 May 20-22 163wtmk


Isn’t she pretty?   We love her.


More on the inside next time!


The Story of the Boathouse


Garage, check.  Dock, check.  Boat, check.   Now, finally, we decided to build a building where we could actually stay, and sleep and make a meal.  (And use the bathroom –  just saying.)   Just like our first boat ride, we were excited to think we could actually wake up in the morning and be on our own property. Not in a hotel.  With the noise.   Still, we weren’t ready for the MAIN house.  So what do we come up with?  A “boat” house.   No, not a REAL boathouse.

Little Choptank August 10-12 2008 078wtmk

Little Choptank August 10-12 2008 080wtmk

That’s a real boathouse.

We just decided to call it that because we wanted to.  We would store our boats under it, so it made some kind of sense to us.  And we just liked saying it was a boathouse.   It actually was going to resemble a lighthouse if you want to be technical.  (And I know you do.) The kind of lighthouse we’ve seen around the Chesapeake area.  Like this…..

Little Choptank 08 Labor Day wkend 025wtmk

Here’s what our plans looked like…….


Up in the northeast, we have the tall kind of lighthouses, here’s one of our favorites from Montauk, Long Island…..

Montauk May 20, 09 Anniversary trip 028wtmk

So, anyway, there we were, all happy, planning to build a boathouse.  We hired a draftsman to draw it up, we got the permits, we tested the soil, and we had Thom our builder give us a quote.  And then….. the economy collapsed.  And that, combined with a quote that would have built the actual house, convinced us to give up that dream and move on to another…..  the Crab Shack!  Yep, we’ll build a little Crab Shack that would eventually be a guest house after the main house is built (which we won’t even start for a year or two).  Brilliant!  So, John found plans online, they were from the “Katrina” collection of small homes, designed for the people of New Orleans, and that’s what we decided to build.  After months and months of redoing the plans, adding this, taking away that, having all sorts of tests to make sure the ground could support the house, we changed everything!  Thom was still happy to have the work, and we were happy to begin!

And then it snowed.

Little Choptank JAN 09 015wtmk

But Thom and his men persevered…..

Little Choptank JAN 09 017wtmk

And we were on our way!