Weekend in Maryland


We went to our place in Maryland for a long weekend and it was just glorious.  We visited with one neighbor for coffee, and we went out to dinner with another.  It poured two nights, but well after we went to bed, it made me think of the song Camelot, where it doesn’t rain till after sundown.  Two mornings were very foggy (it’s supposed to disappear by 8) but it was very interesting looking and it cleared enough for us to go fishing on Sunday.

But first, our winter sunset.  It’s over the trees this time of year instead of over the water, but still beautiful.

We arrived at sunset

We arrived at sunset

We woke up to a thick fog where you couldn’t tell the sky from the water.  As it cleared a bit, we found we had some visitors.

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Who then made themselves right at home.

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It stayed foggy most of the day, but we didn’t mind relaxing and reading and putzing.  (That’s John, he likes to putz.  Or he is a putz, one or the other, I forget.)  We also had a nice visit from our neighbor, Judy, who came over for coffee.

Sunday, we were determined to go fishing.  The weather was supposed to be warm and sunny, and we were a bit surprised when it was also kind of foggy.  We had to wait for the tide anyway, and as it got a little later, the fog started to clear.

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Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 033

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This is across the water from our place.  It looks like a painting with the fog.  It’s such a cute little building, and we always wonder who lives there.

As we headed out to the Chesapeake, the fog was still hanging onto the water.

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We hardly saw this guy till he got a little closer.

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But then it cleared, and we went out to find some stripers!  Or as people in Maryland refer to them, rockfish.   This is the big prize, since they have to be a certain size in order to keep, plus some of us who aren’t that crazy about eating fish (me) will eat striped bass.

These we caught out in Montauk one year, one of our FAVORITE places to go on vacation.


Our little family of fisherpersons:

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And this one John and our friend Bill caught last summer, right out in the Chesapeake.


And this one John caught last December! He was fishing with our electrician, Rick, in the Chesapeake.


So, anyway, we’re no strangers to catching them.  And did we catch any you may ask?  Um…. no.  We didn’t.  We caught two crab buoys.  Which we certainly didn’t intend to catch.  And we caught a giant net that must have broken off a commercial fishing boat, it was so big!  We could hardly lift it, so we didn’t bring it into the boat, but I wish I took a picture.  You know what I could’ve said then….   nothing but net.

We did see a pretty sailboat though.

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And we caught the sunset as we were flying home to get in before it got too dark.  It was such a nice weekend, we really can’t wait till we move down there.

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The Crab Shack


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A kind reader asked me to show you around the inside of the “Crab Shack.”  You’ve seen the outside, and I’ve mentioned that we actually were going to build a different building, one we called the “Boat House,” modeled after the lighthouses on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  But, after all the soil testing and the modifications and the collapse of the economy, we scaled it down.  John found plans online, Katrina cottage plans, and much to our builder’s delight, we still decided to build something.  We love our little “Crab Shack,” and yet, if we had it to do over again, there would be a change or two we would make.  We don’t have room for a table and chairs, so we would probably push the front of the building out maybe four more feet, giving us room for not only the table, but a dishwasher.  It would also make the “living” room a bit bigger, and with the amount of company we sometimes have, that would be a good thing.  But for the two of us, it’s wonderful.  Have a look:

This is what you see when you walk in the front door

This is what you see when you walk in the front door


When Thom, our builder, first painted the place, he called us and said we should come down and take a look at it.  He thought the color might be too dark.  So we took a trip down, looked at each other and said, “It’s perfect!”

As you first walk in, the kitchen is to your right.

As you first walk in, the kitchen is to your right.

While we were looking at tiles for the backsplash (and bathroom and fireplace) John saw these heron tiles for behind the stove and just fell in love with them.  We (as you will see) love using herons in our decorating, so these were perfect!  We had to “fit” a refrigerator into the space, we only had so much room, and we were lucky to find something that fit exactly right.  I have learned, however, that I don’t really like the freezer on the bottom!  I know it’s very popular now, and many people really like it, but I find that things get buried down at the bottom, and with “Reynauds” in my hands, rummaging around in the freezer is not my favorite thing to do.  You understand, right?  I’m going to stick with the side by side for the main house.

The "living" room is to your left when you come in the front door.

The “living” room is to your left when you come in the front door.


We had this couch, chair and coffee table from our place in Pennsylvania, but we think it goes pretty well here.  We had Thom make the TV stand to fit right in between the windows and we bought the leather chair and ottoman because it was a smaller profile and fit in that space so well.

When we first started building, we decided John would do most of the “decorating” of the Crab Shack, and I would do the house.  We both wound up making the decisions, but the Crab Shack does have more of a “fishing” cabin feel because of his choices.  It’s cute though, it fits the area.  The chair on this side is from my mother in law’s apartment, we also think it fits in well.


Looking back at front door

Looking back at front door

The stairs at the far end of the living room lead up to the loft.  Originally we thought John would use the loft as an office, plus it would also be a bedroom for guests.  We found out, however, that the reception for his phone (and therefore his internet connection through his phone) was not the best up there, and he moved his office to the room above the garage.  So now, it’s a guest room.

Heading up the stairs to the loft is the fishing wall of fame.

Heading up the stairs to the loft is the fishing wall of fame.


The loft area

The loft area


From up in the loft

From up in the loft


Looking down into living room.

Looking down into living room.



See our fun fan?  We first saw it at the Blue Point Restaurant at the Hyatt Resort in Cambridge, MD.  (If you’re ever around there, give it a try, the food is great!) It reminded us of boat propellers!  So we tracked it down, went to Dan’s Fan City in Laurel, MD and we think it fits in perfectly!

Okay, moving on, as you walk down the hallway, the first room after the kitchen on the right hand side is the bathroom.  When we first saw the room before it was actually built, when it was just studs, I couldn’t picture how everything would fit it!  I thought we’d be squished in the shower so that your arms would be touching all the walls!  But, small as it is, it’s got plenty of room!

Here's what the kitchen and bathroom looked like

Here’s what the kitchen and bathroom looked like

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Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 503


After the bathroom, again on the right hand side, is the mudroom/laundry room.  Thom did advise us to add to the original plans in the back part of the house, so we expanded it about 4 feet.  It gave us a bigger mudroom, and also a bigger bedroom.

Looking from the door in the hallway out to the back

Looking from the door in the hallway out to the back


This angle is from the back door to the door in the hallway

This angle is from the back door to the door in the hallway

And then, if you’re back in the hallway, the room on the left hand side is our bedroom.  We’re so glad Thom advised us to make it bigger.  We love waking up and being able to look out at the water. We pinch ourselves and can’t believe we were lucky enough to find and buy this property.

Looking in from the door in the hall

Looking in from the door in the hall


We recently purchased the artwork that is over the bed.  Again, herons.

We recently purchased the artwork that is over the bed. Again, herons.


Here's a closer look at the artwork.  Looks like it was just made for us!

Here’s a closer look at the artwork. Looks like it was just made for us!

Heron lamps too!

Heron lamps too!


Looking back to the hallway

Looking back to the hallway


Back deck and patio area.

Back deck and patio area.

Thank you for joining our tour of the inside of the Crab Shack.  It was the first time we built anything, and we never realized how many decisions and choices we’d have to make.  It gave us a good preview of what we’ll be doing when we start building the house next year.  I’ve read if a couple can survive building a house together, they can survive anything.  We say, bring it on!


Crab Shack and garage from the water.

Crab Shack and garage from the water.

Enjoy the sunset!

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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.

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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!

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

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“What Your Contractor Can’t Tell You”


Book Review


I was surprised to learn that you can expect to make 1500 decisions when you are building a new home.  Scary!  Especially when you don’t really like making decisions anyway! The author tells us, “Your choices are infinite when you start, so design is more a process of de-selecting than selecting.” The author, Amy Johnston, guides us through this process.  She says owners will be entering a culture that is much less straight forward than it appears, and everyone in that culture knows more than we do. And added to that are all the new relationships, deadlines, quality standards and more money than we’ve spent on probably anything else, and it becomes a huge undertaking that most people don’t know how to prepare for, and few have wanted to tell us. Until now.

If you are planning on building a house, (and by building I mean hiring contractors and builders to do the actual work) or even if you are just thinking about building your dream home, this book is a must to have on hand.  Ms Johnston says, “This book is not about how to swing a hammer, or even how to be your own general contractor.  It is about how to be a savvy consumer of design and construction services and a competent participant in your own project.” And she does not disappoint.

Her advice covers how to start a project, including picking the people on your team, from bankers to surveyors. It also talks about the project plan, how to keep good notes and information, and how to distinguish between needs and wants.  She also suggests (and this really is great advice) be true to yourself and the way you really live, accept your own lifestyle.  For instance, if you spend the evenings watching TV (like we do), don’t make the fireplace the focal point in the room the TV is in.  And I don’t know about you, but I can’t really understand the TV over the fireplace design element.  I would think your neck would hurt by the end of the evening, plus it seems to “take away” from both items!

My well used book

My well used book

Ms. Johnston suggests not to ignore the tried and true.  Yes, newer and sometimes even more efficient designs, materials, supplies and equipment come on the market every day, some are great, but some will be off the market in a few years.  You don’t want to try to replace a broken part or find someone to fix it then, which is especially true in heating and air conditioning.

She discusses and helps with how to work together as a couple and make more balanced choices, how to provide more details so the project runs smoother and how to work well with a contractor and/or architect.  Also, what gets you the most bang for your buck, and cost estimating and budgets.  She talks about contract structures (I spoke about that in a previous post), putting the contract out to bid, insurance, rules for change orders (there are 4 kinds), permits and the way to monitor your project.  Her advice is invaluable and will save you both time and money.  And hopefully, you (and I) will be a more educated homeowner, and wind up with a project that runs much more smoothly than it would have.

Enjoy the sunset.


Sunset on the Little Choptank River

Sunset on the Little Choptank River

Architect or Residential Designer?


When we moved our search for our retirement property to Maryland, there were a few terms we weren’t familiar with, for instance rip-rap.  These turned out to be big rocks placed along the shoreline to preserve the land from wearing away.

Rip Rap

Then, when we started to design the garage and crab shack, we came across another term, residential designer.

We’ve all heard of an architect.  We weren’t as familiar with a draftsperson or residential designer.  These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but usually a true draftsperson’s specialty is technical drawings, while a residential designer specializes in homes.  Although many times they can each do both.

An article in Coastal Home magazine a few years ago contends the similarities between the residential designer and the architect ends once the plans are drawn. There are, of course, pros and cons to both of them.


An architect will see you through the entire building process, from blueprints to site management.  They can also interact with an interior designer – if you’ve hired one – to make the most out of the interior flow and beauty of the house.  However, the price for this service is somewhat expensive.  A general rule of thumb is that an architect’s fee is roughly 10% of the total project.  There are some that will charge an hourly fee to do just the blueprints.  But many do not.

An architect must be licensed and registered, and must meet three of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ requirements; education, experience and examination.  Many also register with the AIA, which has a strict code of ethics and professional conduct.  However, there are some – as the stories go – that wind up producing drawing after drawing of what they have in mind, not what you have in mind.  Here, a little research, or a recommendation goes a long way.

The residential designer does not have to be licensed, and some may never have had any formal training. However, many do register with the American Institute of Building Design, which mandates five years of educational and design experience, and while it specifies standards and ethics, it doesn’t require standardized exams.  Again, if you do your research, or have a recommendation, you will find he or she is very qualified to draw up plans for about half the cost of an architect.  If you have some idea of the design you are interested in, or if you have put together an entire binder – like I have – with floor plans you love, you will be able to give the residential designer this input and make the job go even smoother.   I would also say, if you have a good contractor or builder, this would alleviate any issues you might have with site management, or flow of the rooms, etc.

It all comes down to a couple of things, and sometimes the first is cost.  The second is your own preference. If you have at least some ideas of what you’d like, are not “afraid” of the building  process, and have a little sense of design and some common sense, you can do your due diligence and find either a residential designer or architect you will be happy and comfortable with.  You may need to interview three or four, but finding someone you have a good rapport with is key.

With either person, if you come equipped with pictures – floorplans, rooms, designs, exteriors, and interiors, and even pictures of things you absolutely do not like, you will save yourself some money because you are prepared, you will get a better finished product, and will have a house you truly love.

If you have any advice or stories regarding your experiences with an architect or residential designer, I’d love to hear them!

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We have a boat!


What do you think you get right after you build a dock?  A boat, of course!  This is a big part of the dream we have for our retirement.  We’re a fishing family, we all love it.  And anybody who doesn’t want to fish, well, just enjoys the ride.  John was thinking we’d get a “real” fishing boat first.  But after a bit, he agreed that the fishing boat could wait, and we’d get a “putzing” boat!  A party boat.  A cruisin’ around taking in the sites boat.  A pontoon boat!

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Here it is getting delivered.  It’s a used boat, but in great shape, and from this day on I call it MY boat.

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The guy from the marina is explaining to John how my boat works.  John’s a licensed captain, and he’s familiar with boats, but each one is different, and it doesn’t hurt to know all you can.

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John’s fixing up the piling so my boat doesn’t get scratched.

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Here’s the inside….. it’s like having your back deck on the water.  The seats are so comfy, there’s a table for your snacks, holders for your drinks, and a great stereo for listening to Jimmy Buffett!  I sound like a pontoon boat salesperson!



And  the moment we had been waiting two years for –  (since we bought the property)……..    our first boat ride!

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Who’s happier than us right now?

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And here are those osprey nests I was telling you about……

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See, that one has a little solar panel to keep the nest warm.  Cute, huh?  I really don’t know who set up these osprey nesting areas, maybe the DNR (Department of Natural Resources).  I’m not sure, but that would make sense to me, so that’s what I’m going with.

Here’s my boat all tucked in……

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Try not to wait too long to start thinking and planning and dreaming of what you’ll do in the next chapter of your life.  I’m so glad we have a plan, and something to look forward to. It makes all the difference.  Enjoy the sunset………

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