Monday, July 7, 2008

The Pizza Principles

When John and I first started looking for a place to call our second home, one of the most important things on my list of "Must Haves" wasn't that the house had to have a wood-burning fireplace or a designer kitchen or central air. It was that the house had to be within a ten minute drive of a decent pizza place.

My need for a pizza place goes back to when I used to spend my weekends in the Hamptons (I know, gag me). Arriving on Friday night, I would forgo the dance clubs and chill-lounges for pizza (and beer) or a big plate of pasta (and wine). Following an early night's sleep, I'd wake up at 7 a.m. to bike my guts out all over the East End, generally riding 60+ miles each morning (I know, double-gag me).

While I don't carry on with that silliness anymore, I still think there's great value in having a pizza joint nearby. For instance, when it's your first week in your new home and you buy a Weber BBQ and spend a good hour putting it together, only to realize that, while you have plenty of charcoal, you don't have a match to light the flame. And having used up all your boy/girl scout skills, (namely patience), to get the damn grill set up, you give up and opt for a pepperoni-mushroom pie instead. Along with a very cold beer.

After spending about 1.5 years in search of our perfect home and feeling like what we were looking for quite possibly just didn't exist, we decided to list our "criteria" for what features and amenities we would want in a country home, and rated them on a 1-10 scale going from "not at all important" to "very important." Using what I learned when I went through my first mid-life crisis and got my real estate license, I developed a list based on the following, which I will heretofore call The Pizza Principles :

Location: Here we listed things like travel time to/from NYC, distance to train services, proximity to a major town, not to mention proximity to pizza, etc. We also listed things like the house's setting, farmland vs. woodland; privacy vs. seclusion (there is a difference!), rural or neighborhood, and so on. We nailed it with our place, being just 10 minutes to Hudson, just over 2 hours from Manhattan and enjoying woodlands, privacy and just enough seclusion to feel away from it all, but not have me freak-out if I'm at our place alone.

Building: This was basically whether we preferred a contemporary or historic home. As well as whether we wanted move-in condition or a place that "needed work." John preferred the idea of an older home that was in good shape, but we ended up with a contemporary home with an older feel as the house was based on colonial saltbox design, modified for modern living. The older feel also came in with the previous owner doing smart things like buying old wooden doors throughout the interior to give the place that older feel.

Light: What was the predominant view? Woodland vs. farmland vs. town vs. water. Woodland won. Oh, light also has to do with light...we wanted sunny, but the rooms can be rather dark at times (oops). Still the place feels airy. Which leads us to:

Air: Air really has to do with layout. Open plan vs. formal rooms. We are going with an open plan main floor, knocking a wall down to create an L-shaped living space. We love open plan. Open plan rocks. Plus our bedroom and our guest's bedrooms are both on separate floor (us upstairs, guests down a level from the main floor). This gives every body the necessary "breathing space."

Space: Plot size, acreage, number of bedrooms, etc., etc. In the end this is really probably more about what you can afford. Our place had two finished bedrooms, and we're finishing out the basement to add another (for a total of three bedrooms - ideally we would have liked four even though that's a lot of guests!), but we feel we really lucked out with a small plot with the benefit of lots of surrounding wooded areas (that we don't have to pay taxes on).

Anyway, back to the pizza. I'm not great at food-writing, but Jo-Jo's does a good pie, in the traditional New York style. It does a bustling trade both with the locals and people passing through on their way to the Berks in the summer or skiing at Hunter/Windham in the winter. Just off the Hudson/Rt 82 exit of the Taconic State Parkway, their pastas aren't bad either. Recently I spotted a table of diners enjoying a calzone, which looked fantastic.

Aside from the pizza, John and I like going to Jo-Jo's for a bit of ice-cream before heading back to the city or when we're on our way back to our place from a swim at the Taconic State Park. And when I eat my soft-serve chocolate wafer cone with chocolate sprinkles and John opts for the hard ice-cream in black raspberry on a sugar cone, we love to do what all Citidiots do: feed Jo-Jo's resident goats. :)

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