Monday, July 21, 2008

Sultry, Summertime Blues...With the Rain Man

So, John and I went up to the house on Saturday to see how the painting was going. We really had the pressure on the paint guy Bob and his team, because we were working against the clock (and potential dust) of the flooring guy. But late-breaking news on Friday afternoon (4 p.m., mind you), was that our floor guy wasn't going to make it the following week as scheduled. He threw his back out (I can only hope that it was during the finals of a limbo contest) and was gonna be laid up for a while.

In the meantime, paint is progressing but probably not as much color as we'd have liked to have seen. As Bob explained, there's a ton of other little things like patching and skim-coating and priming and all that other fun stuff that had to take place first. Fine, fine, sounds good enough. But while at the house, it was so hot that I could only muster the energy to water the half-dead flowers while John set to work on his usual punch list of items that I have no idea how to help with (like electronic, temperature gauge kind of things). Then I stewed on the porch, in the heat, waiting for the opportunity to hit the nearby lake for an afternoon dip, as promised. (I swear, I'm like an 8 year-old sometimes).

Alas, when the time finally came to get the swimsuits on, we heard a crack of thunder. Pulling out my Crackberry, I quickly checked in with the Accuweather forecast and saw that a storm was coming our way. See below:

Grrr....this would all be rather funny, if this wasn't the second or third time this summer that my planned swim had been marred by foul weather, and was therefore probably the result of the "Curse of the Rainman," aka my husband John.

Now, I know you're all probably thinking that I'm being mean (and you're right, I am) when referring to John as The Rain Man, but as a bit of background, on our first vacation together, John took me -- not to a beach in the Caribbean, or to Europe to cycle under a Tuscan Sun, but to a rainforest. And a cold one at that -- in Washington State. Olympic National Park to be exact.

I should have known what I was getting into then, when I saw John in his element in the pouring rain, while I had the naivety to stop at some roadside gift shop to ask directions, in the downpour, to the rainforest.

Since then, John has taken me on several adventures of a lifetime. The beaches of Rio de Janerio, for instance, where it rained. The dry earth of Ayer's Rock (Uluru) in Australia, again, where it rained so hard that we were trudging knee deep through water with lightning all around. And since we were with German tourists I swore I would end up meeting my maker that day -- it always happens to the Germans, you know. And now, Lake Taghkanic State Park, all to be faced with a deluge of precipitation and thunderstorms.

Just look at him smiling behind the Crackberry here --
it's a good thing he's so damn sexy and fun to be around, even in the rain:

Eventually, the rain passed (in fact, I don't even think it affected the lake, I'm just being a drama queen), and we went down for a dip. Downright sultry was the weather report, and it delivered as I did my 15 minutes of frolicking, dried off and we went back to Jo-Jo's for a bit of ice-cream before heading back to the city.

Swim-crisis avoided. Whew.

In the meantime, we're waiting for a floor person to come in and work their magic, and also looking into how to take care of feral cats, as there have been several black cat sightings in the hood, and on our property, but no owner when we've asked around. I'm referring to Animal Kind's info on building a cat shelter and hope to have it up by next week pending another sighting. Will keep you posted on that!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


So we've had major progress on the whole floor situation. Once climatized, our main man Mark (who wasn't sojourning in the South of France as I had suspected) got his crew of five guys together to put in the pine flooring in the house -- all to the uber-geeky tunes of The Monkees.

First bit of excitement was having a driveway full of cars and trucks (six in all!), it means that progress is seen here:

The second bit of excitement (aside from "Last Train to Clarksville") was seeing all of these guys pull together to get the flooring in on one and half-floors of house (I guess about 1,200 sq. ft.) in 1.5 days, start to finish. Here they are sawing the pine that will be lifted up through the window.

And best of all, when they left us (work-site immaculate, BTW), we got to take in the near finished product...FLOORGASM!

View above: The living area looking towards the new French doors, to be stained.

Watch the above space for when the kitchen is installed.
And below will be the view that our cooking goddess Jean will have as she prepares a meal for her peeps, Julia Child-style.

All I can say is..."Yeah, I'm a Believer!" (Thanks Mark and crew!)

Housekeeping Notes: John has mentioned to me that in a prior posting I said that "pine was cheap." He begs to differ as the bills from Herrington's came to a bit over $3K (YIKES!). But that includes pine for the entire main floor, plus new bedroom downstairs, as well as materials for window trim, nails, adhesive, etc. That said, Mark mentioned to us about some past client who spent $20K on wood flooring material (mahogany?) and another $20K on installation. (Gulp.)

Flack Alert (Here's the PR chick in me coming out, god I hate myself in these moments, but still...): A shameless shout-out needs to go to Herrington's; the contractors love them, they apparently discount, deliver and John loves the back-office folks who are quick to respond to any questions concerning billing, etc.

Next up is the guy who will strip, sand and refinish the floors. He enters the scene next Monday. We're going to let him work in seclusion so that no kitten paws get stained and the new floors don't get my Saskwatch-like foot prints in the polyurethane.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What the...Flowers from Outer Space?

I'm not even sure where to begin with these latest, I mean flowering wonders that cropped up this week at the house. Looking at them makes me think "Men in Black" meets "The Victory Garden," and as much as I like wild flowers, these are like the Jimi Hendrix of psychedelic flora.

I'll just sit back and let you enjoy...

Excuse me, while I hit the sky...
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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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Get Me to the Church on Time

On Saturday we needed another excuse to go up to the house (other than to watch the wood climatize), and so we ended up taking a little visit to a church on Rt. 27 that's going up for auction. We've often driven by this little church and it's a real charmer from the outside, just a lovely and peaceful setting under some great big, beautiful Maple trees.

In typical real-estate speak, the listing boasts an Historic 1850's church "ready to be converted to a retreat or studio" (Read: This baby needs a lot of work!)..."The possibilities are endless!" (Read: We're talking gut-wrenching, gut renovation here, folks!!) Indeed. Sadly, while the church really is lovely on the outside, the latter-day Lutherans who last used the place in the 1950s had terrible taste in interior decor (linoleum floors, drop ceilings - oh the horror!) which must have surely put the end to the congregation -- I mean, who would show up for a pot-luck dinner in a place like that!?

Anyway, we made polite by taking the little info packet and checking out the outhouse and we truly hope someone with big vision and an even BIGGER pocketbook is able to restore this otherwise lovely country structure. For more details on the property and the auction, (including images of linoleum flooring over perfectly lovely painted wood floor boards) visit Copake Real Estate Auctions.

Climatizing Wood...and Other Excuses for Taking a Summer Holiday

Somewhere between the philosophical riddle of "If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one around to hear it," and the idiom that "A watched pot never boils," lies our latest home renovation dilemma, climatizing wood.

Yes, in our latest installment of how the home renovation turns, we recently had our timeline derailed not due to mice gnawing at the electrical wiring or dangerous combinations of hot wires embedded in plastic sheets charring the home insulation, but by the failure of "one of the cooks in the kitchen" to get the wood into the house to begin the "climatizing" process.

"Climatizing wood," you ask? "What's that?" Well, that was precisely my question, and being new to this whole home ownership/reno thing, as well as being a jaded if not cynical New Yorker, when I heard about the climatizing thing, I damn near fell off the chair...we'd be losing two weeks while our cheap planks of pine settled their little two by five and two by seven butts into our home -- and got used to its level of humidity. Surely there had to be something more devious at play here. A contractor's vacation perhaps. Or even worse, perhaps a hint of contractor ennui.

But armed with my Google tool bar, answers came quickly. Within minutes I learned that wood, indeed, needs to be climatized. And while I've never seen wood climatize in any of those home reno shows I've been watching for the past four years (Flip This House, Flip That House, Property Ladder and my favorite, the BBC's Location, Location, Location) according to "The relative humidity where the lumber is purchased may be different than the humidity in your workshop area. You should climatize the lumber in the environment in which it is being worked to obtain the equilibrium moisture content of the wood. While 72 hours of climatizing is generally recommended, two weeks or longer tends to achieve better results."


And so, "the floor guy" is off galavanting about with other, less boring floor projects, or hanging with his kids at the Copake quarry, or perhaps even sipping wine in the South of France, all while we wait for the wood to work its magic.

In the meantime, our painter Bob and his crew who also did all the dry wall and sheetrocking is moving along with the painting at a furious pace. When we went up last Saturday, the first coat of paint had already been put on throughout the main floor along with the new bedrooms downstairs. Once its complete, I'll share the photos with the deets on the paint colors.


Late-Breaking News: The wood, apparently, has climatized. Our floor guy will be working away on Thursday and Friday this week to "get 'er done."


Photo captions above and right: Wood, climatizing.