Monday, December 20, 2010

Ladies and gents, he made it!

Yes, that's right. Mason turned the big 60 today. He celebrated by eating chicken fried steak and eggs for breakfast, digging ditches in Karen's front yard for hours, then downing a couple margaritas with dinner. Now it's beers while watching the Vikings. I expect he'll be dead by morning. Seriously, no one else lives for each day like Mason. Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tomorrow's the big day

We're in the final countdown to owning our own little shack in the woods. Mason's been busy researching electrical systems for living off the grid, and I've already devoured one book on Tennessee (in glorious Zone 7) gardening.  We'll head up to the cabin tomorrow after we close, but don't think we'll stay the night. On Wednesday it's back to Texas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Screw this land hunt, we're going home ...

But ... home is now Soddy Daisy, TN. Or more exactly 0 Young Road, Flat Top Mountain, Hamilton County. ... That's right, our NEW CABIN doesn't even have an address, unless you count Map 31, Parcel 109.02. Yes, friends and foes, we've taken the serious plunge. Sealed a deal today for the cute little cabin with no electricity or running water (but it's soon to come, no frets!!). We close and take possession either Monday or Tuesday (whoever said rural life moves slowly?).

Here are the details: a 900 sq. ft cabin, with a bedroom on the main floor but also a loft bedroom. The main floor consists of a kitchen, living room and unique spiral staircase up to the loft. The kitchen will take a complete remodel. We're already planning a long galley butcherwood countertop with a farmhouse sink under the window, and a massive granite/soapstone island, complete with a stovetop and bar stool dining area. ... The bathroom has a great (gravity-feed) clawfoot tub (with shower to come), but the room itself will take some major work before I'd let strangers see it. We plan to bump out the bathroom wall a bit, tile it and replace the sink and toilet. Mason has already been assigned the first toilet-cleaning effort. Don't ask.

Before we do all that, we have to have a water well drilled 250 feet down inside the mountain (don't worry, they say they do it all the time). And we'll invest in a propane-run generator (and battery bank) for electricity, as well as a propane-run fridge and stove.  Internet and TV will have to come via either satellite or cell phone -- need to research that further.

There's a great wood stove in the living room, so that will keep us warm in the not-so-cold winter months (there are propane wall heaters, too, if needed). And summer nights will be spent on the front or back porch, or in front of the great front-yard firepit. (Dino: Get this, the cabin comes with a great grill, so let the ribfest resume!!)

Alas, the place is incredibly rustic right now. When we're done with it  (plans include a 2-story guesthouse and an outdoor yoga area, and of course, gardens galore!!), it will be RUSTIC CHIC. Then maybe the dentist who just bought the 5 acres next door will hire us to do his place!!!

Yes, yes, we're nuts. But happy nuts. ... Hold the snail mail until we can get a post office box. No mail trucks would make it down the 2 miles of dirt road to the new place. And besides, there's no real address there. Even the Cabrio will be sold; we're thinking a second pickup might be more practical.

And bonus: It's only 30 minutes to town and every amenity you could think of (except for family and friends, of course).

The Great Land Hunt has ended, but the blog will continue, so stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No power ... and none coming

With a realtor's warning like that, who would even go look at the property? Yup, that's right: Us! And guess what? We really like it!! OK, it's a super rustic cabin on just five acres. No running water. No electricity. No heat (and certainly no A/C)! But it's quite private (it backs up to 1,000 acres of timber company land), has good southern exposure (for Nan's gardening), no mobile homes in the area, and for an added bonus: only one Confederate flag was spotted (seriously, that's really good for around here). There's a 12-acre lake a half-mile down the road for our summer swimming pleasure (ahem: "Residents Only"! Sooo exclusive.) Care to see the place?

Today's hunt goes off the grid

We're going to go check out a 900 sq. ft. shack with no electricity and a rainwater collection system. Nancy would be so proud!! (The only thing that has us worried about this one is there are two on the same street and they refer to a "community" setting. Hmmmm.) Also, we see the Unabomber's shack is up for sale, but  sadly, it's too pricey for us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

North, south, now north again...

This arctic blast is pissing us off, and the land hunt has become exhausting. We really need a vacation from it all. So yesterday we came up with the plan to head to a Florida beach campground to drink beers in the sand and warm up for a few days.

So, this morning we're off to ... Chattanooga, TN.

So much for plans.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Moving south

Tonight's update is brought to you from Greenville, S.C., where somehow we managed to stumble upon the only Trader Joe's in the state.  It's a good day!! Saw two potential homesites today. Mason's hopes are up (this one house on acreage we saw has PLENTY of potential); Nan's still struggling (it's straight out of the pre-Beverly Hills "Beverly Hillbillies," fergawdsake). Karen, you got any more remodeling projects we can come back to do while I stall on a decision?

Meanwhile, for anyone who has traveled in the South, here's some Waffle House breakfast memories:

Friday, December 3, 2010

High times

This was Day 3 of driving around the Asheville area, hunting down property. We really like this area: the people are friendly, the mountains are beautiful and the wild rhododendrons grow more than 10 feet tall! Amazing!! However, we’re finding that most of the undeveloped property is HIGH up in the mountains, which really isn’t what we want…

The poor little Cabrio was tackling some seriously steep, switchback gravel roads today (don’t worry, Mom, we always stop once we see the numerous “no trespassing” signs). The landscape is always very entertaining: One minute you see a shack out of “Deliverance” with goats in the front yard (along with a whole lot of other unidentifiable items strewn about), and the next minute you hit a gated community with houses out of Home & Garden. At least fewer Confederate flags have been flying since we crossed the border into the “North.” Also, DAMN are there a lot of houses out here in the rural land. Overpopulation is ruining everything good!!

We've decided we’re looking for a bit more pasture or rolling hills… something we can transform with years of gardening. Not sure if we can find it, though, unless we REALLY head out for the boonies. (Ken, there’s hope: A boat is still Plan B.)

So alas, we’re not quite sure where to head next. We might go back a bit south again to northern South Carolina, or we may concentrate on the region just southeast of Asheville, or we may head toward the coastline. Wherever we head, at least we’ll be in clean clothes, as we tap out this update from the Laundromat. Oh yes, it’s a glamorous life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's not ALL fun and games

The Great Land Hunt took a turn early today, when the aging Cabrio refused to start in the cold South Carolina rain. The old girl's distributor cap is real finicky about getting wet. And so began the long walk (see above) to the auto parts store for a quick repair. It wasn't so bad, though, because Mason is the magic man and fixed her up right quick...

While we loved Athens, Ga., the outlying land didn't do much for us. So then it was onto South Carolina. After taking wrong turn after another and arguing about directions, we've surrendered and picked up a GPS to settle the fights and lead our way. And frankly, we could never have found our way without it.

Today we walked two properties at Lake Greenwood that had potential. Nick absolutely loved it, and we liked the idea of a lake community, but we're still thinking we can maybe do better.

So the Hunt continues. Tonight we're in Tryon, N.C., just over the stateline. Tomorrow we've got a long list of properties to check out. If the Cabrio starts, that is, as it's raining like crazy.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Hunt begins

The Great Land Hunt is afoot!!

Spent the past three days in Florida checking out Randy's digs. Mason has serious tractor envy.

Drove today to Athens, GA, where our Land Hunt starts for real! Spent our evening tossing back brews with the college kids and watching some zombie series on AMC.

Tomorrow we check out the Athens, Toccoa areas before moving into eastern SC. Supposed to rain in the upper 30s the next two nights, so screw camping. We're hoteling it until the rain stops.

High(low)lights of the last two days: a confederate flag twice as big as my car flying above a private residence in GA,  the NPR jingle being played on a banjo, our first breakfast at the Waffle House (guaranteed not to be the last)  and drinking with the college kids in Athens...

Stay tuned for more adventure....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The journey east

Wednesday will mark our departure from Texas (finally!) and the start of our big journey east for the Great Land Hunt. First stop? I regret to report it's Florida. Before we REALLY start the Hunt, we're taking a side trip to the Panhandle to visit Mason's buddy Randy. He bought 10 acres a couple years ago, so we're going to go check out how he's tricked out his property. So it's Thanksgiving on the Gulf of Mexico. I'm just hoping Randy knows where we can get something more than beer for our holiday meal.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A window becomes a door

Winding up our last big project for Mason's family, we finished off the French doors today. Of course Mason's never done this kind of thing before, but we're thinking it turned out pretty damn nice. Not to mention that it makes Bart and Angelina's outdoor space way more accessible from their living space. And an added bonus: We only let their manic little Min-Pin dogs escape the yard twice during the whole project. One other bonus: Mason promised me an electric caulking gun for Christmas so when we re/build our next house, my little girl hands don't have to work so hard!!

Countdown to the Great Land Hunt can finally begin. Saturday we head back to Lake Kiowa to see the Williams half of the family for a few days before heading east.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our work here is done

Gone is Karen's boring white kitchen, and in its place? A gorgeous taupe granite that swirls with white, brown, gold, beige and a hint of gray-green. Painted 1950s wood paneling on the backsplash? I don't think so! Lovely Tuscanesque harlequin tiles that pop with taupe grout (which was quite the chore to do, we might add!).  Karen also switched to an oil-rubbed bronze faucet, with cabinet hardware to match (thank you, spray paint)! Added a new light over the sink for a nice accent of light, and swapped out some dated scalloped cabinet trim for some classic lines.
Our work here is done. Next?

Tonight's the kitchen reveal

Can you feel the anticipation?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mastic and magic

Mastic is the paste-like glue that sticks the cute little tiles to the backsplash. Magic is what gets Mason and I through a day of tiling without killing each other. After six hours on the job today, it's looking pretty good. Nope, no photos yet!! Not till it's done. But here's the before photo:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A window into our future

It took eight long hours, but when we were done, the living room window at Bart's house was gone and a french door was in its place. The brick-wall-busting effort completely exhausted us. When the work fell only on Mason's shoulders, I took on some invading grass in the flower bed.  By nightfall, we were both popping pills for the lower-back pain. And the job's not done yet...  Thought: Maybe we DON'T want to build a house from scratch.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dinner Al Fresca, en November

One tradition of our trips to Texas is dinner at Joe T's, a tourist trap with decent food and margaritas in the Fort Worth stockyards. Here's the Cook families -- that's son Matt in the foreground next to his wife, Joanna, and on the far side is Bart and his wife, Angelina. And yes, we're OUTSIDE. At 9 p.m. Outside, people, in November. And that plate of green on the table? About 2 pounds of damn fine tasting guacamole.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Predawn Errands

No birthday celebration is complete without a  6 a.m. trip to the emergency room. Mom rang in her 72nd (OK OK the day before her 72nd) with a heart attack scare. Turns out, we think, to be drugs gone bad. No, Mom ain't a junkie. Bad drugs as in allergy meds + high blood pressure meds = bad mojo.  Gave us all a bit of a scare.  So let's all raise a toast to Mom today (Halloween) on this extra special birthday!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Breakfast, Texas-style

Mason could not be happier. Me? Three bites of those greasy-ass potatoes and my stomach was churning. And do you see the sheen on that quarter-inch-thick ham? Get me to the farm! Oats and berries, please.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Future

Mason sleeps off a cold/hangover, while I do yoga under the dappled sun of oaks. Is this my future?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's talk weather

Four days in the Metroplex ... and four days of glorious weather. 80s. Sunny. Deliciously warm.  Tank tops and shorts have been the order of the day. A jog at sunset was unbelievably pleasant. Jealous yet?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Keeper

Folks, meet Karen, otherwise known as the Keeper, the Ex-Wife and sometimes still Mason's Wife.  She's already made us feel at home. There's no other way to thank her than to clean out her garage -- again.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Buenos noches, Tejas

Breath deep, exhale and sigh. Smell it? It's the scent of country hicks, big hair and whataburgers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bad Radio and Road Construction

Lots of windshield time today, thanks to those orange cones you see in the rearview. Kansas City, I will not remember you fondly. On the bright side, I sang more pop music '70s and '80s tunes than I have in a long time. Yes, I confess: Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" had me grooving in my seat, singing at the top of my lungs. Hey, you try driving across Missouri and Kansas.  (Mason's response: It was a good day to be in separate cars.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Priority One: Deposit Big Fat Check in Bank

This morning I owned a home in the hip Minneapolis suburbs. Tonight I'm shacked up at a motel in Ames, Iowa, and waiting on a pizza delivery.  This may not seem like a good thing. But lemme tell you how good it felt to deposit that big fat check.  We're throwing back a home brew (we can't afford that fancy store-bought stuff anymore) and still wondering: What the hell have I done? (Mason's toast: "Hope I didn't just ruin your life again.") He cracks me up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Am I really doing this? Why didn't these women talk me out of this? They call themselves my friends. But do friends let friends quit good-paying jobs and run off with dreams of goats and gardens? People, beware of these women. I think they just wanted my great wardrobe...  Bitches.