Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All For The Want Of Bookshelf Space

There once was a mouse; let’s call him Mouse.  Mouse is unhappy with the number of books in the office, so Mouse picks out some books to sell, and a few to take upstairs to the less used bookshelves. Mouse’s wife, hereinafter referred to as Grace I mean Schmrace, feels generous, and carries the books to the car, puts them in a box, and then carries the other books upstairs, and organizes them. When Schmrace comes back downstairs, Mouse hands her a color wheel and tells her to pick a new color for the office.

Schmrace browses colors, and picks a few, but is alarmed to discover that all the bookshelves and the books are suddenly in the hallway. As in, not in the office, where they belong. “We’re doing this now?” Schmrace asks. “We’re doing this now,” Mouse confirms. “Oh, and pick out colors for the upstairs bathroom and the laundry room,” Mouse tosses over his shoulder as he looks for his car keys.

All the furniture comes out of the office; the washer and dryer move to center of the laundry room; fixtures are removed from the bathroom. Painter’s tape is applied, and Lis I mean Little Mouse is allowed to paint the big areas of the walls. Little Mouse is covered in Dresden Blue, Rum Punch Red, and Silver Bells Gray paint. Eventually, the paint dries, all furniture, books, appliances, and fixtures are returned to their rightful places. Mouse declares himself satisfied.

Mouse decides to use the leftover paint to paint the dollhouse he wanted to build for Little Mouse. Mouse brings the paint into the office, and…spills the paint. A lot of paint. On the carpet. “Well,” Mouse says, looking around in dismay, “this is the original carpet, and it’s pretty nasty, so let’s go look at carpet.”

Schmrace packs snacks for the trip to the store.

Mouse and Schmrace talk to the salesmouse about the carpet and pick out some carpet. They discuss the difficulty of having all one long piece of carpet upstairs, with the same carpet being on every inch of the floor. “Oh!” says the salesmouse, “I dealt with that breaking up the carpet with hardwood in the main areas.” Suddenly Schmrace and Mouse are selecting hardwood samples. Schmrace picks several samples that were close to the current downstairs hardwood; Mouse, on a whim, picks a gorgeous grayish brown hardwood. Just for fun.

The grayish hardwood wins. The story behind it is long and unimportant. The new carpet and new hardwood are installed, and lo! They are beautiful, even if the new hardwood does not at all match the bannisters or the downstairs hardwood. The Mouse Family will take care of that in time. Except the hardwood that was installed was defective, so it is torn out and replaced.

Little Mouse is delighted with the new carpet, and rolls around on it. She’s also delighted with the hardwood, and says “Look! I slide in my socks!” and goes flying down the hallway like she’s on skates. Mouse watches her thoughtfully, and asks, “How would you like a slide?” The answer is obvious and immediate.

A modest playset is selected, and built. Little Mouse learns to operate power tools. Eventually, the playset is built and lo, it is glorious. Much fun is had, and Mouse and Schmrace are able to sit and watch Little Mouse play.

As they sit there on their deck and watch her play, Mouse spots a weed.

Mouse pulls the weed, then another, then another. Mouse vanishes around the corner. Schmrace hears the sound of power tools, probably the electric trimmer. Schmrace offers to help, but Mouse tells her to stay there, and relax. Eventually, Schmrace hears “I’m done!” All the bushes are trimmed, and FOUR evergreen bushes are mysteriously missing, or if not missing, are in pieces all over the yard.

“We need to talk tree and bush removal,” Mouse says. Schmrace finds quotes for all of it. While Mouse is cleaning up, he finds a grainy substance. He looks suspiciously at the roof. “Let’s get an inspector out here to see if there’s any hail damage to the roof.” Probably a great idea, concedes Schmrace internally, since she’s been worried about the grainy substance, too.

There is hail damage. Lots of it. The Mouse family needs a new roof, and repairs, and new gutters, and downspouts, and screens. “Well! At least insurance is covering it!” says Schmrace.

The next day, the roof starts to leak—on the brand new hardwood floor. There are many buckets. “Well!” says Mouse, “at least we already know insurance is covering it! So, let’s paint the house.” Schmrace blinks at him.

Schmrace picks out colors for the outside of the house. “Since there’s damage to ceiling in our bedroom, we’ll have to paint,” says Mouse. “Paint the ceiling,” says Schmrace. “Yes, but if we have to move everything anyways, maybe we should paint the whole room. It’s still manufacturer’s tan.” Schmrace does hate the tan color, so she returns to her color wheel.

Schmrace is running out of color wheel options.

The water damage extends to the garage, so it will need to be re-plastered and repainted. This means ripping down the existing shelving in the garage. “It was not too sturdy anyways,” says Mouse. “Besides, we’ve been saving up for years for that gladiator shelving!” Which is true. But…exhausting, thinks Schmrace.

Schmrace and Mouse sit down on the back deck to pick out colors. It’s scorching hot outside. “Wouldn’t it be nice if this was a screened in porch? Or a sunroom? Or a three seasons room that’s sometimes a screened in porch, sometimes a sunroom?” “Yes,” says Schmrace, enthusiastically. “I always wanted that in a house,” she daydreams. “Well, get a quote. We’ll do it in 2018.” Schmrace stares at Mouse and drinks her gin.

Mouse goes on, “We could use the hardwood leftover from the upstairs in it somehow. Oh! As soon as the roof, the tree removal, and the interior and exterior painting are done, get quotes on the downstairs.” Schmrace says, “The downstairs?”

“Well, yes,” says Mouse. “If we ever needed to move, we need the hardwoods to match. Once we strip and refinish the hardwood, we’ll need to paint the cabinet. If we’re doing that, we might has well add another section of cabinets and extend the new countertops. By the way, let’s decide whether we want granite, quartz, recycled glass, or butcher block counter tops. Then we’ll need to refinish or repaint those bannisters.”

Mouse and Schmrace sit in silence, sipping their drinks. Schmrace reflects back to the end of spring, a young mouse blithely carrying off some extra books to make more bookshelf space.

Mouse says, “We can talk about landscaping next year. That reminds me though—we need to put in new mulch this fall.”

Friday, July 1, 2016

O Glory And Wonder

Destin, FL. It was amazing, you guys. It continues to be amazing. Since we have taken this vacation multiple times and plan to do so again, I feel compelled to tell you all how wonderful it is. Our closest friends have been going to Destin, FL for 20 years. Yes, that’s right—TWENTY. So, we benefit hugely from their experience, and we just do what they tell us to do, mmkay?

Yes, this is real

The Gulf Side beach and my tiny baby, who is apparently old enough to boogie board

We stay at Destin Pointe. It’s a private neighborhood that’s a mix of real live owners living in their houses, and rentals. There is also a condo building, but it is only 6 stories high, so it’s not intrusive. There are two pools, both of which are kid friendly, with little water features, and a splash pad. One pool is right by the beach, and it has a zero depth entry with some water features; the other pool, which is by the condo building (Magnolia House) has a ramp and stairs, water features, and the splash pad.

Yep, right there. On the point, so we get the Gulf and the protected East Pass.

The neighborhood is decent size, but smaller, so it’s totally walkable to the beach even from the farthest house. Now, if you’ve got little ones, it might not be so walkable, but never fear! There is an on-demand “tram” that runs from 8 am to 5:30 pm from any house in the neighborhood to any pool or the beach. I’ve never had to wait more than 5-8 minutes for it. It’s golf cart with 5 rows, each row seating 3, plus two that sit with the driver.  We used the tram a lot this year, because even though we were close, Lis was just tired out.

All the houses come with one umbrella and two chairs for the beach. You don’t even have to lug them around—they are set up for you by 8 am on the beach, and they take them down for you after 5 pm. It’s magical. If you stay in a condo, you can rent the set for $25 a day, which is totally worth it. No hassle.

Gulf beach; umbrellas; snacking child.

There are two points of beach access—one to gulf, where all the waves are, and one to the East Pass, which is a really calm area that leads into the Destin Harbor. On the East Pass side, there is a giant wall of breakwater rocks, which form really fun tide pools, and it’s great snorkeling along those rocks. It’s not rough at all. Past the rocks, on the East Pass beach side, there is a super calm beach. There are practically no waves, great snorkeling, and it’s not busy. It’s fantastic to watch the sun set here, and it’s great for little kids. The gulf side has some mild surf and waves and great shelling. It’s still fairly calm, especially compared to the Atlantic beaches I’ve been to. All the water is that gorgeous crystal clear water that fades into emerald green and sapphire blue.

Access to the East Pass side--the path
View form on top the breakwater rocks, where people snorkel and fish

Rocks, walking down towards East Pass beach

In the past, we’ve never had a jellyfish issue, but this year, there were some small jellies. No one in our group was stung, but someone else nearby was. She said it did not hurt, more like a pinch, and she kept swimming.

Literally my view from my umbrella and chair.

In other hazardous marine life information, we DID see a shark this year. SHARK!!!!!! OUT OF THE WATER!!!!! I can hear you screaming. It turned out to be kind of anti-climatic. There were tons and tons of fish that day, more than I had ever seen before, and big fish, too. Because of that, people were kind of on the lookout. Everyone on the beach spotted the shark right away, called out and passed the message on, and we climbed out to watch the shark slide gracefully by. We stuck close to shore for a few hours, but it was clear the shark had moved on, in search of the fish it had scared off.  Our friends said that was the first time in 20 years they’ve seen a shark.

We saw dolphins! They rode the waves into the beach, then turned around and went back out again, only to ride the waves back in It was so cool.

East Pass beach at night; forgot to take a day time picture

Anyways, I’m not sure how to rave enough about this beach. The water was warm and clear; the shelling was amazing. The sand is that soft white sand, so it doesn’t get really hot, and you can walk barefoot on it. The waves were just the right size for kids, and Lis loved to float in them for HOURS. She even learned to boogie board. The best part is that it’s not crowded. The beach access is private, and because this neighborhood is on a point, there is no where else to access the beach from, so… quiet. Your chairs and umbrella do get set up in one area, but if feel like you want more space, then just mosey down the beach 20 feet, and there is no one. We sat there and played for awhile and there was not a person in 20 feet of us in either direction. Even where everyone is set up is not crowded; it’s just where they set the chairs to reduce walking from the access point. It’s also all families, so there’s no spring breakers there.

Pano of the Gulf side beach; moon on one side, sunset on other

Oh! That reminds me. Every time I have been to this beach, this great tide pool has formed at least one of the days we were there. It must just be the shape of the beach. So, there’s the ocean, and then there’s the slope up, and then it’s flat for a while before it gently curves up. On that second flat area, the waves wash up and create this little tide pool/river and man it is THE BEST.

Our general day went like this: Get up, breakfast, pack beach bag. Go to beach until 10:30 or 11. Lis then asks to go to pool; swim in pool until lunch. We almost exclusively swim in the pool right by the beach, just because. If we brought lunch to beach, then return to beach and eat lunch at beach; Lis may fall asleep in beach chair. If not, then we return to house to eat lunch; Lis may fall asleep on porch chair. Digest food, return to beach. Maybe hit the pool on the way back. Make or obtain dinner; drink gin on porch while Lis is snoring away in bed. Rinse, lather repeat.

Lake in  middle of neighborhood; looking towards the Gulf, standing on boardwalk

Same view, but sunset

Obviously, I can’t speak for every house, but I like the houses we’ve stayed in. It’s a typical rental house set up—there’s some basics there, like plates, cups, appliances, towels, sheets, etc, but you need to bring your own food, maybe your own spices, and if you have any specialized kitchen tools (like us and our French press/tea pot/hot water kettle set up), you’ll need to bring those. So far, any time we’ve had an issue, the management has been very responsive and fixed it for us while we were at the beach. Our friends did get pretty irritated one year at a house that needed some fixing up, and the A/C had some issues, but it got worked out (a/c was fixed; discount given). There’s a gate guard who is pretty vigilant about people’s comings and goings, and they have security that does patrols at night.

View from our house's front porch

This year, we stayed at Déjà Vu, and man, I love that house. The back porch was in the sun all day; the front porch was in the shade all day. Take your pick! It even had a little courtyard backyard with a grill and a path for Lis to run around and around and around. It was 2 bedrooms, 2 baths—just a little cottage, but perfect for us. It overlooked a little lake, and ahhh.

Our backyard

I think it really depends on the house as to what they come with—ours had great wifi, some board games, a grill, etc. I’ve seen some come with boogie boards and toys, but honestly, I’d rather just bring mine so that I don’t care if they wash away.

I mean, it's likely she will bite it and lose the board.

I’ve been in the condos multiple times, but never stayed there. While we prefer houses and will probably never stay in a condo (we just don’t like the elevator hassle), I have to say, those condos have it BEAT with their views. It’s a partial view of the gulf that stretches into the east pass and the harbor. There is nothing obstructing it. The sunsets are amazing. Our friends often stay there, and they like the accommodations, which I admit, are pretty nice.

Pano from condo porch. I mean, really. That's the East Pass beach view.

One of the MOST CONVENIENT THINGS EVER about this neighborhood is that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to deal with traffic. I think Destin traffic can be a bit nuts on the main drag, which is where you find all the grocery stores, of course. But this neighborhood’s quiet road dumps you RIGHT into the parking lot of the Winn-Dixie and a Target, which houses a Starbucks. There are other food related things there, too.  So, you can totally skip the traffic, just by virtue of staying here!

We’ve had some great meals out: a breakfast place (The Pancakery); lunch (La Paz and Local Market); and dinner (Hog’s Breath; McGuires; Boshamps; Island Wing Company).

We went jetskiing this year! It was great; it lasted for 2 hours, which was plenty with a kid, and we saw many, many dolphins. We were also able to go over the Crab Island, which is basically a permanent sand bar where people set up boats, restaurants on boats, and honest to god floating playgrounds. It’s perfect clear water, and we had a blast.

I could have easily stood in the water here. It's just a floating party place.



I’d love to try parasailing; our friends have rented sea kayaks and boats, and said both are great fun. Oh! There’s an honest-to-God pirate ship that you can take a pirate cruise on, and Lis is ALL ABOUT THAT.

In Destin, there’s also a waterpark right by the neighborhood, which looks like amazing fun. There’s a carnival place that has mini golf and go karting, and we took Lis go karting. She loves it. Go during the day, when it’s less crowded.




Because the breeze is so nice, and the water temperature is perfect, and the sand is white and so very reflective, I will say this: It’s easy to get sunburnt without realizing it. Be diligent with the sunscreen, and wear a rash guard. I highly recommend SwimZip.com for kids’ rash guards that ZIP OMG SO EASY. I put on 50 spf at least twice a day, wore a big brim sunhat with sunglasses, and most of the time a rash guard, and with the help of our umbrella, I escaped sunburn.

Lots of sunscreen and hats for us ghosts
East Pass Beachside, looking for pirates


Yeah. I've already started planning for next year.