Final Renovations

Well it’s been a busy Spring and Summer.

Once the dock was in and I could easily fall into the lake and just as easily haul myself back out, cool and refreshed, it was much easier to watch everyone around me work at jobs I have only a vague idea of how to do and no skills for whatsoever.

The walls inside the house all got painted downstairs, along with our bedroom and the future TV room (formerly the Dining Room). The two downstairs baths got their fresh countertops and one of them got a new set of tile to replace the molded plastic shower, and we have all been saved from the last of the hideous striped wallpaper and wallpaper borders in both places.

I’ll spare you the drama of more renovation tedium and move on to the big stuff…

We decided the vinyl siding had to go… it was doing poorly and the gaps and edges made us cringe everytime we caught sight of them in the low sun of early evening, so we decided to re-side the house in Hardie Plank (a terrific termite proof cement board siding that we have had on two previous houses and can recommend whole heartedly).  As we pored over the standard color choices for the Hardie Plank our contractor informed us he could order it with primer and we could paint it any color we liked, and we jumped at the chance to get a ‘non-standard’ Hardie color. 

The primer is an unfortunate mustard yellow… think Grey Poupon.  Good to eat, ugly on a house.  The neighbors were temporarily alarmed until we told them it was primer, then re-alarmed when we showed them the paint color we had chosen.  Oh well.  They were gracious, and acknowledged that we didn’t get to pick their ordinary pale brown either, so we were even in the Paint Your House Sweepstakes.

Anyway, here are before and after pictures of the sad blue vinyl being replaced with our particular color of happy (you don’t have to like it either- we are very pleased and that’s all that matters).



BEFORE Old, sad, pale vinyl siding.


AFTER Spiffy new siding. Swell new color.




BEFORE Ugly brick, gapped siding.                           



AFTER Smooth new siding, much better match for brick.



BEFORE Pale house. So sad.


AFTER Vibrant house, with dock, stairs, and color!


AFTER Happy house of color.




AFTER Always a good deck, now a deeply colored, whitely outlined oasis of happiness.


What color it is depends on the time of day.  The chip we chose is a deep burgundy and the house matches the chip perfectly.  But in bright sun and occasionally on a whim, there is definitely a splash of purple in there and that’s cool, if for no other reason than that it assures us of a pretty uncommon choice of house color.  🙂 

As with our living room, the new warmer paint color made the existing white trim pop very nicely and even made the nasty brown mottled bricks look less like a state prison motif than they used to.

It took 3 coats of paint (and WEEKS of time because of constant rain) to get it completely covered, but by god it’s well and truly painted now.


The Dock!

What’s a lake house without a dock, right?

Almost all the houses we looked at already had docks, which can be good because the ones you need on this lake are expensive, but bad because you get stuck with someone else’s idea of what kind of dock is useful.

The water off the front of our property is more than 60 feet deep, so traditional docks are out. Here they have to float and the docks  become part of the landscape – the water doesn’t freeze, so they are permanently moored by cables to the shore, and the cables are made tighter or looser as the lake levels fluctuate (Alabama Power operates the dam and lake levels. They do not, however, operate our electricity, which cracks us up).

So we spent last fall agonizing over the new dock – one slip or two? what color roof? what shape roof? what color decking? Archways? dockbox? how big should the swim deck be? etc. etc. etc.   They fabricated it over the winter and waited for our return to deliver and install it.

What follows are pictures of the big day… (click the pictures to embiggen them)


Off in the distance, we spotted a dock being pushed around the point and headed for our house…




It’s here! The dock is here!



At this point the dock was tied to our shore side trees and left to pivot while they did the final work on it (fixed pillars and decking that couldn’t handle the rolling and waves of the crossing).


Then the dock was moved into position so the cables could be connected on each side and the underwater ballast anchors could be set (those help keep the dock from catching wind on the underside of the roof and flipping back over itself).


Finishing touches (like getting rid of thousands of tiny aluminum shavings).


Ta Da! We are docked!

Renovations Begin Part Three

Finally! I bet you thought I dropped off the face of the Earth, yes?

I was missing some ‘after’ pictures, and although the winter was an eventful one in Jakarta, it was fairly slow (and COLD) in Alabama. So let me catch you up on the things that were finished, or nearly so, last fall…

The master bathroom was, to put it mildly, not to our taste.  It was pink. It had a shell motif border around the ceiling.  The shower was a plastic molded unit, and the accessories were all gold finished.  It did have a very nice, new Jacuzzi tub, but the last time I took a bath willingly was in 1965.  Stewing in grubby water has never appealed to either of us, no matter how many candles we use or how much champagne we drink, so while it was an unpopular decision among the people who don’t live here, the tub was scrapped.

Anyway, this is what we had to work with…


My scale model is gazing in dismay at the molded plastic shower unit, and basically it all just had to go.  Here is the shower just before it left the building.  Note the lovely shell wallpaper border…


Dave got started on the early demo and then things just got ripped out and patched, ready for our new stuff.




Demolition is messy.  Re-building after you demolish is messy and noisy.  Really, really messy and noisy.  All this was going on in the bathroom while the rest of the house was getting painted/hardwooded/new doored.  But it was educational.



….and the beginning of my epic glass block shower wall…

Image…then the shower walls and floor, vanity and wall paint…






Phew!  And finally the finished master bath…






It’s messy because we are still living oddly as the last of the renovations are done, but most of the work is being done downstairs now….


And that’s the renovations we did last fall, in three parts.  I had a great time because we had a great contractor and crew and Ted had a great time because he didn’t have to see it happening (his Civil Engineering Soul would have stroked out if he’d been forced to watch all this).

Renovations Begin Part Two

Welcome Back!

So. In addition to the master bathroom, the hardwood floors, the fireplace reface and the cabinet work, we wanted to re-jigger a couple of things.

I doubt anyone out there could look at this front porch and not find it cringeworthy…


Ted never found it as objectionable as I did, but he agreed it really wasn’t very attractive, and since my solution was a fairly inexpensive re-face, he succumbed to my whining and voila!

this is before it was even grouted!

Here’s a close up of it, once it was grouted…


Quelle improvement, yes?  Yes!

Meanwhile, back in the house… there is a closet/cupboard thingie that our sellers were using as a pantry.


Doesn’t look too bad, until you actually open the doors and have to deal with ugly, awkward, in-the-way bi-fold doors. Bleah.


Add this to the list of things Ted didn’t really find as objectionable as I did, factor in some more whining on my part, and voila!


The perfect solution.  A barn door over the shelving, that slides right across the doorway to the stairs when open. 

Stairs that used to have a baby gate that I ripped off the wall the first day we moved in (no babies have ever lived in this house, so don’t ask us…). 

Here’s a pic of the hardware when it first went up, before the door was added…


Meanwhile, outside the house, Tim the Painter was busy making all the goofy add ons the same color (the ramp our sellers put in and the stairs we put in).



Big improvement there, too, once the shine wore off that bright white- which didn’t take very long.  🙂

We had a dumpster delivered to hold all the garbage that came out of the house.  The guys working on it took the old shower stall, bathtub, vanity, doors and toilet, but all the tile, carpet, wood and stuff went into the dumpster.

We filled it.  I forgot to take a picture of it full but use your imagination…


And now all that’s left to show you is the master bath renovations! I don’t have all the pictures for it yet, so sit tight and I’ll be back with Part Three before you know it!

The Renovations Begin…

Ted went back to Jakarta and I stayed behind in Alabama and we braved a 7 week separation in order to take care of the two biggest renovation projects on our list (replace ~1000 sq ft of flooring with hardwood, gut the Master Bath) plus take care of a little pile of smaller projects.  I definitely got the better end of that stick… even living through major renovations couldn’t dampen my love of this house and this lake- and now the people who helped me in so many ways to get it all done, from the pest control to the insurance.

[As always, you can click each picture to make it bigger]

The house had, inexplicably, three different floor coverings on the main floor- a whitewashed engineered wood, grey carpet, and grey tile.

They were laid at odd angles, had nail pops, stains, and a bad case of ugly.  So job #1 was to pull up everything that would not eventually be replaced with new carpet and put down oak hardwood floors. 

Since all our cabinets and trim were glossy white paint, we chose a cherry stain for the oak.

Here’s the floor we objected to:


Note carpet “shaping”. The tiny bit of floor on lower left is engineered wood.


This is the engineered wood- entry, hall and kitchen. You can’t see the nail pops but trust me, they are there.


Don’t ask us. Someone apparently had a plan, or some sort of logic, or maybe just a tic…

It made no sense to us, we didn’t like it, and it had to go.

First we had to remove the hideous track lighting/speaker setup…


…and then paint the ceiling and walls. 



The painter tore down the tracklights, masked the cabinetry and painted the ceiling a fresh white.

Then my new best friends (plumber/electrician/carpenter/handymen) came in and ripped all the ugly floors up and tore the boring white ceramic tile off the fireplace…


The fireplace as it looked when we were househunting…


And finally they painted the walls a color called ‘stepping stone’ which made the white window trim look brand new!


Now we were finally ready for some beautiful new hardwood…









In and around the floor work, the guys were putting slate tile up on the fireplace and converting the TV shelves to bookshelves…

fpl2 fpl6




So we ended up with a painted room, new wood floors, a re-faced fireplace and hearth, and re-purposed shelving. 


It was messy, dusty, loud, and painfully slow, but they got it done.  Mostly.  We are still missing the wood trim around the hearth, because it has to be milled and wasn’t high on the priority list, so…

If you are enjoying the renovation narration, stick with me and I’ll take you through the rest in digestible chunks.  

If you aren’t, I totally understand and I hope you will come back when I switch from “getting ready to move in” to “life on a lake in Alabama”.

It promises to be a colorful one if the last two months are any indication.  🙂

Lake Perks

Something I’ve always loved about being on a lake is the morning fog when the air is colder than the water…


I was up at 2am last night for various unimportant reasons,  and it seemed uncharacteristically dark outside.

Usually I can see lights in yards around the lake, reflected moonlight, just… light- however distant or faint.

So last night I had to investigate this new dark and I went out on the deck in the (literally) freezing cold.

I couldn’t see the lake.  I couldn’t see my railing!  The fog was close and thick and moving and it was blocking out all the lights on the lake.

And absolutely silent.

Then I looked up and 5 feet above my head was sharp, clear, black sky filled with thousands of stars.

I stood there and watched the fog swirl until the cold seeped too far into my skin.  It was like standing on a cloud.

Now you know why it will be worth visiting us in the fall.  🙂

The Work Begins…

Obvious statement #1       We have a lake house!

Obvious statement #2       We should go down to the water!

Not so fast, my friend.

Small problem…


Let me digress a little.

Our new house is about 15 years old, and we bought it from the people who built it.  Their names are George and Judy so we call them the Jetsons.

The view from our deck is awesome.  It is what causes people to come to our very ordinary home and say “This is a beautiful house!”.

It isn’t.  It’s a vinyl clad box with no windows on the north side at all.

But from everywhere in and around our house what you see is lake and stone cliffs and trees by the lake and more lake, so people give the actual house a pass and declare it ‘beautiful’ because of our view.  Go ahead, click on it for full screen awesomeness.


We assume this was the draw for the Jetsons.

Because while we do not understand people who can live right on top of all this watery beauty and not need to partake of it, that is exactly what the Jetsons did.

Look, but don’t touch.

Yeow!  Pure torture for the people of my tribe.

So we are currently having steps built down (24 ft) to the water’s edge where we will be installing a dock next spring.

Here is the area we have chosen to sacrifice to the stair gods…


and here we go….






That’s Kevin, my contractor, inspecting the progress.




Next spring, our beautiful new floating dock will attach to this landing and we will be 100% water accessible. Yay us!

DSCF1146…and you can’t see it here, but directly to the right, tacked to a tree ——> is our dock permit!

So far, so good!

Begin at the Beginning. We buy a house.

Retire? Are you crazy? We are still young!

Okay, we are just starting to be old.

Shut up. We are not retirement age.


…the serious, responsible, practical boy I fell in love with started planning his retirement 4 minutes after starting his career and now the much less serious, still responsible, practical man I married is soon going to be ready and able to leave behind the joys of corporate America.

So we are retiring in about 18 months and we had to figure out where to do that. 

We have never chosen our location before.  

Not once in 35 years.

It has always been dictated by choice of school or by what cities and countries the company was offering, but never have we been faced with the entire planet and had to answer the question, “Where are we moving to?” without any input from outside entities.

Much thinking, planning, emotion, illogic, practicality, wishful thinking, magical wishing, and blind optimism finally led us to the place that made us smile and shake our heads at our own stubborn refusal to see the obvious.  

We are going home to the place we almost never had a chance to experience… the Deep South. 

Many years, 3 cities and 2 countries ago, we had the great good luck to move to rural Mississippi.  In our current sum total of 15 homes in 11 cities 6 states and 4 countries we have never felt so welcomed, so at home, and so much a part of the local fabric as we did almost immediately in Brookhaven Mississippi. 

So for House #16 we began to search the lakes of Mississippi because having a home on a lake was our one retirement requirement.

Turns out the lakes that suited us in size and condition in Mississippi did not welcome motorized vessels, which would put a serious crimp in the water skiing, tubing, and general watery transport.  

So we looked east to Alabama which shares a culture with Mississippi, not to mention temperate climate, low taxes, and a seriously good college football program. 

We found Lake Lewis Smith in the Northwest part of the state.  A pristine 21,000 acre lake with 500 miles of shoreline run by Alabama Power that’s spectacularly deep (almost 300 feet in places) and just waiting for us to take up residence. 

Then we began the house hunt.  


We waded through cabins, homes, fixer uppers, and really creative pictures and descriptions that ultimately had nothing to do with the actual property for sale. 

After looking for almost a year, we put a canary in our mineshaft: my sister agreed to make a four day visit to the local environs to look at some of the houses we thought could be suitable- since we are 12,000 miles away and weekend house hunting is beyond our abilities right now. 

She doggedly visited a list of more than 10 homes for us.  

As important, she explored the little towns and back roads that make up our little corner of Alabama heaven and pronounced them just peachy- a reliable assessment given that she found Mississippi just as terrific as we did, much to her surprise. 

Fast forward a few months to our latest trip to the U.S.

Looking at available homes for sale including two of the ones my sister found, wishing we could find something just perfect

(because retirement is coming up fast!)

and hoping we wouldn’t

(because retirement isn’t coming up fast enough!). 

…because if we found one we would have to buy it and then figure out what to do with it until Ted’s actual retirement date, which is still down the road all the way to mid 2015. 

And of course, the House Gods were laughing at us as they have been wont to do over the years, and in the middle of day 2, house number 12, we found it. 

Our choice of country, state, city and house.  On a two lane country road with 250 feet of water frontage, much of it lined with solid rock. 

We looked at each other, rolled our eyes, scoured the house for fatal flaws, held hands and jumped. 

On August 23, 2013 we closed on what we hope will be the last home we ever buy. 

fromlake copy