Celebrating a Real Estate Win

So, yesterday wasn’t all bad. The Bobcat Lair house sale finally went through and funded. That was such a relief. The way things have been going lately, I was not going to believe it was real until a check was in our hands. So, our friends and former real estate partners, Carol and Russell, drove up from Austin and brought us the check.

It’s real! Carol gives Lee the check, with happy mariachis looking on.

We met at the El Charro restaurant in Cameron, where we had delicious food and celebratory margaritas (for many of us). Other than those of us who are professional writers boring those who are not, a good time was had by all. This was really a long time coming, and we still can’t believe we sold the house for its asking price.

Me trying to wrestle the check out of Lee’s hands. Harvey was hoping it was food.

We went back to the ranch for some celebratory prosecco and to ogle the check, which was the largest one we had ever seen (mainly because we didn’t have a mortgage on the house, so there was no payoff to a mortgage company).

We were very impressed, though Russell was more impressed with the prosecco.

I’m so relieved to be able to breathe a little easier, no longer having to pay two sets of utilities and property taxes. We now have some retirement income, too. I’m feeling such relief. And I am grateful for Carol’s and Anita’s help with getting the house sold, too. They both put in a lot of work! It’s so good to have friends to help you along the way.

A toast to old friends.

A bonus to the evening was that Carol and Russell delivered a lovely gift. Carol had re-painted my old metal dining set, which I’ve had since the first house I bought with the kids’ dad (so it’s at least 30 years old). It’s now red, the color of a red crayon, just like I wanted. That made me so happy!

They look brand new!

I can assure you that my gratitude for tomorrow will be for having figured out a way to have funds for my later years, for having loyal long-time friends, and for having family that wants to be with me for holidays. We are very fortunate. That I will not forget.

Projects? We Always Have Projects

There always seems to be some house or another than needs to be worked on in our little community. The focus right now is on Anita’s retirement house, Pickle’s Pink Palace. I’ve probably mentioned that a few things have come up, so she isn’t in there yet (she’s in my office, right where I am typing).

Yes, it needs some work.

The crew (the nephew and his helper, Marcus) have already taken down some walls, made some openings, and come to the conclusion that the whole place needs rewiring and insulation on the outer walls (there is NO insulation).

On the other side of that tar paper is the brick. No insulation.

But the place actually looks a lot better already, thanks to painting the walls a neutral color and removing the old cabinets and scary appliances (the stove is not scary, just dusty, and the fridge holds beverages for the crew). The biggest eyesore, a heater that took up the best wall in the living room, is also gone. The hole it left is much more attractive.

The heater hole is exactly the size of a full-length mirror, and I tried to look at myself in it.

An electrician and a spray-foam technician have already been scheduled, so that will be taken care of soon and the walls can go back up.

The kitchen also had no insulation, but at least the cabinets are gone.

Then will come more painting, flooring, cabinets, and the all-important HVAC installation. And oh yes, new windows and roof.

The garage, which is on the other side of the wall that’s been removed, will be the main bedroom and bathroom.

Much landscape cleanup has been accomplished, but there are a lot of nandina plants and other nuisances to get rid of. I hope we can save some of this beautiful little “weed,” though.

Tahitian wedding veil. Tiny blossoms.

There are a few very large, very old trees that were planted when the house was built in 1955. They are in their old age, but we hope to pamper them a few more years. The oak and pecans make Anita look even tinier!

We’re all extremely excited to get this house livable. We know it has a good vibe from back when we bought it. Anita is going to make it so true to its lineage, and so livable as well.

Want to see “before” pictures? This post from 2019 has some!

Anticipation of Positive…Stuff

Well, why not? Thinking about good outcomes is way more comforting than listing the major stressors you’re dealing with all at the same time, I think. So here I am anticipating better hair.

The older I get, the more I look like a bunny. Oh well, I declare it to be cute.

I’m also anticipating a nice meal with a friend this evening, and the sale of the Bobcat Lair, which is going more slowly than we’d hoped. The professional photos are up now, though. Check them out!

Ooh. We are in an upward transitioning community.

But, for me, the big anticipation is that Pool of Dreams! Dudes showed up today with bullnose tile for the edges of the pool, and the pretty tile for the waterfall.

Limestone with much character!

I couldn’t see the fancy tile, because they hid it to protect it. That’s probably a good idea.

The pretty stuff is under the black plastic.

They also took away all the forms around the gunite, so it’s ready to get pretty. I can’t wait to get home to see it tomorrow (I’m in Austin for the hair thing.)

Just getting started.

I’ve been enjoying the new job, but it’s making me tired, trying to learn so many things. At least I know the software! So forgive me if all I can muster up are some pictures of my latest ranch office updates. I have matching linen curtains and some art from the Bobcat house up. I like being around my needlepoint and Mom’s embroidery.

I’ll work on being more coherent tomorrow.

Staging the House

Poor Carol has had to work so hard staging the Bobcat Lair to sell. And Anita has done an incredible amount of hard cleaning and packing. But, wow, it looks so different!

The den (Anita’s living area), where you used to just walk down a narrow path.

Removing a zillion books and doo-dads that Anita and I love has made the house look all modern and spacious. It’s weird.

The mirrors are finally up in this bathroom. It’s so beautiful.

Yeah, barely looks like my house, but it should sell fast, we hope. I mean, heck, it has a wine room!

I needed that yesterday.

So, if you know a rich person who wants to live in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood in Austin with amazing neighbors, I can hook you up. Enjoy some more pictures. The professional guy comes today, and of course, it’s raining.

What? We Have a Pool?

Apparently, we do have a pool, and it’s right behind the Bobcat Lair house in Austin. I’ve lived here part time for four years and owned the house for six, but I’d never really seen it, just glimpsed it through trees.

Look, Ma, there’s a cement pond! (as they would say on the Beverley Hillbillies)

I discovered this (just kidding, I did know there was a pool there; I simply had never seen it up close) last night when my friend Carol, from back in the Hermit Haus Redevelopment days, came over to visit. She brought some delicious food, we pulled out the good wine, and we had a lot of laughs catching up. The recent goings-on in Cameron led to much laughter.

The infinity area, with scenic view.

Now, when we had most recently walked Pickle, the neighbors informed Anita and me that the pool had indeed re-opened after a year of slumber and intense renovation. I wanted to check it out, since some of the neighbors had done most of the renovating themselves, including the lovely plantings around it, and I wanted to see it up close and in person.

You can see the moon. Once it got dark, it was really pretty. The pool edges look so nice now.

We mentioned it to Carol, and she also wanted to see it. Why, she had even brought her bathing attire along with her in case she could go swimming at the Y near her house at some point in the day. So, I donned my fabulous modest bathing suit and grabbed the towel I bought two years ago and hadn’t used yet to join her for a dip. Even though it was 8:30 pm and Carol only had fancy sandals to wear, we slipped between the houses and went down.

A cozy spot to dine, or take notes, which someone forgot about.

We were very impressed with the resurfaced pool (even though I had never seen the old version), the painted areas, and the cleaned-up limestone. The lighting is also lovely, and explains why it’s never really dark outside my bedroom window.

It’s all so clean and fancy!

It turns out the pool doesn’t close until 10, so we enjoyed the water (even Anita, who had hiccups the entire time, dipped her feet in) for quite a while. I sure wish we had made time to use this neighborhood feature before, but I figure I’ll get the most out of it while I can this summer. (Excuses include losing the key for a couple of years, being exhausted every night, and COVID.)

Don’t make me take my socks off. Our house is just to the right of the one you see behind Anita.

I really appreciate the hard work people in this neighborhood are doing to improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood. They are spending their own money, since the HOA is not inclined to do more than mow and trim.

Carol checks out the plants. That’s our house, at right. Pretty close.

Sigh, actually hanging out with your old friends is fun. Thanks to all the people who worked so hard on the COVID vaccine, too!

Fun Times in Downtown Cameron

Times are getting more exciting here in little Cameron, Texas, and it’s not just because Anita will move here soon. Lots of new businesses and jobs have been coming in, and the upcoming relocation of some of the County offices to the old hospital will be freeing up some cool places for investors to come in and start new businesses. We all have our favorite “dream shops” we want to see, but which buildings are right for what?

That question is what led to my fun day yesterday. A few people who are members of the Cameron Chamber of Commerce got together, and let by the fearless Melanie, trekked all over the downtown area to look through the buildings that would soon be available and “re-imagine” them. Looking through historic buildings and offices is my idea of fun, which is why I volunteered to tag along and was so grateful for the opportunity to help out in a small way.

We looked at buildings that are still being used, buildings that were full of mold, buildings in great shape, and ones that required some imagination. We all had clipboards to write down our ideas.

I was enthralled by how many county records are in the old buildings.

I liked that some old buildings have cool windows up high with views, which makes me envision loft living. Other places would make great bars, bookstores, restaurants, gaming places (one even used to be a roller rink…could it be again?).

My favorite things, I guess, were seeing how many dang old jails there are in this town. The one we looked at yesterday was really big, and I had NO idea it was there. Ooh, scary.

Old jails make excellent, secure storage.

This jail adds to the ancient hoosegow, old jail museum, jail in the old police station (where someone lives now), PLUS the actual County Jail that is in use. My big idea was to have a “Jails of Cameron” tour, with little jails painted on the sidewalk to lead you from one to another, each with something interesting to see or do. That didn’t go over terribly well.

The jail could be turned into a restaurant, where you eat in cells and people serve you through the little door…right? Sounds romantic to me.

Other people had real ideas, so it will be fun to see what comes of all this! At least I know they aren’t building a subdivision next to my house or anything, because I made Lee buy all that land. I was a visionary, I guess.

PS: It sure was fun to do something with people like this. We couldn’t have a few months ago!

HGTV Tourism

Since we started the day in Montgomery and we’re taking back roads anyway, we decided it might be fun to see what the towns were the Napier family on HGTV do their renovations are actually like. Why not? So, we set out after the memorial visit for Wetumpka, Alabama, where Home Town Takeover is set. It’s only a few miles from Montgomery.

The bridge over the river.

Other people had the same idea as us, it seems. There was no parking and dozens of people roaming the streets. Their downtown is most assuredly revitalized.

Here’s a bunch of people milling around the store that was desperate for customers in the first episode of the show.

It looks like lots of other places have opened since Ben and Erin swooped in, and it no longer matters that the locals all shop at the big box stores right outside of town. There are PLENTY of tourists.

I didn’t get great pictures, because Lee wasn’t about to stop in all the crowds, and he was hungry. So, I got car window photos.

At least they have a sense of humor.

This place disappointed us, because it was made out to be a struggling place, but there are all sorts of stores, banks, nice restaurants and stuff you don’t see. Oh well. They lucked out!

We finally ate in the next town. Lee wanted to relive his youth and eat at a Waffle House on this trip, anyway.
Yep, there it is.

Next, we continued our tour of places touched by the Napier family, and headed to Laurel, Mississippi, where the Home Town show is filmed. There were lots of little towns on the way, though we cheated and took interstate highways for part of the trip.

I can see why Erin likes it there. Laurel is a beautiful town with many interesting homes, large and small. Lee and I enjoyed driving down the tree-lined residential streets and seeing the variety of houses, churches and schools.

The town is also nice, and wasn’t as crowded as Wetumpka. But there was LOTS of parking, so they are ready when throngs arrive.

And we even got to stop the car in Laurel! It was cool to see the shop where Ben does his woodworking on the show. And they park the blue truck outside the building. It’s not like they really drive it around, right?

Awwww

The store was not overdone in a Magnolia way (Chip and Joanna Gaines). It was nice, had things that actually resemble stuff on the show, and was nicely done. Plus, there’s a window into the wood shop!

Cool.

We had time to make it to the edge of Mississippi and stopped in Natchez. We lucked out, and our hotel room looks out on a memorial and the Mississippi River. It was lovely at sunset.

The shiny stuff is the river.

No more HGTV tourism for us. It was fun to see the small towns and what television can do to them! If I wasn’t so tired, this might have been more well written. Let me know if I totally botched a sentence like I did this morning! (Thanks to Barbara for letting me know.) Headed home in the morning.

Go west, hermits!

I Understand Why People Hate Timeshares

As faithful readers may have noticed, Lee and I bought into a timeshare, after swearing we’d never do that. But, we reasoned that by paying into it, we would be more likely to take the time out of our schedules to go travel, and it would be like having a second (okay, third) home without having to maintain it ourselves.

We (or I) have enjoyed visiting various spots, like North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Utah. We also had a fun trip within Texas through the system. I have no complaints about the facilities or staff, and was really impressed by how careful they were when I went to Utah and managed to avoid humans and their diseases.

But, it turns out that the resorts and amenities are a small part of the operations, which really seem to be focused on aggressively pursuing late payments and trying to get people to default on their loans. If a payment isn’t received immediately, debt collection calls start. I’ve never had debt collection calls from anywhere, ever before!

It turns out that our problem is that Lee prefers to make payments by postal mail, using the coupon books provided by the company and personal checks. That’s a legitimate way to pay, and I used to pay for things that way, too. This does make us dependent on the US Postal Service to get our payments to the company on time. Payments sent a week before due date were a few days late a couple of times since we got the timeshare. As soon as I realized the calls were legit, I always paid the bills by credit card. They kindly took the checks, too, once they arrived. I guess it applied to principal.

But then, around Christmas/New Year’s, I kept getting calls and calls. It seems that they didn’t get TWO payments. Lee swore he’d paid them. Well, ha! He had sent the payments all right, but they got RETURNED to us for sending them to the wrong address (the address on the payment coupons). Well, changing your address and not forwarding mail to the new one sure is a way to get lots of late fees.

Thanks a lot, postal service

I called their debt servicing folks, and a lady gave me two entirely different addresses to send payments to. She said she never heard of the one on our coupons. Uh huh. Too bad, so sad.

I sent their email address proof that we DID make the payments and that the postal service had returned them. I asked that they not report me as not paying my bills.

So, beware. Timeshares can be fun and simplify travel, but I’d pay cash up front if I ever did it again, which I won’t.

Horror stories of your own are welcome!

Putting a Dream on Hold

I just did something that both made me sad and and reminded me to be grateful for what I have. This morning (way overdressed for the task), I took down the signs that we’d put up over at the church to direct people to our businesses. I’d had a lot of hopes for the church building, which is still The Hermit Haus in my heart, but plans change and pandemics get in the way.

Even the sky looks bummed out (it rained hard right after this).

What Happened?

Well, long-time readers will know that the Hearts, Homes and Hands business moved to the stately Pope Residence across the street, so the sign for that was confusing (and it had the old phone number). That’s all good! I’m so proud of how well we’re doing and how many people we are able to help, not to mention providing jobs in the community. That’s a winner!

The hermit says goodbye to the door he guarded.

Our Hermit Haus Redevelopment business has wound down, though the real estate work Lee and I do with Hermits’ Rest Enterprises is doing fine. His office is over at the Pope Residence, too, so I put our little hermit by his door. Aww.

He now gets to guard a new door and a fancy air conditioner!

And I had to face it, with all the things going on with the HHH business, as well as some other stuff that’s going on, business-wise, I knew I would not have the time or energy to do something fun with the Hermit Haus for now. Mandi is going to be working in a pharmacy as soon as she finishes her class, and with me still working full time in Austin, when would we be at the building?

No more sign directing people to the basement, either. But, my garden turned out nice and was pretty all summer.

We’ve had one wedding there recently, because one of our team members’ family lost their venue at the last minute. And we had Master Naturalist classes (hybrid Zoom/in person) there last month. So, it gets used, but we aren’t able to really have a business. That dream has to wait.

Yay, we have a sign.

So I decided to admit the dream is over, at least for now, and take those signs down today. The good news is that now we have a sign for HHH at our actual office, which, along with the new address numbers, makes it a lot easier for people to find the office (since we still aren’t bringing in visitors, it’s mainly for people doing job interviews, which there are a LOT of).

It’s All Fine, Change Happens

With so much changing every day in my life, change has become my new normal. And I’m finally getting better at it, I think. I think of plans and schedules as things that might or might not happen. I think of work teams as temporary. Pets, friends, and colleagues are to be enjoyed in the present. Yep, focusing on today really makes things easier. All is well, today, especially since we got the first significant rain of the month today.

How are YOU holding up? Are things too steady or too changeable?

I’m in My Office!

The good news came this morning that our renovation of the first floor of the Pope Residence has passed inspection. I hear the sturdiness of the stairs impressed the inspectors, as it should have. I stayed the heck out of the way, as befits the role of the silent partner: you have to stay silent!

That’s the inspector truck on the side of the road. Hey, maybe we can take the permit out of the window!

I’m very proud of the work everyone has done on the project, especially Chris, whose patience I tested (and continue to test) frequently.

Desk with computer and red lamp. I’m in business!

Today I brought the rest of the stuff over that makes an office work as an office. And as I set the desk up, Chris did a few more things for me. He hung up the amber hanging lamp, and it really livens up that corner, I think.

The cozy corner now has its mood lamp.

The stained glass windows I brought from the ranch house also got hung, and they really look cool in the window, and will bring a little privacy while letting in light from the stairway area.

Eduardo and the spider plant got their hangers today, so the window looks rather jungly. That area isn’t quite done, because my sister gave me a stained glass window similar to the other ones, which we’re going to put at the top of the outside window as soon as we get another hook.

The jungle.

The other to-do item is the glass for the interior window. Chris is going to put plywood up there until the real glass is ordered and arrives. Glass is the last big item on the list for this place. My window and shelving will let this office have a more spacious look, since the glassware collection won’t be on all the surfaces anymore!

Back to work. I’m sure glad my phone works as a hotspot, because we can’t figure out the WiFi password!

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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