Miles and Milestones

Our lives are full of milestones and mine is really no more special or better than others. But my husband and I have reached major ones and we decided that we needed to celebrate by putting on the miles.

We all hit milestones in our lives, we learn how to walk and talk, go to kindergarten, learn to read, graduate high school, go off to college marry, have kids, and watch them go through the  same milestones. But this year is special and frankly hard to wrap my mind around. Not only did my husband, best friend, partner in everything and I celebrate 38 years of marriage (wow almost 40), we celebrate BIG birthdays. Lee turned 65 at the end of May and I’ll be 60 next week. Holy cow! Where did the time go? Except for really bad knees and the grey hair I cover up, I’d never know I’m 60, unless I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Of course, if I say so myself, I really don’t look 60.

Since, with a summer birthday, I’m one of the younger ones from my high school graduating class, I’ve been watching others celebrate their 60th on Facebook and thinking, “wow, look how old they are”, but wait a minute, so am I. So what does turning 60 mean to me? First of all, when I look at my family’s lifelines, it means I could potentially live another 25-30 years. So maybe, I am not so old after all. But you never know what will happen tomorrow. So my plan is to start having more fun and enjoy the miles I’ve yet to travel. My husband and I started celebrating our big birthday year by getting in the car, traveling over 1300 miles, and checking some items off our ( well mostly his) bucket list.

We planned a trip to Colorado Springs and Santa Fe, New Mexico. We put in a lot of windshield time and are still happily married. Our trip was full of awe and wonder. This was actually our second time we driving out west as Lee dropped me off in Tempe, AZ. for my senior year in college. We camped in a pup tent on our way out but don’t remember being as enamored with the scenery as we were this time. Most likely the difference in age and maturity makes a difference as the first time our love was newer, we were heartbroken at being separated, and our eyes were mostly on each other . Now in our mature years with a deeper love for each other, we took joy in sharing the beauty of the world together.

We drove to the top of Pike’s Peak with our hearts beating so loudly we could almost hear each other’s. I thought I’d lose Lee right there and wondered how I would ever be able to drive down the mountain myself. We visited charming Manitou Springs, people watched, picnicked by a fresh mountain creek, and enjoyed the best iced coffee and raw cacao candy. We dined in Old Colorado Springs with some cousins and checked out the local shops. We visited the Garden of the God’s and ogled the natural geological sculptures. We then traveled to Santa Fe, where we visited galleries, met the nicest people, ate the locals’ favorite spots, went hiking through cliff dwellings, and visited some turquoise mining towns. Our days were filled from 8 am to 8 pm, when we would finally collapse at our adobe VRBO and watch the beautiful sunsets and twinkling stars over the clear mountain skies.

My husband always wanted to go white river rafting in the west so I agreed even though I was sure I would die of a heart attack. ( I admit, I am not the bravest person in the world.)  Obviously I survived or I wouldn’t be writing this  long blog. It was AWESOME!! The spectacular scenery along the Rio Grande enthralled us as did the quickly flowing river full of rapids and boulders. The guide and our fellow rafting partners made the trip even more enjoyable as they assured me I wouldn’t fall out. Again, I survived.  We hit a Class III rapid and I slid slightly into the raft off the side. As I tried to right myself we hit a huge boulder on my side and I went over. I couldn’t grab onto the rope on our raft and went right by them. I tried to grab the next raft but missed that too. I still held onto my paddle for dear life and tried to hook it onto the paddle of the guy trying to rescue me since I couldn’t reach his paddle with my arm. That didn’t work and eventually they got close enough that I could grab his paddle and he pulled me into the raft. Once in the raft, I raised my paddle and yelled with elation “Happy Birthday to me.” I celebrated another milestone and lived to tell the story which was caught on a Go-Pro by my rescuer. The whole rescue was merely a matter of a few minutes.

I don’t feel that turning 60 made me wise or privileged, except for the senior discounts I now receive. Age made me more mellow and I don’t sweat the small stuff. I find that each beautiful sunrise and sunset add joy to my day as do the flowers in my yard and others, my dog greeting me at the door, my husband selflessly doing me favors, and the sound of the children playing. I look forward to more fun and traveling miles with Lee as we explore our world, near and far. Oh, and apparently age gives me the right to babble.

Enjoy a few of our pictures.

Spring Fever-Is it Real?

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Spring has sprung; the robins, sandhill cranes, and redwing blackbirds are just a few of the birds that have returned. The worms emerged during the recent rains, the “occasional”sunshine exudes warmth and baseball season starts on Saturday.

But, does “spring fever” really exist? While not actually a fever, warmer longer days following the spring equinox creates a biological change in people. Humans experience a higher energy level, need less sleep, reduce their food consumption, and encounter a lifting of their spirits when winter ends and spring begins.

My  personal bout of spring fever started a few weeks ago. I laced up my walking shoes and leashed Riley, my walking companion, for our morning and evening walks. Even our very short legs, his four and my two, yearn to be stretched out and moved. I’ve started my yard tours to check on our bulbs and plantings to discover what survived and is emerging from the previously frozen tundra.We even went to the garden store on Saturday to dream and purchase seeds to start indoors for our flower garden. We met quite a few like- minded people itching to start their gardens. I can’t wait to plant the seeds and watch my yard flourish into a canvas of color. I also suffer from clean window-itis every spring. I want to rid the windows of all their winter dirt and soil so I can clearly see my garden and it doesn’t interfere with the streaming sunlight.

All the people walking dogs, riding bikes,pushing strollers, and in-line skating along Apple Creek trail yesterday was another sure sign of Wisconsinites afflicted with spring fever. We are also experiencing the effects of spring fever at work as people are showing a strong interest in building new houses.

What symptoms of spring fever do you experience? Do you feel the biological pull to exercise, redecorate your home, or plan a garden? Or maybe, it is the lifting of your spirits as well as a makeover with a new hairdo or wardrobe. Whatever your symptoms of spring fever, be sure to embrace the season.

A Year in Retrospect in the Fox Valley

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A year in retrospect in the Fox Valley. We returned to live in the Fox Valley last December 21st after a 23 year hiatus. We lived all over Wisconsin during our time away and found many things to love and of course a few to dislike about each area.

So what is it about Appleton and the Fox Cities that we find attractive? The winters are NOT on the list of what we ( especially I) love! Actually, I abhor them and am already freezing and tired of wearing so many clothes. But we had a beautiful summer and a long fall, allowing us to spend weekends on the boat, take long walks in the evenings, and partake in all of the outdoor music the area has to offer.I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

The Fox Cities really grew up in our time away. As a matter of fact when we first moved here in the early 1980’s, one had to go to Green Bay to do big shopping other than Sears and J.C. Penney’s. Then the downtown developed with the Avenue Mall and later the Fox River Mall came on the scene.It is exciting to see a bustling downtown with locally owned shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.  Today, the arts and music scene, while continuing to evolve offers something for everyone. We loved the Heid Summer Music Series and attended each one . The Mile of Music, extremely well done with a wide variety of acts, attracted a crowd of all ages, including the little ones at the Lawrence University Academy of Music. We’ve enjoyed the arts too, with visits to the Trout Museum, Take Me to the River month long exhibit at the old Thilmany Mill in Kaukauna, the Art Fair in City Park, and the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh. The beautiful PAC brings in some great shows.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fox Valleyaires Barbershop Concerts and area competition in which my husband participates.

We have also taken time to enjoy hiking in both the winter and fall at Thousand Islands Nature Preserve while watching the wild river run over rocks and logs into the more serene lake. We’ve driven along the lakeshore in both Oshkosh and Manitowoc, thrilled with the park areas that have been established so people can enjoy some of the areas natural beauty.

The sporting events have also grown in the area. We love hockey so ventured up to Green Bay to watch the Gamblers and the UW- Madison Hockey team. We’ve been to the Timber Rattlers for baseball and will most likely return.

The year hasn’t been all about what the Fox Valley offers. It also involves work. In the spring, I started a job as a new home designer with Midwest Design Homes and Jon Huss Custom Homes. This fun position allows me to use my creativity in helping people design their dream homes. It also means that I need to go out and network. I have met some wonderful people in the area through the chambers, BNI, and Fox Valley Women in Business.

We also spent that past year working on settling in our new home and making it ours. That meant hours of sweat equity in landscaping and maintaining a brand new yard. To think that 2 years ago I was reveling in the ease of condo living. Now we are once again shoveling snow, mowing, and weeding. Plus, our beautiful 3 season room should be completed today!

We need to continue to discover and enjoy the area. First on my list is to seek out the best holiday displays and visit the Kohler Museum over the holidays. We will also return to the Trout Museum and walk downtown Appleton to admire the ice sculptures.

What are your favorite activities in the Fox Valley area that you would recommend?

Does Your Home Speak to You?

Does your house speak to you? No, I’m not crazy, but I believe if your house does not speak to you something is wrong. I’ve always told my clients; whether I was working as a designer at Steinhafels, a Realtor or a new home designer for Midwest Design Homes/Jon Huss Custom Homes, your house must say, “Welcome Home, this is your sanctuary, this is where you are meant to be.”

My past Realtors used to get frustrated with me when we drove up to a house and my immediate reaction was to drive on. If the front of the house didn’t attract me, it definitely wasn’t worth my time or theirs. The funny thing is, I never loved the front of our Madison home because it was too dark and in a very dark wooded neighborhood. But it warranted a second look and ultimately a purchase because the owners landscaped the yard with bright impatiens and a charming sundial (which much to my dismay they kept.) The little things can really make your house say , “Welcome Home.” Originally our Madison home had a charming tree growing out of the lower deck and a spiral staircase from the lower deck to the upper deck. I found both charming at the time. We won’t discuss here how they both became an issue. I often bought homes because the quirky things grabbed me; such as a little built in arched telephone nook, corner cupboards, or a grand entrance.

Do you notice how holiday decorations warm up the front of a house and make you want to visit? A well placed lit lamp in a front window creates a feeling of coziness and warmth. For some reason when I see a light in the front window I think the home and it’s owners must be warm, friendly, and about to serve a comforting meal. Again, I am not crazy, it is just an illusion that I hope is true. A home with gables, front porches, the right mix of exterior colors, or well planned landscaping may also say, “Welcome Home, this is where you are meant to be.”

Every home my husband and I have bought possess large windows and the ability to see the backyard when walking through the front door. We love to bring the outside in; especially as we live in the north. Over-sized and well placed windows, a signature of MDH and Jon Huss Custom Homes, help the homes feel bright and spacious, inviting people to sit down in a sunbeam.

If you are thinking about building a new home, drive around and look at houses paying special attention to the ones that make you want to stop and step inside. What is it about them that attracts you? Do they have the same ,”Welcome Home” feeling on the inside. Make sure to incorporate the elements when building, buying, or decorating your home. These elements need to also be integrated in the interior design of your home. It doesn’t matter what kind of architecture or design you prefer, it must speak to you personally.

Please share the features in a house that say welcome home to you.

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Building Pains Abated

Our building pains have abated. The much anticipated 3 season room is beginning to take shape. We couldn’t be more excited. Of course it’s not without some woes.

First of all, I am professed neat freak. And even though this building mostly take place on the outside of our home, I have some messiness issues with which to contend. First of all, I have spent the better part of the summer trying to perfect our lawn. I finally got my husband (the agronomist) to agree to spray the annual rye grass. It disappeared and the lawn took off. Unfortunately, due to traffic from the builders and the heavy equipment used right after a big rainfall, we now lost lots of the yard. The yard has developed a traffic pattern from the front to the back and given all the rain that keeps falling, some good muddy patches. Of course, it can be fixed and it is all part of the building process. The builders are also using the inside of my house to plug in some of their tools so I  must contend with dusty footprints on a daily basis. But in reality, it isn’t too bad.

The next issue is the RAIN. It doesn’t stop. The poor guys have had rain delays, gotten all wet, and had to deal with some slippery surfaces while roofing.We are now under roof and hope to have windows today.

So far, everything has gone well with the inspectors and the builders. If you need a recommendation, give me a call. While I work for a builder, we don’t do remodeling and additions unless it is our own construction. Hence, an outside contractor.

We love the height of the windows and you can see in the last picture how we will have windows at the top. The room fits in nicely with the roof line of our house. It promises to be light-filled and should not restrict the light in our kitchen too much. Riley, the dog, and I have already enjoyed some of the late summer warmth sitting in the 3 season (albeit all open) room. Stay tuned for the next steps, flooring, dry wall, windows, and carsiding on the ceiling.

 

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3 Tips for Getting to Know your New Neighbors

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Moving into a new neighborhood can be a bit daunting, especially if you don’t know anyone. We recently moved into a new neighborhood and took it upon ourselves to make connections. Knowing your neighbors is very important for your own security and safety.

  1. Exchange contact information- My husband and I went door to door in our new neighborhood to introduce ourselves. We then put everyone’s names, address, emails, phone numbers, and kids names and ages into a shared google doc and sent it to everyone.
  2. Get up close and personal- When each new neighbor moved in after us, we took over a plate of homemade cookies to reinforce the “moving troops.”
  3. Arrange for a neighborhood get- together. This works especially well if it can be held outside so that the kids can all run around and play. A barbecue, potluck, or just an evening with BYB drinks provides a great opportunity for everyone to get together without having to go to a lot of work.

Knowing your neighbors makes living in a new city or neighborhood much more enjoyable. Our neighborhood has been able to share information about contractors for landscaping, patios, HVAC contractors, and watch each others’ homes while they are away. We often meet on the street to visit and have arranged for game nights with our neighbors.Don’t be afraid to get out and meet your new neighbors.

The Hidden Costs of a NEW Home

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This post is not trying to dissuade you from building a home with me, rather, I always want my clients to be educated and well prepared for their building endeavors. And in all transparency, the more you spend building your home, the better it is for my company and me.That being said, the bottom line is that I do not want my clients to be unhappy or unpleasantly surprised.

You want to have money in your budget after move-in day for all of the other incidentals such as ; appliances, landscaping, furniture,rugs, and window treatments to decorate your new home. Having recently purchased a newly constructed home, I can attest to how quickly the money flies out the door. New homeowners need to assess what items are a must have and which ones are just on the wish list. It is advisable to make a Need vs. A Want list. Most importantly,DO NOT open any other loans or lines of credit for your new purchases before closing on your new home! Making purchases on credit could very well keep you from closing on your new home.

When applying for your new home/construction loan, assess what other purchases are necessary. Big ones to consider and pre- price are window treatments, appliances, landscaping, and rugs. IS this your first home or a move up? Do you need or just dream of new furniture, towels, and accessories? Do you already own lawn, landscaping, and snow removal equipment or does that need to be put into your budget? We recently moved to a condo before purchasing our new home and unfortunately sold most of our equipment. We considered having a service take care of all of our lawn and snow needs since it would be paid out on an as needed basis but figured it wouldn’t be cost effective in the long run. As the end of July nears, we have used the lawn mower enough times to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Of course, we’d all love to have new furniture in our new homes but unless you have lots of extra cash on hand, move into your new home and pace yourself on the purchases until you know what is really needed. Every time you hang a tool in the garage, need a paper towel holder, or another shelf, the costs add up.

I want to encourage you to build a new home  but it is best to be aware of all of the costs that might be incurred in the process. I never regretted building a new home as I made sure to budget for the necessities and advise my clients to do the same.