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Open House

21 Oct

If you want to accomplish something, set a deadline and tie an event to it that forces you to meet that deadline.

Hubby and I wanted to get our house unpacked, drapes and pictures hung, and make it feel like it was really ours. To this end, we invited our old and new neighbors and a bunch of friends over for soup and chili last Sunday afternoon. Now that was incentive to get the place in order!

We’d moved some of our belongings in June but didn’t complete the move until September when we sold our other house. Therefore, until everything was under one roof, I really didn’t know where I wanted things to go (for sure), and I just felt unsettled. I was storing boxes and boxes of books in what was to be my study because the bookcases were at the other house. Turns out, we got the bookcases here and I didn’t like them in the study, so I moved them to the bonus room and ordered some from IKEA that were much taller, i.e. held many more books. I love them and my cozy study.

Also, we had draperies at the other house that the new owners didn’t want. The dining room ones were a perfect fit in the new dining room. There is a seamstress who lives on our street who remade long drapes from two windows into valances for five windows. I hung the old breakfast room panels in the living room and drapes and a valance from two houses ago in the bonus room. I found scarves at Target to adorn my study. We’d already hung drapes in the bedrooms. ALL of our windows are now dressed! I may have my seamstress neighbor look at some of the ones I hung myself as they are held together with Velcro (a great invention) and safety pins, but, hey, they are up!

Hubby and I spent so much time during the last week going up and down the ladder hanging artwork and drapes that he put hooks inside the pantry door to hang the ladder so it’d be close by. Our ceilings are tall, thus our cabinets are tall, and since I’m a bit vertically challenged, I need the ladder almost daily anyway.

It rained much of last week, but we had one nice day for a yard crew to remove pine straw from the beds throughout our yard and put down mulch. On the last possible day before the open house, my painter of over a decade painted the ugly green shutters a nice chocolate brown and the curb appeal was greatly enhanced. Of course now I’ll have to find a new way of telling people how to locate my house. It’s not on many GPS systems, so in the past I’ve directed visitors to the street and told them to look for the house with the ugly green shutters.

Sunday dawned a beautiful day. I had cooked Brunswick Stew overnight and put on soup and chili first thing to cook until our guests arrived. My friend Jane graciously made cornbread muffins and cookiess. Add a veggie tray and frozen cheesecake squares from Costco, and some appetizers I can whip up in no time and you’ve got a party. While I put the finishing touches on the food and set out plates, bowls, napkins, etc. Hubby did the hard work of vacuuming. He also ran out for ice and built a fire in our outdoor fire pit.

The day remained perfect with afternoon temperatures in the sixties. Guests started to arrive about two and it was a steady flow until five or so with the last ones leaving between six and seven. Close to fifty people came by. Some did self-tours while Hubby or I showed others around. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit with each and every guest as much as I would have liked, but no one complained. Most ended up outside on the porch, on the patio or in the gazebo, and they seemed to enjoy each other.

Out of town friends have expressed surprise that I haven’t posted pictures yet, and I’ve told them I would when we got settled. Well, we’re settled, and here are a few pictures I snapped before our guests arrived.

 OUTSIDE PICTURES


ugly green shutters

       ugly green shutters

shutters painted brown

shutters painted brown



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ENTRY AND LIVING ROOM

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MY COZY STUDY

 

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MAIN LIVING AREA — LIVING ROOM, KITCHEN, DINING ROOM (all open)

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MASTER BEDROOM AND BATH

 

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UPSTAIRS — GUEST ROOM AND BONUS ROOM

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Not pictured are two guest bathrooms, the laundry room and mud room. We can only get one car in the garage so it’s certainly not ready to photograph. It’s a work in progress and the next project.

So, that’s it…a successful open house. Good food, good friends, and mission accomplished.

~ Kay

 

 
 

Homecoming surprise

16 Oct

IMG953713Weekend before last was homecoming at my alma mater, Huntingdon College.

Huntingdon is a small, liberal arts school in Montgomery, Alabama. When I was there back in the 70’s we had basketball, baseball, tennis, golf and maybe soccer — I’m not sure. Now, they have a football team, complete with band, majorettes, flag corps, the works.

When I started at Huntingdon, there was no Greek system, but my middle year they decided to slowly try implementing one with one sorority and one fraternity. An aside: I busted my butt and graduated in three years–what was I thinking???

Anyway, Alpha Omicron Pi, Chi Omega, Phi Mu and one other (can’t remember who — Delta Zeta, I think) did presentations and the women interested in Greek life ranked the groups. AOII edged out XO and colonized first with the understanding XO would colonize as soon as AOII was installed as a chapter–it took a year.

We knew nothing about Greek systems. Luckily, we had a strong alumnae advisory committee and one of the administrators was an AOII. She later became the Executive Director of the organization. Anyway, if we could do it wrong, we did. But after a lot of attrition and finding members who were better fits we were finally installed in January, 1976. I was the president of the colony when we became a chapter. Then I graduated the following May so, in reality, I had little Greek experience as an initiate.

The college provided for us (and later for XO) a suite of rooms on the top floor of one of the dorms. We had a chapter room, a study room, a Ritual closet, an entry foyer, an office, and a multi-purpose room. We were on one end of the hall and XO was on the other. Later Phi Mu joined the Greek system. I suppose they got the rooms in the middle, but I’m not sure.

All this to say for thirty-five plus years the chapter of about fifty women operated out of this suite on the fourth floor (no elevator) of a dorm. The suite was renovated several times, but it was pretty old and decrepit. Last spring the chapter found out they were getting a house. The other two chapters will get houses eventually but for now a beautiful Tudor style two story home right off campus is being remodeled and each group will have an entire floor. They will have the capacity to sleep some of their members in their new quarters,. The may even have as many square feet as the AOII house. I’m just guessing.

NEW AOII HOUSE

NEW AOII HOUSE

Circling back to homecoming–AOII decided to formally dedicate their house that weekend and invited alumnae to celebrate with them. They registered at Bed Bath and Beyond (brilliant!) so as not to compete with the college in fundraising, and had their new abode in top notch shape by the weekend. I arrived on Friday before the festivities on Saturday. Of course I couldn’t wait to see it so, under the guise of delivering some housewarming gifts, my sorority little sister and I trekked over Friday afternoon for a pre-open-house tour.

The two story house is in a cul-de-sac on a street across from the college. It is a quiet neighborhood, and the neighbors I talked to on Saturday were delighted to have the young women close by. It is a nice shade of yellow and has a full front porch with two entrances. One goes upstairs to four bedrooms, the other to the main floor where there is a living room, dining room, kitchen, den, etc. It has  beautiful paneling and georgious hardwood floors.

There are no Greek letters on the front, which puzzled me, but they said being in a neighborhood they didn’t want to advertise they were different from the other homes. They did put up a banner on Homecoming Day. They park in the back, so we were sure we had the right house because all of the cars had AOII bumper stickers. It is a historical home, so the renovation had to follow strict guidelines. For example, they could replace the back windows and doors, but not the front.

Satisfied with our pre-tour, my “little sister” from the sorority and I went back to the hotel to meet some of the other charter members we were expecting for the festivities.

The next day we went to the football game–well, we stayed under the giant alumni tent behind the guest bleachers. We could see the game and visit with friends at the same time. I saw people I hadn’t seen in close to forty years. Some of “the girls” and I visited the AOII exhibit for photo ops, but mostly we caught up on each other’s lives. My good natured husband had four or five cameras in his possession most of the day.

PLAYING AT THE GAME

PLAYING AT THE GAME

 

 

AT THE ALUMNI TENT -- friends from the 70's

AT THE ALUMNI TENT — friends from the 70’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the appropriate time we moseyed down to the new AOII house. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see a representative from the International Executive Board (from Vermont), the International Properties Board (from Arizona), and the chapter’s Network Director (from Tennessee) join college dignitaries at the event.  Before the ceremony began, the chapter president and chapter adviser recognized these ladies as special guests. They also acknowledged the charter members were in the crowd, including me, the first chapter president. (A surprise, but a nice, touch). Then they did something unexpected–they invited us to join them on the porch for the ceremony and ribbon cutting. And guess what! They asked ME to cut the ribbon! Hubby said he’d had a handful of cameras all day, but this was so unexpected, we all took our cameras with us, so he had to scramble to get some photos with his own iPhone. What an unexpected honor!

"Special guests"

“Special guests”

 

 

 

Crowd looking at the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking out at the crowd

Looking out at the crowd

 

 

 

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I cut the ribbon!!!!

 

 

 

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CUTTING THE RIBBON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met several of the chapter members and they were delightful. Two, Anna and Farrah, sought me out and told me when they were freshmen they’d read something I’d written to the chapter as a senior and that it had been meaningful to them. I’d actually met Anna the afternoon before and she’d declared me “cool” which doesn’t happen often these days. They even wanted to have a picture made with me. Regretfully, I don’t have a copy, but I do have a copy of the charter members who stayed for the ceremony.

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After the open house a handful of us went out for a nice dinner.

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We tried to stay up reliving our college days, but we can’t party like we used to. I think we were all in bed by 10 o’clock. Regardless, a  good time was had by all, and we’ve pledged to make it an annual affair. We hope more will join us next year.

I had a great time. Thanks for indulging me with my reminiscing.

~ Kay

 

UPDATE: I got a copy of a photo of Anna and Farrah’s photo with me. They are so cute and precious — great representatives of the women of the chapter.

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K

 
 

Under one roof

23 Sep

Now that we’ve sold the other house and sold and moved the rest of the “stuff” we can finally get settled under one roof. Yeah!

We no longer have a basement which means we gave up a ton of storage. Our new bonus room is full of stuff I’ve still got to go through to decide what to do with. We do have a walk in attic, which is nice, but I don’t want to put things like art in the attic because of the changes in temperature. We have a ton of art, but with an open floor plan we don’t have a lot of wall space.

We downsized from three guest rooms to one. We thought we’d have two, but I’ve made the second one my office. The small room I’d originally planned to use was just too small, and we’re using it as a sitting area. It’s damned hard to go from a bonus room as an office to a small bedroom, but I’ll manage.

The rest of the house I love. The kitchen is more open than the other house. Fewer cabinets, but we have two pantries! Our master bedroom is huge, though due to the windows and doors there is only one way the furniture can be arranged. We have a fabulous bathroom. Seriously…We could entertain in there. We have a walk-through shower with three shower heads. And our closet is a big improvement over the other house. To make it even better Hubby and I customized it with drawers, shelves, and rods as our first new house project.

The best part is the back yard. Hubby says we bought the back yard and the house came with it. We’ve had a pretty mild summer, and I’ve probably spent as much time sitting on the back porch (it’s where I worked since all the boxes were stacked in my “to-be” office”) as I did inside. Besides the porch, there is an outside kitchen, patio, fire pit and gazebo. The yard is fenced in and landscaped beautifully.

The neighborhood is great. We’ve already had two street parties! It’s a new street and only one house hasn’t sold, so everyone has lived here two years or less. Therefore, everybody is pretty social. There’s a good mix of ages–young families to retired couples.

Now that we have all of our belongings under one roof we can really decide what we’re going to keep and what else we’re going to part with. Difficult, but necessary decisions.

We are grateful to be under one roof and hope to have an open house in a few weeks before the weather turns cold. That’s incentive to unpack and hang pictures quickly.

It will be nice to finally feel settled. I love the neighborhood and the community. Now, I’m ready to love my house!

~ Kay

 
 

One house family

19 Sep

Earlier this week we closed on our other house. The buyers were former neighbors, no less.

When we moved in, they lived two doors down. They (over) downsized and missed all of their friends in the neighborhood. They are both in the music industry and are going to turn the basement into a music studio/venue and hold home concerts there.

They’d always loved the house, and we purchased it from close friends of theirs. Of course, we’ve made lots of changes (which luckily they like). The great thing is they know and love the neighbors and vice versa. They were excited when they saw the house was on the market.

I just wish we’d known we’d know they were interested before we listed it, and we could have saved a real estate commission and given them a better deal. Oh, well.

When they lived in the neighborhood before, we didn’t know them well. We were both working long hours and only saw them in passing. But, we’ve gotten to know them during the buy/sell process and we really like them. We are so happy the house will have their positive energy in it.

We moved most of our belongings to our new house in June, but left enough behind to stage the house. Therefore, since it has sold I’ve been selling things on Craig’s List, and area Buy, Sell, Trade. We have a few pieces of furniture to move and a ton of boxes to move from the basement to the attic–Christmas decorations, family pictures, etc. Even so, it shouldn’t be a big move. I’ve already moved all of our plants and art and pretty much everything I could get in my SUV.

I’m spending this week unpacking the boxes that have been here since June now that I finally have some bookshelves to put things on. (We’d left them for staging). Hubby is out of town (convenient, huh?) — in fact he didn’t even make it to the closing. I had his power of attorney so I had to sign his name, then my name, Attorney in fact, then sign for myself. My hand is still cramping. He’s in Florida on business. If he comes back with a tan he’s in big trouble.

Already, I’m seeing progress. I unpacked several boxes today and plan to work all day tomorrow and Thursday on the house. It probably won’t happen, but I’d love to have everything unpacked and put away when Hubby returns home.

Regardless, the house closed, and we are a one house family! I’ve made the calls to switch the utilities (such a hassle) so I think we’re ready to go. I don’t know how people who move often do it.

~Kay

 
 

New floors

16 Sep

When you walk into the front door of our new house you enter on hardwood floors which continue through the living area, kitchen, dining area, etc. However, there is a small room off to the right with an arched opening (no door) and a bedroom off to the left (with a door) that had carpet. The carpet didn’t make sense to me.

I wasn’t sure what the room on the right was for. It’s small, so maybe a parlor…or piano room. Initially, I thought I’d make it my study and have floor to (10′) ceiling bookshelves built-in and make it look very Dickin’s-ish.

I got quotes on the built-ins and started looking at floors. One of the guys giving me a quote suggested I wouldn’t want hardwood if I planned to use a roller chair or a library ladder. Well, with 10′ ceilings, I did plan to have a ladder (because they are cool), and I was going to have a desk incorporated as part of the built-ins. He said the wheels would “ruin the hardwood” and suggested laminate that looked like hardwood would be a better choice.

I wasn’t thrilled, but looked at the laminate and decided it would do. Then I decided to go ahead and do the floors, but hold off on the builtins. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted that to be a library/office or a sitting room. Well, it seems if I used laminate, the builtins would need to be installed before the floors. If it covered the entire floor, then if something as heavy as builtins were put on it later, the floor could buckle. Huh?

I was in Lowe’s bemoaning my options and learned they make porcelain tile that looks like hardwood. I had my doubts, but I brought a piece home and it looked pretty close. Of course it has grout, but what the heck? It seemed like my best option.

It took a week for two workmen to install the two rooms and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m attaching three shots of the room on the right (no doors) which for now I’m using as a sitting room. I’ll use the other room as my office. There’s no way I’d show you pictures of that room in its current state, but the floor is the same.

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To the dismay of my flooring guys, I put down a rug!

 

IMG_1597This one shows the line of demarcation between the

hardwood in the hall and the porcelain tile in the sitting room.

My toe is where the tile meets the hardwood.Tile is in front of my foot; hardwood behind.

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In the photos the tile doesn’t seem to be as high gloss as the hardwood but in reality it is hard to tell a difference. I didn’t do this but this is a floor that could be heated, if desired.

We’re getting there…little by little. I wanted to finish these floors before we did the final move which will be next Monday. Whew!

~ Kay

 
 

Happy Birthday, Mother

13 Sep

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Today would have been my mom’s 79th birthday–well sort of. Birthdays were a big deal in our family, and we always celebrated September 13 as her birthday. But in a conversation with one of my mother’s sisters who lived in California all of my life (so I wasn’t around her much until we connected when I was an adult), my aunt swore she remembered it being cold when Mother was born. Hummm… a mystery.

 

Mother had already already passed–she died way too young at 56 from complications of a stroke–so who did I ask? My dad stuck to the September 13th story as did other relatives. Finally, another of my mother’s sisters, ten years her senior, admitted Mother was actually born on December 13th. But, as the youngest of a house full of children, Mother was precocious and very smart. Both of my mom’s parent’s worked, and apparently my aunt took Mother to school with her and enrolled her, telling them her birthday was three months earlier than it was. She told Mother September 13th was her new birthday, and she could tell no one any different–ever.

 

According to family lore, the court house where the birth certificate was filed (it had been a home birth) burned. When they applied for a new one, they listed the new date. How they got my grandparents to go along with this, I have no idea.

 

I confronted my father with this new information, and he verified it was true, but said Mother got extremely angry if anyone brought up her birthday was in December. Man, I wish my younger sister had taken my directives as seriously as our mom apparently did from her older sister.

 

It baffled me because the September date actually made her older, something as we age most of us would prefer not to be. Me — I probably would have claimed both dates and had two birthdays a year (but only adding a year to my age on one of them.) But what do I know?

 

Anyway, in my mind, today is my mom’s birthday, and I hope she’s eating angel food cake with lots of ice cream in a world filled only with love and happiness.

 

Happy Birthday, Mom! I miss you bunches!

~ Kay

 

 
 

A delightful day

10 Sep

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending an hour or so chatting with Howard Kittell, CEO of the presidential home of Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage.

I’ve been on the property a good bit during the past couple of years doing research for my next cozy mystery MURDER AT THE HERMITAGE. I assured Howard The Hermitage is simply the backdrop for my plot, and that I will make it very clear the book is fiction. However, I hope readers will become intrigued with the setting and want to visit this historical treasure.

But we didn’t just talk about my book. We talked about other authors, and he gave me the name of some I want to check out soon. We also discussed some of the things going on at the property. Let me tell you, it’s a happening place!

I get their e-mail blasts and notes from the curator, so I was aware of some of their programs. If we hadn’t moved, I’d probably have joined their new outside yoga program. There’s always something new–a good reason to be a member and have year-round tickets!

As I’ve met the staff, I’ve been impressed with their education, their level of knowledge, their skills, and most of all, their willingness to share information with me.

I took Howard the first five chapters of my book so he could get an idea of my voice and how a cozy differs from a thriller. He is going to put me in touch with some of his staff members to help me quadruple check my facts. While I’m only using it as a setting, it’s a real setting and I want it to be authentic. The story–that’s where I go off into my imagination.

It’s so refreshing for a CEO to take the time to talk with a writer about her upcoming book, her vision for it, and offer valuable insights. Thanks, Howard. It was the highlight of my day!

~ Kay

 

 

 
 

It’s September

02 Sep

Where did the summer go…or this year for that matter? It has flown by.

September always conjures up memories of the start of the school year for me, college in particular. Then I have to smile as I remember all of the escapades of my college roommate and me. To protect the innocent (and the guilty) I won’t go into them, although the statute of limitations ran out decades ago.

Today is my college roommate’s birthday and I want to take this opportunity to tell her Happy Birthday. We seldom see each other–or even talk or e-mail, but I know she’d be first in line if I needed someone in a  pinch–and vice versa.

Happy birthday Linda Ann. Go out, do something silly and think of me. Love you bunches!

~ Kay

 
 

You Just Never Know

20 Aug

We finalized a contract on our former house earlier this week! Yeah!

We’ve been working with a realtor. He got a commission as our buyer’s agent and agreed to reduce his commission from 6% to 4% if we let him be our seller’s agent. In doing so, he’d give the buyer’s agent their full 3% and only take 1% because he didn’t want to discourage other realtors from showing it.

He got it posted on all the sites, the sign in the yard, took pictures, etc. I asked about info sheets outside and he said people really didn’t do that anymore. (I still see them all over the place). Nor did he print any and put them inside. He also said open houses were a thing of the past, yet I saw a list of open houses every week.

Finally, I told him if he didn’t want to man an open house, I’d do it and just say I was the host. I printed info sheets for inside. He left the signs in the garage. We got balloons. Hubby put signs and balloons out then went to the gym while a friend and I “hosted” the open house two Sundays in a row. For open houses to be out of fashion, we had a lot of traffic and several interested buyers.

Once we started the open houses, the regular showings also picked up. Go figure.

It worked fine, me pretending not to be the owner until I opened the door to a couple that looked very familiar. As it turned out, they’d lived two doors down from us when we moved in. They’d over downsized when they left the neighborhood about eight years ago and still had a lot of friends in the area. We really liked them. They already knew the neighbors, and we all felt they were the right fit–we just had to work out the specifics.

They said if we’d not had the open house, they wouldn’t have dropped by.

I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. We haven’t closed and I know all sorts of things can happen between now and then, but from the time they walked through the door, I felt they were home.

So, since the house was staged with extra furniture, the next few weeks will be filled with culling, selling, and moving AGAIN. I’m not looking forward to that part of it, but I am looking forward to having all of our plants under one roof (it makes watering easier) and to getting everything in this house so I can finally feel settled.

One more thing to check off the list!

~ Kay

 
 

Killer Nashville

18 Aug

It’s mid August in Nashville and that means it’s time for my favorite writing conference: Killer Nashville.

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The conference is Friday through Sunday with a few pre-conference events on Thursday. Sessions and activities are crammed into every minute. This year’s guests of honor are best selling authors Lisa Jackson and William Kent Kruegar.

 

There will be book signings, agent/editor round tables, breakout sessions on all sorts of subjects, a fake crime scene (or is it real?), a wine tasting, and much, much more.

 

I’m going to be sitting on two panels. Joining me to talk about cozy mysteries will be Jenna Bennett/Jennie Bentley, Caroline Fardig, Jackie King, and Nancy Parra. I’ll share the Southern Fiction panel with Cathy Pickens, Heather Haven, Dee Phelps and Rosalyn Ramage.

 

BUT, you have to register to attend, so hop to it. Information is on the KN website.

 

~ Kay