Friday, November 20, 2015

Knocking opportunities

"So you say your home is Boston. What's New England got on all these Texas charms?
Have you ever seen a cactus Christmas tree? Come home to me."

We spent another weekend in Austin recently. It was a crime of opportunity. Neil had a work conference at the Omni Barton Springs on Monday and Tuesday, ending at noon Wednesday.

So it only made sense to drive up early on Sunday and look at retirement living options again.

Early for us just doesn't happen, unless there is a plane to catch, so with a stop at Buc-ee's, it was nearing 4 pm when we pulled into the Hill Country.

We went back and revisited Serene Hills - large lots with expensive homes, and Rim Rock - larger lots with less expensive homes.

We've been concentrating on the builder who built our home - which I love - but the none of the homes in the collections being built in Austin really impressed us. On the contrary, we were struck by things like the small size of the secondary bedrooms and a general sense that the model homes weren't particularly well designed or built.

So at Rim Rock we wandered across the street to another builder model. I'd seen one of their models here in Houston and really liked the design. Out visit coincided with that of a couple who had just purchased a lot and signed a contract to build a home. In fact, they'd decided to build the model design.

While the salesman was looking up the plan of the home I'd liked in Houston (which he said could be built in Rim Rock for a small additional fee), Neil had a chance to chat with the happy new homeowners.

The fellow was an engineer of some sort and he told Neil he'd looked closely at the way each builder's house was put together, opening cabinets and investigating crawl spaces. He said there were only two builders who he'd consider in the area. One obviously was the builder of the model we were standing in. The other was not the builder who built our home.

So, based on our impressions and this chance conversation, we've pretty much eliminated our current home builder as an Austin area option. I don't think we've landed on a certain replacement but we decided to look further at the two builders Neil's conversational companion had championed.

But first we decided to have dinner at the "world-renowned" Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas. I liked it. If you go, BYOB and cash. No credit cards are accepted. And they've been out of turkey long enough to have put stickers to that effect on every menu. We met my younger daughter and her boyfriend there, and that is always good fun.

On Monday, Chelsea had taken a vacation day to hang with me. Since our plans tentatively include a move to North Carolina and her plans include a move to LA, I told her I need to suck up as much Chelsea time as possible. She had the grace to agree. And she brought us breakfast pastries from Quacks. I love my girl.

We decided to drive out to Hamilton Pool Preserve and hike. The day was overcast but nice. When we arrived however, the gate was barred and there was a notice that the trails were closed due to recent heavy rainfall. We were bummed - but not as bummed as the party who drove up behind us. They'd driven all the way from Houston to hike there.

Astonishingly, out of nowhere a park ranger appeared. He said the trails might open later that day. I asked where else we might hike in the area and he suggested Milton Reimers Ranch, not far up the road. So we went there, paid our $10 entry fee, and got a map. It's a huge preserve, with several miles of frontage along the Pedernales River. Popular park activities, in addition to hiking and fishing, are mountain biking and equestrian trail riding.

We parked at the second parking lot and set off to hike a trail along the river. The river was low with a lot of sandy beach and I collected a few rocks for a project. The trail seemed to be fairly well marked, but it turns out that even with a map and an iPhone compass we got turned around and had to ask a random person which direction would take us back. It's quite a long trail and we could easily have gone miles out of our way.

When we'd had enough of the great outdoors, we headed into town and South Congress, a great little area of eateries and shops. Chelsea inherited my shopping gene and we spend some enjoyable hours browsing, with a stop for a little sustenance at Joe's Coffee. Chelsea had a healthy snack of hummus and veggies. I had a super-caffeineated Belgian Bomber, half Iced Turbo (super sweet) and half cold-brewed, unsweetened iced coffee. The sun even came out for a while and it was a nice respite.

Neil and Rob met us for dinner at 24 Diner. One thing is certain, there are a ton of nice non-chain dining options in Austin.

I had most of Tuesday to myself. I met Chelsea for an Indian buffet lunch at the Clay Pit on Guadalupe. See above comment about Austin eateries. We had a nice time but I made the mistake of bringing up a subject I knew better than to broach. Chelsea's closet in my house. It is filled with stuff that I don't know how to tackle and I asked it we could go through it when she comes for Thanksgiving and assess the contents as keep, donate, toss.

I'd already decided not to mention it, but she inadvertantly tempted me by telling me how her dad keeps giving her things as "gifts" that he really just wants out of his life. Things like boxes of old photographic slides. She tells him she doesn't have room for them, he insists, she takes them and tosses them out. Then he asks for something back and she's in a bind.

For a moment I thought of telling her to tell him that the item got destroyed by flood or pests, but I didn't want to suggest she lie. So instead, I raised the closet question. Predictably it hit a nerve and she said, why don't you just throw out all my baby pictures too.

So our lovely visit ended on an unfortunate tense note.

Afterwards I went back to South Congress for a little more browsing, then went to Sea of Beads. I don't need any more beads but since Houston doesn't have a respectable bead store, it's a tradition for me to visit one whenever I have a chance.

Neil and I dined at Kerby Lane Cafe, another Austin tradition. Neither of us was really hungry but it felt like we should get some dinner or we would be. Wednesday morning I stayed in and restrung some beads that I'd brought with me. Neil's conference finished at noon and we decided to visit a community in Dripping Springs where our new favored builder had a model.

Dripping Springs is even more remote than Driftwood but it has a claim to fame that trumps the Salt Lick. It's the adopted home of actor Kyle Chandler. I fell in love with him in Homefront, and continued to love him in Early Edition, but really haven't followed his career since. Anyway, Chandler and his wife and kids live on 33 acres in Dripping Springs. We stopped for coffee on the main drag in town before heading home, but there was no Chandler sighting. Sigh.

So home we've been, and for me that means back to my usual round robin of making beads, trying to sell beads and walking on the treadmill, which somehow swallows my days. Neil has been reading to me of course. We finished Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, about his stab at hiking the Appalachian Trail, interspersed with Nancy Drew and The Sign of the Twisted Candles. We've moved on to Bryson's earlier tome, Neither Here nor There, about his travels in Europe, because his earlier adventures with hiking buddy Stephen Katz are intriguingly referenced in the later book. We're mixing that up with The Chronicles of Narnia, which we are reading in story order, not the order in which they were written, so there.

Fantasy, mystery and non-fiction are keeping us well entertained.

On the Facebook front, sales have been painfully slow. Still, some artists sell everything they list. And for the first time I thought that maybe it's because they list sporadically, periodically, and not religiously, continuously like me. Of course I take time off when we are traveling but when we are home I treat it like a job. I always have from 12 to 20 listings that change every 24 hours. When I was selling on Etsy, I was happy with sales when they came but on Facebook I feel entitled to selling daily. And I do most days, but some days, like a couple of days ago, I had just two $20 sales. Both customers bought two $10 sets.

Then one of those customers asked, Any more bargains coming up?

And I said, Yes! Lots! I need to have a clear out!

And then I said, If you'd like, I can take a photo of some sets that would be $10 each.

And she said, That would be AWESOME! FANTASTIC!

So I did, and she bought six more sets. Then I thought, why not make the same offer to my other customer.

And she said, Yes please. And she too bought six more sets.

So yesterday, on a whim, I went through my trays and too some photos. I posted that I was having a pre-Black Friday sale of sets for $10 (regularly $18-$24).

Then the feeding frenzy began. It got a little hairy, with multiple people looking at the photos and calling dibs, but all told I sold 46 sets. Sets that had been listed and passed over and relisted and were still cluttering my trays. I didn't get what they were worth but you can't eat beads and $460 buys a lot of glass. Plus it gives me the best excuse to make more sets, especially dot beads, which I love to make.

So now I am planning a clear out of focal beads for $10. I have at least 50, probably more, that can go and won't be missed. I don't want to circulate group photos again, so I'm going to take individual pictures and create an album and it will be first come, first served. I'd really like to do it tomorrow, but I'd also like to get my nails done, and I have all the photos yet to take. And crop. And edit. No names, no descriptions, and I think no measurements. I'll take the pictures with a ruler or pen or something for scale. Quick and dirty. I hope it goes over as well as the set sale.

In the bigger picture, the time is coming for Neil and I to decide where we are going to move. Neil decided the best way to do this is to set the time he'd like to be in our new place, which is May 2017, says he. Backing up 9 months or so to build, that means a year from now we should have written a check and signed a contract.

Now that that's settled, we just have to decide whether it will be in Texas, North Carolina or somewhere else. If we are leaving, North Carolina is as good as the next place. I'm still very conflicted, but knowing that it's hanging over me, I just want to decide and then do it.

How we decide is the real tickler. Neil, unsuperstitious, scientific Neil, thinks there will be a sign. Me, I'm just clueless.

"I woke up to frost on the window
I'd been sleeping in a snow-globe town
Six inches on the ground
You said, I'd never see a white Christmas
Snow angels never make it to Texas
But you were wrong
They're singing Hank William's songs

If snow can fall in Austin
Why can't you fall into my arms?
So you say your home is Boston
What's New England got on all these Texas charms?

Dance on the ground
Upside down

Have you ever seen a cactus Christmas tree?
Come see

There's a snowman standing out on 6th street
With a hat, a scarf and a broom guitar
They're hanging mistletoe up in the bars
Do you remember that night at Las Monitas
Our heads were numb from frozen margaritas
Imagine how cold they would be now

Have you ever seen a cactus Christmas tree?
Come home to me
The snow's coming down
It's Christmas in this town."

(Ellis Paul)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz