7.24.2016

our house got egged!


We've been on the look out for a good grill with Modern design tendencies, but it's been hard to find one. They are either not Mod enough or horribly expensive. And I have pretty much lost faith in stainless steel grills: they are not well built and self-destruct in two to three years. Our current one, bought three years ago, has had it's guts replaced once and now shoots flames out the front by the temp controls. Seems a little dangerous. 

Several of my pals have splurged on Green Eggs and swear by them. But, you know, they're green, and we enjoy the convenience of gas. I often whispered myself: If someone came out with an egg that was white with freshly polished steel and wood the color of sawdust (aka the "Dot Egg" so named because of Dorothy Parker's description of a Modern 1920s New York apartment), it would be mine. Lo and behold, last week's Sunday advertisements had an ad for this beauty on sale from (cough, cough) Chair King:


I could live without the fake rattan surface and the cheesily named "PRO ZONE" at the front, but, as the closing music from the Republican National Convention wailed "You can't always get what you want." All in all this is not bad.

This is a Signature Series Plaza Kamado Grill by Vision. We ventured out west to the Green Egg store to see what we would be missing by not getting a Green Egg. The hardware on the Green Egg is much more stout, but the Vision hardware is stout enough. And my oh my does she look beautiful on the back patio:




"You sound like a girl!" says my lady friend at the office from East Texas. Dudes in Texas aren't supposed to worry about stuff like this, I guess, so don't tell anyone.

We've used the egg twice so far, and so far so good. Even broke out the antique iGrill to check temps in the egg and in the chicken last night. Perfect!

Kamado grills generally use charcoal (the real deal, not briquettes), but on this one the "PRO ZONE" can slide completely out and be replaced with a gas insert.

These things aren't cheap, but it will surely last longer than the gas grills I've been buying (a grilling site, when asked how long Kamado grills last, responded with "Ask your kids what color they like, because they're going to inherit it.").

No egg on our faces here.


7.23.2016

there's something in the woods...



As the bride and I approach 50, we're starting to hear the slow rasping of the Grim Reaper on Door Number 3 some unknown distance down the mortal coil. It's easy to take life for granted. It happens, whether you like it or not, until, often unexpectedly, it doesn't. This realization prompted us to sit down and talk about retirement and (gulp) the great fade-to-black.

I won't bore you with the financial whatnots, dates, and career plans, but we did decide that we had two real estate goals to accomplish before retiring: a small condo on the coast (the bride loves the beach) and a small cabin in the mountains (we both love cool weather in the summer). We don't know if we can swing both or even one, but we are going to try.

A small cabin in the mountains was the reason we spent a week in Cloudcroft last September, to check out the scene and look at properties. To make a long story short, we saw a lot we liked, we put in an offer, and we closed on it yesterday! The photo above is a panoramic shot of said lot, about half an acre on a corner edge of town with national forest out two sides. Although we weren't exactly looking to buy something on the trip, we looked, and this lot kept creeping back into our consciousness. The lot's not perfect, mind you (we can't afford perfect), but it is something special. The lot is a wee bit unusual in that it only has a driveway's width of access from the street, but we like unusual; unusual creates opportunity.

Buying a lot feels vaguely foolish at this point, but when the world's going to hell, why the hell not?!? Property taxes are crazy low in New Mexico (at least compared to Texas), so the annual carrying costs are equivalent to a nice meal for two at an upscale Austin restaurant. If we don't build, we can always sell (although the market is somewhat lethargic at the moment with the dip in oil prices).




Looking back up towards the street. The sellers were hoping to build and cleared the lot. On one hand a shame (where are the trees?), on the other hand an opportunity.

so what's the plan?

So what do we plan to do? Building our Modern house in Austin spoiled us for architect-designed homes, so we will work with an architect (or architects) to build a cabin. We want to stay modest: thinking at the moment of a small main house (1:1.5) with a detached guest house (1:1). If we build sooner rather than later, we'll put both into the local VRBO rental pool to help pay it off. Unusual for a town this size (<1 a="" an="" architect-builder="" are="" case="" couple="" decide="" don="" familiar="" feeling="" happen="" in="" later="" little="" make="" modern="" move="" p="" please="" pressure="" re="" s="" so="" sooner="" souls="" t...="" t="" than="" that="" there="" they="" this="" to="" town="" we="" with="">
Been pinning cabins, peering in cabin books, and gawking at Cabin Porn for ideas and inspirations. An architect friend asked us what we were thinking. Our reply: We want someone walking down the street to peer down the drive and whisper to themselves "WTF?!?!" And, of course, the usual Modern mantra: great indoor-outdoor relationships, natural light, and honesty.

Here are some fave cabin pins:












cheers and jeers

I had hoped to make this post after we traveled back from Nuevo Mexico from the closing, but we got caught up in Southwest Airline's computer glitch adn couldn't make the trip. Here are a couple cheers and jeers from this experience:



cheers

Cheers to our agent Annie Daniels with United Country Properties out of Tularosa. She was polite, patient, and resilient in working with us and the sellers. Whereas things have been far more formal with our real estate experiences in ole urban Austin, things were much more informal, country, and down home with this transaction. At first this was a little unsettling, but we learned to go with the mountain stream flow.

cheers: The Lodge in Cloudcroft

The Lodge (owned by the same folks who own Hotel Paisano in Marfa), despite being completely booked, allowed us to cancel our reservations for three rooms (us, mom-in-law, brother-in-law [the latter two from Socorro, NM]) the same day. We had to pay $10, but that's a big whoop. The hotel's highly rated restaurant, Rebecca's, also canceled our dinner reservation without a hitch.


jeers: Southwest Airlines

We both love Southwest, but they really muffed up this time, both with the original issue (ever hear of back-up routers?) and the customer-neglecting Southwest-first response. We were supposed to fly out Thursday evening when we received word our flight was canceled. There was still time to fly out early (like, get up at 3:30 in the morning early). "Is the glitch fixed?" I asked. "Will the El Paso flight make?" At that point, we could have (and would have) driven to El Paso. The agent said the issue was solved and that only weather would cancel the flight. Woke up at 3:30 in the morning only to find the flight canceled due to ongoing issues and outfall with the glitch.

jeers: Avis

After we rescheduled the first flight, we called to let them know that we would be picking up the car 12 hours later than we thought due to Southwest's issues. They said: "Fine, that'll be fifty more dollars." Huh? We asked to keep the reservation for the original three days since that was (ahem) 50 bucks less expensive, and they said no. WTH?

mega jeers: Camino Real Hotel

I wanted to stay at the Camino Real (I've stayed here for business trips in the past...) because it's designed by Henry Trost, a prominent southwestern master-of-all-styles architect (including his gorgeous Prairie Style El Paso home that Frank Lloyd Wright mistook for one of his own). However, the greedy dirtbags that run this place refused to refund our $175 when we called to cancel the reservation. No, they were not fully booked. We won't be staying there ever again; we hope you won't either.

7.17.2016

dancing with architecture: bismarck, north dakota


When we landed at 9:30 pm, is was still bright as day out, allowing me to stroll about town until 10:30 sampling the local sites. Folks were hooting and hollering up and down the streets, which had me a bit concerned (what in the world is going on?). Turned out to be Pokemon Go! And just as the sun fell late, it also rose early, allowing me to take 6 to 7 am strolls into various parts of town. That, compounded with an early evening side trip to see Marcel Breuer's monastery at the University of Mary, afforded me a good view of the local architecture.

There ain't much to Bismarck. Founded in 1872, the town has about 65,000 residents with about twice that in the "metro" area. The town was named after the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the hope of attracting German immigrants. The three key structures in and near town are the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, the state capitol, and the aforementioned monastery. 

The monastery, which Breuer referred to as his jewel on the prairie, is rather remarkable.  If you believe the nuns (and why wouldn't you?), they were sitting around the table thinking about who to invite to design their new digs on the east side of town when someone said: "Let's ask Marcel Breuer!" Breuer was an early Bauhaus Modernist overshadowed by his mentor Walter Gropius. His design, realized in 1959, is, by my eyes, a combo of International Style, Googie, and Brutalism.









The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is an Art Deco masterpiece designed in 1940 by William Kurke of Fargo, the same designer of the state capitol. I could see it's spire from my hotel window, which is what drew me to it.







The North Dakota Capitol building sits on a hill overlooking Bismarck. It's unique because it's the only state capitol that's a skyscraper and that's asymmetric (both chambers meet in the same side of the building).





And then there's the usual collection of stuff you'd see in Everytown, USA. But with bunnies.
























Toured a water treatment plant in an Art Deco building.