Its been 18 months since we ‘finished’ (to be honest there are still undone projects — windows that have yet to be replaced, and as ever, ongoing maintenance….all that scream for attention) But — the upside is we’ve been having a good run — Wonderful people visiting Alice by the Sea! The downside to that upside — is I am not able to get there nearly as often as I had hoped or imagined…. But first, some before and after shots — Hopefully this will give you an idea of some of what we did. Bear with me — some of these old shots you may have seen before…..
The pool deck looks a a lot more appealing ! New sun loungers — not shown is the comfy couch and dining area (you can see that on our website )! New Grill area with ice maker, fridge and BeefEater BBQ, side burner and sink ….Hey, recognize that granite used on the counter?????
the bedrooms upstairs – all new fixtures, windows, sliders, doors, fans and AC units
The Bathrooms… some before and after ….think you’ll agree that they needed some love.
The downstairs bedrooms (below)
— one was the utility room — we moved all of the ‘works’ under the pool deck
and the entry way
SO … still to come- the landscaping…. (which I love!) And we will be doing some renovations of the pool this summer i hope …We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback and just love that people are having wonderful vacations here… We think it came out pretty nice– What do you think?
well….. it’s almost ready….. if you haven’t seen it on Facebook we’re there… https://www.facebook.com/alicebythec?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
still there are some exterior things to attend to and a punch list of interior things as well — like this wall got screwed up…. too much grout– we will probably have to let it be for a while — but when we get a lull then out it comes…
This is one of the bedrooms…. you can see all the pictures so far on the Facebook page…. more thoughts on the whole process later….
Gonzalo is upon us….. J1.2 recently put up some palms…. he will be taking those down today and battening down the hatches. It’s a construction site….so there is a lot of loose stuff. I just hope it all gets squared by the time the wind starts! Right now Gonzalo is a tropical storm — but i just heard in one forecast that the pressure is dropping …how far remains to be seen. right now….things look really calm….. but this is in the offing……
Stay safe friends!!!
SO, the AC units were being installed…. slabs poured , compressors bolted down and the split units in the house…. and it was August and IT. WAS. HOT! …….. So we were down there and having a drink at Aqua Bistro and hear from someone on the job that one of the units went missing…. someone came up and unbolted the compressor and then took a split………and J-1.2 …said nothing….. turns out he thought he should eat it since it happened on his watch…. WHAT??? no way!……….. so someone has an AC unit of ours…. I just hope that they were really hot or really needed the money and needed the unit more than we did……
What’s in a name.
This is a story about the naming of our house (among other things) and it begins a long time ago…….. during the early days of the 2nd world war.
Alice was G-man’s aunt… she never married or had children of her own. She was a career woman before the days of career women – and in a field dominated by men. Armed with an MSc in Chemistry from the University of Toronto she established a long career in the oil and gas industry where she was a mentor to many. Alice was also patron of the Arts and loved to travel. She visited us in New York often—opening up a great friendship with a long lost cousin for us among other things.
Their arrival in Toronto was anything but easy. Alice and G-mans dad, Fred escaped on a sealed train from the Czech Republic in 1941…things were bad. Europe was fully engaged in the war and the Germans were rampaging into Russia . Alice and Fred’s father (g-mans’ grandfather) had been interred at a Nazi work camp, and when he arrived home was skin and bones—any later on he wouldn’t have been so lucky. The Nazis knew he had a business—the family manufactured wooden radio cabinets—and said the family could leave the country if they bought their way out. When he asked ‘how much?’ the Nazis responded ‘how much do you have?’ To which he replied, ‘if I tell you how much I have, you will take all of it and then how will my family live? You tell me how much and I will tell you if I can pay that amount.’ (which i think was incredibly ballsy) ….So they did. And he did.
They left the Czech Republic via Berlin on a sealed train to Spain. And, because the US and Canada said no, emigrated to Habana, Cuba……. Fred was 10, Alice 15. I really cannot imagine how terrifying this journey out must have been.
They stayed in Cuba for 7 years emigrating to Toronto in 1948, having been sponsored by an uncle who had been in British Intelligence (MI-5) during the war…largely because their parents were worried about the stability of Cuba and that their son (Fred) would get into politics and into trouble (if you knew Fred you would understand that this was a distinct possibility). — I can’t imagine the culture shock of going from what was the center of sophistication in the Caribbean to the backwater one horse town that was Toronto in the ‘40’s …
Fast forward to 2012… Hurricane Sandy had just ravaged NY…and the G-mans lab…it was a really tough day….. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/health/nyus-lab-rats-and-mice-die-in-flooding.html . Four days later we received word that Alice had passed away….
Several weeks later we received an envelope with a copy of Alice’s last bank statement. It was addressed to G-man and since I deal with the mail, I opened it to see if it was junk or something important. The statement said that Alice had a little more than a grand in her account. I was stunned—we knew she lived frugally, but we didn’t know she was in any trouble financially – I called the G-man.. beyond distressed that we didn’t know about the situation—since we (and G-man’s brothers) would , of course, have helped her. G-man was in the throes of dealing with the fallout from the Hurricane , so he was absent quite a bit…..and wasn’t sure what to make of this information.
Several months later, another envelope arrived from the bank . This one contained the information that Alice had been investing all her life…. and had left her estate in equal shares to her nephews, charities and arts organizations she supported (the United Way and the Art Gallery of Ontario among others). I had always dreamed of owning a place in Coral Bay and never in a million years thought it would be remotely possible (I worked in the public sector-for government- for a long time and G-man is a research professor—not exactly investment banker salaries) – but G-man said ‘let’s do this’ …( after saying that we could pay off our existing mortgage, travel ….etc…. oh well…… I have to say that the G-man supporting this dream is about as great as things get.). So, we used the money from Alice’s gift to invest in this property . We wanted to honor her memory in some way by incorporating her name into the house’s name and after much deliberation we came to ‘Alice by the Sea’, since it was Alice who allowed this dream to become a reality. Alice was very practical and so she probably would have thought this a bit foolish….and perhaps she would be right!!
To honor Fred ( who passed in 2011) we have put Cuban Encaustic Tiles on the Kitchen floor—since Fred was the family cook and most at home in the kitchen! (Seriously there was never a piece of store-bought bread in their house!) Anyway, that is the story of the name of the house and how it came to be that way…. Thank You Aunt Alice….
So, way back in the beginning we suspected and then confirmed that the rails were made of a bad batch of lumber…and we have A LOT of railing… really. it’s kind of ridiculous. I was kind of reluctant to get into this rail thing…. we had other things that needed doing and i thought this could wait…. but, call me “Pandora’ i went and opened that box…or can of worms or whatever…..
We had admired the rails at a friend’s home and figured that we could start with replacing the rails around the pool…. the old rail sort of obstructed the view… and this new rail would not impede the view.
The rails are a bit higher and thinner — so if you are sitting on the deck your view really isn’t obstructed– with the old rail the top hit you square in the view line. Of course this led to what i will call ‘rail mania’ (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Mania) and the G man was ALL about replacing rails…..until the total price tag hit turns out this stuff ain’t so cheap……….. and then we had
somewhat-more-subdued-rail-mania…. leaving us with a bit of a design split personality (that is making me more than a bit nuts….) Admittedly
this isn’t the best picture of the outcome —
there is no cable installed… but the side rails have to stay for now I am going back at the end of the month and hope that this looks a bit less meh… but at least the view from the decks looking out will not be so obscured from a sitting position! The entry drive will also have a gate more for the goats than anything (and it remains to be seen whether that will have ANY effect on the goats….probably not…….
During the dismantling of the utility room (AKA super good storage space) we realized that by giving this up we didn’t have anywhere to store our personal items, pool stuff/beach chairs/you-name-it- random effluvia……. We also realized that the closets in the rooms were just , well …meh……… (actually less than meh….. much less than meh they were downright icky).
J1.2 to the rescue….. the old closets really were very spare… i think that even monks who have taken vows of silence and poverty at least have a shelf in their meager closet…. and a hanging bar that fits a hanger– then again i don’t frequent monasteries… but this is what I imagine to be the case. we needed two things…. more storage for us (i.e.: an ‘owners closet’) storage for other things (linens and supplies for change over days) and a closet that worked well for guests with shelving and hanging space.
J-1.2 devised a series of these great shelving units . HE then proposed to cordon off the upper part of the closet so that we could use that as a personal storage area
the side narrow side of the closet (the left side of the photo to the right) will be used for linen storage / supplies. so we’ve solved some of our storage issues so far
Of course, this still needs a hanging rod for the short and long hang areas – and doors (those arrived today! for some reason the interior doors all were delayed…..) For exterior storage (for beach chairs and the like) we are thinking of using the space by the exterior stair wells –but we still haven’t settled on that. While closets are kind of an after thought (at least for me) these are a bit less ken follett ‘pillars of the earth’ and more civilized– and i think will provide decent storage for us and our guests .
When last I posted, dear reader (if you are actually still out there — and i cannot blame you if you are not, as I have been quite remiss in posting ), we had closed chapters with our contractor, J-1 , realized that we indeed really HAD to replace the entire kitchen, and that the reality was that this was an enormous project–and, I am NOT going to lie… the more I thought of it, the more freaked out I got….. like losing sleep freaked out. Pretty much EVERY building project i have heard of anywhere (and this is especially true in St John) runs well over budget. Add to that that things that are more practical ‘up here’ (e.g.: stainless steel finishes or veneers) are not so practical ‘down there’ (i am sure i have made no end of mistakes despite the wonderful advice i have received ) . In addition to this, the long distance aspect of things and the time pressures to get this house on the rental market by high season.
This combination of realities practically derailed me in some of the decision making process….Really , it took me 6 months to decide on tile for a bathroom makeover in our stateside home !!! (and caused poor g-man no end of aggravation) …..
We desperately needed a new contractor… and talked to a few different persons — all of whom would have done a great job I am sure. in the end we went with someone who had been on island a while, had impeccable recommendations and knew many of our subs already– we could not be happier….and since he is a J name as well. I will call him J-1.2.
So the Saga continues….chapter next…in which we reclaim the fourth bedroom…… and redo some baths…..
Originally the fourth bedroom was used as the utility area-we had planned on using it for our own storage and as the laundry/utility area. But a number of folks on the job noted that the fourth bedroom would really add value and make the house perfect for two couples with kids or a larger family — we ran some quick numbers, choked and said , well, what the hell… A LOT of plumbing needed to move, (remember we are also putting in a separate hot water tank for the other side of the house ) but much of the plumbing and the laundry was relocated to under the pool deck. I have to say J-1.2 works FAST and his crew does GREAT work! kind of like moving from OS-6 to OS-10– much faster processing !
We decided to use travertine on the floor and for the shower because it was readily available, and reasonably priced…. and then since we did that bedroom in travertine, i figured i better do it’s mirror image (the other downstairs bed/bath) in travertine as well…. G-man rolled his eyes at that one…..
Since the bathroom in the ‘new room’ doesn’t get the same light as the other bathrooms we decided to use glass block to make the shower enclosure — that would enable more light thru. We also used a cypress ceiling in the bathroom that is light and, i think, really pretty (though i only have a picture of it being installed…)
So….bathrooms…..for the past year and a half i have been up to my eyeballs in bathroom renovations. We redid the kids bathroom then our master bath in our stateside home (that was the six-month deciding dilemma) then pretty much RIGHT when that was done… a pipe burst and took out the first floor and basement powder-rooms…we were out of town at the time and it was a mess…. lost half the first floor and almost all of the basement. ugh . But as a result I sort of have the bathroom gig pretty well down (or at least i’d like to think so…others might disagree…) Unfortunately ….. i have never met a piece of porcelain tile that i truly liked (I take that back, i did and it was horrifically, crazily expensive and came only in a really large size (like 24″ by 36″) — SO of course, I bought that and had it cut down-thus ADDING to the already batshit- crazy expense and used it for the basement bathroom…. But, hey, it was a really small bathroom!)
I debated buying tile on St Thomas (a special trip down) or buying up here and shipping first to Miami then to St John, or flying to Miami and buying tile there…. I opted to buy here and ship — OK OK, i see you …. you are shaking your head and saying ‘oh no she did not!’ — you know who you are….. Sometimes a girl gots to do what a girl gots to do.
I wanted the bathrooms to each be unique but have some unifying themes… the toughest part of this was that the downstairs showers were already travertine and travertine comes in many different shades and pictures are sort of hard to judge…..
i also really wanted to keep everything very neutral.
so some of this was kind of seat of pants stuff. picking tile blindfolded almost… Each bath will have an accent wall where the vanity will be placed and that same accent will be run up the shower wall where the controls are
I chose to go with the folks who i bought most of my ‘here’ bathroom tile– Since I had reason to do so much business with this particular supplier they gave me a contractors discount and because i was shipping out of state did not charge me tax (which more than covered the trucking to FLA) this particular mess o’ tile also got shipped in the same container as our exterior doors — so all in all the shipping charges really were not bad! (but that is about the only time i will write those words….) The upper baths are not quite complete (the last time i was there — which was a couple of weeks ago).
But here is a preview of one of them: NO that right there is NOT IT!!!!
The new shower looks a bit cleaner, I think…. I hope you think so too.. I was going for something that sort of said nature/shore/beach.
The vanities are teak and were sourced from signature hardware (who were super nice to deal with) and have marble or granite tops.. the lower baths will have round white porcelain sinks and the upper bathrooms oval sinks. The bath hardware was sourced from Faucet direct — and the folks there are super. but if you are shipping to a consolidator BEWARE…… They made me fill out all sorts of attestations and crazy crap…it was nuts and i thought I would miss my shipping deadline (they also went down with the doors).
So that is what’s been happening at the house! I have a LOT more to report (and hopefully you are not too bored!)……And promise not to be so lax in the future…… but right now i have to go pick up a bunch of teenaged boys from hockey practice!
I will leave you once again with this…..
While we wanted to accomplish a few things on this trip (register the new ride…ha!, attend to the business of the solar panels, etc. ) , this trip was primarily to introduce the house to the kids and have a bit of vacation time….. so this is more of a trip report than anything else….and it is our first time staying in the house (which is just barely
In case you forgot, it is the white one sticking out of the hill there……. really have to work on landscaping (though i am not sure how much goat proofing we will have to do first…..we have a TON of goats…..) The house is seriously lacking in curb appeal….or curbs for that matter. Anyway, i digress, after the barge (one of two that were currently running) we stopped first at the Beach bar and were able to meet up with the SeasTheDay guys if you aren’t already following their progress, you should! (http://seasthedaystj.com). After a couple of cold beverages we headed over the hill to the house, assembled air mattresses and headed to shipwreck landing for dinner– for family trips that has always been our traditional first night dinner and it did not disappoint. It was fairly dark by the time we made it to the house so it wasn’t possible to see all of the progress that was made (and i did not take too many pictures i am afraid….and i apologize) . One thing the kids made me keenly aware of the MOMENT they stepped into the house was this : ‘how much do you want to be that someone is going to try jumping off this balcony and into the pool?’ ugh…..that thought actually NEVER even crossed my mind!But this is the view from the balcony/deck down to the pool (and there you can just make out the pool tile (coral stone) which had been mostly laid but is not grouted, filled or sealed (i am told this will be completed by tomorrow) — Which demonstrates the straight shot from there to the pool…….COWABUNGA……and then? This probably demonstrates the temptation (and foolhardiness) more clearly
Since you cannot fix stupid, I guess we will have to put some very clear signage that this is NOT a good idea. A friend and wife of RAE suggested a picture of the hospital in st thomas with the warning that it’ll take about 5 hours to get there…… Another friend suggested screening it in–which would be a shame, but might be a good idea. Monday we headed to Lameshur — this was my first beach trip in, i think 3 visits in the past 2 months.
An on- island friend upon hearing we bought a place looked at the G-man and said ‘well, you will never vacation on St John again–you will always be running to the hardware store or some errand…’ Let’s hope that we can prove this wrong at least some of the time! Later that day I was due to head to Cruz Bay to pick up two of 1st-F-1’s friends meet the person who was acting as the agent for the person i had bought the car from (he had already left the island….hmmmmm) Now, i KNOW that i shouldn’t buy a car site unseen…and i have heard the warnings and let’s just say, i get it….and deserve whatever happens…..SO the seller sends the power of atty via express mail…and we are off to connections….but the Title is still with the car, so back to the car to get the title….and then back to connections and all is notarized for the BMV and then ….’you have a copy of the sellers drivers license, right? ‘ look in the envelope and he forgot to include it…… frantic phone call… can you fax it? sure….waiting…and then ‘NO- cannot fax– will email’……doesn’t come thru…..then the internet goes down– and it is 5 pm….so no way i am getting insurance and getting to the registry today (it would have been tricky anyway….but not happy about having to come back into town to deal with all this again….) So….. off to get the girls…….
This next part is the SAGA OF REMOVING THE CAR FROM THE MONGOOSE JUNCTION LOT so three teens, one slightly stressed out middle aged woman and two cars….one a rental and one a standard transmission beater that needs to be moved….. you do the math…. quasi legal activities needed to be engaged in. I was not proud of this slight incursion into lawlessness– but we had to get both cars up the hill (the one for repair of a power steering pressure hose and a valve gasket cover-repairs which i knew about and parts which i brought with me-the other one for onward transport….) and I am the only one that drives a standard….. 1st-f1 was a bit hesitant to drive on the left– but we’d go slow….. I get into the ‘new’ car (and have both of 1st-f-1’s friends with me-) depress the clutch and turn the key….and nothing…..lights on, but NO one is home in the engine compartment….okaaaaaaayyyyyy let’s do that again…..AND….. nothing…… so a few more frustrating turns of the key and i call the former owner…. my annoyance not quite in check… (he disclosed many things about the car– but there were some -like this and the lack of a working seatbelt, and a few other things that were left out of that conversation)–he informs me that the clutch has a bit of ‘play’ and in order to engage the starter sensor you have to push the clutch over to the right– now this isn’t hard once you get the hang of it, but it was very difficult to figure out what he was trying to tell me long distance. But finally mission accomplished and we are off…up the hill (the clutch is a bit weird and will take some getting used to….) 1st-f-1 does an admirable job on her first outing on St John roads. At the house and it feels great to have a bunch of kids there, have the g-man there– in short, it feels happy and that means a ton .
Monday night we met up with friends at concordia for open mike night– I missed most of the music since we had all the car drama , but had drinks and a great meal with friends. (and 2nd-f1 even dared to perform…..nerves of steel that one…..)
Wednesday was the crazy fest that is the BMV…..dropped the kids at Francis and then off to the BMV — walk in and then realize that i had forgotten to go to the insurance folks first….so off to the insurance folks and then after about 45 minutes (with very pleasant people i might add!) had my car insured…..then back to the registry and after about 90 minutes? had the car registered as well.
We celebrated 2nd-f-1’s 15th birthday at shipwreck on Wednesday
and went sailing to Jost with Kekoa and friends on Thursday- which was great fun.
We set a meeting with J-1 for Friday Morning– unsure as to how things would work themselves out–but we did want to have the week to hang with the kids as much as we could and not think too much about the serious business of the renovation. After a long discussion with the G-man about the laundry list of projects and all-he decided to part ways. J-1 did a great job getting us going- and i am very thankful for that- So now we are interviewing and getting quotes from other builders to finish (hopefully!) what we have started! My tiling seems to be a spiraling price point– so time to get real about that as well…… We got a quote on a cable rail system from custom Welding in St Thomas — am going to see what it looks like if we bring in the cable ourselves…..(thanks for the tip– if you are reading this you know who you are !
The wind and rain really had started picking up towards the end of the week– and that sort of sealed the deal on the sliders debate…..After living in the house G-man sees that the kitchen really does need a complete overhaul — and on this trip it was decided that we have to put in an extra hot water system – since it is all located on one side of the house and running water from one side to the other while waiting for it to heat up is just wasting water and power…..Signed the contract for the solar, and met with an A/C installer to get prices for installing split units in the bedrooms. so the project list just keeps on growing…….but the interior ceiling is all painted, the roof is fixed and some of the strange plumbing and drainage issues have been dealt with….
More dinners with friends at Aqua bistro, Oasis, and at persons homes; attending a meeting of the Coral Bay Community Council , easter on Francis
and mostly meeting more wonderful neighbors and other residents, and getting to know yet others even better makes me more sure that this is a community that I want to be a more permanent part of –With kids still in highschool that will be a while off… I probably will go back when we have some more business to attend to (in a few weeks?) but until then i will leave you with this picture 1st-f-1 took from the first floor bedroom balcony