When Sirius XM Rocks: Joel & Victoria Osteen Speak with Father Leahy

That's me in the middle!

That’s me in the middle!

Imagine my surprise when I, a long-time subscriber to the service, opened a recent email from Sirius XM radio that said if I click on a link in its email at precisely 8 pm the following night, I might (emphasis on the might) score a ticket to attend a live radio broadcast with Joel & Victoria Osteen at the NY studio! Well, I was free on the date of the broadcast so I though why not try for a ticket?!

Precisely at 8pm the following evening I dashed away from the dinner table to my computer, which I had left open on the Sirius email. I clicked the link. SCORE! I went back to the dinner table, bubbling over with excitement as I told my husband and son.

On Monday afternoon, I took the train into NY Penn Station (praying the entire way, given the tragedy that had occurred days earlier in Hoboken) and walked the mile to the Sirius studio. It was a glorious NY City kind of day: sunny, breezy and warm. Perfect.

The small group of us was checked through security and given our instructions. (It’s a live radio broadcast. I immediately felt the need to cough!) We were ushered into the studio, which is glassed in on three sides. We hustled into seats and waited. When I look at the couple of photos of me taken that day, I see my eyes are shining and I’m very happy. Why?

When I’m alone and driving, I fiddle with the radio stations and stop on whatever suits my fancy. Not too many months ago I found Joel Osteen’s radio station. He preaches on the positive. He is uplifting. He is comforting. He speaks to my heart. He speaks of our loving God.

Maybe you know me well or maybe you don’t know: I was raised Lutheran (Missouri Synod). My Mom was raised Lutheran and my Dad was raised Catholic. As an adult I joined the Presbyterian Church (USA) and have been a practicing Presbyterian for decades. Joel’s a preacher at a megachurch in Texas. Do we sound compatible? Well, we are.

I sat with another 15 or so people and listened to Joel & Victoria talk with Father Leahy of St Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ. Some of the students from St Benedict’s were there too. You can watch a recent Sixty Minutes profile on Father Leahy and the school here. We listened as they discussed how St Benedict’s prepares boys in the Newark area to fulfill their potential as emotionally mature, morally responsible and well-educated young men. This all-boys school in the inner city succeeds at an incredibly high rate while much of our nation struggles with effective urban education. Is it any surprise that God and community are the answers?

One of the phrases that the young men at St Benedict’s take to heart is “What hurts my brother hurts me.”

Why can’t we all learn to think like that?

P.S. Folks who attended the SiriusXM radio broadcast received a copy of Joel’s new book, “ThinkBetter, LiveBetter.” I’m on page 9.

Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Church Service, Let's Talk Books, NJ Blogger, Sirius radio | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vegetable Gardening in Raised Beds

garden tools Adventures of a Middle Age Mom blogDo you vegetable garden in raised beds? I do. Over the years I’ve grown vegetables in beds made out of everything from pine boards to bluestone. The beds I’ve raised my organically grown vegetables in over the past 17 or so seasons are made of bluestone. The sides are 18″ tall and each of the two beds are like 10′ long by 2.5′ wide. The material, while expensive, won’t rot or taint your vegetables and will last “forever.”  And the stone looks gorgeous.

bluestone veggie bed Adventures of a Middle Age Mom blog

I’ve harvested plenty of fresh organic vegetables from these raised beds over the last 17 years. This year’s garden bounty includes kale, broccoli, green beans, radishes, grape tomatoes, plum tomatoes, parsley as well as my planted-from-seed-years-ago sage, marjoram and chives. Oh yes, and the self-sown-in-my-greenhouse creeping rosemary!

Here’s some of the bounty:vegetable collage from Adventures of a Middle Age Mom blog

Mama rabbit has not eaten the vegetables this year. I erected a fortress around the garden beds to prevent her from getting in. She’s a clever mom who thinks nothing of leaping up, up and over a 3′ fence I installed last year. This year I used a shorter fence and put a “lid” on it. Rabbit pilfering problem? Solved!

We will be moving South, to Hampton Lake in South Carolina to be more specific. I know that gardening there is different than here in New Jersey. I’ve been reading up on it! Anyway, I want to grow our vegetables in raised beds at our new home. And I think I’ve found the perfect material: galvanized metal!

galvanized planter bed Advenutures of a Middle Age Mom blog

The style of our new home is Low Country. To me, the home has a more casual, almost country look compared with our current Victorian home. I think the galvanized beds could fit right into a Low Country style home. What do you think?


Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, gardening, New Jersey, NJ Blogger, raised garden beds, Vegetable Gardening | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Operation ReloSouth: Raising a House Starts with a Foundation & Framing

SC Wish you were hereMy husband Mike and I were on the hunt — which I dubbed “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect location to build our retirement home. We found it — a no-snow, lower cost, more relaxed area of the country near water — in Hampton Lake SC. And this is our story.

We signed on the dotted line and David Weekley is building my husband Mike and I a new home in Hampton Lake, SC. This build is different from our previous two (Yes, we love us a fresh-built home.). This time we are building on a slab and the 2-by-4 framing is 24″ on center. Building is different in South Carolina.

With our brand-y new beautiful dock in place, John, our competent Weekley builder on site, and his team of professional electricians, plumbers, framers and more rolled in and set up shop. Raising a house starts with a foundation & framing. What does it take to make that happen?

I come from a long line of people who love heavy duty equipment and power tools: My people are loggers, miners, farmers, welders, long-haul truckers…Me and my people love powerful tools of the trades, the bigger the better. And if it runs on diesel fuel? Oh baby…that’s one of the many reasons I wish I could be watching our South Carolina home build: It started with moving dirt. And what better piece of equipment to level and smooth dirt than this baby:

After the site was graded and smoothed, the foundation framing was set. Do you see the white “posts” in the photo below? I can explain those!

adventures of amiddle age mom foundation pour

Before any concrete can be poured into the frames the plumber “stubs out” piping for drains and stuff that will be “buried” under the concrete. He has to know exactly where to install the pipes (that’s one of the many reasons the actual house plans are so important — location, location, location — and the builder and his crews need to consult them). We (and the plumber and his crew) don’t want to ask the plumber to come back and jack hammer the crap out of our freshly poured concrete slab to move something that’s inches “off” from plan*.

Once safety inspections were completed, the concrete slab was poured. And if you’re Darlene and Mike, that’s when the heavens opened and it poured for days. Such is our curse. We warned our builder ahead of time that we are “water disaster people.” <sigh>

After things dried out, the process moved right along. The framers got to framing and the weather cooperated.

We quickly went from framing,

adventures of a middle age mom framing 1

to plywood outside shell,

adventures of a middle age mom framing 3

to inner framing.

adventures of a middle age mom framing 2

At this point I would like to say God bless our neighbors for their patience during this process. Having lived next door to construction at various times in our married life, Mike and I know it isn’t easy listening to hammering and such all day long, six days a week. We appreciate our neighbors grace and patience (and photographs.).


*Side Note: Put in the time and study your drawings, refine them until you’re satisfied they are they best they can be. The plans are critical during the actual build. Your builder and his trades should all be consulting those plans daily, maybe hourly, as they build your dream home. If it’s on the plan, then that’s what they should deliver to you.

Mike and I reviewed, studied and refined our house plans over a many-week period in late 2015 to make sure they reflect correct dimensions, locations and our personal preferences. So when we arrive at the pre-drywall meeting (that’s the step in the Weekley process where you meet with the builder and his trades and walk through the framed-but-not-sheetrocked house to make sure what’s done already is correct and get a last-chance opportunity to discuss stuff like electrical switch placement before the insulation and sheetrock are installed.) you better believe that we will be snapping tapes and measuring everything. Why? If a sewer or drain pipe is “off” by even a few inches, then a cabinet (which was already ordered in a particular size) might not fit or the “correct” spacing between appliances may be less. This could cause delays in your build, among other issues. As with many things in life, if you work diligently and get each step correct along the way, then the end product is “perfect.” And if it isn’t?  Insist it be made right.

Up Next: Pre-drywall Meeting: On Site in Hampton Lake, SC

Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Hampton Lake SC, NJ Blogger, Operation ReloSouth, SC blogger, South Carolina, Water Disaster | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Operation ReloSouth: Lot Clearing & Dock Building in Hampton Lake, SC

SC Wish you were hereMy husband Mike and I were on the hunt — which I dubbed “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect location to build our retirement home. We found it — a no-snow, lower cost, more relaxed area of the country near water — in Hampton Lake SC. And this is our story.

We signed on the dotted line and David Weekley is building my husband Mike and I a new home in Hampton Lake, SC. This build is different from our previous two.

<deep breath>

We are far, far away from the build. We won’t be on site to monitor progress, trouble shoot or otherwise bother the builder make sure the build is going according to plan. We live in New Jersey. The build is in South Carolina. That’s 13 hours by car. We will rely on photographs, weekly conference calls and our new neighbors for reports and updates. The whole idea makes me itchy, but build we will!

We know the drill: You have to make space to site the house. And allow room for the construction supplies and equipment. This means lot clearing!

Video courtesy of Nancy Cantor.

Hampton Lake is the site of a former paper wood farm. That means the soft pine trees left on the property were grown in rigid rows and spaced closely together, not an ideal tree or configuration for a home landscape. The Hampton Lake Architectural Review Board advises builders in Hampton Lake about what trees must be saved and what trees can be removed. Guess what? I have three “must-save” trees in a rigid row in our soon-to-be backyard.  That’s one challenge for this N.J. Master Gardener.

Once the trees are cleared from the lot...

Once the trees are cleared from the lot…

Surprise!! We chose Alpha Marine to build our dock! And the dock must be built before the house. Harry and his crew at Alpha Marine need the open space to move their equipment and supplies in and out of the job site.

Before any building is started...

The dock will be built.

Scheduling is challenging in the Bluffton, SC area right now since building and the associated trades are booming. Fortunately for us, Harry Hussman and John, David Weekley’s super competent builder-on-site, communicated and coordinated very well.

May I present to you…Our Dock!

It’s a multi-step process:

Hampton Lake SC dock pilings in

Then it goes really quickly from that to …


And when we visited recently?

Gorgeous Trex dock built by Alpha Marine for us!

Gorgeous Trex dock built by Alpha Marine!

 Up Next: Operation ReloSouth: Raising a House Starts with a Foundation & Framing!  

Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Hampton Lake SC, NJ Blogger, Operation ReloSouth, ReloSouth, SC blogger, South Carolina | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Operation ReloSouth: Lot Clearing & Dock Building in Hampton Lake, SC

Operation ReloSouth: At the David Weekley Design Center

SC Wish you were hereMy husband Mike and I were on the hunt — which I dubbed “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect location to build our retirement home. We found it — a no-snow, lower cost, more relaxed area of the country near water — in Hampton Lake SC. And this is our story.

After we signed on the dotted line with David Weekley to build our Blue Point home, my husband Mike and I worked with Tressa at the David Weekley Design Center choosing fits and finishes and appliances for our new build.

Choices, choices, choices!

Choices, choices, choices!

It’s good to know that Weekley offers “levels” of finishes in its homes. If you select anything for your Weekley build other than Level 1 materials/finishes (the basic home, which is really nice), the cost of your build increases. If you delete something from the plan, the cost of the build decreases. As part of a recent promotion, the company gave us an “allowance” (aka cash) that we used toward upgrades from Level 1. That being said, during the actual selection process we didn’t have any idea what a particular upgrade would cost and the pricing process took some days to complete, which means we had to wait to find out if we could actually afford what we chose.

I stayed up late the night before our design center appointment to make this list!

I stayed up late the night before our design center appointment to make this list!

Tressa began by showing us samples in the expansive David Weekley Design Center and talking with us about our likes and dislikes. She quickly nailed our style preferences! The entire choice process — which took about 10 hours over 2 days — was about what we wanted, our “dream build.” As we worked our way room by room in the selection process, Tressa added the items to our summary sheet called an HTS, or Homeowner’s Transaction Summary. That document (plus the actual design floorplans), which we received via email after we returned to New Jersey, is where we first saw the cost of the upgrades we chose at the Design Center.

Weekley’s methodology was a challenge for Mike and me. During two previous home builds, Mike and I knew immediately what the cost of an add on/upgrade was and we could quickly and efficiently parse through the options on the spot. With Weekley it was a choose-and-wait selection process. And, just like in our other builds, we had to purchase only through approved vendors. Don’t even ask me how many different kitchen sink selections Tressa researched and priced for us before we chose one that satisfied our needs for quality, function, and price. That woman is a gem!

We are diligent people and we did our homework. Back in New Jersey, Mike and I spent weeks staring at the architect’s plans, making comments, measuring things out and figuring out if it would suit us as designed. When you are building a home take the time to look at the plans very carefully, over a span of weeks. You will pick up on different things every time your eye falls on the drawings. And you will save yourself time, money and aggravation during the actual build if you get it right on paper.

I think I'm going to love this kitchen!

I think I’m going to love this kitchen!

Mike has a very firm grasp on our cash. Dollars do not fly out of my husband’s fists easily. Soooo…after much back and forth, choosing and re-choosing, updating of the HTS and one architectural plan redraw (and the promise of  a red-line change in the field), we have our fits, finishes and tweaks to the Blue Point plan that suit us perfectly!

design plan tweaks

And if you build with Weekley in South Carolina? Tressa will make the selection process go smoothly. She is the real deal: a funny, patient, professional who was fully present every step we took.

P.S. Our final HTS is 18 pages long and specific, very specific. We hope that means everything will go according to plan during the actual build.

Next Up: Operation ReloSouth: Lot Clearing & Dock Building in Hampton Lake, SC

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Operation ReloSouth: Building a Dock in Hampton Lake SC

SC Wish you were hereMy husband Mike and I were on the hunt — which I dubbed “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect location to build our retirement home. We found it — a no-snow, lower cost, more relaxed area of the country near water — in Hampton Lake SC. And this is our story.

The day after our 36th wedding anniversary, Mike and I signed a contract with Weekley. They would build us a David Weekley Blue Point home. On our lot. Seriously, I can’t even believe I signed the papers. It’s not like we can move there now. And we’ve owned two homes at the same time before and it was nothing but a drag for me. I was always cleaning something, no matter which house we were living in. And I swore I’d never own two homes (with twice the upkeep) again. I think we’re crazy. Whatever. Talk with my husband…

Meanwhile, like even before we signed the contract to build the house, Mike was in communication with the two most-used, best lake dock builders in the area. Since we knew we would be building a dock in Hampton Lake SC, Mike called a couple of our soon-to-be neighbors and asked if we could look at their docks, hear their opinions of their dock builders and basically kick their dock’s tires. Our neighbors are the greatest! One offered up their all-wood dock for inspection, while another offered up their Trex-deck/wood underpinning dock.

The same day we signed our contract with Weekley we hustled over to look at our neighbors’ docks. Building a dock in Hampton Lake SC is serious business, friends! We examined both docks carefully, asking how it had been for them building a dock, weighing the lesser cost/more maintenance aspect of the natural all-wood dock versus the higher cost/no maintenance (and, we learned, cooler-under-the-feet) wood pilings/Trex surface dock.

This is the Trex decking.It comes in many colors.

This is the Trex decking.It comes in many colors.

We also kept in mind our immediate next-door neighbor’s request: They asked if we could tie into their dock so that we have one long seamless look from the lake side and less possibility of erosion in the future. That neighbor’s dock is made of wood.

This is the all-wood dock. We could stain it any color, but that's ongoing maintenance!

This is the all-wood dock. We could stain it any color, but that’s ongoing maintenance!

Ultimately, we thought the Trex-topped dock would be a good choice for us. We looked on line at the colors offered and saw one that we thought would blend nicely with our next-door neighbor’s natural wood decking. With the “building the dock” decision decided, I asked Mike if we could hang out at the pool the following day.

Mike had other ideas. Bright and early the next morning we met with Harry Hussmann, the owner of Alpha Marine LLC, so Harry could walk our lot with us, examine the shoreline and talk about options regarding the dock’s purpose, shape and configuration given the curve of our waterfront land. Harry also pointed out deck color samples of docks he completed in our Hampton Lake neighborhood. And he offered his expert opinion on the best configuration when building our dock. Harry is the bomb of dock builders…easy to talk with, full of great ideas and he has that Trex material sample just waiting in his back pocket for you!

Building of all sorts is booming in and around Hampton Lake S.C. Harry said that if we decided to build a dock with him that he’d be able to fit us in between larger jobs in Spring 2016. Given that the contract we signed with Weekley indicated a build start of April, Harry’s opening sounded ideal. But we would wait to receive his estimate before we decide.

Up Next: Operation ReloSouth: At the David Weekley Design Center


Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Hampton Lake SC, NJ Blogger, Operation ReloSouth, ReloSouth, SC blogger, South Carolina | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Operation ReloSouth: We Changed Our Minds — David Weekley Blue Point!

SC Wish you were hereMy husband Mike and I were on the hunt — which I dubbed “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect location to build our retirement home. We found it — a no-snow, lower cost, more relaxed area of the country near water — in Hampton Lake SC. And this is our story.

I thought my husband Mike and I were looking at model homes so that “someday” we would build our retirement home in beautiful Hampton Lake, S.C. I thought I could “relax” once we decided that “someday” David Weekley Homes would build us our Pawley.

Hampton Lake SC signBut Mike kept wanting to visit Hampton Lake. Every visit Mike dragged me encouraged me to walk through the Weekley homes under construction”just to be sure” we picked the right model. He’d pull out his phone and snap photos of whatever home was being built. He’d measure doorways, closets and other stuff, while I walked around and admired the countertops and furniture. After all, it wasn’t like I needed to pay close attention to the house itself; it wasn’t ours.

Every visit to Hampton Lake we’d talk with Nancy Cantor, our sales consultant whom we now call friend, about any incentives or changes in the Weekley build offers. I should point out that Nancy is the third salesperson with whom we’ve discussed building a Weekley home. (I dare say that Mike and I are probably known as “the couple who took years to sign on the dotted line.” I wonder if Nancy got a signing bonus for finally getting us to commit?!) After we finished exploring the Weekley homes under construction and talking with Nancy, we’d walk our lot, talking about someday putting in a dock, which we knew had to be built before our home could be built since the lot is narrow and the heavy equipment wouldn’t “fit” after the house was built. I teased Mike that “someday,” after we put in the dock, we could come visit and sit on lawn chairs admiring our own lake view even though we wouldn’t have a house built yet!

David Weekley Design Ctr

Typically, buyers who haven’t signed a contract for Weekley to build them a house don’t get to visit the Weekley Design Center. We did. Multiple times. That’s when we met Tressa, design manager. I liked her right away, maybe because her taste and my taste are so similar. Or perhaps she just wants me to think that! She’s so Southern, I’m not sure!

But pay attention here! The visit that changed everything in my world occurred October 20, 2015. Weekley was building a new model, one we’d never seen! The model, The Blue Point, is a riff on the Pawley, only a bit bigger and better for folks like us in some ways. Mike was intrigued. I was too.  “Knowing” that our build was years away, I mostly played Scrabble on my phone, while Mike spent, I kid you not, hours roaming the construction sight, measuring, staring into space, measuring and staring some more.

We changed our minds...this is the Blue Point model, our latest love!

We changed our minds…this is the Blue Point model, our latest love!

That night we ate dinner with the David Weekley Blue Point plans scattered all over the table. We looked hard at the numbers (okay, Mike looked hard at the numbers while I looked at the kitchen and bathroom layouts) and then we returned to the build-in-process to walk through the house again. And again. And the next day we pored over the design drawings again. And again. Hint: Examine everything, more than twice, before making a major life-altering decision.

On October 26, 2015, the day after our 36th wedding anniversary, Mike and I signed a contract with Weekley. They would build us a David Weekley Blue Point home. On our lot. Seriously. With that major decision made, I asked Mike if we could go hang out at the pool.

Mike had other ideas.

Up Next: Operation ReloSouth: Building a Dock in Hampton Lake SC


Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Hampton Lake SC, NJ Blogger, ReloSouth, SC blogger | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Operation ReloSouth: Got the Lot! Now Finding a Builder


SC Wish you were hereMy husband Mike and I were on the hunt — which I dubbed “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect location to build our retirement home. We found it — a no-snow, lower cost, more relaxed area of the country near water — in Hampton Lake SC. And this is our story.

Finding a buildable lot in a dream location — Hampton Lake SC — took us a few years and a lot of road trips and plane flights South. Don’t rush your own search. Enjoy the adventure! That said? If you find a lot that makes your heart melt? Buy it!

We went. We saw. We bought!

We went. We saw. We bought!

Mike and I are very happy with our lake view lot and how the front yard (for the yet-to-be-built house) pretty much faces due South. With the rear yard (and stunning lake) facing North, we’re pretty sure we can hang out in our backyard and not catch fire during the blisteringly hot, humid S.C. summers. Alternatively, we can come and stay with you when it’s too toasty in SC!

Hampton Lake SC signMike and I toured a number of model homes in Hampton Lake. We talked with the builder’s reps and explored different style homes large and small. If you, like us, are looking for a builder, do yourself a favor and make a list of the dozen or so drop-dead things you MUST HAVE in your new home before you start looking a models or begin working with an architect on a custom-designed home. And know what you can afford to spend on your dream house. No sense falling in love with a home that is out of your price range, right?

Your must-have list will vary from ours. Why? Because we are quirky. And so are you. These are the questions we asked ourselves as we toured the model homes:

  1. Is there enough room for at least two people to walk through the front door and stand in the main hallway comfortably? Mike and I seem to be joined at the hip sometimes. Or maybe that’s just being married for more than 35 years!
  2. Is there a master bedroom suite that includes a bathroom with walk-in shower, two sinks and a toilet not situated inside a tiny windowless closet-type room? Does the suite have a large walk-in closet?
  3. Is there at least one guest room with its own bath?
  4. Is there a well-located half bath for guests?
  5. Is the layout open concept to suit our casual lifestyle (and my need to see who’s coming toward me at a given moment)?
  6. Is the kitchen large enough for Mike and me to pass each other comfortably? This is a critical question for me because it seems like every time I turn around Mike is thisclose to me (see #1 above).
  7. I love to cook. Mike hates to cook, but he loves to eat so…Does the kitchen offer a great  layout and can I get top-of-the-line appliances, especially a stove, in the allocated space?
  8. Is there a large pantry?
  9. Is the dining area large enough to accommodate six adults (Mike, me, our two kids and their significant others) and still have space for a high chair (God willing!) someday?
  10. Is there office space for Mike?
  11. Is there a dreamy sewing room for me?
  12. Is there a separate laundry room large enough to also accommodate 2 large litter boxes and 6 cat bowls (this is not a typo, my friends)?
  13. Is there space for a covered/screened patio where we can hang out during the hot, humid S.C. summers without me getting chewed up and spit out by the no-see-ums and mosquitoes?

It quickly became apparent to Mike and me that we needed a 2,000 or so square foot home to “fit” our “must haves.” That narrowed our search. We fell in love with the Low Country home style. That narrowed our search. We also realized pretty quickly that some builders/homes cost more money than our budget allows. So that narrowed our search even more. If you keep at it, folks, the choice becomes pretty apparent! Finding a builder isn’t that difficult!

During our couple-year period of looking at model homes we kept coming back to one builder: David Weekley Homes. And one particular model home: The Pawley. The model is right-sized enough to suit our way of living and our lot size. And it ticked all the boxes on our must-have list.

David Weekley Pawley model

David Weekley Pawley model interior

Up Next: The Day We Changed Our Minds


Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Hampton Lake SC, NJ Blogger, ReloSouth, SC blogger | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Operation ReloSouth: Hampton Lake SC

Do you want to build a custom home? Do you want to renovate your existing home? My husband Mike and I have done both. AND…We’re gonna do it AGAIN, this time in Hampton Lake SC!

My husband Mike and I have been on the hunt — “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect retirement location. We want to live in a less-expensive, more relaxed area of the country near water. With better weather (no snow) than what we have here in Northern New Jersey. This is our story.

SC Wish you were hereIn 2012 I was barely half a century old when my husband Mike insisted we begin the search for our perfect a retirement home. Yeah, Mike likes to give himself years of research time to weigh his options. In case he can’t make up his mind. Or I can’t (hah!). And just to make our search more challenging Mike told me that we couldn’t retire in New Jersey (see reason #1 below) and he wouldn’t retire to Florida (see reason #3 below). Yeah, Mike’s full of rules.

Our “must have” list for the perfect retirement location included the following:

  1. a significantly lower cost of living than what we have here in Northern New Jersey, which is ranked the 6th most expensive state in these United States;
  2. a slower paced, but still interesting lifestyle. Living in New Jersey, which is the most densely populated state in the United States, means we are often tense, anxious and/or grumpy. Not even Botox can eradicate my Jersey frown lines. On the plus side, though, New York City is a short train ride away, which means we have access to some of the best of the best, most fun things to do. And we have the Jersey Shore.
  3. a more temperate climate. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 just about did us in. That said, Operation ReloSouth does not include researching areas in Hurricane Alley (e.g., Florida).

You can read my earlier posts about our searches near Wilmington, Leland and Southport, North Carolina; Hampton Lake, South Carolina and Skidaway Island, Georgia. I stopped writing about Operation ReloSouth for quite a while after Hurricane Sandy smacked us around, but that didn’t mean we stopped looking. Nope.

After two “sneak-a-peek” weekends and a number of other trips down, we bought a lot in Hampton Lake SC, a private, gated community that is home to families, singles and couples of all ages.

Hampton Lake Our Lot 10 2014

And I thought that would be the end of it until we actually retired. You know, years from now when we actually retire we’d plan and build a house on our lot and live in Hampton Lake SC full time.

Hampton Lake our lot water view



Mike was suddenly a man on a mission.

  • We bought our lot in 2013.
  • We visited model homes in the area and chose a builder and a home plan in 2014.
  • We changed our mind and chose a different home plan in 2015.
  • And now? David Weekley Homes is building our retirement home NOW, RIGHT NOW, IN 2016, YEARS BEFORE WE WILL LIVE IN IT FULL TIME.

I need to sit down.

Next Up: Bought the Lot! Now Finding a Builder! 


Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, NJ Blogger, ReloSouth | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Cresson House B&B: Warm and Welcoming!

Cresson House B&BCresson, PA is a small town. A very small town. And when I visit the area, I stay at a hotel about 10 country miles away. This trip back I didn’t want to drive those winding country roads (full of deer waiting to jump out at me) after dark. So I looked on Trip Advisor for alternatives, never really thinking that I’d find any. But I did. The Cresson House B&B popped up! The reviews were really, really good so I gave them a call to see if they had a room available on a Monday night. Luck was with me and Marti, the innkeeper, booked me into the Samuel Lemon Room, which has its own private bath.

I had a fast trip (less than five hours) west on Route 80 and arrived on schedule. Marti was waiting to greet me. She gave me a brief tour of the historical home, which is nicely decorated and very well maintained, then showed me to my room.

Cresson House B&B Samuel Lemon RoomCan I tell you? The Samuel Lemon Room at the Cresson House B&B is great: toile cotton bedspread on a comfy queen-sized bed, a well-lit desk and chair tucked in a corner (with a little sign that informed me that they offer free wifi to guests), a nightstand with clock, tissues and a flashlight…just in case. The bathroom is larger than my childhood bedroom and offers amenities like fluffy towels and hand-made fragrant soap! And the shower is divine: strong water pressure!!

The Cresson House B&B offers round-the-clock drinks and snacks (raisin cookies!) in the kitchen, a welcoming front and side porch with old-fashioned swings and chairs where you can sit and pass the time, and lovely gardens.

Marti cooks a large American-style breakfast for her guests. After a peaceful night’s sleep in the quiet home, I went downstairs for breakfast. I was greeted with my preferred hot tea and a warm scone. Marti followed up with a peppers and onions (my choice) omelet with bacon and toast. Yum!

If you’re traveling and need a place to stay in the Cresson, PA area, give Marti a call. The Cresson House B&B is a great place to stay.


Posted in Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, NJ Blogger, Pennsylvania, Travel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment