Feed me, Seymour!

I should have saved that last post slug for this one, given the debacle in New Orleans and our rather strange and quite poor dining experience today.

The day started off well: a visit to the house to plan out the front pathing and landscaping, an eyeball measurement of the first garden area, and just all sorts of plans in general for the outside of the house. Then a trip to Lowe’s and Home Depot for some peat and perlite to lighten up the potting mix in some of the planters holding some very old plants – plants that my grandmother used to own and tend. Got that, looked at the plants, including some tomato and pepper plants that were already fruiting in their cups (didn’t buy any, since I have some flats seeded, something I’ll probably post later), picked up a few miscellaneous things at Home Depot, then decided it was lunchtime.

And that’s where a piece of our karma broke off like an iceberg calving and crashing into the sea.

The three of us were starving, and there was an Applebee’s right in front of the Home Depot, so we decided to pop in and grab a bite. It’s a Sunday, and the place is fairly busy, but it is not that bad since the after church crowd has thinned. We stand and wait. And wait. A server comes by, puts some menus away, and says “She should be right with y’all in a few minutes.”

Nope. We’re too hungry and not interested in waiting around. Mom has always like the Great American Cafe, so we decide to head there (in Mandarin, for those familiar with the area). When we arrive, we find that it has closed, there’s a huge sign out front that the site is for lease, and that someone has a sense of humor: there’s a printed note on the door saying the location has closed and apologizing for any inconvenience.

As luck would have it, there is a Chili’s in the same outparcel area, so we go there. We’re seated quickly, only to have five or six servers pass the table, at least two of whom were waiting tables in the same area. What do we get? Nothing except irritated. We leave. Mom tells one of the greeters about our issue, and we walk next door to Mama Fu’s and Moe’s, where we get food to go. The girl taking our order at Mama Fu’s isn’t unpleasant, exactly, but she isn’t friendly, clearly does not want to be there, and doesn’t speak either loudly or distinctly enough for us to understand her without some intense listening. Still, they did manage to get our order correct and we did manage to get our food and go home.

I went back to work, and everyone else took naps, because we were headed back out to Sears later, to look at stuff: yard tractors and clothes and shoes. Which we did – we found a tractor, which will be delivered in late April after we’ve closed and gotten a little settled in the new place. We also bought an aerator attachment, to make tilling easier. One of the problems with construction that doesn’t involve constant turning or working on the ground in the outer lying areas of the plot is that the ground becomes quite hard and compacted from no ground cover, no use, and being driven over by heavy equipment and vehicles. It will also be handy for the area which will be the garden. Everyone else picked up some things as well.

And then, our bad karma continued. In the outparcel of the Orange Park mall is a Johnny Carino’s (which used to be a Chevy’s, which used to be a Rio Bravo that actually had some decent seafood enchiladas, but that’s a story for a different time). By now, it’s about 8:30 Sunday evening, and things are very, very quiet at the restaurant. There is virtually no one in the place, and the only people who were not eating, besides us, were a couple standing outside smoking and smooching. In we went.

Only to stand at the host station for five minutes, waiting for someone to seat us. I have never, in a single day, been to two different places where they just haven’t had someone pop up to the host station and do their job. After five minutes, we took their grease pencil and wrote a note on the seating laminate: We waited for five minutes and were not seated at 8:30 PM Sunday night. Party of three. We left.

Mom and I walked out, and my sister went to track someone down. We had seen a woman chatting with a table of diners, who glanced up at us twice. this was the woman who was supposed to seat us. She told my sister that she was seating someone else, but we could see that she was simply chatting and handing out boxes. Another place to cross off the list.

Since you can’t go a dozen yards without tripping over a restaurant, though, it was no problem at all for us to just hop in the car, mosey along less than half a mile, and go to Carrabba’s (still in Orange Park, for those following along). What happened?

Well, we were seated within a minute and had a server (Anna) at our table within another minute. Everyone was very pleasant, the service was fast, friendly, personable and Anna didn’t look like she wanted to kick us out as quickly as possible so she could start winding down. We ate, paid, and then headed back to the house, where everyone else promptly went to bed and I just as promptly went back to work.

Overall, outside of the dining parts of the day, it was quite a nice day spent with the fam. We’re all in the excited kid, are-we-there-yet phase about the house…

You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie

Yesterday, we had the distinct pleasure of taking my aunt and uncle out to the house to let them get a view of it before it’s finished.

I also took a photo of the master bedroom ceiling for Anna (hi, Anna!) – there certainly must be some architectural word for this type.

We found a pool guy slaving away in the back, putting in the line to the pump.

A late afternoon nap is just the thing everyone needs sometimes. And if you can have three out of the four furry critters with you, so much the better.

When we went back to the house today to plan out the walking paths and seating areas in the front, we found that the pool guy had almost finished the entire run, except for the termination area at the pump itself. Things are moving right along.

Now we’re cooking

When is it that people decide to be offensive and rude all the time, from their very first contact with you? It’s mystifying, really. There is a reason people get out of areas where they have to deal with the public: asshats galore. Unfortunately, those people far outnumber the normal people. Reminds me of this guy named Custer…

It may seem like there has been no cooking going on around here at all, but in reality, there has just been no photography of the food. A bit of malaise, I suppose, drawn over from dealing with people like those noted above. Maybe it’s the move into spring that’s done it. Or maybe – and here’s something that just occurred to me while typing this – it was the time change! That would, of course, require that these same people not be total assholes once they presumably adjusted to the time change, so that’s probably not a good theory.

Anyhow, last night, we had this.

And this.

And this.

To end up with this on the table.

We also had flambeed pears over ice cream for dessert, to finish off the evening properly. All in all, quite a good meal. I cannot wait, though, to get into the new house. With everyone here, hanging around in the kitchen, and not enough counter space, it really is a little aggravating.

All your base are belong to us

I tossed a chicken into the oven to roast (butter with salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic under the skin, olive oil rub outside, followed by more salt and pepper, lemons, carrots, garlic in the cavity) and then asked mom if she wanted to ride out to the house to look at the floors.

My, aren’t they pretty.

From the living area to the formal dining area.

And back again.

The house from the rear, as the sun went down.

Less than a month away from our target closing date now. There’s a lot of packing to be done…

Work in progress

Last night, while enjoying a meal of braised short ribs with a pinot noir reduction and carmelized onions, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and thyme-steamed zucchini (and after fooling around with plating, just for the hell of it)…

…I unloaded the pictures I’d taken last Wednesday of the house and property. The front of the house, not too far out. There’s a lot more room toward the road. Imagine this with grass – or, imagine it with something else, like grass and various paths throughout, with random oases where one could sit down with a book and a cold drink, pretending to read while enjoying being outside surrounded by the scent of flowers and listening to birds call to one another in their own language. That’s what I do.

The rear faces west.

Continue reading Work in progress

I find your lack of gratitude…disturbing

I think the one thing that pisses me off above all else is a lack of gratitude from people for the things that others do for them. In our case the other day, that translated to keeping a server up and running and answering as many requests as possible under a crush of traffic from not one but two largely-read sites to a particular site. A server where we’ve had to move other people off – and thus inconvenience them – so they would not be impacted by the site that was the recipient of said traffic. A server that was working to the fullest extent it could to handle the processing required by this one site. What did we get in return? Whining from the user, who is paying a grand total of $11 a month and getting the use of almost all the resources available on a very big server, and then a post from him on his site, quoting us entirely out of context and proving that he doesn’t understand a damn thing about shared hosting (that was a given).

Good luck elsewhere, because your account here is toast.

Last night we had my sister’s birthday: black bean and corn flautas, at her request, with some yellow rice and salad, then angel food cake, homemade whipped cream, and fruit for dessert. The flautas were quite good, and disappeared very quickly. Those are definitely something to make again.

In other news, had a brief chat with the broker today, and he doesn’t need anything else (yet – there’s always something else they need, I’m sure, even though I’ve never been fully through this process). Also had a chat with the builders, who have blocked out the pool and deck and who have started to pull the permit for the pool so it can be dug and hopefully completed by closing time. Wednesday we’ll meet with the builders to choose the color of the wood for the floors in the living area.

I’ve also been putting together a seed order and thinking about trees and grass seed and yard tractors. Sweet dreams indeed.

Holding your breath

Today I did the most significantly foolish and nervewracking thing I have ever done in my entire short life. Thus far. I signed a contract on a house. A house that is owned by a builder, who actually understands the market, and who actually wants to sell the thing, unlike every other owner we’ve encountered along the way who received an offer from us.

The house is so new that it isn’t even completed yet, but will be within the next couple of weeks: a 4/3, situated on 4.1 acres in an equestrian community, with another 1.4 acres very likely to be added on to the back end of the property. It backs up to a huge nature preserve, so there are no worries about a development suddenly arising from the ground behind us, and the entire development is on a single cul de sac – I believe there are abut 30 lots, total, of which only half a dozen have houses. Given the market conditions, that will likely remain the situation, at least for awhile.

We have our realtors to thank for the rather extraordinary fortune. We’d actually driven by this place on a previous excursion and decided at that time that it was a) too far out and b) too expensive. Part a was really a misconception, and the result of too much damn driving around in a single day. By the time we’d found this underdeveloped development, the butt soreness to coffee to aggravation ratios were way, way off. A trip meter shows that the house is 15 miles from the current house, and adds between 17 and 20 minutes to drive time, even at 4 PM. Not bad.

Part b was a little more interesting. We hadn’t looked at the listing for this one since that driving around time about a month or so ago, and the builder reduced the price by a fairly significant amount in the past week. And, to top it off, there will be a pool thrown in for good measure, which means we won’t have to have one dug. Bonus! And to top all that off, the builders are quite nice guys, and totally upfront about why they’re doing all this: they need to unload the inventory, because they’re now paying interest on the house they’ve almost completed on the lot. One of the builders lives in the development, so we’ll be neighbors when all is said and done. And he’s a huge barbeque fan, so bribery is always an option.

And now begins the game of getting everything together and writing more checks, all of which makes me frantically nervous about the deal. Not that we don’t know that this will be our new home. Far from it, in fact, since the approval was already done for a higher figure than the price of this place, and my paperwork is already in order from the first time we went through this. I’m just worried that a meteorite is going to come crashing out of the sky and turn the lot into a dinosaur-killing sinkhole whose worth is only infishing rights.

There are also all those other things that will need to be done – we’re getting a pad for the garage, for instance, but we’re going to do the driveway in pavers ourselves. There’s no way for them to economically sod the entire lot – at over 2 acres cleared, from my estimation, that would cost a fortune – so they’re going to put down five pallets of sod, and we told them to put it in the back around the pool, since that’s where we and everyone else will be spending most of our time this summer. That means we’ll be seeding the front and sides of the lot ourselves, which isn’t a big deal (grass seed is cheap!), but which also means that eventually an investment will have to be made in a riding mower. There’s also the question of the dogs and the immediate need for a fenced in area for them to run and poop in so they don’t get any bright ideas about running out on the county road and getting squished. And finally, one of the biggest things to me: the garden. Since harvest times on most of the better known and more often eaten veggies (for us) runs anywhere from 50-78 days or so, there’s a need to get some things going and in the ground as quickly as the ground can be made ready. That means tilling and picking up large quantities of compost from the city (free!), then making sure the pH of the soil is appropriate in each zone for each type of veg. Wouldn’t it be something to be harvesting some corn three months from now?

I was avoiding posting anything about this, as some kind of superstitious theory and my generally pessimistic nature about this whole house/land hunting thing we’ve been doing for about eight months. Monday we go back to lay out the exact position of the pool and get a quote for extending the deck area in pavers so that people can gather without being right on top of one another. The electric should also be up, with the a/c coming next week as well so the wood floors can be laid in. I’m hesitant to take any photos and post them, so as not to allow the fates to jinx anything, but I may very well haul the camera along with me on the next visit.