An Entrance for a (Rustic) King

With all we’ve got going on around here right now, it’s easy to forget the 36-hour whirlwind trip that G took to the Poconos last week to make some repairs between renters.  We had ambitious plans for our last trip to the chalet in May, but we were hopelessly rained out. See, the problem with spending most of our time there in the off-season — fall and spring are the loveliest, most peaceful seasons in the mountains — is that it rains all of the time.  And while we don’t mind at all the quiet time spent in the cabin listening to the rain running through the woods, it makes it hard to do outdoor maintenance.

So repairing the front steps was pushed off from our spring visit to our forthcoming fall visit, and we hoped it would be soon enough.

But heavy rains during the early summer beat down on the aging wood, and when one of my renters had to check out a couple of days earlier than planned, G took advantage of the opening and headed to PA after work.  He spent the entire next day (half of it in driving rain, of course), tearing down the old front steps, landing, and railing, and rebuilding them from scratch.  The next morning, when everything had (kind of) dried, he painted the wood and resurfaced the back deck as well.

And then he drove the truck back to DC and went to work.

Yeah, he’s that good.

Here are some before pics — what the chalet used to look like. (These are from our fall 2012 visit — let’s just say they hadn’t aged well since then.)

And here are the new steps and rails that he built:

 

Gone Fishing

When Neil and G returned from their fishing expedition, they brought one little fishy friend along for Nellie to meet before letting the fish swim back to its home.

She was not sure at all about this creature of the sea.

But she pet it anyway.

Nellie was thrilled to have G back, and it meant more playtime on the sand and in the water.  She and I played with her toys, and she and G had a splash-off in the water.

When it was finally time for us all to relax, we did.

Until the littlest monkey woke up, of course.  Then it was time to follow the exploratory bug around some more.

Next time we won’t let two years pass between visits.

Beach Baby

We had a fabulous weekend with Neil and Damaris–it had been two years since we saw them last, and this weekend passed much too quickly.  We packed a lot in, however–golf, the beach, cookouts, walks–and now that the weekend is over, we’re reflecting on the fun.

It was Nellie’s first trip to the beach, which was dampened only slightly by the fact that she had pink eye over the weekend.  She didn’t let it slow her down, though–she was in high spirits the entire time.  However, when we said goodbye to family this morning and it sunk in that vacation was over, it was all a little much for the little girl.  Pink eye, a fever, and some major crankiness.  She is taking her second bath of the night–it’s the only thing making her happy this evening–and tomorrow it is off to the doctor.

But since it’s no fun reading about cranky babies, here are some of our amazing pictures from the weekend.

Nellie had never felt beach sand before.  She was an instant fan.  She swooshed her feet around for ages before trying out her toys.

It wasn’t long before she discovered the water.  She was tentative for only a second before diving in and crawling as far out as she could–or rather, until I picked her up and placed her back on the sand.  We played that game for an eternity–her crawling as fast as possible through the water, and my scooping her up and placing her back on dry land.

Shortly thereafter the boys returned from their fishing expedition.  They even brought a fish for Nellie to meet.  But more about that tomorrow.

Snakes and Things That Are Cute

I realize, of course, that there has been a lot of mention recently of snakes.  Twice in one week, in fact–one at each place.  And while I realize that our list of house guests is rapidly dwindling at the prospect of rat snakes in their room, I want to emphasize that this is not normal. In fact, the snake at the cabin–the itty, bitty snake we saw in the grass that lived outside our door–was the first snake we’ve seen up there.  Until our most recent trip, we had seen more bears roaming around the trash bins than we had seen snakes slithering through the rocks.  (That record is now tied, 1-1, though I know those bears are out there–my poor, destroyed trash cans speak to that loud and clear.)

But while you shouldn’t expect a snake encounter at the cabin necessarily, well, I’m sorry to say that we’ve had our share at the house.  The worst was the copperhead that bit Lucy square on the nose.  After ensuring it would not bite any of our other dogs, G brought up to me while I was cooking dinner just to confirm it was, in fact, copper.

Our screened porch has seen the most snakes.  The first was coiled in a massive loop around a plant that was just inches from me–I also happened to be home alone at the time.  I ran out screaming, as is usually the case when I see snakes, it seems, and we never found it again.  That episode is also subtitled, “The Time We Discovered that the Garage and the Screened Porch are Connected.”  Or, “The Snake is Now in our Garage.” 

The most recent episode of snakedom in the screened porch came about a year ago while I was cooking dinner and G was entertaining the dogs on the deck.  He spotted the copperhead slithering about near the door between the kitchen and porch, rushed in, and grabbed the knife with which I was doing dinner prep and took care of the snake.  My very best knife.  Really??

But the funniest episode — well, funniest to me, anyway — was our first snake episode at the house.  It is also the loudest I have ever heard G scream.  G was on the side patio raking up nature’s debris when he pushed the rake into the opening where we keep the hot tub hose and wires coiled up… and he pulled out a very, very, very angry snake.

That snake–a 7 foot, ginormous black rat snake–remains the largest snake I have EVER seen in real life that was not accompanied by a man in khakis on Snake Day at school.  That giant snake danced with G–one hissing, one screaming.  G eventually won, but they went many rounds.  When G finally got the snake on a garden tool, he flung the snake into the woods in one triumphant victory hurl.  And there, about a foot off our porch, it got caught in a tree.  A 7 foot, angry-as-all-hell snake, dangling a couple feet from our hot tub.

It’s been five years since that incident, and I am pretty sure G still approaches that space beside our hot tub with a 20 foot pole.  At the time, of course, it was TOTALLY NOT HILARIOUS.  But in hindsight–in my hindsight anyway–it was pretty damn funny.

Have I officially taken care of all future visitors to our house at this point?  No more snake stories today.  Instead, I will post the second half of my pictures of Nellie playing with Lucy.  Who doesn’t follow up stories about snakes with pictures of babies and puppies?  Tag this one adorable.

Weekends Away

It isn’t easy to get to the chalet.  Weekends disappear so quickly these days, and we find ourselves looking months ahead just to find a time to take some time…

The longer we’re away, the easier it is to forget.

It’s only when we finally arrive, and we’ve unpacked the car and opened the windows (or started a fire), that we can finally exhale, shake off all the everyday things — work and bills and chores — that don’t have a place at the chalet, and relax.

Of course, there are always things we need to do up there, and some trips are less ‘fun’ than others.  But on certain visits, like this one, the to do list is short: new lockbox, new sheets, and a new bear-fighting trash bin.  We can just enjoy.

Like everything else in life, trips to the Poconos are different now.  Though we’ve been many times, it all seems new again as we watch Nellie take in each bit of the experience for the first time.

(checking out one of her souvenirs from K from Egypt)

We drive up to the mountains for her, though.  We always have.  Because even before there was Nellie, the house was for her.  It was a place where our family would be able to go time and time again.

She had so much fun this weekend —  exploring a new place, crawling around new floors, watching new birds and trees and animals on her walk.  (Like Snake, who hung out by our front door. Don’t worry — no babies made direct contact with snakes for the filming of this blog.)

It was a weekend of firsts that even included her first push in a real swing at the playground by the lake.

Sometimes we’re away so long that the good memories start to fade, and all that lingers are the hassles of renters or maintenance.  But when we finally go back, it’s really hard to leave.

It will never be easy to find space in our schedules for trips to the mountains — life will only get crazier as she gets older — but this year we’ve vowed to find the time to take time.