Sunday, January 12, 2014

Welcomed 2014 with a hike, a hustle, snowfall, and friends.

The following pictures are from the hike we took on NY day.  Neither of us was up for anything too strenuous, so we took a drive up the parkway, and enjoyed the view from one of the lookouts before making our way to a few short hikes along the way.  

It was one of those days that just beckons you to behold the beauty in everything, especially nature. Our lungs seemed to sip the air as if each inhale literally ingested more of what surrounded us, believing we could never be satiated.  We eventually meandered back to civilization, looking for a soft place to rest.  
The following day, we caught up with friends to see American Hustle in Boone, followed by dinner at Joy Bistro.  The movie had us on the edge of our seats, unaware the snow had started accompanied by a wicked wind --- but we didn't care.  We had been hoping the snow fairy would work her magic, and give us a white post Christmas. She did, and boy, did she.  We were not prepared for the chilly temperatures in the low 20's, which was just a taste of the Arctic blast to come.  Thankfully we were able to secure a table at Joy Bistro, where we could watch the snow while filling ourselves with red wine, comfort food, good stories and laughter.  Katherine, our server (the classic spelling, she asserted), made the evening nothing short of --- perfection!  
Another amazing week in the mountains, our second home...
From one of the lookouts on the Parkway.

Pulled over for a short New Years Day hike, at Cold Prong Pond..

Along the hike, you come to this clearing.
Cold Prong Pond Hike.

Second short hike took us to Boone Fork where we discovered this creek.

Ice-encrusted tree limb, boulder, and the rush of the creek...I was captivated by this image because it brought a simple metaphor to mind of how sometimes in life we cling to things that don't serve us, despite outside forces that should slough off the useless "thing".  Being New Years Day, I wondered what useless thoughts or ideas I carry around that no longer serve me against the will of forces greater than me. 

Keith, taking it in...Incidentally, a version of this photo was liked by the Roanoke CVB, obviously promoting the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Among the only green you'll find in the dead of winter up here.  Beautiful!
One household project undertaken while here....New curtains for the loft. 

Finally got some snow!  Wind gusts last night were up to 55 mph, and left us with a little blanket of snow this morning.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Out, damn air pocket! Out!

Since we arrived late on the 27th, the toilet on the lower level has not been flushing properly.  This particular toilet has always required the user to hold the handle down for a few extra seconds to evacuate the effluence.  However, the past few days, the toilet bowl would fill up with water as usual, but never drain.  Ugh!  Needless to say, I plunged the heck out of it, with little luck. 

This year, I made a vow, when possible, to fix household items myself, instead of calling in the professionals. Yes, it's sad, but true, I've never had much faith in my ability to fix things.   So, to honor my vow, I did a little research online to see if I could determine what the problem could be.
Side bar:  Boy!  There is nothing more entertaining than reading through forums where a simple question by someone else about their stopped toilet, elicited comments about poverty in America, political slams, and readers feeling the need to explain how they could afford their humble second homes.  Alas, I gathered lots of information from various websites, YouTube, and forums, and began to conclude it was either blocked somewhere along the drain line, which was hard to believe, since we hadn't used it since arriving, or there was some sort of obstruction in the vent stack preventing this particular toilet from getting enough air to flush fully.  Our A-frame's vent stack is on top of the shed roof above the loft, meaning, there was no possible way to get up there to inspect it for a possible blockage.  Sigh...

So, yesterday, I dropped by the Boone Lowe's store, and picked up a hand-crank auger, and some liquid solution that claimed to be non-toxic and easy on the environment; which if I could manage to get down the drain --- might clear up the problem.  I was hoping I didn't have to resort to the liquid product, placing my bet that the auger would solve the problem...I lost the bet!  So, last night before bed, I reluctantly tried the liquid solution. This morning, I was once more disappointed to learn the toilet was still unable to flush.

I will say, in desperation, I phoned our plumber.  While waiting for a return call, I decided to revisit Lowe's and speak to one of their knowledgeable sales people.  I found Anthony on his way to deliver something, asked if he could help me, he agreed and promised to find me once he did so...He did.  He was fairly certain the problem was a blockage further down the drain line, and pointed us toward some seriously toxic looking product, he said was sure to do the trick.  Since he mentioned he thought the blockage was an air pocket (based on the symptoms I described), I asked how the product would eliminate an air pocket.  He provided an answer, but that is when the light bulb went off in my head, and his words missed my ears.  I asked him what he thought about my closing off the supply line, as if we were about to winterize the house, opening all the taps, draining all the water out of the house, then reopening the supply line.  Is it possible this would push out an air pocket??  He was very encouraging of the idea, and added we might want to fill each sink and tub with a little water, and as we opened the drain line, proceed to flush the toilets, and release the water in the sinks and tubs simultaneously.

I couldn't wait to try this, and VERY pleased to say this solution worked!  It's true what they say, two heads are better than one, and Anthony's was just the head this little problem needed. Shout out to Anthony at the Boone Lowe's! The upside is I didn't have to pay a plumber, I am now the proud owner of a $10 hand-crank auger, and some non-toxic liquid designed to unstop drains that cost me $14 ( I could have done without the liquid).  And the best part is, with a little tenacity, and a promise to myself, I am enjoying a strong sense of satisfaction this evening. (Insert beaming face here.)

Ah, yes!  And one residual benefit of all of this is that by forcing myself to problem solve, I honestly believe the exercise has generated some creative sparks and nifty ideas that may address some other issues in my life with which I've been wrestling.  A doubly cool outcome, if you ask me...

All better now.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How we winterize the chalet.

People often ask us what WE do to winterize the chalet, because I think they expect it to be a time-consuming task, so I thought perhaps it would be useful to explain the simple steps right here. 
I had never done anything like this until we bought this house, but I believe the contractor who renovated the home prior to our purchasing it included one important feature that makes winterizing easy peasee.  This is certainly something that made us less squeamish about buying a second home 3 hours away, because it was designed for long winters when occupancy would be intermittent. 

This is more than a cute little trap door, located in the lower level bedroom.  Inside is access to the water supply line, and drain line. 

Oulah!  The drain line is to the left and supply to the right.  

Whenever temperatures will be close to or below freezing for any stretch of time, we winterize the chalet using these steps.  Note:  These steps are based on the system that was integrated into our home prior to purchase, and included here for information purposes only.

Step 1:  Turn off the breaker to the hot water heater, since there is no need to heat it while we are not here.  We keep a small electric wall heater inside the closet where the hot water heater resides, in order to keep the tank from freezing. (Follow the link to see which wall heater we use.)  We like it because it has a built-in thermostat to regulate the heat.
This step is likely overkill since the closet is in the center of the home -- but we feel better erring on the side of being overly cautious.
Step 2: We turn the knob to the supply line to the horizontal position (Typically when the knob is in this position, the line is closed off).
Step 3: Open all the faucets, and flush the toilets a few times to evacuate as much water from the tank and bowl as possible.  (Often I will use a plunger to force water back into the lines at sinks and drains.)
Step 4: Back at that adorable trap door, open the drain line (turning the handle to the vertical position) in order to evacuate water from the entire house.  (There is a lovely swooshing sound as all the water drains out of the house.)  Note: We leave the drain line open so that air can move freely inside the lines, giving any water that remains there room to expand when the outside temperature drops below freezing.  (I believe a cheerful & helpful plumber recommended this.)
Step 5:  Before departing, we always leave cabinet doors under sinks open to keep cold air from being trapped around exposed plumbing.


Another handy feature:  In the crawl space, you can see that the supply line is well insulated and also wrapped with a thermostat controlled heat cable to reduce the risk of water freezing in the supply line.  I wish we could take credit for this, but once again this was the brain child of the home's contractor. In the case of a power outage, this little feature's effectiveness is reduced, but so far, it has worked beautifully. 
It usually only takes about 10 minutes to complete all the above steps, but as we are pretty anal, and double check ourselves frequently, the process take a few minutes more than it should.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Table Rock Mountain Hike - September '13

Keith and I were in Blowing Rock one weekend in September, and decided to check out Table Rock Mountain, which is located on the other side of Linville, just south of Crossnore. (Roughly an hour and 20 minutes from the chalet). On that particular day the weather was one of those amazing fall mountain days that fully engages your senses, and beckons you to bask in the glory of nature's splendor.  Needless to say, we basked unaware that my father would pass away just 19 days later following a difficult year with lung cancer.

The funeral services were in Las Vegas, and we all arrived in staggered fashion in the days leading up to the services.  It was good to have that time with my brothers & sister before and after the services, because our father did not make it easy for people to care for him, let alone show him our love and affection.  My siblings and I all had complex relationships with our father, but I'm pleased to say we share a closeness that I truly believe will weather time.  If this post comes across as lachrymose, that was not the original intent, he just came into my mind as I was writing, and upon reflection realized how soon after these photos were taken, he would no longer be here. 

On a sunnier note, here are a few snaps from our hike up Table Rock Mountain:

The view of Table Rock from the parking lot.

The view along the way.

View from the summit.

I'm so rarely in front of the camera, so I thought it was about time...

So sad to see this vestige of a once beautiful tree having succumbed to the woolly adelgid, a non-native insect from China that is slowly killing these beautiful evergreens.  From this vantage point you can really see how pervasive the problem is.  

That same day we met up with friends Kim & Steve and another couple at the Todd General Store for dinner, and Bluegrass.  I snapped this barn along the way.

Inside the Todd General Store.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Future Chalet Artwork??

I came across these art pieces by Emma Barratt on the Society 6 website.  I've included both images below, but think one or both would be perfect for Riverwood.  They are both whimsical, and appropriate for a 70's era chalet, don't you agree?  Perhaps Santa will see this post?

This reminds me of the backdrop from a Bullwinkle episode. I can envision Boris & Natasha in that helicopter, on the hunt for their nemeses, Rocky & Bullwinkle. 

This is just too darn fun! 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

A-frame fascination...

It must be the cold weather that has me thinking about sunny beachside A-frames this morning, as I once again allow the high 20 degree temperatures to delay a run outdoors.  Tomorrow, darn it, tomorrow!  I promise..Now, check out this little beauty on Holden Beach right here in NC.  It is cute as a button, don't you agree??  Would love to see the inside...
And for a little nostalgia...Check out the images for the A-frame play house & Fisher-Price A-frame toy set I found on Hatch, the blog for  

An a-frame at Holden Beach.  I suppose this is what the beach version of the Riverwood Chalet might look like nestled among sand dunes instead of perched along a roaring river flanked by river birches, at an elevation of 3,600 feet.   

OMG!  The playhouse version!  I'm sure I've seen one of these as a young'un growing up in New England.  Precious!

I recall being quite envious of my childhood neighbor's at the time (Lisa & David), who seemed to have every possible FP toy available in the early 70's.  They MUST have had the A-frame in their collection.  Gotta have one!

Monday, December 9, 2013

History of the A-frame

I was doing a little research on the history of the A-frame because I was curious when the oddly shaped structure came into vogue and why.  The triangular shape of the house has certainly been in use for years -- immediately coming to mind for me are of course the pyramids, and tents used on the battlefield during the Civil War.  Apparently what led to the sudden popularity for this shape structure, came after World War II (through the early 70's) as a result of an increase in disposable incomes which could be spent on second homes.  It was also popular at the time to gravitate toward modern design for a second home, and due to the affordability and adaptability of this particular shape, it easily found a following. 

In 1955, an architect by the name of Andrew Geller built an A-frame in Sagaponack, NY which went on to receive international attention, and subsequently where the love for the A-frame gained even greater traction.

Here's a few pictures of Reese House:



Several of the Roaring River Chalets were built during the early 1970's; ours being circa 1973, toward the end of the A-frame craze, if you will.  We know it was factory built, trucked in and placed on the foundation which comprises the lower level and crawl space.  We presume it was built not far from Blowing Rock, and despite some preliminary research still haven't identified where.