Saturday, December 15, 2001

Christmas 2001


I am sitting outside, looking at a bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. It is in the mid-seventies and does not feel in the least bit like Christmas. Not that I am complaining. Mid- to high-seventies would be perfect for me year round.

Our most exciting news is that we have finally started on our house. The lot was cleared during the first week in December and we have an electricity meter which says 0000 and a building permit. They will start digging the foundation on Monday. If we are really lucky we might have something to stand in by Christmas. Getting the plans through the architectural review committee took some time but the changes that we made in consultation with their architect were good ones. The roof lines are much better now as you can see in our Christmas Album on the web.

We also got our landscaping plans approved. I spent a lot of time researching plants and growing conditions in our area and drew up my own set of preliminary plans for the landscaping. I was very excited when the architectural review committee accepted my plans without change and agreed to waive the requirement that the plans be drawn up by a licensed landscape architect. That saved us a few hundred dollars. Of course, we will need that money to buy all the plants that I have crammed into the plan. At one point during the design process, Steve asked me if I had figured out whether we could afford to implement my plans.

So the house and the landscaping are on track. The other exciting news is that I passed my real estate state examination and now have my salesperson’s license. I will be taking the broker’s course starting in January. Unfortunately things are pretty slow in real estate sales right now, so it seems unlikely that I will be working much before February. Shame!

Meanwhile Steve is still working for Apple and commuting back to the Bay Area once a month, except for December which is a short work month at Apple. He has vacation for 10 days over Christmas and New Year so we will be doing some more exploring in the local area. He will be back in the Bay Area in early January for his Mom’s birthday. Coincidentally, the Macworld Expo in San Francisco will also be happening that week.

We spent Thanksgiving quietly with the dogs and some dolphins. On Thanksgiving morning, we took the dogs to the beach and saw dolphins playing in the ocean about 50 yards from shore. They were having a wonderful time and put on a show to rival Sea World. After the beach we drove to Wilmington and had a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on the river in the old downtown area. It was a nice relaxing day and we enjoyed ourselves despite missing friends and family. We plan to walk on the beach on Christmas Day as well, and then spend the rest of the day with the dogs at home. I suggested a Christmas picnic in our new home, but Steve vetoed that idea. If the weather is really nice, I might still win!

One other big event in the last month was the Shallotte Christmas Parade. It was a beautiful warm day and all the people in Santa hats looked a little overheated, but there were some fun floats and bands and some groups of little racing cars that were doing formation driving. We put the highlights on the web. Our new friends Tina and Maya were in the parade, too.

So 2001 is almost over. It has been a momentous year for us, very stressful at times but we are now looking forward to 2002 and our new home. The dogs have taken everything in their stride and we should probably take a leaf out of their book. Easier said than done.

Anyway we wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. We will be thinking of friends and family throughout the holiday season.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

November 2001

Things that happened in October

Another month has gone by and still construction has not started on our house. Every time it seems that we may be getting close, something happens. We have made progress in the last month, but not enough. The first floor has been decided for quite some time but the second floor changed dramatically last week, which has changed the look of the house. Needless to say, we were pretty happy with the old plan but when the changes were suggested, we made the most of the opportunity to add other features which had not previously been possible, like a two-story entry and “bridge” across the stairs. This week we hope to get a preliminary approval from the Architectural Review Committee and then we can hopefully move forward quickly and start building by the beginning of December. With luck we should still be able to move in at the end of June 2002. We have pictures on the web that are close to the design we hope to have.

Even though not much has happened on the construction front, it has been an extremely busy month for both of us. Steve’s software is getting close to being shipped and he has been putting in some late nights, working on East coast time in the morning and West coast time in the evening. Lisa is still going to Community College for her real estate licensing course which will finish in two weeks. We made some major purchases this month to assist in her new career. First she got an iBook (laptop Macintosh) which Steve loves almost as much as she does. It is an incredible machine for the money. Two little features that Steve noted are the illuminating Apple on the lid and the magnetic catch that locks it shut. Lisa likes it because it looks really cool and is very light and easy to carry.

The second purchase arrived the same week. We are officially a two car family again or should we say car and truck family. The Ford Escape that we ordered finally arrived. Again you can see pictures on the web.

Lisa has been walking three days a week with her friends Tina and Maya and they have been on some long shopping expeditions together as well. Maybe the highlight of the month was the opening of our new department store, Belks. It is only 10 miles away. Lisa, Tina and Maya were there for the ribbon cutting ceremony, listening to the Brunswick High School Band and meeting with Miss Brunswick County. There was a huge celebration and lots of good deals inside too. In fact things were so good that they had to go back the next day to buy more.

In our leisure time, when we are not picking out faucets or fireplaces or light fixtures, we have been to the beach a few times and have done some exploration of the local back roads. One day at the beach we saw several groups of dolphins playing fairly close to the shore and we finally saw a pelican catch a fish, after months of watching them. The weather has been wonderful with blue skies and sunshine every day. It does seem strange to see the grass turning brown for the winter however. We are planning a relaxing Thanksgiving with a long walk on the beach in the morning, followed by dinner at Jasmines, the Brunswick Plantation Restaurant.

We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, October 15, 2001

October 2001

Much has happened since our last update, not least the infamous events
September 11th. Our reactions to those events made us realize how
strong the
bonds of marriage are. During that terrible time Steve was in
All Lisa wanted was to have him home, and he desperately wanted to be
We were extremely lucky that he was able to fly back as scheduled but we
really missed each other that week.

In the meantime however, Lisa started her course in Real Estate at
Community College. She has classes on Monday and Wednesday mornings
from 9
until 1. So far it has been bearable, although the 2 hours of
each week reminds her of kindergarten. Some of the people are unable to
convert fractions to decimals, calculate percentages or change feet to
inches. How have they got through life so far?

Lisa has also been to England to visit her parents. It was an even
trip than usual, just 4 nights, one of which was spent on a plane. The
weather was good to her though, and she had some great food too. All the
flights departed early and arrived even earlier. The return flight from
Manchester to Atlanta was so early that she decided to try her luck and
on a shuttle to Wilmington instead of hanging around at the airport for
hours. So she went to the gate just as they were getting ready to board
was told that the flight had been delayed because of a fuel problem so
only 26 people could get on the plane. 27 people had checked in so they
wondering what to do and were certainly not going to take Lisa
since her ticket was to go to Myrtle Beach, not Wilmington). She had
better to do so she decided to hang around and see what happened. When
started boarding the plane was at the wrong gate so everyone was told to
hand over their ticket and then walk as a group with a steward to the
gate. As they left she asked again if they could fit her on. The
told her she would put all the tickets in the computer and let her know.
Then she made a final boarding call for 3 passengers that had not shown
and told Lisa she could go but she had to find her own way. She called
plane to tell them Lisa was coming. Lisa ran to the gate only to find
there were really 4 gates, all for other flights and all with lots of
people. Finally a stewardess took her under the barriers and out onto
tarmac and they walked around a whole load of little planes until they
the right one. At this point the flight was about one hour late. The
were very apologetic and finally announced that the plane would leave
without ice because they could not wait any longer. There were two large
guys with a big case that would not fit under the seat. They were
and refused point blank to allow the case with computers and papers in
it to
go in the hold. They strapped it to a seat and one went off to sit
elsewhere. Lisa thought the other looked familiar. They took off.
minutes later the captain announced he had good news - the engines were
- and bad news - they were going back to Atlanta because a dial was not
working. In Atlanta an engineer climbed on and changed the dial and
they got
ice. Meanwhile all the bags were taken off the plane and exchanged with
ones from the plane next-door. Half an hour later the plane took off
Meanwhile Steve was in Wilmington where the monitors indicated that the
plane had arrived. But no one came out - because it had arrived back in
Atlanta! He finally found out that we had turned around but no one knew
After all of this Lisa arrived in Wilmington about half an hour earlier
she would have arrived in Myrtle Beach on the scheduled flight. When
she got
off the plane a police escort and group of men in suits were waiting.
foreign guys with the case went off with them.

The next day Lisa could not park at school. Then she remembered that Lec
Walesa was giving a talk. He was the guy sitting across from her on the
plane, whose companion refused to give up the case.

Lisa is still missing her friends at Jazzercise but this month she has
taking some long walks with one of our new neighbors. Maya is
definitely the
youngest resident of Brunswick Plantation and her mum, Tina, is
probably the
second youngest. Maya is only 5 months old so she goes in the stroller
Tina pushing. They take a short walk first to wear Bertie out, then
drop him
off at home and head off with Heidi to circumnavigate the plantation.
walks have been a lot of fun. Tina is great to talk to and she is a
local so
she knows lots of good stuff - like what a storm door is for! There's a
great picture of Maya on the web this month.

Our other news that we have is that OUR SOFA ARRIVED. It is great to
something soft to sit on and to be able to watch TV sitting down
(instead of
in bed).

Just before Steve left to go to California this month we went to Farm
Heritage Day nearby and watched pigs races.


Next month we hope to have news on the house.

Sunday, September 9, 2001

September 2001


The Summer is almost over, and the height of the hurricane season is
only a
couple of weeks away, so we decided to take a vacation. Of course, we
actually go anywhere to stay the night because the dogs don't have
anyone to
look after them in our absence, so we decided to be tourists at home.

We had a lot of fun. The weather was not completely cooperative but we
got rained on whilst in the car, so we can't complain. Since Lisa has
spending most of the last month reading books about plants and
we decided to spend our first vacation day at Orton Plantation, which
is an
old rice plantation near Wilmington, NC. The house is not open to
but the gardens are. There are some beautiful traditional formal
gardens and
other wilderness areas but the live oaks were the most impressive. Some
them had trunks over 6 feet in diameter. The highlight of the day for
was when we watched a Black Racer snake (later identified from pictures
the library) slither around the edge of a fountain. He suddenly reared
up to
catch a frog. The motion pushed him into the fountain but he quickly
slithered out and raced off into the bushes with the frog hanging by
its leg
from his mouth. We were about 5 feet away. Soon after we saw another
but this one was just basking in the sun.

Another day we took the ferry from Southport to Fort Fisher which was
fun. You drive the car onto the ferry and you can walk around the deck
the 20 minute trip. The seagulls follow the ferry and do some amazing
acrobatic stunts to catch breadcrumbs. We also saw a group of pelicans
skimming along the ocean. They fly as a pack about 6 inches off the
occasionally flapping their wings. Fort Fisher was built by the South
the Civil War to protect Wilmington, a major port for blockade runners,
including British ships, which delivered vital supplies to the
According to family legend, one of Lisa's distant relatives likely
sailed on
some of those ships! After a quick tour around the fort, we took the
back to Southport.

For our last big day out we decided to familiarize ourselves with Myrtle
Beach. We checked out the beach, which is incredibly long, (hence the
"Grand Strand"), found a huge amusement park with a gigantic roller
checked out the brick showroom (we have to choose a brick for our
house) and
then went to Broadway by the Beach. This is an area similar to Pier 39
San Francisco. There are all sorts of specialty shops and restaurants
other amusements like an IMAX theatre, aquarium and butterfly pavilion.
were most excited to find a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop selling

We spent some time at the beach, both with the dogs and without. The
is still very warm. One afternoon we took a kite and had some fun
dive-bombing the ground. We have also had our first golf lesson. When
we hit
the ball we can get it to go a reasonable distance, and sometimes it
straight, but sometimes we can't even hit it (particularly Lisa). We
need a
few more lessons and a lot more practice!

Possibly the most exciting thing that has happened to us in the last
was meeting Bob and Elke. They are also building a house here in
Plantation, about 8 lots away from ours. At the moment they are living
Silver Creek in San Jose. We found out about them from our friend Lee,
is a marshal at Silver Creek. Anyway, they came out here for a vacation
couple of weeks ago and we finally met them face to face. We had dinner
together and tried to catch up on our family histories, and of course,
spent a lot of time talking about building houses and planning houses
We can't wait to have them move out here permanently.

Now a quick progress report on the house. We have finally received the
survey of our lot. We have several oak trees of two different types,
plus a
lot of pines and a triple gum. They will not all survive! Jack, the
designer, gave us a preliminary plan which was similar to the things we
given him but bigger. Too big. We are in the process of culling 400 -
square feet. We also suggested some changes to get us a full two story
house, instead of having the dormer windows that are so popular here.
just have to wait and see what Jack thinks of that. Meanwhile, Steve
persuaded Jack to buy a new Macintosh computer which we hope will speed
things up a little. Randy, our builder, is hoping to start in October
finish by the end of May 2002.

Steve will be in Cupertino from September 9 to September 14. Thanks
again to
Lee and Marie and Aubrey and Emily for entertaining and feeding him on
last visit. Lisa was very envious but she did have a nice surprise when
got her belated birthday present from Steve - a very pretty haberdashers
swivel table which will soon have pride of place in the pool room and

Take care everyone.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

August 2001


We have been here for over 2 months now and are becoming Southerners. We
wave to everyone as we drive through the plantation, we don't pull faces
when the grocery store clerk is discussing her life history with the
customer in front of us and we are getting used to "really big hair
That's how the local TV weatherman describe a particularly humid day.

When we left you last time, Steve was on his way back to California for
first time. His travel was a mess with every flight being cancelled or
delayed enough that he had to rearrange connections. But he made it
and back and had a good time in between. Lisa, Bertie and Heidi kept
themselves very busy while he was gone and the time passed quickly.
timed things well and managed to avoid termite removal day. A crew
on the house with drills and put holes in the exterior slab every 6
The noise was deafening. Meanwhile, in California Steve signed the
for the sale of our house and we are happy to report that the sale has
closed. With some money in the bank we felt confident to start planning
new house.

We met with a house designer, Jack, recommended by friends and the local
builder. He is great and we immediately felt we could trust him to
the plans that we want. So we signed him up and he has started work. He
us the names of four builders to interview and told us we should decide
one early in the process so that we can involve him in the design. All
were very professional and helpful and we were having a difficult time
deciding. We both had a feeling that we liked one and so we followed up
calls to people whose houses he had recently built. They all raved
about him
and we visited their homes which were beautifully finished. So we have
signed on with Randy to build our house. We are giving you the names of
building team because we think they will figure strongly in our lives
the next year and we will share our experiences with you as they happen.

Back to life in the South. Here are some of our experiences that will
you a feel for things. First the DMV. We had to get North Carolina
licenses and register the car and that meant a trip to the DMV. We
on hearing that we could not make an appointment รข€“ it was strictly first
come first served. So expecting a full morning of one line after
another, we
arrived at the office at 8 a.m. We were not the first which was
discouraging. So we stood in line while the first customer was served,
5 minutes. Then it was our turn and we were amazed. We were input into
computer, registered to vote and took a computerized eye test and road
test. Whilst we were taking our written road tests he served the next
customer, then called us back, graded our tests and took our pictures.
8:30 a.m. we walked out of the office carrying our new drivers
licenses. We
even had a choice of backgrounds for our licenses, both of us chose
in Flight". The DMV car registration office was right next door. It took
only 5 minutes to register the car and we walked out of there with our
license plate ready to install. You can pretty much choose anything you
on your plates, as you can see in our web pics.

Steve has found a really nice church. It is fairly new and
beautiful. They did a great job of designing it with modern materials
with a traditional feel. It is located on a four lane divided highway.
Before and after the services, the police park a couple of cars in the
middle of the highway and direct the traffic. They stop the cars on the
highway to allow the churchgoers to turn left into the parking lot, or
left out of the lot. Sometimes the traffic is backed up out of sight,
the police just keep on waving the parishioners out of the lot. It
makes you
feel like royalty!

Now for the mail service. We are on a rural route which brings with it
sorts of privileges. Our mailbox is at the bottom of our drive. The
letter carrier drives a beat up, ancient car with a flashing yellow
light on
top. She sits halfway between the driver's and passenger's seats and
operates the car with her left hand and foot. Then she leans out of the
window and puts the mail in and out of the box. She drives a few more
and does the neighbour. When we see this unmarked, decrepit car it
makes us chuckle. If we have a package, she gets out of the car and
it to the door. She is a very nice lady.

So life is pretty good for us right now. We are excited about our house
plans and are enjoying our location. We have been swimming in the ocean
which is wonderful - 83 degrees with enough waves for interest but not
enough to knock you down. Even Bertie likes to go in. Steve will be
back in
Cupertino from August 12 to August 17 and he is looking forward to
friends and family again. He has two computer-fixing / dinner
that will be a lot of fun. That reminds me. Another good thing about
Jack is
that he does all his work on Macs - perfect for us!

Bye for now.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

July 2001

This update is following closely on the heels of the previous one
because Steve is going to be in California for his first office visit
next week. We thought we should let you know what has been happening
before he leaves.

At the end of the first update we had just arrived in Calabash. The
next big hurdle was to get all our clothes and furniture here. It was
supposed to arrive the week after we did but the truck broke down in
Indiana. So eventually it came a week later. In the meantime, we had
just the clothes we brought in the car - we traveled really light - a
blanket, two sheets and the dog's beds and towels. We bought an air
mattress, two chairs and a cooking pot the first day, then a table and
four more chairs the next day. Within 2 days our new washer and dryer
had been delivered so we could wash the dog's towels that had now
become our towels. Steve's computer arrived the next day and the phone
company got the DSL installed (after a couple of hiccups). Steve had
to use the computer packing box as a desk for one day until his new
office furniture was delivered. Then it was just a matter of waiting
for the truck. If you have ever slept on an air mattress (Jell-O bed)
you will know how much we were looking forward to seeing that

After breaking down, then the truck driver could not figure out the
directions to get here so Lisa had to drive out onto the highway and
find him. He was parked on the side of the road right next to the left
turn that we had told him to take! Finally he got here, almost knocked
down all the mail boxes on our side of the street, and unloaded. Not
too much damage to our stuff - and no damage to the stuff that Lisa
packed herself. So now we could really settle in.

The observant ones among you may have noticed a large pile of pine
straw on the roof of our rental house. This straw blocks our gutters
and as a result, during our not infrequent heavy (really heavy)
downpours the garage floods. So as soon as our furniture arrived,
Steve unpacked the ladder, put on his gloves and workboots and set out
to clear off the pine straw. First he found fire ants, nasty things to
be avoided at all costs, then he inadvertently disturbed a wasp's
nest. A wasp buzzed him and he was so shocked that I actually fell off
the ladder. (Don't worry, he was just a little bruised and
embarrassed, not seriously injured.) He went hopping inside to tell
Lisa who was trying really hard not to laugh as he recounted the
story. Unfortunately we do not have pictures and Steve refused point
blank to recreate the incident.

We have visited our lot several times and were surprised to see two
houses that are almost complete, down the cul-de-sac from us. The
ground had not even been broken when Lisa was here at the end of
February. We met the people who will be our neighbours. They seem nice
even though they all from the north east! Our lot still seems like a
good choice and we are starting to think about getting our plans drawn
up. Seeing other houses there has spurred us on.

We have also visited our local beach several times. The dogs love to
walk there and the sea is so warm that we can all jump up and down in
the waves - even Bertie. It is not a very tourist-oriented beach,
mostly rental property and homes. There aren't any restaurants or bars
and to get there you have to cross a single lane drawbridge that goes
up every hour. It is very quaint, at times inconvenient, and it keeps
the crowds away. On balance a good thing. By contrast, the beaches in
South Carolina are much more accessible and therefore more
commercial. We did go to a volleyball tournament in North Myrtle Beach
one weekend. In addition to the volleyball they had the Purina Frisbee
dogs performing. That inspired Steve to try and teach Heidi to run up
his chest and leap off him to catch a ball. Fortunately for him, she
runs around him instead of over - not so dramatic for the audience
however. But the best part about the volleyball tournament was the
free hot dogs, pizza and ice cream!

This is getting too long so we will leave the stories about the DMV,
the police at Steve's new church and the joys of rural letter carriers
for next time. Once again we have posted a few pictures on the
web. See:

Our lot

Farewell party in Sunnyvale

Goodbye dinners
- mostly interesting to Ray
and Lynn and Connie and Dave.

Thursday, July 5, 2001

The first Miner Update July 2001

The disclaimer!

We plan to write a couple of paragraphs every month or so and include a web address where you can get more information and see pictures. If you would prefer not to receive the update please reply to this message and let us know. We will try not to be mortally offended.



We finally arrived in Calabash after a seven day road trip. That's when you figure out that an Escort station wagon is a SMALL car. Especially with 2 dogs in the back. We had room for 5 t-shirts each, a phone, some sheets and underwear. This had to last us not merely for the trip, but also through the next 15 nights before the moving truck arrived.

But I'm jumping ahead. The worst traffic we encountered was on the first day getting out of the Bay area and up to Reno. In fact that was our only traffic jam for the entire trip. It was great to see Steve Johnson and Gloria Mielke - they prepared a wonderful salmon dinner and sent us on the way the next day with enough Brownies to feed an army. On day 2 we drove
through Nevada and Utah (the great Salt Lake is worth missing) and stayed in Park City. Day 3 we finished off Utah and Wyoming and spent the night in Sidney, Nebraska which has nothing but a giant Cabela's store. On the fourth day we made it to Duane's house in Auburn, Nebraska, and spent 2 nights recuperating. Duane also cooked us a great dinner - he's a whiz with cherries and cake mix. We played some pool and watched the rain, glad not to be driving in it. After one day's rest we had to set out again, driving through Kansas City and St Louis to Paducah, Kentucky, narrowly missing tornadoes and heavy storms. Our last full day's drive was a long one, through Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina to a little town called Camden where we stayed in a historic bed and breakfast. The dogs - who had been angelic to this point, sleeping in the car and being quiet in hotels - noticed the creaky floors. Finally, one week after leaving Sunnyvale we arrived at our new home in Brunswick Plantation.

Then began the long wait for furniture - but that's a story for the next issue.

We'd love to hear from everyone,

Lisa, Steve, Bertie and Heidi.