Wednesday, November 27, 2019

We did it–we’re homeowners again!

For the last year or so, we’ve been “thinking” about slowing down and putting down some roots in a tax-friendly location by the time I retire . . . and really did plan on taking a couple years to check out locations and research houses.  In the back of our minds, though, we were definitely favoring The Villages in Florida.  We have several friends who have settled here, and they love it . . . and we love what we see of the lifestyle!

Our goal for this first 6 weeks was to research . . . decide on an area that we like, narrow down to a few floorplans that suit us, and have some criteria in place to watch sales for the next year or so before making any moves.

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

For several days, we looked at some pre-owned homes in various models and neighborhoods . . . and were getting a little discouraged at what we were seeing . . . so many of them just looked OLD, and there were multiple things that we would want to update. 

Talking to a Realtor at an open house one day, we mentioned that we assumed that new homes were probably more expensive than pre-owned, and were shocked when we were told that the opposite was true – you could actually get the same model, new, for less money than the pre-owned.

Hmmm . . . we told our Realtor that we’d like to look at a few new homes, so she took us to Monarch Grove – where the developer is currently building spec homes.  Tom had seen one home on the Villages website that we wanted to see, and it wasn’t on her list yet, but she took us to look at it.  It had pretty much everything we were looking for at a very good price . . . and we found ourselves comparing every house we looked at after that, to it, and they all came up short in some way.

Our Realtor was able to hold the house for us to give us some time to think it over, and the next day she took us to a few more comparable houses so we were seeing everything that was available.

And so it happened . . . 10 days after arriving in the Villages, we had signed a contract on a new home!  Actually, compared to a lot of people, that was a long time! LOL

Let’s take a tour . . . in the front door,

and into the front entryway.  

The floor is tile that looks like wood planks.  I thought we wanted wood laminate floors, but the tile looks much nicer . . . just need to get used to standing on it!

The living room and dining room are straight ahead and wide open . . . we love this open floorplan!

The view from the kitchen . . .

and into the lanai off the great room.

Off the front entry, there’s a guest area – with a bathroom,

and two bedrooms – although the front room is going to be my sewing room.

On the other side of the house is the master bedroom,

his and her walk-in closets, and a large bathroom with a walk-in roman shower.

Then there’s the kitchen . . .

nice cabinets, Samsung stainless appliances . . . it’s going to be nice to have a big kitchen again!

There’s a nook area in that front window – plenty of room for a small table & chairs, but I think we’re just going to have the one eating area, and I’m going to put a desk in the nook area.

The laundry room is around the corner,

between the kitchen and garage, and just a few steps from the master bedroom . . . definitely a well thought out floorplan.

We definitely wanted a 2 car plus golf cart garage . . .

plenty of room for vehicles and extra depth for storage, too.

The houses are close together . . . but we’re not here to maintain a yard!

Just enough space, and with some carefully placed shrubs and trees, we can get a little privacy, too.

The neighbors next door and the one across the street both closed on their homes the same day as us, so we’ve met them already . . . and the remaining homes on the street are in the process of being sold.

The 30 days between signing the contract and our closing last Friday passed very quickly . . . we’ve been very busy!  We did manage to find a few pieces of furniture, and the bulk of it was delivered yesterday.

We have some living room furniture,

and a table and chairs that’s going to be delivered on Friday (and a cow picture that I bought back in Missouri!)

My decorating theme is urban farmhouse (very popular right now), and we’ve been really lucky to find some furniture that fits right in to the style!  We’ve been shopping exclusively at thrift and consignment shops, and all of this furniture came from a thrift shop that supports veterans in their post-military careers.  He had nice furniture, at very nice prices! 

We filled our first house with very high-end, brand new furniture . . . and saw how much we got for it when we sold it . . . we were not going to do that again!

We’ve always had a queen bed – at home and in the RV – but the shop had a bedroom set still on the truck that looked very much like what I wanted – and it turned out to be a king set.  We weren’t going to buy it at first, but for $400, we couldn’t pass it up.

I am so glad we didn’t – it’s perfect!

Of course, none of my quilts are big enough . . . but I already have one in mind to make . . . and I’ll just make it a king!

He threw in a queen bed for the spare room for $20 . . . nice!  This one will get the new quilt I made at the RV Quilters Rally last spring.

We also picked up a bench and table for the front entry – I’m going to refinish the bench – I’ve got a whole plan for that area.

Am I enjoying decorating a house again?  Yeah, I think so!

That’s going to be it for now, though.  We’ve taken care of everything we need to for now, and we’re going to close up the house and spend the next few months in the RV . . . we weren’t supposed to buy this quick, remember?  We have RV reservations for Dec – Feb!

We’ll be back towards the end of February, though, and then we can continue outfitting the house . . . and maybe even spend some time enjoying the lifestyle of The Villages!

Monday, November 18, 2019

A surprise visitor

With his deployment getting closer, Nicolas was encouraged to take some more leave while he could, so I coordinated with him to find a flight to Florida so he could visit with us and Grandpa for a few days.  We kept the secret from Grandpa, so he was very surprised and happy when Nicolas showed up  one afternoon!

We used our friend’s golf cart to show him around The Villages, enjoying the beautiful afternoon.

We stopped by the Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center – dedicated to veterans and almost a museum of military history, with plenty of memorabilia of President Eisenhower, who also happens to be the namesake of Nicolas’ ship.

From there, we continued on to the town square at Brownwood Paddock for dinner at Cody’s Roadhouse.

Nicolas enjoyed his 2 for 1 beer, and the tower of onion rings!

After dinner, we listened to the music and watched the dancers in the square for a while.  We didn’t stay long though – Nicolas’ flight had left Norfolk at 5am, so he was pretty tired.

The next day was the Grand Opening of the Everglades Regional Recreation Center, so the 4 of us went to check it out.  Each recreation center has a unique theme, and this one is the National Parks.  It’s beautifully done, and all of the photography in the building is the work of a former National Park Photographer.

It’s a beautiful facility, and they had an Expo set up inside to highlight many of the clubs that will meet in the recreation center – there’s a pottery group, a glass group (with kilns for each of them in the craft room), a chapter of the Villages Quilt Guild, and many, many more – too many to count!

The Quilt Guild had a room set up, along with pottery and glass.

There were tons of people there for the Grand Opening, and proceeded outside to check out the outdoor recreation options – where there were people doing demonstrations of most of the sports.  You could participate in any of them, but we just walked around and checked it out.

We saw the sports pool,

the outdoor fitness equipment,

R/C boats and cars,

as well as all the outdoor sports you can think of – shuffleboard, bocci ball, pickleball, platform tennis, tennis, basketball,

softball fields, and an 18-mile walking/biking path.  Definitely no shortage of things to do!

On Saturday, we drove down to Old Town in Kissimmee for the Saturday night Classic Car Cruise-In.  Tom and I have been to it before, and we knew that Nicolas and Grandpa would enjoy it.

We walked through all the cars lined up in the parking lots – admiring the shiny metal, and people-watching!

VW Bugs for Bryce!

A whole line of Ford Econoline Vans – that’s something we don’t often see!

There was even a Ford Pinto that looked pretty nice!

There were plenty that caught the attention of three generations of Gimmarro car guy!

A couple of big trucks, too!

Nicolas said this would be a good one for the dunes!  It reminded Tom and I of the old “Cookie Monster” blue truck that we had while we were building our house – even as a baby, Nicolas loved riding in that truck!

It was a beautiful evening to be be out!

This guy cracked us up – I didn’t think the dog was real at first!  We walked by several times, and he was just laying there everytime!

The cars started lining up for the cruise a little after 8pm, and we walked over to find a spot on the sidewalk to watch.

We got another look at all the cars as they cruised past us!

I think they enjoyed the evening!

When Veterans Day rolled around, we enjoyed a nice dinner out with our veteran and our Sailor,

and then attended the Veterans Day celebration at the town square at Brownwood Paddock.  It was packed, and after walking around the square – checking out the Model A Club that had their cars parked along one side of the square,

and then we managed to find a few chairs where we could sit and listen to the music and watch the dancers. 

We had been in contact with our RV-Dreams friends, Howard & Linda, so they met us at the square, and we had a wonderful time getting caught up on all that is going on for all of us!  They hadn’t seen Nicolas in many years (we decided it was at the 2011 Sevierville Rally, since he wasn’t able to attend the reunion rally), so it was really nice to catch up.  We stayed until the music ended . . . and never ran out of things to talk about!  We’ll be getting together again while we’re here, but we were glad they were able to see Nick.

We took Grandpa back to the house where he’s been staying, it was his last night there, and he said good-bye to Nicolas since we would be taking him to the airport early the next morning.  He really enjoyed spending these last few days with him, and we were glad they had this time together before Nick’s deployment.

The next morning, we had a beautiful sunrise as the fog lifted on our way to the Orlando airport.

We were also really glad to have these last few days with Nick, but we’ll see him again when we go up to Virginia to help him get his trailer closed up before his deployment.  Thanks for coming to Florida, Nicolas!

Meanwhile up in Michigan . . . the Spartans kicked off the basketball season, and Bryce is busy again.  We couldn’t watch the first home game because it was on Big10 Network, which we don’t have down here, but I did spot him in a picture on facebook,

and Hannah’s Mom sent me a couple pictures that she snapped off the TV.

He looks very professional!

We had a little bit of a cool down the last few days – although nothing like they’ve had up north – and no SNOW! 

We’ve been keeping busy, though – still exploring The Villages, we attended another retirement seminar, and even took a trip up to Citra to visit the Orange Shop – coming home with some delicious oranges and grapefruit!

Yep, Florida is pretty nice in November!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Settled in for the first segment of our winter stay

Our first winter destination in Florida was in the central area of the state – near The Villages.  We have a few reasons for staying here – we have friends in the area that we are looking forward to visiting with, we’re researching the area for the future, and one of our friends was looking for somebody to house sit for them for a couple weeks.  We aren’t doing it, but Tom’s Dad decided to fly down to check out the area and he’ll be staying in their house.  They got guest passes for all three of us, so we could all check out the various facilities and activities that The Villages has to offer.

We had originally made reservations at Wildwood RV Village, in what was supposed to be a brand new premium site.  We arrived to find out that the new sites “aren’t quite ready” – we walked to the new area to see large construction equipment still moving dirt around – yeah, they’re not going to be ready for a while!  They offered us a site, but it was at the edge of the park, right next to a very busy truck stop.  We were not thrilled with it, so the owner offered us a site in one of his other RV Parks, at a lower monthly fee.  Lake Pan RV Village is a few miles south of Wildwood, but still pretty close to The Villages, so we settled in for the next month & a half.

We had a week before Tom’s Dad arrived, and we spent that time exploring all the new areas that have been added since we last visited three years ago – the amount of expansion going on in The Villages is really amazing! 

Tom and I took a trolley tour of the newest area, and after Dad got here, we took him on a trolley tour of the Spanish Springs area, which is the historical tour through the oldest neighborhoods of The Villages.  Both were really informative and interesting!

On this tour with Tom’s Dad, we stopped at the Mulberry Recreation Center.  Each recreation center has a different theme – this one is a country barn theme.

Very cute . .

with comfy sitting areas,

and game areas, too.

The large banquet room had several quilts on the walls, too.

There are 3 Town Squares in The Villages, and each one offers live music every night of the year, and many evenings they will also have a car show, or a craft fair, or market night.  We enjoyed the music and warm evenings several times,

and even a Halloween celebration at Brownwood Paddock Square – it was a rainy evening, but that didn’t keep the people away!

Dancing even in a full downpour – we were fortunate to snag seats under the roof!

Many Villagers brought their classic cars out for trunk or treating by the local kids,

and there were carnival games, crafts, and hayrides,

as well as lots of costumed characters!

One lone classic at the end of the night . . . looks good under the lights!

Another day we visited the Fenney Recreation Center and had lunch at the Fenney Grill.  Lunch was delicious, and the setting was beautiful!  After lunch, we walked out to the pool and the nature trail around the spring.

The boardwalk trail around the spring was very pretty,

and an enjoyable walk.  We spotted a little bit of wildlife, although the alligator remained elusive.


One weekend, we visiting my favorite small town in Florida, Mt. Dora, to attend a Craft Fair . . . and it was HUGE!  We were amazed by the number of people there!

Dad went with us, too, and our new friend in the RV Park, Sue, and we just spent a couple hours fighting the crowds in the heat. 

On the way home, we stopped in another small town, Tavares, where we had some dinner and checked out a Vintage Shop that was pretty cool – Through the Years Vintage Market – I’ll have to come back here again.

I especially liked the kitchen stuff – pretty cool!

Before Mark & Janie left on their vacation, we had a really enjoyable evening at an Elton John Tribute concert at the Savannah Center, another Recreation Center that was built as small entertainment venue.

He was REALLY GOOD – authentic, a great singer, and an outstanding pianist!  We really enjoyed the show!

Afterwards, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at the Nancy Lopez Legacy Club – very nice!

That’s what we’ve been up to so far . . . more to come!