Reef Madness

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
Lewis Carroll

Reef Madness Home Page


Part III: Now what?

I just returned from a quick trip to St John and Reef Madness and I have a few pictures to share. This is to prove to all the doubters that progress, slow as it is, is being made. The stonework is amazing and I am still in love with this view. As for the concrete, it still is "soon come". We will feel much better when the retaining wall is completed and the villa is safe. It also will be the last great unknown cost to blind side us. Wait a minute. Who do I think I am kidding. I am sure the Caribe gods still have a few laughs in store at our expense.


Imagine if you will an entertainment center in this corner. Flat screen? Of course. Surround sound? Of course. IPOD docking station...yep!


Two master bedrooms equal in size and luxury, soon come.


Covered stair tower to the very private second floor suite, OK, use your imagination here!


House from the pool and bedroom area

And that view!

Eye level standing inside the endless pool looking toward Coral Bay.


February 27, 2007

Well, we don’t know about you, but with the end of February drawing closer, we’re ready to move from this:

To this:

February 28, 2007

So, where do people who live on St John year round go on vacation? New York? Las Vegas? Alaska? My St John builder is on vacation for two weeks. Hopefully work is still proceeding in an island time-like fashion while he is away. So where did Stephen go to get away from it all? Sailing around the BVI’s, that’s where. Hum, I guess to some people “getting away” is merely a state of mind. Here are pictures of Stephen (the Captain) and his lady, Anna (Banana), and the man who does his best to keep Stephen on track, Lewis (Little Buddy), when they all graciously showed me St John from a seaside perspective during a three hour tour on the SS Minnow.

Did I mention that I saw a real live flying fish whizzing past the boat on this day! Imagine a fish with wings. Next thing you know St John will have pigs that fly, and, a building that comes in on time and under budget!


March 1 ,2007

Good News! The backordered cypress wood for our ceilings is in! Why cypress, I wonder, and where does the cypress actually come from? I did a little research and found some pictures of the actual cypress tree that will become our beautiful vaulted ceilings. Picture # 1 is from just outside the incubator as our tree was born:


That was over 500 years ago. I think Columbus dropped it off in the islands on his late 1400’s "Discover the Americas" tour.

Here’s a picture of our tree just before it was harvested. The members of the lumber company family were on hand to bade our cypress farewell.


In a couple of weeks, our little former seedling will be looking down at our soon-to-be tiled floors. If there’s any left-over I may try my hand at wood-sculpture. Something like this:

Or maybe not.

March 2, 2007

So we have our cypress and we can finish our roof, yes? Well, no. Before the roof goes up, the walls have to go up. Now it seems that the stone masons, whom I have never actually seen working, have stopped working altogether. No one can say why. Was it something we said? Have they been talking to the Caribe gods? What? So now we are replacing them with someone else who may or may not show up. I hear these things happen a lot down here. Island time you know! Too bad, these guys did beautiful work and the job is mostly done. There’s some sort of moral lesson in this random thought: Here I am sitting in an air conditioned office staring at a computer screen all day and dreaming of getting away to the islands. Our stone masons probably dream of being in an air conditioned room and sitting on their butts all day.

March 5, 2007

We have reached a milestone! We just hired a property management company to oversee the rental of our little “Madness”. Seems a bit premature seeing that our villa is progressing at an ice age momentum, but we were told, "It's time". I met with Karin Schlesinger from VIVA Villas on my last St John excursion and I was quite impressed with her. She had some great ideas about improvements we could make as well as strategy for the marketing of our villa. We have to pay for this concrete some way you know. She loved the fact that we are including all this techie stuff in Reef Madness as she is a bit of a techno geek herself! Did I mention that Karin wrote a book about moving to St John? We recently acquired her book, “Desiring Paradise”, and when we get some down time, we hope to actually read it! With all the roof supports, scaffolding, building material, and general madness at “Madness”, one could not walk upright in Homo sapiens fashion and Karin crawled on all fours, around, through, and above the villa like the pro she is, inspecting every inch to see if it was up to VIVA Villas standards. Phew, I think we passed!

March 6, 2007

Well, we wired another huge sum of money off to our builder, Sunny Rock, today. When the monthly invoice arrives, we go over it with a fine tooth comb, hoping to discover that the decimal point has been shifted to the right by mistake. As a matter of explanation for those who haven’t looked into building on St. John, the cost is based on two categories: (1) a construction fee which represents the contractor’s profit (it is a predetermined, fixed amount stated in the builder’s contract) (2) time & materials for everything else. As you might imagine, number two is a huge unknown. This is why so many building projects go over budget and so many property owners either must stop their project in mid construction or slit their wrists. There are all kinds of time & material charges in the monthly invoice. The biggest one for the last six months has been concrete of course. There are also things like the delivery charges for the island stone, the rebar for the retaining wall, the rental of the port-o-john, oh yes, and drinking water. Because it’s hot working in the Caribbean sun all day, it is the property owner’s responsibility to supply all the workers with drinking water. In February our workers used $369 worth of water and ice! Geez, I wish I could ship them the ice that’s 2 inches thick in our pool here in Maryland! But those guys work hard and if a little ice is what they need to cool off and finish this place, I’m glad to accommodate them. Maybe we could lasso one of those icebergs that are breaking loose from the Arctic ice-cap because of global warming and tow it into Coral Bay. I can see it now…

March 7,2007

Why Coral Bay?” you might ask. “St John has so many beautiful areas, why did you decide to build Reef Madness at Coral Bay?" Good question. There are no bad places on St John. Every area has its own unique splendor and personality. Cruz Bay is bustling (by St John standards) and for people who want to be close to the action, Greater Cruz Bay/Chocolate Hole is the place to be. Shops, great restaurants, galleries, snooty places (again, snooty by St John’s standards) to see and be seen abound in the greater Cruz Bay area. You can find it all in Cruz Bay, except perhaps a parking place. The North Shore is eloquent and pricey. Many of the “old money” homes are found tucked within the National Park there on the North Shore. This too is where Peter Bay Estates is found, where the nouveau rich hang their ostentatious hats. If I were rich, old or nouveau, I would find my piece of paradise on the North Shore. It is truly spectacular. I believe other parts of the island have more of a local feel because less tourest stay there and it is where most of the locals, the working class, year round St Johnians, live. Why? Because it has traditionally been more affordable than Chocolate Hole and for sure, the North Shore. Sadly, today nothing on St John is affordable for most working class people. Many people have moved to St Thomas or St Croix for more affordability. Some people without extended family or adiquate retirement income have moved off island when they reach retirement age in order to survive. I am not rich, not poor, but definitely not rich and though I would like to have the quiet magnificence of the North Shore with the convenience of Cruz Bay within my grasp, the North Shore is a tad bit out of my reach. To me, Coral Bay is a perfect fit. Coral Bay, is the “Jimmy Buffet” side of the island, you know, tee-shirts and flip-flops. No pretensions here, though admittedly, pretentiousness is in short supply on all of St John. The East End is beautiful, but a bit far away if one wants to make a quick beer run. The same goes for much of Bordeaux Mountain, Reef Bay, Privateer Bay and other spots removed from St John’s spotty civilization. If I were somewhat more antisocial, and sometimes I am quite antisocial, all these other areas would suit me just fine. But I find Coral Bay Goldilocks perfect. We will be able to roller-skate to Skinny Legs, Island Blues, the Donkey Diner, and Aqua Bistro although the trip back up the hill would be a killer. We will be able to hear the music from the Blues Festival below at the Coral Bay Ball Field yet see the stars blazing brightly overhead with nothing to outshine them. Now, where did I put my rum drink!

March 8, 2007

Small update from our builder this morning… “The bond beam was poured on Monday and they are working on the pickling of the cypress and should be installing this weekend. Yippee!” Lewis seemed quite excited about this news and since we don’t know a bond beam from a Jim Beam, or a James Bond, we got really excited too! I don’t know about you, but with St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, “The Pickling of the Cypress” seems more celebratory to us than “The Wearin’ of the Green” (who wants to drink green beer anyway?). If anyone should get pickled on St. Paddy’s Day, it should be the cypress! I wanted to show a picture of a pickled cypress ceiling that would show how our interior will look. But Googling “pickled cypress ceiling” or “pickled cypress” or even “cypress ceiling” yields surprisingly few hits, none of which look much like what we will have. Here’s one of them:

The pickling looks just like ours will look, but our beams will be a deep burgundy and the fans won’t look like propellers off a battleship. We will be traveling to St. John in 2 weeks and rest assured, we’ll bring home numerous images of our Irish pickled cypress ceiling (if it’s actually installed by then). For now, just trust us – it will be beautiful! We are nothing if not optimistic. More rum please!


March 12, 2007

I cannot begin to tell you how we agonized over our roof. We like the look of tile. It has dimension, warmth, and texture. Being from the northern climes, it reminded us of Italy and sunny Spain, exotic and rich. We were willing to beef up the budget to get it. Then we started asking questions. Metal or tile, tile or metal, if you ask ten different people, they will give you ten different opinions. If you go on line you are apt to get opinions based on some not so hidden agendas. Take insurance companies-please (bah, duh boom!). They discourage the use of tile roofs, why? Because they cost more to replace and during high winds, you know, like...say, a HURRICANE, when tile breaks free it becomes a treacherous projectile damaging everything in its path, even innocent bystander houses with efficient non menacing metal roofs! Bad tile roofs! Bad. Bad! Now, you ask a tile company and they will say a tile roof, if properly installed, is stronger than a metal roof and will hold up better, even in high winds. Metal roofers say, “Not so - liar, liar liar!” Jonathan, our architect who has exquisite taste, said “Go with a traditional Caribbean metal roof, which will be functional, wind resistant, and tie in beautifully with the native stone. Be traditional”. This got me to wonder, OK, what exactly is traditional Caribbean? That, it appears, depends on what island you are on and exactly what point in history you consider “traditional”. Most of the early Caribbean houses were wood, wattle and daub, with thatched roofs. The Spanish introduced the tile roof. It made great ballast aboard their ships. There will be a quiz on this later. Nowhere can I find an entry for “traditional metal” roofs, but now, it seems as if it is traditional. We spent days looking all over St. John at all kinds of roofs: tile, concrete, metal, metal that looked like tile, tile that looked like metal (I know, I don’t get it either). We took loads of pictures and studied all the nuances of each style, color, and functionality - for as you know the wisest of the wise say “form follows function” (I think it was Socrates or Art Buchwald who first came up with that one). So in the end, putting all the data together, studying the facts without bias, it was clear that metal was far and wide the smartest way to go. So we chose tile.


March 13, 2007

The word of the day is: amenities. By looking at the web page that VIVA set up for Reef Madness you can find a laundry list (still growing) of amenities (toys) that will be available both inside and out. We compiled the list by combining the things that we will want when we’re on-island with the list of things that we think our visitors (meaning: anyone who does not look like us and is staying at the villa when we aren’t around) will want. Naturally, there are a few items that were on both lists, starting with the blender, perhaps the singly most used appliance in any villa. We decided not to have just any ordinary blender, oh no, not us! This thing not only grinds ice, it’s a work of art. Most villa blenders are made by Waring, Hamilton Beach, or Sunbeam. Ours is a Picasso! We have a cool Belgian waffle iron that is so huge it can double as a boat anchor. For coffee enthusiasts, we have a coffee grinder to go along with our insulated coffee pot which keeps the coffee warm poolside. You can take it out to the pool for an early morning dip and sip! There was a long discussion thread on the Virgin Islands Online Forum last week about televisions and whether or not you watch TV while on St. John. A lot of folks seemed pretty indignant about ruining the island vibe by turning on the tube. But there were others who admitted that they did take a peek at the TV every now and then, just to wind down from an exhausting day at the beach. As villa owners, we will try to please everyone and as a result, we’re currently shopping for televisions disguised to look like Hawksbill turtles for those sensitive island purists. The one in the main house will be connected to a DVD player and a surround sound system. Island overkill? Perhaps, but we’re hoping that it’s the devilish details like these that will attract a loyal following of repeat visitors (you know, the people who don’t look like us staying at Reef Madness when we aren't around). And if you choose to leave the electronics turned off, more power to you, but please, don’t feed the turtles.


March 14, 2007

We were told by Lewis yesterday that the replacement stone masons were on site and working hard, and the walls look great and should be finished by the end of the week. Did anyone ever see “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks as a feckless home owner in the midst of a remodel? The recurring phrase throughout the movie was “two weeks”. “How long before we have plumbing?” “Two weeks.” “How long until the electrical work is finished?” “Two weeks.” And so on… Our builder’s standard answer is “By the end of the week”, and I wonder, which week and in what year? Last night I woke up with a start from a very realistic dream. In this nightmare I saw a stone house that was started by one stone mason and finished by another. It had to have been a dream though, because the work came in on time and under budget, oh and there was this flying pig…


March 15,2008

The highlight of any day for us is when we receive construction pictures of Reef Madness from our builder. This doesn’t happen nearly as often as we would like, but on the other hand, by only getting them every couple of weeks it makes it seem as if there’s some progress being made. What we’d really like is for our builder to install a webcam on site so we can see every stone being placed, and every nail being hammered, and every cold Red Stripe… uh, no – we really don’t want to see that. So imagine our surprise yesterday when we got an e-mail from Bob Schlesinger, the husband of our VIVA friend Karin, with 3 pictures attached taken this past Saturday. Bob has his own photography business on St. John and you can check it out here: He was on a shoot high up on Bordeaux Mountain when he noticed he had a great view of Reef Madness from there. We’ve never seen a shot from this angle, let alone from an elevation looking down at the house. This one is my favorite, as it captures where we’re located in the Coral Bay scheme of things. As you can see from the picture, getting down to Skinny's is a snap. Now if we can just train one of those unemployed donkeys to tow us back up…


March 16, 2007

On St John, for the most part, the wildlife isn’t particularly wild. Of course it is, but it’s a friendly sort of wild. Many of the local fauna are more then willing to show their best photogenic pose in exchange for a small snack. We learned that all the fur-baring animals on the island are imports (just as we are, lucky them, lucky us). However, many of the birds are local as are the lizards, geckos, and creepy crawly things (see, I know my scientific genre!) The first couple of times on island, we were fascinated by all the goats, deer, cows, pigs, mongooses, and donkeys we saw meandering along the roads. More than that, we marveled at how we hadn’t seen any roadside fur-baring pancakes, despite the way some of the locals enjoy driving. It was on our very first trip that we met what was to become our most favorite wildlife photo-op, the bananaquit. It was on our very first morning, on the deck of our very first villa, tucked inside the National Park above the beautiful north shore beaches, that we first saw this bold and beautiful little bird sitting on the edge of a coffee cup getting a caffeine high. We started to put out a cup every day and got a few feathered Starbuck fans. We then learned that these little guys not only get off on caffeine but they have quite a sugar-jones as well. That led to a bowl of sugar water which would attract even more of these sociable little birds. We later had an occasion to visit a home on Bordeaux Mountain where the owners provided 10 pounds of pure sugar on a plate suspended via a pulley system above the surrounding jungle, all day long. They had hundreds, maybe thousands of these little sugar junkies swarming like bees and they were tame enough to eat from your hand. I saw these very cool sugar feeders (pictured below) at Serendip Condos where the on-site manager provides sugar for the Cruz Bay bananaquit population. If anyone knows where we can find some of these simple little feeders (made from halved coconut shells) write us (! We would love to deploy a couple around Reef Madness. So if you’re stocking up on supplies before a stay here, don’t forget to pick up some sugar! Those little guys put on quite a colorful and vocal show!

March 19,2007

Animals are a constant source of interest and amusement to us so I thought I would continue with the animal theme I have going. One thought regarding St. John fur baring animals previously mentioned, there is one native to the island and that is the bat. Lucky for us they have bats, for they are the singularly biggest devourer of those nasty, hungry, mosquitoes around. St. John even has one type of bat, though nearly extinct, that catches small fish! We have some great pictures of some of St. John’s finest creatures and some of them do not get nearly enough press. One day a while back we stopped off at Vie’s Snack Shack and beach. For those of you who have yet to experienced Vie’s, everything is good, but the garlic chicken is great and her rice and beans are the best I have ever had. By St. John prices, she is a bargain. If you have ever been on a beach that has quarter sized holes in the sand that look like someone has changed the placement of their beach umbrella pole many, many times, the holes were probably made by a crab. Here is a shot of a friendly but skittish little guy who kept us company and amused us on Vie’s private beach. He looks so surprised. Perhaps he is outraged at our presence on his beach! Or he’s hungry for garlic chicken…


March 20, 2007

Today’s entry will be the last one for this week as we are heading down to St. John to check things out bright and early tomorrow morning. Oh yes, it hurts so good! Just how much progress has been made since my last visit? As you might imagine, this is very important to us because we are continuing to “bleed money” and if it looks like no progress has been made, we might need to reassess our options and perhaps fulfill our suicide pact to eat ten Skinny burgers apiece, four Donkey Diner pizzas, six pints of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey to be washed down with a case of Red Stripe beer and Cruzan rum. After which if we are not dead yet, we must then sprint up Seagrape Hill to Reef Madness, on foot, in the noon day sun! Yeah, that should do it! Actually, we have much business (monkey & otherwise) to attend to, many pictures to take, rumors to hear and start, turtles to swim with, and bananaquits to feed, so hang on for the updates following our return next Monday!



March 26, 2007

There and back again. Sounds like a Hobbit’s tale. This whole process is a big emotional roller coaster ride. We were excited, disappointed, angry, giddy, impressed, depressed, overwhelmed, under whelmed, tired, energized, you name it, we felt it. More to come…or “Soon Come”!

March 27, 2007

Let’s talk about stone. Let’s also talk about stone masons. The natural stone that is seen in the newest and some of the grandest buildings on St John can also be seen in the oldest of the old on St John. This stonework seems to scream “Look at me. I am part of St John’s culture and history and I am glorious to behold”. I wonder if the settlers of St John had as much trouble with their stone masons as we are having. As you might remember, one day about six or seven weeks ago, our original stone masons started to not show up. They were fired and new stone mason were hired who also did not show up. Now it seems that the original stone masons who did not show up, did not just up and quit, they went on vacation and now are back from vacation! They did not mention to anyone that they were going on vacation. They just stopped showing up. Now six weeks later, they are ready to get back to work! Roy, our construction foreman, says that this happens all the time on the islands. The workers leave whenever they feel a vacation coming on and come back when it suits them and can not understand why we mainlanders get so upset about it. The roof goes on after the stone walls go up; if the walls aren’t up the roof can’t go on and the doors and windows can’t go in and the tile can’t get laid and the…and the…you get the picture. "Island Time", no wonder so much alcohol gets consumed down here. It's West Indian revenge! So the house looks pretty much the same as it looked six weeks ago. I don’t get it. The bills keep coming, but nothing gets done. Yes, we are still bleeding money. The good news, I am really trying here folks, is that the original guys did a great job-when they showed up. We are now hearing “by the end of the week it will be done”; now where have I heard that before! All island stone work comes in a variation of three flavors. Chinked stone is mortared stone with small pieces of rock, brick and sometimes shells, glass, and bottles mortared in around the larger stones. This chinked stonework can be seen in some of the ruins left on the island. The second type is mortared which is the same as chinked without the small pieces added in. The third is fitted stone where the stone is tightly fitted together without mortar on the outside. We’re doing a little bit of chinking on the outside, and mortared on the inside. Here, in the order outlined above, are examples of each. Oh yes, and pictures of our stone masons in case they go missing again, we can put pictures of them on milk cartons!

March 28, 2007

Aside from not having any stone masons, the other holdup has been a cypress shortage. We now have our cypress and have pictures to prove it. Below, the workers (the ones who show up) are shown pickling, sealing, and installing our cypress ceiling. When we first came up to Reef Madness on this trip, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach at the color of the roof beams. Our burgundy beams were a cheerful looking , dark, Caribbean pink; colorful, but not what we had in mind. After CPR was performed on me, it was explained that this was the base coat not the top coat. The basecoat color had been changed from white to this dark pink color because it took too much topcoat to cover the white. I was able to see the final product before we left the island. In all due modesty, it is AMAZING!!! Roy was not happy with the color of the original pickling product, so he created his own color using watered down white latex paint. We love the final look. The last picture is of Marlon, a hard worker and the best smile in the Caribbean. Young Marlon always shows up.

Very Pink Base Coat
The First of The Cypress
Final product!

Marlon, working on a Sunday no less!


March 29, 2007

One of the reasons why we picked last week to visit St. John and Reef Madness was to attend the celebrated St. John Blues Festival. St. Johnians not only love their reggae, they love their blues. The Blues Festival spans several days culminating in a multi-band show on Saturday night. This year the main event was held at the ballfield in Coral Bay. Vickie, the lovely lady who continually stops our heart and raises our blood pressure by sending the us the monthly Sunnyrock invoices (that’s what a bookkeeper does I suppose), invited us to her and her husband Steve’s beautiful Coral Bay home for a pre-festival soiree. After the amazing feast she laid out, the incredible view from her deck, and the good people sharing it all, it seemed more like nap time than concert time, but with our trusty beach chairs in hand, we made our way to the ballfield. The St. John Blues Festival was like a trip into the past. We are old enough to recall the small outdoor music festivals of the 60's and early 70’s that are relived only in our memories…and now on St John. It was a beautiful evening with a slight breeze and a multitude of stars in the sky. The stage was set in the southeast corner of the ballfield. Food, drink and souvenir booths were set back at the fence in front of the Moravian Church. A bottle of water was $1 and the beer was $2. I think it's been 20 years since I paid that little for beverages at an event like this. The music was great and the crowd was into it. By the time Blues Band #3 came on, our behinds were becoming part of the beach chairs, so we extricated ourselves from them and headed out of the festival, down and across the road to Sputniks. Now that turned out to be a great move, as Inner Visions was playing on the patio there. If you've never seen Inner Visions while on St. John, you owe it yourself to seek them out. They are simply a great reggae band. Anyone standing midway between the two venues got a cacophony of clashing music. Since Inner Visions is the reggae band of choice on St. John, many others migrated over to Sputnik’s between blues acts. We stayed there for about a half hour, and would have stayed longer except that we really wanted to see John Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen back at the Blues Festival. Monster Gentlemen??? The guitar player must weigh at least 400 pounds so that was no exaggeration. After midnight, but far too early for many, the party ended. Everyone meandered back to their cars, or one of the many taxis that were waiting and we joined the parade of vehicles heading back to Cruz Bay. What a great night - certainly one of the highlights of another amazing visit to our little island... Coincidently, on our ride back to St. Thomas the next day on the car barge, there in bright Caribbean colors was the Inner Visions’ truck heading for a gig on St. Thomas. Several members were on deck, but the elder statesman of the group, Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering sat alone inside the truck. Being huge fans, we felt compelled to burst in on his peaceful Zen moment aboard the barge and play the sycophants by engaging him in uninvited conversation. He was most gracious. It was apparent that he loves what he does and would not, indeed could not, do anything but play his music. We’re certainly grateful for that…


April 2, 2007

If you have noticed a difference in the landscape from our first pictures of Reef Madness on Seagrape Hill and more recent photos, aside from the fact the formerly ugly gash now shows a visible structure, you will notice a striking change in the surrounding color. The green foliage of early photos is now replaced with brown and leafless trees going into survival mode. This is because the Caribe gods have seen fit to bestow a draught on our formerly verdant island causing water trucks to be more commonly encountered than concrete trucks. This has been very bad for St John, but very good for Reef Madness. We still have a concrete structure standing proudly on the hillside and not atop Skinny Legs as was our fear when we found out that the hillside could become unstable during heavy rains. With hurricane season right around the corner, how long could our behemoth concrete foundation remain secure? We received some pictures from Lewis this weekend. Our retaining wall has been poured! We have no idea what this massive amount of concrete will end up costing us, but Madness is now secure. Let the rains begin!


April 3, 2007

Along with the news informing us of our newly poured retaining wall, we also received pictures showing progress on our cypress ceiling, and yes, stone work! Island time is on the move! We are racing forward at an unprecedented pace! Faster than a speeding Hawksbill Turtle and nearing the stride of the Green Iguana, the villa rises! We were in St. John a week ago and nothing much had changed from six weeks prior. Now, at least from the pictures, changes are happening daily. Too bad we weren’t there this week. Timing is everything, especially island timing. I have a real need to demonstrate that we are making actual progress on our stone work, so here we have a picture of our stair tower with flat stone partially applied. OK, you can't actually see the stair tower, but you can see where it will be...eventually. I believe we are due for yet another concrete pour to complete the back wall of the stair tower. Oh happy day, more concrete! There are a few places on the villa walls where the round, heavy (dare I say puffy?) stone can not be used as it abuts a concrete wall and would protrude. The masons must dig through their stone inventory and seek out the flattest stones to adhere to the poured concrete. All the rest of the walls have stones fitted upon, around, and between other stones. As frustrated as we are with the masons, we do respect their craft as an art form, and the men who do this for a living work very, very hard. Now, if they would only let someone know when they are going on vacation…



April 4, 2007

One ceiling down, one to go! The upstairs bedroom ceiling is pickled, primed, painted, and sealed and it looks great! We decided to seal the cypress which gives it a less rustic, shinier finish, not our first choice, in order to protect the ceiling from exploding fried wontons (see Bongo Bongo Blog #6, November 17th [] ). We were advised that we can make the villa luxurious and appealing, but we also need to make it “bullet proof”. Bullet proof? Perhaps we should encase the whole place in Kevlar. Certainly there will be some “gotchas “down the road. I mean, how can anyone cover all contingencies? Perhaps someone should start a villa website documenting all the strange mishaps that villa owners have encountered so we can learn from other’s misfortunes. I guess it all comes down to, be a Boy Scout and be prepared…for anything…even exploding wontons.


April 5, 2007

Reef Madness is smaller than it appears from afar. The illusion of its prodigious size is just that – an illusion. So as not to have Reef Madness appear as a concrete behemoth, we thought that some creative landscaping might be in order. We popped over to visit Josephine at the Coral Bay Garden Center while on-island and took her on a tour of an incomplete Reef Madness. Her ideas for landscaping were exactly what we had in mind. She told us what we should try to screen, what types of plants and color would work well and advised us on the size and placement of the water pipes accessing the gray-water system. Way back in the beginning of this project, years and years ago, we were told that we should install a gray-water system for outside watering. Of course, that was discussed with the architect and original owner of Sunnyrock and he is now long gone. Being fat, dumb, and happy, we went blithely along believing we were in fact getting a gray water system and we excitedly told Josephine about it (probably to impress her as to what caring and responsible gardeners we are). Well, we lied. After all the concrete poured for all the stuff that goes under the house (this under the house stuff is why our house looks so huge from a distance: foundation, cistern, pool), no one remembered to put in a gray water system. Can we go back and fix it? Nope. OK Plan B. We are going to have to own up to Josephine about our lack of a gray-water system and hope she has a Plan B.

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