Visiting the 2015 Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas

Spacious kitchen island at the 2015 Coastal Living Showhouse

I love touring houses and do it when ever I get the chance. I was so excited today to be able to tour the Coastal Living Showhouse at Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas. I coordinated everything I had to do on this trip to the beach house with being able to see this gorgeous place. So very happy they could make a mid week appointment to show it to me! The house is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and by appointment at other times, until The Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s definitely worth the visit to see the latest in coastal architecture and design.

On to the pics:

Family Bunk Room at Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas Inviting deck at the Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas Dining room and living room great area at the Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas Shower Doors in Master Bathroom at the Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas. The perfect spot for a nap. Hanging bed on deck by master bedroom in Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas. Large soaking tub in master bathroom at the Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas. Beautiful Master Bedroom in Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas. View of the Gulf of Mexico from the upper deck at the Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas.Gorgeous tile back splash in the kitchen of the Coastal Living Showhouse in Port Aransas.

Some things to note:

The light coming into the house at 2:30 in the afternoon was lovely and the water was a gorgeous blue. The decks allowed a great view. The lower level has gorgeous wood look light colored plank tiles. The upper levels have light colored wide plank wood floors. The shiplap walls were crisp and made the main areas feel light and bright. I really liked the textures used in the house from the shiplap walls, to the wall paper to the use of tile. All the bathrooms had amazing unique tile – my favorite is in the room with the soaking tub. I really liked the AZEK decking.  Loved the layout – it was a 3500 square foot house and there were plenty of inviting places to gather for conversation. It also had amazing 1700 square feet of porches. You can read more about the house and get all the official details in the November 2015 issue of Coastal Living Magazine.

My takeaway – I really need shiplap walls…somewhere….

Things I’ve Learned as a Vacation Rental Owner and a Neighbor

My experience as a vacation rental owner and on the flip side as a neighbor to a vacation rental.

Much is in the media lately about problems with short term rentals. I own three houses in three cities and each neighborhood has handled the short term rentals in our midst differently.

Austin

Shortly after we moved into our primary residence, the house next door became a vacation rental. It’s a gorgeous home – spacious house with a pool, high on a hill above a lake, great views. No other house was a vacation rental in our neighborhood at the time. We are one one side of it and there is an empty lot on the other. There were no wild parties, but there were some groups of ladies that liked to have late night hen parties around the pool. I remember hearing them chat and laugh into the wee hours of the morning. I bought a air filter for our room in short order to block out the noise. One time, some folks brought their Harley’s and parked them on the septic field. I wish I had had the contact for the property manager – I would have called to let them know! Other than those two minor issues, we had NO problems with the guests next door. Fast forward a few years and two other homes on our street became vacation rentals. The neighborhood went up in flames over a few pretty serious incidents. Lots of lawyering and an incredible amount of money was spent. The majority of the neighbors successfully organized to change the deed restrictions to prevent any short term rentals ever. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the issue and began just pulling into my garage and closing the door. It was an incredibly sad time for me to see how neighbors treated neighbors with opposing views.

Port Aransas

About half the homes in our little beach neighborhood are vacation rentals. There was a lot of tension between renting and non renting owners when we first bought the house. So much so that we actually considered selling the house about 2 years later. The politics there also became ugly with many things said that would have been better left unsaid. I will admit, regrettably I contributed to some of it.  The end result was that the Owners Association crafted some rules that were especially punitive to the renting owners. The renting owners were able to negotiate with the Owner’s Association to reduce some the fines set in place. The good that came out of it were some specific neighborhood rules that we all abide by. I print out the rules in our rental contract and let the guests know that if I get fined for any of their behavior, the payment will come out of their deposit. We’ve never had a problem with our guests and the neighborhood seems pretty peaceful.

Galveston

Galveston is the most organized set of vacation rental owners. When the city council was looking at changing the Land Development Regulation, STROAG (Short Term Rental Owners Association of Galveston) was there to follow the developments, encourage owners to contact council members and took an active roll in the process. They worked with Homeaway to show the incredible economic impact short term rental guests have on the island. They’ve created a “Good Neighbor Brochure” to help guests understand what the expectations are for their visit.  I’ve been so impressed with this group! They are a model for what an area wide Vacation Rental Owners group should be – active in promoting the good about short term rentals and holding members to a high standard.

So, what I’ve learned:

1. Good communication is essential. Knowing and respecting your neighbors can go a long way to heading off any future trouble. Invite them into your home and get to know them!

2. Community matters. You have to be a good neighbor whether you are in the house or renting it out.

3. Expectations are everything. Don’t assume anything in your roles as neighbor, owner or guest.

4. Form an association. Get to know other short term rental owners in your area and organize before you need to, otherwise, it’s already to late. You don’t have to organize something negative – promote the benefits of vacation rentals in your area. Get to know the city council members. Share resources. The owner’s group can aid in the success of any of it’s members.

Do you have any other suggestions based on your experience? Let me know!

Girls Gathering at the Beach House – A Quick Guide

A few weeks ago I hosted a 2 day retreat for some girlfriends at Las Brisas in Galveston. We arrived at the beach house on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t get in the cars again until Tuesday morning. What luxury! For busy moms who seem to do life in cars, to have nearly 48 hours to relax, renew and connect was so needed. Here’s how we managed to make it work!

A Quick Guide to planning a girls getaway at the beach - including a DIY craft collage project!

Tip 1: Timing is everything!

We planned the getaway about 2 months in advance for an off season Sunday – Tuesday.  We left home on Sunday mid day – this got the Dads and kids through most of the weekend activities and returned by the time school got out Tuesday afternoon. While we were there, we talked, walked the beach, hung out at the beach club, share meals, did a fun craft project that helped remind us of who we are and walked the beach some more. We came away refreshed!

Tip 2: Bring two days worth of food

Our Menu:

Sunday Night – one sweet friend roasted a chicken Sunday morning, chopped the veg for a salad and brought a bowl full of quinoa and greens that assembled quickly. Dinner done!

Monday Morning – gluten free cinnamon rolls from my favorite local farmer’s market vendor, Sweet Texas; coffee.

Monday Lunch – ham and turkey sandwiches and leftover salad and chicken.

Monday Dinner – turkey burgers, vegetable sautee with zucchini, squash and mushrooms

Tuesday Morning – eggs scrambled with leftover veggies; coffee.

Grocery List: (I brought these things with me so we didn’t have to make a grocery store run) apples, bananas, creamer, eggs, lunch meat, cheese, condiments, ground turkey burgers, buns (for sandwiches and burgers), cinnamon rolls, foccacia bread, Seeds of Change brown rice/quinoa microwave pouch, mushrooms, farmer’s market zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes, assorted snacks and wine. My friend brought the roasted chicken and all the fixings for a super salad.

Tip 3 – Do Something Creative

We brought along poster board (1/2 sheet per person), glue sticks, scissors and a TON of magazines – mostly Coastal Living, National Geographic, Southern Living and Eating Well because that’s what I have. We set up at the kitchen table clipping out pictures and words that caught our attention. Everyone’s was different and was a great reflection of who they are and visions had of what they want in life. The photo below is of mine. Nothing fancy but meaningful for me. With a daughter off to college and another with one foot out the door, I’m wondering what’s next in my life. These pics helped me remember how important hospitality and connectedness is to me and to be open new ways to doing that.

A Quick Guide to planning a girls getaway at the beach - including a DIY craft collage project!

Tip 4 – The Housekeeper

I never ever clean the whole beach house when we stay. I do start the laundry but I hire my housekeeper to come in and do all the make ready for the next guests. If I had to clean, it wouldn’t be a getaway!

Haunted Galveston

Galveston Ghost tours are a great way to learn about the rich history of the island this Halloween season.

Over the years Galveston has been consistently ranked at the top of Most Haunted Cities in America. Of course this list also includes places like New Orleans, Baltimore and Boston – all fantastic travel destinations regardless of paranormal activity. From the phantasmic to the historical – Ghost Tours can be spooky, but all in good fun.

Voted #1 Most Popular Haunted Ghost Tour in America, Dash Beardsley (Ghost Tours of Galveston Island) offers thrill seekers four tours infused with Galveston’s rich history. According to their website, The Original Ghost Tour of the Strand is the most family friendly, good for first time visitors, Ghost seekers, and families because of the emphasis on the history of the area. Their other tours include a follow up to the Original Ghost Tour, a Cemetery Tour and even a Jack the Ripper Mystery Island Tour.

If you want to dip your toes in history with a just a side of spook, The Galveston Historical Foundation opens up the oldest home on the Island, the 1838 Michel B. Menard House for trick or treating on October 31 from 5-7 pm. The event is free and fun for all.  Menard was one of the founders of the City of Galveston in 1838. The Galveston Historical Foundation gives detailed history about the Menard house on it’s website.

The history of Galveston island is rich with stories – some probably more embellished than others. It’s had it’s share of tragedy, turmoil and wild times through the years. The tales of the island, especially the first hand accounts of the hurricane of 1900, can be haunting, whether or not you see a ghost. Dive into the island history and lore, it will make you appreciate the indomitable spirit of Galvestonians – past, present and future.

 

 

Port Aransas ARK – Animal Rehabilitation Keep

Port A has a gem of a place – the Animal Rehabilitation Keep – otherwise known as the ARK. It started in the 1980’s when Tony Amos, a University of Texas Marine Science Institute research associate, found injured sea turtles and aquatic birds during his research outings and brought the animals in to heal.  At the ARK, injured animals are rehabilitated and cared for with the goal of returning them to the wild. Tony writes weekly for the Port A South Jetty (local newspaper) and the article are always educational about the local wildlife.

According to the UTMSI website, “The ARK also cares for large sea and freshwater birds, including pelicans, loons, gannets, boobies, cormorants, gulls, terns, herons, and egrets. About half of them can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.  Most of the creatures, regardless of their species, are injured because of some kind of human activity. Birds often get caught in fishing lines or hit by vehicles on beaches or the roadside. Turtles can fall victim to fishing lines as well as shrimp trawls and boat propellers. Sometimes the animals have been hurt deliberately.”

In addition to the rescuing, the volunteers and staff at the ARK give educational tours for schools. Port Aransas is a better place for the work that goes on at the ARK!

Last week they released several turtles and our Blue Roost guests were able to go to the public release. One of these days I’m going to to see this in person!

Checking out a turtle release is a fun family event to share while at the Blue Roost beach house in Port Aransas.

Desperately Seeking Shade

Beach days on the Gulf coast require a little bit of mid-afternoon shade. In preparation, we purchased a pop up tent for the Galveston beach house for guests, but we have never actually used it. I had no idea how to set it up!

The heat index in August in Port A was 105-109 degrees on the last trip, so it was either stay inside or figure out how to put up some shade. Guests had left a 99.9 UVA/UVB umbrella and we borrowed a giant deadly looking metal contraption from a friend that is supposed to secure the umbrella in the ground. We used the giant metal screw like thing that we twisted into the sand about 10 inches down. The first attempt in moderate wind was pretty good but as the afternoon went on, the umbrella became loose. So, we took off the bottom section of the umbrella and tried it again for some success. While we sat under the low umbrella I checked out the varieties of methods to secure umbrellas and tents to tried to figure out the secret science of securing shade.

Our umbrella and holder

Our umbrella and holder

Tents

Every beach trip I see at least one tent either mid tumble or post tumble. Tent skeletons collect around the trash cans. The wind that comes of the water is strong! This trip the tent next to us was secured with Lowe’s buckets filled with sand. Ropes attached the tent frame to the buckets. Excellent – that tent didn’t move in the wind at all. Bring the kids and sand shovels and put them to work! We also saw folks to the other side of us employing our tactics of putting the shade low….

Tent held by sand buckets

Tent held by sand buckets

Short tent

Short tent

Umbrellas

I saw all kinds of umbrellas stay put, but never was able to see one actually being put in. So, I googled it. Some sites recommended various forms of sand screws like we used. However, several sites had videos of people placing an umbrella in the sand and moving the umbrella back and forth about an arms length. This moves the umbrella down into the sand to a recommended depth of about 18 inches. Point the umbrella in the direction of the wind so the wind blows the umbrella into the sand rather than catching it and blowing it away. Step on the sand around the pole to pack it down. One post I read said they pour water around the pole to help pack down the sand around the umbrella.

Umbrella and sand chairs

Umbrella and sand chairs

What’s your solution to securing umbrellas and tents? I’d love to know!