Another year, another project…

The last time I sat and wrote on this blog was shortly after the new year.  Reading my last post, it seems as though I was feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of looking for employment in a less than favorable environment, not to mention taking on a renovation project of a run-down building.  Why settle for some lightweight new year’s resolution, such as losing a few pounds or reading more books?  My husband and I approached 2012 with the attitude that at the end of the year, we would really have some accomplishments to look back on. We blindly followed the philosophy that “the happiest people are those who are too busy to notice whether they are or not” ~ William Feather.  And so, we got ourselves busy…

Within 2 months of finishing my MBA I received three job offers, and I decided to take a position with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, managing grant funds in the special education section.  Working in a government job is certainly a different pace for me – things move slower and processes take longer – but I’m adjusting.  It didn’t take me long to adjust to the beautiful view of the capitol building and the Missouri River from our office – I have to admit, that view helped me in my decision to take this job, not to mention the warm and friendly people with which I work. 

So, with a steady paycheck coming in again, I was able to cross one task off my list…now, on to the real job – our new project in Hermann.  Since having purchased the Grapevine Guest Suite when we first moved back here from Alaska in 2008, we couldn’t have asked for better business.  We’ve gotten so many return guests over the past few years, and we have often thought if we only had another place…well, now we do!  Right before Christmas, while driving through town one day, we noticed a realtor’s sign in the window of an old brick building that we had always admired – it looked like the perfect size for a guest house and the location was ideal – the Hermannhof Winery, the Tin Mill Brewery, the Festhall, the riverfront park, etc,  just within a block or two.  So, after a phone call to the realtor, a walk-through with a carpenter and electrician, and a fairly low-ball offer even for a foreclosed property, we had the soon-to-be “Grapevine Guest House and Cottage”. Image

Image              After doing our first walk-through, we realized that although the property needed a lot of help to make it livable again, it had more to offer than originally thought.  First of all, there was a separate two room and one bath cottage behind the main building – “The Cottage” part of the Grapevine Guest House and Cottage.  We tackled that to begin with – the man who built the house in the mid-1800s, Joseph Kessler, was a cabinet maker and furniture dealer, and apparently there was also a candle and soap manufacturing business on the premises.  It’s easy to see how the cottage may have been utilized for this business, or as a summer kitchen to keep the heat out of the main house when cooking. Image After replacing subfloors, adding new bathroom fixtures (we did keep the old claw-foot bath tub), painting every surface, etc, etc. we welcomed our first guests in April, and it has been booked every weekend since. Image

The main house came with original oak sliding doors, a brick fireplace, a fairly updated kitchen, three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and a whole lot of purple paint!  It also had some rotten floor joists, a missing toilet, and leaky windows to name a few items. With me at work, this has definitely been Mick’s project, and he has spent endless hours on it, and I think that, for the most part, it has been a labor of love for him.  Is Mick handy with a hammer or wrench, noooooo.  But he has great vision, and can direct others very well!  About 10 years ago, my high school friend, after also returning home to Hermann, met and married a very talented carpenter named Tom, and I’m so happy she did!  Tom’s skills and patience have been a godsend for us, and I didn’t mind it all when Mick came home one day and announced he was officially having a “bromance” with Tom.  I told him that he couldn’t have picked a nicer guy.




One of the most humorous moments in this whole venture was when I discovered that in addition to our bathrooms at home, I am now the proud owner of a total of eight, yes, count them, eight toilets – quite a feat for a girl who spent 15 years living in a log cabin in Alaska with only an outhouse!

The “Guest House” portion of the Grapevine Guest House and Cottage is slated for completion in a few weeks, and we already have a couple of reservations for Oktoberfest.  It will be the perfect spot for friends traveling to Hermann together, for girls’ getaway weekends, and for family members in town for a wedding, as Hermann has become a popular wedding destination.  Just as with our original Grapevine Guest Suite, we’re offering visitors complete privacy while still being just steps away from all Hermann has to offer. 

We’re now more than halfway through 2012, and although I started out the year, as my positive, ‘glass is always full’,  husband likes to say, ‘appropriately worried’, the journey has been good – and yes, a little tiring – but so satisfying as we see our plans come to fruition.  So, come and visit Hermann – we’ve got room for you!



Monet had the right idea…

Earlier this week, one of my old high school friends, Anne, and I took a day for ourselves and drove in to St. Louis to see a presentation at the Missouri Botanical Garden about the garden’s collection of water lilies.  The program was a collaboration between the botanical garden and the St. Louis Art Museum which will be featuring an exhibit in the fall of Monet’s huge water lily panels. Water Lilies by Claude Monet, 1915

Monet prolifically painted what was around him in nature, but in my opinion, he seemed rather fixated on the water lilies in his pond.  I read that he did around 250 paintings of this plant.  Granted, water lilies do make for a pretty scene, but wouldn’t it become a boring subject after a while?  I tried to push that notion out of my mind – after all, I don’t have to understand how Monet thought in order to enjoy his paintings.  I tend to spend a lot of time trying to figure out why people do what they do.  Well, anyway, Anne and I had a great day – a perfect outing to satisfy a couple of small-town girls’ craving for some culture.

Anne was the perfect companion for this trip.  She and I were art students together at one time – we studied under the guidance of Linda Heck, long-time art teacher at Hermann High School.  I think we both took every art class that Mrs. Heck offered, and she did a great job of tapping into everyone’s creative interests – finding mediums and projects that would appeal to us.  She got us outside as often as she could, to paint or draw, stressing the “plein air” style, meaning “in the open air”.  Mrs. Heck has since retired, but continues to be busy with her own art, and it appears that the countryside around Hermann is still her favorite subject matter.

When I moved back here to Hermann, one of my concerns was what I would be missing out on – I had lived here before, I’ve seen all there is to see around here.  Wouldn’t I be missing out on other places, other scenery, other experiences if I decided to come home again?  

Monet seemed quite content with what was right outside his door – in fact he saw it, literally, in new light every day.  It never seemed to bore him. He was continually excited about what his own garden offered, and obviously he felt no need to look elsewhere for inspiration:  “Suddenly I had the revelation of how magical my pond is. I took up my palette. Since that time I have scarcely had any other model.” Claude Monet.

Coming home again to Hermann has made me appreciate the special beauty that this part of the Midwest has to offer.  It hasn’t been the sudden revelation that Monet had when looking at his pond – the appreciation of where I grew up has been a slower realization for me.  But, when I watch a muskrat swim across my own pond, or catch the scent of grass in the air being cut by a farmer for hay, it reinforces that I am right where I want to be – for now.

A Missouri hay field


Even Van Gogh would envy this sunflower found along a country road...

For those visiting Hermann, you’ll find Linda Heck’s artwork at the Kunstlerhaus Art Gallery and Pottery Shop on 1st Street.  This gallery is one of the best additions to Hermann during the time I was away.  There are many talented artists in this area, and you’ll find much of their work under one roof here – everything from oil paintings to metal art to hand-designed jewelry and textiles.