By Sallie Moniot Lilienthal

This book is dedicated to Squeaky, my five-week old furry friend who sat on my shoulder and kept me company for a week as I worked on this book. The proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to The Basilica Landmark, an organization committed to the ongoing restoration of the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. I have changed the names of most of the players in this book to protect the innocent – and myself!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many thanks to those who put up with me during this construction project, particularly my husband, Peter, our daughter, Annie and our builder, Rooster. Thanks to the friends who gave me moral support by phone and e-mail, and to those who rescheduled gatherings to accommodate my unpredictable travel schedule. Special thanks to my friend Kim Leventhal, who, while trying to learn Chinese in Shanghai, agreed to edit the book and give me guidance. And finally, many thanks to Ann and Fred Moore, whose photographs of Fleur de Sel can be found here and on our website ( You all gave me the energy to finish the construction of Fleur de Sel!


TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE Chapter One: Setting the Context Chapter Two: The Early Years (1978-2004) Chapter Three: Our Return to the Caribbean (February, 2005) Chapter Four: The License Process (March - October, 2005) Chapter Five: Early Weeks of Ownership (November, 2005) Chapter Six: Designing the New House (January – November, 2006) Chapter Seven: The Construction (December, 2006 – July, 2008) Chapter Eight: The Saga of the Windows (November, 2007 – April, 2008 ) Chapter Nine: Furnishing the House (January – July, 2008) Chapter Ten: The Saga of the Windows, Part 2 (April – July, 2008) Chapter Eleven: Our Favorite Subcontractors (January – July, 2008) Chapter Twelve: Finishing the House (June - July, 2008) Chapter Thirteen: The Final Days of Construction (Late July, 2008) Chapter Fourteen: Epilogue (September – November, 2008) Chapter Fifteen: The Ten Commandments of Building in the Caribbean Chapter Sixteen: Kim’s Anguilla Travelogue 4 8 15 23 27 35 44 57 62 88 95 104 117 122 125 126


CHAPTER ONE: Setting the Context This is a documentary about building a house in the Caribbean. It is also a real life story about a Type A female, usually very much in control, who tries to get things done in a third world culture, and what she learns to do (and not to do) to work within the parameters of that world order. And last, but not least, it is a commentary on the level of customer service that exists in many organizations today. I grew up the younger of two children in Haddonfield, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. My dad sold insurance and was considered quite successful. My mom stayed home and raised my brother and me. They traveled to the Caribbean almost every winter, but never had the opportunity to visit other countries in the world. We were fortunate enough to go to private schools, and my brother and I worked in my father’s office during our high school summers. I am sure that is where I acquired my appreciation for and expectation of exceptional customer service. My brother, who is four years older than I, was very bright (I was considered the hard worker), and I thought I would follow him to medical school until I got a D in College Chemistry. That caused me to turn my attention to the “softer” sciences, and forge a different path. Unsure of what to do with a Bachelors degree in International Studies, I proceeded to get a Masters in Counseling and subsequently, a doctorate in Organizational Behavior through the Leadership


Development Program at the University of North Carolina. My real professional enjoyment and satisfaction, though, comes from running a successful business and working with other senior leaders to enhance their effectiveness and satisfaction. Since I “retired” from full time work in 2000, I have maintained an executive coaching practice and have served on the Boards of a few for profit and not-forprofit organizations. Pete, my husband of thirty years, grew up in San Francisco, the younger of two children. His parents owned a distinctive house on the edge of the Presidio and were well known in the city. Pete attended public schools in San Francisco, and then went to Occidental College in L.A. He, too, was unsure of what to do with an undergraduate degree in International Relations, so he went on for a Masters in Education and subsequently, an MBA from Harvard. Pete’s success and satisfaction has come from running his own business, as well as thinking of other businesses to start. He has been well known in the Twin Cities for over thirty years as one of the restaurant critics for Mpls-St. Paul Magazine. Annie, our daughter, was born in Korea and came to live with us when she was three months old. We knew something was different when at eighteen months, her vocabulary consisted of fifty-six words, and at three years, she was reading to the other kids in her pre-school. As a youngster, school didn’t really challenge her until her Spanish teacher started having very high expectations of her. She subsequently decided to spend six months of her senior year in high school in


Sevilla, Spain, where she passed all her courses, including Biology, Chemistry and Physics, which were taught in Spanish. Annie then decided to attend college at the American University of Paris (no relation to American University in DC), and finished Summa Cum Laude in three years with a BA in Economics and a minor in Math. At age twenty, she was applying to Law Schools at a time when schools expected applicants to have a few years of full time work under their belts. She turned down a full ride at George Washington University Law for the second time (she was offered a partial ride as an undergraduate but decided she didn’t like DC) in favor of the University of Pennsylvania. In the fall of her second year at Penn, she accepted an offer from a prestigious NY-based law firm for a summer associate role in their DC and Mexico City offices. At the end of that summer, she accepted their offer of a full time job in DC after graduation and passing the bar. Meanwhile, she had developed a passion for seeing other parts of the world. In fact, Annie spent at least part of each college and law school vacation traveling to a part of the world she hadn’t seen before. When I stopped working full time, I made time for my other passion – cooking. Pete has always enjoyed cooking as well, but over time, things evolved to where I became the primary chef in the household. I cook when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am frustrated…you name it: I love to cook. I love to experiment, which you would not suspect if you knew me. As this adventure unfolded, cooking became one thing that grounded me.


When we first arrived on Anguilla in February, 2005, and through most of 2006, the food choices in the stores on the island were slim. Anguillans tended to eat inexpensive cuts of chicken and pork, most of which could only be found in the frozen food section of the market. But, during the next two years, things improved dramatically. A new market opened in The Valley, the island’s capital, and Best Buy, the market very near our house, expanded and doubled its space. As a result, most cuts of meat, including beef tenderloin and boneless chicken breasts, became available, although expensive, options. There are also numerous great restaurants on the island, but because most everything is imported, prices are high. So we have developed the strategy of bringing protein, like flank steak, lamb chops, tenderloin and scallops, down from Minneapolis and cooking at home most nights. Then we tend to go out to eat once or twice on each visit. But, on my longer trips, it was impossible to bring down everything I would need or want to eat. So I started creating dishes using the ingredients I could find on the island. Developing and enjoying these recipes gave me a lot of pleasure, and diverted my energy from the task of pushing others to do things on time and in budget. So, I have included in this book some of the recipes that I have created, many at very frustrating times during the course of construction. I hope you enjoy them!


CHAPTER TWO – The Early Years (1978-2004) I grew up in New Jersey during the 1950’s, in a family that traveled to Florida during the winter on the early Constellation planes; my Dad’s employer, The Equitable, had agents’ meetings at the luxurious Boca Raton Club every year. My folks also frequented Jamaica, and took my brother and me to Nassau in the early 1960’s. So going south during the winter was not an entirely foreign concept to me. In November, 1978, I married a man who loved the Caribbean and enjoyed scuba diving there. In 1970, he taught elementary school on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where, on weekends, he crewed on a dive boat. So it is not much of a surprise that during the winter before our marriage, Pete decided to explore the possibility of purchasing real estate in the Caribbean. He had read a lot about the Cayman Islands, although he hadn’t met anyone who had traveled there. So he flew down for a few days and met with an accountant and an attorney to investigate what it would take to buy a piece of property on Seven-mile beach, a pristine and nearly deserted piece of paradise. The advisors on the island were absolutely consistent: SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A TWO BEDROOM CONDOMINIUM WAS TOO MUCH TO PAY! With the island’s publicity during the prior year, prices had escalated significantly and neither advisor believed they would hold at that


level. So, with his dream of owning property in the Caribbean dashed, at least temporarily, Pete returned to the Twin Cities.

But being the resilient person that he is, he decided that we would just travel to the Caribbean frequently. Our first trip together would be our honeymoon in Tortola. First, however, I needed to learn how to scuba dive. So, as a Christmas gift in 1977, he gave our mutual friend, Royce, and me scuba diving lessons at the local YMCA. How I remember the countless laps in the pool, swimming the length of the pool under water without coming up for air, and leaving the Y after three hours in the water and at 10 pm, usually freezing, exhausted and in a snow storm. In mid-July, Royce and I decided to do our “checkout” dive in Lake Pulaski in Buffalo, Minnesota, about 45 minutes west of Minneapolis. Assuming we passed, I would be able to dive without restrictions on our honeymoon in November. And July in Minnesota is usually quite warm, so the cool lake water would be refreshing. On the appointed morning, Royce and I drove to Buffalo in a raging rain and hail storm, seriously questioning our sanity. We put on our wetsuits and waded into the cold water. Visibility was about 6 inches and if we weren’t banging into each other under water, we were crashing into the mud at the bottom of the shallow lake. After about an hour of this nonsense, we convinced our dive instructor that we were indeed competent divers. He said we passed.


Unfortunately, this very understanding dive instructor took our money and headed out of Dodge, so there was no record of our successful checkout dives. Others in our class were in the same boat. We petitioned the national chapter of NAUI, explaining our fate, and were finally granted our certification. On our honeymoon in November, Pete and I dove twice daily in Tortola. I don’t think I had ever enjoyed anything so much as diving, especially after I overcame my fear of stepping on a sea urchin!. And Tortola, my first Caribbean island, was beautiful! Such was the start of our Caribbean adventure together. In 1979 we ventured to Antigua and St. Eustatius and dove. In 1980, we traveled to Cozemel and dove. In 1981, we went to Bonaire and dove. In 1985, we adopted Annie from Korea. In 1986, we went to Cayman, stayed on Seven-mile beach (where the condominium prices continued to skyrocket) and dove. In 1987, we went to the Turks and Caicos, saw the “green flash” two evenings running, and dove. We loved Provo. Our “resort” was situated on the western end of the island, overlooking the ocean and backing up to an unbelievably beautiful six foot deep, crystal clear lake filled with bone fish. We fell in love with the location and darn if there weren’t a couple of terrific homes for sale nearby. On one of the most perfect evenings, a realtor took us for a boat ride on the lake, with the full moon glistening on the surface. It was as quiet and peaceful as anything I had ever experienced. The homes were luxurious, each having separate


living and sleeping buildings, right on the edge of the lake. We were sorely tempted even though the $275,000 price tag gave us a jolt. But after much thought, our conservative sides took over, convincing us that the timing wasn’t right. A month earlier (October, 1987), the stock market had experienced one of its greatest losses in recent times. And we still had to educate our daughter who was two years old at the time. So our Caribbean adventure would need to be on hold for a while. Our next trip would be in 1989 when we ventured to Abaco in the Bahamas. We didn’t dive there but enjoyed playing on the beach and at the pool with our four year old daughter. It was fun to watch the Abacans try to figure out why two white people would have an Asian daughter. At the time, there weren’t many Asians in Abaco! In 1991, we decided to try a Club Med on St. Lucia, where Annie loved all the circus activities. We managed to dive a couple of times, albeit from a boat that had difficulty getting out of reverse. Thanks to one of the Club Med honchos who happened to be on the dive boat with us, I was rescued before the 30 foot long boat ran over me. But I wasn’t deterred, just a bit more cautious! Armed with success at one Club Med, we ventured to another in Eleuthra in 1992. Annie met some new friends and Pete and I enjoyed the pink beaches and turquoise water. But, unfortunately, no diving. Little did we know that we had entered a phase of our lives where diving, and exotic Caribbean vacations, would be replaced by trips that accommodated a pre-adolescent/adolescent/teenager’s tastes.


In 1993, we enjoyed a week in St. Kitts during Annie’s Spring Break. Later, in the fall, after an interesting drive from Paris to the Riviera, we spent a short week with some good friends, Jane and Don Collins, in Cap D’Antibes. During the 1980’s, Jane and Don had spent a few years in Minneapolis with the Canadian Consulate, and we had become close friends. We all fondly remember a perfect day on the beach, with the crystal water lapping at our feet and a gentle breeze blowing, as we ate mussels and drank a perfect bottle of wine for lunch. 1994 and 1996 found us in the Dominican Republic, where Annie and a friend could play freely on the compound grounds and swim in the ocean. Pete and I found a favorite beach shack that served the best grilled lobster, and we became very frequent customers on each visit. But, no diving. Since Annie was learning Spanish in 1995, we thought it only reasonable to go to Spain. We ate our way from San Sebastian to Barcelona, and spent a very pleasant week on the Spanish Riviera in S’Agaro. What a lovely part of the world! We flirted with the idea of purchasing an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. But, as usual, our practical sensibilities weighed in. In 1997 we decided to try the Yucatan and settled on Playa del Carmen. At the time, Playa was just being discovered, but its dirt streets and local restaurants had yet to be replaced by paved roads, big resorts and restaurant chains. Unfortunately, a subsequent trip in 1999 with some work colleagues and their families coincided with the transformation of this little village into Cancun’s younger sibling. Our need to see a venue that was still somewhat undiscovered would soon take over again!


In 1998, when Annie was 13, we decided to take her back to the country where she was born- Korea. We went with a group from Children’s Home Society, the agency through which we adopted Annie. It was an interesting experience for all of us, and made most pleasant by being able to visit our good friends, Jane and Don, who were with the Canadian Consulate in Seoul. Additionally, thanks to the retiring two-star general whom I was hiring to run our offices in Chicago, and who had previously led the multi-national forces in the DMZ, we had a private tour of the DMZ with the then-leader of those forces. Being able to walk to the North Korean side of the negotiating table that straddles the two countries was unbelievable, particularly with the North Koreans’ binoculars and directional microphones trained directly on us! In 2000, we decided to see what all the hype was about in Costa Rica. Between the rain forest on the east coast, the volcano in the north, the pristine beaches on the west coast, and the white water rafting not far from San Jose, we indeed discovered a very friendly country, with activities for everyone. But no diving. In 2001, we traveled (legally) to Cuba with the non-profit group, Cross Cultural Solutions. Ten days was too short a time to see this beautiful country. We learned a lot of history and our guides were openly praising Castro and what he had done for them (even though the doctors, whom we brought medical equipment, made the equivalent of $500 per month). The summer of 2002 found Annie back in Costa Rica with Cross Cultural Solutions, where she perfected her Spanish before leaving for Sevilla, Spain for


the first semester of her senior year in high school. In Sevilla, she lived with a family and attended a private school, and even managed to pass all seven of her classes, including Physics, in Spanish. After she returned, in the spring of 2003, she spent a month in Lima, Peru for her Senior Project (i.e. how to get out of classes for a month before graduation), doing volunteer work with Cross Cultural Solutions. She grew to love the Spanish/Latin American people and culture. Another chapter in our life was about to unfold in 2003: being empty nesters with a daughter living in Paris at age 17! When Annie and I went to Paris to find a flat, she wasn’t even old enough to sign the lease. But she found a sweet onebedroom apartment in the 7th Arr. near the Tour Eiffel and close to her classes at the American University of Paris. Since we were so efficient in the apartment search, we had a few days to kill so we took the fast train to Brussels to see friends Jane and Don, who were stationed there with NATO. Vacations for a couple of years were spent in Paris or neighboring cities and towns so that we could spend time with Annie. We enjoyed the east coast of Spain and the Canary Islands, but truly missed the Caribbean. In the fall, 2004, we decided to plan a trip the following winter to some islands in the Caribbean that we had not seen. After much research, we decided on Anguilla and Saba.


CHAPTER THREE– Our Return to the Caribbean (February, 2005) Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory, named for its shape, that of an eel, in Spanish, French and Italian. It is the most northern island in the Leeward/Windward chain that runs north-south in the Eastern Caribbean. There is a great description of the island’s fascinating history at Anguilla is a flat, arid island, 16 miles long and about 3 miles wide. It imports virtually everything. In 2005, it had 10,000 residents and nearly 100 restaurants. This was our type of place! During our twenty-six year marriage, Pete had taught me to enjoy all types of cuisines as his avocation since 1977, Restaurant Critic for the monthly publication Mpls-St. Paul Magazine, took him to the ends of the epicurean world, at least as far as you can get in Minneapolis! Saba, on the other hand, is a very small, quiet, mountainous Dutch island just southwest of St. Martin. We had landed on Saba, a take-your-breath-away moment because it is the shortest commercial landing strip in the world, on our way to and from St. Eustatius in 1979. Saba appeared to be an interesting place, and because of its proximity to St. Martin, our hub, we decided it would be a great choice for a second island to visit.


Early one morning in February, 2005, we left Minneapolis in a snow storm and flew to Puerto Rico to spend a lazy day walking around Old San Juan where we began our honeymoon in 1978. The flight to Sint Maarten, our next stop en route to Anguilla, left later that evening. We arrived in Sint Maarten late that night, tired and ready for a short night’s sleep before departing to Anguilla the following morning. (We subsequently learned that our itinerary, while interesting, could be accomplished more efficiently and less expensively in other ways.) At 7:30 the next morning, the whine coming from the single engine prop powering the six-passenger Winair flight en route to Anguilla increased in pitch. In response, our plane began the slow taxi to its take-off position at Sint Maarten’s Queen Juliana airport. Neither Pete nor I had the faintest notion of the upcoming adventure that would consume the next four years of our lives. The pilot turned up the boost and the whine gradually increased to a roar. A quick release of the brakes and in a few hundred yards, our craft was lifting airborne into the cloudless sky. After a dodge to the left to avoid the hills ahead, we turned our heading due north. The pilot’s transmission informed us that we would be leveling off at an altitude of 5,000 feet for the seven minute duration of the flight. It didn’t take long for the deep blue of the water below to transition to the luminescent turquoise of the shallow water shoals, and seconds after that, we caught our first glimpse of one of the 32 breathtaking white powder sand beaches that have established Anguilla as a premier destination for the rich and famous.


The plane followed the shoreline for a bit and then started its rapid descent into tiny Wallblake Airport. We landed with a thump and the loud reverse thrust brought the plane to an abrupt halt. As we taxied towards the non-descript terminal, our gazes were drawn to the several large private jets parked off to the side of the tarmac. Could it be we would spot Brad and Jennifer? Or maybe Hillary and Bill? These were just a couple of the celebrities we knew had visited the island after the recent extension of the airport’s runway. We deplaned and our bags were loaded on the luggage cart and on their way. We walked through the still air to the terminal, already perspiring from the blissful Caribbean heat. A minimalist sign proclaimed “Welcome to Anguilla”. Customs proved nothing more than a desultory formality, with the bored looking immigration officer making short work of our small group. Our luggage 17

had already been handed through the hole cut in the side of the building and we picked it up and walked outside to a reception party of two taxis. The driver at the head of the line was a giant of a man who we soon learned was known as “Tall Man”. Tall Man gave us a tour of the island from its single paved road as we drove to our “resort”. Anguilla is dotted with several very upscale resorts with very upscale prices; however, we wanted something less expensive but comfortable, with a view and a pool. We found Royal Palms, a “resort” consisting of six two bedroom, two bath, living room, dining room, kitchen and balcony units located on Anguilla’s only hill looking south over the Cuisinart Resort, Rendezvous Bay and French St. Martin. I had often dreamed about having a place that overlooked the water and the mountains and this was almost perfect! We spent mornings exploring the island, afternoons swimming in the pool and evenings tasting many of the exceptional restaurants on the island, all the while driving on the left side of Anguilla’s only paved road. We were so impressed by what we saw that Pete called a couple of the island’s realtors, whom he had initially contacted the prior fall, and asked to meet them. Our first meeting was with Roy Martin, a former Bank of America executive who was one of the top realtors on the island. When he heard that we would like to see what might be available in our price range (modest), with a beautiful view of the ocean and neighboring islands, he laughed out loud! If we were willing to spend 6-8 times that, he would be able to show us something. Prices had doubled


during the past 9 months. It appeared that another disappointment was fast approaching! As we hung our heads, Roy pondered our predicament. He mentioned that, although he had been off-island for a few weeks and was slightly out of touch, he did know that a half-built house had been on the market out toward the east end of the island. Did we want to see it? Why not! So off we went to a little neighborhood just south and east of the island’s capital, The Valley. Many of the residents had recently built or were in the process of building lovely homes on the small hill overlooking St. Martin. We learned that the owners of this half-acre property, the Highs, had returned to England when the husband became ill, and had been trying to sell the property. We approached the property from the north, and all that could be seen of the house was a flat cement roof with lots of rebar. (This is a frequent sight on the island as families construct homes to a point where they run out of money; they then let the house sit in that condition until they save enough money to continue construction.) We got out of the car and walked onto the roof. The 180-degree view of the ocean, blue sky, French St. Martin and St. Bart’s, was magnificent! We were sold already!


We walked through the surrounding gardens to the south side of the house. The lower, built out level of the house consisted of an open living, dining and kitchen area, two bedrooms, two baths, a storeroom and a laundry. Unfortunately we couldn’t get into the house because the owners were away, and since Roy did not have the “contract” to sell the property, he didn’t have a key. Never mind the inside – the view from the outside was even better than we could possibly have dreamed. Between this half built gem and the ocean was a salt pond, where at one time, shrimp and subsequently salt, were raised. We could call the house Fleur de Sel! We’ll take it! (During our marriage, we have come to know when something is really right, and we need no time to make a decision. This was indeed one of those times.)


So Roy dropped us back at the Royal Palms and went to contact the Highs in England. Our adventure had begun, but so had the roller coaster ride! Roy called later to tell us that the Highs had offered the house to some British friends, so it was no longer on the market. Our disappointment was significant. If I had been in my own kitchen, I would have cooked something to deflect some of my frustration. But, not to be deterred, we contacted another realtor to see what she might suggest. With our modest budget, we didn’t quite qualify as the rich and famous, her normal clientele, but she did agree to show us one place in our price range. It was a small, two bedroom villa, with a splash pool on about a quarter acre of land and no view. No wonder it was in our price range! This was not the right one, we knew that for sure. Well, maybe Saba was “our” island! As we packed up to leave Paradise for Saba on Saturday morning, the telephone rang and it was Roy. He had had a call from the Highs in England, and the British couple who intended to purchase their property could not come up with the cash. If we wanted it, it was ours! So we jumped in the car to go to see the house one last time. This time the cleaning people were there so we were able to see the inside. Modest, very livable and just right. We could stay there when we returned to the island and build out the upstairs when we could afford to!


We will take it! As we got on the plane to Saba two hours later, we wondered what we had done. We were going to own Fleur de Sel, our home in the Caribbean! Most of our trip to Saba was spent figuring out next steps in the adventure and wiring down payment money to those we now owed. We had to find an attorney to represent us through the process, complete an application for a License to Own Land, and schedule an interview with the High Minister before the property became ours. This process would take at least six months. We remember Saba as an island with ever-changing weather, few restaurants and interesting diving on the underwater side of the extinct volcano that constitutes the island. And the place where it finally set in that we would soon own a house in the Caribbean! 22

CHAPTER FOUR – The License Process (March - October, 2005) We returned to Minneapolis with the news that we were about to become homeowners in the Caribbean. We had found an attorney in Anguilla, and we began the process of applying for the License to Own Land. First of all, we needed three references who would speak to our good standing in the community. Unfortunately, one had to be the Chief of Police. I tried to tell the attorney that we did not know the Chief of Police in Minneapolis and that was a GOOD thing! However, in doing my homework, I learned that he got requests like this all the time; all I had to do was draft a letter for his signature and bring it to his office with a statement showing we had no criminal record (which I could get from the Minneapolis Police Department for $2.50). We also needed a reference from a “political” figure in town. Since we are not “political” people, we were initially stymied. What about the very well known Rector of the Basilica of St. Mary, Reverend Michael O’Connell? Michael is a good friend, and after promising him a trip to Anguilla to bless the house, he agreed to sign the letter I had drafted for him. And finally, we needed a letter from our Bank stating what good customers we had been for 26 years. Unfortunately, we didn’t know our banker. What better excuse to introduce ourselves, and ask for her signature on the letter I had drafted. We sent the application and the 3 references (and some money) to our attorney in Anguilla and asked him to schedule our meeting with the High Minister. It looked as though we would return to Anguilla in early April.


Virtually simultaneously, we learned that some very close friends from Minneapolis would be in Sint Maarten around the time we would be in Anguilla in April. The husband in this couple is an Architect, and had, on the back of a couple of napkins, sketched out the design of our Minneapolis family room addition in 1985 and our master bedroom suite in 1995. Perhaps he could see our property and come up with some thoughts about the design of the build out. So we went to Anguilla, this time taking the 20 minute ferry from Marigot on the French side of St. Martin. We had our 5 minute meeting with the High Minister and two of his colleagues; the biggest challenge was describing to them the location of the property. Given that the island was supportive of controlled development, they indicated that our application would be approved quickly. In just a few weeks we would own our Caribbean home. No such luck! While we were on the island, we had the good fortune to meet the owners, the High’s. Debbie High is Anguillan and Grant is from the UK. Grant was a plumber and had done all the plumbing for the house on his own. They were masters at gardening, and the gardens that surrounded the house on three sides were indeed beautiful. What would we do about watering the gardens when they left the island and before we took possession? We couldn’t just let them die! Luckily, the groundskeeper at the little “resort” down the dirt road from “our” house offered to be our gardener for $250 per month. Well, we had to get it done, so we made an agreement that he would water the gardens 2-3 times per week. One more thing to check off our list. We would have lovely British gardens, something we couldn’t do on our own, when we moved in. Or so we thought!


While we were on the island for our interview with the High Minister, our Minneapolis friends journeyed to Anguilla from Sint Maartin and saw the property.

They were in awe at the view of neighboring French St. Martin, including Tintamarre, and St. Barts. Both could visualize what the end result of the build out could be. We introduced them to a local architect, Charles Roberts, who could finalize the design and oversee the construction. We fully recognized that we would need a local architect and someone on site during construction; what we didn’t realize was that this made our Minneapolis architect friend a little uncomfortable. We also hired a structural engineer to determine if the lower level could support two new floors above it. This was one of our conditions of purchase. For $250, later raised to $750, he supposedly came out to the property and examined


it, concluding verbally that the structure was strong enough to support the build out. The weeks and months passed and we had no word on the status of our application for the License to Own Land. It was almost impossible to get a return e-mail from our attorney (I guess $7,500 was not enough to have paid him) to understand the reason for the delay. Additionally, after giving our local architect a retainer of $1000, we never heard from him either! We were beginning to learn the early lessons of life on Anguilla: nothing works very rapidly; in fact, while the people on Anguilla are genuinely delightful, service is nonexistent. And, when locals see an American, they automatically think s/he is rich. Finally, in mid-October, we learned that our application had been approved and we could close in early November.


CHAPTER FIVE – Early Weeks of Ownership (November, 2005) I went down to Anguilla about a week before the closing, which was scheduled for Friday, November 4, 2005, so that I could run around ahead of time and get things ready to move in. Pete arrived on November 3. Closing went off without a hitch (our attorney was present, waiting for the rest of his money), and after we paid everyone, including the tax of 17% of the purchase price to the Government of Anguilla, we were free to move in. Unfortunately, the best laid plans aren’t always so good. When we arrived at the house, our gardens were almost dead. We couldn’t track down our gardener, even after we had “invested” $2,000 in his services. We would need to terminate him and make other arrangements, and quickly, if we wanted to save the gardens. The house we were buying was not air conditioned, and from about June until November, the weather in Anguilla is hot and somewhat muggy; that is not ideal sleeping weather, from my perspective. So I arranged to have air conditioners installed after closing so we could get some sleep over the weekend. That worked. We called the water department and asked to have the water turned on, and learned that there was an unpaid bill of about $95 that would need to be paid before we would have water. Friday afternoon in Anguilla…… we pleaded with everyone to work with us before closing time so we could have water for the weekend. We found the Inland Revenue Department in town and paid the outstanding charge. Then we made our way to the Water Department in George


Hill and showed them the paid certificate. They then sent someone to turn on our water. That worked. We transferred the electricity to our names and we were off to the races. That evening, hot and sweaty after a day of running around and moving in our bursting suitcases, Pete set off to find the hot water heater. Would a hot shower feel good. After about 15 minutes of wandering, he came into the house with an announcement: the previous owners did not have hot water! So we settled for a luke warm shower and a call to the local plumber. During our remaining time on the island, we figured out the house’s personality and made it our own. We met with a representative of a Sint Maartenbased hurricane shutter manufacturer, Window Systems, to get an estimate of the cost to install hurricane shutters on all the windows and doors. The prior owners used plywood to cover all the windows and doors in the event of a hurricane, but since we probably wouldn’t be on the island to nail the plywood in place, we were hoping for a simpler solution. Simpler, but much more expensive. During the ten days or so that we remained on the island after closing, I made contact with a few Property Managers. They would oversee the little downstairs apartment, clean it periodically and water the gardens, for the princely sum of about $1,200 per month, plus the cost of the cleaner and gardener. That amounted to about $100/ square foot per month! What would it cost when the build out was complete? I had a knot in my stomach: this could be an expensive proposition. Luckily, we found an individual who intended to start her own Property Management company. Her name was Mary Ann and we were very simpatico.


She had just had her second baby and wanted some part-time work. This could work! So we agreed to pay her $250 per month for oversight; cleaning and gardening would be extra. The monthly operating expenses were beginning to add up. Oh well… the train had left the station! We returned to Minneapolis just before Thanksgiving, 2005, with lists of things we needed to purchase for the house. Since we had only purchased one other house, our current one, 27 years earlier, we were getting excited. It would be fun to make it our own! At 6 am on Sunday, November 27, just after Thanksgiving and our 27th wedding anniversary, the phone rang. Our first thought was that something was wrong with our daughter in Paris. We both grabbed the phone! It was Mary Ann, our Property Manager in Anguilla. We could barely hear her. She sounded as though she were walking in the ocean. The news was not good. She had arrived at the house to check on it and when she opened the main door, the water gushed out! A pipe had burst in the laundry room. Unfortunately, when the plumber installed the hot water heater three weeks earlier, he had drilled a hole from the laundry room to the dining room. The hole, however, was covered by a bookcase so it was not visible from the inside of the house. But, since the laundry room did not have a floor drain, the water had nowhere to go except through the hole into the dining room, the living room, the bedrooms and the bath! The pipe must have burst a day or two earlier since the watermarks were two feet above the floor. So much for the masterful plumbing job of the previous owners!


We were beside ourselves. We had no idea what this meant. Mary Ann agreed to be our eyes and ears on the ground and would arrange to remove whatever was damaged. Most of the furniture we purchased with the house was made of particle board, so we were prepared that some, if not most of it, would be a total loss. I spent much of the day cooking and trying not to think of what we would face when we returned. We planned a return trip to Anguilla over the New Year, so our daughter, Annie, could see the house and we could assess the damage. When we arrived in late December, the house was relatively dry, although the water marks on the doors were still evident. We lost a couple of rugs and all the guest bedroom furniture. Some of the other furniture would need to be replaced eventually as it had buckled from the water. But, it was not a total loss. Since we have a very large deductible on the insurance for the house, we didn’t submit a claim. Thank heavens for Mary Ann. Little did we know in early November that our payment of $250 to her would be so valuable. During our ten-day stay in Anguilla on that trip, we replaced what needed immediate replacing, and settled in to enjoy the beaches and restaurants in Paradise.



We also met the new gardener that Mary Ann had hired. His name was Charles Phillips and he hailed from Dominica. He was an employee of the park system, knew a lot about plants and flowers, and was certainly strong enough to do the needed work. He carried a ten-foot palm tree from one part of the garden to another to transplant it! So, for $250 per month, he would come over two to three times per week to water, weed, and do anything necessary to keep up the garden. Maybe this would turn out all right! Each time we had visited Anguilla, we tried a new (to us) restaurant. We continued to be amazed at the quality of the food on the island. One evening, we struck up a conversation with Jean, the Maitre D’ at Barrel Stay on Sandy Ground. Jean and her husband, the chef, owned the restaurant and the food leans heavily toward French cuisine. Jean commented that everything had to be


imported, including the goat cheese, which they sourced from France. With all the goats on the island, we couldn’t understand why goat cheese couldn’t be produced in Anguilla. A new line of work for Sallie When we returned to Minneapolis, Pete contacted several chef-friends to ask where the best goat cheese in the upper Midwest was made. To our surprise, the unanimous response was Donnay Farms, about an hour northwest of Minneapolis. We had tried some of Brad Donnay’s cheese and it was indeed stellar. Maybe Brad would help us to make goat cheese in Anguilla. We contacted Brad and he invited us to his farm. When we arrived, he gave us a tour and introduced us to his 200 head herd of goats. Some of them were so sweet, nuzzling us as soon as we arrived. We watched them eat and be milked. They clearly knew the daily routine and were comfortable with people. We spent the day with Brad and he gave us one very important piece of advice: making goat cheese is all about feeding the goats very nutritious food. The scrub found on the island, what all the Anguillan goats ate, just wouldn’t cut it. And importing the appropriate goat food would make the cheese so expensive that no restaurant could afford to buy it.


So our idea of making goat cheese in Anguilla was short lived!


CHAPTER SIX – Designing the New House (January – November, 2006) Once we recovered from the flood, we began to turn out thoughts to what the new house would look like. Our original gardener, who showed up at the house to say hi after we sent him a letter of termination, told us about his cousin, Rooster, who built houses on the island. We asked him if he would set up a meeting with Rooster and he did. We met with Rooster while we were on the island over New Year’s and liked him immediately. Only one problem: would our timing fit his timing? We promised to stay in touch. Our good friends in Minneapolis, the Architect and his wife, had sketched out a design for the build out. The house was very contemporary, and we were attracted to that. It was also huge, so probably very expensive. He designed four bedrooms and baths at the back of the main house, and a detached owner’s building, including a bedroom suite and two studies, across the deck and pool from the main house. The two buildings would be connected by a staircase leading up to a circular, glass-walled room, where I could read and watch the water and the other islands. We were unsure why we would need five additional bedrooms (the two downstairs would still be usable), but the concept of something very contemporary would be a nice change from our Tudor style house in Minneapolis. In February, 2006, our friends came for dinner and they surprised us with a scale model of what they thought the house could look like. We were floored that he would spend his time constructing the model. We offered to compensate him


for his time, but because they were our very close friends, we figured it would be a nominal amount at most. About two weeks later, an envelope arrived in the mail and in it was a bill for building the model of the house - 56 hours of work at $75 per hour - $4200! We were flabbergasted! We had never asked him to construct the model; instead he felt we needed to see the model to fully understand his design. It took us a few weeks to recover from the surprise. Pete then drafted a letter to him saying how disappointed we were. Our first instinct was not to pay him at all, but because we were friends, we sent him a check for $2100, splitting the difference. I subsequently got an e-mail from his wife, indicating how angry her husband was. They were both very offended. So were we! We fully expected to give him something, but never expected that he would charge us his full, albeit modest, billing rate for a significant number of hours. We had been very good friends for over 20 years. This could definitely change and maybe end the friendship. Details of the next few weeks are foggy (I guess I have repressed them). We learned later that one of the things he was angry about was that Pete had forgotten to sign the check (he does that a lot!). He returned the check, Pete signed it and sent it back. I learned later from his wife that he was still very angry. I sent them both an e-mail at Easter, 2006, apologizing (for what, I wasn’t sure), and learned that my apology was not accepted. I guess we learned a lesson from this: don’t do business with a friend; the friendship will not survive. I was sad.


It was time to concoct some comfort food.

HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK (adapted from recipe given to me by Sue Macdonald, my good friend)

4-6 chicken thighs OR carcass of whole chicken 10 cups chicken stock (or 5 cups stock and 5 cups water, although all stock makes a more fortified stock) Salt and pepper to taste Put all ingredients in a large pot and simmer for about 2-2 ½ hours. Remove bones/meat from pot and take meat from bones and freeze in a baggie. Add ½ cup of dry white wine and simmer another half hour. Cool and put in container. Can be frozen. Makes about 7-8 cups of stock. Stock is ready for use in any recipe that calls for chicken stock, and is much richer than store bought stock.

Shortly thereafter, in April, 2006, we made contact with a prominent architect on the island, Sweet William. We showed him our friend’s design, and Sweet William was clear: guests don’t want to sleep in the back of the house; they want to wake up and see the ocean and surrounding islands. He also pointed out some additional features of our friend’s design that would significantly increase the cost of the house. Given that we were on a fairly tight budget, we appreciated his candor. Then the surprise: his fee to design the house would be $30,000. Wow… this was going to be an expensive exercise!


During the next three to four months, with some input from us, Sweet William designed the build out of the upstairs. We were happy with the design, but were more concerned whether the timing would be good for Rooster to build it. Sweet William explained that he might have better luck asking Rooster for a bid on the project, and we gave him the go-ahead to do so. A couple of weeks later, we learned from Sweet William that Rooster would give us a bid. Hooray! By September, we received Rooster’s bid, and we were pleasantly surprised. Then we learned the SOP for building a house on Anguilla: the builder puts up the structure and the owner is responsible for supplying everything else. Sweet William estimated that the “everything else” would cost an additional $250,000. Already we were over budget. We really did not know the half of it! Sweet William’s design called for a very open, two story, glass enclosed living, dining and kitchen area facing the ocean to the south. Behind this area to the north would be a gym and a large office. To the west of the living area, also facing the ocean, would be the guest suite, and behind that, next to the gym and office, would be the garage. Over the gym and office would be the master bedroom suite, with a large sliding glass door facing south, overlooking the ocean through the large second story windows above the living area. There would be a private deck off the master bedroom, and a very large deck to the east of the master suite, overlooking the pool below.


There would also be about 2000 square feet of deck space to the south and east of the living area, and a 40 ft by 12 ft lap pool with an infinity edge. In fact, as one enters the compound from the road on the north, the first thing seen would be the pool and the ocean and islands beyond it.

We were happy with this new design, but understood it would be a while before we moved upstairs. On Sunday morning, October 1, 2006, at 6 am, we awoke in Minneapolis to the ringing telephone. Again, we were concerned about our daughter who, at the time, was a first year law student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. But, once again, it was from Mary Ann.


She had stopped in to check on the house. The good news was that we didn’t hear any water sloshing around; the bad news was that all the kitchen cabinets had fallen off the walls. They had been consumed by termites! We were horrified. How can termites get into a concrete building? We were in for a crash course in termite behavior.

I recalled seeing little piles of sawdust in various corners of the cabinets during the last few months, but I attributed it to the drying out of the wood after the flood. Some of the flood-ruined particleboard furniture left little mounds of sawdust as well, so that seemed to be a reasonable explanation. Reasonable, just not correct! But once again, we were counting our blessings to have Mary Ann.


What a nightmare it would have been to arrive from the U.S. one evening, tired and hot, and find the place crawling with termites and the kitchen destroyed! Since I couldn’t head to Anguilla immediately, I decided to putts around the kitchen and make some chicken soup.


6-8 cups homemade chicken stock ½ large (or 1 small) onion, roughly cut into chunks 1 leek, white part only, sliced thin ¾ cup julienne carrots 3 garlic cloves minced 2 tbsp. roughly chopped Italian parsley or cilantro Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Serve hot. Serves 4.

Luckily Mary Ann has a very handy husband. Between Warren, (Mary Ann’s husband), Elizabeth (her Mom), Arthur (her stepfather) and Mary Ann, they removed what was left of the cabinets and made a makeshift countertop out of treated wood so we would still have use of the sink and the cook top. We learned


that using treated wood is critical as termites only eat untreated wood. Guess what the cabinets had been made of?

The termites had evidently entered the house through the gas and electrical lines under the house. We subsequently discovered that some of the plants surrounding the house were infested with termites as well. And we recalled that the Highs, the previous owners, had called us before we took possession of the house to tell us they were taking down a little shed on the property because they suspected termites. We have come to believe that the shed fell down as the termites ate their way through it! Mary Ann then arranged to have the exterminator drill into the kitchen walls so that the inside of the walls, and all the gas and electrical lines, could be treated


with poison. So, now we were faced with replacing the downstairs kitchen, an expense we certainly didn’t need. We had planned to return to Anguilla in late October to finalize an agreement with Rooster, so off we went. Both Sweet William and Rooster indicated that nobody in Anguilla signs a contract for construction. That didn’t sound right to us. So we networked and found a real estate attorney who would draft a contract for the construction during the week that we were on the island. (Here come the rich Americans! That “unnecessary” contract cost us over $1,000 per page!) Sweet William also convinced us that we needed a Project Manager to oversee the build out. That sounded smart to us. He introduced us to his friend, Frank, who would charge us $1,200 per month (gulp) to represent us and stop by the house three days per week. Now we understood why our architect friend in Minneapolis said his fee to design and oversee the project long distance would be over $60,000. It did make sense to us to have someone check in to see how the construction was going. We had heard numerous horror stories about how homes were built 180 degrees off plan, where the main part of the house faced the road, not the ocean. In fact, our neighbor, an electrician who, after the flood, rewired our fuse box for $2,500, found that his builder shaved two feet from his kitchen; as a result, one now walks directly into his kitchen rather than into a foyer, as was originally planned! So we signed on with Frank as well, and construction began in December, 2006.


CHAPTER SEVEN – The Construction (December, 2006 - July, 2008) As we began construction on the house, our Property Manager, Mary Ann, told us that she was pregnant with her third child. We were just ecstatic! The next day, she called with additional news. A biopsy on a lump on her breast, which initially came back negative, was, in fact, positive; Mary Ann had stage 3 breast cancer. We attempted to comfort her, help her learn about the disease and determine where the best treatment facility for this type of cancer could be found. She decided to go to Miami where her brother lived. In March, 2007, she had surgery and subsequently began her chemotherapy treatments. Mary Ann remained in Miami, with only occasional weekend trips back to Anguilla, until the birth of her third daughter in July. Then she began the strongest series of chemotherapy, followed by radiation. Finally, she was able to return to Anguilla shortly before Christmas, and by April, 2008, was declared cancer free. It was a miraculous story and everyone was so grateful that she was healthy. Baby Jaylene, too, was healthy and was growing like a weed! Meanwhile, the construction continued. Ordinarily, I am not a detail person; I prefer staying at the big picture level. However, if I am unsure of the cast of characters, or until I know I can trust someone’s judgment, I can be a detail freak. Initially, I thought this would be a joint project with Pete. It quickly became evident that one person needed to be knowledgeable about all the construction issues. So, it was apparent that I needed to familiarize myself with Sweet


William’s drawings. I had never reviewed architectural renderings before this. My learning curve would be steep! As I studied the drawings, I learned something about Anguillans: they don’t need as much light/electricity as Pete and I do! Sweet William’s staff (who, we learned later, did the actual design) included about one outlet in each room. That would not accommodate our needs. So I drafted a new electrical plan for the whole house and sent it by e-mail to Frank. He agreed to review it with Rooster. At least we would have enough lights in the house! We also requested that the Structural Engineer, who reviewed the house before the purchase and determined that it could support two additional stories, do a final analysis of the structure using Sweet William’s drawings. (He provided a positive decision once we paid his $7,500 fee.) As Rooster completed his final planning, he checked in with Sweet William and discovered that he had planned the house from the ocean side northward, while Sweet William’s staff conceived the drawings from the north, or road side, southward. There was a difference of twenty four inches. We decided to incorporate both, and the result would be a house with additional living space. Meanwhile, we needed to purchase cabinets for the lower level kitchen to replace the ones that the termites had destroyed. We received numerous bids ranging from $5,000 to $27,000, and in the end, went with Frank’ suggestion of a manufacturer in Florida. Rooster thought we overpaid, even though the price was under $10,000. So we ordered the cabinets, arranged for them to be installed, purchased tile for the counter tops and arranged to have the whole room repainted.


And once the cabinets were installed, we realized that the original appliances no longer fit. So we were off to purchase a new stove, refrigerator and microwave. The cost of the termite infestation: over $20,000! In January, 2007, Rooster, Frank and I met to talk about structural issues. Rooster had concluded that Sweet William’s design of a single column between two sixteen by eight foot sliding glass doors would not be sufficient to support a second story of concrete. Additionally, if we wanted windows directly above the sliding glass doors, we would not be able to open and close them since the living space was two stories high. Good point! And finally, if we wanted solid glass windows for the upper level, it would be impossible to get them in the size Sweet William’s team had designed. So back to the drawing boards to adjust the design.


Rooster recommended that we add two columns to the south/ocean facing side of the house. That would give us much more support, but would mean that, rather than having two sixteen foot sliding glass doors facing the ocean, we would have four eight foot ones. And above those, we could get solid glass panels of equal size that would not need to be opened. Made sense!

Rooster suggested that we eliminate an external staircase from the new main floor to the lower level on the north side of the house; instead he suggested putting a small powder room on the deck where the staircase would have been, and adding a staircase on the south/ocean side down to the main entry of the lower level apartment. This was a great suggestion that would be almost identical in additional cost. 47

Rooster also mentioned frequently that he was not satisfied with the flat concrete roof that Sweet William’s people had designed; he said it made the house, which otherwise would be a standout contemporary structure, look ordinary. He suggested that he put a pitched roof over the two story living/dining/kitchen space and cover the inside of the roof with a dark, rich looking wood. (Most Anguillans are fond of very dark, heavy wood, both in terms of furniture and accessories. We, on the other hand, were seeking a light, airy look.) We discussed this on numerous occasions, and even saw a couple of houses that Rooster built that had wood covering the inside of the pitched roofs. We decided to go with his idea, but selected a lighter local wood with a natural stain.


At the same time, we heard rumblings from Rooster that Frank was not doing anything. We sat down with Frank and he admitted that he hadn’t done much work for $1,200 per month. He committed to being more involved going forward, and to show up at the house at least twice per week. That was in January. Two months later, on our next trip to the island, Pete and I again met with Frank, whom Rooster continued to say was never on-site. He again admitted that he hadn’t been giving us our money’s worth. (We often wondered, since Sweet William had recommended him to us, if Frank were giving part of our monthly fee to him.) It also became clear that he had never showed my electrical plan to Rooster. I told Frank this set-up wasn’t working and we could not afford to continue to pay him; his work would be finished at the end of April. The cost of the error of hiring Frank: $7,200, plus whatever additional charges we would incur as a result of Frank not reviewing the electrical plan with Rooster. On to the next challenge of deciding what kind of windows we wanted. I ventured to our local Home Depot and determined that none of the windows it sold was custom made nor came in eight-foot widths. On to the internet. I believe I researched and talked with every window and door manufacturer in America, and some overseas. No one could accommodate my wishes, particularly with rust-proof aluminum frames. About the closest option we found was a sliding glass door consisting of four two foot panels; that would mean that we would have sixteen panels across our ocean view. All we would see would be the white strips between each panel. Not good!


So we decided that the next step was to contact the company from St. Martin, Window Systems, that installed the hurricane shutters on our lower level apartment a year earlier. We understood that it made windows as well. We agreed to meet with Richard, its Anguilla representative, during our next trip to Anguilla. In March, Richard made the five-mile journey to Anguilla. We showed him the plans for the house, including Rooster’s latest adjustments, and he committed to giving us an estimate. The estimate arrived from his assistant a couple of weeks later; the damage: $216,664, split nearly equally between the windows and the shutters. Clearly this would not work! We called Richard and indicated that he needed to get the price down. We also reduced the number and sizes of some of the windows in hopes of getting the price to be more reasonable. Four estimates later, in mid-June, Richard gave us an estimate of $155,000. That estimate, however, would likely increase because material prices were scheduled to rise. He asked as to pay a $20,000 fully refundable fee to hold the price on the raw materials. In early July, we did the stupidest thing of this whole project: we wired Window Systems $20,000 without having anything in writing. We never even received a receipt from the company for the fee. (We had been told horror stories of how Americans threw caution to the wind when building in a foreign land; unfortunately, we now knew how that could happen!)


In August, when Richard was on the island, we handed him a final list of windows and their sizes and requested a final estimate. After that, he seemed to fall off the face of the earth. He was unable to use e-mail, so the only way to contact him was to call his cell, which frequently did not work. From August to November, 2007, I documented thirteen requests, several of which were made face to face, for a final estimate. On November 9, when Richard and his installer were at the house in Anguilla, we gave him an ultimatum. We told him we needed to have a final estimate by November 13 or we would not do business with his company. He committed once again to have that for us. In fact, he and his installer indicated that, if we accepted the estimate and paid the required 50% down payment before the end of November, Window Systems would purchase the materials in December, make the windows in January, and install them by the end of February, which was the date that Rooster targeted for installation. On November 13, we went to St. Martin to meet the person Rooster had suggested could provide granite for our kitchen counters. After we chose the granite, Angelo asked if we had purchased our windows. We relayed our disappointment and frustration with Richard and Window Systems, and Angelo suggested that we meet the people from Caribbean Windows, located in Marigot not far from the ferry to Anguilla. We stopped at Caribbean Windows’ facility and met Claude, the General Manager. Caribbean Windows’ windows looked very much like the ones from Window Systems. Claude committed to sending us an estimate the following morning, and guess what: it arrived at 8:30 am and was


75% of the Window Systems’ estimate! Additionally, the cost included shipping from St. Martin and delivery to our house. Meanwhile, when we returned to Anguilla from St. Martin, there was a note in the door from Richard, asking us to call him. I called him and he told me he had the final estimate. I asked him to e-mail it immediately. When it hadn’t arrived the next day, I called him again and told him it had not arrived. He said his assistant had sent it. I asked him to resend it. When we left the island on November 19, we still had not received a final estimate from Robert. We had had it! We decided to purchase the windows from Caribbean Windows. Rooster’s progress on the house during the fall, 2007, was relatively slow, due to shortages of materials and workers. During the Christmas holidays, virtually all the workers returned to their home islands for two or three weeks. When we returned to the island in early January, 2008, not much had been accomplished since November, with the exception of the installation of the pitched roof with the lightly stained wood. It looked fabulous, much better than we expected. We were thrilled! However, we did have a surprise: we had houseguests!


Thirteen neighborhood goats decided that they loved our garden; they were eating all our plants and flowers. Additionally, on rainy nights, they had the comfort of a nice living room so they could get out of the rain. How lovely! We spent much of our two week Anguilla visit throwing rocks at them to get them to leave the property, and cleaning up after their prodigious mess! Rooster indicated that they did not belong to anyone until one of them was killed. I called Anguilla’s Department of Agriculture, hoping it could help me. I indicated that the goats were usually at the house before 7 am, when the workmen arrived, and later in the evening. The Department of Agriculture arrived at the house one morning about 8 am when they began their workday, and of course, the goats had left for the day. So there was nothing they could do to help us (since the goat visits were outside the work day)! 53

During the remainder of our January trip to the island, I chose paint for the outside of the house (white for the inside) and tiles for both the floor inside the house and the deck, about 3,500 square feet for each. In our little “neighborhood”, we have a light green house, a pink house and several white houses with different color trim. We wanted something a little different, so we settled on yellow. I had no idea that there were an infinite number of different shades of yellow available. Rooster advised me that any color would eventually fade, but I didn’t want a house that could be seen from a satellite at night! I eventually chose “yellow brick road”, and held my breath.

There were several tile distributors in town, and each was very expensive. Rooster introduced me to the Chinese vendor, who maintained a container filled


with tile samples right outside his restaurant. Very convenient. I had actually purchased tile from him for our downstairs kitchen countertop and backsplash and had been very pleased, particularly with the price. So I chose a very simple, smooth, slightly off white tile for the inside floors, and a smaller, rougher, beiger tile for the deck. The price: about 30% of the other vendors. My only fear was that the tiles would break when installed, and then we would need to purchase more. I need not have worried. We returned home to Minneapolis feeling as though progress were being made. In February, some friends who were married the prior November became our first guests in the house. We worked very hard on our Fleur de Sel notes so that they would be able to easily figure out how things in the house and on the island worked. It was their first trip to the Caribbean, and they were excited to stay in our modest little downstairs apartment for their belated honeymoon. While there, they saw progress on the construction and met the other house guests, the goats. The following week, some young friends of Pete’s family in San Francisco, who had subsequently become friends of ours, spent a week at Fleur de Sel. They were very glad to be out of the bitter cold that settled over the Twin Cities that week. Unfortunately, their boiler went out during their trip, so they were forced to purchase a new one and have it installed, all long distance. Luckily, their pipes had not burst! Thank heavens for VOIP phones, where calls to Minneapolis from Anguilla were free.


During the last week in February, two other friends spent a week at Fleur de Sel. Several years before, they had spent a day in Anguilla while traveling to St. Martin. They explored the island and made suggestions to us of things we should do on a subsequent visit. Their daily travelogues kept us in stitches (see Chapter 16). We learned that the shade of yellow that I had chosen was indeed bright, that the goats were becoming permanent residents and that the neighbor’s dogs, the Jackson 5, visited frequently. Our March trip would be exciting! But first, let me digress for the saga of the windows.


CHAPTER EIGHT - The Saga of the Windows (November, 2007 – April, 2008) On November 20, 2007, after committing to purchase our windows from Caribbean Windows, we sent a fax to Jacques, the President of Window Systems, indicating that we had decided not to do business with his company because of their lack of service. The President called us at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning; in the space of ninety minutes, he screamed, yelled, called Caribbean Windows and us every name in the book, and said he expected more from members of the same “tribe”. Tribe? We don’t belong to any tribe! He said Window Systems had sent us a final quote on time. And he threatened to sue us! The next day I called Claude at Caribbean Windows to alert him to potential trouble from Window Systems, and Claude admitted that the Jacques had called him and offered him $10,000 to increase his quote to where it was greater than Window Systems’. What an honorable fellow the President must be! We had no intention of doing business with anyone who behaved like that. Faxes flew back and forth between Window Systems and us during December. The President called me a liar, saying Window Systems had e-mailed quotes to me. Their proof was a list of e-mails they claimed they sent. When I saw the list, I learned that, whenever they responded to my e-mail by pressing “Reply to”, I received their correspondence. However, when they initiated an e-mail to me, as they did with the estimates, they used an incorrect e-mail address, so I never received those. The President continued to call me a liar. He denied calling Claude and offering him a bribe, a story even Angelo, the granite supplier, had


heard. He demanded that we had a contract and we owed him $180,000, a number that does not equate to any of Window Systems’ quotes! We requested that Window Systems return our $20,000 fully refundable fee. Thank heavens it was Thanksgiving as I could immerse myself in cooking to reduce my frustration after the telephone conversation. We decided that preparation was important so we contacted our attorney in Anguilla. After hearing the whole story, she suggested that we find an attorney in St. Martin, even though she was unclear whether the jurisdiction for the dispute was Anguilla or St. Martin. Claude from Caribbean Windows recommended an attorney on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. I called the Dutch attorney and he indicated we needed an attorney from the French side of the island. We found the name of a French law firm and during my phone interview with them to determine if they had the skills we needed, I learned that the firm represented Window Systems! We needed a different firm. On the website of the US Department of State, there is a list of attorneys in St. Martin. I began to call them. Most of the phones just rang and rang, suggesting a small, one-person operation. I finally reached a firm that specialized in contract law; I set a time the next day to speak with an attorney and sent her my documentation. When I called the next day at the appointed hour, I learned that she had left the island for two weeks! So I begin calling others. And again, I found an attorney who specialized in contract law (there must be a lot of contract disputes in St. Martin!) and we set a time to talk the following day. Early the next morning, I received an e-mail


asking to change the time of our call. No problem…I could accommodate that. When I placed the call, I learned that the attorney had to run an errand and would be back at 2 pm. I dutifully called back at 2 pm St. Martin time, and I learned that the attorney needed to leave the office, but she was reachable on her cell phone. I called her cell, and got no answer. So I called back to her office, and her assistant admitted that she has left the island for the Christmas holidays and would be back in two weeks. She would be available by e-mail, however. Why did I not believe that? It became clear that we needed to wait until after the holidays to start over in our search for an attorney. In early January, I found an attorney who indicated she specialized in contract law. Attorney Duzier had been educated in the US and was familiar with US law, but had practiced on St. Martin for twenty years. Additionally, she had had a run-in with Jacques and Window Systems about eight years earlier. This could work! We arranged to meet Attorney Duzier the following week at her offices in St. Martin, but she would not see us unless we wired her $1,500 beforehand. So, after an e-mail to our very competent and service-oriented banker at US Bank, the wire went out immediately and we were ready for the meeting. When we arrived at the meeting, Attorney Duzier indicated that her bank had not received the wire that had been sent seven days earlier. She spent at least twenty minutes on the phone with her bank trying to find the wire. Then she received a phone call from an opposing attorney in a case she was working on,


and that lasted about twenty minutes. So for our two hour meeting, we spoke with her for about an hour and fifteen minutes. During the course of our meeting with her, Attorney Duzier described several personal incidents, including being accosted and attacked, that happened to her during the prior two months. She said she was recovering slowly. We agreed that the next step, after confirming that our wire had indeed arrived, would be for her to write a letter to Jacques of Window Systems, demanding the refund of the $20,000 fee we had sent to his firm. She indicated that the letter would be sent within the week. Any additional work by her on our behalf would be approved by us before the work commenced. January and most of February came and went and no e-mails or voice mail messages to Attorney Duzier were returned. In early March, as we put fresh paper in our fax machine in Minneapolis, we learned that Window Systems’ attorney had sent us a fax indicating “our” windows were ready and would cost $180,000. If she didn’t hear from us, they would pursue legal action. We forwarded the fax to Attorney Duzier. Finally we heard from her. She once again related her personal issues, including her hospitalization and other maladies. She outlined, in a wandering, unclear way, how she would respond to the letter from Window Systems’ attorney. She could not copy us on the letter as it was against French law! The next conversation between the attorneys resulted in Window Systems’ attorney once again threatening legal action. In early April, our daughter arrived in Anguilla to spend a weekend with us so she could see the progress on the house. During the course of the visit, we


discussed the Window Systems situation. She advised us to get a high powered lawyer in Paris and terminate our relationship with the St. Martin attorney. Clearly, the attorney’s personal issues were impacting her ability to help us. So I set out on an internet exploration, and found about a dozen US firms with large Paris offices. I wrote to all of them, and one responded with not good news: the cost to fight the $180,000 dispute would probably cost more than the dispute itself! But he did refer us to another Paris attorney whose fees would be more modest. Before we committed to work with the Paris attorney, we needed to get an update from Attorney Duzier. But again, numerous contacts went unanswered. We decided to put things on hold until we heard from someone. Then we could engage the Paris attorney. By the end of August, we still had not heard from anyone.


CHAPTER NINE - Furnishing the House (January – July, 2008) Aside from the windows, there were two other major projects that needed to be undertaken, neither of which I knew much about. The first was finding railings that were attractive and would stand up to the harsh, salt-laden climate of Anguilla. The second was furnishing the kitchen. Most of the aluminum railings on the market were very ornate, with flowery swirls that significantly reduced visibility. Since we were seeking a very open and airy feel to the house, with the inside flowing seamlessly to the outside, those designs just would not work. Some friends who live on Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis have a lovely “Welcome Spring” party every May, and I have always admired the railing system on their new home. Their hand rails are cream colored (we would want white), and the horizontal “bars” are stainless steel, allowing one to have clear visibility through the railing to the lake. I called their builder, who referred me to their architect, who referred me to the president of a company that makes things from iron, who told me it would be horribly expensive to purchase and ship what they made for a railing system. Back to ground zero and the internet! I finally found a company in Oakland, Franklin Wire, that made railing systems using marine grade stainless steel wires for the bars and rust free/resistant aluminum for the handrails. Just what I wanted.


I worked with Franklin for several months to determine the needed amount of cable and railing. Outside, we needed railings around the south side main floor deck, the north side entry ramp and porch, and around the second floor, east side deck. Inside, we wanted railings for the main staircase, the balcony in front of the master bedroom that overlooked the living, dining and kitchen area, and the small deck off the master bedroom. We finally got the measurements right and I placed the order in January. The damage: over $30,000! It would take about eight weeks before the railings would be shipped. Originally, we intended to have someone from Franklin come to Anguilla at our expense to help Rooster install the railings; however, Rooster


thought he could do it with his crew and we didn’t need to spend the money. Great… one more thing checked off the list! During the Spring, 2007, when we discovered that our downstairs kitchen appliances would not fit with the new cabinets, we made our way to Hopkins, the only GE dealer on the island. Hopkins is also the agent for Caribbean Shipping in Anguilla. So when it came time to think about our appliances for the new kitchen, we went back to see Sherry Hopkins. We contemplated ordering appliances in the US and having them shipped down, but we were told that most dealers don’t honor the warranties of the manufacturers if they don’t supply the appliances. This is particularly true outside the US. Sherry was very patient as I looked at all sorts of appliances. She indicated that we should go with either GE Profile or Monogram appliances, but not blend the two. The price differential was significant, but Pete firmly believed that it would be worth it to spend the extra money for the Monogram line, given my love of cooking and food. Also, if we ever decided to rent the house, the Monogram appliances would indicate a “Gourmet kitchen”. So I chose the Monogram line, and began to think about what kind of cabinets we wanted. With the selection and installation of the inexpensive cabinets in the lower level kitchen in our recent memory, I knew I wanted better quality. Our neighbor on the island, Peter James, made beautiful cabinets but had a reputation for being very slow. I did see some of his workmanship, and while it was lovely, he used a lot of heavy dark wood; I was interested in something lighter. The designer of the kitchen layout, Alyce Marie, suggested some manufacturers in Canada and


Europe, but it appeared that cabinets from those companies would cost close to $50,000, which was way above our budget. One summer day, my friend Marcia and I went window shopping at International Market Square in Minneapolis. IMS is full of all sorts of home decorating boutiques where one can find just about anything needed to decorate a house. The first place we stopped was Design Partners. The kitchen cabinets on display were really neat: very light, textured wood cabinets with four inch Corian countertops. The look was very contemporary and very clean, and probably very much above our budget.

One of the designers, Randy, came out and introduced himself. We talked for a while about PoggenPohl cabinetry and how well made it was. The cabinets on display were actually surprisingly inexpensive, he indicated. We showed him the


kitchen layout and he indicated he would price it out and get back to me. His initial quote was just about $30,000. While that was more than I had wanted to spend, it was certainly less than the $50,000 it could have been, and the quality was light years better than that of the cabinets in the lower level kitchen. I spent some time looking at other sources for cabinetry, but kept coming back to the PoggenPohl cabinets at Design Partners. We decided to bite the bullet and order them. After some juggling, Randy’s final estimate for what we wanted ended up about $35,000, a bit more than we wanted but we knew the kitchen would be the focal point of the house. Initially, we had been told that installation by a PP installer, probably from the Florida area, would be about 5-10% of the price of the cabinets; we would also need to fly the installer to Anguilla and give him room and board. The price was climbing! When we signed the final papers with Design Partners, we learned that someone from Minneapolis would install the cabinets, and the cost would be over 20% of the cost of the cabinets, plus travel, room and board; evidently Randy had made a mistake in his initial estimate to me. To that we needed to add shipping (estimated at $5,000) and 25% duty. The kitchen was going to be way over budget! But we were committed. In my networking to find places where we could purchase furnishings for the house, I learned that I should try to purchase things in or near Miami, where Caribbean Shipping, the freight forwarder I intended to use, was located. Since I


knew Caribbean’s Anguilla Agent, Hopkins, where we purchased our GE appliances, I felt comfortable using Caribbean Shipping.

I started the furniture expedition by searching for interior and exterior doors for the house. I went to our local Home Depot in Minneapolis and found the kind of door I wanted. Then I went on line to find a Home Depot in North Miami. I was in luck. Interestingly, Home Depot in Miami provided a “consolidation” service where it consolidates the merchandise it sells, puts it on a pallet, and delivers it to the freight forwarder. Sounded perfect. So I got on the phone and identified for them the various doors I wanted, including Jeld-Wen fiberglass doors. After some research, Home Depot determined that those doors would need to be special ordered, and it was not able to do that. It would only be able to sell me the doors from the manufacturers that its particular store purchased; Jeld-Wen was not one of them. Stymied again! Then someone suggested that I contact a vendor in Pompano Beach, Florida, called Sunny International. Sunny sells to the building trade in the Caribbean and Florida, so it provides doors, windows, plumbing supplies and the like. I connected with the door specialist, who patiently taught me the ins and outs of doors and recommended the doors I needed. I was in business. In January, I ordered the doors on the phone and was told it might take a couple of weeks for them to be delivered. No problem; we were not in a rush.


In talking with Sunny, I learned that they also supplied toilets and faucets. Great…one stop shopping! The more Pete and I thought about it, the more it made sense to go to Florida and kick the tires, so to speak. So we planned our trip to the Miami area in mid-February, ready for a break from the cold north. Meanwhile we did our research on toilets and faucets to make sure we knew what our options were. We arrived at Sunny and met with the plumbing/faucet/Caribbean specialist. We started out with toilets. There must be 4,000 toilets on the market, including a $5,000 unit that warms the seat, flushes and cleans automatically. That was a little out of our price range! We found the one that we wanted (a Toto unit that was water saving yet powerful) and ordered four of them. Toilets are expensive! Then we learned that there was a 23-week wait for that model. Guess it was a popular choice. We then chose another Toto model, but, as expected, it was more expensive. And we thought there were too many toilet choices! By the time we got to faucets, I wanted to scream “Just pick them out for me!” And are those expensive! We decided on the Danze faucet because it has a lifetime warranty and would be replaced whenever, no questions asked. With the corrosion that occurs in the Caribbean, we figured that might be important. We still needed to pick out lights, but I was already brain dead, so we decided to meet again the next afternoon. That would leave the morning for furniture shopping.


The next morning, after a terrific dinner at Canyon in Fort Lauderdale and a decent night’s sleep, we made our plan for furniture shopping and headed out. I had scoured the Yellow Pages and had a list of about 15 furniture stores in the area. As we headed up the highway, we stopped at several stores, but we were too early: they didn’t open for another half hour. Knowing we were headed north for our afternoon meeting to pick out lighting, we decided to try to find a place called Sunshine Wicker in Fort Lauderdale; at least it would give us some insight into what might be available in “Caribbeanlike” furniture. We arrived just as the store was opening, and a woman came up to us and introduced herself as Mary. I prefer to shop anonymously, but we introduced ourselves and asked about bedroom furniture. As we saw samples of what Sunshine might be able to get for us, I had the sensation that this was a wasted trip. I definitely wanted a light and airy feeling for the house and was not interested in dark wood. Mary said, “I have an idea!” She pulled out a catalog of wicker and rattan bedrooms and showed me her suggestion. It was THE bedroom set that I had seen on the internet and that had become one of my favorites! I asked if she would price it out for me, and her price, including delivery to the freight forwarder, was about 20% less than it would have been on the internet. I was excited!


She showed us another bedroom set that also matched what I was seeking, and, by then, we were hooked. We bought our bar/island chairs for the kitchen, a little chest and two fabulously comfortable chairs for our bedroom. Mary was wonderful and where she could, she gave us an additional discount. We were so pleased to have found this little gem of a store, and Mary LaManto, one of the owners, as well. We agreed to return the following day to pick up some things that she would wrap for us to take back to Minneapolis. Then we were off to Sunny again, this time to buy lights. And I thought I was brain dead yesterday! Four hours later, we had our list of lights, but not before Pete asked me what the handles for our doors looked like. Handles for doors? Don’t doors come with handles? So much for the patient education I received from the door specialist. Luckily, Pete caught it before we left and the Sunny


sales people said they would order hardware that was appropriate for the doors that we had already purchased from them. All in all, we spent nearly $20,000 at Sunny-maybe not a lot of money for some, but a lot for us! And then we all agreed that the merchandise purchased at Sunny, including the doors we had purchased earlier, would be consolidated at Sunny’s warehouse until I gave the go-ahead to deliver it all to Caribbean Shipping in Riviera Beach, about 25 miles north. If we had enough merchandise, we might be able to fill a small container and ship everything at once. On the way back to our hotel, we went to school at a discount electronics store and learned about HDTV and sound systems. This was going to be expensive! The next morning, we decided to stop in at Best Buy to check out prices on TV’s and sound systems. The choices were overwhelming. Luckily we met with a young specialist who listened to what we needed, described the best option and took our credit card. That was done. But the great thing was that we arranged to have it picked up by Sunshine Wicker. Mary willingly offered to consolidate our purchases from any vendor in their warehouse, and at our instruction, deliver them to Caribbean Shipping in Riviera Beach, about 40 miles north. In the case of Best Buy, her co-owner husband, Carl, would pick up the purchases and take them to Sunshine’s warehouse. What service! We then proceeded to Sunshine to pick up our wrapped purchases. Mary and Carl greeted us like family and we began to talk about what other things we might need at some point. We would eventually need something for storage in the dining room and something in the living room to hold the


accessories for the TV. Mary showed us a very attractive custom made piece that would look very nice in our dining area.

She priced it out and we decided to get it. Then we thought it might temporarily house the TV accessories until we decided what to do there. Well, in the end, Mary priced out a custom cabinet to house those accessories and we decided to get them both. I think we made Mary and Carl’s day!


And clearly we would be able to fill a small container for shipment to Anguilla.


In early February, before leaving for Florida, I had found some very attractive outdoor furniture at Renaissance Hardware that would look great in our living and dining area. When I called Customer Service to place my order, I learned that the cushions for the furniture would not be in stock until mid-March. Since they couldn’t hold an order for more than a couple of weeks (I wanted everything shipped simultaneously to Caribbean Shipping), it was suggested that I call back in mid-March; meanwhile, they would place a “suspended order” that I could activate when everything was in stock. A call to Renaissance Hardware in late February, just to confirm the earlier information, yielded slightly different information (different things on back order) but virtually the same result. On March 8, I called Renaissance Hardware again, and was told everything was in stock, so I activated the order. Unfortunately, the price of the furniture on March 8 was slightly higher than what was quoted on my two earlier calls. After several discussions with a very helpful Customer Service representative, she agreed to charge me the lower prices. Subsequently I learned that some of the furniture was not in stock after all. But the order had been activated so things would be delivered to Caribbean at different times. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, because the doors were still not in at Sunny, and Sunshine had to special order some of the merchandise we purchased there. We should still be in good shape for an early April container shipment to Anguilla. Unlike all the other vendors who were shipping to Caribbean, Renaissance Hardware charged me tax on the merchandise. We had learned on our trip to


Florida that if goods were being shipped out of the country and we did not take possession of them on the way, no tax should be charged. Tax of 6.5% on a $15,000 order amounted to real money. I spoke almost daily to my Renaissance Hardware customer service person, who finally indicated that there was nothing she could do. Our accountant recommended that I submit a Bill of Lading to Renaissance Hardware after the fact and try to get the tax refunded at that point. Then, I learned from Sunny that they had delivered the doors to Caribbean Shipping in Miami (not Riviera Beach as I had requested) so they would be on their way to Anguilla the very next day! Horrified, I called Sunny and neither my door contact nor my plumbing contact was available. I finally managed to reach a real person, and explained that all the Sunny merchandise was to be consolidated at the Sunny warehouse for subsequent delivery to Caribbean in Riviera Beach, not Miami, at my instruction. With only hours to spare before shipping, the doors were brought back to the Sunny warehouse and I was spared the increased cost of a lone, unconsolidated shipment to Anguilla. I began to worry that ordering merchandise from long distance was going to be trying. Maybe some soup would help.



6-8 Cups homemade chicken soup 1 tbsp. soy sauce 1 tsp. chopped ginger 1 ½ cups Napa Cabbage (or Bok Choy) sliced thin ½ lb. cooked spaghetti or bucatini (or more if desired) 1 tsp. chili paste with garlic or Sambal Oelek (Indonesian chili sauce) ½ tsp white wine vinegar (optional) 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro 2 green onions, sliced thin Put all ingredients in a pot and heat until cabbage is wilted. Serve hot. Serves 4.

About the same time, I received a summary statement of the other merchandise we had purchased from Sunny, and the lights listed were all wrong. It took about ten days to go through the catalog once again and choose the lights all over again. Once the order was confirmed, it was late in March and we were closing in on the consolidation date. In order to assure delivery to Sunny in time for consolidation and delivery to Riviera Beach, we needed to pay additional freight charges to expedite delivery from the manufacturer to Sunny. To think all this was originally settled in mid-February. I was beginning to have my doubts about Sunny.


We decided to head back to Anguilla in mid-March in hopes that we would be there when the windows were installed and the container of furniture arrived. I planned to remain on the island for about a month to oversee all the final construction details. Shortly after arriving, I learned from Caribbean Shipping in Anguilla that six boxes of cushions from Renaissance Hardware were scheduled to arrive on the island the next day. The cushions, which supposedly were back ordered, were to have been consolidated with all our other purchases and shipped in our container in April. How had Caribbean missed that? I got on the phone with Caribbean’s Customer Service department, and they acknowledged their error. They would not charge me shipping charges for the cushions. Once a shipment arrives in Anguilla, a very structured process kicks in. First, the owner picks up the Bill of Lading at Caribbean’s Anguilla agent, Hopkins. Then the Bill of Lading must be taken to a Broker so an “Entry” can be made. Of course, there are charges at each stop. Then the Entry paperwork is taken to Customs and one waits two to three days for the paperwork to proceed through the Customs process. Once the paperwork gets through that process, it can be picked up and 25% duty on the cost of the merchandise plus the shipping charge is paid to the Government of Anguilla. (There are no income or estate taxes on Anguilla; the government makes its money from the 25% duty on imported goods and on the 17% transfer tax when property is sold.) Then one calls Caribbean to bring the container to the house; of course there is a charge for that. The Customs Task Force is then contacted to schedule a time when someone can come to the house, or to the Caribbean warehouse in the case


of Less than Container Loads (LCL), open everything and check the contents against the paperwork. Only then can the merchandise be unloaded. And, of course, if the merchandise is a LCL load and ends up in the Caribbean warehouse, there is a charge for delivery from the warehouse to our house. (I am almost an expert now in the Customs process. It has been fascinating to watch the people at Caribbean/Hopkins gather their paperwork and staple it all together. When the paperwork reaches the broker, it is unstapled, shuffled and restapled. The paperwork is then delivered to the “front” of Customs, where is it once again unstapled and “processed” through the back of Customs. When the paperwork is ready for pickup and duty payment, it is once again unstapled, shuffled, and restapled. Then it is taken to the Customs officer at Caribbean’s warehouse, who, you guessed it, unstaples the pile, recolates it and restaples it. I wonder who orders the staples for the Government of Anguilla!) Back to the cushions from Renaissance Hardware. I dutifully picked up the Bill of Lading from Caribbean and took it to the Broker. Then after three unsuccessful trips to Customs to pick up the paperwork, I was told that the Broker still had it. I then learned that since Caribbean had not charged me shipping because of their error, the Broker could not make its entry. Subsequently Caribbean attached an e-mail to the paperwork and the entry was made. So I made a fourth trip to Customs only to learn that Customs would not release the paperwork since the law states that duty is paid on the value of the merchandise PLUS shipping charges; no shipping charges, no release of paperwork. One month later and still no cushions! They were collecting dust (and whatever else)


in Caribbean’s warehouse. I would just have to wait until the container arrived, link the two shipments and hope that worked. Meanwhile, I received an e-mail from Renaissance Hardware’s customer service area saying that my backordered dining room table had been shipped to me in Minneapolis. Great! So I called my contact at Renaissance Hardware’s customer service department, and was told that that order would need to be cancelled and a new order, one that would be shipped to Caribbean Shipping, would be submitted. There were three tables in stock, so that should work. Then I got a call from the shipping company in Minneapolis asking when I wanted the table delivered to our home there. I told them the order had been shipped to the wrong address and had been cancelled. Imagine my dismay when I received an email from Renaissance Hardware two days later saying our newly ordered dining room table was backordered and would be available in mid-May! I pleaded with the customer service person to find the table that went to Minneapolis and divert it to Florida. She was unable to do that. As my blood pressure rose, I realized that I had only one option left, besides taking to my kitchen to work out my frustrations.


SPINACH SOUP (Serves 4) 4 cups washed spinach leaves ½ cup chopped onion 1 tsp ground cumin ½ tsp ground coriander 1/8 tsp cayenne 3-3 1/2 cups home made chicken stock salt and pepper to taste ¼ cup milk. Fat free sour cream Combine first 7 ingredients into a pot and simmer until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and put into a blender or food processor and chop/blend until smooth. Add milk to thin mixture, if desired. Rewarm soup and adjust seasoning. Pour into soup bowls, top with a small dollop of sour cream and serve.

Renaissance Hardware’s website lists the names of its senior officers. So, I called the CEO. I knew it would be difficult to reach him, but I was connected immediately to his very competent assistant. I related my story to her, and she was horrified. I was then connected to the head of Customer Service, and she asked me to give her until the end of the day to correct things. By dinner that evening, the table had been found and diverted to Riviera Beach, Florida. It would arrive by April 8, nearly ten days before the container was scheduled to


leave for Anguilla. Additionally, Renaissance Hardware agreed to credit the tax that had been charged on the merchandise. Finally…..action! But, with all this confusion, I decided to delay my return to Minneapolis until May 20th. Meanwhile, the folks at Caribbean Shipping in Anguilla and I had become fast friends. With all the recent transactions, I was in their offices about three times per week. Knowing that I was expecting a large container, they excitedly called me in early April to tell me that my things would arrive on April 18th and I could pick up the Bill of Lading at their offices. But wait! The container was supposed to ship on April 17th and arrive on April 21st. I then discovered that what would arrive in Anguilla on April 18th were all my purchases from Sunny that were delivered to Caribbean on April 8th, to be consolidated with everything else. After numerous calls to Caribbean Shipping in Riviera Beach (it was Sunny’s fault) and to Sunny (it was Caribbean’s fault), I discovered that Sunny had delivered the merchandise to Caribbean’s Miami warehouse. The paperwork for my consolidation specified that the merchandise, including the Sunny purchases, were to be consolidated in Riviera Beach; when the pallets arrived in Miami, Caribbean simply shipped them to Anguilla, rather than check for any consolidation instructions. But the error was Sunny’s, and it would cost me over $400 in additional shipping charges. I contacted my plumbing contact at Sunny and explained the situation. He agreed that it was Sunny’s error but doubted that the company would do anything to make me whole on the shipping charges. My final option:


draft a letter to Sunny’s President and outline my frustration. After several days of discussions with my Sunny contact, Sunny agreed to pay for the additional shipping charges and I didn’t need to send the letter to the President. Yet. I spent the following week going through the Customs process, and finally had the Sunny merchandise delivered to our house, for another fee, of course. As the boxes were unloaded, I tried to find four toilets, which can’t hide for long. But, they were not there! I once again called my plumbing contact at Sunny to explain the situation; after a couple of hours of research, he determined that the toilets were on back order. But, we ordered them in mid-February and were told they were in stock. Well, another fiasco, since the container with all the other merchandise had already left Florida for Anguilla. Two days went by with no response from Sunny so I called my contact once again. He committed to get the toilets from another distributor and send them to Anguilla the following week. I asked him to confirm with me when they were delivered to Caribbean; no response! The day before the boat was to leave for Anguilla, I called Sunny again. Finally after several hours, I learned that the toilets had been delivered to Caribbean Shipping. So, I prepared for additional shipping, duty and delivery charges. The question I continued to ask was: How do these places stay in business? I have been told by each of the vendors that they have learned from their mistakes. However, cynic that I am, I firmly believe that when mistakes such as these occur, it probably is not the first time they have happened.


But let me digress to the events surrounding the container shipment. All of my paperwork to consolidate merchandise into one 40 foot or two 20 foot containers was faxed to Caribbean Shipping by March 20. All of the merchandise would arrive at Caribbean’s Riviera Beach warehouse between March 21 and April 14. However, when the cushions from Renaissance Hardware arrived about March 23 and were inadvertently shipped on their own, Caribbean Shipping assigned me a Customer Service person who would help me with the rest of the consolidation, although I am not sure I was the one who needed the help! But, great idea. I would work with someone who was familiar with what I was trying to accomplish. Shaffer at Caribbean Shipping assured me that the merchandise would be consolidated into a container that would leave Florida on April 17. He committed that he would e-mail me a tentative Bill of Lading by Friday April 11, so I could confirm that everything was there. All the final paperwork would need to be submitted and the merchandise ready for loading by noon on April 16. No problem. On April 11, after numerous e-mails received no response, I called Shaffer. Where was the tentative Bill of Lading? His consistent response: “Give me 30 minutes”. I received nothing on April 11. He responded to none of my e-mails or telephone calls on April 14th or 15th. Very early the morning of April 16th, Rooster asked me to make sure we had two 20-foot containers, as a 40 foot one would not fit down our dirt road. I sent Shaffer an e-mail and asked him for the cost of two 20-foot containers, rather than


one 40-foot container. He responded immediately (!) with the cost, which would be slightly more expensive than one 40 foot container. I e-mailed him and left a voice mail message saying I wanted two 20 foot containers; I also indicated that I needed to see the Bill of Lading immediately. I called three other times that Wednesday morning, and learned, at 11 am, that Shaffer had gone to lunch and would be back at 12:30 pm, after the deadline to have all the paperwork submitted to assure that everything would be in the shipment the following day! Luckily, another customer service person asked if she could help me. She indicated that the merchandise had been put on a 40 foot container that morning (don’t move it now); we then walked through the list of merchandise from every vendor to make sure the shipment was complete. I was surprised to learn that some things I had ordered from Cook’s Catalog, and paid expedited, two day shipping on April 1, were not among the boxes. I called Cook’s Catalog, and although the order said everything was in stock, they couldn’t find one item, so they held up the whole order and never let me know. I cancelled that order and vowed once again not to do business with Cook’s Catalog again. (Cook’s Catalog is very willing to take your large order, and after it is processed and paid for, you receive an e-mail saying shipping is free on your next order over $250; why would I return to spend another $250 after having just spent over $1,000?) Back to the customer service person at Caribbean Shipping. She and I spent a total of two hours on the phone to confirm that the merchandise Caribbean


showed it had was, in fact, correct. Even though the paperwork did not make the noon deadline, she assured me that the container would ship the following day. Thank heavens someone was available to pick up the pieces of the mess that Shaffer created! Once I was convinced that the container had been loaded and that the ship had sailed, I wrote a letter to the President of Caribbean, and e-mailed it to him. Surprisingly, I received a phone call from him about two hours later! He was very disappointed in the service I received and said he or one of his people would be back to me on Monday. Sure enough, on Monday, the head of Customer Service called to apologize and offer whatever help she could. Basically, there wasn’t anything that needed to be done now; the important thing was to get the merchandise to Anguilla safely. If there were an additional charge for delivering my things from the container to our house, I would pass that cost on to Caribbean. On Monday, April 21st, I picked up the Bill of Lading from Caribbean in Anguilla and began the process of getting the merchandise through Customs. The Bill of Lading specified that the seventeen Renaissance Hardware boxes arrived at Caribbean’s Florida warehouse open and torn. Great!


So I sent an e-mail to my new friend, the head of Customer Service at Renaissance Hardware, to alert her that there would likely be a claim. She took it in stride, and committed to refund the shipping charges I had paid on my order to compensate me for all the aggravation. After an hour or so at Customs, where I again explained that the shipping charges for the cushions were included in the shipping charges for the container that was now on the island, I was finally able to pay the duty and schedule a visit from the Customs Task Force to open the container and check its contents. I had one week to get the contents of the container out of Caribbean’s Anguilla warehouse before I would need to pay rent. But where would I put it?


To answer that question, we need to return to the story of the windows, but not before I am charged twice by Caribbean Shipping for the cost to ship the container. Will they ever get it right?


1 (2 oz) pkge dried mushrooms (morels, porcini, chanterelles, etc) ¾ cup Madeira (dry marsala or dry sherry can be substituted) Olive oil 2 cups chopped onion 2 lbs. fresh mushrooms 4-5 cups homemade chicken stock salt and pepper to taste ½ cup milk Rinse dried mushrooms in cold water to get rid of dirt. Then soak in warmed Madeira for about an hour, until mushrooms are rehydrated, stirring occasionally. Put 2 TBSP olive oil in stock pot and add onion. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened. Wipe mushroom caps to clean and remove ends of stems. Slice mushrooms and add to pot, stirring frequently. Add a little more olive oil if needed, to prevent sticking. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully remove the rehydrated mushrooms from the soaking liquid, and save the liquid. Put the mushrooms into the pot and stir. When the soaking liquid has settled, pour into the pot, but leave the sediment at the bottom behind. Add the chicken stock and stir. Cover and cook over low heat about ½ hour or more until the mushrooms are tender. When the mushrooms are tender, turn off burner and let cool. Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the soup pot and rewarm over medium heat. If the soup needs to be thinned, add a little milk. When the temperature is right, taste for correct seasoning and serve.


CHAPTER TEN - The Saga of the Windows, Part 2 (April – July, 2008) In November, 2007, we told Caribbean Windows, the second window manufacturer in St. Martin, that we would purchase the windows and hurricane shutters from them. When the President of Window Systems began to threaten us with a lawsuit, we put Caribbean Windows on hold until we understood what our options were. It was not until mid-January that we felt comfortable enough to give Caribbean Windows the go-ahead to produce the windows and shutters. They committed to having them manufactured and delivered to Anguilla by about March 8. I stayed in close contact with Claude from Caribbean Windows through February, and learned that the windows/shutters would arrive in Anguilla by March 15th. When we arrived on the island on March 22nd, there were no windows. I learned that the sea between St. Martin and Anguilla was so rough that no boats had sailed the last three days of the prior week. (In fact, our ferry from St. Martin to Anguilla on March 22nd was one of the first to resume service between the islands.) Claude confirmed that the windows would be on the boat on Tuesday, March 25th. By Thursday of that week, we still had no windows. When I reached Claude by phone, he admitted that he thought the windows had been loaded on the boat when he left for holiday earlier in the week, but they had not been. He promised to put them on the boat on Friday, March 28.


On April 2nd, with no windows in sight, we learned that the boat with our windows left St. Martin, five miles away, and proceeded to several other islands before coming to Anguilla on April 1st. When it arrived in Anguilla, there was another container ship at the dock and “our” ship could not offload our cargo. So it returned to St. Martin! The windows then needed to be removed from that ship and placed on another ship for the trip back to Anguilla. The windows finally arrived on April 4th, and by the time we paid shipping and duty and got them out of Customs, we had less than two weeks before the house needed to be secured so the cabinet installer, who was coming from Minneapolis at our expense, could begin to install the kitchen cabinets. But, would there be enough time to install the windows, or should we reschedule the installer? The next possible slot he had available was in August! Claude assured us that his men could install the windows by Saturday, April 19th. And so work began on the window installation, with the commitment to finish the job (installation of shutters as well) before I left the island in mid-May. Unfortunately, as the men began installing the frames for the windows and sliding glass doors, it became apparent that the openings on a few of them were off by about ½ inch. Rooster’s men needed to chop those openings so that the windows would fit. This didn’t make Rooster very happy as the window

technician had measured each of the window openings prior to when Caribbean Windows manufactured them. Additionally, we learned that not all the windows and sliding glass doors were on the boat; some were still back at Caribbean Windows’s warehouse. How could


that have happened? Those were put on another boat and arrived in Anguilla the following week, along with additional shipping, duty and delivery charges! It took Rooster’s men a day or so to chop the openings so that the installation could proceed. Rooster then allocated one of his men to the installation process so that the house could be closed up for the cabinet installation. Claude indicated that the windows would be installed and caulked by April 19th, and then the installer would be back later in the month to install the shutters. One of the installers, who was on site on April 19th, indicated that he needed to leave the island but he would return three days later to complete the caulking. The cabinet installation went off without a hitch from April 20-24th, even though the installer had to maneuver around all the hurricane shutters that were stacked in the living area.


The only disappointing issue was that one of two identical glass cabinet doors that arrived was about six inches too long. How could one arrive the correct length and one be too big? Additionally, as I watched the cabinets go up, I noted that the grain on some of the cabinets was vertical while on others it was horizontal. How does this happen with cabinets that cost this much?

So the installer and I placed a call to Randy at Design Partners, explained the problems and indicated that he needed to reorder some cabinet pieces. We were told that the replacements would be in Anguilla in late June. More headaches! We learned midway through that week in April that the window installer who intended to return to finish the caulking had not been allowed back on the island when he arrived; so he went back to St. Martin and the windows remained uncaulked. This meant that Rooster could not finish painting the windows, which 91

would set him back as long as it took to caulk all the windows. Additionally, the large sliding glass door in the master suite had not been installed (in fact, it was not even on site!), meaning that Rooster could not finish the master bedroom. More setbacks. On April 25th, I confirmed that Samuel, the primary window installer whom Claude had found to install the shutters, would be back on April 28th to finish the caulking, install the large sliding glass door, and move the shutters out of the living area so the contents of the 40 foot container could be delivered and unloaded. By Thursday, May 1st, I was pretty frustrated because I needed to pick up the container before Caribbean Shipping began to charge me rent. With no window installers in sight, I had the contents of the container delivered on May 2nd, and with little space to store them (the living room was full of hurricane shutters), everything was stacked to the ceiling in the office, gym and guest bedroom. Let’s hope nothing was broken in the process. Back to the kitchen.

HOMEMADE COLESLAW (Serves 2) ½ head of green cabbage 1/2 carrot Ranch dressing Pepper to taste Slice cabbage into thin slivers, and then cut in half. Cut carrot into slivers about 1-1.5 inches long. Add enough ranch dressing to coat. Mix well. Add some pepper to taste and mix again.


The weeks of April 28th and May 5th came and went with no installers on site; Claude continued to confirm that someone would be on site the next day. Additionally, I learned that the shutter housings had just been manufactured and would be sent to Anguilla on May 9th. Great, more shipping, duty and delivery charges! Finally, on May 10th, Samuel, who had been in France for three weeks, returned to install the shutters (and get them out of the living area). About twenty minutes into the installation, he knocked on the apartment door to tell us that the tracks for the shutters were about four inches too short! So, the shutter installation would be put on hold until the tracks could be replaced. I might need to delay my return to Minneapolis once again! Luckily, making the tracks merely meant cutting them to size; the following week they arrived in Anguilla and were delivered to the house; Samuel could continue his work the following Saturday. (Claude neglected to tell us that Samuel had his own business in Anguilla and could only work with us on Saturdays!) But as Saturday arrived, we learned there were additional issues that would delay the completion of the installation. I decided not to cook but to have a glass of wine instead! The wiring for the motors for the shutters had not been completed, so Samuel could not connect the motors. When told what we needed, the electrician indicated he needed to go to St. Martin to purchase some additional switches. Naturally, he did that when he felt like it and two weekends later, Samuel was still waiting to connect the motors. Additionally, the shutter for the main door to the


house had not yet been manufactured. So, more shipping, duty and delivery charges! Meanwhile, I had reminded Claude that he committed to provide us with solid handles and locks for the large windows and doors. Those had not arrived, so we could not effectively lock the sliding glass doors surrounding the living area. I was very hesitant to leave the island in late May and not be able to lock the house, so I changed my return flight and hoped the house could be locked before I left.


CHAPTER ELEVEN – Our Favorite Subcontractors (January - July, 2008) When we were designing the house, we hoped that Rooster’s timeframe would match ours so that he could build our house. He struck us as very customercentered and gave us numerous examples of where he did something for the homeowner because it was the right thing to do, even though it cost him more money. So when Sweet William’s people finished the design of the house, Sweet William asked us if we wanted him to approach Rooster for a bid. We thought that was a great idea. According to Rooster, Sweet William called him and told him he had a nice piece of business for him. Our timing was perfect. But Rooster was confused when he learned our name, as he remembered that he had spoken with us many months earlier. Sweet William told Rooster that he could have this business, but only if Rooster employed Sweet William’s electrician for the project; if not, Sweet William would take the business to another builder. Rooster was disappointed because his own electrician was perfectly competent and reasonable, but he had a slot in his construction schedule so he agreed to use Sweet William’s electrician. The bid to build the frame of the house came in at a reasonable level. And Sweet William indicated that we could finish the build out for an additional $250,000. So while we were above our budget right out of the gate, we thought we could manage it.


Early in the process, I realized that I needed to be on top of the detail. I had emailed a new electrical plan to Frank, our on site Project Manager, and asked him to review the plan with Rooster. It wasn’t until after Frank was long gone, and the frame was almost finished, that I realized that Rooster had never seen my electrical plan. The first indication came when I realized that there were not enough electrical outlets in any of the rooms. Jason, the electrician, agreed to add more. That involved drilling into the walls that were already up and adding more pipes and wiring. As he was doing that, we talked about surround sound for the living area and cable outlets (all of which were on my electrical plan) for several of the rooms. He said he would do that. Later, in January, 2008, Jason presented us with a bill for $6,000 for the additional outlets. I was flabbergasted! I knew that we would pay extra for the outlets, even though Frank said Rooster had agreed to the changes a year earlier, but I never expected that they would cost nearly $100 each! I was so frustrated that no one, neither Rooster nor Jason, had given us a head’s up about the costliness of these decisions. My frustration took me to the kitchen for an afternoon of cooking.


LAMB SHANKS (Adapted from Fred Moore’s Grandmother Darroch’s recipe) 4 small lamb shanks salt, freshly ground black pepper Preheat the oven to 375 F. Rub the shanks with salt and pepper. Roast them uncovered in a metal pan for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through. Braising liquid: 2 leeks, white parts only, washed and sliced fairly thin 2 carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices 2 celery stalks with leaves (if possible), sliced 3 cups chicken stock 3 rosemary sprigs 3 thyme sprigs 10 parsley leaves with stems 1 bay leaf 2 cups dry red wine When the shanks are finished roasting, lower the oven to 275 F, remove the shanks from the pan, pour off most of the fat from the pan and reserve for optional use in finishing the dish. Deglaze the roasting pan with some of the simmering braising liquid. Put the shanks in an over-proof pan equipped with a tight oven proof lid. Combine the deglaze with the braising liquid and vegetables, and pour over the shanks. Cover the pan and put in the oven. After about an hour and a half, check the shanks, correct the seasonings, and gently turn the shanks in the liquid. After another hour, check the shanks again for tenderness. They should almost fall off the bone, but not be cooked too much. When done, put the shanks on a plate and keep them warm. If desired, the can rest, covered, at room temperature for a couple of hours. Remove the bay leaf, rosemary and thyme sprigs and parsley stalks from the braising stock. Skim fat from the braising liquid. To thicken the braising stock, make a roux from 2 tablespoons of flour mixed with about a quarter cup of the braising stock. Cook in a small pan until brown. Gently mix the roux with the rest of the braising liquid and simmer until combined and smooth. Check seasoning again. Serve the shanks and the sauce and vegetables with Middle Eastern couscous.


When we returned to the island in March, 2008, we met with a security system sales person to discuss the cost of adding a security system to the property. He said it would have been simple if the house had been wired for surround sound, but since it had not been (surprise to us), we would need to add additional wiring to the house. So we met with Rooster and Jason and got nowhere. Jason said to Peter that, since I fussed about the cost of the outlets, he decided NOT to install wiring for surround sound. Just like that! We also learned that, while all the windows were to have hurricane shutters, none had been wired for motors to raise and lower the shutters. These motors were critical because most of the windows were quite large and some were outside of our reach on the second floor, so there would be no way we could manually raise or lower the shutters. Rooster and I walked Jason through all the rooms and showed him where the motors needed to go. A month later, we were presented with another bill, this time for $6,600! As the window/shutter installers were completing their work in late May, they discovered that one sliding glass door did not have wiring for a motor. When Jason was asked about it, he said he was never told that the door needed a shutter! I was there when Jason was told, but there was no one who could tell him he was incorrect. Jason also charged us for the under cabinet lights in the kitchen (which came with the cabinets), extra lights and outlets even though he didn’t install some of the ones that were called for in the initial plan (and that were included in the bid


for the framing of the house), and for “pulling” the electricity to the house from the main switch. All in all, our electrical “extras” totaled more than $20,000! That approximated his initial bid to wire the whole house! And we didn’t even get surround sound! On several occasions, I found errors in his billing and spoke with him about them; his response: he threatened not to pull the electricity from the main switch, which would mean that we wouldn’t have electricity in the new part of the house! (In fact, Jason took his time in pulling the main electrical wiring; when I left the island for two weeks in early June, it was already a month past the date it had been promised!) Pete told me I wasn’t going to win the battle so we paid him what he asked. Rooster will never do business with Jason again. And we subsequently have learned that Sweet William will not do business with him again either! Another subcontractor we needed to select was the person to install the air conditioning. Most resorts and villas have air conditioning only in the bedrooms, but we thought it would be important to have the living areas air conditioned as well. In the late winter of 2007, Rooster’s air conditioning man stopped by to discuss our air conditioning needs. He was a very nice young man and gave us a bid for about $12,000. Frank, our almost failed project manager at the time, recommended another air conditioning person, who happened to be Rooster’s wife’s uncle, Jeffrey. Pete and I met with him, and including air conditioning in the baths and closets, which Pete wanted, the bid was a little over $13,000. It


seemed we would get more for our money with Jeffrey. So we agreed to go with him and we paid him for 50% of his bid. Jeffrey then seemed to disappear for several months. Both Rooster and I would call him and he would say he was coming tomorrow, but rarely did he show up. Meanwhile the walls were going up and we were almost at the point where the pipes for the air conditioning could no longer be installed without drilling into the walls. Eventually Jeffrey showed up and said, “no problem”, he could get everything done. When he finally got to it, the walls needed to be redrilled to accommodate his piping, and a housing needed to be built in the garage to enclose all the venting to the outside. Rooster was beside himself! So was I.


MEDITERRANEAN FISH (Serves 1-2) ½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut into slivers 1/3 – ½ cup slivered black olives, preferably Kalamata soaked in brine and drained 1 tsp. (or more) minced garlic 1 red snapper or grouper filet (salmon works well too) ¼ cup dry white wine pepper to taste Sauté tomatoes, olives and garlic in a little olive oil until tomatoes are slightly softened. Meanwhile, sauté fish in 2 TBSP. olive oil until just cook through. Do not overcook. Just before serving, add wine to tomato mixture and heat. Put tomato mixture on plate and top with fish. Season with pepper to taste. An adaptation of this dish that is equally light is: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Take a piece of aluminum foil that is approximately 12 inches by 12 inches. Coat with cooking spray. Mix uncooked tomatoes, olives and garlic and set in the middle of the foil. Set the fish on top of the tomato mixture, pour in the wine (make sure the edges of the foil are turned up) and sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the fish. Seal the foil well and place in a baking dish. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or slightly more if the fish is thick. Be careful as you open the foil as it will be hot and the steam will rise to greet you!


Additionally, he “forgot” that his bid had included air conditioning two bathrooms and two closets. Luckily I had my original contract with me and I showed him what he agreed to do. By this time, it was so late in the process that it made no sense to tear out more walls for those air conditioning systems; so he reduced his price, and we agreed that the baths and closets would not be air conditioned. Rooster still scratches his head when he recalls that we chose Jeffrey over his person; frankly, Pete and I do as well! I didn’t have much contact with Rooster’s plumber throughout the construction. I overheard Rooster complaining that he never showed up on time and that he charged a lot for extras. His bill to us for extras (plumbing a 4 ft x 6 ft powder room off the main deck) was about $5,000; Rooster warned me it would be significant so I was not surprised! But two months later, it was like pulling teeth to get him to return to install the plumbing fixtures and connect the water to the house. Rooster’s tilers did a lot of work, especially since the whole inside of the house and all the outdoor decks, including the deck off the little apartment downstairs, needed to be tiled. They would start a project and work on it until it was completed. It was fun to go upstairs daily and watch their progress. It was most fun watching them tile the pool and seeing the beautiful iridescent colors take shape. I got to know them fairly well, and they were always very friendly. But they, like all the other subcontractors, must have assumed that because I was white, my bank account was bottomless. The ocean-side staircase was Rooster’s late addition to the house plan. He figured it would cost about $1,500


to tile those steps. The tilers’ charge for this “extra” was more than three times his expectation (and guess who paid that!). Their estimate to tile the downstairs 900 square foot deck was $800. Their bill was $1,350! By then, I was used to speaking my mind, saying I was disappointed, and writing another check. The bank account was quickly shrinking!


CHAPTER TWELVE: Finishing the House (June - July, 2008) With the delays in installing the windows and shutters, I needed to change my trip home. The house would not be finished by May 20. But I needed to be back in Minneapolis by June 10 to cook a dinner for eight people who purchased us at the annual fund raiser for the Jeremiah Project, one of our favorite non-profits. My only option was to fly home for the feast, meet with some of my coaching clients, and fly back to Anguilla to continue the construction battles. That I did! After two weeks of not having to worry about who wasn’t doing what on the house, I returned to Anguilla in mid-June. I greatly anticipated waking up the next morning and going upstairs to see what the workmen had accomplished in my absence. You would think that, after more than a year of being the Project Manager, I wouldn’t have been so naïve. The electricity was supposed to have been pulled from the main line to the house. It wasn’t. All the doors, handles and deadbolts were to have been installed. They weren’t. (In fact, I had given our bathroom vanity maker, our neighbor, two doors and eleven gallons of paint before I left the island; he promised to have the doors painted before I left but ran into a “snag”. I called him from Minneapolis before I returned and he said the doors looked beautiful. When I arrived in Anguilla, I learned that they hadn’t yet been painted!) The handles and locks for the sliding glass doors were to have been retrieved from Customs and installed. They weren’t. The hood over the cook top was to have been installed. It wasn’t.


The floor tiles in the showers were to have been installed. They weren’t. One of the workers was to have started the installation of the railings. He hadn’t. The main cistern was to have been cleaned and inspected to be ready for the summer and fall rains. It wasn’t. The back splash in the kitchen was to have been installed. It wasn’t. The switches for the hurricane shutters were to have been installed. They weren’t. Two electrical outlets and three lights in the garage were to have been installed. They weren’t. I guess everyone had a two week vacation in my absence! The only thing to do when I returned was to clarify for Rooster when I would be leaving the island, not to return until mid-November. Rooster seemed hesitant to take charge. He told me to call the tilers and outline what I needed to have done, which I did. I contacted the hood installer, who indicated his people would be at the house the next week. The electrician, who had vanished a month before, called Rooster several times to indicate a critical need for some wiring, which Rooster already had on site; too bad Jason could not be bothered returning to the house to finish his work. When I finally reached the door installer (he was also the railing installer), I learned that the all handles sent to us by Sunny in Florida, even the ones for the seven exterior doors, were “privacy” handles. This meant that they could be locked from the inside but not opened with a key from the outside. How useful


would that be for the exterior doors? Additionally, while I was charged for seven deadbolts, Sunny only sent five. And at the first rainstorm of the season, two of the exterior fiberglass doors purchased from Sunny buckled and we were unable to open them. I was getting weary.


BEEF STROGANOFF Serves 4 1 ½ lbs. Beef tenderloin, cut into 1 ½ inch x ½ inch slices and patted dry with paper towels 6 Tbsps grapeseed oil 8 Tbsps unsalted butter 1 large onion thinly sliced 1 pkge sliced button mushrooms 1-2 cans beef consommé (undiluted) ¾-1 cup red wine 8 oz fat free sour cream salt and pepper Place 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a frying pan and heat until hot. Add ½ of beef strips and brown quickly. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and place in colander in sink to drain fat/liquid. Place in bowl and reserve. Repeat with remaining beef. Wipe out pan. Place 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in pan, heat and sauté sliced onions until translucent and turning golden, about 10 minutes or so. Transfer to bowl and reserve. Place remaining butter in pan and add mushrooms. Saute until the water evaporates and the mushrooms are soft and browned. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, place consommé and wine and boil down until the flavors are well blended and you have about 2 cups of liquid left. Reserve and cool about ½ cup of liquid. Put beef, onions and mushrooms back in frying pan (or a larger pan if original pan is not large enough to hold everything). Add all but the reserved consommé/wine mixture and stir until well blended and hot. Add a little arrowroot or cornstarch to the cooled reserved liquid and add to the pot. Stir until slightly thickened. Add the sour cream and heat until warmed, but do not boil or the sour cream may curdle. Serve over rice or noodles.


By that point, we had had a problem with everything we had purchased from Sunny. I was convinced that Sunny was probably one of the most incompetent organizations I had ever dealt with. Some of the other vendors made mistakes, but were willing to fix them; Sunny was not willing to do anything! When I called the President of Sunny to request a response to my three e-mails that explained these problems, he handed the phone to Kevin, the person with whom we worked most closely. Kevin didn’t think there was a need to respond to any of my e-mails. This is Sunny’s definition of service level and timeliness. My next step was to contact the Better Business Bureau in Southeast Florida. I intended to do everything in my power to notify everyone of the level of incompetence that was (is) rampant at Sunny. (Interestingly enough, about six weeks after reporting Sunny to the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida, I received an e-mail from the BBB indicating that they were closing the file since Sunny had not responded to their e-mails! Sunny subsequently responded and denied all my allegations, and even claimed that I had violated the door manufacturer’s instructions by shipping and storing the doors in a non-airconditioned environment; I confirmed their fabrication by calling the manufacturer directly. The company’s head of Exports actually laughed when I asked him if the doors needed to be shipped and stored in a temperature controlled environment; he reminded me that the doors were meant to be installed in a hot and humid Caribbean environment! I then responded once again to the BBB and outlined Sunny’ fabrications, fully expecting that when Sunny once again denied any responsibility, the BBB would close the file. That’s what happened!)


After a couple of discouraging days, Jason’s men showed up to install the remaining lights (although they only installed half of them), the tilers returned to finish the showers and install the backsplash, and the door installer returned to complete his work. We were far from finished, but at least there was progress. In the midst of all this, the replacement doors and panels for the kitchen cabinets arrived on the island. I went to Customs two days running to pick up the paperwork, and it was not there. Finally I went to the Broker down by the dock and learned that Customs didn’t believe that the cost of these cabinet doors was only $58. It should have been ZERO! So I had to drive home, pick up the paperwork from the original shipment and bring it back to Customs down by the dock. Eventually, the crate was released, but not until I had paid duty on $625 of airfreight and the $58 cost of the cabinets. I never did learn where the $58 cost came from! Unfortunately, after getting the crate home and opened, I discovered that two of the five replacement panels that Poggen Pohl sent from Germany were one inch too wide. I honestly could not believe it! How do these companies stay in business? Time for some comfort food.


MARINATED PORK WITH PEANUT SAUCE 1 ½ lbs pork tenderloin, cut into one-inch chunks Marinade pork for 6 hours or overnight in:
½ cup minced onion 1 Tbsp sugar ¼ cup olive or peanut oil 1 Tbsp minced ginger root 3 cloves garlic minced ¼ cup lemon juice 3 Tbsp soy sauce ½ tsp. red pepper flakes 2 Tbsp dark rum 1 tsp salt Drain pork and reserve marinade. Skewer pork on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water. Grill over medium heat to desired doneness, basting once or twice with some of reserved marinade.. In a sauce pan, boil ½ cup marinade, whisk in 3 Tbsp smooth peanut butter and ½ cup heavy cream or ½ cup of coconut milk and heat through. Serve with rice and pass the sauce. Serves 4.

That was late June. We were 60 days past the date when Rooster thought the house would be finished and we still owed him three more payments. Things did not look promising.


Jason, the electrician, had supposedly been looking for two months for the switches that would raise and lower the hurricane shutters electrically since they were too large to raise or lower manually. None were to be found on the island. Jason then went to neighboring St. Martin to search for them; he could not find any. So, with hurricane season staring us in the face, we could not lower our shutters. Luckily, the first Caribbean storm of the season passed north of us. Once again, Rooster seemed willing to sit back and wait for something to happen. I did some research on the internet and discovered the type of switch that we needed and where we could purchase them in the U. S. Pete was returning to the island the following week and could bring them down with him. This infuriated Rooster for some reason, and he sent his usual electrician, who was not working on our house, to St. Martin to find them. In the end, the electrician found eight switches, but unfortunately, we needed twenty four of them. I suggested that Pete could still bring sixteen down with him, but Rooster decided to order them from the store in St. Martin. They promised to have them in one week. Two weeks later, they were nowhere to be found. And another Caribbean storm passed south of us. By the fourth of July, I was ready to go back to Minneapolis. But, the house was nowhere near the place where I could leave and feel confident. Everyone was tired of the project. In fact, Rooster had not spoken to me since the saga of the shutter switches nearly two weeks previously. In early July, Pete arrived for a couple of weeks and declared there was no way the place would be far enough along for me to return to Minneapolis at the end of


the month. I wasn’t sure I could face another month of inquiring why things weren’t completed as committed. While Pete was on the island, progress happened in spurts. All the workmen would show up on one day; the next day, no one would be on site. Finally, Jason, the electrician, pulled the main wire to the house, which was a cause for celebration. He then had the inspector out to the house to inspect all the wiring, even though the switches for the shutters and half of the lights were not installed. We learned we passed the inspection! We didn’t ask how. Now to wait until the government came to the house to install the new master electrical switch. The plumber stopped by to install faucets and shower hardware. He told me we were missing the one part on each shower that would enable the water to flow into the showerhead. Back to the internet. I called all the Hans Grohe dealers near Minneapolis and learned that this was an optional part and we didn’t need it. Our plumber disagreed. We then called the manufacturer and learned that it is a critical part, but doesn’t need to be purchased from them. I then found a dealer in Miami who agreed to obtain three for me and airfreight them to Anguilla. Finally, success, but why did it have to be so hard? By mid-July, we believed that enough progress had been made to begin the cleanup upstairs. Mary Ann’s Mom and Stepfather, Elizabeth and Arthur, came over and the four of us spent a whole Saturday cleaning. The place looked great and we were so proud of our work. On Monday, the sanding and drilling continued and we were again faced with a lot of dirt.


Jeffrey, the air conditioning man, wanted his money, but because we had no electricity, I couldn’t tell if the air conditioners worked. In addition, the units did not appear to be sitting flat against the walls. Jeffrey said it was Rooster’s fault, since the walls were not straight. Rooster said it was Jeffrey’s fault since he installed the units too early. It was becoming clear that everyone was tired of this project and no one wanted to take any ownership of anything. The railing installation was progressing well, but slowly. What had been installed looked very attractive, and I was very happy with what we had chosen.



Jason returned to complete the installation of the lights. While he was here, my husband decided to point out to him all the outlets that were crooked. As it happened, only about 10% of them were straight. Jason went ballistic! Neither he nor Rooster could understand why we weren’t satisfied with listing outlets, or lights hung at uneven heights! Begrudgingly, Jason began to repair what he could, calling us “wicked” every time he passed within 10 feet of us. My energy was quickly being depleted. In mid-July, Pete went back to Minneapolis, leaving me alone to deal with the workmen.


KEN’s: THE BEST RIBS IN ANGUILLA (Friday afternoons and Saturdays only) Go up the road from Fleur de Sel and make a left on Long Path. Proceed 3.5 kms to the only stop light in The Valley. Go through the light to the round-about and go ¼ of the way (a left turn, basically) around the round-about. Take the first right and Ken’s BBQ tent is on your right. You can park across the road near the City Market. A plate of BBQ ribs is $6.00. BBQ chicken is $2.75 and a combination is $6.00. Johnny cakes and bread are also available. Be sure to add extra BBQ and some spicy sauce.


CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The Final Days of Construction (Late July, 2008) By the third week of July, the switches for the hurricane shutters arrived. I pleaded with Jason to come back and install them so that the installation of the hurricane shutters could be completed before I left the island at the end of the month. (I figured if I even whispered that I would be staying on the island after July 31, the house wouldn’t be finished by Thanksgiving!) Not very happily, he returned to the house on July 28 and installed the remaining switches (never mind that the shutters were lowered when I pushed up and raised when I pushed down). At least we could close the shutters and secure the house before I left.



The last major project to accomplish before I left was to unpack the furniture that arrived in April. The boxes had been stacked in the office, gym and guest bedroom, and I had no idea if anything or everything was broken. One evening, Arthur and his son arrived to help unpack. Much to my surprise, everything was in one piece. In fact, the furniture looked great! Things were finally coming together, and not a moment too soon. While I was excited about the progress that had been made during the last two weeks of July, I was really sad to think that I would leave the island and not even be able to say thanks to Rooster, as he still was not speaking to me. Pete had had several conversations with him while he was on the island, and learned that Rooster believed that my expectations were too high. Pete also learned that overseeing a project such as this was just not something that women did in Anguilla. As I have reflected on the month of July, it is clear that I may have put Rooster in a compromised position with his men by “taking charge” when I perceived that Rooster was being reticent. Men in Anguilla don’t take direction from women. Additionally, many Anguillans, and many people in general, cannot confront issues directly. In Anguilla, people tend to say “yes” and then do their own thing, such as when the person who was painting our doors told me how beautiful they looked; only later did I learn that he had not even started the painting! It is also likely that Rooster was uncomfortable confronting an electrician with whom he had never worked, not knowing what the electrician’s response would be. As a result, things didn’t get done when they were supposed


to be completed. With the days ticking away until my departure, I was comfortable stepping up and outlining my expectations; that was difficult for some to accept. Two days before my departure, I asked Rooster if he would take a key to the house. He said he didn’t need a key. It was clear that he wanted to finish the project and put it (and me) behind him. That night, with Pete’s help, I crafted a letter to Rooster, apologizing for whatever I had done to offend him, and thanking him for all his hard work on a project that Pete and I thought was turning out better than we ever expected. I outlined all the things he had done to make this such a beautiful home: the redesign of the windows and columns to provide additional support, the 40 foot by 12 foot lap pool, the pitched roof with Anguillan wood, the powder room off the pool deck, the glass blocks in the showers. And I told him how sad I would be to leave the island without his usual bear hug. The next morning, as I put the letter in Rooster’s truck, I realized that there was a beehive of activity upstairs. The railings would be finished before I left the next day. The water in the kitchen would be hooked up. The last lights would be installed. And the tile floors would be cleaned with acid to remove some stains. I covered all the furniture with plastic to prevent damage from any interior work that might be finished in my absence. I was ready to leave. Early the morning of July 31, Rooster knocked on the door, came in and sat down. He cautiously asked for the money to cover all of his “extras”, expenses resulting from decisions made after the contract was signed. I had kept track of


what those expenses might be and I paid him what he asked. He must have expected some push-back from me because he seemed surprised to get the full amount. We talked for about an hour; it was good to reconnect with him. I told him once again how grateful we were to have had him as our builder, and he should be very proud of his work on the house. I practically had to throw him out of the house so I could lockup and leave for the ferry. But not before giving him a key, and getting a bear hug in return!


CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Epilogue (September - November, 2008) While on a walk around the lake on a beautiful early fall afternoon in Minneapolis, we received two telephone messages from Mary Ann, our former Property Manager. I hoped she and her family were ok; Pete hoped she didn’t have bad news about the house. I returned her calls, and she told me that the original cistern, which backed up to the lower level kitchen, had cracked and we had another flood downstairs. The kitchen cabinets, which we installed in March, 2007, would probably need to be replaced. The rugs were sopping wet. Many of the things that we had stored in the downstairs apartment, waiting to move them upstairs, were soaked, including our new 46 inch TV, the sound system, some lamps and two comforters for the upstairs bedrooms. Her mother and stepfather, as well as her sister and brotherin-law, were on site cleaning up. I reached Rooster by phone, and he intended to empty the cistern as rapidly as possible, hopefully before the wall gave way and destroyed the whole house. Rooster suspected that the cistern was made in two parts, and that the seal between the lower and the upper part had cracked. If that were the case, we would either have to have the cistern coated (cost: over $10,000), or Rooster would lower the overflow valves so they were lower than the crack (much less expensive). We opted for the latter. I made plans for an emergency trip to Anguilla, but both Rooster and Elizabeth said I would be in the way. We just needed time for everything to dry out so we


could estimate the damage. So, with very clear images of déjà vu, and we opened a bottle of wine and I made dinner. As the weeks progressed, the cistern wall held and the kitchen cabinets evidently dried out. They didn’t close correctly, but that could be fixed. The doors fell off two cabinets, but they could be reglued. It appeared that the TV, lamps and most everything else that had been stored on the floor of the lower level had survived with only minor damage, such as water stains on the quilts. It appeared we had dodged a bullet! We prepared to return to Anguilla in mid-November to move into the new upper level a couple of days later. Annie was going to join us and we would celebrate Thanksgiving in our new Caribbean home! When we arrived on the island, we were not quite prepared for ten days of cleaning from sunrise to sunset. It was exhausting and we didn’t feel as though we were making any progress. However, by the night before Thanksgiving, when we picked Annie up at the ferry, we were ready to move in. After a quick dinner and a hot shower, we all collapsed into the new beds and slept like babies. I awoke the next morning to the sun streaming through the second floor living room windows, right into my eyes. I sat up in bed and saw St. Barts, St. Martin, Tintamarre, St. Kitts and Statia. I was overwhelmed. I woke Pete and we both agreed: this exceeded our expectations! Like after childbirth (I suppose), all the pain and hard work were forgotten and replaced by happy thoughts and a feeling of a job well done.


That evening, Rooster and his wife, Shirley, joined us for their first traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and we all agreed, we had a lot to be thankful for!


CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Ten Commandments of Building in the Caribbean

No matter what they tell you, it will take much longer, so manage your expectations; in fact, it would be best to have no expectations at all!

Under no circumstances should you purchase anything from Sunny International in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Understand the fact that people will assume that, if you are white, you are rich.

• •

Never assume that things will get done unless you do them yourself. Expect to spend a lot of time following up on everything, so keep good records.

Make sure you have the name of a person in Customer Service in every vendor you use; it is also handy to know the name of the CEO, just in case.

Review every part of the building plan BEFORE you start construction; if you wait until after you have accepted the original bid, the cost to change things (electrical, plumbing) will be astronomical.

Get the price of any extra work you request in writing before you go ahead with the work.

Be aware that men on some Caribbean islands do not know how to interact with strong women; their assumptions about women’s behavior are very different from ours.

Assume that little or no work will get done if you are not on site.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Kim’s Anguilla Travelogue (February 23 – March 1, 2008)

Kim and Dave Meek are friends of ours from Minneapolis whom we invited to stay at Fleur de Sel for a week in late February. Below is their travelogue that describes a week in Anguilla.

February 25, 2008 Hello! I hand delivered the fax to Rooster this morning. He asked me if I can get something to you, and I confirmed I could, so I may be sending something from him your way. Dave is on his conference call currently, so I thought I would send you a recap of our adventures thus far.... Travel to the island was without issue. As you know, we found Kevin's BBQ without a problem and will probably go back Friday night for our last meal in Anguilla :) We couldn't believe how much food you got and for such a small price. The cold Heinekins in the fridge were the perfect compliment. Your home is LOVELY! So comfy and peaceful. We feel very much at home already. We explored the construction yesterday morning w/our morning coffee. Absolutely amazing! We are so excited for both of you. This is going to be absolutely spectacular and the breezes from this level are heavenly! It looks like


they have one coat of paint on most of the house already. We like the yellow w/the sleek white trim at the roof line. Your new entry to the pool area and view of the ocean beyond is just breathtaking. The pergola to the left looks great. Looks like the plumbing is roughed in throughout. The pool is still the loveliest plastic bottle receptacle on the island. There is a fair amount of goat droppings throughout the construction area, but the workers have put a large piece of plywood at the top of the new stairs going to the lower level and the new door entryway. Haven't seen the goats on the property since we arrived! Lots of them all over the island, but not at Fleur de Sel. The cement truck was here this morning and poured concrete in the new septic system area. The guys are continuing to paint the exterior. We will do some more investigation when they are done for the day and send a follow-up. They started at 7:30 am this morning, which is a good sign of progress for any construction team. Our Sunday was great. We slept in a bit and sat on the porch w/our coffee, read and admired the clear views of St. Maarten, Tintamarrere and St. Barts. We connected w/ Suzanna and got the car and began to make our way down to Johnnos at Sandy Ground. We had a great lunch and listened to a fun jazz band for a couple of hours. Then we moved our way to the beach there and continued our napping. Pure bliss. We had dinner last night at Mangos. We couldn't remember your comments on this spot, but the setting was beautiful and the wine list was great. According to one of the sites we visited, it said they had live music on Sunday night, but they didn't unfortunately. However, the service was terrific and the people very


friendly. Dave had conch chowder and I had mussels in wine sauce. Both were wonderful, but I think mine was the best. Especially mopping up the broth w/the warm baguette. Dave had a spicy grilled whole snapper and I had spicy grilled grouper. Dave's was the better one here, albeit tedious. I think my fish was overcooked. We had a wonderful bottle of wine that we wrote down and are going to try and find elsewhere.....Clos de la Siente Argentina 2006 Michael Rolland, a Cab/Syrah/Mouverdre blend. We finished off by sharing a slice of coconut cheesecake which was very light and creamy. We picked up one of the new restaurant guide books and are jotting notes of the places we visit. We came back to Fleur de Sel and were greeted by a group of 5 friendly dogs that were obviously all related. We have dubbed them The Jackson Five. I think they are one of your neighbor’s pets. They hung out w/us on the porch for while while we had a cocktail and enjoyed the starry sky. What a hoot! Last night we shut off all the AC’s and opened the windows to get some breeze. There was a rain shower w/ a bit of lighting in the early morning hours, which was very soothing as it swayed the palm fronds. Dave is done w/his call now so we are headed out to the market. We are thinking about going to Veya for dinner tonight. More later!


February 26, 2008 Hi Sallie, Another glorious day in paradise. It was overcast but warm and windy today. Dave and I made a trek over to Shoal Bay today for lunch and beach time. We ate at the Sandpiper on the beach. Dave and I think this is the sleepy place that served us beachside when we were here 10 years ago. Boy, have things changed since then! We were amazed at all the development. The secret is definitely out about Anguilla. Lunch at the Sandpiper was a bit of a challenge. Service was slow and one table next to us left after waiting 45 minutes. The poor owner/manager felt very bad and comp'd their drinks and brought their food to them down on the beach, which Dave and I thought was very nice. One guy was a complete jerk, but the 2 wives were very gracious and thanked the owner. I think they must have had a no show on some key staff today. The lady that waited on us told us that she normally works in the office and that she was sorry if things were slow. We told her she was doing just fine...poor thing. Needless to say, our food took a while but Dave's ribs and my Caesar salad w/ jerk chicken were fine. The ribs were the real hit here. Different from Kevin's, but quite flavorful. I wanted the ribs too, but they only had one serving left and I thought Dave was looking a bit drawn and needed the energy :) We had a fantastic meal at Veya last night. Dave started off w/the fish soup and I had the Vietnamese calamari....both phenomenal. For our entrees Dave had the spiced tuna on carmelized pineapple w/ this outrageous red wine reduction sauce. I had the spicy grouper on a bed of basil mashed potatoes topped w/


ratatouille. Both were just exceptional. All enjoyed w/ a Kim Crawford Pinto Noir. The restaurant is beautiful. We are going to try and swing by during the day to see it in the daylight. The bar looked like a fun place to 'stop in for a bump' as Dave and I like to refer to our dedication to trying every bar we like. We took a bunch of pictures today, but we forgot our cord to upload the photos to the computer...drat! Today they were sanding the cement chunks off the bottom of the wood ceiling in the great room....Looks great. They started interior painting several of the rooms in white which really brightens things up. They also did a final skim coat on walkway and front entrance. No goat prints to be found on the cement thank God! Elizabeth was here last night so we got to meet her. Her daughter and her husband were also here and they watered the garden. I didn't catch their names, but they were a very young couple. She got rid of your goats by throwing rocks at them. She said that some people don't like that but she was annoyed by them as well. She told me if I was afraid of them to just go inside. I informed her that I grew up on a dairy farm w/ very large cows and these goats wouldn't bother me. I would continue on with her stoning crusade. Unfortunately, the goats did show up last night, but I think they were disappointed that they couldn't go upstairs. There weren't a lot of droppings and we swept them up. It looks like the workers are sweeping up some of the droppings upstairs as well. They are probably sick of walking all over them. We are going to Koal Key tonight for dinner. Dave is really looking forward to the Tandoori. I, of course am looking forward to the wine list! I have been reading


them like books at the places we have gone so far. Tomorrow we are going on an excursion to Prickly Pear for some snorkeling and sun. Hope all is well in the great white north. We are feeling very comfortable here and the people are just lovely. You and Pete have a lovely home and your vision is nearing completion. We are so excited for you! If you ever need someone to carry your bags down, just let me know! Til Tomorrow, Kim Anguilla Correspondent - Fleur de Sel

February 27, 2008 Greetings from Paradise, We had an adventurous day today. This morning I woke up and looked out the windows to see goats running down the stairs. They were moving! I looked at the clock and it was time for the workers to begin arriving. I don't know that they got upstairs and perhaps they were just hanging out on the steps. The workers have now put up an additional barricade to the steps going to the top floor. I think they are getting annoyed with them and don't want them to ruin any of their painting. Dave and I along w/ another couple from Illinois (happen to have a lake place up on Gull Lake/Brainerd - small world) and a gentleman from Brooklyn embarked on our adventure to Prickly Pear. We left from Shoal Bay at 1pm in a high speed boat and arrived at Prickly Pear about 30 minutes later. It was a much larger island than we expected. We had lunch on the beach and spent some time


exploring. As we explored the island, it became very clear that there was some nasty weather heading right for us. Anguilla was getting pounded by rain and was barely visible. We boarded the boat and stayed anchored for a while before deciding to abandon going to the reef further out and headed for Pelican Bay and Little Bay instead. This was definitely the right decision and we had calm waters and beauty in abundance. Our captain had been doing this tour for 2 years and had never had to put that option out for any of his guests before. We told him we didn't want to have anymore firsts for the duration of our trip :) We saw sea turtles, a zillion fish and a ray over in Little Bay. I even had a close encounter with a pelican at Little Bay. He landed about 3 feet away from me in the water and we had a bit of a stare down before he flew away. I think he was as surprised as I was! It was so fun. We just completed our nightly happy hour inspection. It looks like a lot of concrete cutting and installation of drains from the side of the house and some plumbing rough-in. Interior painting continued as did the clean-up finish work on the wood ceiling. They also painted the pergola uprights as well. We have all this documented for your viewing pleasure. Unfortunately, we haven't had luck w/ uploading photos. So the pics may have to wait until we get home and we will send you the whole lot. The daily updates will continue in their place. Last night we went to Koal Keel for dinner. What a cute place. You gotta love a restaurant that presents their dessert menu first so you can plan accordingly, which of course we did. We started with a couple of nice appetizers and a bottle of Antinori Pinot Nero. Dave had a lobster bisque and I had a shrimp spring roll.


These were followed by some amazing Tandoori. Dave had lamp chops and I had a chicken breast in an amazing sauce. I couldn't even begin to guess what all was in it. The lamp chops were Dave's favorite of the trip thus far. We wrapped up w/ pears poached in white wine and coconut panna cotta. It was just beautful and tasted delightful. We have a picture of the dessert in case I want to try and replicate it in the future, but I doubt I will come close.

We are ending our day of adventure with an adventurous drive to Hibernia for dinner tonight. Tomorrow will be a serious beach day. I'm still as pale as when I arrived and that has just got to stop.

Take Care til tomorrow, Kim

February 28, 2008

Greetings Once Again From Paradise, Another Chamber of Commerce day here on Anguilla. Dave and I went to Trattoria Tramento for the day today and what a day it was! Just an exquisite spot and so tranquil. We got there promptly at 11am and scoped out some great chairs w/ drinks. We had a wonderful lunch. Dave had steamed mussels (some of the biggest we have seen) and I had an arugula salad with boar prosciutto, shaved pecorino romano and a white truffle oil dressing. Luscious! We shared a plate of


spaghetti w/olive oil, garlic and red pepper. Just the perfect lunch. Much like we ate when we were in Italy. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying cocktails under our umbrella, swimming, snorkeling and working on Kim's tan. I don't think I overdid it, but I guess I will find out in a few hours :) A downpour just descended on us! Dave is on the patio enjoying a cool Caribe and watching Mother Nature. Thankfully, we already completed our cocktail hour inspection! Looks like some good progress today. It appears they are doing some cleaning inside the worksite, which I'm sure is music to your ears. The form for the steps in the pool is in and I am guessing they will pour them tomorrow - get excited! I think they were also putting in some major electrical wiring today. There is a big conduit-looking thing on the side of the interior garage wall. It looks like the painting continues and the shower plumbing rough-in in your master bathroom shower was done today. When we were coming back from Shoal Bay today, it was fun to see your house quite notably from the road. Fleur del Sel rocks! Sallie - I think your furniture choices are going to be beautiful, so serene and comfy. I love the Del Mar collection and think it is a spot-on selection! Last night we went to Hibernia. We had no trouble finding it at all. When we arrived, there was singing coming from the church (?) next door. We were reminded that we were not good Catholics observing Wednesday Lent, but not deterred from having a phenomenal meal :) Dave and I both LOVED Hibernia, probably the best meal overall we have had to date. The owner (Mary Pat) helped us pick a beautiful bottle of wine (Cote de


Beaune). We were over our heads w/ a completely French wine list, but I am happy to report that where my instincts were going were right on. For appetizers, Dave had a mushroom soup w/almond froth and I had their smoked fish specialty w/ horseradish crème fraiche and toast points. Both were luscious. Dave had a spicy crayfish casserole w/rice noodles and I had something called Tom Yam Pla, which was a spicy fish casserole w/jasmine rice. Both were nicely spiced the way we like them and very generous portions! Both were show stoppers! We finished off w/a selection of their homemade ice cream and sorbets - passion fruit sorbet, coconut sorbet and mint ice cream. Sounds like an odd combination, but it was so light and really cleansed the palate after our robust, spicy entrees. We want to go back just for the dessert! Overall, a wonderful spot. Yes, it was expensive, but I haven't had this caliber of Thai food in a long time. Remember, we don't get out much! We are off to Blanchards tonight. It is hard to believe our last full day is tomorrow. It has gone way too fast! Hope all is well in Minnesota. We will try to bring some of this glorious weather home with us! Til Tomorrow, Kim and Dave

February 29, 2008

Hi Sallie,


We have a few questions about shutting down Fleur de Sel. 1. What type of cleaning do you want us to do? Does Elizabeth come after we leave? Mopping floors, bed linens washed? We'll be doing the normal straightening, trash removal, etc. 2. We will do the shutdown process in the 'Fleur de Sel Handbook' as described. Anything else you want us to do that may not be covered? We will be bringing the keys back, is that correct? We had a "Mexican Standoff" at 1:30 AM this morning. The goats had arrived unheard by us and had stacked up on the stairs thwarted by the plywood at the top. One of our unofficial guardian dogs of the Jackson 5 had arrived to drive them off. Without the rest of his posse, all he could do was bark and confront the goat that couldn't fit on the stairs. This gray goat, "ol' Silver," was not going to be driven off by a single dog and had his head lowered for butting. These two had reached a stalemate much to the frustration of the dog. Dave turned on the light with no affect. Dave then raised a bedroom widow and shouted sending the goats running immediately. Then it was back to sleep. Kim and Dave 1, Goats 0. More to come....

February 29, 2008

Hello Sallie and Pete, I can't believe this is our last full day here on the island. It has gone by way too


fast! I'm sure that you have heard that from all those that came before us. It has been such a pleasure being here and your generosity is amazing. Dave and I have commented many times about how nice it is of you to share your home with us. You are both just a treasure! Sallie - I think it is a great irony that I can see the color of the house and a web picture of the tiles for the pool and you can see the real tile and not a view of the exterior color! That will soon change! I think your selection of the aqua tiles is going to be just lovely.

I can't image how difficult it is to build a house remotely. If we ever decide to embark on this adventure (I fear Dave might not survive it), we will be sure to consult w/the Lilienthals! I hope you enjoyed our goat story from last night. I told Dave it would have been funny if we had gotten a picture of the goats all relaxed on your steps! I can just see the Holiday Greetings card - Happy Holidays from Anguilla! Best Wishes, The Lilienthals :) Unfortnately, we were both a bit groggy to be thinking of a camera at the time. Our happy hour inspection revealed more interior painting and completed varnish spraying of the wood ceiling. It is really gorgeous. We have a bunch of pics for you. We were a bit disappointed with only one level of the pool stairs being completed, but I suspect it takes a while for cement to dry in this climate. We also have a pic of this as well. We will send you the many pics via email Sunday morning. Next time, we will remember our camera cord!


As for dinner last night.....Blanchards. Both Dave and I agree that it was good, but not in line with what they charge. It is a lovely setting and the service was excellent. We had a chance to visit w/both Bob and Mel tableside, which is a nice touch. Dave had the red oak salad and I had a goat cheese salad for our first course. Both quite nice, but at $18 a pop, this was ridiculous. We had finer food in NYC and paid less. Dave had their signature jerk shrimp and I had the sesame crusted mahi-mahi. Both were wonderful and the accompanying side dishes were wonderful (shell peas, sweet potato puree, caramelized onions, etc.). Their wine was very expensive as you mentioned, we had a half bottle of a red Sancerre and it was $50. It was a good experience, but we would go back to Hibernia and Trattoria Tramento as our favorites. [Dave's Comments: My favorite meals were at Hibernia and the Trattoria as Kim mentions. I felt the prices at Blanchards were 25 to 33% too high for what you get. Don't get me wrong on the price comments; our all time favorite meal on St. Martin was at the Fishpot in Grand Case. The Fishpot was even more expensive than Blanchards but the food is still a topic of conversation among Kim, my brother, my sister-in-law and myself. Every dish was off the scale good and we regretted the fact that we had waited until our last night to eat there. I also wish we had stopped by Hibernia for their homemade ice cream and sorbet every day!] We went to Shoal Bay East today for our final day of fun and sun. We had lunch at Ernies, which was fun. I had a lovely lobster salad and Dave had the BBQ ribs and chicken combo. They do their BBQ without sauce (which we like)


so you can do your own sauce mix and coverage to your liking. I can't tell you how many Ernie's mango and passion fruit coladas we had today. They were wonderful and the most reasonably priced drinks and lunch we have had beachside. Raymond who manages the chairs is a real gem and we enjoyed his customer service. The people here are just lovely. We wave to everyone when we are driving down the road, and we are always amazed that they wave us a couple of hicks from Minnesota, but it really adds to the island experience. [Dave Comments: Uncle Ernies is THE place to go on Shoal Bay East. The volume of business there for such a small shack and bar demands patience as a patron. Squarely in the island groove, we enjoyed the wait sipping our coladas mentioned above while other groups and individuals ran out of patience and stepped to the kitchen for service and to clear their checks. The lobster salad was large with no shortage of lobster meat with that very fresh, "caught this morning" taste. I assaulted a combo rib and chicken order and dipped them in BBQ sauce and the island pepper sauce (same kind on everyone's tables) in a 2 to 1 ratio. What a perfect blend of smokey sauce with the depth and heat of the scotch bonnet peppers...heaven! I enjoyed the generous serving and ordered up additional rounds of coladas. At $5 for a colada, we had a good start on a frequent drinkers card... Raymond set me up with flippers and I snorkeled around the inner reef extensively. A sea turtle lazily munching on sea grass and a stingray scouring the bottom sands were the highlights. The afternoon flew by as we enjoyed steel drum music from a drummer who looked like he might hurt himself gyrating to the rhythm. I could clearly hear the drums way out on the


water when I'd surface to look for boats. I can think of no better way to finish a mediocre Kevin Follett novel.] Tonight we are going to Straw Hat for dinner. We have been reading mixed reviews, so we will see, I guess. Sounds like a lovely setting for our last night on the island. One place we didn't get to that we wanted to was E's Oven. We read great reviews and whenever we drove by there were cars in the lot. Also looks like a cute place. Elizabeth, Arthur & Niria (sp?) were here to water the plants. Elizabeth knocked on the door to see if we were enjoying ourselves and get a goat update. We gave her the goat/Jackson 5 "Mexican standoff" update. Niria is a little cutie that is in second grade and enjoys reading with demonstrated acumen in math and spelling. Elizabeth was very proud. In denial that we're heading north, Kim and Dave

March 1, 2008

Hi Sallie, A warm, breezy day for our Anguilla send-off! It sounds like there are some workers here today and I thought I heard the cement mixer as well. Maybe they are working on the pool steps? I hope so. * We did a load of towels and will leave any that we use this morning on the


hooks in the bathroom.. * I put some extra coffee and cheese in your freezer that we didn't devour while here. * The sugar bird greeted us this morning and said his final goodbye. * No sign of the goats or the Jackson Five. I think the goats heard Dave and me talking about the motion detector sprinklers on their way down and made a break for it while they could. * I washed your sheets and made your bed so you will not have to worry about that when you come down. It is a long travel day and you can just crash. * There are 2 bottles of gift wine in the wine fridge and 1 in the main fridge from your 3 sets of guests. * I cleaned out the fridge of any items that would likely be spoiled when you arrive. I did toss some questionable shallots from the bin, so you can add them to your shopping list. That's all for now...we'll call you tomorrow morning from EP! Many thanks for a wonderful stay at Fleur de Sel, Kim and Dave

March 1, 2008

We finished up the wine and beer last night after the Straw Hat, so we had to settle for coffee on the patio this morning :) Which was fab, by the way.


Straw Hat was a bit uneven. Setting and service was great. Dave had snapper seviche and I had conch croquettes for appetizers. I preferred the seviche and it was a nice portion. For the price, I thought they were a bit skimpy on the croquettes at only 2 relatively small bites. Dave had a tofu pad thai for his entree and it was quite tasty. It was an interesting rendition of pad thai w/rice noodles instead and it was an ample portion. I had the prawns in a red curry sauce. Not what I expected. There were 5 skewers w/ a prawn that was probably marinated in red curry first then grilled. There were some marinated mushrooms and seaweed salad as accompaniments. Tasty, but once again, rather small portions for the price. Dave was the winner on selections at this restaurant. Don't know that I would go back anytime soon considering all the other places I would like to try first as well as go back to again.

Looks like the weather is going to be nice in MN today (relatively speaking). I imagine people will be breaking out the short sleeves today! Talk to you tomorrow, Kim