Any day now, Carol Livingston and husband Mitchel will drive from their home in Cincinnati to what may become their retirement retreat in the Susan area of Mathews County.
They were in the county in December for their first peek at the DIY Network Blog Cabin that Carol, 64, won on her birthday, Oct. 7. She was randomly selected from more than 8.9 million entries, according to the TV network.
But, they didn't get to actually stay in the waterfront farmhouse because there were still liability issues to iron out.
Now, with keys and property deed in hand, they'll spend some early spring days at the 16-acre site with twin sons, Joshua and Jeremy, 27, who are coming from their respective homes in Philadelphia and Nashville.
"Everyone we met was friendly and welcomed us as visitors to the area," says Carol of December's quick weekend trip.
"We did not tell anyone why we were there, so we believe we got a true sense of the Chesapeake Bay area.
"We truly experienced southern hospitality during our stay."
The Blog Cabin, a 1905-built farmhouse on a cove that overlooks Mobjack Bay near the Chesapeake Bay, underwent a top-to-bottom renovation late last spring. Blog Cabin host and licensed contractor Matthew Blashaw and celebrity hosts from other DIY shows came in and demolished the home's interior, taking it down to stud walls, and then updated and decorated it. From time to time, viewers were given the chance to vote on materials such as flooring, counter tops and room colors. Dylan Eastman of Courthouse Construction in Gloucester was the Blog Cabin project manager.
"We love the beauty of the home and all the details of the design, quality of materials and furnishings," says Carol during a telephone interview.
"The water views and the landscaping in front of the house, and all the recreational space in the back yard are beautiful. We will enjoy being outdoors a lot. We're bringing our cornhole game when we drive out – our sons love that game."
In December, the couple and their sons wanted to stay at The Inn at Tabbs Creek at Port Haywood in Mathews, but it was full, so they got rooms at a chain hotel off Route 17 in Gloucester. They dined on seafood at the River's Inn Restaurant and Crab Deck at Gloucester Point, and returned the following night to see a holiday boat parade.
"Coming from the Midwest, we had never seen anything like that," says Carol.
Since then, the couple has stayed in touch with Blog Cabin neighbors Suzi and Dale Maloney, who keep an eye on the place for them. They also talk to Mathews friends Chuck and Mary Neff, who are parents of Carol's friend, Laurie Neff.
"They've given us all sorts of resources that they have some to trust over the years, so we've really enjoyed their support," says Carol.
"Dylan showed us around while we were there and told us everything about the house. There's also a three-ring binder with information. It's a lot to take in once we get to the house.
"When Dylan showed us around, everything looked perfect, so we don't anticipate the need for anything to change."
Carol finds it difficult to say what she likes best about the house because the setting and views from the house are overwhelming.
Her one word for the house?
"Incredible," she says.
"The peace and serenity you feel when looking out on the water is powerful."
But, she does favor the kitchen because it's well designed and appears easy to use.
"Family and friends can sit at the counter and be part of the action," she says.
"My sons and I like to work together in the kitchen and I think there is plenty of room for that. The view through the dining room out to the water is beautiful."
Carol also likes how the designers did so many clever things in the eating and dining areas. For instance, there's a wall with chalkboard paint so shopping lists and errand reminders can be posted and easily seen; a wine rack is made from gas vent piping cut into lengths and hung vertically along a nook in the dining area.
If and when they move to Mathews full time is still up in the air. Carol's 90-year-old mother in Illinois has been seriously ill since January, so she's been busy seeing to her needs. Carol, an assistant dean at the University of Cincinnati, and Mitchel, a vice president there, are a couple of years away from retirement and still have to figure out where life goes from there.
"We look forward to experiencing the house when we visit and we're sure all our decisions will fall into place as time goes on," she says.
"We have not made a decision to sell the house at this time.
"We look forward to getting to know the immediate area around Susan when we return."
Contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the show
Blog Cabin is an interactive home-remodeling series that asks you to go online to vote on design features; a one-hour special features the final transformation. Then, someone wins the property.
This spring and summer, watch the changes on a circa-1884 cape cod located in Waldoboro, Me., and enter to win it in August. Vote for products and materials and learn more about the show at http://www.diynetwork.com/blog-cabin/index.html.