The Dream Redux

For years, Rose and Doug Sabin longed for a place on the lake. Theft, flood and fire were never part of the plan.

Photo credit: Jerry Mann
Rose and Doug Sabin at their Marblehead Cottage
Rose Sabin arrives home in style, standing on the bow of her boat and waving hello.

Rose, her husband, Doug, and a small group of friends are returning from an afternoon spent swimming off the north side of Kelleys Island, where they dropped anchor. They enjoyed the previous day on the sand at Cedar Point Beach after docking their boat in the park’s marina.

The burgers are in the fridge, waiting to be grilled, but first Rose heads inside to whip up a batch of grape martinis — her signature drink this summer. She’s thrown on a colorful coverup over her swimsuit and her long, dark hair is tousled from the wind.

This is the way most weekends go when the weather is warm. The Sabins live in Westlake, Ohio, but are here in Marblehead, about an hour west, every chance they get. It’s as if, Rose says, the sunshine is slowly melting the stress of the past 18 months.

The Sabins’ ordeal began with an early-morning phone call in January 2009. A neighbor had driven by and noticed streams of water pouring off the Sabins’ garage. Doug rushed to the home, which was just 3 years old. The walls and ceiling had caved in, electrical wiring was exposed and an inch of ice coated the furniture. “It was like a war zone,” Rose says. “Doug would not let me see it.”

What happened, they deduced, was that someone had broken in through the sliding glass door and stolen the TV. It was an extremely cold month and the pipes burst, flooding the home with 67,000 gallons of water.

“That’s when we realized how important good insurance was,” Rose says. The couple hired a contractor and worked quickly to rebuild in time for the summer. They had already spent three summers on the lake and didn’t want a break-in to ruin the fun.

By late March, the house was 90 percent completed. That’s when the Sabins got another phone call. Again, they rushed to Marblehead. This time they arrived to find television camera crews and four local fire departments. Their house had been destroyed, and the fire spread to take down four of their neighbors’ homes as well. The cause of the fire was never determined.

Photo credit: Jerry Mann
Rose and Doug Sabin’s cottage
Still reeling from the break-in and burst pipe, Rose and Doug say they almost felt numb to what the fire did to their house. “But our neighbors …” Rose says. “That was really hard. I was more concerned for them.”

This time, the decision was more difficult. “We cleared the land — and our heads — and tried to decide whether to rebuild,” Rose says. They considered building or buying an existing home elsewhere, including nearby Catawba and Johnson’s Island. Ultimately, though, they couldn’t leave Marblehead. “You can keep your boat in your backyard without being in a marina,” Rose says. “We dreamed of this for years.”

“We’re like the Hamptons of Cleveland,” Doug adds. “People don’t realize how nice it is.”

So the Sabins hired a builder — Jim Tipple of Maranatha Custom Homes, based in LaGrange, Ohio. Maranatha is an Aramaic word found in the New Testament that means “Our Lord, come” — which the Sabins noticed. “We felt God purposely brought Jim into our lives to help us get through the stress and sadness of the ordeal,” Rose says.

The Sabins broke ground in fall 2009, and the house was finished by spring. Like their old house, which they also built, the new house is just over 2,000 square feet and has four bedrooms. They did, however, make some significant changes to the design. The master bedroom in the new house is on the first floor and the laundry room was eliminated to make other rooms bigger (a washer and dryer are tucked away in a first-floor closet). “The positive thing,” says Rose, “is that we got to work out the kinks.”

The house is sunny and cheerful, decorated mostly in shades of yellow and blue with 7-foot bead board and wide-plank cherry floors running throughout the main living areas of the home. Rose had decorated her first house with art and antiques found at shops around Marblehead. “I lost so many things in the fire,” she says. “I’m just enjoying trying to go around and recollect.”

The kitchen features white bead board cabinets, white Silestone countertops and a large wood-topped square island. It’s open to the dining area and the living room — all of which overlook the lake.

The house is simple and uncluttered and, Rose says, easy to keep clean. “When I come off that boat,” she laughs, “I don’t want to do a thing.”

Photo credit: Jerry Mann
Rose on her patio with friends and the grape martinis she's been serving all summer
The exterior of the Sabins’ home is a rich slate blue with red accents. Of the five homes lost in the fire, only the Sabins and one other family rebuilt. The other lots are for sale.

That’s in the past, though. For Rose, her vacation state of mind begins when she crosses Sandusky Bay. “As soon as you get over the bridge, you just completely decompress,” she says.

And when she parks her car, that’s it. “Once I pull in my driveway, the car doesn’t move,” she says. “If I can’t get there by boat, I’m not going.”

Actually, the Sabins have two boats docked out back — a 1958 18-foot Lyman Islander with side-wheel steering and a 28-foot Scout Abaco. When the weather’s nice, they like to drop anchor and swim. Some of their favorite dining destinations include the Boardwalk on Put-in-Bay, Chez Francois in Vermilion and the Martini Bar on Kelleys Island.

When they eat at home, Rose likes to cook for guests from her garden, where she grows basil, mint, chives, cilantro, eggplant, oregano, zucchini, hot peppers and Brussels sprouts. The rest of her produce, including peaches she likes to grill and serve on pound cake, she picks up down the road at Bergman Orchards.

“We feel very blessed that we have this place,” Rose says. “We like to share with our family and friends.”

Rose Sabin and her husband, Doug, always have a houseful of guests in Marblehead, and they’re treated not just to great views of the water, but also to home-cooked meals, often Italian, in a nod to Rose’s heritage. During the summer, Rose turns first to her garden, then to the local farmers market when selecting a menu. Here are some of her favorites:

Grilled Summer Peaches with Pound Cake

(Serves 6)

5 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 ripe but firm locally grown red haven peaches,
halved and pitted

6 slices of pound cake

1 cup thick crème fraîche or fresh whipped cream

Heat gas grill to medium. Lightly oil rack. Brush cut sides of each peach with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Brush both sides of pound cake with melted butter. Grill peaches, cut side down, uncovered, until lightly caramelized (1 to 2 minutes). Transfer to platter and cover with foil. Grill pound cake on both sides until nicely toasted (2-3 minutes). Cut each grilled peach into slices. Top each slice of pound cake with sliced peaches. Spoon a large dollop of crème fraîche or fresh whipped cream on top and enjoy.

Bella Stuffed Banana Peppers

(Serves 6)

8 to 10 large locally grown sweet banana peppers,
tops removed and seeds scooped out

1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage,
sautéed and drained

1/2 cup freshly shredded provolone cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
(plus extra for top of casserole)

2 or 3 eggs

1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs

2 cups homemade tomato sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sausage, provolone, pecorino Romano, eggs and bread crumbs together in a bowl (mixture should be moist). Stuff into cavity of banana peppers. Lay peppers flat in a large 13-by-9-inch casserole dish. Pour tomato sauce over peppers. Drizzle with the olive oil and grate a generous amount of pecorino Romano on top. Cover with foil and bake about 1 hour, until peppers are soft. Serve with a green salad and good crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Everybody mangia!

Photo credit: Jerry Mann
Harborside Garden Sliced Tomatoes and Corn with Basil and Chive Vinaigrette

(Serves 6)

4 ears locally grown supersweet bi-corn

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin stripes

2 pounds garden-ripe red tomatoes, sliced

Cut corn kernels off the cob directly into a bowl and toss with vinegar. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat until hot and add corn mixture. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil strips. Arrange sliced tomatoes on a platter. Top with the corn mixture, drizzle with the vinaigrette (see recipe below) and savor outside on the back deck.

Chive Vinaigrette

(for sliced tomatoes and corn)

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients in small bowl.
Slowly whisk in oil until blended. Stir in chives and serve.

Great Lakes Grape Martini

2 ounces Three Olives Grape Vodka

1 ounce Grape Pucker

2 ounces locally harvested farmers market Concord grape juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for about 5 seconds and strain into a martini glass.