It’s like we moved to a new city

Bullock and I moved a mere 6 1/2 miles from our old house, and yet it’s like we moved to an entirely different town.

For one thing, we’re in a different ecological/geological region than we were before. Apparently the region we’re now in is, according the Nature Conservancy, as unique and precious as the Florida Everglades. Lucky for us, however, there are fewer gators. (Well, none, actually.) One of the characteristics of this region is really sandy soil. Damn stuff tracks into the house all over the place, especially via the dog (who, at the moment of writing, is lying in one of the many shallow holes she’s dug under the lilac bushes in the back yard). It’s like living at the beach without the water, which isn’t fair, really. The good news is it wipes/vacuums up and brushes off really easily; the bad news is we have to keep on top of it lest the inside of the house become a sand dune. But I’m starting to think we need an outdoor shower like at a beach house!

I don’t think the beasties and blossoms are all that different from our old house, although there are lots of native oaks (we had a maple and a river birch at our old house) and more chipmunks. I think both like the sandy soil. There’s also a rare flower native to the area that is the only plant to support an even rarer butterfly.  And there’s a native cactus, even! Really!  (I know, I was surprised, too.) I think next spring I’m going to look into more native plants and put in a native flower bed in a sunny spot in our backyard. Bullock wants to do veggies, but I think there’s room for both.

From the old house we used to spend some time at the closest big park/nature preserve. Now we’re half way in between that park and another one to the west of us. Despite their being a mere 7-8 miles apart, they’re very different parks, in terrain and general atmosphere. The one we used to go to (and may still) is in the center of the older part of town, and so gets *tons* of traffic. It also has buildings and museums on its grounds, as well as the usual parkland attractions (hiking, biking, running trails; nature center; picnic areas; playgrounds), so there are more events going on and visitors for reasons other than being in the great outdoors. And it has a river running through it, so it has high bluffs over floodplains, as well as a mix of forest and meadow. The “new” park (well, new to us) is much quieter and more country-like. The only building is the nature center/photography museum/offices near the main parking lot. It has a historic cemetery in the middle of it, which makes it a little different, but it’s mostly just nature trails and a few picnic areas. There’s a lot of forested area, but unlike the “old” park, it’s all pretty lowland — one trail is even called the “Swamp Forest Trail.” And the forest feels different to me — maybe there’s more oak and less of a mix of trees?  I wish I were enough of a naturalist to pinpoint the difference. And there’s that sandy soil again. But it’s also very, very quiet. It gets use, just not to the extent the other park does. It made an evening run the other night very peaceful and pleasant — almost like being in the true country.

And though technically we’re closer to the “old” park, the drive to the “new” park takes less time, because the population and commercial business density is less out here, and the speed limit a little higher, so it’s just a quick drive down what is essentially a country road to the “new” park, versus battling midtown traffic to the old one.

And that’s another real difference I’ve noticed in three weeks of living in the new house: it feels (and *is*) closer to the country here, so even though we’re only 6 miles from campus, I feel a bit like we moved way out somewhere. Aside from developments like ours, parcels of land are big out here — multiple acres — and there’s a lot of open space. And because it was formerly true country, there’s a lot of randomness to the housing stock — an early 20th century farmhouse here, a basic and blocky mid-century ranch there, new construction in a “traditional” style next, followed by a 70s blend-with-the-elements design after that. And the size of the houses varies, too, from tiny shacks to country McMansions. Rare are the developments out here, past ours, that went up at the same time and have a unified architectural aesthetic. That’s very different from our old neighborhood, where there’s the tonier 1920s section next to campus and the more modest 1930s development (where we lived) just to the north, in both of which there are just a few different general types of house styles from those eras. And it’s different from the Rust Belt Historic District I lived in during my first three years here, where styles changed over time from the 1880s to the 1910s, but there was still a pretty identifiable set of styles.

And pole barns and boat garages and other out-buildings are everywhere. There’s this one street that leads into our development, but somehow resisted being swallowed up by it, where the houses are very modest in size — but, again, diverse in style and period — but behind which are three- and four-car (or four-*boat*!) garages of two-to-four-times the size of the houses.

In the past few weeks I’ve also realized how circumscribed our lives had become when we lived within a 1 mile orbit of campus, because out here I’ve been driving on major roads that I had previously never driven on (or at least never on those sections of them). That’s where I’ve been observing some of the more country-randomness of the housing stock and open spaces. Meanwhile I’m still a little irrationally confused by the idea that we’re closer to certain big box stores at their “way out there locations” than to the locations we previously patronized. Apparently, “way out there” meant “within 10 miles” to me when we lived in our more central old neighborhood.  If I think 10 miles away is “way out there,” my life has gotten way too small. So it’s good for us to have shaken things up a bit. So far on these necessary drives to the big box stores (because, apparently, moving necessitates a gazillion trips to Bed, Bath, and Bupkis), we’ve discovered a couple of non-chain (or small, regional chain) restaurants we’ve tried or want to try that we previously didn’t even know existed.  Also, I now know how to get downtown via highway, which we did the other night to go to one of our favorite restaurants there, since driving through town no longer made sense.

But the other big change is cultural. The new neighborhood is in a different socioeconomic and demographic class than the old one, which I say not to disparage one or the other, but simply to mark the difference. Both of them are kind of mixed and complicated, but there’s still a distinct difference, which is not surprising given that the houses are more expensive in the new neighborhood and there are no renters. Plus the age of the old neighborhood determined some of its demographics, as well. Our old neighborhood was a mix of blue and white collar people, where the white collar people tended to be in their 20s and 30s, in their first jobs and first homes, having their first kids, and the blue collar people tended to be the second or third generation of the neighborhood, in houses handed down within families, and nearing retirement. Our former next-door neighbors, in fact, bought their house from his parents, who were the original owners. But everyone else around us was a younger couple with kids or about to have kids. So we, the childless couple in our forties, well established in our professional careers, were kind of the odd-balls. Meanwhile, our new neighborhood has a lot of original owners still in the the houses, but since it was built in the 80s, that means they are same age as some of our older neighbors in the old ‘hood (roughly Baby Boomers), but different in terms of their relationship to the neighborhood. And a few things a couple of neighbors have said suggests that these weren’t their first homes as families — or at least not their first residences. And where they had kids, they’re now long grown up. The houses around us are rather strikingly full of adults only. There are some young families around the larger neighborhood — I see the kids out riding their bikes — but only a few in our immediate corner (although I’m sure that will change over time). So it’s an architecturally younger but demographically older area. And there are *many* more people in suits going to and coming home from work at the conventional white-collar times of day, as well as more retired older Boomers with summer and weekend homes (like the couple next door, who alerted us to the fact that we wouldn’t see them over the summer). The blue collar Boomers in our old neighborhood have yet to retire.  But what both neighborhoods have in common, I’m happy to say, is ethnic diversity.

But anyway, the effects of higher property values and more disposable income (one assumes) and more leisure time (because of retirement or a spouse being able to afford to stay at home) in the new neighborhood means a lot more “house proud” people. People especially seem to take their lawn care and gardening seriously over here.  There’s one pair of houses opposite each other on a main drag that I swear are engaged in some kind of Top Gardener show-down. One has carefully designed a garden *environment* that fully surrounds the house — it’s very neat, very designed, and very carefully styled with the lines of the house — and the other has the biggest collection of lilies of all varieties that I’ve ever seen. Some of them are over 6 feet tall and all of them together are a joyous explosion of color, but all very perfectly laid out.  And there are no weeds in either of these gardens.  In the old neighborhood, there was the occasional super-gardener, but the gardens were never quite as pristine and designed and perfect as these. And there were more than a few yards that got citations every year for being overgrown.

So, anyway, all of these things combined with the new house makes this summer feel a bit like we’re starting over somewhere totally new. No wonder I feel a little discombobulated and I’m having some difficulty getting settled back into work.  I want to explore! But it’s a totally weird feeling to have when you know you haven’t *actually* moved to a new town. It’s all very odd.

Ridiculous stuff I want

So I was just catching up on old posts at Dude, Where’s My Tardis, and this one made me want stuff, *especially* the “Keep Calm – I’m The Doctor” mug. Or a Tardis cookie jar.  And so it sent me to the ThinkGeek site, since I recalled I have “Geek points” from a previous purchase. And there I saw a whole bunch of unnecessary, ridiculous, geeky stuff I could get for free with my points (well, and a $15 purchase).  They included these decals for the back of your car, a riff on those “family” decals you see everywhere now:

It’s not so much that I’m into zombies (though apparently I already had a “zombies” category on the blog — why??), but I’ve never understood those family decals (seriously, why do I need to know how many kids and pets some strangers have?…I don’t really get bumper stickers,  either), so any subversion of them is pretty delightful to me.

And, of course, there’s plenty more Dr. Who stuff where the mug and the cookie jar came from (though not free-with-point-and-purchase stuff, alas), though unfortunately, the River Song Tardis journal is out of stock. 😦 There’s also lots of non-Doctor geekery, too. I kind of want the “Blue Canary in the Outlet by the Lightswitch,” but Bullock didn’t get that joke last time I pointed it out, so I’m not sure others will, either. Btw, I own the Staple-Free Stapler and it kind of sucks because it only staples up to four pages. It’s a fascinating little gadget, though.

But really, I don’t *need* any of this stuff, and given that we’re still not finished unpacking the stuff we *do* have, I don’t think I need to add to it just yet!

[This post brought to you by writing procrastination.]

Bloggy socializing

I had a visit from Historiann today, who was in the area visiting family, so we arranged a meet-up. What fun! She met me at our new house (yes! we have moved in!) and so got to meet the elusive Bullock and the not so elusive Pippi, too. That also means she is the first person to have seen the new, remodeled house, too, as we’re still unpacking and haven’t yet had a chance to invite local friends over. (Plus Bullock just started his first week as chair of his department, so has had a busy week already.) Historiann brought us a lovely potted zinnia plant — how thoughtful! — which is wonderful, because other than the hanging plants I brought from the old house, I don’t have much of anything flowering around here, since the transition from one house to the other meant I didn’t have the opportunity to put annuals in here.

After some coffee in our new kitchen, Historiann and I headed off to the nearest big park/nature preserve and did some energetic walk-and-talk (how very Aaron Sorkin of us) through leafy forest, keeping out of the heat and sun. Great fun and great company!  I hope we can do this again next time she comes through the area, and maybe by then I will have gotten back in running shape again and we can go for a run together.

Besides spurring me to get running again (well, maybe), Historiann’s visit also has clearly spurred me to get blogging again.  Up next: what happens when you write a very mixed review of a seniors scholar’s work (hint: so far, nothing bad!).

But now, I have to get going, as Bullock just called and said we *finally* have a date and time for the closing on our old house (yes! we sold it!) and it’s three hours from now, and there’s stuff to do before then.

Here be dragons

I’ve been meaning to post for some time about my super-awesome medieval lit class last semester and its contrast with my not-so-bad but not-so-great classes this semester — and the reason for that difference (both pedagogical and systemic) — but I’ve been utterly overwhelmed this semester, with little time for blogging. The substantive posts take a bit out of me, and I need to maintain my energy for all the professional writing that I’m doing and that is all now seriously overdue (although at least I finally put to bed the Review. That. Wouldn’t. Die.).

Anywho, in the meantime, I thought I’d share a picture with you. The pin on the map below is where our new house is.  (And no, we still haven’t moved.  The kitchen remodel is underway, though — cabinets have been ordered; down payments have been made — but it probably won’t be until April that we move.  We did finally list our current house, at least. Anyone want a 4-bedroom, 2 bath, 2000 sq. foot house in Rust Belt for under $140K?)  Back to the new house.  Notice how close we are to the western edge of Rust Belt.  (Indeed, we are outside the belt highway, which you just see on the right.) Here be dragons.  Or at least farms, anyway. The mix of green and brown fields reminds me of some of those glass brick patterns that are popular for kitchen back-splashes and bathroom tile right now. (Which may be a sign. We’re still trying to decide what to do with the back-splash in our kitchen.)

Do a Google image-search with this and you'll come up with pictures of other "green places" -- forests, olive groves, pictures of nesting eagles and their eaglets. I like that.

At any rate, this reminds me of the suburb where I grew up as a child. When my parents bought our house in the 1950s, it was a recently re-developed corn field (or so my parents and siblings have told me). By the time I grew up there in the 1970s, things had grown up around it, but you didn’t have to go far to hit open fields, and there was a fancy horse club down the road, as well as a small ranch of Texas long-horn steer, too (a kind of artisanal ranch — I think those steer were more heritage pets than anything).  These days, though, it’s an endless sprawl of suburb and exurb, all the way out to where my “wilderness” camp used to be and beyond.  But not Rust Belt. Our neighborhood was built in the optimistic ’80s, but things seem to have stopped more or less by the ’90s. If you go due west of where the pin is, you can see another small development (from the 1990s) and then a big park/preserve area (the trees) and a golf course (the light green abutting the trees on the north side) and then farms. Tells you something about Rust Belt, doesn’t it?

It’s been a long time since I lived this close to country.  I may try to take advantage of it this summer:  try to get back into running shape and take long runs out that way. The traffic isn’t bad on those roads and the shoulders are wide.  Or maybe I should get my bike out and tour it that way. Or both!

A house divided

Bullock and I closed on our new house on November 30 and got possession on December 5, but we still haven’t moved into it because we’re totally re-doing the 1980s white melamine kitchen. (Don’t worry — we’ll either recycle the exisiting cabinets as garage or shop cabinets or donate them to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.)  We’d hoped that that project would have started the construction phase by now, but we’re finally going to get a cost quote from the designer we’re working with on Saturday. Fingers crossed that it fits in our projected budget.

Anyway, though we’re still living in the old house, a lot of our life is now over in the new house in the form of small pieces of furniture and boxes galore, because we’re using the new house to de-clutter the old house to put it on the market. (Yes, that means we currently have two mortgages.  How do we afford this?  It’s Rust Belt; here two mortgages still don’t add up to one big city mortgage. I kid you not. The dirt cheap real estate was one of the things that attracted me to Rust Belt when I took this job. If there were jobs for you all here, I’d encourage you to move forthwith!) Most of the stuff over at the new house is not stuff that I need right now — for instance, sandals and summer clothes — and I’m starting to think I could do with a lot less stuff in general.  At any rate, a de-cluttered house is a pleasant thing. Everything is so neat and tidy!

But we do go over to the new house pretty regularly to check on things or to get some pre-move maintenance accomplished (for example, getting the carpets cleaned). And occasionally I take Pippi over there, to get her used to the house, yard, and neighborhood, so she feels like it’s part of her extended territory, the way she feels about Bullock’s mom’s house.  It seems to have worked — she’s pretty chill when we take her over there now.

But it’s weird to inhabit two places at once.  I’m eager to move to and *settle* in our new house, but it looks like that won’t happen until *April* now.  I feel temporary in the current neighborhood now, but not yet quite part of the new neighborhood.  It’s bit like how I felt those last 3-4 months in LA between accepting the job here and leaving LA.  And believe me, moving across town here in Rust Belt will almost be as big of a lifestyle change as LA to Rust Belt was, although in the opposite direction. Although our immediate neighborhood of our current house is nice and tidy, there’s a lot around us that’s a bit depressing and a little run-down. The new neighborhood is shinier and spiffier and a whole lot newer — a lot of it didn’t develop until the 1990s.  I’m eager to start my life over there, darnit!

*******

Speaking of shinier and spiffier and newer, Bullock and I (well, mostly Bullock) have been updating some things in our current house. Some things we did over last summer for ourselves as much as for any prospective buyers, but a few things were spurred mainly by getting it ready for the market. Of the things we did for ourselves, we finally tore out the god-awful bathroom counter and cabinets in the second floor “guest” bathroom that the previous owners had installed.  The damn thing took up fully half of the tiny 1930s bathroom.  We replaced it with a scale-appropriate cabinet and sink, painted the walls a pretty gray (they were boring white) to make the 1930s yellow and black trim tiles pop, replaced the lighting fixtures, and painted the oak-framed mirror white to match the window and door trim (and the tiles).  We encountered some surprises in tearing out the old cabinets — and as a result had to come up with some unique solutions — but I think the results are great.  Here, I’ll show you what I mean with a series of pictures.

This picture shows the bathroom from the hallway when Bullock first moved in (the hallway color belongs to the last owners). You can see roughly how wide this narrow bathroom is -- note the edge of the tub on the left -- and see that the counter sticks out to about the half-way point of the total width, and only angles a bit to accommodate the door. They even extended it across the top of the toilet. Cramped!

We tore all of that sucker out, pretty much all in one piece. Here, take a look:

Here's the cabinet shell, with the counter/sink behind, in our backyard, in front of the grill for scale.

We were a little less than happy with what we discovered when we tore it all out. We didn’t realized that the plumbing didn’t go through the wall behind the sink or the floor underneath it, as expected. Instead, when the former residents replaced the old pipes with copper pipes, they decided, for some unfathomable reason, to take the pipes to the wall between the bathroom and the hallway, and to punch a giant hole in the wall in the process. Here, let me show you what I mean:

Why didn't they just punch a hole in the wall behind the sink, where it could always be covered by cabinetry?? (By the way, note the remaining pieces of wood from the cabinets. They somehow built them on site and threaded the new pipes through small holes cut in the cabinetry, which meant Bullock had to cut around it with a handsaw.)

Since we’d bought a small, single cabinet/sink unit, assuming that the pipes went into the floor or maybe the wall behind the sink, this threw a spanner in our works. But Bullock ultimately solved the problem. Pictures will show you more clearly how.

Bullock cut a hole in the lower back of the new cabinet for the pipes to come through, and then made a box to cover them, which he painted glossy black to match the cabinet. He also cut a board to fit over the hole in the wall and painted it glossy black and glossy white to match the tiles. Not a bad fix for an unfortunate situation, especially since we didn't want to spend a whole lot of money calling in a plumber and re-routing the pipes.

Here’s another view of the solution:

Here you can see the box (under which the pipes hide) in relation to the cabinet, plus you can see the whole sink and cabinet we bought. So much better scale, don't you think?

And here are a few more pictures of the finished bathroom, with more views of the gray paint (see, it really makes the yellow pop, don’t you think?), the new fixtures, etc.

This view shows you the new fixtures (you can barely see the old ones in the "before" picture at the start) and the color scheme.

This picture really gives you an idea of how much less space the new sink and cabinet takes up vs. the old. The bathroom seems so much more spacious now!

I think all together this “remodel” cost under $400 (we got the sink and cabinet all in one at Loews — it’s not the highest end piece of cabinetry ever, of course, but I like its look) but it makes such a difference. I used to *hate* that bathroom, and now I think it’s adorable! And we don’t miss the cabinet/counter space. Despite the size of the old cabinet, there wasn’t that much storage space, and we just decluttered and reorganized the large closet behind the bathroom bath tub to put stuff there that used to be in the cabinet between the sink and the door.

Our guest bathroom in the new house isn’t as awful as this bathroom once was, but it’s not as cute as our remodel — I’m going to have to do something about that one of these days. I’ll miss this bathroom when we move.

So much to do, so little time

Oh god, it’s 11am and I’ve done nothing substantial today but answer e-mails.  I’m in one of those moods where I have so much to do, in such little amount of time, that I’m utterly paralyzed.  I figure that if I write this post quickly and then Step. Away. From. The. Computer., I’ll feel better.

By the end of December (some things sooner than others), I have to:

  • Finish reading two academic books and write a review essay of them.
  • Write and send out three letters of recommendation for students applying to Ph.D. programs, and finish sending out the one I’ve already written. In two of the first three cases, I’m the primary letter writer, so it will take some time to write a bitchin’ letter for these students, which they totally deserve.
  • Make some headway on the literary text editing I’m doing as a co-general editor of a forthcoming anthology.
  • Finish drafting that companion-to article so that I can spend January revising it
  • Write and grade two final exams
  • Grade some final projects and optional revisions of others
  • Calculate and turn in final grades
  • Write a darned profile for the digital humanities workshop I’m attending at MLA and think about what I want to get out of that.

Why isn’t December known as “exploding head month”?  And then, in the first weeks of January I have to:

  • Attend MLA — thank god I’m not doing a paper there
  • Plan my three Spring classes (we start January 9 – ack!)
  • Read another book, the review of which is due at the end of the month (this one should be easier/ It’s an edition of a literary text, so that means reading the intro stuff and sampling the apparatus throughout. Right? Oh, and not writing a Helen Vendler-style review.
  • Get those revisions rolling on the companion-to article
  • Continue with the editing for the anthology and have a phone interview with the team.

You know, I was going to write that post about whether or not tenure removes the incentive to work hard, but I think I’m working too hard to find the time!

And then there’s the personal stuff.  Bullock and I just met with the “stager” who works with our real estate agent, and if we’re going to put our house on the market by mid-January, there is so much we have to do! Ack! Mostly it’s de-cluttering — good thing we have the new house to move stuff to — but some of it is painting and fixing and replacing. And that will cost money.  We also just came to the conclusion that we’re going to have to replace more flooring in the new house than we realized; there were some nasty puppy-pee stains in the bedrroom carpetting (previously hidden by furniture and massive doses of Febreeze) that we didn’t know about. My attempts to clean them with the Resolve pet stain remover only revealed how much chemical stuff had already been fruitlessly applied to them. That carpet has to go.  And the family room carpet may have to go as well, but first we’re going to try to get it professionally cleaned — it’s at least not as old as the bedroom carpet. We may not get new bedroom furniture after all. And there’s other stuff, like getting the locks changed and getting the ball rolling on the renovations we’d planned when we made an offer on this house.

Oh, and Bullock’s birthday is on Saturday. And then there’s this thing called Christmas that our families celebrate and expect us to celebrate with them.  Perhaps you have heard of it.

OK, as I suspected, writing this out has me charged up to tackle it!  Aaaaaaand I’m off!

 

Freak show furniture

What are they smoking at Restoration Hardware these days?

Bullock and I are thinking about some new furniture for our new house, especially in the bedroom, where we’ve got a mish-mash of stuff from our early 20s and even childhood. So I’ve been browsing the web sites of the chain stores just to get some ideas. I generally don’t like all the fake wood and fake finishes they have on their furniture, but I’m trying to put together images of general design I like, so that I can show it to Bullock, and so we can come to some sort of consensus on what we want in terms of style.

Anywho, I came across this at Restoration Hardware:

Are you freakin' kidding me?!

OK, I get the whole “hide the home office” concept, but…in a giant trunk???? I blame steam punk for this — after all, that’s a giant *steamer* trunk.  Meanwhile, this is kind of nutty, too, but I also kind of like it (not that I could afford it, though):

It's called Foucault's Twin-Orb Chandelier. I assume it's named after the Foucault of the pendulum fame, but it's got a kind of panopticon quality to it, too -- like the all-seeing orb thingy in Lord of the Rings.

Seriously, what’s in the water in their design center over there? And who is buying this stuff?  I see that the Foucault Orb + Classic Chandelier freak show is actually no longer available.  (Go check it out.  It’s like the end-game of steam punk.) Did it sell out? Really?

Who buys this stuff?  It all reminds me of that episode of Friends where Phoebe mocked Rachel for the apothecary’s cabinet.

ETA/Update: You know what the antidote to the current steampunk nightmare of RH is?  Room and Board.  Ahhhhh, much better (well, if, like us, you like sleek and modern — I realize that’s not everyone’s taste).  And they tell you where in the US everything was built, and by whom. And the wood is real, through and through. I think what I hate most about the major chain stores is that they’ve gone to cheaper and faker materials even as they jack up the mark-up.

What a semester!

I haven’t been blogging as much as I intended to this semester, largely because this has been an insanely busy semester — busier than most. (I do have a few posts brewing, including one on whether tenure robs you of the incentive to work hard.)  Some things you know about — buying a new house, getting married — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  So, in a nutshell — or in bullet-point lists, actually  — here is what my semester, which is actually still not over, has looked like:

Professional:

  • Having changed my English medieval lit class so that it alternates, on a three-year basis, between early medieval (Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic — ASNaC for short), late medieval (after the Norman conquest), and a topic across the period, I taught the ASNaC version for the first time.  This included teaching many texts — all of the Celtic and Norse stuff — for the very first time as well as *reading* much of them for the first time.  Here’s some advice based on my experience:  do not assign a 250-page Old Norse saga you’ve read only in excerpt, or at least don’t schedule it for the two weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • I also changed the assignment sequence in my Old English class — a class I still feel I do not know how to teach! argh! — so that I was doing a lot of fresh work in that course, too. It didn’t take much time for me to do said work, but it caused morale/attitude problems with the students.  That’s something else I want to blog about in more detail later.
  • To review: I had two mostly new preps this semester (my own damn fault). I am an idiot. On the bright side, the complicated assignment sequence I did in the medieval lit class seemed to have worked well.  More on that later, too.
  • In service-related news, I served on the personnel committee of another department because they’re too small to field a full committee from their own faculty.  Said DPC had to vote on a fifth year renewal, a promotion to full, and two tenure cases, one of which was hugely contentious (and ugly — really, really ugly) and involved meeting after meeting after meeting.  I counted up the hours of meetings:  twenty freakin’ four!
  • Oh, and I also got into an ugly fight with a colleague in my department — so ugly that it made me cry in a professional situation, something I haven’t done in about 20 years.
  • In more positive news, I’ve got two contracted professional publications in progress (one a companion-to article, the other an anthology of texts which I’m co-editing). Alas, though, I feel constantly behind on them, despite working diligently on them.  And I’m waaaaayyyyy behind on the review essay that I’m supposed to have written by the end of this month — I haven’t even finished the books. Ack!
  • Oh, I also had to deal with two minor academic dishonesty issues this semester. See Flavia’s post on the topic for a reflection of how I feel and think about these things. (Also, read the comments for SEK’s hilarious story.  I so want to be able to quote that ad infinitum.)
  • And this was all in my first semester back from sabbatical.  Hey, welcome back, Virago!

Personal:

  • At the very beginning of this semester, I had minor, out-patient surgery. Everything’s fine and my prognosis is excellent.  But still, it took up a lot of time, including a couple hours of pre-surgery testing and medical history recording a few days before and then all day for the surgery and a weekend to recover. It was also the first time I had real surgery or general anesthesia.  (And boy, anesthesia is *weird*!)
  • I crazily flew off to Amsterdam for 4 days over our long-weekend Fall Break for a girl’s weekend with an old friend.  Here’s proof:

    This should totally be a postcard that says "Welcome to Amsterdam."

  • Got married. As you know.
  • Bought a house. We closed on it yesterday and get possession on Monday. For some reason, in this state (or it may just be this county), a seller can stay in the house after closing, free of charge. The standard time is 30 freakin’ days, but we negotiated down to five. We really wanted  immediate possession, but we compromised. Anyway, now we own two houses — crazy! (Well, Bullock does. Technically I’m a renter in the current one.) The plan is to remain in this one while we do some remodeling in the new one, and to use the new one to declutter this one in order to make it look good when we list it.  We’ll likely move in February.

I am exhausted!  And next semester isn’t likely to be any less crazy.  We’ll be moving, the Pastry Pirate is coming to visit (if her car, which has been in storage while she’s been “on the ice” in Antarctica, manages to start), and I’ll be going back to a three-course load.  (I know, many of you do four, and that is definitely more work. I am privileged to have a 2/3 load.  But three is still an adjustment for me, since it’s been five years since I’ve done that.)  I’ve scheduled my classes for four days a week, which I’ve never done before, because I thought that might be less exhausting than three in one day.  We’ll see.  And, of course, I’m changing things in all three classes (although mostly just assignments, not readings).  Oh, and just two days ago, I agreed to do an advanced Old English independent study with one of the students who apparently actually *likes* Old English.  I was so happy that some good has come out of that class that I agreed. I did warn him, though, the emphasis may be on *independent*. At least I know he’s a student who can handle that — he’s smart and super-competent. Plus, he’s a really nice guy; I love working with nice people.  In professional news, I’m going to MLA, where I’m participating in a pre-conference digital humanities workshop (so excited about that!).  And also, in late March, I’ll be giving an invited talk (my first!) and a seminar at a flagship university in another state, and I’m crazy nervous about it. The work I’m presenting/workshopping in each case is so in-progress that I’m not even sure what titles to give it and I need to do that soon.

So, just to give you a heads up, if this blog goes totally silent in April, it may be because I’m dead from exhaustion.

Reader, I married him

I told the floral designer I was wearing a garnet red dress and let her surprise me. I was really pleased withh the result! (Note, that's my right hand, so that is not a wedding ring. We don't have rings yet.)

So Bullock and I finally tied the knot after eight years and two months of being together and five years and five months of living together. We’re slow. Plus, we had our misgivings about the necessity of the state recognizing our relationship.  But a few months ago we were sitting down to put our financials in better order — in particular, to finally make sure we were each other’s beneficiaries on a whole lot of things, since we *weren’t* married — and one of us said, “This would probably be easier if we were married.”  And the other said, “Yeah, probably. Do you want to get married?”  And the first one said (OK, *I* said), “I’m 100% sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I have my misgivings about marriage as a legal institution, especially since it’s only available to heterosexual couples in most states, but I guess I’m over 50% positive about it as an institution.*  So OK, yeah, let’s do it!”

*As one of my friends and colleagues put it later, her favorite part of marriage is that it allows you to legally choose who you want as family.  I like that part, too — now, if only everyone could get married.

Anyway, we decided at the time, vaguely, that we’d do a simple civil ceremony in the next few months — just the two of us — and throw a party (like a reception without the ceremony) later on down the road.  We roughly had October or November in mind as the time to get married, but as the semester wore on, time kept slipping away.  And then we made the offer on the new house and set the closing date for November 30 (just a few more days! squee!) and realized, oops, we better get married before that, because doing the title deed, and blah, blah, blah, will be much easier if we’re married.  And then the *only* weekday we both had free — because we have opposite teaching schedules and we each had various service and other commitments on all the Fridays in October and November — was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Luckily, the courthouses were open that day, so that’s when we did it — Wednesday, November 23, 2011.  Definitely something to be thankful for!

We celebrated later with dinner out at one of our favorite local restaurants after coming home to take some formal pictures with Bullock’s home studio set-up (the picture above comes from that set).  It was just us all day — we eloped, essentially — but we do want to celebrate with family and friends at some point.  Just not in the middle of a semester!  (I don’t know how Flavia did it!) Even the simple elopement took a lot out of us. We’ve been taking it easy this holiday weekend since. We spent Thanksgiving alone together, too:  Bullock made turkey breast sous-vide style with butter, salt, and pepper, along with cranberry chutney and more traditional mashed potatoes with turkey gravy (he used turkey parts baked in the oven for that — you can’t get gravy from the sous vide machine), and I contributed Brussel sprouts sauteed in butter and garlic with a splash of red wine vinegar. (In case you haven’t noticed before, Bullock is the real cook around here.) We drank one of our favorite wines and sat in front of the TV and watched the Star Trek: Next Generation marathon while we ate — we’re kind of low-key like that.  So no traditional honeymoon trip as of yet. There’s just no time!

So, if you’ve been wondering where I’ve gone to and why I haven’t posted lately, between the usual semester craziness, plus buying the new house, plus getting married…well, it’s been an eventful semester!  Obviously a *good* eventful semester, but a little crazy-making, too!

New house!!

Bullock and I have lost our minds.  We are buying a new house in the middle of the freaking semester.  We didn’t really intend it to happen that way. We thought it would take us a long time to find the perfect house at the right price, because we are picky and have a long list of demands. But somehow we found the right house. It’s perhaps not the dream house to end all dream houses, but it satisfies our most important qualities, and once we’re finished renovating the parts we’re going to redo, it will be pretty damn awesome.

So here’s the picture of the outside, which I snipped from Google Street View:

(I thought about using the images from the real estate site, but then I realized that a person could use Google’s new image search and turn up the listings, complete with what will soon be our new home address.  I decided I did not want all of the internets to know that!  With this image, if you use it to do an image search, all you get are images of mountains and valleys, which is what the computer sees in our roof line, I guess)

As you can see, it’s a modern Tudor style house, a style we really like. It was built in 1988, but, I think, draws well on the proportions and materials of older Tudor homes.  We currently live in a neighborhood full of 1920s and 1930s Tudors, which are really really beautiful and rich with details (woodwork, glass door knobs, and the like) that our new house doesn’t have, alas.  It does have a few nice finish details — crown molding in the first floor rooms, for example — but what it lacks in the details it makes up in much more modern layout and space, and that’s a big part of what we were looking for in a new house. We figure we can add detail and richness in our furnishings (including what Bullock makes himself) and by doing thing like replacing the plain hollow-core doors with panel doors with interesting knobs.  And we can take out the wall-to-wall carpeting and replace it with hardwood.

Anyway, what we were generally looking for was our current house on steroids.  We now live in a 1930s two-story Federalist style brick house with four bedrooms (including a master suite, but the fourth bedroom is very small), two and half baths (but one is in the basement and none are on the first floor), living room, family room (with an area that’s potentially an informal eating area), formal dining room, square kitchen that’s big for a 1930s house but small for us, and detached garage, all on a 7500 sq foot lot and sitting atop a small unfinished basement and coal room (which we now use as storage).  What we wanted was a a better distribution of bedroom space, so that the fourth bedroom wasn’t just a glorified closet; a kitchen worthy of Bullock’s foodiness and modernist cuisine gadgetry (some of which currently lives in the family room); a bigger basement for Bullock’s shop; an attached garage and an arrangement that didn’t always involve opening and closing a gate; and a bigger yard for Pippi.  Oh, and curb appeal — the house had to have curb appeal.

There were two other contenders that we thought seriously about before seeing this house a second time and deciding on it.  The other two were exactly the same style but in different scales — brick colonials with two-story pillars (think Virginia plantation — though one of my friends said the bigger one looked like the house on Dallas). The smaller one had a *fantastic* back yard with a mini forest in the middle of it. PIppi would have *loved* it.  But its kitchen was tiny and at its price, we couldn’t have afforded to knock out a wall and expand it.  The other house was *ginormous* — I swear to god its upstairs hallway reminded me of The Shining — and it had a basement bigger than our whole house, which had Bullock fantasizing about dream wood shops.  It also backed up to a ravine on the edge of one of the city’s metroparks, which means that it had the world’s most private back yard, including a little clearing steps below the main level of the yard.  Per square foot, it was as cheap as the others, but it was also about 1000-1500 square feet bigger than anything else we were looking at. Plus, it needed serious updating (it was a 1960s house with original owners) and we realized we wouldn’t have the money for updating after buying it.  Besides, we kept thinking how ridiculous it would be for the two of us to rattle around that huge house.

I feel like this is the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, because while we looked at about 10-15 houses, there were only ever three in contention, and the one we bought turned out to be “just right.”  We didn’t get a yard as fabulous as either of the above yards, but it’s more grass and room to run than Pippi has now.  And we got serious square footage for a good price, meaning also that we can afford a 15-year mortgage (and insanely low interest rates right now), so maybe we’ll actually have it paid off by retirement!  Bullock will get a basement that’s at least twice as big as the one he has now, plus he won’t have to share it with the laundry, since there’s a first floor laundry room off the garage.  In addition to a formal living room of about the same size we have now, we’ll have a bigger formal dining room (to show off Bullock’s fabulous table all the better), a bigger family room that’s visible from and spatially continuous with the kitchen (all the better for entertaining), *and* — bonus! — a room the listing called a “den,” but which we call a “library.” (It’s so totally a library — it has built-in bookcases, and it’s the one room set off from the circular plan, making it a quiet place for study and contemplation.  Meanwhile, upstairs, there are four bedrooms of really good size, so finally Bullock and I will have equal sized studies and we’ll have plenty of room for guests. And there’s a *ginormous* master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet and bathroom that are each bigger than Bullock’s current study!  God bless ’80s excess.  And did I mention the whirlpool bath?  Such an ’80s thing, I know, but I am totally going to have many “Calgon, take me away!” moments in that thing, I swear!  And finally, we’ll have a powder room on the first floor as well as the upstairs bathrooms. (The guest bath is nicely spacious, too.)

Oh, and finally, we’ll have an entry hall!  Hooray!  Right now our front door opens into our living room.  Both the entry hall and the family room have cathedral ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows (or a transom above and sidelights around the front door, anyway) and I totally want to get some awesome chandelier for the entry way.

I can’t quite believe I accepted a house with a garage on the front (the other houses all had side-load garages), but this one is surprisingly low-key, despite being furthest forward on the front. The garage door is up in this picture, but when it’s down, it’s painted the same color as the timber trim, and with that, plus the brick surround which has more surface area, the garage door just disappears into the design.  It’s a really well designed house.

Here’s a totally not-to-scale drawing I attempted using Paint.  The back side of the house has been squished and should be deeper, and I made the library a little too big, but you get the idea:

Anyway, the one thing that’s not yet perfect about this house is the kitchen.
Everything in it is original to the house, meaning it’s made of cheap, 80s-style, melamine cabinetry and cheap, white appliances. But since we got this house at a reasonable price, we’ve got the money to build our (or rather, Bullock’s) dream kitchen. Once we do that, we’re looking forward to the entertaining in the kitchen and family room, or, more formally, in the dining room.  Oh, and that area I marked between kitchen window and the family room windows is a sliding glass door that leads to a spacious deck above the yard, which will make for excellent summer entertaining and easy access for Pippi in and out of the house from the rooms we’ll be spending a lot of time in.

The house is in the suburbs, but I really like the development, since there are sidewalks and a neighborly feel to the place.  There’s plenty of space for long walks with Pippi, and even a small wooded park in the middle.  Plus, we’ll be just a mile away from a bike trail I’ve often used and which provides a protected, 6-mile bike to campus, if we feel ambitious.  When we first visited, we saw multiple groups of runners, walkers, and dog walkers, and people seemed to be saying hello to one another. We know of a number of people from the university who live there, and because of who they are, we know the neighborhood is not monolithic in either politics or race and ethnicity. And though we’ll be in suburban-town school district, we’ll still be paying Rust Belt city taxes, which was important to us. Plus that school district is economically diverse, so our taxes won’t just be added to an already wealthy district.  And though I find this hard to believe, an 80s neighborhood has mature trees and a mix of residents in different stages of their lives. (Weren’t the 80s just yesterday??)

So anyway, we now have to sell our house, but since we’re remodeling the kitchen in the new house (after we close on Nov. 30, that is) we’ll need to live in this one for a little while.  Thank god for cheap Rust Belt real estate, so we can actually afford two mortgages at once.  But we’ll be happy when we can sell the current home and settle into the new one some time after the new year.

Good god, what were we thinking doing this in the middle of the semester??????