Monday, November 28

Settling In for the Winter

Some friends have been questioning whether I have forgotten the blog, and it almost feels like I have. There's nothing happening around the house, though D. is starting to peep about doing a project over winter break. We're just settling into life in our own place, starting to feel comfortable and at home.

I was scrambling to get a lot of garden work done before it got too cold. Really working myself ragged on Sundays, then moaning about how sore I am for the rest of the week. After the garlic bed was built, I got busy dividing the huge, old clump of daylilies. In the end, and working until after dark, I had planted 20 new daylily bunches. In fact, I have been gardening in the dark quite a bit. Ever since daylight savings time, it's getting dark by 5 pm. So my garden photos look like this:

I seem to be much more aware of the sky here, I guess because there aren’t any buildings to block it. I think the tallest building in town has maybe five stories. So I notice the sun and the clouds. On blue sky days, it’s glorious here, but I feel much gloomier here on overcast days than I ever did in BIG City. No museums and movie theatres to escape to. I notice the glorious sunsets and the dark coming upon us so much earlier in winter.

I notice the moon as it moves through its cycle. It’s just a trick of the mind, but it seems to me that the moon swings across the sky each month. In reality, I look at about the same time every evening, and the moon has traveled a little bit farther across the sky each day in the cycle. At the full moon, the moon rises as the sun sets. The moon is dark when it sets as the sun rises.

Last month, a day or two after that full moon, D and I were driving, and I spotted this enormous red glowing orb on the horizon. It was hard to see because of the rolling hills, and it was oddly lopsided due to the wane. But D said the funniest thing, he said: “That’s not the moon, that’s some kind of a building.” Now it would have been totally reasonable for him to say it was a UFO, but a building! I teased him mercilessly for the rest of the ride, as the building rose in the sky and lightened to a butter color.

Actually, we were driving to the nearest Thai restaurant for D’s birthday dinner. (What’s a birthday without a little mockery? Mocking is love in our family.) Alas, the restaurant did not live up to the hype. It was good, and we need to try more things on the menu, and we’re happy it’s there, but it was noway-nohow any good as what we get in the city.

I’m not really complaining about it, because honestly our dining out budget is 20 percent of what it was in the BIG City. And for a while, I was really enjoying all the access to delicious produce – and all the great cooking I could do with it.

Now I’m too busy. Working. Four jobs. Eek! So I really haven’t had time for housework, gardening, blogging, or anything! Some of the jobs are good, some are more stressful, and one is really exciting. It’s working with a non-profit to help preserve the special rural character of our county. Who better to do that than a newcomer?
The big news in town is that we're getting an independent/art film theatre at the end of December. I'm so excited about this, because I've become desperate for independent film. Don't get me wrong - I love our multiplex, though it's not clear how long we'll actually drive the half-hour to it, since a new 12-screener is opening at the edge of town. But I just hate not seeing the cool flicks.

Because I'm that sort of a person (with a very poor memory), I keep a list of the movies I want to see, and it now numbers 15. Since July, people. So, with the holiday lull in TV about to be upon us, D. has finally agreed to give Netflix a try. Yay!

We headed down south to Florida to see D's family for Thanksgiving. Fun and food was had by all. My house restoration skills came in handy at Grandma’s, where I busted out one of her screwdrivers and re-aligned her kitchen cabinet doors and replaced a busted cabinet pull. Everyone was mightily impressed – or at least acted like it.

We spent a lot of time with D's 92-year-old grandmother, which we enjoyed. She told us stories about growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and found us her family recipes for Norwegian foods. Lefse, lutefisk, sandbakkels, and even the prized julekake recipe. Which I might have to try to make over the holidays. Our Norwegian heritage is one thing D and I share - though you'd never guess it from looking at us. Both have glorious hair, but mine is red and curly and his is black and straight. I'm going to be so happy to have authentic family recipes to cook every December, especially around Santa Lucia.

This year, I'm taking my beloved goddaughter to her first Santa Lucia Fest. I’ve told you before how much I love Luciafest, and I’m so excited to share it with the most special little girl in my life.

We're gearing up for a cozy little Yule/Hanukah at home. Before that we have the college president's holiday party and even an open house with our local state representative and congressmen to attend. We'll host D's students for dinner, and we will be decorating the house though. We have boxes of lights that have been in storage for years, and the adventsstjarna and a set of angel chimes are two of my favorite holiday decorations. We're really looking forward to chopping down our own tree, but our tree-trimming party will have to wait until next year. We're just not prepared to organize it at this point, and everyone says D. will be less overwhelmed next year.

For New Year's Eve, the town has a few events planned that sound like fun. Including fireworks, which is my absolute favorite thing to do to ring in the new year. I'm hoping the town square will be filled with people, and the whole thing will be as fun as the Halloween Parade. Sadly, we missed the Christmas Parade, which happens the day after Thanksgiving and leads up to the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the middle of the town square.

The transition to small-town life feels so gradual that I hardly notice it. I've been reading some interesting books about small-town living, including Moving to a Small Town and American Towns: An Interpretive History. It’s helpful to put things in perspective, and I feel so fortunate to be living the life I dreamed about for so long. If only there was a goat in the back yard.

Tuesday, November 22

Over The River And Through The Woods

It would be fair to say that a lot has happened since we last posted here. In particular, I have been obscenely busy at work, with all three of my classes having exams last week which needed to be written and proctored and graded in addition to some extra review sessions. Also, I had a research collaborator up for a day to chat about our research and to give a colloquium talk, and I had a one day conference in the Big City we used to live in, so K. took advantage of the visit to play with her goddaughter and we ate at my favorite restaurant in the world. As if that wasn't enough, my campus has been depbating major campus political issues taking up lots of everyone's time and energy, and I have several deadlines that have passed and several more to come. Oh, and somewhere in there was my birthday, complete with various small celebrations and a trip to a nearby town to see Jeff Tweedy.

So yes, it's been very very busy. And that's just my stuff, and K's life hasn't exactly been bon bons and HGTV-watching either. We haven't had time to blog, let alone time to do anything with the house which is remotely blog-worthy, except for a brief and fruitless trip to a furniture store to try to look at sofas.

This week we will have all the time in the world to blog, but we will be spending it at my 92-year old grandmother's house (yes, the one who gave us her china) and while I haven't explicitly asked her, something tells me that she doesn't have Wifi. So you'll have to live another week or so without us.

Happy Thanksgiving, though.

Wednesday, November 9

Election Day Report

Don't ask me why D. didn't vote yesterday, because I just wouldn't be able to explain without sniggering. I, however, did my civic duty. I have always been a very enthusiastic voter. Like the saying goes, I like to vote early and vote often.

So yesterday morning, I was all raring to vote. Then I realized that I didn't know where my voter registration card was, and if you remember the dire warning that the town sent me with the card, you'll know I didn't want to show up without it. I didn't want to be turned away from my opportunity to vote for school board or sheriff or whatever else rinky-dink little offices were at stake. It's a Red county, so my minority vote is important.

On my lunch break, I looked through my files and found the precious card, but didn't make it to the Municipal Building (a half block from our house) until my way home from work (I know, I know, I'll get to it someday). I walked over with one of the faculty members who was going the same way. We compared voting strategies and notes about candidates. As we walk up to the polling place, which actually turns out to be the Town Council chambers, the Green Party candidate for Town Council was campaigning outside the door., And a nice older gentleman tells us to vote for his candidate for Sheriff. My friend and I are non-committal as it's not clear what party his candidate is.

We walk in, I sign in just like usual. During a slight lull in the action, I ask the nice voting registration lady (no different in appearance from the nice voting registration ladies in all eight precincts I've voted in over the last 13 years of BIG City life) if it would be alright for me to laminate my voter registration card (what with me being required to carry it with me at all times). She said she couldn't see why not and ushered me along to a nice gentleman, who handed me an aluminum clipboard type of thingy???? and a pencil????? I hadn't been able to see how people were voting, because of the drapes of course, and it still didn't register.

Even when I got into the booth.

And didn't see any levers or switches.

Or punch cards and a stylus.

Or when I read the sign that said I MUST use the pencil provided.

And I MUST fill in each circle completely.

Only after I pulled the piece of paper out of the metal container did I realize that I was going to be voting with a pencil and paper!!!!!

Almost every category had a write-in option, and I found out this morning from our town newspaper that the "Democratic" candidate for Sheriff was actually a registered Republican who had been written in during the primary. I voted for the Green candidates and the Dems and the women, filling in my circles just like back in high school, then it was done.

I left the booth and waited for the nice gentleman again - what do I do with this? He was very kind and patient. "You rip off this piece here as your reciept, then you put this here." He demonstrated by inserting the metal ballot container into a slot in a metal box, tipping it, and pulling it out again empty. My vote was cast! In a box! Can you imagine?

I was happy this morning to find out that some of my candidates won, but disappointed that the Green party woman didn't. And that Sheriff candidate that the campaigner told me about, the one who was a "Democrat" so I voted for him, he 32 votes.

[Not including the 282 absentee ballots that will be counted on Monday.]

Tuesday, November 8

Books. Lots of Books.

The other big project of the last couple of weekends has been the Building Of The Shelves to finally make the library complete. As you undoubtedly recall, we decided to go with Effektiv shelves from IKEA, which means that they cost a lot more than the Billy's that we all had when we were in our 20's, and look quite a bit more solid, but still require assembly in just the same way that those cheap-ass ones did.

Now, I had grand plans of liveblogging the entire building process, which fell apart for a variety of reasons, one of which was that we ended up spacing the building out over two full days and then another partial day of securing the shelves to the wall and several days of unpacking books. And another of which was Halloween getting in the way of the whole thing. If I had liveblogged the whole thing, then you would have been subject to lots of entries like this:
1:23pm - K. and I just spent 10 minutes quasi-bickering about the pattern that the shelves should form. You see, there are two different heights of shelves -- the taller shelf actually consists of three small shelves, and the smaller shelf consists of one bigger shelf. Confused? So are we, and to be completely honest I remember that we decided to put them in the order low-high-high-low, but even now I can't remember if "low" referred to the smaller shelf unit or the small shelves in a big unit. Sigh. Now you see what K. has to put up with, and I acknowledge that my Ph.D. is not in either memory or shelf-design.
and this:
2:06pm - One of the (low/high) shelves is now finished as well. These are actually fairly easy to put together -- I am not sure if I just exaggerate the confusing IKEA directions in my mind or if they have improved since the last time I put together IKEA furniture, which was September 9, 2001 -- maybe this is just one of those things that has improved to prove to the terrorists that they cannot squash our spirit. Though I notice that there are not any IKEA's in either Afghanistan or Iraq or the caves of Pakistan that Osama is likely hiding out in. At least not yet. Now that Atlanta has one, I figure that Baghdad must be next.

and even this:
2:44pm - Putting together the tall one (with the short shelves) was a lot like putting together the others, if we were midgets. Everything was much bigger and required more hands to operate, so it was good fortune that this is when K. decided to join me, and we got it up in very little time. So far we have been interested in the variations in the colors between the shelves. When I first put together the plinth, it did not seem to be the same color as my desk, but these other shelves are closer in color to them. None of them are too far off, and all look like natural variations in the wood.
I know, I know. You are all crushed that you didn't get to enjoy that level of witty banter. Maybe someday we will liveblog another proect. Maybe we'll even jump into the next part of the 21st century, and videoblog. In the meantime, here are some photos of the whole process that you can print out and make a flipbook out of.







And the finished product, after many many trips carrying boxes of books upstairs (well, almost finished. There are still a few more boxes of books that will have to wait until we decide that we can afford another shelf for the side wall. But at least the patio is getting closer to empty. Well, other than the empty cardboard boxes we are now drowning in. But I digress):


Bonus points if you can figure out the organizational system on the shelves!

Monday, November 7

Vampire Avoidance

I think it began a few years ago, when K's aunt gave me a copy of the book Garlic Is Life for Chrisyulenakkuh. I mean, I had always loved garlic, and cooked with it as much as humanly possible, and one of the ways that I knew that K. was the right woman for me was that she not only humored my interest in garlic, but actually seemed to enjoy it as well (although she doesn't like eating Habanero Pickled Garlic like candy the way I do). But when I read that book, I realized two things: first, I learned about the sheer number of varietals of garlic, and that even the best grocery stores in Philly seemed to only carry California White. And secondly, I started having dreams of becoming a garlic farmer.

I never wanted to do it professionally, except for a brief few weeks during which my dissertation was going particularly poorly and I wasn't getting called back for academic jobs, but K and I would often fantasize about having a garlic farm. Well, in our fantasies I compromised and allowed it to be a goat and garlic fram, and she compromised and allowed me to throw an annual Goat And Garlic Farm Folk Festival.

When we moved to Smallville, we decided to give up on the goats (yes, K., we did) and the folk festival, but we still wanted to plant garlic. And on Saturday we discovered a true garlic (among other things) farm at which we bought several different exciting varietals, and yesterday we at long last planted 16 square feet of garlic. Some Inchelium, some Music, some Ozark, and more. As long as we can stop ourselves from eating the garlic greens all winter -- the last time we planted garlic we couldn't resist temptation and ate them on salads which was very yummy but hurt their ability to grow -- we should end up with 70 or so heads of garlic. That might even last us a week.

This is where I would post pictures, but pictures of a planted bed are not that different from the pictures of the unplanted bed, so I won't waste you pixels.

That was probably the highlight of our weekend. More details to come.

Tuesday, November 1

Small-town Halloween

I'm going to spare you my rant about how Halloween has become so trendy and commercialized that it's lost all meaning, and I'm going to get right down to business: how fun the holiday has been in our charming little burg.

We kicked it off last Tuesday with the Halloween Parade. The rainy night didn't dampen spirits for this festive event. We walked a half-a-block towards the town square and ran into good friends who have an adorable four-year-old daughter. The parade includes marching bands and floats and costumed extravaganzas and a healthy dose of small-town pride. I loved it. I had no idea how much candy they would give out though - handfuls and handfuls of booty. Next year, I think I want to brew up some of my mom's Grog recipe (wine, apple cider, brandy, and spices) and invite people over afterwards.

I also think I want to decorate our porch next year. We've paid very little attention to the outside of the house, which makes me sad because people don't know there are new owners who are so proud and very civic-minded. Also, I'm worried about how the wood will survive the winter. But we have to stick with the plan, which has us focusing on the exterior next spring. For Halloween next year, I picture cornstalks attached to the columns at the top of the stairs and lots of jack-o-lanterns flickering. I don't think I will do cobwebs or scary things. Festive is more my style.

It's hard for me to imagine we could get more little visitors than we did last night, but I hope maybe we can.
We had bought three bags of candy at our normal grocery store, but I had to make a run to the closest store at 6:30 because we were already running low. I grabbed five more bags of whatever they had, and this is all we have left:

Pretty amazing! Kids came in huge clumps and elaborate costumes, I was so impressed. There were a few junior high-age boys who weren't dressed up, but that was nothing compared to what we were used to in the BIG City. Here the kidlets were charming and sweet and shy and well-behaved. Especially the Mexican families were teaching their kids to say thank-you. There were lots of vampires and other scary black costumes - is this a nationwide trend?

The winner by far: the Von Trapp family singers. Mom, Dad, and a gaggle of kids all dressed in hats and vests and woolen bottoms lined up and serenaded us with "My Favorite Things." It was awesome!

Over the weekend, we also did more socializing than we have in months. Friday night, we hung out with a bunch of faculty at the local brewpub. Saturday, we were invited to a Halloween party (I dressed as a Gypsy lady "We prefer to be called Romany or Rom." and D. dressed as himself.) And on Sunday, we went to our friends' house for dinner. We had a wonderful, relaxing visit, and everybody enjoyed the rustic apple tart I made. So my baking efforts might be improving. Though I think the locally grown apples didn't hurt.