Saturday, December 24

We Three Kings

You may have noticed a flurry of posts by yours truly over the last few days. And the more astute among you may have put together that this flurry has coincided with the end of my semester. Which means that for three glorious weeks I have nothing to do -- well, other than trying to plan my courses for next semester and prove a few theorems and write a book review or two and all of those kinds of things. But I figured that after a long hard first semester in my new job I deserved to take most of this week off from thinking about math and/or teaching. So how did I spend the week? Did I just lie around in my pajamas all week playing video games, catching up with back issues of The New Yorker and watching West Wing reruns on Bravo?

Well, yes. I did all that. But I also built a bed. You may recall that several weeks ago we bought a Sealy Reatta Pillowtop Mattress Set as we were finally ready to graduate from the cheap-o Queen Size bed that I had bought when I started graduate school into a fancy-shmancy KING SIZE BED. (Not that there is anything uncomfortable about the Queen Size bed -- and now we have a real bed for all of you to sleep in when you come visit us!) In any event, the new bed was finally going to be delivered this week. But we had delayed buying a frame to put said bed into, knowing that even the cheap metal frames would cost about the same as the tools needed for me to build one, so I took the opportunity to show off my mad revivalizing skillz and I built us a bedframe.

Now, before you get too impressed, I should say that the bedframe is nowhere near as elaborate as the one that K. wanted, so she is still pouting like Carissa Gaghan. In fact, I based the design on a bed designed by my boss's significant other, and the design looks like this:

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As you can tell, it is quite possibly the simplest bed design that one could imagine, consisting only of a bunch of 2x12's, 2x4's, and 4x4's. So off to the Lowes I went to buy the wood, properly cut for me since a saw is not yet a part of our toolshop. First I stained and varnished it (that's Golden Pecan for those of you keeping score at home):

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Then yesterday I spent the afternoon carrying the wood up to the bedroom and assembling the pieces into place. I became very close friends with our drill and lots of L-brackets:

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And finally, when K. got home, we were able to move the whole thing into place and we had our finished product. A King-sized bed that feels like a cloud.

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I'm quite happy with the way the whole project turned out: I like the simplicity of the frame, and I think that the color looks quite nice. And if it isn't apparent from the photos, the 4x4's I used for the legs of lots of cool knots in them. The other moral of the story was that building furniture was both a lot easier and a lot more fun than I had imagined. Next up: I need to build us some bedside tables!

Wednesday, December 21

I Came In Through The Bathroom Window

For those of you who haven't committed the blueprints of our house to memory, there are four doors into our house from the outside:

There is the side door, which we in theory have keys to but we have no idea where they are -- presumably somewhere in the Big Drawer O' Keys that we inherited from the previous owners.

There is the door in from the upstairs back porch, which we do have keys to but which has a screen door which flaps around in the wind so we keep it latched from the inside with a hook that is un-openable from the outside.

There is the back door, and the door from the Enclosed Patio into the house works great and all is smooth, but dear readers, there is a secret that we have been keeping from you. You see, a couple months ago the latch on the screen door broke.

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One day I was minding my own business and turning the key to lock it, and when I removed the key the lock mechanism came out with it. And while the door worked perfectly fine from the inside, it was impossible to open it from the outside if the door had latched closed. Several times we attempted to jury-rig it in various ways, but none of these were particularly successful and so every time we leave the house we have either had to prop the screen door open with something or walk around to the front of the house when we returned.

So for those of you keeping score at home, this means that only one of the four doors into the house is actually openable from the outside. At least, normally. Yesterday, I returned home from some last minute holiday shopping to find that even though my key seemed to be turning the latching mechanism, the door would not open. Clearly something was holding the door in place, and it seemed like it was on the inside of the house. Now, we like our door very much so I didn't want to be too rough with it, so I tried to find an alternate way into the house.

Of course, as I said above, there is no alternate door into the house, and while Santa would come down a chimney, our only chimney leads straight into the furnace so despite the big bag of gifts I was carrying this didn't seem like such a good idea. So instead I was left checking the windows to see if I could make it into any of them. Of course, like good penny-pinching kids, we had closed most of the storm windows, making it that much harder to get in through the window. But at long last, I realized that I could jimmy the window from the upstairs back porch into the laundry room to get into it and therefore into the house:





Note that in real life, the table in the picture was actually covered with stacks of laundry which I have been too lazybusy to put away. So I swam through the sea of socks and t-shirts and made it into the house.

I went downstairs to see what was wrong with the door, and all I could really tell at first was that the lock seemed to work just fine but that the door seemed to be holding the door in place and now it seemed like it was on the outside. So I removed the lock and various other things until I was able to get the door open and realize that the problem was that somehow the metal strip on the side of the door (which presumably has a name, but for the love of Google I couldn't figure out what it was) had developed a bit of a buckle which held the door in place, refusing to let it budge in either direction..

At this point, my many months of Revivalizing skills kicked into gear and I developed a high-tech super-elaborate plan in order to fix the door: I grabbed a hammer and pounded the metal strip back into shape. And now the door works just fine.

Of course, just to be safe I decided it was finally time to fix the screen door into the back patio, and so I just removed the locking mechanism altogether so now the door never locks closed. Of course, it also never locks so now anyone could just wander into our back patio and steal the very small number of things that we have there. So let's just keep this between you and me, ok?

Till Debt Do Us Part

This past weekend we had a wedding to go to in a nearby big city (congrats to the couple!), so we hopped into the minivan and drove through the snow-covered fields to the city. And just like most small-town residents who explore the big city, we were very excited to take advantage of all that the city had to offer. For some people this means ethnic restaurants or live music or art museums -- and there are times that this would be the case for us as well -- but on this trip it meant one thing: shopping.

Yes, we ignored the fact that we had lots of Holiday Presents to buy and that we just spent a boatload of money on furniture as well as finishing paying for our lovely Toyota Sienna, and we took advantage of the trip to the big city to spend lots of money at Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Whole Foods and, of course, IKEA.

At the latter, we once again proved that we can't walk into the store without spending several hundred dollars, but we left with a new rug for the den as well as a spiffy new corner entertainment unit:


Sure, we already owned a behemoth of an entertainment unit, but the new couch and loveseat will require a reorganization of the den that needs a corner unit, and we found this one we liked at IKEA. And a very small amount of assembly later, we have a unit. We also bought a new rug for the den -- a shag rug like K. wanted but multicolored like I wanted -- and now we are just sitting around waiting for the sofa to show up and twiddling our thumbs.

Friday, December 16

My Husband Is So Wonderful

Over the last year, I've read about auctions at 1902 Victorian and RestoreHouse. And since we moved here, I've been tracking our local auction house's website. I thought it might be a good way to get our enormous house furnished at not too outrageous an expense. I saw lots of good stuff online, but we never felt we had the time to get to an auction...until this week!

We didn't intend to buy anything, just to check out the scene. How does it work? Is it fun? And we answered some of those questions, but now we have others...like how much does furniture really go for? (We didn't stay that late.) And how do you win a bid? We hung out, checked out the merchandise, watched the scene. We were pretty unenthusiastic, until the auction started. And things started selling for a dollar at the most. That's our sort of price tag! So my husband watched for a while, got the hang of things, and won me a set of flatware:


For only $3 - how wonderful is that! I wish he would be so wonderful as to build me a bed like this:


But there is that little detail about not having any of the appropriate tools...so I'll continue to look like this:


Bonus photos - our town square at Christmas:

The frost on the pumpkin on our porch this morning:

Wednesday, December 14

The Slippery Slope Of Laziness

It all started last week when the The Great Christmas Tree Adventure of 2005 activated some tendonitis in my ankle (and gave me a bit of poison ivy, but that isn't relevant to this post). So for a few days last week I couldn't walk -- at least not without a good amount of pain -- and so I drove in to campus.

Now, I have had a walking commute since I graduated from high school. Well, one year in college I lived off-campus and about a mile away from my classes, and so there were some days when I would drive even though I tried to bike most days. But throughout grad school and my postdoc I lived a walking -- or occassionally biking -- distance from the office and parking was so expensive near campus that I couldn't have driven in even if I wanted to. And now that we live here in Smallville, we live all the way across town from my office which means it takes me about 12 minutes (pretty consistently 3 songs on my Ipod) to walk to the office. All of this is to say that I have never really driven to work before. But last week my ankle was bothering me enough that I did. In fact, last Wednesday I had to go get my campus parking permit, which was totally free and allows me to park anywhere on campus -- yet another joy of teaching someplace other than an urban campus.

By the end of the week, I had gone to see the podiatrist who had loaded me up with some anti-inflammatory medication and over the weekend the medication and a lot of lying around helped the ankle so that I could walk pain-free. But on Monday I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry, so I hopped into the Toyota Sienna and drove to campus.

Yesterday morning one of my classes had their final exam at 8:30 in the morning. And this was pretty darn early for me to make it to campus, especially since I needed to get there early to rearrange the tables in the room. And I decided that I wanted to bring them in doughnuts, so I thought I should drive to campus.

Yes, you can see where this is going. The walk is perfectly pleasant and quite short, but driving is even shorter and more pleasant, and I am now addicted to driving in and looking for any excuse I can. Today's excuse: The temperature outside right now is 3 degrees Farenheight. Of course, before those of you who live in Minneapolis and Ann Arbor think I'm a wimp, let me point out that with the wind chill it feels like it is THREE DEGREES. I think that's a pretty darn good excuse to drive in. Don't you?

Friday, December 9

My Husband Is So Exasperating

He wrote two wonderful posts about our amazing tree, but he neglected certain key facts. So, I just have to blog for myself.

The tree is a Colorado Spruce and was grown on an organic tree farm. We paid for 7.5 feet of tree, but it seems like it must be taller than that, since it very nearly touches our 8'8" ceiling. It is 6 feet across at the widest point.

The first night especially it had the most incredible fragrance that filled the whole house.

It is the Prickliest, Most Painful tree EVER. Honestly, you can't even touch it because the needles hurt so much. We don't know why this is, because it looks like a normal un-painful tree. Which is why it's so crooked - the effort to right it was just so painful. It even gave D. a rash on his hands!

It drinks 1 gallon of water a day. I am the only one who remembers to do this.

Okay, that's all. Go about your business. And I'll get back to shoveling the snow (with the shovel my dear husband bought me last night). And dreaming about my real husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Estate:




And my other husband, Captain Frederick Wentworth of the Royal Navy:


Thursday, December 8

A Thousand Points of Twinkly Light

Twas the night before my students were coming over for dinner, and all through the house
We realized how silly the giant tree in the middle of our living room looked when it was as barren as our house

So even though K. had a lot to do and I was more than a bit gimpy
We decided it was the night to decorate our Christmas/Yule/Cha-noo-ka-hah Tree.

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We started by getting out the many boxes of lights
And strung them all up so we could see through the night

Then up went the garlands, one as twinkly as the aforementioned lights
and the other one made in some foreign land and sold to us by Mennonites.

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Over the next several hours we decorated the tree all happy and chipper
as we listened to christmas songs by Julie Andrews, The Chieftans, and Squirrel Nut Zippers.

This was our first tree together, so few of our ornaments had sentimental attachment butthatwasjustfine
Instead we hung mostly ornaments we got at Walmart for $3.99.

It took less than 10 minutes for me to break one of the glass balls
And we struggled with the top of the tree -- almost 8 feet tall.

We still want to string some popcorn and break out the Christmas wardrobes
but K. refuses to let me buy a Giant Inflatable Snow Globe.

By the end of the night the tree was decorated and that was perfect timing
So let me show you some pictures and spare you more of this stupid rhyming.


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Monday, December 5

It's (slowly) Beginning To Look A Lot Like Xmas

In the past, we have done some decorating for the holidays. Typically it has involved a mishmash of our blue and white HannukahChristmas lights, our Adventsstjarna, cards we receive from our friends and loved ones (most of which seem to feature ridiculously adorable babies), and an assortment of other odds and ends that we have picked up. But in the five previous holiday seasons that we have spent together, we have never had our own Christmas/Yule tree. We have helped to decorate them at our various parents' homes, but never had our own tree.

Until now. And what a tree it is. But I'll get to that in a moment.

This year we decided to begin our own traditions here in Smallville rather than traversing the country to visit our families. And while our hopes that our families would spend Christmas with us were somewhat foiled, we continued onwards and decided to decorate our new home for the holiday season for the very first time.

Last week I began by stringing some lights up on our front porch:


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(for the record, these were originally all white lights, until K's dear late mother -- from whom we inherited the lights -- decided to add a single blue light at the end of each strand. Yes, there is a reason everyone described her as eternally patient.)

But the real fun only got started yesterday when K. and I went out to a local Christmas-Tree-Farm-Slash-Cohousing-Community to cut down our very own tree. It was probably not the wisest of decisions to go do this the day after our first snowfall of the year, but to us it only seemed like it would add to the festive holiday spirit -- and besides, there was really no other good time to go. Of course, the weather made the adventure involve quite a bit of driving around the muddy roads of the farm -- the first time we wished that our Toyota "Lexus of Minivans" Sienna had off-roading capabilities.

But after a good amount of driving and tromping around the woods, we finally found the perfect tree for us. Or at least a tree that seemed somewhat-better-than-merely-acceptable as my socks were getting wetter and wetter. So we pulled out the handy saw that they had given us, and sawed the sucker down:


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We started to carry it back to the main shop ourselves -- did I mention that there was live bluegrass music and free hot cocoa to make the whole thing more festive and more fun -- but we were unable to carry the tree ourselves, so K. called in the reinforcements who helped me carry the tree back through the icy mud and the muddy ice to the place where they baled it up while I drank my hot cocoa.


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We then strapped the tree down to the top of the Sienna and drove it home, where we wrestled with it long enough to get it in the stand and standing up in the living room.

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Yes, it's big. Bigger than we had anticipated -- while we had a good sense of the height and how it was pretty much what we wanted, the girth of the tree seemed much narrower when it was surrounded by other trees and wide open spaces than it does sitting in the middle of our living room. In fact, I don't know much about metaphors -- except for what I learned from the films of Morty Fineman: Metaphors are Like Dreams and Similes are Dreams. But it doesn't take an English professor to realize that there is something deeply symbolic and the tree is a lot like the house: it looks great, and its very large, but we have nowhere near enough ornaments (ie furniture) to fill it.

Now, the original plan was to come home last night and decorate the tree. But when we got home we were far more tired and sore than we had anticipated. More importantly, it seems that in all of that walking around on icy muddy hilly terrain, I twisted my ankle. And so I went on the DL, and I have been lying around resting, icing, compressing, and elevating my ankle except for the teaching I had to do today. Hopefully we'll decorate the tree tonight, but first we need to watch Arrested Development.

Sunday, December 4

Let It Snow

Right after I wake up in the mornings, I like to walk back to the laundry room and look out over the back porch and our little yard. I don't know why I do this, but it's just nice to get a sense of the day. Here's what it looked like this morning:

A light dusting of snow came in the night, giving a taste of how wonderful the snowy days of winter will be here. Everything looks so much more quaint and charming.

We were just speaking of the skies, and two mornings this week, the sun was rising just as I was surveying my "property." Trust me, this is an indication of how late the sun is rising, not how early I am up! One morning, the sun's first light was clear and butter yellow, but the other everything was suffused in pink radiance.

Yesterday was a gorgeous blue-sky day, and we attended the first of the local holiday events, an open house at our county Historical Society. D. and I have a fondness for checking out local history museums, or "heritage centres" as they are called in Canada, when we travel, and we were happy that ours was probably the best we've been to. It had very few hand-written exhibits by fifth graders. Here's a nice view of D's building from the historical society:

We ran into a few people involved with my new job. It's important that I am seen as involved in local activities, and that's good because I'm happy to throw myself into local culture. In fact, I'm excited because the job has asked me to serve on a Chamber of Commerce committee. Yay! I love Chambers of Commerce!

After that, we casually spent a mind-boggling amount of money at the family-owned since 1949 furniture store. We chose - for the den - a Broyhill sofa and loveseat:

That's style 5079, for your information. What a romantic name, huh? Conjures up vision of math class. Maybe that's why D. liked it. No actually, we both thought it was the single most comfortable sofa we tried in three months of testing. You know - that really hard work of sitting on your ass over and over again. And, apparently 5079 is a very popular style hereabouts.

We spent a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time considering that gold fabric above, which would have matched our walls perfectly, but in the end went with a contrasting and more contemporary fabric. Kind of like this:

But moss and olive green, instead of purple. For pillows, we went with a really fun fabric that ties together the gold walls with the green upholstery and adds some fun red and purple for us to play with in the rest of the room:


Now we have six weeks to wait for it to show up. In the meantime, we'll be looking for area rugs, entertainment armoires, and considering whether to get "spaghetti sauce insurance."

Oh yeah, we also just happened to pick up a mattress set on our way out. No biggie, right?

When we went a couple of weeks ago to check out sofas, we tried out a king-size mattress that I've been fantasizing about ever since. Because it was a floor model, they had only one and it was on super duper sale. It's a Sealy Reatta Pillow Top mattress, and seriously it's like lying on a cloud. The King-sized cloud will go into our bedroom, and the queen will move into the guest room. Just in time for D's parents' holiday visit. How convenient!

We haven't found a bed frame we like, but that wasn't a problem when we didn't have a mattress either. D. has some crazy ideas about building a bedframe himself, which I play along with. But, people, we don't even own a saw!