Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My father-in-law and his wife just welcomed baby Lily into the world on Saturday. Good timing! A day later and there would have been some really interesting driving conditions on the way to the birthing center.

Next week we'll be heading down to Jersey to scope out the newest addition to the family. Apparently she is "pretty cute" according to her dad.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bombs Away

I got to talk to my dad last night. He's doing a lot better - much more coherent than when I spoke to him on Saturday (they think the stroke started about the time I called). He estimates that his right leg is operating at about 90% of the norm, but his right arm and hand are giving him trouble. He claims they're only 50% operational, but mom says he's exaggerating.

The most assuring part of the conversation - he half-dropped two F-bombs when talking about staying in the hospital (they're moving him to the physical therapy unit today or tomorrow) until he can make and fist and pick things up with his right hand again. Probably an extra week.

Cleo (the family dog who is really my dad's dog because she loves him with enthusiastic and unwavering devotion) must be absolutely depressed from missing her favorite person. She can usually sense him from blocks away and starts tearing around the house, pausing only occasionally to leap up on the couch to stare out the front window before repeating the circuit.

In any case, I feel much reassured today.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mostly well?

So Dad had a minor stroke on Saturday evening, but they caught it quickly and were able to give him whatever drugs they have that are supposed to prevent longterm damage. He's got some weakness in his right arm, but is doing much better, apparently.

Mom keeps telling us all not to worry, not to try to come in, but what I think she fails to get is that we wouldn't be coming to keep Dad company (because he hates anyone to see him when he's not 100%) but to keep each other company.

I'm sure everything will be fine.

I'm just going to keep repeating that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

All's well

Dad finally went in for his bypass surgery - double bypass instead of the single that we expected - but he's doing well and will soon be driving all the nurses in the cardiac care unit completely insane. Mom is hoping they keep him in until Tuesday, but Dad want to be home for his birthday... He turns 70 on Saturday. Knowing my dad, he'll be home sooner rather than later.

In house-related news, we still haven't seen our furniture - the sofa and loveseat that were left behind at the factory by mistake (f**kers) - but we should have Internet access at home in two weeks. I had hoped for sooner, but apparently, despite what the provider told me, the guy who does the actual installation in our area does not work on Saturdays, so we have to wait until Jay can stay home on a week day.

Anyway, in light of the first paragraph, the gripes of the second are pretty damn minor, so I'm just gonna get back to work now and count my blessings, eh?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Disney whooped my ass

Went to Disney with my family - Jay, the parents, brother, 2 sisters, niece. 8 people in two rooms. Crowded, but mostly good. Disney designs the rooms so you don't really want to spend much time in them anyway. The better to spend money elsewhere in the parks, of course...

Magic Kingdom was lame as usual - could have skipped it happily. MGM isn't my favorite either - but the live car stunt show was pretty damn awesome. Animal Kingdom was really nice... and one of my favorite new phrases came from the Maharajah's Jungle Trek. (But is it bigger than a bat penis?) Epcot was the coolest, of course. Our favorite was "Turtle Talk with Crush" - animated, interactive show with the sea turtle from Finding Nemo - they load the front of the room with little kids and then ask them questions that Crush responds to. Hi-lar-i-ous.

Little kid: Um um um why was the um fish afraid of the turtle?
Crush: I dunno little dude, why *was* the fish afraid of the turtle?
LK: Because, um, da fish was um um um afraid of the fish!

Little kid jokes... so funny because they make absolutely no sense.

Went back to the show twice.

Food was pretty good, too. Fulton's Crab House - tasty tasty seafood. Rainforest Cafe - not anyone's favorite, but the only place we could get a reservation for 8 on Thanksgiving. In Epcot we had Morrocan take-away for lunch, ate at the Japanese steakhouse for dinner, and had tirimisu and torta di ciocolata for dessert in Italy.

Drank too much (always happens around my brother) and slept too little. Wouldn't want to do it again any time soon, but enjoyed the time in the sun with the family.

Should have internet access at home starting next week (if the satellite installation guys can make it on Saturday), so things might actually pick up around here again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

61 months and counting


Drive-by posting ahead:

Been doing this blog for much longer than I ever anticipated.

Still have lots to say.

Some might even be interesting.

Putting a lot of my creative energy into work these days.

Still no Internet at home.

But many good intentions and things to write about.

Might pick up again sometime soon.

Probably going to be quiet until we ransom our souls to the satellite internet providers though.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Busy being appalled

Trying to formulate a reasonable response. Just not sure there is one...

Seen on a student's facebook page: "I'd never hit a woman, but I'd smack a bitch."

Seen in my alma mater's student paper: "Feminists need to choose: chivalry or equality."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lame. Weak.

Okay, so the title is actually a quote from one of my favorite South Park episodes, but it's also rather apt for the blog recently, non?

Last week was a little crazy - lots of 12 hour days at the office... the Board of Trustees came to visit and I had to help present on "Student Success Strategies". Went pretty well, I think. It was also the last week that students were able to drop classes or withdraw without receiving failing grades on their transcripts, so that kept me running around. Sometimes the only strategy for success is a timely retreat.

Next week I'll be in Massachusetts for a two-day planning meeting relating to a grant we're working on with 5 other New England colleges. Someone else is driving the van, so at least I'll have a few hours of knitting time along the way. And I get my very own hotel room - oooh aaaah. Right. In any case, I think it's a really neat project and I mostly enjoy the company of the people I'll be going with, so it's all to the good, I suppose.

At home I've been on caulk and spackle patrol. Hoping to get the "medieval" room ready for some paint. The walls are in such bad shape that I hate to expend the energy until we can afford to replace the drywall and maybe - I dunno - cover the subflooring? But I simply cannot live with the faux stonework, reddish-brown walls, and sky blue ceiling for much longer. I mean, could you? I thought not.

I'll try to remember to take before and after pics. Too bad we already took down the wall sconces and the dungeon door. (You only think I'm kidding here.)

Regardless, we still love the house bunches and bunches. Just needs some tweaking... and to stop leaking in the upstairs bathroom. But that's another story.

Friday, October 19, 2007

More blather

I know, I know. I'm tragically boring lately. So sue me.

I've decided that the one major benefit of not having a lot of furniture is not having to move it when painting and prying things off the walls.

Now if only I could find more time to work on my little projects around the house. This full time job thing really gets in the way. However, next weekend will be my last Saturday at the yarn shop, so at least I'll have 2 day weekends to play with.

Tomorrow, however, I'm heading out on the residential life's weekly bus trip. I'm going with one of the math profs (who is also in my poker circle) to Salem, MA. Just in time for Halloween, eh? All we have to do in regard to the students is to count heads when we get on the bus at the college, and then count heads in the evening before we leave Salem. Hopefully it will be as easy as it sounds.

I'm kind of looking forward to the change in scenery - especially since I don't have to drive and will be able to knit.

My painting plans will just have to wait a bit longer.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gimping along

It's been a busy week. Of course, that might be obvious from the total lack of posting here...

I have finally seen all but about five of the students I'm supposed to be monitoring. I'm still monitoring them, of course, just not firsthand. But the things I hear... oy vey.

I stained the two windowpane end tables I bought from a local guy via Craigslist. We don't actually have a local list, but the one for Burlington covers the whole state more or less. Mostly less, unless you're in the Burlington or Montpelier areas. But in the process of sitting on the garage floor and staining them, I managed to throw out my back. Joy. So they are still waiting for the coat of polyurethane. But I am gimpified by the unexpected bursts of pain whenever I do something crazy... like twist from the waist.

My mom and the older of my baby sisters came up for a quick visit. They brought my old IKEA desk that I got when I was 12 - it's kind of beat up, but beat up furniture is better than no furniture right now, so I'm happy to see it again. They also brought an old maple dining room table from one of our dead relatives. It needs major refinishing, but is otherwise in great shape. We also have three more sets of "stackable" bookshelves and some metal chairs for the back porch. This is way more exciting to me than it would have been a year ago.

Prior to their visit, I managed to talk Jay into a trip down to the booming metropolis of West Lebanon, NH so we are about $800 poorer, but now own a 26" flat screen TV, a shop vac, new pillows, large microwavable bowls, and fabric for curtains. My mom very kindly volunteered to make said curtains, so they are now hanging in our living room, covering the hideous purpley-red paint smears on the wooden trim left by the previous owners' paint job.

However, we also looked through the photos from the "history of the house" file that the previous owners left for us, and the house had been a wreck when they bought it 15 years ago. Underlying structure was there, but the walls and windows and everything else was pretty well trashed. So as sketchy as I think some of the cosmetic details are, considering what they started with, it's still fairly impressive.

In non-house-related news, we also took them to the big corn maze nearby. Beautiful weather Sunday, only took us an hour and a half to get through (which is about average), and we bought a bunch of preserves from the local memorial orchard which raises money for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) research. My fridge now holds dilly beans, fresh salsa, and wild blueberry jam. Yummy.

Anywho... I should be working on my research into effective practices in basic skills instruction at the college level. Much more interesting than it sounds, I assure you.

Monday, October 01, 2007

No Shock

Finally got the deposit back from ye olde landlady. Of course, she told me that despite our previous understanding, she was keeping the 2nd half of the month's rent because her new tenants weren't able to move in right away like she thought they would be. (And this is our problem because...?)

But frankly, I'm so happy to be done with her (Except for the fact that we work together... sort of) that I don't even really care. Not having to deal with her brand of insanity except in a purely professional setting is fricking priceless. Or at least worth the $325 that she's keeping. Or so I'm telling myself.

How the hell did we live with her for 2 years?

It feels good to be free from renting. Very very good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And another

From the other side. You can see the really awesome northwest facing windows in the sunroom (the vertical windows) and in the kitchen and living room (the horizontal windows). Also, you can see a little of the garage/workshop in the back beyond the kayaks. The garage was originally located on the giant concrete slab closer to the house, but the previous owners has to move it because of some zoning law.

house windows

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trickle trickle trickle

Jay put some photos up on his Facebook page, so if you're on there, you can probably see the whole set. Of course, most of the pictures that he took are of the outside of the house and property, because that's what makes him happiest. Here's one that actually shows the house:

southwest view of the new house

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


View from the back deck:

view from the deck

Our kitchen:

the kitchen

More later - these are just the two that Jay emailed to me from the pics he took last night.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why there still are no pictures

Friday I left the campus retreat at 1:30 to sign papers. At 2:45 we picked up the UHaul (I hate U-Haul - they relocated the 17 foot truck we were supposed to have, leaving us with a ten foot truck... argh). Jay took that home, and I went back to school to work until 5:30.

When I got home, I found that Jay had recruited a student to assist in loading the truck, and after a little more work, we had a load ready to go. We took the student to dinner at the local pub/restaurant as a thank you, and then he left and we drove up to the house. We stashed all the boxes in the entry room and drove back to the apartment to continue packing and cleaning.

Saturday morning, we got up early to work some more before our friends showed up at 9:30ish to help load some of the really big stuff. We managed to stuff just about everything into the truck, and filled the Subaru with bikes, laundry, and miscellaneous, plus strapped the kayaks on top. Our friends departed, and we made another trip to the house. Unloaded, drove back down to return the U-Haul, ate lunch, returned to the apartment to finish cleaning.

My sister-in-law, bless her, is on vacation and decided to come up to help/visit. With her help we unloaded the last of the miscellaneous stuff from the car and then drove over to Parker Pie in Glover for some of the best pizza I've had in a long time. When we got back, we wrangled the mattress upstairs (tight corners on the stairwell) and set up parts of the kitchen. Jay tested the wood stove and made the place all warm and toasty. We probably made it to bed around midnight.

On Sunday, we were up before 7am and we worked on unpacking - or at least placing boxes in the appropriate room - until about 1pm. Then Jay and his sister went kayaking. I was supposed to take a break, but I couldn't think of anything as interesting as setting up the house, so I pretty much kept at it until 5pm - organizing, doing laundry, etc.

Sunday night we only made it to 9pm before we just had to crash. But the house is fully livable - kitchen is all set up. Bathroom is mostly set up. Bedrooms have beds made up. The rest can wait for a bit.

Today I've been busy trying to organize my work life for the next couple weeks. Go figure - doing work at work... The way this week is looking, don't expect to see any pictures until Friday, or maybe even next week.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The house - it is ours

Now for the chaos of moving.

Will update with a real post on Monday. From work. No more home internet access for awhile.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The funniest thing I've done in a long time

Last weekend we were over in New Hampshire for a friend's wedding - one of the old Utah horde who now lives in New England. A couple people we were hoping to see were there, including some friends who used to live 2 blocks from us in Salt Lake. Their oldest son is now 4, and they have an 8 month old baby boy now, too. Oldest son (OS) is one of those super-active skinny-ass kids who can't be bothered to eat when there is SO MUCH to SEE and DO and EXPLORE! New baby (NB) is roly poly and totally chill.

OS is so much fun to talk to - at one point he told me that he was the QUEEN of ALL EVIL! (He only has one volume - and that volume is LOUD.) In the last few years he has picked up obsessions with the various Disney heroines - as in, he claimed to be Ariel and every night for three months wore the mermaid costume his (conservative, Republican) grandmother sewed for him. She is now making him a Belle ballgown. He's also showing signs of liking Jasmine, who he insists is a doctor. Which kind of makes sense when you know that his mom works at the hospital and that Jasmine wears blue pajamas and a face veil. Sure. A doctor, of course. His mom isn't psyched that he's watching Disney at all - she extended her arm and tapped it to raise a vein to indicate her feelings about it - but she had to admit that the women were much better characters than the men. After all, rather to want to be Belle (who likes books and is nice to people) than Gaston (who is a raging idiot who beats up his friends).

ANYWAY. All that to get to this:

We encountered the OS and his father within the first five minutes of our arrival at the farm. They had been camping out in the field with a bunch of the other wedding guests. OS was wearing pajama pants (inside out) and a pajama top (backwards) with no shoes.

At one point he was climbing up Jay's leg and I looked at OS's skinny ankles and said, "I bet I could swing you around by your ankles."

"OK! YEAH!" said OS, scrambling over to me.

He laid down on the grass and I picked him up by his ankles and swung him back and forth like a pendulum. Kid weighs 30 pounds soaking wet. I swung him higher and Jay caught him by the hands like a trapeze artist and flipped him back upright.

"AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!" OS says, already climbing back up my legs.

I reached down and caught him around his knees and flipped him upside down. My hands slid from his knees to his ankles... taking his pajamas along for the ride.

Jay and Dad kind of gasp and start smiling. Dad says, "So is this the kind of thing you do with all 4 year old boys?"

OS is laughing.

I look down and see skinny bare tushy swinging back and forth.

Jay's laughing, dad's razzing me, OS is giggling... I laughed so hard I almost dropped the poor kid on his head. Snorting and crying with laughter, I manage to plop him on the grass and collapse in a heap of giggles. Dang... just thinking about it makes me laugh again.

Five seconds after OS pulls up his pants, I hear, "AGAIN! AGAIN!"

I look up and OS has one leg extended and his hands firmly clenched at his waistband.

Love that kid.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yet another mini-update

Financing approved! We're now chained to a $150K, 30 year, 6% mortgage... or we will be officially next month. Just have to wait for the sellers to finish up the few repairs and inspections that we requested, and we'll be good to go.

I am really looking forward to having enough space for my books and my knitting stuff. Right now I live with stacked bags of yarn and leaning towers of books everywhere.

As a side note - for anyone who I am linked to via Facebook, I do want to keep the ties from here to there a one-way avenue. In others words, people who read the blog can be aware of that stuff, but I don't want the people I know only from the big F to mosey on over here. If they find me on their own, fabulous. And kudos, too, because I have tried Googling myself in a hundred different ways and I never turn up, which I consider a good thing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Headcold just in time for my first day of work yesterday. So far, so good. Still in the set up phase, and it's hard to be productive when you're blowing your sore red nose every five minutes.

Mostly I'm reading all the information I need to be familiar with ASAP. Also signed up for Facebook. (Yes, finally! My sisters have been on me to do that for awhile.) So if I had an email addy from you, and you were in the Facebook network, you might have gotten tagged. Just say yes, okay? If you are on Facebook and are looking for me, I'm now there. I know you're excited - don't lie. Ha ha.

No new info on the house yet. I'll certainly update when I know more.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A few more tidbits

Inspection went very well. I highly recommend buying from a builder who doesn't like to be cold. Foundation solid, insulation good, no water damage, good electrical. The hot water heater and the furnace will need to replaced sooner rather than later, but we were expecting that. Mostly needs some cosmetic work - scraping, painting, caulking - deck needs to be bolted in on one side where it is pulling away from the house a little (like an inch) and the back corner of the garage/outbuilding has a bit of erosion that needs to be fixed. So now we're just waiting on the bank. Appraisal is scheduled for Monday.

And that's all for now, because I just came back from the eye doctor and my pupils are still pretty blown.

After we close in September, I'll put some pictures of the house on Flickr.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Home inspection scheduled for Wednesday. If that goes well, appraisal will be Friday.

I start the new job on August 20th. I will still be working at the LYS (that's Local Yarn Shop for you non-knitters) every other Saturday and teaching the occasional sock or lace class.

As for the job, I don't want to post too many details here, but it's basically a guidance counselor-type coach and coordinator for the at-risk first-year students. If they want to succeed, I help them find a way to do it.

Also, I deleted blog links for anyone who hadn't posted since March. If you visit here and notice your link is gone, that would be why. If you start posting again, please let me know, because obviously I liked your blogs enough to put up the link in the first place. There's still a few who haven't updated since May. If that's still the case in October, those will be cleared as well. I do like to remain mostly on top of stuff like that - otherwise I forget and click the link and get disappointed all over again.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Got the job!

Details to follow. I'm so completely strung out right now.

Made Peace

Came home to find another note from the LL - profuse apologies and telling us she'd like to come to an arrangement with us. I went over to talk with her because I desperately needed to not feel all stressed out all the time. Again, big apologies from her, hugs, congratulations on the house, encouraged me to stay until our closing (Sept 14th!) and offered to help us move when the time came.

She also explained a little better the source of her stress - her daughter's expecting her first baby (after a few miscarriages) in November - and admitted that she just freaked out and stopped listening and then completely overreacted by calling her lawyer.

I'm still a little less forgiving about the note she left for us yesterday morning, but I think I need to let it go.

Anyway... now we just need good news on the home inspection and from the bank. We meet with the bank tomorrow around noon. Wish us luck.
Checking In

We came to an agreement on price with the sellers. Going to sign papers in a minute.

We also found an alternate place to live for September.

Now we just need to get a house inspection and clear things through the bank. We were pre-qualified for $5000 less than we're going to need, but I don't imagine that $5K will be a huge stumbling block.

Will post more as it happens.

(I'm still too stressed to eat, but at least I got a good night's sleep last night.)

Monday, August 06, 2007


This all just went down last night, and I got about 4 hours of sleep (instead of my usual 8.5) and I know that unless I get this out of my head a bit, it's going to keep me up for many more nights.

We've been living in our current apartment for two years. We don't have a written lease. Partly because our landlady told us she's never had written leases, and also because we had a very good experience with our previous landlady without a written lease and it didn't occur to us that this time might be different. (Not smart on our part, clearly.)

When we moved in we agreed to stay through May. In May '06 we agreed to stay through August. In August '06, we agreed to stay "through the winter", and that after that we said we would be looking to buy a house. She asked us in June if we would be able to move out by August. As we hadn't seen any houses we liked then, we said that we weren't able to guarantee that, but that we were looking for houses. So in June, she told a potential renter that the place wouldn't be available for sure in August. She never seemed terribly upset about this and just asked that we keep her informed on the status of our house hunting.

We've been keeping her updated. There just hasn't been much definite to share.

Last week we found a house we like and today we'll be putting in an offer. If the offer is accepted, then our real estate agent said to expect 4-6 weeks for the closing process. We wanted to wait to see if the offer was accepted before giving our LL a definite date. For some reason, we were thinking that 30-45 days notice would be appropriate. (Maybe because it always has been in the past...)

Last night LL showed up all pissed off and ranting about how could we forget it was the beginning of the month? We had forgotten to give her the August rent check, which admittedly was our error. She lives in another house on the property so we usually just hand it to her when we see her. She's been down at her son's house taking care of the grandkids this week, and we've been running around house hunting, job interviewing, and farewell partying for friends who are moving away. But we've been a couple days late before and she hasn't cared, and we've given her rent up to a week early before when she needed it before a vacation. So I thought this was not such a huge deal.

She apparently took it as an insult and thought we had decided that August was going to be our last month and that we had just chosen not to inform her. We apologized repeatedly, but she wasn't hearing any of it, she just kept accusing us of taking advantage of her. She asked us if we could be out by September 1st because she has someone else who is interested in renting, and we said that we didn't think so. We said that October would be acceptable, and she countered with "I can't do November!" Um. Okay.

Insert much more yelling that we were being unfair and deceptive and just wanted to do things on our own schedule without thought for anyone else. Especially since EVERYONE KNOWS that she rents August to August only... Everyone except us, apparently. So we're sitting on the couch kind of just sputtering because we're completely unprepared for this, and she just says fine, she'll talk to us later, and storms out.

Ten minutes later she returns to let us know that she just talked to her lawyer and is "serving us papers" to be out by the 9th of next month. She says this is more than fair, fairer to us that we have been to her, and that she's giving us more notice than we gave her, and that she should have known better because she only has problems like this with people who have too much education. (!!! She teaches, same as we do...) We asked for clarification on that last month's rent and the security deposit, and she answered, adding, "Because I'M not dishonest." Basically implying that we are, of course.

I'm more upset about that than about having 30 days to figure out our living arrangements.

Pretty much I think it comes down to all of us hearing the same words and interpreting them differently. It's an issue of communication more than anything, and I have definitely learned my lesson about getting these agreements in writing.

So right now, best case scenario is that our offer is accepted, inspection goes well, bank agrees to finance (we are pre-approved, but they have to decide the house is worth the purchase price), and we're in the new house by October. Worse case, inspection goes bad, we have to find another apartment for a year. Either way, I think we're going to end up with our stuff in boxes, sleeping in a friend's spare room for a couple weeks.

I'm not sure whether I want to cry or scream.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Still Here

Been a hectic week or so. We found a house we intend to make an offer on, had friends visiting from out of town, have friends leaving town unexpectedly for a new job in Virginia, had a job interview for a newly created position at the college, been working at the yarn shop, been knitting, been reading...

Hmmm. Looking at that list, no wonder I haven't posted in a while.

The job interview went well. I'm one of their top two candidates out of 56 people who applied. The other guy interviews on Monday, and I should know about the job by the middle or end of next week.

We'll officially put the offer on the house after I know about the job, just for peace of mind sake, though we will still offer on the house even if I don't get the job. It's a little farther north than we had originally intended to look, but it's the first house we've seen that I felt at home in. It has views, three bedrooms, good light, a separate garage/workshop, about 3 acres, and in a quiet neighborhood that's really only about 5-10 minutes from the interstate, and 5 miles either direction to two good kayaking lakes.

Things might continue to be quiet around here until the next week or two play out, but I will be sure to update as I get new information.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why not to be a morning person, Reason #8

We are fortunate to have an extensive trail system right out our back door. It was created primarily for mountain bikers, but I prefer to run/jog/walk instead. Other people horseback ride. In the winter the trails are used by (loud and smelly) snowmobilers and (much quieter) cross country skiiers.

Yesterday I ran into a bit of a trail jam, as I was passing two horseback riders at the same time as two mountain bikers were coming up behind me. No collisions, no worries. But for me, encountering that many people is pretty rare. During the week, it's not uncommon for me to see only one or two other people total, but yesterday was a beautiful, sunny Saturday, so some overlap is to be expected.

I usually head out to the trails in the afternoon or early evening, because exercise in the morning just isn't my thing. I don't feel alert before, during, or after, and I never really hit the stage where the activity feel good. So anyway, point is that I am not out in the morning. Other than a few bikers here and there, the only thing I usually see are chipmunks, bunny rabbits, toads, small birds, and maybe a deer or two.

Jay prefers to run in the morning. Now he rarely run into any other people on the trail, so that's all to the good. What he does see, however, are things like a momma bear and her cubs, a giant moose, and most recently - a psychokiller pheasant. Thing puffed up like a balloon, spread its wings, and chased him down the trail hissing like a raptor.

So the choice seems clear to me. Morning = animals that could eff you up. Afternoon = fuzzy bunnies. No contest.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Recently I've been listening to This American Life while knitting.

This episode: Two Steps Back captures perfectly the reasons I haven't fought too hard to get back into public school teaching. The school and the teachers described and interviewed in the program just about reduced me to tears, because it so closely resembles my experiences with the public school system in this country.

I firmly believe the system is broken. Some individual schools have been spared, but the federal mandates currently in place would change that.

No sane educator would take an honors student and place them in a remedial course. Why then are the educational reform programs doing just that with high-achieving schools and teachers? Yes, some students, and some teachers, need a structured program to help them rise to the expected heights. Knocking people off the top of that peak and making them climb back up at the same pace as the slower ones is pure lunacy.

And this is why I would have to think long and hard about sending a child to public school - not because of the teachers or the curriculum (though I have questions about them, too) - but because of the politics and bureaucracy that have far too much control over the whole system.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hotheaded? Me?

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
The Flash
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz


I think the problem is that I'm thinking about too many things at once. I actually have about four different blog entries I'd like to write, but I've been knitting and reading and traveling instead.

We spent this last weekend down in New Jersey visiting Jay's family for his 30th birthday. A nice time as always, though the drive is a bit of a hassle. This time my sister was able to take the train out from NYC to hang for the weekend, too. First time that part of Jay's family has met any of my side of the family. One of the things we kind of skipped by not having a wedding.

To answer some of the questions from the comments below, I found all our accommodations on EnjoyEngland.com - great site for finding all sorts of different places from B&Bs to larger hotels. As for the rest, we kind of played it by ear. I asked some of the Brits on the web forums I frequent for recommendations, which is how we ending up down on the coastal path near Poole, and up in the Lake District as well. We joined National Heritage while we were there, and that helped us locate some of the random manor houses and other historic attractions. Mostly we just looked at the tourist information available at the guest houses and tourist info in the towns and took it form there. Having a car made a huge difference as well. I don't think we could have gotten to many of those places without our own transportation.

Alrighty. Just checking in today, but I should have some actual content sometime in the next week. Unless all the thoughts in my head collide in another bottleneck...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wrapping it up

I'm getting tired of the trip posts, but I can't leave it half done, so here's the rest...

From Derby we drove up to Keswick in the Lakes District. We stopped at Sizergh Castle on the way there, mostly to break up the drive a bit. We, of course, did another walk there. Should have been a short 2 mile loop, but we made a wrong turn and ended up wandering some fields in the wrong direction for about an extra mile or so. No pictures of the castle itself, as the exterior was covered with scaffolding and the interior was too dim for photos, but here's a shot of the grounds (or near the grounds...)

grounds of Sizergh Castle

We stayed at Ellergill House - probably our favorite B&B of the trip. Room was simple but elegant, location was excellent, food very good (and they had veggie sausage!), and the owners were around our age. I think we just felt more comfortable there than at any of the other places. So thanks to Robin and Clare!

Here's the street we stayed on:

Stanger St. in Keswick

Main Street - a pedestrian zone - Moot House at the center there.

Downtown Keswick

This is Jay's favorite sign:

Jay's favorite sign

One day we split up. Jay hiked Skiddaw and Barrow

Keswick & Derwentwater

and I walked up to Castlerigg Stone Circle and then back into town.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

path away from Castlerigg

Kate's hike near Keswick

The next day we drove toward Ullswater and walked down to Aira Force.

Aira Force (Ullswater)

Aira Force 4

From there we drove toward Windermere, stopping along the way so Jay could climb up Red Screes, since its elevation is listed as 777, which happens to be his birthday. We stopped in Ambleside for lunch - great little bakery/restaurant, whose name I completely forget, but they are apparently well known for their apple pie.

After lunch we ducked over to Hawkshead to visit Beatrix Potter's home. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed by the time we got there, but we drove up to Tarn Hows and walked around the lake before heading back up to Keswick.


This was our first day of not-sunny weather, and we got lost trying to find the Guesthouse because we had a too-small map, and apparently the streets change name at every intersection. Eventually we just stumbled upon it by accident.

Ascot House

After moving in to the tiniest room imaginable (way up on the tippy top floor), we went walking on the walls.

Kate on York's wet walls

Yorkminster from the walls

York seems like an interesting place. I kind of wish we had spent another day there, but by this point, we were pretty much vacationed out. But really, how can you not appreciate a place that has signage like this:

Man Boobs

Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate

Kinky Donuts

From York we drive back to London, and between being tired and the weather being kind of crappy, we just stayed in at the airport Holiday Inn until it was time to leave (at 5am! Ack.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Derby, um, Darby, dammit

Alrighty, onwards. We departed Holmhurst (which, btw, had the best coffee of the places we stayed at... or maybe just the most generous servings.. either way, I'd stay there again) and heading northwest to Derby, which I pretty much renamed the above.

We stayed at Thornhill Guest House, which I neglected to photograph. The room was very nice, and it had a guest kitchen and computer, which is partly why I picked the place. However, the location was not ideal for our intentions, and if I had it to do over again, I would have based us further north, perhaps in Buxton. But the breakfasts were tasty, the accommodations were lovely, and I was completely in love with the silverware. Sounds strange, but it was very smooth and nicely weighted, and the artist in me appreciated the sleek design. Jay, of course, appreciated being able to cook every night instead of going out. And I have to admit that eating out every night actually does get tiresome. And expensive.

Conveniently, there were several groceries within a five minute walk of the B&B, so we strolled on over to peruse our options.

As tempting as this looked, we stuck with tuna steaks and chicken.

Wafer Thin Ox Tongue

The next day we drove up through the Peaks to Castleton, where we walked a 7 mile loop up Back Tor, around Mam Tor, and then back around the caverns on the other side of town.

Sheep on Castleton walk

Jay between the peaks

Jay on the trail around Castleton

We stopped in Bakewell on the way back to Derby, to pick up a famous Bakewell Pudding. Oh my god. Inedible. It was described to me as a tart with strawberry jam and egg custard. What was not mentioned was the three pounds of butter that must have been in the recipe. By the time we got it back to the B&B, it had soaked through the bag. It was also sadly lacking on the strawberry jam side. I would recommend enjoying one of the other treats the bakery has to offer.

Regardless, it was a cute town.


Next day, in the interest of not spending a lot of time in the car, we visited Kedleston Manor. Nice grounds - we enjoyed the long walk around the property and the tour of the garden and manor. Also a really neat old church on the grounds with graves of the ancestors of the family who still lives there going back to the 1500s or something ridiculous like that.

Kedleston Manor house

In the gardens, we saw some of the biggest rhododendron we'd ever seen.

Giant Rhodendron

And that's about all the excitement for Derbyshire. On to the Lakes!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Standing Stones (and sheep)

Pretty much everything on the trip, barring London and York, can be tagged "and sheep".

So, let's see, we're up to Sunday, May 20th...

We headed out from Salisbury intending to visit Old Sarum and Stonehenge and Avebury, but Old Sarum was closed because of some triathlon. Yes indeedy, imagine taking those narrow little roads of two way traffic with cyclists on your side of the road. Fun fun. Jay did fine, however, and I only had to shut my eyes once or twice.

We arrived fairly early at Stonehenge, fortunately. It wasn't all that crowded at 9:30am, but that soon changed as the big tour buses (coaches) arrived. In some of our pictures, you can't even tell that the place was swarming with touristas.

Jay @ Stonehenge

Stonehenge B

The reality looks more like this:

Stonehenge 1

Then we drive a bit further north to Avebury, which has an even older, even larger stone circle, plus a nice manor house/garden and museum.


Here, as you can see, the sheep and the people can get right up next to the stones. The village of Avebury runs right through the middle. Unfortunately, the 4 mile loop walk we had intended was derailed due to current restoration of part of the site.

Avebury Stones and Sheep

Jay especially enjoyed the garden. Just the kind of guy he is...

Avebury Gardens

Next up, Derbyshire and the Peaks.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wiltshire etc

As we departed London, we stopped back at Heathrow to pick up our rental car. There we had the unfortunate experience of meeting Claude at Europcar. Guy obviously either had mental problems or some sort of thing against Americans. Maybe both. He insisted in speaking to us in Spanish for some unfathomable reason (he wasn't a native Spanish speaker) and then asking snottily, "Did you have any idea what I'm saying to you?" Bizarre. And enough to make me never want to rent from them again.

Anywho, once we escaped Claude's clutches, the drive to Salisbury went remarkably smoothly, considering the whole reversed driving situation. It helped that it was only a two hour drive, and that it was pretty much a straight shot.

We checked in at Holmhurst Guest House

Holmhurst Guest House

and parked our little Fiat Punto

Jay & the Punto

before heading over to check out the Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral 1

and into town for dinner.


The next day, we headed south down to Poole and Swanage. I might be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that it's Bournemouth on the opposite side of the bay behind me in the next picture.

Kate with Bournemouth in distance

We walked the Coastal Path about two miles west from Swanage and back. Gorgeous.

England's Coastal Path

Caves near Swanage

Kate & Jay England Coast

We ogled Corfe Castle on the way back,

Corfe Castle

but decided not to go in because we were getting tired and we wanted to detour out to see the Cerne Giant near Cerne Abbas. Not really on the way back to Salisbury, but Jay and I saw it in a documentary recently and we couldn't resist going a bit out of our way to get a first hand look

Kate & Cerne Giant

so to speak.

In the interest of not crashing anyone's computer, I'll pause here.

Next up: Stonehenge and Avebury.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Starting in London

Days 1-2

After a two hour delay due to thunderstorms in Toronto, we flew into Heathrow only to discover that our bags had not made the transfer with us. Fortunately, after the German adventure of 1997, I always carry the essentials with me: mascara and clean underwear.

We took the tube to Canary Wharf and attempted to call our friend T. Sadly, T was having cell phone issues and we couldn't get hold of him. Fortunately, I remembered the name of the back where he works, and we walked over to his building. This was probably easier without our luggage, so the delay wasn't all bad. The security guards outside the building probably thought we were nuts, but they allowed us to sign in and enter the lobby to see reception. T was quickly located, and came down to walk us to his flat. Yay!

Jay Kate Tarig

We crashed right after he left - dead unconscious for about three hours. The airline claimed that our bags would arrive in the early afternoon, so we waited around. They told us that if we weren't there when they did arrive, the bags would not be delivered. I guess that was the one bad part about staying with friends instead of in a hotel. Alas.

We had intended to get in a bit of touristy stuff that afternoon, but five, six, seven o'clock and the bags still hadn't arrived. Eight o'clock, T came home from work, and we went out to dinner. Still no bags. But T's lovely girlfriend I got home jut as we were going out, and apparently, the bags were delivered five minutes later. Fricking airlines.

The next day, we hit the London streets.

Big Red Busses

Knights in Shining Armor?

Narrowly escaping exhaust fumes and other excreta, we made our way through Hyde Park to the Natural Science Museum.

Natural History Museum - outside

Then over to Buckingham Palace

Beefeaters Buckingham Palace

Jay @ Buckingham Palace

and through Green Park.

Green Park, London

Then we hopped on the tube

Green Park Underground

and headed over to the Tower of London

Jay @ T o L 2

where we declined to pay the $60 to go inside to look at old stuff. Instead, we walked over to the Tower Bridge.

Kate & Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge 2

Jay insisted that we needed to walk across the bridge completely before going back for the tour. I resisted trying to explain that the tour would require us to walk across anyway, mostly because of the greater pay off of watching Jay realize his silliness later. Heh. Love you, hon.

After that, we foolishly believed the map, and decided to find the tube station that was closer to T's place instead of the one that was closer to the Bridge. Much farther than we thought. This was also the point where it became clear that Jay's usually excellent direction is completely foiled by the presence of steel and concrete. Put the man in the woods, he's amazing. Put him in the city, and he will guide you in the wrong direction for days.

And that pretty much sums up day two. Days 3-5 coming soon.