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Archive for December, 2012

Goodbye, 2012

My, how time flies. Twelve months ago I came back to school after Christmas break and sketched out a timeline for completing my PhD thesis by the end of the spring semester. Looking at that list, I felt certifiably insane. Surely there was no way I would actually be done in a mere three months. Somehow, page by page, graph by graph, chapter by chapter, it got done. I’m still amazed its all over. What an experience; I’m glad to have done it, but I don’t believe I shall ever do it again!

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Needless to say, 2012 was quite eventful. In one year, I finished writing my thesis, defended my thesis, graduated with a PhD in physics, ran a 10K, didn’t work for three and a half months, spent two weeks in Europe, sold our house, moved across the country, started a real job, and spent our first Christmas away from family.

No offense, 2012, but if 2013 is slightly less eventful I might not complain.

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As you may remember, Bart and I have been eating on a plastic folding table for the last six weeks.

Remember? We sold our nice dining room table before we moved.

At least there’s a cute centerpiece and delicious food.

This is merely one small chapter in the Taylor’s ongoing saga about dining tables.

When I first moved out to Colorado, Mom took the opportunity to upgrade her own furniture by passing on our old breakfast table (probably as old as I am) to me for my apartment. Though small, this humble and sturdy table served us quite well through a couple of apartments and into our first house.

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Unfortunately, it was just a little small for our new dining area and also for our entertaining needs. Since Bart and I enjoy having people over for meals, seating for four just wasn’t cutting it for us. We decided it was time to upgrade to something that would better serve our purposes.

I really like furniture, so I should love furniture shopping, right? Evidently, it’s not so simple. I am astounded that cheap, fake furniture costs so much money. Real, honest-to-goodness wood, quality furniture is hard to find and is astronomical. And then there are designer tables that are astronomically priced and yet are still full of wood veneers and plywoods. This lack of integrity in furniture really annoyed me, so I immediately became disillusioned in our table search. We still needed a table, though, so we had to figure out some sort of compromise.

One day, we happened across a store selling Amish made, solid wood furniture. Everything in that store was gorgeous. Even if not every style of furniture was our favorite, there were some really beautiful pieces in classic, timeless styles that we really liked. You certainly paid for the quality, though. But in reality, you would be purchasing a piece of furniture that you would use for the rest of your life and that your children would inherit and use. Even if the wood needed refinishing in a few decades, the stuff would never fall apart. Compared to how many cheapo dining sets you would have to buy in the same time period as they fell apart, it would ultimately pay for itself many times over.

While we could have afforded this set, we spent a long time deciding whether that was the best use of our money at that time. As great as it seemed, we ultimately decided that we could make due with something else for a while and revisit this option later, especially since we were never sure how long I’d be in school, where we’d be after I finished, and whether we wanted to drag something like that across country if we had to move.

Our ultimate compromise was to purchase what we deemed to be an “expensive cheap table” that looked cool, was huge, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg (just an arm maybe). We saved a bit buy purchasing it slightly used on Craigslist. While not a fine specimen of solid hardwoods and hand crafting, this beast of a table was actually pretty nice and served us well for dozens of dinner parties and multiple large gatherings. With both leaves in, that baby was over 10 feet long, and we packed it to capacity one or two times a year.

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However, as we anticipated, when the time came to move, it was not worth the space it took up in the moving truck (since we were paying by the foot), plus it was unlikely to survive the wear and tear of a cross-country move. We sold that baby on Craigslist for just 10% less than we paid for it four years before. That’s Craigslisting like a boss, people.

However, that did leave us without any table in our new house. As described, we’ve been eating on a plastic folding table for six weeks now. That’s worked just fine for us, but eventually we did need to break down and purchase something else.

It seemed like the perfect time to revisit the heirloom-quality Amish furniture. We found a couple of stores and checked them out yesterday (and we’re even actually close to Amish country here!). However, while we still loved the furniture, this again turned out to be not a straight-forward decision. First of all, we are renting right now and don’t anticipate being in this house for more than a year. If we purchased something now, we wouldn’t know how it would fit into our next home. Plus, we sold quite a bit of other furniture when moving, so there are some other pieces we want to fill back in. It’s harder to do that if we spend multiple grands on just one room of the house.

So, yet again, we talked ourselves out of Amish furniture, deciding to go for another intermediate option while we wait to see what happens. When we get ready for it, the Amish store will still be there. However, instead of settling for another cheap table that we didn’t love, we decided to go for something completely and totally different, something that wasn’t pretending to be something it wasn’t.

While at the mall in Virginia yesterday, we randomly stumbled into West Elm and saw their mix and match dining tables. They offer five different table tops and four different bases for twenty separate table options. For some reason, this seemed really appealing to us, and after six weeks of shopping for wood tables at dozens of different stores, today we purchased a stainless steel table top with an industrial steel base.

Totally different. Not a cheap wood table pretending to be what it’s not. And sturdy enough to have the tar beaten out of it and still look okay. Even though it seems ultra modern by itself, paired with some dark upholstered chairs and warmed up with the right accessories, it will fit into just about any space. If we get ready for our Amish table in the future, it can serve as a breakfast table or even a utility table. We also hit just the right sale at West Elm to get it for what we considered a steal, so we can afford to make some purchases for other rooms, too.

Even if we went a completely different direction, I think this will be a good intermediate option for us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all in stock today, so we’ll have to wait for the pieces to trickle in. When we finally get it set up, I’ll share a picture of our shiny new table!

So, the ultimate dining table saga probably isn’t over for the Taylors, but we’ll consider this chapter closed, and maybe we’ll turn over a new “leaf” in the future. 😉

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House sweet house

One of the biggest adjustments we’ve made in this transition is moving from our own home to a rental. We owned a modest, cozy modern home outside of Boulder for over five years. It wasn’t big or fancy, but we tried to take care of it and make small improvements to it to make it a nice place to live.139_0939

When we were selling it, I didn’t necessarily feel super attached to the house. Yes, we’d spent a fair amount of time fixing it up and putting our own touches in it, but we always knew that we most likely wouldn’t be living there forever. Indeed, the time did come when I graduated and got a job elsewhere and we needed to sell it. The improvements we made to it added to the value when we sold it; we didn’t spent so much money on projects that we weren’t able to recoup the costs.

Of course it was sad to say goodbye to our first home, but we looked forward to purchasing another home in the future. However, jumping into a very diverse, complex, and expensive market such as the Washington, DC area without having any clue about the area would not have been wise. Therefore, for the time being it makes more sense for us to rent while we decide where exactly we want to live more long-term.

Our rental is an older home (built in 1970) in an established neighborhood about 13 miles from the Observatory. We are leasing from the owners, who moved to another town a few miles away and decided to rent out their old house instead of selling it. Like any home, it has its good and bad points, but it seems like every few days we’re discovering some new quirk about living here.

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For one, it has its original 40-year-old solid hardwood flooring. I really like wood versus our old carpet; however, these floors do show there age and could use refinishing in most places. Plus, the planks in our bedroom are so loose and squeaky that I wake Bart up every morning when I get up for work. It doesn’t matter where I step; they are pretty much all loud enough to wake the dead. Also, the floor in the entryway area is so bowed and wavy that the door to the garage doesn’t even open all the way anymore. I can only assume that is due to some settling of the foundation over time; I have no idea if that could be fixed.

Also, we were surprised to see that most of the original light switches and outlets were painted over. I guess that every time a room was painted in the last 40 years, they just rolled right over everything. I’ve never seen such a thing before, and it’s not necessarily bad, but occasionally we’ll try to plug something in and will have to shove through about five layers of paint to push it it. It’s not like you can stick a sharp knife in it to clean it out….

A 40-year-old house just gets a little tired after a while if it doesn’t get a little TLC. Bart and I really like giving houses a little TLC, but there’s just one problem…it’s not our house! It’s been an interesting adjustment going from constant tinkerers of our own house to temporary residents of someone else’s. In a way, we itch to do this or that to it, but in another way, it’s quite freeing to just overlook those things. Eventually, we’ll probably buy again, and in this town it’s bound to be an older home in need of regular TLC, but for now we can spend our time enjoying living in a new area and not fretting over a honey-do list. New or old, fancy or plain, ultimately I’m just thankful that we have a safe, comfortable home for our family.

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A Maryland Christmas

Yesterday, Bart and I celebrated our first Christmas away from home. This was also the first time we exchanged presents with each other on Christmas day. Usually we are traveling for a week or two and do our personal gift exchange before we leave. Waiting usually isn’t the Taylor way, either; as soon as there is something to give someone else, we can hardly contain ourselves and usually break down and give it early. However, managing to wait until Christmas morning was kind of our own Christmas miracle!

The last few years, we have done “stockings” for each other; that is, a few smaller scale gifts instead of bigger items, or in addition to one larger joint gift we share. It’s fun to fill a stocking with little things we think the other will like. I think we did well this year. Bart’s stocking included his annual Dilbert desk calendar, the OC Supertones’ latest album, a genuine Italian moka pot espresso maker (something that we discovered on our recent trip to Rome), and some presidential flash cards (we always rue our deficiency in executive knowledge, and this is a fun way to get a little more educated). My gifts included a new green laser pointer, a French style rolling pin, a Moleskine “Le Petit Prince” day calendar for 2013, a travel book for a place we might get to go next year, and a really unique iPhone5 cover. As usual, we had lots of fun unpacking our goodies.

Having nothing else on the agenda for the day, we headed out for a super early matinee showing of The Hobbit. Being so early, the matinee price made it relatively cheap to see it in 3D with high frame rate. Hearing other people’s description of it, including some who claimed it had the feel of a soap opera, made us completely unsure of what it was going to look like. However, we didn’t find these outlandish claims to be at all the case. The overall impression we got from it was that of exquisite clarity of the picture and a smoother 3D experience. Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed the movie and thought the higher frame rate was cool.

After that, we spent the rest of the day at home relaxing…not a bad Christmas at all. Just different than usual.

It snowed a little bit the afternoon of Christmas Eve, but it eventually just turned into a dreary rain. Christmas day was pretty clear and nice; however, the front that pushed across most of the US on Christmas is passing through today. Any other Christmas, we would be in Arkansas during this exact time, but the year we didn’t go, it snowed foot or more there. You’re welcome, everybody. While I missed being with family this holiday, I can’t say I really missed being a part of that snowy mess, especially trying to drive back here!

It’s a cold, wet, deary mess out today. I thankfully had a small project that I could work on at home, so I decided this would be the best time to take advantage of that opportunity. I mean, how many days can one do their work in front of a cozy fire? Seriously.

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I’ll go back into work for real the rest of the week, even though nobody else will be there. It’s at least a good time to trudge through some training and get it over with so I can focus on more technical stuff when the rest of my group members return after New Year’s.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to the end of the holiday season. I have enjoyed the days off, don’t get me wrong, but I’m still trying to get into a really solid routine in our new place, and this just keeps throwing me off. Soon, it will be the dreary end of winter, and I’ll have nothing better to do than sit by the fire, think about my routine, and dream of spring. 🙂

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I feel fine

Well, it’s already tomorrow somewhere, so it looks like the end of the world as we know it didn’t happen as theorized today. And, in the immortal words of REM, I feel fine.

 

Evidently God has other plans. What a concept.

Anyways, yesterday DH and I drove down to Raleigh to spend the weekend with his side of his family. His sister couldn’t go in for Christmas Day, either, so their parents drove out to meet both of us on the east coast. We’ve been looking forward to it as our main celebration for the season.

We almost didn’t make it down last night. I got home early, and we hoped to leave early to avoid some of the worst of traffic. However, a couple of items we ordered around Thanksgiving finally decided to ship, and the delivery was inconveniently scheduled for yesterday, supposedly by 4:30 p.m. We couldn’t just leave stuff sitting on our porch for three days, or it would undoubtedly get stolen. We thought 4:30 would still be acceptable.

Three hours later, our packages still hadn’t showed up. We had been staring out the front window waiting for the FedEx truck for hours, occasionally checking the porch in case we somehow missed a big white truck roaring by. Nothing. However, when we re-loaded the tracking website for the eighth time, it suddenly showed they had been allegedly “delivered.” This was obviously not the case, but at least something had happened. We called FedEx to try to figure out what was going on, but there was general confusion about what had happened. At that point, however, it was do or die. If we didn’t leave right then, it would be too late to drive down that night, but we would have been disappointed to miss a few hours with our already limited time down there. We decided we had done everything within our due diligence to take care of the issue that night. FedEx said they’d look into it and hold them if they had them, so there didn’t seem to be any reason to stay.

We drove through the remnants of “Snowmygoodness” that had afflicted the Midwest the day before, making for a slightly damp drive, but it wasn’t too bad. We got in around 12:30 a.m. and promptly went to bed.

Today, I had lunch with my good friend from college who also lives in the area. I probably hadn’t seen her in eight years or more…for shame! We had a yummy lunch, went to a couple of yarn stores in the area, and drove by the townhouse she and her husband are buying. I’m really glad we were able to get together between our holiday schedules.

My other BFF from college lives in Raleigh, too, but she will be traveling until Christmas Day after we leave. Fortunately, being relatively close now, we should be able to make trips to visit some of our favorite people now. Of course, we aren’t able to see our other favorite people since we moved away from them, so I guess it balances out.

So, we’re having a good time going into the final stretch into Christmas. I hope you also have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are and whomever you are with.

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Seven years down

…and 53 to go. At least that’s what Bart tells me. He says that after we’ve been married 60 years and he’s old and forgetful, I can find me a younger man since he won’t even notice. But not a day before 60 years, mind you.

Yesterday was our 7th anniversary. That’s not a super long time, at least compared to 60 years, but it’s a pretty good start. We look forward to many more, God willing.

This anniversary was quite nice. We worked all day, but after I got home we went to a really interesting restaurant in town. It was completely decked out like a sophisticated hunting lodge–lots of rich woods, outdoorsy decor, even a gigantic moose hanging over a fireplace. It was an interesting atmosphere, and Bart in particular really liked it. 😉 The food was good, unique dishes without being pretentious and snooty; and while it was pricier than Chipotle or Wendy’s, of course, the prices really weren’t that bad for a special evening out kind of place.

Back at home, we attempted out first fire in the fireplace. The wood Bart purchased on Friday was not completely seasoned, but with his expertise he got it going pretty well. Now we can put that on the “done” list.

This was a much more enjoyable anniversary than some we’ve had. More than once we’ve spent the day driving across Kansas on our way home for Christmas, having a romantic dinner at Taco Bell outside of Tulsa. Once or twice there was a business meeting at church on that day (I cannot confirm or deny skipping said meeting in order to go out for dinner instead…sorry, Larry and Tom). Regardless of the circumstances of the day, we are still always happy to spend it together are thankful for another year.

Bart is really good about keeping up with the traditional anniversary gifts and is creative in the gifts he gives me, because, I’ll be honest, some of them are a little strange. I, on the other hand, am embarrassingly forgetful to find traditional gifts for him. But I always enjoy getting his thoughtful ones.

Seven years is evidently copper. Bart got me a copper hair stick off Etsy, which is really pretty even if it turned out to be a bit small to hold my mass of hair itself. I can use it as a decoration, though, with my hair secured another way. I, as usual, totally forgot, but I managed to salvage the day by reassigning a Christmas gift, a board game whose currency uses “coppers.” Go me.

To top it off, I got three dozen roses! Red roses are what we had at our wedding, a sophisticated flower with the perfect color for this time of year. He got mixed red and white, which look really good together.

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So, we had a really enjoyable evening for our first anniversary here in Maryland, and I look forward to many more, wherever we may be.

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One month

We’ve been in Maryland for one month now. Here’s an overview of some of the things we have and haven’t done since arriving here.

So far, I/we have:

  • Completed four full weeks of work.
  • Gotten paid.
  • Had one federal holiday.
  • Walked through part of Rock Creek Park.
  • Taken an overnight trip out of town.
  • Taken the metro into DC.
  • Gone to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.
  • Driven to Virginia an average of twice per week.
  • Closed on our old house.
  • Watched the Broncos play on TV (only because they played the Baltimore Ravens today, whose games always air in our area).
  • Visited six different churches.
  • Sung the Doxology three times.
  • Gotten a cold.
  • Gotten lost.
  • Started a knitting project.
  • Thrown a breaker by turning on the microwave at least three times.
  • Gone to Ikea twice.
  • Decorated for Christmas.
  • Had mail and packages delivered to our new address.
  • Mailed Christmas cards.
  • Met two neighbors.
  • Purchased firewood.
  • Gone to a movie.
  • Visited with a friend from out of town.
  • Got driver’s licenses and cars registered.
  • Been stuck in traffic.

Things we have not done:

  • Driven entirely around the Beltway.
  • Visited a church more than once.
  • Wrapped any Christmas presents.
  • Purchased any furniture (still eating on the industrial plastic folding table).
  • Made a fire in the fireplace (but coming soon).
  • Unpacked every single box.
  • Gone to a Walmart.
  • Finished a knitting project.
  • Made any friends (other than people I meet at work).
  • Been to the ocean.
  • Crossed the Mason Dixon line.
  • Had anyone over.
  • Been to a national monument.
  • Seen a politician.
  • Filed any of the growing mound of paperwork.
  • Called the appliance warranty place about our leaky refrigerator.
  • Parked my car in the garage.

Clearly we’ve done plenty while here, but there’s still a lot that we haven’t do. Some don’t matter a lot; some are quite important. Some we definitely will do at some point, others we may not. And we’ll continue to find stuff we need and want to do.

I guess it’s been okay here. In some ways I feel reasonably settled. Maybe I’ve “forgotten” about Colorado, but maybe I still feel that I’m just temporarily away and will “be back later.” Does it feel like home or not? Do I like it or not? Sometimes I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it; sometimes I am absolutely frustrated or hate it. Well, we’re here either way, I guess. I just keep working at making our home here and enjoying the opportunities afforded by being here, then maybe one day it will feel like home in every way.

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