Friday, October 24, 2014

The Yards

I hope you don't mind that I am just going to endlessly make comparisons between the condo in Plainsboro and the apartment in Princeton. One thing that's notably different is that we have a yard to ourselves. In Condoland, we had a back patio that looked out onto a bike path, so we didn't technically have a yard to speak of--just a patch of grass before the bike path that Dan and Luke used to kick the soccer ball around. The other thing was that we lacked a certain level of privacy, because every five minutes, someone would whizz by on a bike or jog through (and a disappointingly small number had dogs with them) or just leisurely walk by, looking into our back patio windows. Here, we have fenced in yard, and though the neighbors are still close (I met three of the four so far), they are not in our living space. Here is the back yard. Living in that big white house you see is a man named Lew who has two giant golden retrievers with sweeping tails.



This dog house comes with the property, because the owner has two rescues dogs. We are trying to have one rescue (this deaf dog named Finnegan who I fell in love with), but no such luck so far. The dog house awaits, gathering dust and sadness...


This is our next door neighbors' yard. It's chaos---sometimes, you'll see a random diaper or two on the ground. A little black chihuahua patrols the place, and some bunnies go between our two yards, nibbling grass and the occasional head of lettuce. Actually there were two bunnies, but one disappeared. Now, there's just one white rabbit. Luckily, she just gave birth to a bunch more bunnies, so hopefully, we can keep this going.


Lastly, you have Dan posing in a sweater he feels uncomfortable in because of its brightness. He's more of a beige kind of guy, not a bright blue. Please note the large pumpkin in the background, ripe for carving. Only $5 from Whole Foods.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Objects of the house

One of the things that happened when we moved was that our big fluffy sectional couch did not fit into our narrow, old house un-fluffy door. The movers tried it all--taking off the front door, then going up the back and taking off that door, removing the legs to the couch, all to no avail. We were on the verge of sawing it in half when we decided to let one of the movers keep it. Actually, what happened was that Dan agreed to drive back to Plainsboro with the mover guy and put the coach back into the condo to be removed at a later date. In any case, a week later, we found this sofa at Crate and Barrel outlet and the related ottoman. We think they are related. Upon closer inspection, we aren't 100% sure that the two match. We do not care.



This is what I would call a design cranny, and it now features two small objects de arte from Target.



Here is Dan, fixing Luke's breakfast. The plastic pumpkin is new.



Spice rack in the kitchen made out of what I think is supposed to be a towel rack for the bathroom. My mom bought me the whale pot holder from Jane, the local designer consignment shop, this weekend.

All in all, I would say that we're done with the major pieces, but buying furniture usually means you have to buy other things to go with the furniture, such as an area rug or matching end tables or lamps or more pillow cushions (for some reason, I'm obsessed with accent pillows, and have to remind myself whenever I go to West Elm that there's no need for yet another pillow cover. Unless it's on sale).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Two week anniversary

Tomorrow will be our two week anniversary in this new apartment in Princeton proper. I feel weirdly self-conscious now when people ask me where I live, as if I'm bragging or being snotty. I have an impulse to apologize and add, "But we don't own there. We could never afford to buy in Princeton unless we lived in a shack." From now on, I will practice not saying sorry for living in a town I love.

Our new apartment is beautiful, closer to the shops and restaurants and the library than anything we tried to buy, and it's only a $150 more per month than the condo in Princeton (or $75 each, as we split pretty much everything down the middle). And, I just changed over my car insurance to my new zip and it's $10 cheaper. Oh, and the cleaning ladies are charging us $15 less per month to clean the place, so that's another $17.50 less for me ($10 plus half of $7.50, if you're following), plus I use less gas going to and fro, and so when you get down to it, it's really not all that much more to live in this town.

And guess what, no more Route 1 for me. I drove on it yesterday to go to Quakerbridge Mall, and was like, yes, that's right, I still hate this.

This is our bedroom window. Note the baby Jesus Pope on the sill. 



And this is the view--please also note that it's not of a parking lot with a dumpster.

We have made it out of Condo Land and lived to tell about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And Now, We are Here

I keep making  a promise to write more in my blog, but in part because of a morning teaching class and in part because of my own inertia, I can't seem to get to it. I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m.--not something that is easy to do, for me or for the students. They are tired and disinterested, half-asleep, and I am usually pretty awake, but annoyed by their lack of enthusiasm. On top of that, the class is long--an hour and a half. When I taught at Penn State, I seem to remember that my T/R classes went from 9:45 to 11, for example. You wouldn't think that the extra 15 minutes of class time would make a difference, but it does. The first few times I taught, I would be working really hard to do the lesson plan, and have this whole thing planned out, and then I would be wrapping that up and discover it was only 8:30. I would write more about teaching, but I'm cautious because I want to be mindful of the possibility that students could find my blog. Suffice it to say that it's a good class of first year students who, like most 18 year olds would rather be sleeping than listening to me talk about thesis statements or MLA citations. On Thursday, we will be getting in the the third paper, rhetorical analysis, and I couldn't be happier. Ethos, logos, and pathos--those are the things I love because they allow us to talk about the "isms" inherent in the most blatant rhetoric of print ads.

We are now living in Princeton, in a three bedroom, two bath duplex on Witherspoon with a pretty red door. We could never afford to buy this house with its re-done kitchen and fancy bathroom and pretty hard wood floors, but we can (almost) afford to rent it. Of all the places we looked to buy, this one has the best location--just minutes away from the Princeton library and lots of shops and places to eat. I can now use my legs again to get from one location to another, which feels like a miracle.

Here are some photos.

This is the bunny who lives next door and sometimes comes into our yard. 

Front door. We are to the left. 

The re-done kitchen, reminiscent of our kitchen in Plainsboro but with a really nice Bosch dishwasher. 






Wednesday, September 24, 2014

House Hell, Part 2

Where was I? Yes, when last we left, we were attempting to buy a home in one of the most expensive cities in the country (I mean, I'll compare Princeton prices with like a penthouse in Soho, and the penthouse in Soho will be more reasonable). Okay, so we bid on this other house, above asking price as we were advised to do, and the guy accepted our offer. Just to back up a little for those of you who haven't purchased property in a while, you can bid on a house, but you first have to be pre-approved for a mortgage, just so that nothing crazy happens later, like you find out you can't afford it.

We were so excited to have the house! It was adorable--two huge bedrooms with slanting ceilings upstairs and a bathroom there too, then another bedroom with an on-suite bathroom, and a square sun room and decent living room, kitchen and dining area. The basement was clean and dry with high ceilings and the appliances were good (all I cared about was that the refrigerator had a water system in it--that's my idea of luxury). We had the inspection--the second inspection of our house-buying adventure and then we had radon testing, and all came out okay. The inspector was the same guy we had for the other property and he agreed that this house was in much better shape. He found some leaks, but said it was sound overall.

This is not the layout of any of the houses we looked at. 

What we didn't realize is that, in Mercer County, if the house is sold above a certain amount, you have to put down 20% or you will have to pay mortgage insurance, which is like an extra $150 or whatever a month. The way the mortgage folks tell you about it is funny---they don't say, "You'll have to pay PMI for the next 5 years."  They say, "You'll pay PMI for 60 months." Sixty months doesn't sound bad at first.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. So, we got the house, and we had the inspection and we started wanting to tell Luke about it, because he was worried about having to change schools. We had these elaborate plans for how we were going to reveal it to him, but we were also cautious because we hadn't yet sealed the deal with the mortgage or gone to the closing.

Have to run. Stay tuned for the rest...


Monday, September 22, 2014

House Hell

Why have I not been writing more? I feel stuck and mute---in the middle of lots of change, and most of it has been turmoil of the domestic kind. It's weird how you think your situation is difficult, and then it becomes more difficult and you go, Hey, wait, that thing before? That was easy. I suppose there is a lesson in that somewhere, but I hope the lesson is not "It is what it is."

For the last four months, we've been trying to buy a house in Princeton, in part because that's where Luke has gone to school since he was in kindergarten and so we want to keep him with is friends, and in part because if I have to stare at this condo parking lot for much longer, I may go AWOL.

In case you are unaware of what the realty market is like in Princeton, the median range to purchase a home is around $750,000. I made that number up, and so it could be higher, maybe more like $1 million at the minimum. Just know that most of the houses you see are millions of dollars.

Here is an example of a house in Princeton that would probably be listed at $3,590,000

We found a house that was much less than that, still a reach for us, but not impossible. Then, we had the inspection, and the guy found quite a few things wrong; nothing calamitous, but we also weren't in love with the kitchen and would need to buy a dishwasher and to rearrange the room so that the oven and the fridge weren't touching and knock down a few walls and we would also be looking at sharing one bathroom and having no closet space and one bedroom with no closet at all.  The shared living space was small, and the floors were uneven and you could tell that he owned a dog. The basement was a disaster, rickety with low-ceilings, and there was no driveway. At the same time, two other houses came on the market for only $7,000 more than the original house, and these places were way better. Like, had actual dishwashers and parking spaces, sun rooms, extra bathrooms, nice basements, were built in the last fifty years and the roofs didn't need to be replaced. So, we got out of the first house and made a bid on one of the other properties. Our realtor said it was a competitive market and so we should bid above the asking price, but within our comfort zone. Since we were already outside of comfort zone financially, we should've said no, but we bid d$15,000 more than asking price, and they didn't take our offer. So then, we raced to bid on the other property, the cute little Cape Cod, and the guy accepted our offer!!! Yay!

I will write more about this tomorrow.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

#TBT: Middle School or the Seventh Circle of Dante's Inferno

Luke starts sixth grade in one week. Maybe it's different for boys, and easier somehow because they don't mature as quickly as girls, but I found almost all of middle school to be hellish. I was too young to do anything on my own like go to the Quick Mart, and too old to play with stuffed animals and dolls. Plus, I was losing that ability to forget myself in games I made up. Or maybe that happened in seventh grade. I do remember this distinct feeling of loss--losing the ability to be able to make up pretend stories, like when kids play house or imagine they are super heroes. When you're little and making stuff up, there's a part of you that believes it's real--you really are Wonder Woman or Batgirl or slaying dragons or running away from monsters--it's possible to forget that you're a human girl and imagine that you are more than that and the world has mystical things like dragons and if you concentrate hard enough, you might be able to fly or time travel. When you're younger, you can still capture that feeling, or maybe it's more about having the ability to not be self-conscious. Because somewhere around age 11 or 12, those feelings evaporate and you are concious of every single thing about yourself, your family, the car your mom drives, the way your legs are moving as you walk, your stomach rumbling in the middle of class, how nerdy it is to bring a bagged lunch and how your mom still writes your name on the front even though you've asked her not to--all of these things that didn't matter, such as how your arms hang at your sides, become painfully obvious and horrible.

Even the name of where you're going is bad. You are entering "middle school." It's like "middle age," this nebulous existence where you're neither young nor old, you're just in between and stuck.  For years.