First Snow!

The first significant snowfall of the season is always an occasion, good or bad depending on the circumstances.  In this case, it was also the first snow at the new house.  It was just a coating, and had already changed to freezing rain by the time I got up, but at least it covered the ground and stuck to the trees.  I was also pleased to see the snowplow come through our street before mid-morning; I hope that bodes well for future storms.

Here is the view from the back yard:

I thought the pine trees that separate us from our next-door neighbors looked nice:

Here you can see the little crape myrtle trees that we planted at the back of the lot after we moved in.

This will melt pretty fast as soon as the temperature rises above freezing, which it almost is now; but for the moment it’s covering our mud and straw, and looks nice.

 

The Kitchen

Once again I see that I am overdue for a new post.  Too much going on — work was very busy the last couple of weeks.

We had put a lot of thought into the kitchen layout, selection of appliances,etc.  In the end you really don’t know how it will work until you have used it for a while.  Well, I can say without reservation that our new kitchen is great!  Here is what is now looks like with our things.

The double oven is a marvel — it has a touchpad with all kinds of settings — for example, you can tell the Culinary Center what kind of meat you are cooking and how you want it done, and it will walk you through the process.  I used this for our rib roast on Christmas Eve and it came out perfect.

The gas cooktop took some getting used to.  I have not cooked on gas in many years, and I overheated a few pans before I got the hang of it.  Still learning, but I’ve pretty well figured out which burners and settings to use.  The downdraft vent works well also.

 


The work table is every bit as useful as we thought it would be.  It is perfectly located and sized for getting stuff in and out of the refrigerator and prepping for the cooktop.  It’s also really handy having the drawer and shelves underneath to hold things we use a lot.  I’m glad we didn’t make it longer as we had considered, because it that would have made it hard to get between the sink, cooktop and oven.

Finally, the view from the window over the sink is great.  It’s hard to see in the picture, but we can see the Chester river past the neighbor’s trees.

It”s also really nice having the kitchen and breakfast room open to the great room.  We love this kitchen!

The Commute

As I mentioned some time back, one of my primary concerns when we first considered moving to Chestertown was the long commute to Greenbelt, where we both work.  We now have a few weeks of experience with this, and have more-or-less settled into a routine.

We try to get an early start.  I’m up by 5 AM, and we aim to leave the house between 6:15 and 6:30.  I drive and she stretches out in the back seat to nap.  The drive goes like this.

Down Quaker Neck Road and through Chestertown.  The shops have their night lights on, and there are a few places where people are getting ready to open at 7.

Turn onto 213 and cross the Chester River Bridge.  Hit the cruise control and nudge up the speed as fast as we dare, and hope there isn’t a slowpoke in front of us.  Tick off the landmarks every couple of miles:  Royal Farms, Higgy’s cafe, Church Hill, Cassinelli Vineyard, Clabber Hill furniture store, roads with interesting place names (Spaniard Neck Road?).  If it’s clear, admire the pre-dawn light on the eastern horizon.

Slow down for Centreville (does anyone really do 25 MPH?).  Pick up speed again on the other side of town as we approach the Rte 301 exit.  Merge onto 301 and hit the cruise control again.  The landmarks are farther apart now, four or five miles: the merge with Rte 50, the Kent Narrows bridge.  Check the gas prices on Kent Island, generally the lowest around.  Get on the Bay Bridge, where almost no one seems to slow down even though the speed limit is 50 MPH.  Glance at the big freighters on their way to Baltimore.

Off the bridge and through Annapolis.  There are really two parts:  the peninsula, from Sandy Point to Bay Dale Drive; and Annapolis proper, from Rte 2/450 to the Rte 97 exit.  Once past 97, the speed limit goes up to 65, so bump up the cruise control.

Tick off the last few landmarks on Rte 50/301: the South River bridge, the exits for Davidsonville Road and Rte 3/301.  Exit at Rte 197 and head north through Bowie.  Hope for luck with the traffic lights.  Turn left onto Rte 450, and then right on Bell Station Road and Rte 193.  Drop my wife off at her office, and then head into Goddard.  With any luck, the door-to-door travel time is an hour and 20 minutes.

The drive back is basically the reverse of this.  We try to leave work no later than 4:30.  Usually my wife drives, and I try to nap.  The traffic is generally heavier, at least until we get across Kent Island.  We’ve had reasonably good luck most days, but one day this week there was a car broken down on the Bay Bridge eastbound span, and only one lane was open; that’s the worst drive home we’ve had so far.  Of course, we have not yet had to deal with the Summer bridge traffic.

The bottom line, I think, is that the commute is manageable, and especially in the morning, doesn’t really feel that long.  The afternoon depends a lot on when we get away from work and any incidents along the way.  We’ll see how this feels after several months or a couple of years.

 

Gas Fireplace

I don’t know if I mentioned along the way that our new house has a gas fireplace.  I’m sure it was noticed in the pictures of the brick wall.

To say the fireplace has found favor since we moved in would be a gross understatement.  Given that we moved in cold weather.  We located our sofa — the only sitting space we have in the great room at the moment — across from the fireplace.  My wife has turned on the fireplace every evening we’ve been home since we moved in, and camped on the sofa.  Over the holidays, our children spread blankets on the floor and turned on the fireplace.  On Christmas morning, we had the fireplace on while we opened presents.  It is a central attraction in the great room.

Moving, Unpacking, and More

I have fallen well behind and haven’t posted an entry in nearly three weeks.  Mostly that’s just because we’ve been incredibly busy getting the house ready for the holidays and family, but partly because we did not have Internet access here for a while.  I’m going to try to recap briefly what has happened since the last entry.

The movers arrived on time on Tuesday, December 6.  It rained lightly during the day, but not enough to be a problem.  Bottom line is that everything was unloaded at the new place by early that evening.  They did a great job and were really careful to not track dirt in or bang up the walls.  And, we got to sleep in the new house that night!

It rained hard all day Wednesday, and our freshly graded and straw-covered lot turned into a sea of mud.  We spent much of the day driving back to the old house to pick up the cats, which we had left the day before.  We also started a routine of dropping by the place regularly (a couple of times a week), loading up stuff that was not included in the move (such as books and kitchen items), and picking up mail and newspapers.

Thursday the builder came to the new house, and we went over lists of items to be completed (the “punch list”) that both we and he had compiled.  I won’t list all of the details, or the blow-by-blow of getting them done.  I will say that the builder’s people have been working steadily to get all of the items resolved (in fact, they were there that day also, and have come several times since).  We still have a number of things that need to be worked off, and have discovered a few along the way.  However, we are satisfied with the progress in getting these done.

Friday, my wife went to work for the first time since the move while I stayed at the house to wait for the water softener installation.  Monday morning (December 12) we drove in together for the first time, leaving the house at about 6:30.  We improved on this as the week went on, leaving between 6 and 6:15.  I’ve gotten used to getting up at 5, taking the dog out in the dark, etc.

That Wednesday we finally had the broadband link installed.  I stayed home to wait for the installation.  We decided to get Internet, cable and phone service from the same company.  The installation was temporary since it takes longer to get the line buried.  There was an initial snag because the line needs to be run across our driveway.  I dashed out to buy a couple of lengths of PVC conduit and buried them in the gravel — problem solved!  By mid-afternoon we finally had TV, Internet and phone!  It was great to finally be able to sit in the study and get on-line.

Our out-of-town college age children were arriving that Saturday, December 17, so we got the bedrooms reasonably unpacked and set up in time for them.  The next day we went to a local nursery and bought our Christmas tree; they were nearly sold out but we still managed to find a nice-looking 8-footer.

That Thursday, the day bed we had ordered for the loft was delivered.  Last Friday we picked up the roll-top desk that we were having restored while the house was being built, and set it up in the study.  With those two items, our move is more-or-less complete, at least the major furniture for the near term.

We still have almost no furniture in the great room, and no rug (we decided we did not like the one we rolled out the night before the move, and took it back to the store).  We have most of the boxes unpacked, books on shelves, and curtains in most of the windows.  We still have pictures to hang, and a seemingly endless number of things still to be brought from the old house, including everything in the garage and all of the outside furniture.

It just feels terrific to be living in the house after the years of planning and months of building.  We love the neighborhood, and being close to the town.  We’re still learning about the area, of course, such as the best places for grocery shopping.  Even though we’ve been here less than three weeks, the place feels like home.