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Beginning A New Chapter

I totally thought the next time I put an update in here, it would be just to say we’d signed the Purchase & Sale Agreement, but we are still waiting on that. There have been little road bumps all over the place. Nothing too disconcerting or stressful, I’m happy to say, just formalities that have needed addressing before we can move forward with the P&S. Current estimates have us (e-)signing the P&S today, and with a projected close of 10/22, depending on how things go with the assessment. It’s possible we could be in a new condo, in a new neighborhood, this time next month, which is a little crazy. It would sound very unreal to me, if it wasn’t already starting to feel very real.

I don’t have any links to any pictures of the new place, but there is this listing for another unit in the same building, and it’s basically exactly the same, so it should give you a pretty good idea of exactly what we’re in for.

And speaking of unreal, I also figured, hey I’m buying a house, why not jump in with both feet back into that other huge time suck, writing my novel, AT THE EXACT SAME TIME. So far, so good. I’ve thrown out the first, oh, I dunno, four chapters, and have made good progress on writing a brand spankin’ new chapter 1. The temptation is to write the new chapter 1 so that it’s as “finished” feeling as the subsequent chapters I’m keeping, the ones that I’ve reworked half a dozen times already. That would be pretty stupid of me, but my brain can’t help it. Hopefully I’ll shake that mental tic soon, and be writing at a respectable clip before the end of next week.

Plus, you know, fall and stuff.

Home Is Where

Maybe you’d like to know how we’re doing with the whole homebuying experience, or as some are calling it, Project Landed Gentry. After looking so long and after a few missteps, I have to admit, we’re both feeling a little superstitious about saying anything, but I’m also educated with a background in science, so maybe I can dish just a little without too much fear of karmic retribution.

To bring you up to speed, we started looking in March. We figured out how much we thought we could reasonably borrow on based on the interest rates at the time, and what we thought our monthly mortgage payment would be. Then, based on that figure, we went to a bank, where, fortunately, our math was corroborated, and we got a pre-qualification letter, and that, for me, is when it felt like we were officially “on the market”. Going to open houses stopped feeling like a lark, and started feeling Srs Biznis. Fun business, to be sure, but also srs.

Picking out a realtor also made it feel more real and serious. We interviewed a few before we found the right guy, a recommendation from a friend of ours who also recently bought one suburb out, in Arlington. Dave was the first realtor we met who didn’t tell us to expect to have to drop all contingencies (mortgage, inspection) when we started making offers. He was realistic about how intensely hot for sellers the Cambridge market would be, but he was also realistic about how completely insane we thought dropping such contingencies would be.

We saw a lot of houses with Dave, and we saw a lot without him too. We saw a lot of houses over the spring, the summer, and on into what started to feel like fall. Even though we had a lot going on this summer, including lots of travel plans and weekends away, we always found ways to get back to Cambridge in time for Sunday open houses. We saw a lot of good fits, a few great fits, but very few perfect fits.

Last month, we actually put in one offer on a place, but, over the course of one very long weekend, wound up realizing we just weren’t as excited about it as we wanted to be. Reluctantly, we pulled out, a few days after our offer was accepted. For a couple weeks after that, we didn’t go to any open houses, partly because there weren’t that many, the season was closing down, and partly out of pure blueness.

But then, a couple weeks ago, our realtor found a 3rd-floor unit in mid-Cambridge that wasn’t even listed yet. The first showing was on a Thursday afternoon, of all times. I left work a little early and met Dave and E there. We liked it right away. Top floor, complete gut renovation, new kitchen with an open floor plan connected to the dining area, all new kitchen appliances, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, great neighborhood, walkable to Harvard, Inman Square and there’s even a new Whole Foods in walking distance. It was also at the very tippy top of our price range. It wasn’t perfect, but, we agreed, it was perfect enough. We bid right exactly at asking.

When we wouldn’t come up, even a little, the seller rejected our offer. And that, we thought, was that. We let it go, and forgot about it over the weekend.

But then, on the following Tuesday, Dave emailed us to say that while the seller had gotten a few offers after his Sunday open house, none of them were as strong as ours, and so, if our offer was still on the table, we could have it. E was in a conference all day that day, but kept sneaking out to talk with me on the phone about next steps. Eventually, we decided that, yes, our offer was on the table.

Ten days later, and here we are. The inspection was a literal delight for the home inspector, and therefore also for us. We found a great lender to work with, who, after a minor speed bump (that felt for a day like it might derail us completely), offered us a truly spectacular rate on our loan. Pieces really are starting to fall into place.

If homebuying has three gates, the offer, the P&S, and the close, we are currently poised outside the second gate. We were actually supposed to sign the P&S yesterday, Friday, but then we had another one of those little hiccups, so it got pushed to after the weekend. Assuming that all goes fine, and assuming the mortgage application process all goes fine, and assuming all the other myriad parts, large and small, financial, legal, and operational go smoothly, we really ought to be living in a newly purchased home before winter comes.

But… it won’t all go smoothly of course. There will, no doubt, be a couple of surprises yet, and any one of them might derail the process completely. But that’s ok. One way or another, it’ll all work out. I think we really will be moving soon, but if we don’t that’s ok too, because wherever we go, as long as we’re together, that’s exactly where home is.

It’s Not You It’s Me

Look, I don’t want to start a panic, but… there’s a slight chance I may not be quite as regular in my blogging over the next few weeks. Two, possibly three four, big projects are looking like they’re about to pick up steam, and if they do, chances are I’m about to very suddenly start have a lot less time for writing here. I don’t want to jinx the chances of success for any of these projects, so I’ll hold off on specifics until everything’s a little more locked in place, but if you’ve been following along, you probably have a good sense of what I’m talking about.

In other news, life continues to be pretty good. I’m loving these slow and easy days of transition into fall, and especially enjoying all the changes the cooler weather brings to the farm, the kitchen, and our table. I’ve made some cookies, some muffins, and squash has started to appear as a regular in our dinnertime rotation. The students are all back at MIT, and it’s great to see some familiar faces return to campus. Fall is also a very special time for E and I, as we have lots of memories tied up in autumn walks around Neighborhood Nine, not to mention a certain party that we’ve hosted every year we’ve been together, and might just host again before too long!

Ok, yes, short entry today, hope you don’t mind. We’ve got a lot simmering on many different burners! If you’re still hungry for some old-timey blogging, why not take this time to stop by and pay a visit to They’ve always got something good going on.

Review: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best nonfiction book I’ve read in a long time. To be honest, the last few nonfiction books I read (or tried to read) had some rather boring bits in them. I skipped a few pages here and there reading Robert F. Gates’ Duty, and even, yes, while reading The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. I skipped at least one entire chapter in The Unthinkable. I outright gave up on the biography of Alexandre Dumas’ father (and I can’t even remember the name of it).

Not so for Kingdom of Ice. I hung on every single word. It’s a pretty long read, but I tore through it, faster even than The Goldfinch, no slender volume either. The author really brought to life all the larger-than-life characters that went into making the dream of Arctic exploration a reality in 1878: the eccentric millionaire newspaper owner, the half-mad, half-brilliant, all-business explorer, the explorer’s steadfast, fun-loving and devoted wife, the quirky crew. I could not put this book down. A far better adventure than any summer blockbuster in recent memory.

I’m actually not a big fan of history or nonfiction. That’s sort of why I’ve been trying to read it, to expand my horizons. I heard an interview with the author and that convinced me to give this one a go. He sounded very enthusiastic and excited about his topic, and I found his enthusiasm contagious. Once I got reading the book, I too fell in love with the time, the place, and the adventure. The voyage of the USS Jeanette was world-famous at the time, and when it became lost, the whole world wanted to know what had become of it. Books were written, medals were awarded, and then… the world forgot about it. Until Hampton Sides came along, dug deep into tons of original source material and first-hand accounts, and resurrected her for us to read about. Some of the best writing comes from the source material in fact, and Sides is an excellent curator of his material, saturating his telling of the story with the words of the people who were there.

There are also some great asides that never distract from the story, but add to the reader’s understanding of the historical, cultural and scientific context of the ill-fated voyage: what Thomas Edison provided for the journey, how this journey fit into the history of mapmaking, why John Muir tried to track down the ship after it went missing, and even what Stanley and Livingstone had to do with the journey. Tons of details, none of which weigh the story down, but all of which help propel it along.

I wish I could read it again for the first time!

View all my reviews


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