Normally one might that a diary entry posted on the last day of the standard calendar year would be a wrap-up for the year in total, but I actually have instead a list of things about which I'd intended to talk earlier, but never managed to dedicate the time to actually saying simply because of other events that occured along the way. So, instead of a summary of the past twelve months, instead this is a full review of, oh, the last two weeks or

The House

On December 19, we officially became members of the gentry. That is, landed homeowners. Well, I say we. The ugly truth is that I became gentry, because Jessie and I were both afraid that her credit rating and employment history, whatever they are right now, would negatively affect our chances. I do want her name on the mortgage paperwork, but that's something that'll probably have to wait until the re-fi, if we ever do one, which considering our interest rate we may not.

It feels very strange to own a house; it's there, and yet it's not really real yet. I know consciously "this house is mine" and yet because we don't live in it yet and don't see it every day, it hasn't really sunk into my head that this is a permanent thing for the next five to ten years. So I guess it's not really permanent, but it'll be longer than I've lived anywhere since my parents' houses.

The Car

On December 20, I bought a "new" car—a 1987 Volvo 240DL—for a really good deal, or at least what I felt like was a good deal. It was a thousand less than he was asking online for it, and he felt confident that he could've gotten his asking price, but he said he knew I had really bad luck with cars, so he offered to sell it to me for cheap so I'd finally have a good car to drive. He told me it was rock solid, and that I'd
have a real hard time breaking it, which I seem to do to all my vehicles.

I managed, of course, but that story follows shortly.

The Christmas Trip

We left for Jessie's parents' house last Wednesday, with the intent of arriving Thursday morning and sticking through to Saturday arvo, then heading back and returning to the apartment early Sunday afternoon, in time to head to work Monday morning and get the half-week for which we're scheduled

As always, visiting home was a blast. We arrived on Christmas day, which meant that we went pretty much into opening presents and such. Jessie arranged to get me something that... well... it's incredible. I've long wanted a "family portrait", and she had one commissioned for us. It made me cry looking at it. It still does. It's beautiful. Thank you, my love. And thank you, Sue, for the work itself.

The rest of the extended family arrived around 16h00, and we all chatted and opened more gifts. I do have to admit there's one member of the extended family that manages to unnerve me a bit when she's around. She's perfectly nice, but she's a shade too perky and too shades too animatronic, going from total passivity to lively conversion and back with a startling ease. I know she's had a rough life, and her ex is a rather nasty piece of work, so I don't blame her for the way she acts, but it still makes it difficult for me to interact with her. Jessie's grandmother was there, and she invited us to go out with her for dinner the following night, which was totally unexpected. Jessie's dad made way too much turkey and ham, and I indulged greedily in both.

We stayed at Jessie's brother's apartment with he and his wife Thursday night, then got up the next morning and had breakfast with Erick before heading back to Jessie's parents' place. That day is pretty much a blur, mostly because we spent the day talking with Mom, then went to dinner with Jessie's grandmother as invited the day before. That was weirdness and a half by itself, too. Until that trip, I had never heard her be positive and polite about anything in recollection, but over dinner she made light conversation about all of her dead friends and then we talked about playing bingo at the civic center on Tuesdays with people older than her. Very creepy.

After dinner, we returned to Erick's and Daisy's place and snacked on leftover Chinese food while we played Talisman, which is apparently one of Erick's all-time favorite board games. I haven't played a board game other than Scrabble in years, so it was quite refreshing to actually do so. I learned, however, a valuable lesson: never let one's spouse roll for the bad guy.

Saturday morning we ate at a Kip's Big Boy, of all places, for breakfast, and then at the traditional Bob Evans for lunch. I say traditional because we usually eat there just before heading home, and we did it again this year, so it's turning into a strange sort of tradition. At any rate, Jessie's mom didn't want us to leave, which she says every year and is its own tradition, and then we finally managed to start home. Normally we partition the drive back into two days, each of about five hours. I like to put in the bulk of
the driving on the first day, but rarely can I sit through the whole trip in a single shot, so we overnighted somewhere in Pennsylvania and then planned to finish up the trip Sunday morning and be home by about 15h00. 

Sunday at 11h00, the fuel pump on the car died on the interstate.

We didn't know it was the fuel pump when it died, of course. We just knew that the car engine suddenly quit and then refused to start, and we had no idea why. I frantically checked the oil and found it to be off the dipstick, so I had a good panic attack about burning out the Volvo engine a week after getting it, which Jessie managed to avert mostly by telling me to quit freaking out and relax. Some kind woman on her way to Allentown stopped and called 911 for us, and the state trooper called us a tow truck which took us to Kylertown, a small hole-in-the-wall at Exit 131 or thereabouts, notable only in that the town's entire purpose of being is to feed the truck stop. It has a motel, a truck wash, a truck garage, a post office, and four stores. Maybe you could count the pizza parlor.


Of course, the car died on Sunday, so the regular car garage up the road in the next town over wasn't open, and the mechanic at the truck garage tried to look at it but really couldn't tell us much; he did warn us that neither foreign models nor car engines were his specialty, so we didn't expect too much, but it did mean we were stuck at least until the next day when we could contact the local regular garage and have someone inspect the car. At least the roadhouse had good food.

Monday morning, they found out the fuel pump had died, but they didn't have the part it needed in stock, so they wouldn't have the car fixed until Tuesday morning, so that meant we'd be there until Tuesday morning, possibly longer if the part didn't arrive or anything else happened.

Now, to our credit, Jessie and I both packed overmuch for the trip. We had a full week's worth of medication each, and clothes for as many days just in case. However, Tuesday meant the absolute outside limit on our pills, and Jessie had therapy this morning, so it became imperative that nothing else died, I get very panic-prone when I become reliant on other people for things when I'm under a deadline, so I spent most of Monday and the better part of Tuesday morning trying not to have a fit.

We finally made it home last night around 16h40, two days later than we had planned to return. I missed two days of work to the car, but at least I was back in time to do some work before the New Years'

The Car Redux

So, now that we're back from the trip, the fuel pump on the car is fixed, but it's got a rash of other problems that I should have investigated. The overdrive light on the dash is constantly lit now, meaning it's not working, but I checked the fuse panel and the fuse marked "Overdrive" is still good, as far as I can tell, so something else in the overdrive system is wonky and should be repaired. It's annoying, but not crucial. More worrying, however, is the Volvo's new habit of sputtering when I first start it after it's been sitting a while. It'll start, then start to stall and suddenly rocket up in RPMs to twice its base idle, then slowly die again and repeat the cycle until I put on the gas. I've also had it stall out on me while trying to reverse or advance slowly in a parking lot, so the fuel pump may not be properly calibrated. It's worth investigating, definitely, but it's going to have to wait until after...

The Trip Redux

As soon as I get off of work, Jessie, Tanya and I are supposed to be heading down to Andi's for the New Year's Bash. It'll be good to see Shay, as well, 'cause she's staying down there and she didn't make the Bash in July. I just wish that Kelly could come with us, but she can't get the days off. We didn't tell her early enough, I guess. That and I know she's getting beaucoup overtime for the days.

Originally we had planned to take my car, but at the moment I'm still wavering somewhat on the wisdom of this plan and Tanya has insisted her car is more than roadworthy for the trip. It might also afford us more legroom which would be good for all involved. I would've thought the Volvo would get better gas mileage, but with the overdrive malfunctioning that's no longer a guarantee, plus I don't have cruise control which Tanya says she wants to have, so we'll probably ending up in her landyacht, which will be fine.

The Diet

I know I haven't talked much about this lately. It's been something of a sticking point for me mostly because I've been keeping steady but I'm not losing anything and it's been frustrating. However, I must gloat here briefly: I lost two pounds over the Christmas trip.

That's about it. Nothing else is happening.


It is, as of today, fifteen days to closing on our new house. I'm trying very hard not to freak out over this. It's an incredibly possitive thing, but I can't help but feel some nervousness about the whole affair. If an apartment sucks, you can move into a new one. If a house sucks, it's a lot harder to get rid of it. I don't think that's an issue with this place, but it's still a huge responsibility that I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to handle.

It doesn't help that this morning I turned in the sixty-day notice on our apartment. I meant to do it two or three days ago, but I could never remember to print out the letter and take it home. I asked Jessie to write one up for me last night, and that one turned out a lot better than any of the ones I had managed at the office. I'm not sure what the legal situation is regarding moving before the end of a lease, but if everything goes well then we'll be into our new place by February 1. We're kind of committed now.

Everything with the house itself has been going well. I've got a new phone number scheduled for installation, the broadband line is under order as soon as the new number goes into effect. The water and electric and sewer and
other bills are all set to switch to my name on the nineteenth. I haven't yet put in a mail forward but that's on the list for the beginning of next week. All I really have left is to get confirmation of the insurance policy to the mortgage company and to get the settlement check from the bank.

I worried for a while that I wouldn't have enough for the closing costs, but as it turns out we've got enough to cover it and have enough left over to buy the refrigerator we're going to have to replace when we move into the house. The current owners want to take their current one with them. They're leaving us their washer and dryer, though, which is good. It means I'll be able to get all my laundry done at once.

The one big sticking point with the house that still remains is, in fact, not at all attached to the house, in a literal sense of the word. The garage is a detached building that, when the inspectors examined it, showed heavy signs
of dry rot and age, and probably would need to be demolished at some point to make room for a new one. When the current owners offered to make repairs to the property to clean up the inspection report, neither they nor I suggested doing anything with the garage, as it's old and run-down and would eventually be handled in the manner described above.

A week ago, of course, the city of Pottstown said that the garage needed to be properly sided and wasn't up to the city building codes, and that there could be stiff fines for not following the codes and getting this work done.

This has created a bit of a jam. The current owners don't want to sink a thousand dollars into a house they're leaving in two weeks. I don't want to pay a thousand dollars to fix a problem that should have been handled by the previous owners. The realtor says the charge is bunk but can't suggest any method of resolving it short of either accepting the responsibility or telling the current owners they have to solve it. I've opted for the latter,
for now, but I don't want to lose the house, so if they flat-out refuse to take care of this, I may have to cover it on my credit card.

This does not make me happy.

As it is, I'm putting a lot on the cards that I didn't want to have to pay that way. I've got one of my cards to within a thousand dollars of its limit trying to make sure I've got the money in the bank to cover closing. I've got to replace the refrigerator before we can really live there comfortably. I'm buying Eric's Volvo the day after closing and that's going on an access check. I'm going to have to pay two months' worth of rent on the apartment as well as the mortgage because we won't be ready to move this weekend. I do not need this added expense.

The only thing to do, then, is make sure the current owners cover this.

I hope this resolves itself soon. I don't need this hanging over my head.

I never posted a report of my Thanksgiving, which is odd for me because normally I like to talk about it. It's the one holiday of the year that I celebrate actively, for reasons that I know I've covered before. Joanne, Kelly, Julia and Tanya all showed up for a visit, some staying longer than others, and I made homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes, as well as broccoli which hardly anyone touched. At least, I know I didn't have any. I went off the diet
during Thanksgiving so I could enjoy my third-generation stuffing: 

  • One pan cornbread
  • One loaf white bread, toasted
  • Two sticks butter
  • One bunch celery
  • Three medium red onions
  • Chicken broth

Dice toast and cornbread into a large container. Chop celery and onion, add to a pot with butter and saute for ten minutes, then add chicken broth to cover and simmer until the celery is soft to the teeth. Combine all in pot to bread mixture and stir, adding chicken broth until the bread and cornbread begin to combine into a slightly lumpy mixture. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes before serving.

The potatoes recipe I got from SusanDeer, who in turn got them from a website, but the website calls for too little extras in the potatoes, so Sue adjusted it and I've done a bit of tweaking myself: 

  • Five pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and de-eyed but not peeled
  • One cup heavy cream
  • Eight ounces sour cream
  • One bunch chives
  • Garlic to taste
  • Two sticks butter
  • Chicken broth

Dice potatoes and and put in a pot, adding chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil and let boil for fifteen to twenty minutes or until desired texture. Remove from heat and drain, saving liquid. Combine potatoes, cream, sour cream, garlic and butter in a container and mash until slightly lumpy. Finely chop chives and add with two tablespoons of reserved broth, then stir until well-blended.

I also made egg nog again this year, the recipe for which can be found in last year's Thanksgiving entry, but I used rum instead of brandy and I didn't put any Splenda in it. This, in hindsight, was silly, because I went off the diet for everything else and ended up buying egg nog at the store so Joanne could have some of it, because she doesn't like alcohol.

Still, this means I have egg nog to drink.

To complement all these lovely sides, Joanne made an excellent brisket, which I didn't get to enjoy nearly as much as I would've liked, and Tanya brought a twenty-pound turkey, which I managed to undercook by not pushing the meat thermometer far enough within when checking for doneness. I also managed to screw up the gravy, which seems like a pretty silly thing to botch, but I managed. Now, however, I remember how to do it, so I should probably write it down as well but I'm going to be stubborn about this one and not do i, so I can mess up again next year. 

Call it a Thanksgiving tradition.