Thursday, August 30, 2012

New home...Part II

I gave a static tour of the downstairs of our new home on my last post, and now it's time for the upstairs.

If you feel you need to understand the geography of the space, the stairway is essentially behind the couch (see the first picture on the previous post).  There is a landing at the top of the stairs with three doorways.  Straight ahead is the bathroom, to the right is our room, and to the left is our "office."

Here's our room:

Turning back to face the door, you see all the built in bookshelves that we have filled with boxes and pull-drawers to keep random stuff in.  Also notable here is the skylight--both upstairs bedrooms have one, and after a year in what was essentially a basement apartment, all the light in this house is fabulous.  To the right of the TV there is a small door--this leads to a storage area that runs the length of the room.  This one is called "tub row" because it holds plastic tubs of sweaters and purses and shoes.

This bathroom is decorated in blue, grey, black and white.  

Here is the office (and Margot, who tried to get in as many pictures as possible). 

Standing in the corner facing back to the door you can see our loveseat/reading area.

The house suits us very well, and so far (fingers crossed!) we are doing a pretty good job of keeping it neat and tidy, without our normal clutter.  Having space to put things really helps.

And last, but not least, here is our back deck.  Or porch. Or patio.  Or veranda.  I am not clear on which is the most appropriate terminology. 

Mistress O'Hara left us her grill and patio furniture for our use, and our two patio chairs go with the other two quite well.  We've already had a few cookouts and lounged around the patio, and Doug is becoming a master griller.

There is a seating area on the front porch, too, but I neglected to capture that one on film.

We love living here and we hope that you have enjoyed the "tour."  Now....come visit, why don't ya?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New home....Part I

I've been promising pictures of our new home, O'Hara Manor, named after our lovely friend who actually owns the house and is renting it to us while she lives on the other side of the world for a few years.

My understanding is the house was built around ten years ago, but as our recent guests aptly pointed out, it doesn't have the feel of a "new cookie-cutter McMansion."  Nor is it the size of a mansion, Mc or otherwise.

I thought it might be nice for people to see what we've done with the place.

Here is the view when you walk in the front door:

The couch is new and is called "The Cloud."  We didn't name it, but we sure agree that sitting on it feels like sitting on a cloud.  It's a reclining couch in microfiber and it's heavenly.

You may notice there are a lot of doors at the back.  The double doors lead out to the patio, and the door at the far right corner of the picture ALSO leads out to the back patio.  Why two doors, separated by two and a half feet?  Well, the rationale is that the stairway to the upstairs is essentially behind the couch, directly facing that far door.  The double doors allow a moving crew to take a large item into the back and then bring it back in the far door and up the stairs rather than attempting to make a tight turn into the stairwell.  Ingenious, eh?

The house is notable for several things.   First, apparently the people who built the house felt that many places don't have enough electrical outlets, so they put outlets absolutely everywhere.  Second, there are built-in shelves in just about every room.  We are using the shelves around the TV for decoration mostly.  Highlights are our old New Mexico license plates, the (real) Australian emu egg given to us by Doug's aunt and uncle as a wedding gift, a fabulous silver bowl also given as a wedding gift, our "wine box" used in the wedding ceremony, and an old beer stein that used to be my grandmothers.

Above is the view facing the front door.  We have a real kitchen table now and no longer have to eat meals on the couch, hunched over the coffee table.  Other notable pieces are the New Mexico themed wall art, a fabulous tin mirror with our names etched on it, given to us by one of my internship supervisors, and a New Mexico cutting board with a heart carved in it at Albuquerque and our wedding date etched in it (given to us by my lovely bridesmaid).  Doug liked it so much he didn't want to "ruin" it by using it as a cutting board, so we hung it up instead.

This is the view facing right from standing in front of the table.  Obviously it's a kitchen.  There isn't really enough cupboard space for all of our things, but we'll manage.

At the end of the kitchen, where you see the mask on the wall, there is a bathroom on the right and a bedroom on the left.

The bathroom is yellow and green in theme.  

The bedroom is called "the brown room" because it's the only room in the house with painted walls, and they are (duh) brown.  This is our guest room and where we keep our games.  There's a little reading area by the window, though the cat has clawed up the red chair something awful.

I found some framed art for really cheap at a furniture store trying to clear out their summer stock, and the big wall painting here was one of my finds.  Of course we must have a bit of Arkansas strewn around, so the Razorback pillow my mother made me is prominently featured in the center of the bed.

Next time I will give the tour of upstairs and the back porch!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Event weather

If I haven't mentioned this before, one of my favorite things about living in Walmart Country is the local news.  Small town local news just cracks us up.  We don't watch it every day, but we do catch it sometimes and the weather in particular is entertaining.

Doug is better at recalling these kinds of details than I am, but one of the local channels regularly shows us the weather in British Columbia.  Not on accident, either, but it's like there is a "sister town" or something in that region of Canada, because they show a map and describe the forecast up there. 

The 7-day forecast is one of my favorites.  The below picture doesn't do it justice, because it usually has movement--the clouds roll quickly on the overcast days, the rain blows around in the little box for rainy forecasted days

I was enamored with this particular forecast because on Saturday August 25th the forecast included the Northwest Arkansas Emergency Preparedness fair.  It's exactly like it sounds--a fair to give people information about what to do in an emergency.  We seriously thought about going just as a people-watching opportunity, and I love that it's part of the weather.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Second City invades Walmart Country!

Last weekend, a little taste of Chicago made its way to Northwest Arkansas by way of the Second City touring troupe.  They have been advertising for weeks, and Doug and I finally got around to ordering tickets to their show Second City for President.

After a lazy Saturday morning and a fairly active Saturday afternoon (we took advantage of the nice weather and did a 6 mile walk-- 3 miles up the trail and then back), we set out for the theatre, conveniently located a 10-minute walk away.  We also stopped at Orange Leaf first, a delightful frozen yogurt shoppe (yes, I'm just going to spell it like that, get over it) on Dickson Street.  You dump frozen yogurt into large cups then add on whatever toppings you like--fruit, candy, caramel, cookies, cereal....and then you eat your concoction.  It's always delicious and made for a nice pre-theatre treat.

At the theatre itself, we had excellent seats in the 5th row center, and the show was a solid two hours (with a ten minute intermission).  The five-person troupe did a mix of scripted comedy and improv, with more on the scripted comedy scenes and comedy songs side.  The majority of the sketches were politically themed, or at least "current" themed (e.g. financial crisis) and they did a pretty good job of staying balanced, at least on the surface level. 

The only real downside to the show was seeing it in Walmart Country amongst a bunch of douche-bags.  To be clear, I am not saying that the entire population of Northwest Arkansas is douchey--far from it.  Nor am I saying that the entire audience was d-baggin'.  I think we just happened to be sitting in a douchy section, and I say this with complete liberal bias.  Some examples:  they did a polling skit and asked a few audience members for their political views (then made fun of them).  The first person was asked "Are you a democrat or republican?" and replied "Republican."  The pollster then asked "At what age did you realize you hated poor people?" and the male partner of the couple sitting next to me slapped his leg and exclaimed "It's me! That's me!"  That dude and his wife also had their cell phones out for most of the show, which was distracting and made me want to get all teacher-y on them.

Perhaps more obviously, though, was at the end of another sketch when a troupe member implied she would be voting for Obama.  As the lights went out, the charming fellow in front of me yelled "Communist!"  This was the same charming fellow who, when the audience was asked to provide an example of something said earlier in the day, screamed out "Tittie sprinkles!"  Classy all around.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Restaurant review: Hugos

I've decided to start describing restaurants here in Walmart Country, so that in case anyone ever comes to visit us they can choose where they want to eat.  Also to further commemorate our experience here.

Because I just decided to do this, I'm guessing that for awhile, the reviews will consist of places we've already been, but eventually we'll go somewhere new and then I'll get to describe that.  Though....the distinction probably doesn't matter at all for you, blog-o-sphere, because all of these places are new to you.

First stop, one of Fayetteville's most popular: Hugos!

Hugos is as much about the atmosphere as it is about the food.  Located near downtown, it's in a basement, with the neon Hugos sign barely visible from the street. Businesses on this strip, with some upstairs and some downstairs, have more of a big city feel to them--from the inside of Hugos, you could imagine yourself in New York City, not in Fayetteville (but with cheaper beers).

The place itself isn't large.  It's rectangular in shape, with a bar on one of the long sides and the kitchen at the back.  Tables with plastic checkered tablecloths are crowded together with barely enough room to move between them, and the walls are covered with old dusty portraits and old-timey pictures (think horse-and-carriage day photos).  It seem to be busy pretty much all the time, or else we just happen to go on busy days, but there really isn't room for people to wait, so during nice weather they spill out onto the street.

The menu is based around burgers and sandwiches, though I think they have some "real" entrees as well.  All of the burgers and sandwiches are served with a big handful of chips, but these are best discarded in favor of a basket of fresh-cut fries that come to the table straight from the fryer.

Doug had the swiss and bacon burger, and I had the guacamole burger, with so much guac that squeezing it too hard pushes some delicious green goo out the sides and onto my plate.

Hugos ain't fancy; it's crowded, dark, and loud, and you pay at the cash register at the front.  But the food is good, usually served quickly, and it's a great vibe.  I think this was our third visit to Hugos together, and my fourth: I was introduced to Hugos by a colleague when I came for a househunting visit in April of 2011.  We will most certainly be back.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Concerts in the park

Sometimes, living in a smaller town has some great perks, particularly when the town cares about making itself a nice place to live.

Fayetteville has many charms, and one of them, recently discovered by us, is a summer concert series.  It's no Millennium Park, either in music or venue, but nice anyway.

The series is held in a local park called Gulley Park, which Doug and I had never been to before attempting to go to a concert.  I say "attempt" because the first time we tried, last month, it was raining and the concert was moved to an airplane hangar in South Fayetteville.  One of my new teaching camp buddies went and said it was neat, both the music and the hangar, but we opted to go home and re-watch Season 1 of Survivor instead.

The concert we went to was the last in the summer series of 6.  Doug picked me up from work, we drove to the concert and set up foldable chairs and a blanket on the grass.  Doug had made some salads and packed our picnic basket, so we took off our shoes and sat in the grass, munching on salads and watching other families (most larger than ours) with their kids and dogs.  After the salads were done, we moved to the chairs and listened to the music as the sun started to go down, holding hands and gossiping about those around us.  It was a lovely night, and I feel certain we'll be back at concerts next year.

I snapped this photo on the way out:

Gotta say, one advantage Fayetteville has over Chicago is the smaller crowd and manageable parking.  We were on our couch 15 minutes later.

Monday, August 13, 2012


In my last post, I wrote about the lack of sidewalks in Northwest Arkansas.  Now I'm going to flip my tirade and talk about stuff we have too many of.  Namely, the loud screeching plague that is otherwise known as Grasshoppers.

Everywhere I go, I encounter grasshoppers of various shapes and sizes.  Some are bigger than my thumb, some are smaller than a paper clip, and I seem to be in the way of all of them. 

I never really noticed grasshoppers before moving to Walmart Country, perhaps because I lived in a city for a long while, and there are more interesting things to pay attention to in Albuquerque than grasshoppers.  I'm also spending far more time walking around here than I did in Albuquerque.  Point being, I feel like they are everywhere, and I'm starting to resent them.

At first, I found them kind of charming.  They vary in size and color, and I liked their warning noise--sort of like the popping sound of the flame spurts in the Fire Swamp, they warn you when they are nearby.  But over time, their charm has faded and now I just want the frost to come so the grasshoppers die off (also so I can wear boots and not show up to work dripping with sweat, but that is a post for another day).

Doug and I went to get frozen yogurt recently and I recall him stepping in front of me, into the path of a turdy little grasshopper.  It screeched and moved away, thus jumping directly at me.  I admit it freaked me out more than I wish it had.  I've become hyper sensitive to the little buggers, and I don't like it one bit.

I tried googling "grasshoppers 2012" and some lovely people in Alberta, Canada made a 2012 grasshopper forecast map.  I couldn't find one of those for Arkansas, but I did find a few stories suggesting that the dry hot weather is related to an increase in grasshopper populations here compared to normal.  This article calls it a "swarm."

Well, writing this post and venting about my newfound hatred of the grasshopper, in conjunction with a brief web search revealing that this is, in fact, an infestation of the little buggers, makes me feel validated.  Not necessarily better about my walk home (read also the entry about the sidewalks), but at least validated in my perception.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Apparently, I grew up in the land of privilege.  Obviously this is true in comparison to much of the world, and a good chunk of the US, but I'm not really talking about financial privilege or white privilege right now.  I'm talking about a land where sidewalks are commonplace, and one can walk down the street without constantly feeling as though a car might attack from behind.  As is often the case with privilege, it wasn't until I encountered diversity that I realized how truly lucky I was.
Fayetteville is a cute town, with minimal crime and a lovely trail system.  I've started to think that the trail system emerged because there seem to be NO SIDEWALKS ANYWHERE!  OK, there are sidewalks at the entertainment district (Dickson Street) and throughout most of campus, but only sporadically everywhere else. 

Also, even where there ARE sidewalks, in many places they are right next to the street, without a comfortable little grass median in between.  Hell, I'd take a few rows of rocks over the lack of buffer.  Doug and I once walked from our place to see some friends, who lived about a mile away. It was a pleasant night and a nice walk, except for the 1/2 mile stretch along one of the busiest roads in town, which felt mighty dangerous on a weekend at night, particularly with the high drinking-and-driving rate around here.

Let me tell you, it makes walking around far more of an adventure sport that it should be.  Every day now, I walk across campus (on a legitimate sidewalk) to a small street with a side-car sidewalk, to my own street, which has no sidewalk and a pretty sharp curve right before the house.  I've taken to walking on the opposite side of the street so I can see the cars coming.

I would really like to know why there are so few sidewalks in Fayetteville.  Are sidewalks a new thing?  Were they just not the rage when these streets or lots were made?  Is it a zoning thing?  I don't actually care enough to dig into the research, but that is more because I'm busy with other things than due to lack of curiosity. 

All I can say for sure is that my sidewalk diversity training, as it were, has made me much more appreciative of sidewalked subdivisions and aware of my own bias toward sidewalked streets.  Does that make me a concreteist?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Teaching camp: Part II

In my last entry I talked about my first day at teaching camp.  In this entry I will be less linear in my discussion, but I'll still talk about the camp.

After a day or so of listening to the same dude talk about distance education, everything kind of started to blur together.  I had more meals with other random people (but managed to avoid eating any desserts) and took a bunch of notes that will probably be incomprehensible to me when I go back to look at them.

On Monday afternoon we had 3 hours of free time and there were a variety of activities one could sign up for.  Going to the public pool at the state park, going to a museum, and a 2 mile hike to a waterfall were all on the list.  Glutton For Punishment Girl, after running 3 miles (more than I have in awhile), followed the cool kids to the waterfall and had a nice hike.  Apparently the waterfall is normally bigger and prettier, in years when the state actually gets decent rainfall:

The rest of Monday was more of the same.  Tuesday I again got up and ran almost 3 miles with the same ladies as before (with the addition of two others), after which I walked over to the lookout of the mountain and snapped this pretty picture:

When I was running and caught a glimpse of the view out of the corner of my eye, my brain kept thinking I was running near an ocean.  It ain't an ocean, but it's sure purdy!

Tuesday moved away from distance education and there were sessions co-led by a variety of faculty across campus.  Some sessions were fun, and during others I had to restrain myself from eye-rolling.  Late afternoon we took a group picture, boarded the bus and headed back to Fayetteville.

I have to say, the bus ride back was one of my favorite parts.  I met another young female faculty member at teaching camp who I instantly clicked with.  She is funny, very open, easy to talk to, and we seem to have similar values.  Even more, she's also been searching for additional girlfriends.  The three hours on the bus passed in a flash, and I've already hung out with her once since teaching camp ended.  I guess overall it was a success: I got to see another part of the state, talked about teaching, and made a friend (I hope). 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Teaching camp: Part I

So this entry will be only partially about Arkansas the state, and more about my life at the University (of Arkansas).  Earlier this week, I attended the U of A "Teaching Camp" put on by the Teaching and Faculty Support Center.  The term "camp" is kind of a misnomer, as it was more like a conference, but I signed up for it at the beginning of the summer for two reasons. One, I can use my attendance at teaching camp as an indication of effort in the teaching domain.  Second, and probably more importantly, I figured if I were holed up in the woods with some other faculty for three days, maybe I could make a friend or two outside my department.  A far distant third was the goal of learning about teaching.  To be clear, it's not that I don't want to learn about teaching, because I truly do.  It's just that the central topic of this year's camp was online education, and I just don't see my department ever going to an online degree program, and I don't have the time or energy to develop an online course right now, wasn't as much use to me.

Anyway, Doug dropped me off at the designated parking lot on Sunday afternoon, and after I graciously received my lunch bag with a water bottle and snacks, I boarded the bus. They packed the bus--every seat was eventually taken.  I sat next to a new faculty member from Curriculum and Instruction who told me about her recent trip abroad, and about halfway through the ride I started talking about musicals to another young female faculty member from the health department.

I boarded the bus having only a vague idea of where we were going.  I knew it was called "Petit Jean" and it was about 2 and a half hours from Fayetteville, but I still don't know how to pronounce "petit jean" and I sure couldn't get there without a map.  I also wasn't really sure what "camp" would mean. Were there cabins?  How rustic would it be?  Would we be assigned shared rooms?

As it turns out, the place was pretty nice. Here's the main building, designed with a "farmy" kind of look:

If you turn around from the entrance, you get this lovely view:

We checked in to our single rooms and I embarked on a little walk around the grounds. Don't ask me why, because it's been over 100 degrees in Arkansas and this day was no exception, but I found a nice little pond, a fitness center and a bunch of other buildings with rooms.  

 I won't bore you with the details of the actual content of the sessions, other than to say that the theme was distance education, so I learned more about online teaching than I ever thought I would learn.  At dinner, they randomly assigned us to tables with other faculty so that we would be forced to talk to different people, a process I was grateful for, because I (a) didn't know anyone, and (b) even if I had known someone, I would have just sat with them and not expanded my social circle.

After dinner and the evening session, teaching camp moved into the "social hour" with some snacks and booze.  I spent the time sitting at a table with a whole bunch of women and one dude, who eventually pulled out his guitar and began playing/singing for us.  During this time I also agreed to get up at 6am to go running with three of the other women.

Let me tell you, 6am on Monday came early, but I rolled out of bed at 5:50, got dressed and stumbled outside to run 3 miles with some people I barely knew.  This was one of those circumstances where peer pressure actually did me some physical good.

More on teaching camp adventures (with more photos) next time!