Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city…

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and advice about where we should look when we move from Murfreesboro to Nashville next year. Even though we’re probably not going to put our house up for sale until the spring, I’m trying to get a head start on finding out what’s available where and for how much. We’re also debating renting vs. buying, though if we rented it would only be for about a year.

While the last several weeks were devoted to researching buying in Nashville, this week was devoted to what we would do if we rented. I know I do not want to rent just a plain old apartment, and I have also found there’s really not much out there in Nashville to rent. I guess that’s why Antioch is all apartments.

So if we are going to rent, we want to rent an apartment with character—ideally a loft. I quickly found out that finding a loft to rent is much harder than finding one to buy, and renting one isn’t so cheap, either. Parking spaces are hard to come by, as is space. I looked at the Stahlman Building Apartments on Friday, and while they were neat (very industrial-looking, hardwood floors, new kitchen appliances), they were tiny. And expensive. I also learned that what the lofts show on their Web sites don’t always match price-wise or size-wise, so when you think they rent a 950 sq. foot unit for $975, don’t count on it. The biggest apartment I saw at the Stahlman Building was probably around 900-950 square feet and rented for $1,350. It had a great view and was a cool layout (even though it wasn’t a loft), but that’s just too much for us to spend. The point of us renting is so we can save up to buy, and that wouldn’t exactly save us much.

But on Saturday Ian and I went to look at a one bedroom and a two-bedroom loft at the Market Street Apartments, which I discovered through Brandy (and another local blogger lives there as well), and were excited after looking at it. Charlie, the building manager, was extremely friendly and helpful and gave us a great tour. It’s kind of a shame that the lofts don’t have the exposed brick or hardwood floors like the one bedrooms, but the one bedroom would just be too small for us. (We have a queen-sized sleigh bed, an armoir, another chest of drawers and two nightstands. I know we’re going to have to downsize coming from a house, but we’re not getting rid of our almost-brand-new bedroom furniture.)

But the second bedroom—at the top of the loft—was freaking huge compared to what I’d seen in other downtown apartments. It’s not quite as large as our current bedroom, but it has a huge walk-in closet that would definitely accommodate both of us. (After I got rid of a lot of stuff, of course.) And we could probably go buy one of those closet organizer things to maximize the space.

The bedroom on the bottom floor of the loft is tiny, but we’d use it for an office anyway. I should have taken some pictures, but the wall of the bedroom has windows that look out into the living room. Charlie told us that was done to add character (which it does) and also because the room is so small the windows open it up a bit and let some natural light in.

And while Market St. Apts. don’t have the industrial feel to them that I’d been looking for, they were quite nice—esp. for the price. The one we looked at was about 1,000-1,100 square feet and rented for $1,050. This includes water and parking spaces (since it’s a two bedroom we’d actually get two parking spaces!!!). Oh, and the best part? NO PET FEES!!! This is a huge deal, since we were worried about having three cats and having to pay $200-$300 per cat, plus a pet deposit that’s not refundable.

Market Street Apts. also have a laundry facility on site, but the loft we looked at had hookups for a stackable washer/dryer, which I’d probably want to get since I’ve been spoiled with being able to do my laundry in my own place for three and a half years now.

Anyway, from what I’ve seen of the downtown apartments/lofts, Market Street Apartments definitely seem to be the best value. The fact that rent includes water, parking and there’s no pet fee is extremely valuable to us, and I haven’t seen any other downtown property come close to matching that. It’s enough to make me forgive having to share a bathroom and closet with Ian. Yes, we’ve been spoiled. But I’m willing to sacrifice these luxuries for a year if it means eliminating a fucking weak-ass commute and getting to live downtown.

I am still waiting to get in touch with someone from Union Plaza Apartments and Laurel House Lofts, but so far Market Street Apartments are on the top of our list.

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Even Cracker Barrel deserves a second chance

So some of you might remember our previous breakfast experience with Cracker Barrel, which I blogged about and received several comments (mostly on my MySpace post—sometimes I repost my blogs from here over there). If you don’t want to reread it, basically I said that IHOP offered a much better breakfast than Cracker Barrel at a much better price.

Well, last Saturday Ian and I went to IHOP and were pretty disappointed with our experience. They have decided to no longer offer free refills on soft drinks (I don’t think they ever did with orange juice, but no free refills on cokes? WTF?), and the sausage I ordered was nasty. Not nasty like there was hair in it or it was burnt. Nasty like it had NO taste to it. None. Not even “this tastes like a piece of rubber.” It was like chewing air that kind of smelled like sausage.

So this morning we decided to go back and give Cracker Barrel another chance. We figured we’d have to spend at least $6 more for the same amount of food, but what the hell. At least we’d get free refills.

We got up early this morning (9 a.m.) and were victorious in avoiding the churchies. I ordered the maple pancakes (three pancakes served with maple syrup) and a side of bacon (and though it’s good bacon, I think $3 for three slices of bacon is a bit high), and Ian ordered the Old Timer’s breakfast, which was eggs, bacon, grits and biscuits with gravy. While I prefer IHOP’s pancakes 100 percent more than Cracker Barrel’s, they weren’t so bad today. I had to eat only the middle of them, though, because the edges tasted almost like they’re deep fried. It’s a weird taste, especially on pancakes. I think this is why I like IHOP’s better.

All in all it was a pretty tasty breakfast, and I guess $18 isn’t so bad for two people. I still think IHOP is a better value and their pancakes pwn, but Cracker Barrel is off my shit list for now.

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Spelling Bee Champs!



Spelling Bee Champs!

Originally uploaded by Megan_G.

The Hammock Publishing team from the Nashville Adult Literacy Council’s 14th annual corporate spelling bee. We freaking won. I was just glad to be on the team with these two spellmasters (Jamie and Bill). I never thought a spelling bee could be that much fun. Oh, and the theme of the bee was pirates. In case you just thought we were weird.

Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…

And go downtown… things will be great when you’re… downtown… you’ll find a place for sure… downtown

So after my friend/co-worker drove me all around the entire city of Nashville a couple of weekends ago, I’ve really gotten in the “holy shit this is really happening we could really be moving to Nashville soon and the insanity that is my commute from Murfreesboro could almost be over!” spirit.

Unfortunately, houses are really effing expensive in Nashville. Even the ones in East Nashville, which I really, really liked (and which I had heard would be cheaper than most of the rest of Nashville). And sorry, I’m not moving to Antioch or Madison or Nolensville. I left Chicago to get away from the ghetto-ass neighborhoods, and I’m not going back to that in Nashville, of all places.

Apparently I have been taking my 1280 sq. feet, two bedrooms, two and a half baths, two walk-in closets all for under $800 a month for granted. Well, no, I don’t take it for granted. I fucking love it. But every time it takes me two hours to get to work, or three hours to get home, I love it a little less. This is our first house and I’m really attached to it, but god damn. Why can’t we just take Murfreesboro and LaVergne and switch them? That way I could still have my little college town that isn’t so little anymore, all my friends, and my cheap mortgage but not go batshit insane driving 75 miles a day to and fro work??

Anyway, Ian will be starting an internship in Nashville pretty soon, and when that’s over he’ll be graduating and most likely starting a new job in Nashville as well. And as cheap and as awesome as our house is, it doesn’t really make sense to have two people driving 75 miles a day, fighting traffic, risking accidents, and wasting—at a minimum—two hours a day just sitting in the car.

So right now we’re torn between buying something or renting something for a year until we are ready to buy again. On the pro side of renting, we have:

  • Makes the move easier (don’t have to be selling and buying at same time)
  • Can have time to save up a little more money for bigger/nicer house while not having the commute from hell, instead of just buying whatever we can afford and then have to buy/sell/move again in a few years.
  • Even if we just rent for a year, we’d rent a badass loft/apartment downtown, making it easy to live it up and enjoy the last years of our young, single, childless livelihood (not that we’re planning on having kids next year or anything, but let’s face it: We’re almost 30. It would be fun to live downtown and be able to party and then walk home. Think of how much liver damage we could incur!)
  • Wouldn’t have to worry about buying an old house and having to fix it up on a very limited budget
  • I have always wanted to live in a loft. Always. I used to daydream about it in school when I was younger.

But, of course, we have pros for buying another house right away, too:

  • We would have our own driveway (this would be a must with the new house). I’ve never had my own driveway, and I am the biggest parking nazi ever. I HATE when I can’t park in front of my own house here because some assbag is having a kegger and invited 40 people over.
  • It would be our own place, again. We could basically do whatever we wanted to it without worrying about having to paint it back to original color, etc.
  • Wouldn’t have neighbors in close corners. No banging on ceiling/floor/wall. I haven’t had to deal with that in almost four years, and I think it would be hard to hear bigfoot clomping around upstairs again.
  • No pet deposits or paying a bajillion dollars for parking.
  • Money we made from townhouse would go straight into new house; wouldn’t have to pay capital gains or whatever tax you pay when you don’t immediately reinvest your money into real estate again. I think. Does anyone even know how that works?

So anyway, I think this week we’re leaning toward renting a loft for a year (but last week my mind was set on buying a cute tudor or cottage-style house), and these are the places we’re going to check out sometime soon:

I really like what Mercury View Lofts look like, but they’re just too expensive, and I’m still waiting to hear back about Laurel House and Union Plaza apartments.

If y’all have any info or any feedback on any of these places, or know of some other cool lofts that aren’t ridiculously expensive, please holler at me!

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Losing my patience

Every single month there is something wrong with my Sprint bill. I am either charged for something I did not buy or use (video mail, international text messaging), charged for something I was told was free (one free video ringer), or they’ve completely fucked up my bill altogether (how be charged for exceeding my text messaging limit when even my account online shows I’ve used 200+ less than my limit?).

When the iPhone came out, I thought it would be hard to leave Sprint when my contract was up because of everything they give me for free because of their fuck ups. My contract is up in March. I’m not so sure it will be hard to leave now.

I don’t know if free text messaging, nights and weekends starting at 6 p.m. for free and a 25 percent discount is worth having to send multiple e-mails and make multiple calls every month to make sure I am not charged more than I should be is worth it.

Is there such thing as hassle-free cell phone service? Has anyone switched to AT&T because of the iPhone from Sprint and had a positive experience? I hope so.

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Inspired by reality TV

How did we even survive our teens?
When so many friendships were superficial and boyfriends dated friend after friend and we had to pretend not to care
When you couldn’t trust that what you thought you knew you’d still believe a mere five years later?
Living life with wild abandon and your whole life ahead of you can feel like the best deal on earth

But looking back, don’t you wonder sometimes how you didn’t turn out more fucked up?

Say it ain’t so

Any WordPress gurus out there? I want to add a teensy little Google Adsense box to my blog, but apparently I can’t have the “plugins” tab needed unless I download WordPress and host it myself or pay to upgrade? Is that true? Anyone out there using the free version of WordPress know how to get Adsense on their blog?

Don’t worry, we’ve already ruled out Antioch

So, if all goes as we’re expecting, when Ian graduates in December he will most likely be working in Nashville. And if that’s the case, there’s really no point in both of us making the horrific commute back and forth every day.

So… while it’s a bit premature to actually go and look at houses, I do want to start getting to know the different neighborhoods in Nashville. My friend/colleague is taking me all around town tomorrow to point out the different hoods and help me get my bearings, but I need your help, too.

Where do you live? Or where would you also consider living? Keep in mind the goal here is to cut the commute down from 1+ hours to under 30 minutes each way (in rush hour). I mean, 10 minutes would be ideal, but we’re not sure where Ian will be working yet and I work on West End and let’s face it, we’re not millionaires so that kind of limits our housing choices in West Nashville.

So, any suggestions/comments/advice/general commentary you’d like to offer will be appreciated…

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A Review: My 2007 Honda Civic EX Sedan

Every day that I drive to work and back, no matter how shitty the traffic, one aspect of the drive brings me consistent happiness:

I am in love with my car.

My new-ish (I bought it in early February, but have already put over 15,000 miles on it) car—my 2007 black, four-door Honda Civic EX, that is. It fucking rules. And since some form of “2007 Honda Civic” consistently ranks as the top search engine query leading people to my blog, I am going to expound on the ways in which it rules.

Let me say right now that in this review I will discuss why I did not choose other cars in the Civic’s class. If you own one of these cars that I dismissed, I’m sorry, but please don’t take offense to my reasons why. This is my own personal taste. You like your car better than a Civic, I assume, and I like my Civic better than these other cars. Let’s just keep it at that.

The search
The main issues that brought me to the Civic when searching for a new car to replace my 1999 Pontiac Grand Am (aka the gas guzzla–21 mpg on the highway–GAH!) were (in order of importance):

  • Better gas mileage
  • Reliability (read: I was NOT going to buy another American-made car)
  • Cost (I didn’t want to even THINK about a car that would be over $20,000)
  • Style (it had to look good–not too sporty, not to grandma)
  • Size (compact was preferred, though not subcompact. I am 5’8″ and Ian is 6’2″)

I immediately decided I would not consider the Toyota Corolla nor the Nissan Sentra because while their larger cars are well-rated and look nice, I did not find anything I liked about the looks of either of these two, and their quality ratings weren’t high enough to excuse the sense of cheapness I felt when looking inside of them.

And there was no way in HELL I was going to buy a Volkswagen. Yeah, I know, every debutante/Vandy grad drives a Jetta and every trendy yuppy drives a Bug and they’re both totally cute, but seriously, my second reason for finding a new car was reliability. And let’s face it: Anyone who needs their vehicle to work consistently—and last for more than just a few years—does not buy a Volkswagen.

So I eventually narrowed my choices down to three cars: the Civic, the MINI Cooper and the Mazda 3. And then down to one.

I quickly crossed the MINI off my list because it wasn’t very practical, as it was just too goddamn tiny. And I’m just not that preppy. (I feel like in order to drive one, I’d have to start smoking Virginia Slims or drinking after-work Appletinis and complain about how the last time I went skiing in Vail, the lodge totally fucked me by not offering mimosas in the mornings, which I really needed because my husband’s stock portfolio was in the shitter but I couldn’t show my worry around little Pembroke and Hegemony for fear of causing another episode where they pull all of their eyelashes out like they did when they just didn’t “get” second grade algebra.)

Anywaaay, the MINIs are so cute, but I just couldn’t see myself actually buying one on purpose. I mean, there’s no way I could name my future kid Pembroke. Plus, the MINI doesn’t get as good of gas mileage as the Civic.

I almost as quickly crossed the Mazda 3 off my list because I didn’t read any reviews anywhere saying the Mazda beat the Civic in anything except 0 to 60 rating (and even then I think it just beat it by one or two seconds.) And also not helping Mazda’s case was this douche that I used to work with who drives one. (You know, the guy who wears the big glass earring trying to pretend it’s a diamond and talks about how all the chicks love the Mazda?) Yeah, even if I could get past all that, the Civic still had more of the qualities I was looking for in a car to love.

Gas mileage
Since I have had the Civic, I have averaged 35-37 mpg each week. The lowest I have gotten was 33 mpg (and that was just once), and the highest was 42 mpg (also just once).

I drive at least 74 miles every Monday through Friday; my commute is 37 miles to work and 37 miles home. Sometimes I go out for lunch or run errands after work, but for the most part I am on the interstate. However, not all of my time on the interstate is spent driving at interstate speeds, as anyone who’s ever driven in Nashville rush-hour traffic knows that much of your time within Metro is spent creeping along cussing out the asshole who keeps weaving in and out of traffic, causing you to have to either slam on your brakes or inch up and almost smash the person in front of you just to avoid being rear-ended.

ANYWAY… I would say that about 65 percent of my driving could be considered true interstate driving, and 35 percent would be considered city driving. Also, I drive fast whenever possible, so this cuts down on my gas mileage considerably. I think I remember hearing that for every mile per hour over 60 you lose a certain amount of gas mileage. Well, let’s just say that my average speed is 80 mph, though it is not uncommon for me to reach speeds of over 85 mph to pass someone.

Performance
For a compact, 4-cylinder car, the Civic can get up and go when it needs to. It’s not going to race a Corvette or anything, but I still can overtake just about any vehicle I am trying to on the interstate, and I rarely have any trouble beating anyone off the line at a stop light (Not that I try to race people in a damn Civic, but most of my time is spent trying to get to the freaking interstate ahead of the snails that will make my commute a living hell if I don’t pass them asap.)

The ride is smooth, even and always comfortable. The shocks on this thing must be really good, because I have gone over some nasty potholes and other bumps and didn’t feel like I left part of my car behind.

Comfort
The fact that Ian, who is 6’2″, can fit comfortably in the back seat (without requiring the person in the front move their seat up so they are licking their own knees) says a lot for how much the Civic has progressed. From what I’ve read and seen, this new Civic redesign brought it to the size of the old Accords.

The seats are comfortable, which also was important to me because almost all of my trips in this vehicle last at least an hour. I drove it up to Chicago to see my family (a 9-hour trip one-way), and was quite comfy. My ass did not hurt nearly as bad as it used to in my Pontiac, but maybe I’ve added some of my own cushioning? Let’s hope not.

Also, for those of you who do drive a lot, the steering wheel on this Civic is so cool. I don’t know what material it’s made out of, but it feels like some kind of microfiber/leather hybrid. It’s not really squishy, but it’s soft, and feels really good in my hands. I was afraid after having my hands all over it for thousands of miles it would harden, but so far it’s retained its original feel. It sounds odd, but that’s probably one of my favorite little things about the car that I didn’t realize it had before I bought it.

Style
I know most car reviews offer their own take on the style of the car, but I’m not going to sit here and relist sizes and specs of shit. Just go to honda.com and look it up yourself if you really need to know what size wheels I have and how long the nose of the car is (not long at all, actually—I think it looks good this way, too!)

I will say that I would not have bought a Civic if not for the redesign (originally done in 2006). I know, I know, I said style was the second-to-last concern on my list, but I really think this recent redesign has matured the car into an adult’s car, not a college or high school kid’s deal. Before, when I would see dudes driving down the road in their little 2004 Civic I would kind of chuckle. Now I see both men and women driving this current model and it looks more natural.

Plus, in black my Civic looks freaking bad-ass.

Perks
I don’t really know what to call this section, but these are the things that I didn’t necessarily need in a car, but I was willing to pay the extra $1,000 or whatever to upgrade to the EX (well, actually, it was the better brakes–rear disc–that caught my attention). With the upgrade to the EX, you get:

  • Moonroof (WTF is the difference between moonroof and sunroof??) that’s operable with only one button. It’s smooth.
  • Rear disc brakes
  • The key-fob thing with a trunk-release and a panic alarm
  • The better steering wheel
  • Radio and cruise controls on steering wheel
  • Front and rear cup holders
  • Fold-down part of the back seat for trunk access
  • Two power outlets
  • Auxiliary plug for my iPod! (Though I hear that was made available in later LX models, too)

There are some other differences, too, but I can’t remember them and honestly I think they were just dimensions or something.

Oh, and some other neat things: The Civ tells me the outside temperature (temp. gauge is at top of front windshield), antenna is on the back windshield (nothing to remove when going through car wash), the auxiliary jack (I love just being able to plug in my iPod and listen to it through the stereo), two digital tripometers, and the oil life is measured in percentages–starts at 100 percent and when it gets down to 15 percent a little light comes on and I know to go get it changed. And there’s lots of storage space. And the spedometer fucking rules. Have you seen it? Oh, and it measures your speed even when you’re driving backward. Hell ya.

I see on the new ’08 models they’ve added the EX-L trim, which comes with leather seats, and at first I was kind of bummed. But after the ass-sticking-to-your-seat kind of hot summer we had, I don’t really care that much now. Plus, it’s still just a Civic. Do you really need leather??

Overall, I am really, really happy with my car, and hope that I’ll still be driving it around 10 years from now. It’s my little Yoshi (because it’s compact and Japanese, just like Yoshi from the Super Mario Bros. series, haha, yeah I’m a Nintendo nerd so shut it), and I love it.

If I had to come up with a con, I would probably say it doesn’t have the most pick-up of the cars out there, but I honestly don’t find it too slow or sluggish for my needs at all. I had a 3.4L V6 in my 1999 Pontiac Grand Am SE2 with 170hp before, and the Civic’s 140hp seems to match up pretty evenly, as far as I can tell. I never feel like I’m going to get run over when I’m trying to merge on the interstate, at least, and I have no problem speeding. :) You’ve got to give up something for that unmatched (at least in a non-hybrid) gas mileage.

If you are reading this review because you’re considering the Civic for your next vehicle and have any other questions or want me to take a picture of a certain part of the car, please just drop me an e-mail or leave a note in the comments here. I’d be happy to help out any way that I can.

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