In the Past Tense

Tomorrow, it’ll have been a month since my dad died.

Wasn’t I Just talking with him over the phone, telling him about much I like my not-so-new-anymore job? Weren’t my brother and I listening to him explain why he was born in Missouri rather than Florida (his immediate answer to my brother was “because my mother was there”)? Wasn’t he just tipping Lizzie upside-down and caling her Snickelfritz? No? Oh. Right.

I’m still struggling to talk about him and even think about him in the past tense. He is still my dad, that won’t ever change. But he “used to like to say” and “often did..” not “says” and “does.”

Some things, I’d gotten used to saying. He was going to be a dentist but decided just before his internship and dental school to become a laboratory botanist. He met my mom when they were both in grad school. He taught high school science for over twenty years after taking a temporary position at his alma mater. He moved into a role as Assistant Principal when I was in 11th grade. He was moved to the rival high school a few years later, eventually becoming its Principal. He had retired after the 2016-2017 school year. He was diagnosed with colon cancer less than six months into that retirement.

Now, there’s another past to mention. How he took Chemo for a year that gave him tingly fingers but otherwise left him feeling fine. How he was told a year later they needed to switch medications as his was no longer keeping the cancer at bay. How he was switched to an immunotherapy trial at a cancer hospital on the other side of the state, his genetics perfectly suited to participate. How he had major surgery last November that showed that wasn’t helping much, either. How his doctor sat him down in February and told him to get his affairs in order, that the news was hard to take but the doctor shared because he knew my dad wanted always to have the facts. How I got a call on a Monday morning that my dad had passed out and hit his head…there were tests…we needed to come down as soon as we can.

(A quick aside: I was supposed to be in Los Angeles for a work conference that week. My customer/client put a stop to all travel, foreign and domestic as a precaution. One of the first to do so in what seemed like a crazy overreaction at the time (February 28th). Instead, I was at my desk to get the first call and walking out of work, returning a voicemail, when my brother told me to come quick.)

We flew down the next morning, the first flight into the medium-sized airport nearest to my parents’ house. The drive seemed to take an eternity and we had trouble finding parking at the hospital. Eventually, we got out temporary visitor badges and made it up to see him.

He was sitting up and talking. Quieter than he’d been before the last six months but still talking. Asking us how the flight was and did the construction on the main drag into town slow us down. You’d think he’d just had some minor surgery until the Hospice nurse and case manager came in to talk about moving him to their inpatient unit.

(About that Hospice nurse. Turns out, my dad had her as a student years before. He lit up the second she confirmed she’d been a student of his and he went on to describe how she was a good kid and the very skinny girl who tried to get her into trouble. He wasn’t at all surprised at her chosen profession, that her soul was meant to care for others.)

He had what they call in Hospice a rally. A few days of seeing mostly like he was before being there. Chipper, talking, not eating much but finding joy in Italian ices and his beloved unsweet tea. He had tons of visitors for three straight days, wearing out even those of us who were with him. We made all of the arrangements for him to move home – equipment orders, where to put his hospital bed, observed how the nurses gave him pain medication via a special catheter.

He didn’t get to go home. The day prior to his scheduled move, he turned a corner and things got worse and worse. Not eating. Agitation. Real doses of pain killers needed (for he who was famous for having a high pain tolerance). He pulled out his NG tube and we decided there was no reason for him to have to deal with it anymore.

A few days later, we all woke up early, well before the usual 8 or 9 we’d been sleeping in to. We were watching something on TV, paying more attention to our phones than what was on, when we got a call from his nurse. We needed to come over right away.

All of us were there with him. My mom, my brother, me, my aunt (dad’s baby sister), and a woman who was my dad’s mentor and friend. Only my brother was right by his side, the rest of us sitting back a ways, all of it too much to witness so up-close. (I was trying not to have a panic attack, clutching a pillow like it would save me.) My aunt walked out suddenly and back in with Suzie, the nurse who’d called us that morning. “Is he?” was my brother’s question after she examined him briefly. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

He’s not here, anymore. I can’t discuss with him how Dr. Fauchi went to Jesuit schools and you can see their tennants in how he approaches the current pandemic. Can’t whine to him about how easy it is to STAY SIX FEET AWAY from others. Can’t show him what Lizzie is doing in her lessons since schools closed. Can’t joke about how barking spiders are to blame for flatulance sounds. Can’t talk about how I want to take him to the Galapagos to see the giant tortoises.

Eventually, I’ll settle in to the fact he’s in the past tense. Eventually.

One Month Gone

January is tricky. It seems to last forever, with its cold weather and 31 days. And yet, I’m surprised it’s already February. Tricky.

It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by for an update and all the usual things are to blame. Lots of activities competing for time. Not feeling like writing. It’s not honoring my commitment to myself to blog weekly. All is not lost. It’s a new month (and a new week) so time to refocus.

Craftiness

I am usually a small project knitter, wanting to work on something for a week, finish it up, and move on. (It also makes it easier to bring a WIP with me everywhere when it fits in a small drawstring bag.) Unless I’m on a trip, I don’t tend to work on anything with more than one cake/ball or maybe two small cakes/balls. The last few weeks, though, I’ve only made significant progress on larger projects and I find myself looking to start projects with that same size and time commitment to finish.

Small Stuff

Lots of little project have been picked up, had a few rows or maybe an inch knit, and put aside again. I feel a bit of guilt over not making progress on the socks I began for my boss last summer and the vanilla socks that don’t even have a recipient in mind (but the next two pairs I’ll make after them do). The hat (bottom) is a new start for Lizzie in gifted baby alpaca and the cowl (top right) is a WIP I keep misplacing.

FO: Portage

Yes, Portage is finally done, nearly after a year after I cast on. I started with the Portage (https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/portage-4) pattern but switched out the cables on the back for a simple knit/purl 3×3 rib which shifts every row. I’m not great with cables and wasn’t sure I’d have enough yarn to add the extra length the recipient requested.

I’ve been promised better photos of the sweater being worn but didn’t want to delay posting about the FO until I got them from her (ahem, RR).

FO: Bay’s Edge

I started this project because, well, I liked the pattern and the yarn combination. It sat for a bit, waiting for inspiration to strike. Apparently, the only inspiration I needed to work it was a recipient. Once I’ve had a chance to block this, it’ll be on its way to a high school friend of Matt’s who recently lost her husband to brain cancer.

I knit the pattern as written with the exception of some, uh, intentional design modifications. I’ll certainly be making more of these when I pick up another Miss Babs Yummy 2-Ply Toes gradient set (plus a coordinating neutral). Maybe at Maryland Sheep and Wool in May? (I’m actually in town this year for it! Third time in 11 years!)

Sick WIP

A cold has been my nemesis this week. It knocked me on my behind on Tuesday with fatigue and a very sore throat, disappeared for a bit, then knocked down again the last 24 hours with fatigue, sinus pressure, and a runny nose. When I’ve not been napping or playing connect-three games on my phone, I’ve been working on a blanket from my stash of Spud & Chloe Sweater. I’m making it up as a go and am not even sure how large it’ll get. It’ll be done when I run out of yarn. I have three skeins of the raspberry color, one of navy, and one white. I may take out the navy and replace it with white as it’s all very dark right now. May even break my yarn fast to get more of the white.

Healthy Habits

Several of my 20 for 2020 goals focused around adopting healthy habits. My big goal is to get to a healthy BMI by the end of the year, with small goals like “run a 5K” and “walk 20 minutes a day.” I had a solid week of keeping up with things – bringing healthier lunches to work, joining Orange Theory and going 3x that week, recommitting to counting WW points. Then, let’s be honest, I let things slide. Just wasn’t choosing to do the preparation needed to make healthy choices easier and went back to my stagnant, always-eating self. Being sick wasn’t made it easy but I could have focused on healthy food choices while letting my body rest.

Thankfully, all is not lost. I can (and will!) re-start tomorrow. My plan to meditate daily in February will slid to March (so daily yoga moves to April) and I’ll delay a plan start to 5K training until I’m done with the cold. But! I will prep healthy lunches and move as much as my body will let me.

House Projects

When we were thinking about the transition from summer through fall to winter, we had our usual conversations. Chance to make those meals with winter squash and long cooking times. Maybe pick out a house project or two for especially cold or snow days. Really, though, I never expected anything but the smallest of projects to get done.

Then last weekend happened. We went to Home Depot Friday night and picked out a new vanity, faucet, and fixtures. While I was at a friend’s house, Matt pulled out the old vanity and replaced the grout between our tile and tub – put in by an inept professional before we moved in – with caulk. By the time we went to bed that night, the vanity, sink, and faucet were in. The next day, we picked out new paint (Lunar Surface from Behr) and painted.

We still have work to do. Fix places where we didn’t apply enough paint, install the new mirror/medicine cabinet combo, towel bar, hand towel ring, and toilet paper holder. Soon, though, I’ll share before and after photos. You’ll have to imagine a small, half-done bathroom refresh.

What’s new with you all?

WIP Wednesday: Simple Things

I’ve been focusing on simple things this week. Removing apps from my phone that I never use (or use far too much, like Yahtzee). Reading before bed. Moving more. I’m trying to be deliberate in how I fill my hours, instead of picking up my knitting and watching TV the second I have my daily chores done and Lizzie is asleep. As a result, not a ton of progress this week.

Portage

I’m now on the second sleeve, a few decrease rounds in. I plan to focus mainly on this the next few days so I can perhaps get it done by next Wednesday.

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Matt’s Hat

I’m done! I wound up using the shaping from Roku but alternated 18 rows of k1, p1 with 18 rows  of p1, k1 to give it this fun look. When I was trying to sew up the top, I pulled so hard on the working thread that it split in half. A bit of knitting surgery was required to recover, using a separate length of yarn to sew the end back up. (Ignore my crazy eyes.)

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Rider Cowl

I decided to pull this out, after all. The yarn will be used for a basic stockinette cowl which I guess you can say is in progress, as the ribbing is done (reused from Rider). I hope to re-start the pattern in a plain color soon.

Socks for Lizzie

In typical kid fashion, she no longer wants socks, so I’ve pulled out the little progress I had and have set the yarn aside to become socks for someone else.

Started and Finished: Dishcloths

I wound up making two little dishcloths – one slightly larger than the other – using the Delightful Dishcloths pattern. Quick and easy knit. This starts me on my one 20  for 20 goal to make 10 of these for work. Perfect for carrying a hot lunch from the microwave to my cube.

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New Start: Spa Day Facecloth

Making this from the same Pima 100 yarn I used for the others. Again, plan to make two.

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BuJo – For Real, This Time

I love making lists. Love checking things off to do list and recording what goes on in my life. The thing is…I sort of stink at actually keeping up with any of it. I write a to do list during work of things I have to do at home on a trusty sticky note. The sticky note never even leaves my purse upon getting home. Just stays there to be found days later, when I roll my eyes at myself for being such a flake.

My work life is kept very separate from my home life. I have a work notebook that stays at work and a work calendar that is meticulously maintained so I’m not the one forgetting about a 10 o’clock meeting that I’m supposed to be running (which I did in the past). Those times work or home interferes with the other (e.g. in to work late due to a dentist appointment, have to stay until 6 pm for a late meeting), I try to write down. But where? One of those stickies or in whatever notebook I have in front a me. A notebook that I’ll probably toss aside at the end of a month or when I get tired of it and convince myself it’s time to buy a new notebook. If something happens weeks from now and I don’t have the right notebook/calendar in front of me, it’s a 50/50 chance it’s getting forgotten until the week of.

I tried Getting Things Done. Easy – you make a giant list of everything to do then organize all of the paper you need to do those things. One folder per project. Done with a project or putting it off until later? Stash it away. All well and good…if your life can be tracked entirely on paper. But I’m an engineer – we do print out way too many Power Point slides but most of my life is transacted electronically. Emails. Policy notes. Excel files. Models. Diagrams. Do I make a million separate files, taking up a ton of space on precious shared drives or SharePoint sites? (Yes, we still use those.) It wasn’t working. I was too focused on how to plan out every.single.thing. that I didn’t have time to actually do anything. The to do list grew and grew and grew.

I became someone who purely reacted to things as they happened, maybe getting ready for something a few days in advance. My to do lists were only the things I absolutely had to do that day, unless they could be tracked via email or calendar invites. If something was in my inbox, it meant I had to do something in response. That trusty Outlook flag used for the most important things – well, in theory. Often my entire list of opened but not yet archived email was flagged.

I’d heard about bullet journaling for years. I’d read the summary from it’s creator on its elements. I’d pinned 100s of beautiful BuJo pages on Pinterest. I’d followed converts on social media. I even tried it but realized I was doing it as a way to try to appear impressive. Look at how beautiful I can make my list of books I read this year! They look like little books! Again, nothing was getting done at a rate any better than my miss-matched system of stickies, reminders, and repeating “pack lunch” in my head until I fell asleep.

Just before the end of the year, I bought a copy of the actual book, The Bullet Journal Method and read more about the “why” of all of it. Why you need to empty your head of to do lists. Why you need to focus on the things you can do today and keep things to do in the future on a different page. Why it doesn’t have to be pretty but does have to be legible and easy to find information. Why you should just keep going, one page after the other, because your brain works like that, anyway (and you have that index to find stuff).

I started just after Christmas which is amazing as I usually put off starting until a big milestone, like a new month. I emptied my head into a big list of things I knew I had to get done, from the immediate (do laundry) to things happening weeks away (see if Sarah can cover reserving a booth on 8 Jan). I read the book in bits and pieces when I was waiting for my computer to log in or my lunch to reheat. I took notes IN THE NOTEBOOK, though these did get relegated to a random later portion of it so they could all be together.

So far, it’s really working for me. I’m finding myself feeling less frazzled and getting more things done. I’m focusing on why things need to be done, not just assuming if they pop into my head as needing to be done that they’re both important and need to be done by me. Also, I’m not trying to make things super pretty. I’m using mostly whatever pen is nearby, often a random black pen or marker. Stickers if they’re handy.

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The Leuchtturm I’m using comes with its own Index which makes things easy.

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Things I’d like to do this year. Made a similar list last ear but only finished half the items.

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January title page which is sort of funny as January notes and things don’t start for several pages. But this  is fine, as my Index tells me where things really start. (Stickers are from my Pipsticks subscription package from December.)

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Random daily page. I’m not normally this productive.

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Yarn stash vs planned projects. These were layer added to my Queue for better tracking, but this was how I got started with the planning of it all.

 

 

Do you BuJo? Have you before? Does it/has it worked for you?

 

One Little Word 2020: LESS

Every year for four years now, I’ve signed up for the OLW class that Ali Edwards hosts on her site. I do the January prompt and maybe even the vision board. Then, it goes to the side. I see the monthly emails about a new prompt…and toss them into the trash. But! It’s a new year. A new decade (depending on who you ask). I’m hopeful about this year and that includes being hopeful I may actually do all of the prompts.

2020 Word

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The Plan

The plan this year is really simple. Interleave my responses to the OLW monthly prompts between everything else I’m recording in my bullet journal (more on that in another post). No buying new supplies – other than a single roll of washi I bought yesterday – for the project. Respond to the prompts within a week or so of their being posted on the classroom site. Of course, if the prompt is to do something throughout a month, I’ll comply.

January Prompt Response

The prompt was the same as past years, so I won’t dwell on that. Here’s how I responded in my notebook.

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I am off to take advantage of my last day of Lizzie being at her grandparents’ house. Lots of nothing for two hours. Quick stop at the farmer’s market we’ve gone to for over 10 years. Brunch then shopping with a friend which seems so much more DC-gal-in-her-30s than I actually am. Really, we just like food and both need something from the mall and don’t want to go alone.

I’ll be back with more on this whole bullet journaling thing in a few days.

WIP Wednesday: Setting up for 2020

Howdy, everyone! As always, I’ve set myself a goal  to blog more in 2020. It happens to be Wednesday, so figured I’d take the easy way out and blog about the current status of my WIPs. 2019 was a year of getting back to old crafts, so you’ll note a reappearance of embroidery, cross stitch, and sewing plus a new addition, shashiko. We’ve got lots of ground to cover, so we should get started right away.

And, yes, a new photo background. Matt now has a comfy couch in his office, so I’ll be hanging out with him in there and taking advantage of the good natural light and plain backdrop.

Knitting

Portage

Early in 2019, my friend RR and I made an agreement to exchange handmade items: I’d make her a sweater and she’d make me a quilt. We both started in February and we’re both working hard to get our respective projects completed.

It’s hard to take photos of a dark purple sweater WIP, so excuse the photos. I’ve finished the body, edging, pockets (except for sewing them onto the body), and most of the first sleeve. I’m waiting on an arm measurement so I can finish the sleeve and move on to the second one.

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Knitting on the sleeve while watching Lizzie play at a playground in my hometown

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Working on the veryyyyy long edging parts. My guess is there were over 500 live stitches at this point.

My quilt? She’s got the top all done and the layers basted together, with intentions to complete the edging and quilting while she’s out of town for the holidays. She’s a meanie who won’t share WIP photos but I requested blues and something traditional, as far as pattern.

(Ravelry project page is here. Not that I’ve made a pretty major design change and added length to account for her long torso.)

 

Syncopation Socks

I started this sometime in the summer for my now-former manager. I’ll be honest that I put them aside when he left our team for another opportunity. He’s also a good friend, so I plan to pick these back up as soon as I finish the socks I’m making for Lizzie (which I’ll show in just a bit). These have extra stitches to account for a dude’s wider feet. Hopefully I have a note somewhere as to his foot size…

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Close up of the pattern (Syncopation)

(Ravelry project page is here.)

 

Hat for Matt

After going to take photos while on a business trip to Denver in early October, Matt requested a warmer hat. I dutifully started one for him right away…then got distracted with other projects. I’m not sure what pattern I’ll use, but probably one of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s genius ribbed hat patterns.

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Yarn is De Rarum Natura Cyrano (I think) in Merlot. (Note to self: Call fibre space and ask what yarn this actually is.)

No project link here as, well, it’s got nothing in it.

 

Bay’s Edge

I purchased one of the big 2-Ply Yummy gradient kits from the annual Miss Babs trunk show at my LYS. The first half was used for another shawl and I was left trying to figure out which of the MANY potential patterns to use the other half. I decided to combine it with one of Miss Bab’s lovely grays – think it’s Quicksilver but I’m not sure – and make Bay’s Edge. I put this aside to work smaller projects which were more portable, but it’ll get picked back up as my only-work-at-home project once Portage is done.

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(Ravelry project page here.)

 

Rider Cowl

I discovered a brand-new designer via a #knitstagram tagged post. This is her fourth design, the Rider cowl. The pattern is easy and just goregeous…if you don’t choose too busy of a yarn, as I did. I’m waffling back and forth as to whether I want to pull this out and remake it in a skein of pink Berroco Pure Wool DK I’ve had in stash for over a year. What do you guys think?

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There really is a lace pattern here, promise.

(Pattern page is here.)

 

Socks for Lizzie

I just started these the other day, after Lizzie requested a new pair of socks. I had the yarn out to make adult socks – obviously forgetting about the orange ones already in my WIP pile – and she pointed out how pretty the colors were. So, Lizzie socks they’ll be. I’m just doing a simple, vanilla sock with a short row heel.

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Barely a WIP, but a WIP, indeed.

 

Ya’ll still with me? Lots to go, still, so you may want to take a break and get more caffeine. The Internet will still be here  when you get back.

 

Cross Stitch

Mandala

I think I worked on this early in the 2019, but I’m not sure. There are still two or three more colors to add before this is complete. I’m using colors Lizzie selected and knitting on 32 count Monaco, two over two.

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Pattern is from Etsy. I need to look up who designed it.

 

Pretty Little Berlin

This was really the project that got me back into cross stitch. I started it in early November and brought it with me to Florida when my dad had surgery. I loved the city of Berlin when we visited in 2016 and snatched up the pattern from Satsuma Street right after we got back. I’d guess this is 80% complete.

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Fused bead needle holder made by my neighbor. Wrinkles in fabric are made by me.

 

Nutcracker Parade

Another new designer I found in 2019 was Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. They make the cutest patterns featuring little people and animals. I purchased the Aida kit for Nutcracker parade after the SAL started. I’m putting this aside for awhile as I’m rather Christmased out at this point.

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The sugar plum fairy and Clara and her nutcracker float are done, as well as the lettering and parts of the border you see here.

 

Embroidery

Sweet Kitty Cat

I purchased this as a kit when we were in Honfleur, France in May. The instructions were all in French but the images were  detailed enough that I could follow along. When complete, this will probably be hung in Lizzie’s room.

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If you’re ever in France, look out for the sweet patterns from this designer, whose name you can squint and see on the pattern page.

Embroidered Mandala

I picked up this pattern on a random trip to Joann’s with Lizzie, probably when we were in Florida. Not quite sure. I’ve barely, barely started this, it’s so intimidating. It’s not a pattern, per say, just an outline of one that you fill in however you would like.

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Need to work up some nerve to continue.

 

Shashiko

Sampler

I was inspired by January One to try out Shashiko. I purchased a little sampler (from Minature Rhino) and have made some good progress. By design, you’re to stab the needle through as many layers of fabric  as you can. Very therapeutic for stressful days. Guess that means it’s a good thing I haven’t felt a need to pull these out lately?

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All six tiles

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I’ve narly completed the second tile

Sewing

Gift Bags

I’ve not actually done any of the sewing for these, but I have done some prep. Fabric has been torn down to rough size for a dozen, with three actually cut out and ready to sew. I’m using the Runaway Bag pattern from Ellen Mason (via Etsy).

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Another project I’ll pick back up once Christmas over exposure has worn off, as most off the fabric is Christmas.

 

That’s it. Heh. I’m going to try and focus on completing these before I start anything new. Exceptions, of course, allowed because I make my own rules.

What’s in your WIP bin?

9 Ways to Make Your Temporary Renters Love You

We’ve chosen to stay at a series of rental apartments on this trip, especially since Lizzie is with us (second room is necessary for all to sleep well) and we like the ability to cook simple meals in order to skip going out all the time. Okay, and I also like being able to keep a Coke Zero and some non-alcoholic beer cold at all times. We stayed in lovely places each time, but we learned a few things about how a given host/hostess could improve a stay. In no particular order, here’s how to make your short-term renters love their stay.

1. Don’t take too long with introducing them to the place: Your guests are probably tired from their journey, even if it was merely an hour on a train. They want to take off their shoes and have a drink. Show them the various rooms, where dishes are stored, and any quirks (e.g. The TV doesn’t respond to the remote so you’ll need to turn it on via this button. You must close the shutters if the wind picks up or you’ll regret it!) Ask if they have any pressing questions before you leave and be sure to indicate if they should text, email, or send a homing pigeon with further questions.

2. Leave a detailed list of instructions and helpful information – in both the local language and English: Include at least the procedure for checking out/leaving the apartment, any house rules – even if posted on the listing website, and a list of numbers guests would need an in emergency (fire, paramedics, local doctor, pharmacy). Other things we’ve liked are a list of local shops and restaurants our host enjoys, pamphlets for local attractions, how to decipher the laundry machine’s symbols, and a TV channel guide.

3. Clearly post WiFi connection information: Including it in an instruction booklet, posting on the wall in an obvious location, or leaving a tent card are all great ways to do this. (3.b. would be to offer WiFi, even if slow or a limited number of hours it’s on. Few are looking to do work but will probably want to save their International data plan for directions rather than Facebook before bed.)

4. Provide ability to do laundry: This doesn’t mean you have to have a washing machine in the room or even have your guest pay you to do a load, but make sure guests know how they can get their laundry done. Maybe a woman in your village does laundry part time or there’s a laundromat nearby? If no dryer – and, yes, we understand why having a dryer is very rare in Europe – have a clothesline or drying rack guests can use and plenty of clothespins.

5. Fill soap dispensers with hand soap: Not providing toothpaste and shampoo is normal, but guests won’t have to worry about where their body wash is in the suitcase the first time they want to wash their hands after the restroom.

6. Have a guestbook: Places with one will seem more like you’re having guests at your home, not just taking advantage of an extra room you have merely for the purposes of making extra income. Both you and your guests will be able to see where others have traveled from and maybe find out a good attraction or coffee place nearby. One place also had a map with pins to mark their hometowns.

7. Extra blankets and pillows: Some people (like Matt and I) are horrible at sharing blankets, so each place that had an extra one for our house was great. Extra pillows are great for folks who may have back problems.

8. Coffee buys you friends: Only applies if the apartment has a kitchen, obviously. Provide coffee and a way to make it. Instant is fine; Nespresso is heavenly. Tea should be included, too, if you’re expecting guests from tea-prefering countries.

9. Include bonues for families with children: Have a few toys or kid’s movies. Point out the children’s televesion channel, if there is one. Have a nightlight in the “kid’s room.” Have a step-stool for help reaching the bathroom sink or seeing out a picture window. Stock juice and milk in the fridge and individual packages of crackers or fruit. List in the information packet where a playground or public park with a grassy area is located. Have a good area for diaper changes which can be as simple as a waist-height horizontal surface free of trinkets and an extra towel.

La Vie Est Bonne

Picture a poster featuring a cat learning back onto a stone wall, using it as a chaise lounge. It’s got a glass of red wine held aloft and a kooky smile on it’s face. The words at the top: Le vie est bonne a Sarlat. (Life is good in Sarlat.) I must agree.

We’re a little over a week into our family vacation in France and currently relaxing in our rental apartment just outside of centre ville. The village is comprised of yellow, stone houses with dark slate roofs. It’s full of tourists yet still feels like a place people live, not just travel to in order to make money off the tourists. It’s not our first time here, though it’s been nearly 9 years since our last visit, made shortly after I graduated from college. Mind you, I don’t remember much of our last visit. Something about a giant market hall and a walkway slanting up towards a statue of a boy. And lots of duck and walnuts and their related products for sale.

The last week has been rather go-go-go. Matt’s the one who plans our trips and he decided to comprise the first part as a series of two night stays in places we’d not traveled to before: Honfleur and Bayeux in Normandy, Dinan in Brittany, and Amboise in the Loire Valley. It was really an experiment to see if we wanted to visit a given place for longer on a future trip, combined with seeing if Lizzie liked moving around that often. The last half of our trip is two longer stays, both in places we’ve visited – here in Salat and later in Paris. The verdict: Lizzie rather stay in one place for longer and two nights and we’re rather tired of Normandy apple juice and gallette. The chateaux, well, they will probably blur together if we visited more, though I think Matt would have liked some time to do a  formal Loire wine tasting.

Now that we have more than two nights in a place – and in a place with no hard and fast to do list of things to visit or see – we can relax. Cook a meal or two more complicated than eggs. Sleep in. Sit for an afternoon in a park or on the couch, doing not much of anything. The sort of thing you normally do on a long weekend, but without all those pesky chores hanging over your head.

Ahhh, life is good.

(If you want to see photos of our adventures so far, head over to my Instagram for photos and a little review of each day. I may re-post that here but not until we’re back. Trying to avoid the computer as much as I can.)

The Useful and Beautiful Things of Life

Everyone seems to be getting into the Marie Condo spirit, going through their homes and getting rid of what doesn’t spark them joy (and isn’t, you know, things like their 2018 W2). I haven’t watched her show nor read her books, but I certainly see the appeal. Why hold onto something just because you bought it or it was given to you? Why keep something because you may possibly, someday use it. I like the way William Morris put it: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. I would extend the “you” to “you and anyone you share your space with” so you’re not tempted to, say, rid your house of the ten colanders your spouse has hanging above your sink.

I’m one of those folks who loves to clear through things and give /  toss sell what doesn’t meet the useful or beautiful criteria. Except I’m sometimes harsh in what I get rid of. I got rid of all of my quilting supplies – and I mean all, even my straight pins were given away – after a single year of not using themJust a few weeks later, I wished I’d held on to at least a bit of that to make something.

So, in 2019, I’m trying to approach both my clearing out of stuff and purchasing with more intention. For a new purchase: Do I really need this? Do I need it right now or can I wait for a sale? How much do I really want it? Am I buying this because it’s here or it’s on sale or I feel like I should want it/have it? For getting ride of things: Has it been over a year since I used this? Do I anticipate needing it in the next year? Is there a legal or sentimental reason to keep it?

All of this is a round-about way of getting to what I did today – I stopped working on a project in a given yarn because, well, it’s a pain to work with and will likely be too scratchy for wear next to the skin.  This brings us to the big question: Keep or let go?

Let’s walk through Morris’s questions, shall we? Useful? Well, yes, but only as a source of entertainment for me. I live in a house with heat and don’t spend a great deal of time outdoors where I’d be happy to have an itchy shawl because it was so cold. Beautiful? Eh, colors are nice but not particularly uncommon. Then mine: When did I buy this? Fall 2017, in London. I’ve tried to use it multiple times but it was so scratchy I always put it aside in a day or two. Do I anticipate needing it? Nope. Legal reason to keep? Nope. (Wouldn’t it be weird if there was?) Sentimental? Bought when I was with a friend at Loop of London, but I talk to her often and have other mementos of that trip.

Into the “things to put up on Buy Nothing group” pile…