Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation: Plotting v. Exploring

While I preemptively tackled my primary vacation inhibitor, achieving instead of playing, I easily escaped the snare of the second vacation squelcher.  Over-planning.

Let me clarify.  First, I'm not your backpack-it type of vacationer, but I do like investing extra time into packing--striking the balance between thorough and light.  Secondly, preparing travel food and securing overnight housing seems vital to a comfortable trip.  Some planning makes vacations more relaxing.  Over-planning takes organizational preparations to the extreme.  Perhaps it would be better defined as plotting.

Not getting lost in Cardiff, Wales a few years back.
Plotting.  Like that time before I visited to Chicago.  I read three travel books, photocopied pertinent sections, created my own information packet, and developed a personalized must-see list of attractions.  I hustled around the city while Husband attended a conference.  Each night over dinner I rambled about my sightseeing until exhaustion seeped into my veins like an invisible sedative IV-drip.  

Since our recent mini-vacation took place in an familiar location, I'm more of a "seasonal" than a "tourist."  Without thinking, I know where to go and what to do, come sunshine or storm.  (In case of hurricane: go home.)  I navigate the town without a map.  I even know the areas I don't know.

And this is where exploring begins.  Besides leaving ample time to relax, vacations ideally flaunt a touch of adventure.  Like randomly choosing a restaurant, perhaps ordering an unusual menu offering.  Or, wandering down a quiet side street only to be amazed at the vibrant, fully-restored Victorian Era houses.  Or, eating lunch on a boardwalk bench so you can watch tourists parade by in garish--in stunning--beach attire while catching hints of accents.

A random street.
Sometimes adventures turn into the travel stories we love to retell--the hidden cathedral in a nondescript English village, the hung-over Scotsman who entertained us with his life story for hours on a train, the public art too new to be documented by the travel guide.  Sometimes adventures are a quieter type of discovery, something stories and photographs can't convey.  Both are worth leaving plotting behind and exploring.

Do plot your vacations? Or, do you explore--ready or not?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vacation: Achieving v. Playing

And it all fit an a small blue library tote bag.
Once again I violated my "Year of No Travel" policy when Husband & I snuck away for a mini-vacation the other weekend.  Four days in borrowed accommodations, down the shore, somewhere we've frequented almost annually.  Even though we moved earlier this same week, we quickly dove into the bliss of no agenda.

Except I nearly strangled this relaxation before we even left our new apartment.  Well, technically, my over-stuffed activities bag almost ruined the leisure true vacations imply.

I like a variety of engaging activities to dabble in when there's no "To Do" list.  So for this vacation I piled on books (2 memoirs, 3 nonfictions, and 1 escapist YA novel), 1 cooking magazine, 2 writing projects, and some drawing supplies (a small sketchbook and a pencil box).  I even considered throwing in a new crocheting project ....  Then, at some point, a sense of needing to use all of these items snuck itself into the tote.

Proving pregnancy isn't an impediment for SkeeBall.
Husband's laughter, as he lugged my heavy bag to the car, cued me in.  I often struggle with validating my day-to-day existence by how much I've created or completed.  Sometimes this mentality of achievement tags along for my vacation.  This, I realized as Husband took another load down to the car, is the opposite intent of a beach trip.  Nothing in the tote needed immediate attention; I needed to play and relax.  Instead of repacking the bag with a more reasonable entertainment selection (because that's the real purpose of an activities bag), I decided to use things when inspired and not worry about taking a few extras.

Spontaneity and playing trumped my false sense of achievement.

What's your approach to a vacation?  Achieving or playing?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The War on ... Silverfish?

An Update, from SC Ramsey.

Adhering to the designated withdrawal date outlined in the Lease Treaty, the Ramsey Apartment was vacated during a lull in the invasion from ANTS.  Only by many rounds of chemical warfare were the counteroffensives from the ANTS and from their airforce allies, the FRUIT FLIES, repelled.  Another security force now oversees the province and only time will tell if they can maintain sovereignty over their territory.

I'm not sure why this sign, from the Philadelphia Zoo, strikes me as funny.
The New Ramsey Apartment, currently, is ANT-free at this time.  Yet the Ramseys found about a half dozen SILVERFISH over the last week or so.  Will a new battle emerge to preserve their domain from all things creepy and crawly?  Will their large book collection escape the binding-glue hungry SILVERFISH?  

Stay tuned for further updates.

In my rental history there's been the place with the speedy black spiders, the mega-cockroach (one sighting was enough!), the million-legged nightmares, and the persistent ANTS.  Does every inhabitance hide a crawling menace?  What are creeping across your walls and ceilings? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Unfortunate Anniversaries

A few years ago, Husband & I went on a date.  It looked something like this:

Hours later, when we went to drive home, we found this:

Not the best of times.  Thankfully, no one was injured when our car spontaneously combusted in the parking lot.  Also, our insurance covered everything--including the $100+ taxi ride home.

Despite the shock and logistical challenges this wasn’t the worst of times, either.  Remembering difficult situations, and how I pulled through them, helps me to shelve an attitude of entitlement and to focus on living a full life regardless of circumstances.  Or, so I like to remind myself on these anniversaries....

Do you have any not-so-ready-for events that remember each year?  Why do you acknowledge them?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Keeps on Giving

Lately I’m spending a little more time than usual in the big box stores trying to figure my way around the packed aisles of “necessities.”  Since I err on the side of less, I'm bewildered.  And, my book club's recent selection of “Slow Death By Rubber Duck” hasn’t made this any easier….

Does any other store have this courtesy?
I've discovered there are two reasons I dislike shopping for children’s toys and accessories, especially when it comes to giving gifts.  First, plastic.  Sure it’s a cute tea/tools/whatever set, but how long will the set actually keep a child’s interest?  And, is it worth x number of years stewing in a landfill until it eventually decomposes?  Secondly, shipping costs.  In my experience the trip to the USPS almost doubles the cost of a present.

To combat waste, I recently came up with a new semi-homemade present: puzzles.  

Take one: trains.
I found precut cardboard puzzles in my favorite Baltimore art store.  Because of the economical price (and the minimal shipping costs), I bought two for each child.  On one puzzle I drew picture or left a silhouette for the child to color.  The second puzzle was sent blank. 

Take two: sea life.
My hope is each child will see the potential of the second blank puzzle and cover it with scribbles or doodles.  This way the present will get some extra mileage: artistic expression by drawing on the puzzle then cognitive and fine motor challenges by reassembling the puzzle.

Does your gift giving include children?  What do you purchase or make?  Or, does your family celebrate birthdays in a less material oriented way?

Friday, June 17, 2011

One Box, Three Uses

Last week an unassuming brown box arrived in the mail.  You’ve probably seen (or been) the child who is just as excited about the box as the present.  This would be my recent childlike joy at receiving a splurge purchase from Vera Bradley’s discontinued sale...

Note: Subject was fully clothed.  :)
Such a standard shipping box on the outside, such deep purple inside.  I was almost too exited to open the “presents” I bought myself.

Sherbet, who decided the box indeed outshone Vera's cloth designsdiscovered a second use for the box: a temporary cat bed, complete with inspirations to “be colorful,” “never be uniform,” and “dance to your own tune.”

Sherbet says the box brings out her highlights.
Unable to recycle the box, I came up with another practical reuse: a new home for the gift wrapping supplies.  Now the cheery purple (and over-the-top inspirations) can encourage me to send off presents with style.

Have you ever found extra reasons to reuse “temporary” packaging?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Won: One Excuse to Host a Party!

It’s not every weekend you move AND win a guess-how-many contest.  Looks like Husband & I found a new piece to decorate the apartment with until we can host a party to get some help eating all of this.  Note: the plastic coke bottle was full when I carried it home.  Better set a date soon!

Besides candy, what else should I serve?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Moving Recap

In between heat & humidity, rain showers & traffic jams the big move monopolized this past weekend.  No one got injured; nothing else broke.  Thanks to incredible helpers the U-Haul was loaded in about 45 minutes.  Then everyone rested for about a 1/2 hour in a traffic jam due to highway resurfacing shutting down 2 of 3 travel lanes. 

Sherbet finally tires of the moving process.
The truck unloaded in record time, too, because I barely had time to stick color-coded labels on walls, comfort Sherbet who meow-bellowed from her exile in the new bathroom, and set out lunch—an assortment of sandwich/wrap fixings, fresh fruit and veggies, and a homemade almond cake.  (My rationale: since I couldn’t really carry boxes myself this move, I sought to heartily replenish any calories expended by the friends and family helping us.)

As the move progressed, I thought of a few more moving tips:
  1. Set aside a Last/First Box for frequently used rooms.  A designated place for items you need up until the last minute and want to be able to locate immediately upon unpacking.  For instance, the bathroom box had toilet paper, soap, hand towels, etc.  In addition to the bathroom box, we set aside Last/First Boxes for the kitchen and bedroom.
  2. Disassemble all furniture the day before loading the truck.  We left the bed frame until the morning, which didn’t hold the move up, but did cause congestion as helpers emptied the bedroom of other items.
  3. For a local move with helpers journeying from the old location to the new, print basic driving directions.  Not everyone has a GPS.
  4. For a local move with a little time flexibility, move awkward-to-pack items ahead.  Husband, my father, and I ran a few loads up to the new apartment the day before to avoid fitting lamps, bikes, larger pieces of art, plants, etc. in boxes or on the moving truck.  Since we were able, we also transported dresser and desk drawers—no packing required, just slid them back into the furniture once it arrived later.
Now, all that remains to be done is to hang pictures and rearrange as needed.  All boxes are unpacked and tucked into storage for next time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to our friends and family!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Moving Casualty

Glass jar holding Q-tips meets tiled floor.  Explosion!  Shards of glass glitter across the entire uneven bathroom floor.

Estimated clean-up time = packing three boxes.  At least it wasn't the decorative vase.

What's been broken (or lost) when you've changed addresses?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Fix, But How?

As Husband & I pack boxes, the recycling container fills and the donate pile grows.  One item resists those fates:
The Cafe: Our Bedroom Breakfast Nook.
A few years ago, when Husband & I moved into our first apartment with an outdoor area, family members gave us a beautiful patio set.  The box called the table and two chairs something like "Bistro;" I loving christened the metal and ceramic mosaic set "The Cafe."  It's served us as a lazy afternoon hang out spot on one porch, as my outdoor desk on a different apartment's porch, and most recently as our breakfast nook in our bedroom.

Unfortunately, The Cafe is beginning to show some wear from years of love.

The cardboard fix.
First, one chair's ceramic mosaic tile abruptly popped out and shattered.  Armed with glue and determination, I tried to piece it back together.  After a half hour of creating two more shards every time I reconnected one, I opted for another approach.  I took a careful up-close picture of other chair's unbroken mosaic.  Guestimating the size, I printed a non-glossy color copy and glued it onto cardboard circle.  Presto.  An indoor fix that lasted well for about 10 months before it began to fade a little.

Then the other chair dropped its mosaic.  Luckily it only broke into a few pieces and was easily repaired.  Unfortunately it fell out again last week.  While the piece remained whole, I doubt another glueing will last long, especially if exposed to humidity and temperature fluctuations.  The cardboard solution, too, is about to expire.  Our new apartment boasts a porch so The Cafe will take up residence once again in the great outdoors (read: elements).  I need a new solution.  
With moving preparations eating up my mental energy, I'm not sure what to try next.  Your thoughts? 

Monday, June 6, 2011

How to Move Without Forgetting to Pack Your Brain

Moving week is upon the Ramsey household.  Flattened boxes emerge from hiding places in the back of closets, tucked behind dressers, and in other boxes.  Husband & I transform 2D cardboard into 3D containers; we add packing tape to the grocery list.

Sherbet takes a break from jumping into every single box we assemble.
This is our sixth move as a couple--fifth without professional help.  To handle the vast amount of labor and details required, I rely on organization.  Here are some of my key survival tips to make sure you don't lose your mind while boxing up everything else.

  1. Designate an information/planning spot for important papers and lists.  We use a clipboard and leave it on the dining room table.  Lease information, rental truck contracts, calendars, floor plans, etc. find a temporary home here.
  2. Create a daily plan of attack.  Break your home into zones and begin boxing the non-everyday-use stuff first.  For us this means the storage closet and the bookshelves.  Counterintuitively, I leave decorations on the wall until the very end.  This way my messy, box-infested home is a little less warehouse-like during the moving process. Besides, decorations tend to be fragile, and fragile boxes should be on the top of the piles, right?
  3. Write a "Change of Address" chart.  Include bills, subscriptions, doctors, etc.  Call a few each day, noting "Date Contacted" and leaving a space to record "Date Verified" when you receive updated information from them at your new address.  When 90% of the address switches are made before your move date, you feel accomplished about something and have more energy to deal with the frustrating ones later (driver's licenses, anyone?).  Also, it's a nice excuse to take a break from filling boxes and prop your feet up while you make some phone calls or send some emails.
  4. Get rid of everything you don't use, don't like, and can easily live without.  Lighten your moving load, declutter your new home, and often get a tax-deductible receipt.
  5. Implement a strict labeling policy for boxes.  I prefer color coding.  Each room in the new location receives a color (ie: kitchen = green, living room = yellow).  Boxes are tagged with the color of which room they will move into.  On the colored label I list the specific contents.  Since I hang colored labels on walls during move-in anyone helping can easily determine where a box should be placed.  Bonus hint: I usually make one wall in the living room for the living room color and one for the kitchen color--this way I can maneuver in the kitchen when unpacking.
  6. Unless this move is permanent (like buying a house) or you're guaranteed professional assistance for your next relocation, save all reusable packing materials.  Standard size boxes expedite packing a truck; packing paper not only protects items, but fills in those odd "what-else-should-we-cram-in-here" spaces that lead to extreme disorganization on the unpacking end.

For even more moving tips.

What moving tips to have you discovered?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sari Dress: Completion (Part III)

While it only took a little longer than a week to make the sari dress, this final post about the dress ended up procrastinated.  I'd like to blame this delay on photography and finicky sunlight, but honestly I'm hesitant to be the model showing this dress.  My doctors assure me the recent weight gain is healthy--so much so I should keep gaining for a few more months.  Still, I'm finding myself a little camera shy as this "plump is pretty" phase continues.

The sari dress: from inception through creation toward completion!

After a few days of sewing recovery, I spent one morning eliminating the bulk of the original tube dress.  I ripped out some seams; I hacked off another foot or so of the sari.  No measuring, but I did iron before sewing a seam to keep the fabric from fraying.  By hand, I whip-stitched the inner side of the green edge to the plum wine edge to close the tube.

Another "fitting" in front of my bedroom mirror.  I couldn't get over how the ribbon (originally intended for straps) still created such a perfect empire waist by simply tying it around me.  With the extra fabric gone the potato sack look disappeared and a flattering dress emerged.  The forest green material, however, limply cascaded to the floor.  The sari dress still needed a little more flare, and I didn't need a tripping hazard.

So far, no dress pattern meant infinite possibilities, but now I grew uncertain about what to do with the forest green flap hanging down my right side.  The evolvement of the ribbon-cinched empire waist nixed my previous ideas of turning the green section into an apron-like overlay, a twisted bust-line, or an over-the-shoulder drape.  Husband grew quiet as I rambled awkward solutions.

It was time to risk some help.  

A few days later I donned the unfinished dress, along with fancy jewelry and gold shoes, for Mom's critical eye.  Despite her original hesitancy about taking scissors to such a exquisite piece of fabric, Mom instantly wanted to help design the in-process sari dress.  I posed in front of the mirror; Mom moved the fabric around.  When she folded up the top of the green end under my arm, the angled fabric gracefully fell around my figure.  We both knew the next design phase: a pleat at the top of the forest green swag.

Excited to implement this pleat, Mom saved me from laboring through more sewing by efficiently zipping the sari through her modern sewing machine (one with electricity and a foot pedal).  When I tried the dress on again she suggested adding a little more practicality: straps.  We pulled out the leftover sari and snipped off a bit of the plum wine, past the gold embroidery.  After a game of fabric pinching and pinning, Mom designed straps that mimicked the soft gathered look of the dress.

While I enjoyed sole designer status as I conceptualized and began the sari dress, finishing the dress with Mom's creative input and sewing expertise actualized a vivid sari into a one-of-a-kind special occasion gown.

The front of the dress: plum wine and gold.

The back of the dress: plum wine meets forest green.

Beautiful gown with room to grow.

PS.  I left the antique sewing machine at Mom's....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Parking Signs: Solution Posted

Still pondering the parking sign dilemma from earlier this week?  Now check back to see the solution to this drama.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Construction Complete

Take a second to test your street (sign) smarts with yesterday's pop quiz.  Solution forthcoming.

It's not every day iPhoto asks you a question like this:

Um, yes, OK!  For the second time actually .... 

Since March, Husband & I weeded the photo collection-- originally @5873 pics plus rediscovered kitten photos (@200) and this Spring's snapshots (@350)--by 53.4%.  It doesn't matter now the digital photo project finished up a month behind my arbitrary deadline.  Our collection looks amazing!  Now only the most meaningful photos await the next step: scrapbook selection.

What accomplishment, little or large, are you celebrating today?