April 18, 2012

Independent Vacationing

Approaching by land

When I’m planning a vacation, I spend the most time worrying about where we will stay. It has to be convenient, interesting, clean, safe and most importantly a good deal. For our trip to San Francisco last week, I also wanted to be nearby my sister, who lives in a real neighborhood, with very few hotel options. I finally found the right fit through an Air BnB rental.

This was my first time using Air BnB and I wasn’t sure if the strong social networking aspect of the site really fit with my style, but the room was too nice to pass up. The photo below shows the patio off of our studio apartment, just blocks from my sister and close to lots of restaurants and an amazing bakery. We stayed for a week and really felt at home. It was much like our VRBO rental in Paris. Having a small kitchen and an eating area makes travel so much easier and cheaper, as not all meals need to be eaten out and sometimes all you want is something simple. Hotels can be nice, for that pampered feeling, but vacation rentals feel more private and still offer an escape. Plus, it is fun to pretend you live in this exotic city.

The other big expense for travel is car rental, especially in the US, when renting a car can be the only way to see some of the best sights. Since we were staying in the city for this trip, we didn’t want to have to deal with a rental car all the time, figuring out parking and paying for time when we weren’t using the car. A car sharing program, Zip Car, fit our needs and it turned out that we could pick-up a mini-cooper, just a block from our studio. One of the nice things about the car sharing is that all gas is included in the rental price and the car is available hourly or daily. When we were done with the car for the day, we just returned it to its own parking spot, no need to worry about overnight parking rules in the city.

I’m looking forward to using both these services again, as they really made it easy to build just the vacation we wanted, without the constraints of the more traditional hotel and car rentals.

Studio Patio
April 17, 2012

At five years

New Hats

The traditional gift for the fifth wedding anniversary is something made of wood. All the gifts of the first five years relate to setting-up the home, from paper to linens to wood, they represent the basic materials of domestic life. According to the self-help books, the first five years are the cornerstone to a successful, life-long marriage. This may be true, but for us, it is more about the everyday and less about milestones and gifts.

On our anniversary day this year, we painted our garage and went to a roller-derby tournament, treating the day like any other Saturday. Granted, we had just returned from a week vacation in San Francisco, where we sailed in the bay, bought new hats and enjoyed some leisurely travel adventures. The idea of our anniversary was a background note to living our life together. It worked out well that we could travel, sail and spend time with friends, all activities mentioned in our wedding vows, but this was more coincidence than good planning.

If nothing else, our anniversary this year reminded me that life is good and that I’m looking forward to many more days turning into years.

April 5, 2012

Early Spring

Red Peonies

Last fall my Mom gave me a bunch of peony tubers from her yard. In a big push to get everything planted, we stuffed them into their shallow holes and hoped for the best. I couldn’t be happier. They are already up, full of buds and ready for a great summer. So far there have been no casualties. This mild winter and spring have been ideal for establishing a new garden.

Our sickly, city planted, crab apple tree, has also had an amazing comeback, thanks to liberal amounts of milorganite and is covered with beautiful blooms. Thanks for all the poop Milwaukee! Here’s hoping the mild weather continues.

Crab Apple Tree
April 4, 2012

Ants and Insulation

Lead Varnish

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about ants and insulation, or more broadly, about how to make the right choices around home ownership.

When you buy an old home, chances are good that it is going to come with some nasty materials like lead paint or asbestos. The photo above is the lead varnish on our front door. These were materials that used to be considered top grade, the best choices for the safety and longevity of your home. Now they are a health hazard that can cause all sorts of problems, not to mention extra expense for removal and extra stress about having this stuff in your home.

As we make improvements to our house, I can’t help but wonder how safe these new materials will be in 10 or 50 years. For instance, we’ve been using this new low VOC interior paint. Who knows what’s in there and whether it is really “safe”. We’ve also been talking about adding a lot of insulation to our home. It seems difficult to make informed choices or to know exactly what is included in the materials we are adding to our house. Home building materials fits into the ideology of do it now, consider the consequences later.

Another area of the home that is seems ripe with delayed consequences is pest control. I’ve long avoided using any kind of chemical or pest control service on my home. It just doesn’t seem smart. However, we’ve been invaded with a steady stream of huge black ants. They are the classic ant model and scurry all over our first floor. After much research and hand-wringing, I hired a service to spray the outside of our foundation, to create a chemical barrier. Immediately afterwards I started feeling guilty about all the good critters that live right outside our home like birds, snakes and rabbits. Who am I to be spraying poison around?

I know that if I take these concerns too far I’m going to end up living in a yurt, damp, cold and covered in bugs. So before I go that far, I guess I will make the modern chemical choices and hope the consequences are small.

  • Eating salted avocados with a spoon in Madison.
  • Blogging since 2003.