My Tips for Making Our Home Stay Clean Longer

After Hours, Behind the Scenes

I mentioned before that Husband and I have been together for 20 years. The round number got me reminiscing about various details of our early life together.

After I moved to the U.S. and Husband and I got married, we of course had to figure out in concrete ways how to fit our personal habits and preferences and two cultures together. Some things we had, in fact, already figured out while dating across an ocean – like how to make lasagne – but there were surprisingly many details we hadn’t thought of before we were actually faced with them.

Towel Day 2014

Thankfully, we never had to argue about cleaning since we both have allergies, including of household dust, and since we both prefer a mostly orderly environment; we just needed to figure out the details. And since I’m a lazy cleaner, I want to be as efficient as possible. 🙂

Here are my cleaning tips, all non-appliance, non-product related. They may or may not work for you, but if they do, I’m delighted.

Note that we don’t have kids or pets, so if you do, I’m sorry but I don’t have any magic bullets. A certain amount of elbow grease and willpower / routine building is required.

 

1) Air the House Every Morning

Fresh air is great! We open windows every morning in the bedroom, our offices, the kitchen and the dining room. We picked these rooms so we could get a cross-breeze on both floors. And yes, we do air the house even in the heating and in the pollen seasons, just not as long.

2) Cleaning As You Go

My preference is to clean as you go if at all possible to avoid stains from drying or setting before the next cleaning day. Then you don’t have to scrub quite as hard, and milder detergents are enough.

3) Doormats at All Doors

We were fortunate to have found an apartment without wall-to-wall carpeting (=allergy-friendly) for both of our joint rental apartments AND the house we fell in love with and bought. To protect the floors, we have doormats at every entry into the house (and almost all the way from the garage upstairs) to catch the worst drips, drops and dregs.

4) Everything in Its Place

We’re not 100% successful in returning everything in its place after using it, but everything does have its own home. Makes it so much easier to de-clutter while cleaning.

5) Machine-Washable Curtains

Because of our allergies, all of our curtains are machine-washable. Area rugs aren’t, but we’re pretty fastidious about vacuuming them and do it every week.

6) No Shoe Policy

Also, we don’t wear shoes indoors and wash our feet if we’ve been in the yard barefoot.

7) Pair Up Your Socks, Then Toss Them into the Laundry

I’ve never lost a sock since I started doing my own laundry thanks to this trick: before tossing socks into the laundry bin, roll a pair up so that they stay together. (One sock goes into the leg of the other one; not quite military-style rolling but kind of.) Then, when I do laundry, I separate the pair so they’ll get properly washed, and match every pair while hanging them to air dry. That way it’s very easy to gather and roll them up again for storage.

8) Tissues in Every Room

Well, not quite, but most spaces that we spend a long time in do have their own tissue box. That way we don’t have to look for them when urgently needed. (Curse you, allergies!) Same applies to scissors: buying a few extra pairs of dedicated scissors for every location where we regularly need them means no time wasted hunting for a pair.

9) Separate Dumping Grounds

We both have an individual area in the front hall and at the bedside to dump our pockets and bags into, so that (hopefully!) the odds and ends won’t get lost.

 

Any other useful habits you can recommend? Please share!

Vote with Your Wallet: Shopping in Support of Black People

This Is Important

This post is part of my response to the George Floyd protests.

Here in the U.S. where $$$ all too often matters more than other concerns, we can vote with our wallets as well as at the ballot box. Below are a few links I’ve found helpful.

Twitter Oh Happy Dani Until You Fix It Here

Danielle Coke at Oh Happy Dani

 

 

One more thing to note, though, for maximizing your effect: consistency.

We all know that long-term attention is a factor in getting the best results. Make supporting someone as easy as possible for you: use a calendar, app, membership platform, shopping club, whatever might work best for you. And keep at it.

 

 

Finally, here’s a non-shopping-related bonus entry from the Southern Poverty Law Center: a long list of circumstances with clear, concise examples (once you narrow down to a specific situation) for responding to bigotry in everyday situations.

Anything else you’d add? Please share! There are plenty of lists out there depending on your interests.

Image by Danielle Coke at Oh Happy Dani, found at her Twitter.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Some Thoughts on the Sanditon Screen Adaptation

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

As a Jane Austen fan, I’ve followed the birth of the screen adaptation of Sanditon in this blog. Having seen the series and allowed my brain to properly chew it for a couple of months, now it’s time to share some of my throughts.

Note: Spoiler warning is in effect!

According to IMDB, the main writing credits for this miniseries belong to Andrew Davies, with assists from Justin Young (episodes 3, 4, 6 and 7) and Andrea Gibb (episode 5). I haven’t seen any of Young’s writing, but I have seen Gibb’s Call the Midwife episodes and as far as I can remember, I liked them. In the past I’ve had mixed feelings of Davies’s work, but I’d assumed it was due to the material he was adapting (Dickens just doesn’t do it for me).

I may now have to adjust my opinion of Davis’s writing. Although I should like to know how big of a say the producers and/or financial backers had, for his earlier adaptations were much more internally consistent.

The best I can say about the writing in Sanditon is that it was very uneven throughout, which hurt both the characters, plot and pacing. Moreover, the ending was left open, clearly fishing for season 2, but since this first season didn’t give us much to recommend itself, the intended cliffhanger feels rather insulting instead.

Guest blogger Yosa Addiss critiqued the costuming at Frock Flicks. I don’t have much to add except to say that for a fantasy story set in the regency (or regency-like) period the choices would’ve been more acceptable.

The same goes for the sets. Indeed, some of the interior scenes, specifically at the masqued ball, remind me of the 1986 movie Labyrinth. Just compare these two photos below, the first from Sanditon and the second from Labyrinth:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine The Dance Sanditon

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

Basement Rejects Labyrinth Ball Scene

Labyrinth (1986) via Basement Rejects

There were other sets that looked more period-appropriate, but I don’t know enough of the details of period architecture and interior design to really say. For instance, the Parkers’ house had a room or two with multiple faux framed paintings that were literally painted directly onto the wall (or wallpaper?). That was a very interesting choice.

Frock Flicks Sanditon Ep1 Faux Paintings on Wall

Sanditon (2019) via Frock Flicks

Overall the sets and photography looked gorgeous, and the lighting was just lovely; I just don’t know how well the design choices represented regency in general.

All of the faults would be more tolerable, however, if the adaptation cast of characters equalled that of Austen’s writing. Sadly, it does not.

The best thing about Jane Austen’s characters is that even when they’re superficially the same, they’re all different. They remain their own people. Every single Bennet daughter, for instance, has their own individual personas, habits and characteristics. Poor Jane Fairfax is different from poor Fanny Price. Notable men in their thirties like Colonel Brandon and Mr. Knightley are very different indeed from each other.

In addition, even the most odious of Austen’s characters often have one or more redeeming qualities. The Sanditon adaptation lacks in this respect, too. Our supposed hero, Mr. Sidney Parker, is initially barely distinguishable from his two foppish drinking buddies he drags to Sanditon for a change of scenery, and it looks like we were supposed to fall for the forced, artificially drawn-out, unconvincing hate-love tug-of-war between him and Miss Heywood a la Pride & Prejudice.

(Incidentally, one of Mr. S. Parker’s London buddies surprisingly turns out one of the best invented characters of the series, but I’ll return to him later.)

Miss Brereton and Miss Denham both come across as bickering sour bitches, with the only difference that Clara is a sexually abused gold digger and Esther a lovelorn gold digger. Miss Lambe reminds me of Lydia Bennet, apart from having a fortune, and the young ladies she lodges with are completely bland. The rich Lady Denham is simply a copy of Lady Catherine, only with an ailment and sans a daughter. Mr. Denham’s a slimy git who resembles Mr. Wickham; of him I have very little to say and none of it good.

Young Mr. Stringer, a builder and aspiring architect, was an enjoyable addition, but sadly he wasn’t given much to do besides complain about not being paid, pine after Miss Heywood and eye moodily at his competition, Mr. S. Parker.

Mr. Parker is defined by his monomania over Sanditon and his irresponsibility, but at least he genuinely loves his wife. I liked the little we were given of Mrs. Parker, but, again, her character fell quite flat; apart from the role of supporting wife and devoted mother, she was good-natured and that was all.

The hypochondriac comic relief characters, Miss Parker and Mr. Arthur Parker, perhaps stay truest to the kind of characters Austen had a habit of writing, and they remain simply delightful throughout.

As I said, it was quite a surprise to find Lord Babbington rise to the level of an Austen hero. He accidentally meets with the pining Miss Denham, falls for and attempts to pay court to her. As we learn more about him, Lord Babbington starts to redeem himself in our eyes and to display quite a different set of characteristics than his drinking buddies (one of whom’s a drunk git and should never have been given as many lines as he was).

Babbington was looking better and better, and the we hit episode 7 where Mr. Denham bursts into a ball and makes a final plea for Miss Denham’s affections despite her obvious disinterest. Mr. Sidney Parker and Lord Babbington physically stop him from getting close to Esther. Later Babbington tells her: “Your brother is not going to make a victim out of you. I’ll not allow it.”

Seriously, crushing hard here! He’d become attractive before, but this kind of determination and caring? Romance novel stuff. Jane Austen romance stuff! This here, right here, is exactly how Austen heroes behave. So why the everloving fork is it that the whiny Mr. S. Parker is the protagonist of the adaptation and Lord Babbington is not?!?

In fact, Lord Babbington and Esther Denham’s story is more compelling to me than that of Miss Heywood and Mr. S. Parker. Babbington and Esther even get the gorgeous wedding at the end:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine Babbington Denham Wedding

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

I seriously suspect I have a headcanon coming…!

I still need to watch Sanditon again to be sure, but it seems I’m leaning into the direction of not considering it a Jane Austen work, but a more generic (fantasy) regency drama.

Have you seen Sanditon? What did you think of it?

Letter Tiles Make a DIY Floor Better

Arts & Crafts, Geek out!

While browsing my inspiration binders for solutions for another problem, I rediscovered this nifty floor treatment from ReadyMade magazine June/July 2010:

ReadyMade June-July 2010 p88

Robin Reimer; photo by Kritsada Panichgul. ReadyMade magazine, June-July 2010, p. 88

As a word nerd, I especially appreciate repurposing letter tiles for this project (likely from Scrabble). Right outside an exterior door may not be the best place for wood tiles, though, but I suppose thorough finishing would take care of that.

The only problem if I were doing this kind of a project might be the urge to arrange specific words here and there and getting carried away with it! LOL! 🙂 😀

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Faux Fireplace with Tablecloth “Tile” Surround

Fabrics & Materials, Inspiration, Stunt Double

I’m always on the lookout for unusual solutions to decorating problems. The fireplace below certainly applies: despite it’s traditional looks, the reality is very non-traditional.

DSponge Schroors Netherlands Fireplace Sm

It’s from the Drachten, Netherlands, home of Mindy and Theo Schroor. From their description (the mantel is “purely decorative”) it sounds like the fireplace is a faux one built around an electric stove. The tile surround is actually a tablecloth mounted to the wall.

I’ve seen clever faux fireplaces before. In this one, it’s the tablecloth surround that really makes the whole, however: the print displays copies of Dutch artists’ work and details from Delftware ceramics, repeated tile-style, as a lovely nod to the local history. The history nerd in me definitely appreciates the choice!

Found via design*sponge.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Experimental Cooking: Popcorn Nachos

DIY, Food & Drink

Due to various dietary restrictions (some old, some new), we’re trying out different versions of old favorites and recipes completely new to us. This means food experiments! Here’s Husband’s latest: popcorn nachos.

Experimental Cooking Popcorn Nachos

It works surprisingly well, even if the result is a bit crumbly. As long as you’re using a fork, it’s fine.

You don’t need a recipe as such, but here’s the how-to:

  • Pop a batch of corn and pick out the unpopped kernels. Spread in the bottom of a baking dish.
  • Top with a light layer of salsa, chopped peppers, olives, mozzarella, etc. – whatever you’d put on regular nachos.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit / 175 Celcius until the cheese melts.

Did you try it? What did you think?

Some Self-Promo Stats

Ahem Ahem!, Behind the Scenes, DIY

As any creative knows, self-promotion is hard. Really, really hard. And most likely you signed up for your creative job specifically for the creative part, not necessarily realizing that self-promotion is a part and parcel of that job. I know I did – rather, I thought I knew about the challenges of the promo aspect, but the reality, as they say, has a way of sneaking up on you.

Buy My Stuff

While being excited to share your work with the world is understandable – it’s a product of hard work you’re proud of, after all – it’s easy to lose yourself in the promotional whirl. I can think of nothing worse than to inadvertently cross the fine line from sharing your excitement to unsolicited pestering. In fact, I dread it. Like author Delilah S. Dawson says about self-promo:

“…[I]f you do certain annoying behaviors, you’re shooting yourself in the foot and actively repelling people instead of interesting them.”

The equation often feels impossible. I have marketing needs and goals. I need to get out certain information like holiday schedules or rising shipping costs. I also want to let people know about new arrivals in my shop, like the breast cancer awareness items I made in 2014. Achieving those needs and goals seems opposed to the way I want to promote my business, though. I fear becoming yet another spammer, barging uninvited into other peoples’ spaces with my Exciting!! opportunity to purchase my new Exciting!! thing right at this Exciting!! moment. Also, I can’t have my blog to turn into a boring, soulless infomercial channel; I couldn’t stand that myself.

How much should you be talking abot your business, then? There are various rules of thumb with proportions like 4-1-1, 6-3-1 or 5-3-2:

  • 50-75 % signal-boosting other people’s content / curated content
  • 30-15 % original content created by you / owned content
  • 20-15 % sales-related content / promotional (or, in one version, personal status updates)

Or, more simply, there’s the 80-20 rule:

  • 80 % curated content
  • 20 % owned content

Short, informative explanations of these ratios (and more) can be found by Kevan Lee on Buffer.

To see how I was doing, I pulled some statistics. From mid-2013 to the end of 2015, I’ve written 267 posts here. 18 were in my business promotions / notifications category (Ahem, Ahem), which amounts to under 7 % of all posts.

On the basis of these numbers, I could increase my self-promo posting. I have, in fact, been thinking of writing the stories of how some of my items came to be, from the idea to design to prototypes and making the final products. They take a lot of time and effort, though, so before deciding, I need to have some idea of whether it’s worth spending that time writing or whether it would be better to design and sew instead.

What do you think – too much or too little as it is? More pictures? More text? Or more of the general Behind the Scenes posts on running a small creative business? Let me know what interests you!

Signal Boosting: Help Families of Charleston, SC Mass Shooting Victims

This Is Important

I’m signal boosting efforts to help out after the mass killing in Charleston, South Carolina. Please consider reaching out for example by:

Screencap from CNN.

Screencap from CNN.

Image above: screencap from CNN.

Increase in USPS Rates & New Shipping System in Place

Ahem Ahem!, Behind the Scenes

USPS is raising their rates on Sunday, May 31, 2015. I ship through the post office, which means shipping and handling costs for my Etsy shop are also affected.

Since I was going to have to modify my shipping charges in any case, I decided to join Etsy’s new calculated shipping program for U.S. sellers. It means that shipping charges are automatically calculated based on 1) a buyer’s actual location, 2) the seller’s actual location, and 3) the size and weight of the item(s) being shipped.

Changes for buyers are minimal. When viewing an item, buyers enter a U.S. ZIP code (or a non-US country) on the Shipping & Policies tab to generate shipping costs. The price shown will be for the least expensive shipping method offered by the seller that is eligible for the total weight and dimensions of the item(s).

Weighing and Measuring

For me, calculated shipping means I’m both able to give shoppers more accurate shipping costs and save time myself with the new back end settings. Previously, it took a lot of work for me to to determine shipping costs.

I spent last weekend weighing and measuring every item in my inventory, creating new shipping profiles, entering the figures into my shop interface on Etsy, and making sure all t:s were crossed and i:s dotted.

The new settings are now in effect. I have checked my data entry, and everything should be in order, but if you see anything odd, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note.

Happy weekend!