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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Being the Perfect Air B&B Guest

When my family travels, we like to stay in houses instead of hotels, especially when we are going to be in a location for more than a day or two.  We've had great experiences with Air B&B and VRBO in locations from Hollywood, California to Bismarck, North Dakota. Some places are better than others, but I always try to keep in mind that this is someone's home, whether they are currently living in it or not. I also keep in mind that I am being rated as a guest and those ratings will be seen by property owners considering my request to rent their property.

So how can you be the perfect Air B&B guest? I have two basic principles - leave no trace, or if you do leave a trace, leave a good feeling. Think like a teenager after an illicit house party - make it look like you were never there. And, if you're so inclined, leave a little something behind to thank the owner. Here's how:

1. Take pictures of every room as soon as you get there.  We always check out the entire place when we get there.  It's easy enough to snap pictures while you take that initial tour. It will be a lot easier to get those little things like pillows, throw blankets and dishes in the right cabinets if you have pictures of the way you found it.

2. Carefully read and follow the owner's instructions about what to do before you leave. Each owner is different, but everyone likes to know you can follow directions. If you are staying for more than 24 hours, be sure to call the owner if you find any problems or have any questions.  Owners hate to hear complaints after you've gone, especially if they could have fixed them.

3. If you use up a supply of something, replace it. Most properties have some food staples, toilet paper, paper towels or cleaning supplies. You don't have to replace everything you use, but it's just a nice thing to do if you replenish one or more of the staples. Pay it forward for the owner and the next guest.

4. Don't leave stains or smells.  If you stain something and it is washable, take care of it. Likewise, if you stain something that can't be washed, don't try to hide it. If it's something small like a pillow, leave a little money or if it's big, like furniture or carpet, call the owner BEFORE you leave. Smells are tough too. I bring Scentsy with me when I can, but I can't carry multiple warmers in luggage. Airing out the house and some aerosol sprays can help, but be careful not to leave too much scent either.

5. Clean up. Some might disagree with me, but a home is not a hotel. You don't have to thoroughly clean the house, but at least gather up all the garbage. Clean the dishes and put them away. Make sure everything gets back where it was when you arrived. Strip the beds that were used and include the used towels. Wipe out the sinks and showers so you aren't leaving hair. Turn everything off and adjust the heat/cool settings where they were when you arrived. Again, be sure to follow the owner's directions.

6. Leave something behind. This can be as simple as a thank you note, a little candy, or a gift. Something for the house like dishtowels or cooking implements is a nice touch. If the owner has a guestbook, be sure to leave a nice note with some hints for the next guests about things to do.

I'm happy to have the option to stay in someone's house when I travel, so for me doing these little things is my way of expressing my appreciation and renewing confidence in good manners and kindness.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Valentine Heart Pillow

I found a pin on Pinterest that tried to replicate an Anthropologie pillow and this is my take on the same idea.  It's the basic Envelope Pillow Pattern in a neutral cotton fabric, with ragged edge hearts on the front panel. It's so easy to make and looks so fancy!

First, you MUST wash the base cotton fabric BEFORE cutting it or sewing the hearts on it.  You will also wash it after you sew the hearts on in order to create the ragged effect, but you don't want to find out after the pillow is complete that the cotton shrinks and your pillow form doesn't fit. Only after you wash the fabric proceed to cut it for the size pillow you want.  You can see the various sizes on the Envelope Pillow Pattern.  Mark the front panel of the pillow with pins so you know where to place the hearts. (The Envelope Pillow pattern uses a single piece of fabric for the pillow, so you need to figure out exactly where the front of the pillow is.)  You can do that in the third picture on the tutorial when you fold the fabric to make a square.  After finding the front panel portion, be careful as you sew the hearts not to sew on the "back" of the pillow.  

Now for the fun part - cutting each heart individually.  I did this without a pattern, but unless you are looking for uniform size hearts, you can't really make a mistake.  Cut a small square of your fabric, fold it in half, wrong sides facing with the raw edges to the left.

Starting at the bottom left corner (with the raw edges), cut diagonally up and to the right.

As you get to the right folded edge, curve back on the top to the left, turning the fabric in your hand.  Finish the curve with another diagonal (which will be the top center of the heart.

Open the fabric to see the finished heart. Easy!

Again, it doesn't matter what size hearts you cut.  Some of mine were thin (steeper diagonals) and some were fat hearts.  No matter how many hearts you decide to place on the pillow, be sure to take the time to arrange them and pin them on so you can see how they fit.

Now you're ready to sew. I used a contrasting brown thread so I could get the primitive look.  You are sewing these onto the right side of the pillow fabric, with the heart fabrics also right side up.  Leave a bit of a seam allowance so you have some fabric to "rag".  And take your time making those curves with the sewing machine, turning the fabric frequently.

This is what it looked like about halfway through sewing the hearts.

Once the hearts are sewn on, make some small perpendicular cuts around the hearts in the seam allowances, being very careful not to cut the seam.  This will help start the fraying process.  Wash the pillow and run your fingers over the raw edges of the hearts to help fray the fabric.  Don't worry if it doesn't immediately fray - it will over time and washes.

Finish the back of the pillow following the directions on the Envelope Pillow Pattern.  Insert your pillow form and enjoy your perfect handmade one-of-a-kind Valentine's pillow!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cool Stripes Afghan

It's been a while since I posted crochet work, but this one was worth the wait.

Yes, this is my favorite yarn, Bernat Blanket Stripes.  It comes rolled like a cake in these cool colors - this set is "Tiny Teal." I know I've said this before, but I LOVE this yarn!  It is so nice to feel the soft cuddly chenille-feel of this yarn as you work with it.

Believe it or not, I just used single crochet, alternating between the front and back loop. I chose to just keep going when the color changed even if it changed in the middle of a row.  If you would prefer more even stripes, you can cut it at an end before the color changes, but I thought that defeats the purpose of a single skein with multiple colors.

I wanted a blanket that would go with some new pillows I made and be big enough for adult use.  This blanket is about 33" x 60", and includes a single crochet border in the cream color. I used just a little less than 4 skeins. Please note this yarn is exclusive to JoAnn Fabrics.

It is nice and warm!