Learning the City

So, as I write this post, I'm in my backyard, which is a nice, very small oasis in the middle of the urbanish jungle. It's warm, and humid, and I'm drinking a Kombucha, which is very trendy, I think. 


It's been about six weeks since I last blogged, and in that time, the temperature has gone up a lot. Where we had snow before, we now have lots of lush greenery. Where it was 20 degrees? Now it's in the mid-eighties, and has been that way for a week. 

It's really like we've skipped spring and jumped straight to summer. Fitting for the midwest. And very normal, though we would probably all like to think it's not. 

Since the weather started to warm up (and by warm up I mean since the temperatures started to top out at forty or higher instead of twenty), Allen and I have been going for pretty frequent walks throughout our city. Most of these happen after dark. Often we end up walking into downtown, or along the banks of the river. 

Walks are when we catch up on the day and check in with each other, so the time we spend outdoors during these walks is pretty important. It's also the time of day when we decompress from the workday, or just to get out and breathe the fresh air!

Now, we've been walking around Cincinnati pretty much since we bought our house at the end of 2011. We live across the river from downtown. Our neighborhood has a high walkscore, which was part of its appeal when we were house hunting. 

In that time, we have walked very nearly everywhere that is walking distance from home. Before I go on, I should probably explain that we think of distances up to around three or four miles in one direction to be walking distance - as long as there are sidewalks or pathways to allow us to get to our destination.

So we have walked as far as Over the Rhine and 12th street in downtown, which is 2.2 miles from home. We've walked into other parts of Northern Kentucky, well into downtown, and in one instance, almost as far as the Cincinnati Museum Center (well, that was part of a road race, so it wasn't exactly walking). 

You would think we've walked everywhere. But we haven't. Yet. I would say we have walked almost everywhere we can walk, with the exception of parts of Fort Thomas (due to sidewalk access, it wouldn't be the smartest thing to do). 

Over the past couple weeks, we've checked off a few more areas from our list. One of those was the banks of the river in Covington. Or as I called it, the evening that I learned where photographers get the gorgeous panoramic views of the city. We did this to watch the fireworks from the Reds game on a Friday evening, but I could not get over just how gorgeous the view was, even before the fireworks began. 


It was a gorgeous sight to behold, and one that I'm eager to revisit in the future - I want to go with the dSLR (something I failed to do that evening) to take some lovely pictures of the cityscape, very nearly unobstructed. Our skyline in Cinci is not massive, but it is lovely, and every time I drive home it makes me smile. 

This past weekend, we ended up deciding we wanted to try to walk to Mount Adams, which is a not-so-hidden gem near downtown. It's actually a neighborhood we considered while house hunting, and even when originally moving to the area. However, it's quite the incline, and midwestern winters when they're rough? Well, we had concerns about being stuck on the incline for days  at a time. Unfounded, sure, but sensical. 

We didn't think we could actually walk to Mount Adams, actually, as it lies just above Route 50, which runs into downtown. But we wanted to try. We figured it was nice outside, so why not? 

Getting there was actually pretty easy, once we found the walking path and small bridgeway up into the neighborhood. It's by far one of my favorite places in the city to go, even if we don't make it to Mount Adams that frequently. The streets are narrow and windy, the houses are close together, and the homes are a mix of old and new-that-looks-old. It has an East Coast charm that feels homey, and on Saturday in the sun? 

Well, it was perfect. It took us maybe a half hour to walk up there, and after exploring the neighborhood and a sidewalk art sale, we ended up at Mount Adams Bar and Grill for a drink before we wound our way back through downtown and home. 

We both enjoyed one of our favorite summer brews: Bell's Oberon, a beer we have enjoyed for almost eight years - since we first discovered it in college.


Our walk back Saturday was a bit circuitous, taking us by the casino and through the park by the river before we finally made it home. It was a fun way to spend a few hours together, walking, talking, and just enjoying our lovely city home.

In many ways, we are still learning our city, and in many ways, we're just discovering new ways to enjoy it. I love this little big city of ours.

Divide and Conquer: Housework

I am a stubborn person. About most things. I'm not that stubborn about housework. I figure it will get done however it needs to get done. 

Which is to say: I don't care how the dishwasher gets loaded. Just that it does. And that it gets run and emptied accordingly. 

I say all of this to start because how we do housework in my household has changed just a bit since I started working four ten-hour shifts. I get home from work each night after normal dinner time, and that gives me limited time in the evenings to get stuff done. And my mornings? Well, there is only so much I can get done before it's time to leave.

The shift in my schedule and housework was spurred by a statement I made one night while we cleaned up from dinner: it just feels like everything is half done. And at the time, it did in a way. We were still adjusting to my work schedule, I was trying to fit in far more than I should have been on my days off, and there was a lot of partially completed tasks. Most of that came from my decision to take on a lot, and I realized I took on too much.

So, we redivided how we did the housework, cooking, and cat care, all to make our days, weekends, and days off a bit easier, and to bring some cohesiveness to the household that I was sorely missing. 

To start that process, we both sat down and wrote out what we do every morning and evening to keep the house running. We put down everything we do, from the little stuff like feeding the cats and packing lunches, to the big stuff like cleaning bathrooms, cooking, groceries, and vacuuming.

And then we looked at what needed some additional attention and decided how we were going to divvy it all up to get done. What we determined was a new cooking schedule: since I get home after eight on the days I work, Allen cooks those evenings. On my off days, if I'm not visiting family, I cook. Whoever cooks handles the surface cleaning (counters, stove, sweeping the kitchen) after dinner. Whoever doesn't cleans up the dishes. 

That's just part of it. We've split up the laundry duties in half - Allen does what he can while I work during the weekend, and I finish it up during one of my weekdays off. And there's other cleaning we've redistributed, mostly things like floors and various rooms. That's where we've ended up with almost a fifty/fifty distribution - housekeeping. 

What we do before work has basically stayed the same, but the evenings have changed up just enough that we're still adjusting. But it wasn't until we sat down and looked at all that we each do to keep the house running that it all made sense. Changing up who does what chores is where things are now just that much easier - the house runs a bit smoother, and nothing feels half-done anymore. 

The redivision of housework to get it all conquered is totally worth it to both of us - even on days when we both feel extra lazy. It's not quite fifty/fifty, but it works for us, and that's what matters. 

When the Heat Goes Out

Lessa Bundled Up

The Monday after my birthday our furnace died. Sort of. It would work, but when the furnace repair folks came to take a look at it? They told us explicitly that using it was dangerous until it was fixed. 

Let me just say that while I would love to tell you that you haven't lived until you've showered in a bathroom that is below forty degrees, I really wouldn't wish that on anyone. Though the steam from the shower got the bathroom pretty darn warm. And I had no idea that the house was below forty until I got downstairs that morning and promptly left to supplement our space heater supply. 

Until our furnace died, we only had one space heater. Now we have three. And we probably will not use them all but it's good to have them just in case. 

So, how did we survive? Well, it took a week for the parts to come in and be installed, so that was a long week without heat. Except looking back, it kind of flew by. Even when it was slow, and cold. 

For starters, our primary concern was keeping the pipes from freezing, so every faucet in our house was set to drip, and we did a little bit of directed heat under the sink in the kitchen and upstairs bathroom, along with working to keep the pipes warm where the water runs into the house.

Secondarily? Keeping us and the cats warm. As you can see by the picture above, Lessa decided that the best way to keep warm was to burrow. We joined her more often than not. There were lots of blankets. Lots of layers, and I didn't remove my Bearpaw boots at all unless I was in bed or in the shower. Seriously. 

In addition to the space heaters, we had a couple warm spots set up just for the cats with heating pads, microwave heat packs, and bundles of blankets. The space heaters we moved from room to room as we went, but our primary goal was to keep the house above forty. Both for us and for the pipes. We were mostly successful at that, but until we got there? Well, it was touch and go.

Mainly it was touch and go because I am not a patient person. Like, at all. I can fake it well. And I do my best, but I wanted my house to be warm. And it was pretty chilly. So I ended up spending one night over at a friend's house because I reached overwhelmed, impatient, and tired of being cold. So when she told me to pack an overnight bag and come over, Allen encouraged it, and I went while he stayed home with the cats. And kept the house at fifty(!!!) degrees. 

But when I was home there were layers. Blankets. The heaters. We were both very glad we decided to buy a duvet at IKEA back after Christmas. BUT when the heat was finally fixed, back on, and the house was a nice and toasty sixty-eight degrees? That was when we were happiest.

Except after a week of a fifty degree house? Now sixty-eight feels almost too toasty. Almost. 

Would I recommend going a week without heat? Not really, if you have a choice. But if you have to go without heat in the middle of winter? Layer up, use your space heaters strategically, and employ blankets. When all else fails? Take up any offers for a warm bed. 


Margarita at Nada

Okay, so life lately has just been a bit on the busy side. We've had a lot of snow for March. Like, oh, a lot. Last night I think we got four inches, maybe five, and places south of where we are got upwards of a foot. 

Welcome to the midwest, right? 

So I thought I would maybe share a little bit of what my "lately" has looked like. List form. Because, hey, why not?

Watching: Scandal. And 19 Kids and Counting. Because I just sort of really enjoy watching the Duggar family and their adventures. And who doesn't like catching up with Olivia Pope and Fitz?

Listening to: The latest from Walk the Moon. And Elise Gets Crafty, a great podcast about blogging, crafting, inspiration and motivation from Elise Blaha Cripe, one of my favorite crafty bloggers. It's great to listen to while I'm working out or headed to or from work, and definitely adds to my motivation to get stuff done each week!

Reading: I'm actually rereading Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar right now. I've been feeling a little extra domestic lately and just enjoy this take on the new domestic movement and feminism.

Wearing: Bearpaws. They're my favorite cozy suede and shearling boots and they are so. SO comfortable. And warm. Our heat went out last week. For a whole week. Which I'll write more about soon. But my feet were never cold, because I basically never took my Bearpaws off.

Eating: Brownies. Lots and lots of brownies. Okay, and salads made with spinach, mandarin orange segments, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar - super refreshing, light, and delicious! I've also been loving How Sweet Eats' General Tso's Chicken because it is amazing. Like a straight-up duplicate of the sweet and spicy chicken that so many of us love. 

Drinking: All of the tea. Hey, it's winter, it's cold, and I like some hot tea before bed every night. It's not the most exciting drink in the world, but it's delicious.

So, that's my list of my currentlys. I'll be back soonish with an update, and the tale of how we survived without a furnace for a week. Because the house wasn't warm. it wasn't frigid, but it definitely wasn't warm. 

On Time

Fringe Hours

So, I owed you this post a few days ago but our furnace died so, while it's a bit late, I hope you enjoy!

Going into this post, it feels a bit navel-gazey. Please don't be surprised if that pops up as a category here in the nearish future.

However, working four ten-hour days? And getting that mid-week weekend? Gives me seventy-two hours each week that I am not at work. That I technically have "free" as far as time goes. 

This is as free as you can get when you have a home to help maintain, six cats, and want to have a social life.

But I am totally guilty of falling into the trap that I don't have enough time. When really? Three days off a week should be plenty. It's all in how I'm spending it though - what am I doing with that time? 

And I also tend to feel guilty that I don't have enough time while also not making enough time for myself. By this I mean not making time to be lazy when I want to be lazy. Or to go running when I want to go running. Or making doing my nails (something I love to do) a low priority when I want to change my nail color. And then I get snippy because I didn't do what I wanted during time I had all to myself.

It's very confusing. 

Which is why when I started to see a book all about taking time for yourself pop up on blogs and instragrams all over? I kind of had to check it out.  

The book? Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner. I mean, guys? I walked to Barnes and Noble to try to buy this book. After a snow storm that gave us a combined twelve inches of snow. And ended up buying it for my Nook because the bookstore was closed due to that very snow.

That's how much I wanted to read this one to get a firm grasp of just what these Fringe Hours are, because sometimes? I feel like that's all I have, except it's minutes, and not hours.

And you know what? That's sort of how Turner breaks it down in her book. She talks about how women don't always make enough time for themselves. And also how she surveyed hundreds of women who all felt like they didn't have the time to have it all. 

Women who, I imagine, are kind of like me: married with a full-time job. I don't have kids, but we do have the cats, and there are times when I honestly don't feel like I have the time during the day to do what needs to get done and take time out for mindful self-care.

And that's where the fringe hours come in: the time you have at the fringes of your day. Lunch time. The hour after you wake up, before the rest of the house arises (I need to work on this). The time while dinner is cooking, or you're waiting for an appointment.

Turner says all this time adds up to time you can spend for yourself, doing things you love. This can be reading, or writing (as I'm doing now, from the guest bed of one of my girlfriends' homes), drawing, scrapping, sewing, cooking, working out - whatever you do to take care of you!

For me, these fringe hours come during the time after Allen leaves for work, when I'm finishing breakfast and playing with the cats. They come on my lunch break while I'm at work, where I've started taking a book to enjoy while I eat (or a walk after I finish my meal). They're time between dinner and bedtime on a work night, or the hours I have on the days I am off while Allen is at work.

The trick though, is to take advantage of that time. At least, that's the trick for me. To leave the dishes from dinner until morning so I can read or watch a favorite TV show with my husband. Or to take the time I have on my off days for things I enjoy. 

I did this last week when I was off - I went and got my eyebrows done, browsed a favorite bookstore, and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon with coffee, books, and relaxing when it was all said and done. 

And you know? I felt pretty rejuvenated at the end of that time. Enough so that I've been working on making my fringe time work for me more. Like when I read at lunch time. Or when I wake up early to go for a run. 

I only really recently read Fringe Hours, but it's made quite the impact on something I was already working hard toward, and that is that all-too-important self-time. So now, when I'm off on Monday and Tuesday, I try to make that time work for me, in addition to getting done what I need to accomplish.

It is making my free time more enjoyable, because I feel like there is more of it there to enjoy. And because I'm taking those little breaks out for myself? I'm a much happier person, to boot.

I enjoyed Turner's book so much I read it in just a few short days. It's one I would recommend to any of my friends who were struggling with free time. I can't say my free time problems are solved - far from it. But Fringe Hours gave me many ideas for ways I can make that free time work for me. 

**I purchased The Fringe Hours on my own, because I wanted to read it and I was not asked nor compensated to share this review of the book :-).