Saturday, June 29, 2013

Be My Guest

Six months ago I hosted my first writing guest in our newly remodeled studio. Derek, who graduated in my creative writing MFA cohort (and is a MagicalTeacher), was my test guest. For three days as the new year approached, he holed up in the studio and wrote while his friend painted.

Seattle Pacific University Summer '11 Cohort
at Camp Casey, Whidbey Island for our Spring '11 residency. Derek is on the left, I'm standing next to him.

They checked my instructions for Wifi access and Comcast music channels and thermostat setting and recycling sorting and scoured the room and my information sheet for anything missing. On their last night here I made borscht and they joined my family for dinner. We toasted to 2013 and to thriving in the midst of change and Derek paid me in wine and chocolate and great reviews and a few things my studio needed: olive oil and cheese knife and rock ice-cubes (they never melt!).  

Two weekends later another MFA alum, Todd, wrote while his wife explored the Island. 

Students studying creative nonfiction with guest faculty Scott Russell Sanders (second from top).
 Todd is on the left in the back row.
The weekend after that, the first guest I’d never met before booked through airbnb and spent a cold January weekend working on her resume and journaling. Since then, I have hosted twenty-six reservations (many for couples) through airbnb, and two writers through my business website.

Memorable guests include a writer in her twenties working on the first book in her science fiction trilogy set in an alternate history of Siberia, a travelling nurse working twelve-hour shifts three days a week in the Emergency Room at Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle who spent most of her week here sleeping, a copywriter living in Germany who stayed three weeks (my longest stay) working after dinner until 2 a.m. and visiting local relatives during the day, a Seattle nightclub owner who made a reservation at 11 p.m. (I get a lot of late night reservations) and arrived at 9 a.m. the next morning to work “away from the craziness of the city.”

A lawyer who'd gone on a mission trip to Africa with my prayer partner sent her husband here from Central California to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. He started a blog about parenting an adopted baby at this age, and submitted pieces to devotional journals. 

Michael, a stay-at-home father of four, who is president of his local writing organization found me through my volunteering with Field’s End writing community, came from Utah to spend a week working on a science fiction novel and plotting a romance. He took my husband and me out to dinner (now that’s a guest!) and we took him on a driving tour of the island. I may edit his book when it gets further along.

Michael on his island tour with Seattle in the background.

A woman from France who’d gone to college in Seattle brought her daughter to the US for the first time and stayed here two nights. One couple told each other stories using my Storymatic game and burned chorizo that set off the temperamental smoke detector more than once. 

Kelli and her husband rode their bikes to and from the Seattle ferry for the weekend so she could edit and illustrate (and take photos in yoga poses on my lawn) her upcoming book: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe.

Kelli Reefer, author of Peddle, Stretch, Breathe

I’ve also hosted students: a senior at UC San Diego came for a long weekend. Two graduate students at UW in Seattle worked on their theses without distraction. The student speaker from the most recent graduating class of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute came from San Antonio, where her sustainable business project has been assisting laid-off Levi-Strauss employees to form a worker’s cooperative that makes organically grown cotton jeans and clothing. 

Jeans with Justice presentation by BGI students

A man put the finishing touches on his master’s thesis in sustainability from a Swedish university (he’ll be working on a PhD studying the effects of climate change on coffee crops) while his wife perused my bookshelf, and read some of my own work.

So far, Derek has been my only repeat guest (and cat-sitter extraordinaire), but the trilogy writer says she’ll be back to work on her second volume next year. Other guests have expressed their desire to return in my guest book and online reviews, which have all been stellar—and I’ve worked hard to make it so.

Now that it’s summer, I’ve been hosting regular folk on vacation. They aren’t writing, but I’m happy to have them here as they borrow mountain bikes and kayak and peddle and paddle and simply relax in the studio and on the deck in this beautiful neighborhood with it’s lush view, long daylight, and ever-changing view of the Olympics. 

Our mountain bikes

Kayaking in Manzanita Bay near our house

The studio deck with rocking chairs

When I’m not in our garden battling weeds, I am washing a lot of sheets and towels vacuuming floors and cleaning sinks, counters, shower, toilet (Clorox wipes are my new best friends), and have come to appreciate compulsively neat guests, the kind who wipe crumbs and hair out of drains and strip the bed and fold the used sheets in a nice pile.

Today I interrupted my cleaning to order a new shower curtain liner and pillow protectors. Tonight, as I write about my guests and new life as innkeeper, I sit on my rooftop turf, cat and computer both in my lap, listening to the birds sing goodnight as the sky pinks and the water glows pearlescent and I give thanks for my great good fortune to be in this place at this time.

Sunset from the rooftop turf

Come be my guest, I’d love to share the magic with you.

Sunset over the Olympics

Monday, June 3, 2013

I'm Floored

I haven’t blogged for months and there’s so much I want to write about flooring. Yes, the surfaces underfoot.

I’m a wall-to-wall carpet kind of woman. It’s easy care, cushy under foot, hides cat hair, and despite the plethora of colors and textures, I’ve never had any trouble choosing carpet I like.

Since our house is mid-century modern, we branched out and bought two boldly patterned area rugs, one in the studio, and one in the living room. 

Studio rug

Living room rug

They’re colorful and fun, but not cushioned, and I don’t think I can use my carpet cleaner when they get dirty without soaking the floor below.

A few days ago, after months of extensive remodeling, we carpeted the majority of our basement, which is now a den and master bedroom. The area was instantly quieter (so long echoes) and warmer. A transformation with insulation.

New master bedroom

 It’s replacing our hard surfaces that trouble me. And it needs doing. The dark areas in our kitchen linoleum are thirty years of dirt, not part of the pattern.

30 year-old vinyl sheet flooring. Durable but dirty.

 My choices are dominated by wood, tile, plank laminate (Pergo, etc.) that mimics wood or tile, linoleum that also mimics wood or tile, there’s even tile that looks like wood. 

Everything is trying to be elegant as if I lived in a Spanish villa with terra cotta flooring, or an English castle with stone tiles, or a Cape Cod with the original wood floors, or a tract home in Pacifica with walnut stained Pergo in every room.

Today’s flooring is so serious. Where’s the whimsy? In the mid 1970s my family moved into a house with kitchen-dining vinyl sculpted with giant neon daisies. I loved hopping from sink to table, jumping from flower to flower.

I had the perfect vinyl once. I saw it in a friend’s house first. When my husband and I remodeled our first house in 1993, the pattern was on its way out, but still available. It was cheerful in our long rainy winters, and it hid everything, including frozen peas.
The vinyl and the dog I adored.
All I want now is something inexpensive and durable with a bit of personality and dirt hiding capabilities. Give me vinyl sheet flooring that’s not trying to pass itself off as printed stone, or photographed planks, something that says: I’m completely manmade.

I’m going to settle for this.

It doesn’t end there. One must choose baseboard, or quarter round, or coving—that strip of wood, or plastic that forms a seal between floor and wall.

The thing about baseboard is that you never pay attention to it until you do.

In the doctor’s office, draped in a paper gown, waiting for an annual exam, I scan the covers in the magazine rack, count the acoustic ceiling tiles, and the squares on the floor, eyes moving down the wall and there it is: ugly, yellowed, plastic strip three inches wide with a coat of dust along the fork-tine thin upper edge.

It’s there again in the library restroom, the ferry terminal, the supermarket, leading to the inevitable conclusion: baseboard is disgusting. And even worse, not only are the baseboards in my home old, painted, and scratched, but I must choose new baseboard for the rooms we’re remodeling.
Old baseboard with quarter-round trim.

At Home Depot the choices are ridiculous: ornate coves and scoops with ropey undulations that cover six inches of wall, baseboard that screams for attention from human eyes and dust. All I can think of are the many discrete surfaces collecting dust.

When I dust, especially if I use a wet rag, I only succeed in pushing dust into the corner where the wall meets. Over the years it grows in mass, slowly, like a wart, until it’s thick and firm and I poke at it with toothpicks and wet Q-tips.

I’m told baseboard is required. Carpet or bamboo or tile or vinyl can’t fit precisely against the wall in a seamless transition, so there must be trim. When I think of trim, I think of bias tape, and how you use the smallest width possible when sewing.

So my husband and I comb the aisle for the narrowest, plainest strips of wood we can find. And we don’t paint it a contrasting color to set it off from the wall, which is the current fashion.

My new trim is inconspicuous and modest, fitting for a house built in the early 1950s.

If you visit my house, I hope you will like my mod area rugs, enjoy the plush carpets downstairs, nod at the sustainable bamboo in the dining room, ah over the heated tiles in the master bath (to be installed), be impressed by the restored stairs, understand the potential in the original hardwood floors we have yet to refinish, and never notice the baseboards. Not once.

Refinished stairs, new den carpet, new hearth, paint, and yes, baseboards.