Saturday, May 24, 2014

Travel Diary: Colorful, Crooked, Charming Lisbon

Believe it or not, Todd and I weren't sure if we would like Lisbon. We'd heard mixed reviews of the city, some calling it shabby, its residents unfriendly. It turned out to be one of our favorite places we've ever been.

We left Boston Friday night and landed in Portugal early Saturday morning. Neither of us slept very well on the plane, so we were running on fumes by the time we arrived in Lisbon. We climbed a massive hill to our apartment, located in the oldest part of the city just outside the castle walls. After a quick shower (and excited bouncing around the apartment on my part), we set out to find some lunch.

I couldn't get enough of Lisbon's iconic yellow trams, which chugged up and down the cobblestone streets, leaving just a foot or two for people on the sidewalk. We rode one much later that night, after the tourists had cleared out, and it was an unforgettable experience.

We quickly discovered just how hilly Lisbon is, and we stopped every now and then at scenic overlooks, busy squares, and dimly lit bars, resting our feet and soaking up the atmosphere. We stayed awake by alternating between cheap glasses of vinho verde, espresso, and shots of ginjinha, a sticky sweet sour cherry liqueur.

Lisbon is known for its colorful, intricate tile work, and I was blown away by how prevalent it is throughout the city. I've never seen such beautiful buildings in my life. Lisbon's age shows in its peeling paint and imperfections, but it has a proud elegance, too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Down and Dirty: Spring Cleaning Checklist

While most normal people are looking forward to a relaxing Memorial Day weekend, I'm excited for something else: Spring Cleaning. I try to keep a pretty tidy house, but there are always those things I skip during my regular cleaning routine, and that's what I focus on during my seasonal sweeps. You can approach it task by task—windows, then floors, then dusting, etc.—or room by room (I prefer the latter). You could also try to knock it all out in one ambitious day, or, like me, do a couple of rooms each day to avoid burnout.

Now, my checklist for getting your house spic 'n' span.

In every room:
  • Vacuum/sweep and mop the floors. Don't forget the stairs!
  • Dust off bookshelves, tables, nightstands, etc. Ceiling fans, too.
  • Wipe down the baseboards.
  • Wash the blinds and curtains.
  • Wash the windows, mirrors, and TVs.
  • Wipe down the fronts of your cabinets and appliances.
  • Clean out the refrigerator, microwave, and stove.
  • Hose out your trash can.
  • Reorganize the under-the-sink mess.
  • Remove everything from the counters and give them a good scrub. 
  • Scrub the sink and stovetop while you're at it.
  • Clean and organize the top of your refrigerator.
Living room:
  • Pull out and vacuum under the heavy furniture. 
  • Vacuum under the couch cushions and rugs.
  • Wash your throw blankets and pillows.
  • Go through and discard any old magazines that are cluttering the room.
  • Wipe down your remote controls.
  • Switch out your bedding for warmer weather.
  • Wash your mattress pad.
  • Vacuum (and de-clutter) underneath the bed.
  • Organize your dresser and closet, storing your winter clothes.
  • Go through the junk on your dresser and nightstand. 
  • Scrub everything!
  • Clean and organize under the sink.
  • Hose out the trash can.
  • Organize your toiletry/makeup storage and linen closet.
  • Replace your shower liner and wash your shower curtain.
  • Sweep your porch, stoop, sidewalk, patio, deck, etc.
  • Clean out your junk drawers and closets.
  • Wash and vacuum out your car.
What did I forget? What's on your spring cleaning checklist? 
P.S. Have you ever paid someone to clean your house? I'll admit I'm tempted by Homejoy.
P.P.S. Sexist vintage advertisements.
P.P.P.S. How to make non-toxic cleaning products with stuff you already have in your pantry.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


I'm back from Portugal and Spain, and as good as it is to be home, and as excited as I was to start a new job, I'm still a little sad every day that I'm not waking up there. It all feels a little bit like a dream.

This particular beach was on the Costa Brava, a short but intense hike through woods and tunnels and stone staircases near our hotel. This was the view when we rounded the corner, and we realized why they call it Aigua Blava ("blue water" in Catalan). We hung out on the beach for an hour or two, soaking up the Spanish sun and watching the adorable French and Spanish families (complete with topless mamas) on holiday.

If you follow me on social media, you've already seen dozens of photos from the trip (like it or not). I'll be sharing more here soon.