Monday, May 19, 2014

Forget the kitchen sink, pack the clothesline

“Remember to pack the clothesline!” I told Greg as we started filling our packs for a 67 day road trip in Europe. He looked at me like I was insane. “What are you talking about? We’ll do our clothes at a Laundromat. We don’t need a clothesline.” However, no matter where I have traveled, even in the US, I have always found I end up using my clothesline. Obviously humoring me, he got the nylon cord and stuffed it into a side pocket of a pack, along with a small bag of clothes pins.

Week 2, we arrived in Madrid with nothing clean. We were staying in an apartment we had booked specifically because it listed having both a washer and dryer. We tossed our clothes in the tiny washer in the bathroom and started searching for the dryer. When we couldn’t find one we thought maybe the washer was actually a washer/dryer combination but since the settings we all in Spanish we were missing something on how to operate it. We called our host, “yes, yes, the dryer, you can reach it from the hallway.” That was when we learned that dryer in Spanish was clothesline. We hung out what we could on the line from the hallway but there were three of us who had a week of really stinky clothes. It couldn’t hold all of them. The clothesline from the side pocket came out.

In the next couple of weeks we were fortunate enough to stay in places that had washers but when asked about a dryer the reply always came with someone pointing to a clothesline. We were in a hostel in Portugal when my husband started asking around for a Laundromat. We got sent to a laundry service but the cost was more than a nice hotel room for a night.  So we loaded it all up and went back to the hostel. They let us wash it there for $5 a load. A bargain in comparison to the service.  Their “dryer” was in the backyard but since it was pouring down rain we carted the clothes back to our room and got out our line.

In the next town we had got a great deal on a nice business hotel. Greg was done with having his jeans air- dried and stiff as cardboard. He wanted his jeans dried in a real dryer. The hotel’s laundry service was way out of our budget.  “There has to be a Laundromat in town” he insisted. It took a bit to explain to the desk clerk what we were looking for but when she got it she grinned and said, “Oh yes, I have seen those in movies! But we don’t really have them in Portugal. Maybe in Lisboa…..?” Greg went and bought more clothespins.

A few days later we arrived in a small coastal village on the Algarve coast. The owner of the studio we were staying in was an expat and one of the luxuries he had provided himself with was a dryer! I think Greg might have actually teared up a little when he pulled his jeans out of the hot dryer, soft and flexible. “We should open up a Laundromat here, we could make a fortune!” he said.

A few weeks ago we were going to Rabat, Morocco. It was a business trip and we were staying in a 5 star hotel. I still packed the clothesline. Greg didn’t say a word. Did I need to use it? Without a doubt!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

May Day

 As a pagan mom we love to do small things (and not so small) to honor the original seasonal holidays. May Day wasn’t originally my favorite holiday but I have always reveled in the first days of warmth and return of color from blooming flowers.  Even now that I live in a warm and sunny climate I still love the sense of spring. When my daughter was 4 yrs. old  May Day landed on a Saturday so we decided to celebrate by throwing a May Day party. An all ages party where everyone could party!

I wanted it to reflect May Days origins from small village festivals.  So first, we decided we wanted to be able to invite lots of people.  People we work with, people we rarely see, people we have lost touch with, people who are by our sides every day, people we want to get to know better, their friends, because isn’t it great to meet new people!  The first thing that came up was food.  If half the people showed up there was going to be no way to provide enough for everyone. Now I cringe when I see the word “potluck” but this seemed like the only route to go. I still refuse to use that word though, instead I just ask everyone to bring a dish or beverage to share. Yes, it’s a “potluck” but I still can’t use that word. I did decide not to tell anyone what to bring. Instead we tell them to bring whatever works best for them. A bag of chips to frog legs, it’s all good.

That ended up working better than I ever dreamed. Over the years we have had people bring the most wonderful foods that I would never have thought of. The table is never empty and often you will hear people sharing recipes. It's a mystery but it always works out.

Next, it’s May Day, so there needs to be a May Pole, right? The pole was easy; we made it out of a bamboo stalk from our yard. The ribbons, another story. Buying fabric long enough for a 10’ foot pole was going to be expensive. In the end, I scavenged thrift stores for cotton sheets.  Bingo! I found pale pink floral ones.  My daughter and I spent the day tearing them into strips and dyeing them rainbow colors. A fabric flower chain from a craft store glued on top.  Presto!  A beautiful May Pole for less than $10.

My next consideration was that there would be a lot of kids who didn’t know each other. I wanted to eliminate the awkwardness and shuffling feet.  This was solved by putting out a craft table where they could start doing something when they arrived. Quickly, kids of all ages were laughing, playing and thinking up new games to play. The first year I had vines and flowers to make floral wreaths.  They were beautiful but needless to say they boys were not quite as in to it. The second year, no one really wanted to make one. Everyone was much more into making sand paintings with the colored sand I had put out. Now come up with a new craft every year. I know it’s a good when the adults are doing it too.

My original vision of our May Day was of children and adults, with beautiful flower wreaths on their heads, dancing gracefully around the Maypole. However, most of our friends hadn’t even seen a May pole before, nevertheless know how to dance around it. Plus, trying to explain to young kids how to weave in out before their attention span is roving back to the treehouse, also, isn’t happening. So we let go and everyone just goes for it.! It’s pure chaos, but in that chaos, it’s also pure fun! The swirling and getting tangled up with each other creates lots of laughter. Maybe someday it will look like my original vision but it doesn’t matter if it does. Each year is perfect in itself.

This year was our 4th May Day celebration. It has become a favorite tradition, not only of our family, but many of our friends. Our yard is full of laughter, old friends and new, all day and then settles into night around the fire pit, until the clock passes into another day, kids asleep on laps.

I remember how good it felt one day when I overheard some friends talking, “ Are you going to May Day?”

Do you have a May Day tradition to share?