How Much is Enough?

When I first visited a small town in the mountains of Guatemala, I was told that most women there only had two outfits. I watched as they washed one set of clothing while wearing the other, and I tried to imagine paring down my closet to just two shirts and two skirts. (Or two pairs of jeans, because try as I might I just can’t get in the habit of wearing skirts and dresses in my everyday life.)

I went home and tried to clean out my closet. I didn’t get down to two changes of clothes, but I did end up with a generous pile of clothes to give to Goodwill. I was pretty good about keeping my wardrobe minimal. And then I moved to San Diego, a city that is ridiculously obsessed with image. And I started dancing tango. As you might have guessed, I ended up with a lot more clothing, most of it warm-weather casual wear and pretty skirts and dresses.

It was a bit of a shock to move to Germany and remember that the whole world isn’t as image-conscious as Southern California. I suddenly felt very fashionable in much more basic outfits. I feel much the same here in Wales (although the occasional trip to places like London remind me that it’s good to have at least a couple nice things to wear, too). It helps that I also work from home and can throw on random t-shirts every morning.

So after a good hard look at my closet, and a realistic look at the more moderate climate here in Wales, I’m ready to pare down again. Enter Project 333. The idea behind this project is to find 33 pieces of clothing to wear for the next 3 months. Everything else is boxed up and put away. The basic rules for Project 333 include clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes in those 33 items, but I think for my first time around I will be a bit more lax on that and focus just on clothing. My plan is to start the project in May, so I’m going to spend the next week picking clothes and preparing my closet. I’ll try to remember to share my pared-down wardrobe once I decide on the pieces!

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Easter in Eton

A four-day weekend is a good reason for a road trip. Plenty of other people had the same idea, but thankfully the long line of cars on the highway was headed into Wales instead of out of it. We had a smooth drive down to Eton, to spend the holiday dancing and eating.

Between Friday and Monday, we danced about 22 hours. We started almost as soon as we arrived on Friday night, and we danced until we absolutely had to get back on the road on Monday night. And it was worth the drive. The milongas were full but not overcrowded, and the floorcraft was some of the best I’ve seen at special events. Kudos to the organizers, DJs, and locals who helped set the tone for the weekend.

I had a bit of a slow start on Friday with quite a bit of sitting and watching (not surprising since we arrived not knowing anyone) but by Saturday night I was dancing quite a bit — and by Monday I was making promises to see other dancers at upcoming events. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. My only concern is being able to make it to all of these new places!

The town itself was charming, too. I have to admit that we didn’t spend too much time sightseeing, but we enjoyed some good meals. My favorites were a French restaurant that turned out to be a chain (but really didn’t feel like one) and a local North African restaurant with lovely decoration, good music, and very yummy food. The only bad thing about eating during a tango festival is that I have to avoid garlic (unless I want the leaders to avoid me).

After brunch on our last day in Eton, we also took a stroll along the River Thames. There is a beautiful riverside walkway, so we enjoyed the sunshine and the swans before heading to the afternoon milonga. All in all, a perfect holiday weekend.

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Amelie’s Cafe & Restaurant in Conwy

The other day, my husband I decided to take a quick walk at lunchtime. The plan was to pick up a few groceries from the shop on high street, but first we decided to grab some kebabs at the nearby Kebab, Burger, and Pizza House. (I am amazed at how common it is here to see those varied cuisines combined into one restaurant. So far we’ve only had the kebabs, and they are very tasty.) Sadly, the restaurant was closed, so we started the walk up high street, trying to decide if we wanted to eat somewhere else or just get sandwich fixings from the grocery store to eat at home.

As we neared the store, I spied a little sign that I’ve walked by countless times: Amelie’s Cafe & Restaurant. From the street, all you see is the sign, a posted menu, and a curiously small but inviting entryway. You can’t see inside the restaurant, which is tucked away up a flight of stairs. On a whim, we decided to check it out.

I’m so glad we did. It was a warm, inviting, comfortable cafe. The counter at the front held an array of sweets, drinks, and an espresso machine, and the room was lined with tables and decorated with French posters and other knick-knacks. We were invited to sit down on one of the couches while they cleared a table for us.

We both tried a grilled chicken sandwich, which sounds rather ordinary but was really tasty, accompanied by veggies on fresh bread with basil mayo and balsamic on top. It was just a quick lunch this time around, but I’m looking forward to returning for a relaxed cup of coffee and a piece of cake or a scone or one of the other tempting desserts I eyed on our way out.

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Geocaching around Conwy

A map of geocaches around Conwy

When my brother took up geocaching years ago, I didn’t get it. I still remember taking a walk right after a heavy rainfall, and my brother stopped partway through to go trudge through the mud to find a cache. I just stood there on the trail, wondering what would possess someone to get all muddy and damp just to say they found a little container hidden in a field.

The first time I remember getting excited about geocaching was in Germany. My parents were visiting, and we decided to go for walk. My dad had been getting into geocaching and had looked up some nearby caches, so he brought along his GPS. At some point during our walk we veered off into a little wooded area. And after searching high and low, my dad found the cache. He kindly gave me hints while I continued to search, until I finally saw it hidden at the base of a tree.

From then on, I started thinking of geocaching as an excuse to explore. To me, it isn’t necessarily about finding the cache (although I admit that’s a cool feeling). It’s also about having a reason to visit a particular place, to go somewhere new and just enjoy being out and about.

If you look at the map above, those smiley faces around Conwy are the caches I’ve found already. They were mostly caches of opportunity. I just had the idea to look more strategically, to plan out the next caches I’ll look for. As the weather gets consistently warmer around here, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble coming up with new places to explore. :)

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Walk around Bodlondeb Woods

This morning I stepped outside, felt the warm air and sun on my face, and had a single thought: Today is the perfect day for a bike ride.

So when lunchtime rolled around, I grabbed a light jacket, pulled on my tennis shoes, and tied my hair back. Grabbing my keys, I opened the door and … realized that I couldn’t get to my bike. You see, my bike is in the garage, and we don’t have access to the garage from inside the house. The only way in is to go outside and open the garage door. With the garage door opener. The one my husband drove away with when he left for work.

Not to be deterred from the beautiful weather, I revised my plans. I quickly scanned the map for a walking route that would fit into a reasonable lunch break and still take me somewhere new. That’s when I noticed the walking path that goes around Bodlondeb Woods, along River Conwy:

Bodlondeb Wood Map

It ended up being the perfect place to walk. I made a two-mile loop, meandering a bit by the water and quickly escaping the tourists by taking a side street when I got back into town. And I made a mental note to return to Bodlondeb Woods soon to check out some of the trails that criss-cross through there.


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