Dealing with an Unwanted Houseguest

If only it were this charming in real life.

If only it were this charming in real life.

I recently had a houseguest who came uninvited and just would not leave! He was a mouse, though, who I first saw as little flashes in the corner of my eye. Nah, I said, it must be my imagination. Then I finally saw him with his beady little eyes and twitchy little nose. I broke the news to my roommate gently, “I don’t want to alarm you but I have seen a mouse…”

As compassionate (and squeamish) people, we decided to go with discouragement first, rush ordering some Mouse Away spray from Amazon Prime. As I was spritzing the perimeter of our living room, I discovered Sir Mousey’s treasure trove of snacks- a forgotten roll of rice cakes left in my roommate’s storage bin. Since she was asleep when I made my discovery and we wouldn’t see each other for at least 48 hours I felt I had no choice but to send her an email so she could deal with the situation post haste. Often the realm of passive aggression, the roommate email is sometimes the best way of sharing bad news- “Hey, so sorry, wouldn’t normally write this in an email but I won’t be home tonight and the mouse has pooped all over your stuff and you’re probably going to want to deal with that sooner rather than later.”

The news got worse. After a weekend mostly out of the apartment, I returned to find that she had done a massive clean of her room and discovered that the mouse had made a nest out of the hay she keeps for her bunnies- in her LLBean Boot. A couple of days later and we have finally purchased lethal traps and hope to have the matter resolved shortly.

In the meantime, I have written a poem in honor of our bewhiskered friend and offer my apologies to Robert Burns for the blatant ripoff:

To A Mouse

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beastie,
Oh, what a panic is in your breastie!
Please run away so hasty
With your hurrying scamper
From behind that laundry hamper
Where I see you hiding basely.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies your ill opinion
Which makes you think
That you belong indoors
And makes me you abhor.

I have found the evidence that you steal;
Making rice cakes your poor meal!
Hay meant for bunny’s bed
Makes the thoughts stir in your head.
But when you use it to make your house,
Then we are sorry, Mr. Mouse.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls an LLBean Boot!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
You may think me quite a brute
To have cleaned it out
But you must leave, and there’s no doubt.

You saw the streets laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, inside a closet,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! We couldn’t pause it.
You, we had to expel.

That small bit heap of straw and hay,
Probably took you many a day!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
We have bought a mouse trap, on the double.
To finally put an end
For our peace of mind, we must defend.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

You had thought you had found a welcome home!
To find you will enter your catacomb.
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
And wish I had never lost my cat.
Who would have prevented me from having to spy,
A mouse upon my mat.

How to Socialize When You Are Broke

If all else fails, suggest some free activities such as jumping over a bonfire. []

If all else fails, suggest some free activities such as jumping over a bonfire. [Via]

I don’t know how it happened, but this month I just…blew out my budget and ran out of spending money. It happens to the best of us from time to time. However, just because you are broke right now, it doesn’t mean all your friends are and they still want to hang out with you! But how do you navigate this tricky situation where you can’t do the usual cocktails, dinner, or a movie (I live in NYC and going to a movie is like $20 now!)?

You speak up!!! Not speaking up about these things is how people get themselves into massive debt trying to keep up with the Jones. So a friend texted me and was like “let’s hang out this week!” And I hemmed and hawed for a bit and then finally responded that I’d love to, but it had been a really crazy month and I was out of money, but if we could do something very low key, I would be down.

Of course in these situations, these people are your friends and they want YOUR company, so naturally, she came back with, oh, sure, why don’t you come over to my house and we can have wine and snacks and it will be great.

I think we so often worry that talking about money is rude, or people are going to judge you or not want to hang out with you if you can’t afford to do fun stuff. But, if they really are your friends and decent people, they will be more interested in working with you than against you.

The Ultimate Vacation: The Grand Tour

On man's Grand Tour [Via]

On man’s Grand Tour [Via]

As the summer draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about how the idea of a “vacation” is a relatively new idea for most people- prior to the invention of the railroad, travel was extremely slow and expensive. And before the industrial age, few people could leave their farms or other work for even a short period of time. However, one group was able to travel for pleasure- the sons of the wealthy upperclasses- who codified their youthful trip through Europe as The Grand Tour.

The concept began as early as the 1600s and continued until the mid 1800s when regular travel became easier. This wasn’t a quick jaunt either, young men would spend months or even years on their trip. And this wasn’t Europe on $5 a Day. These young men were very wealthy and carried letters of introduction to stay with their aristocratic peers at castles and manors across the Continent. It’s traditionally associated with the British nobility, but was also undertaken by North and South Americans and some other Europeans.

The idea was for a post college graduation trip to see the classical world that they had studied (back when mastery Latin and ancient Greek were the hallmarks of the classical liberal arts education). Italy was the prime location to go and study the art and architecture of Rome, Florence, and Venice. In a time before museums really existed, it was only the aristocracy that had access to a lot of the famous works of art because they could appeal to their peers who owned them to let them in for a look. Inspired by seeing these classical artworks, many gentlemen set out to acquire some of their own. They were also inspired architecturally to create their own grand estates back at home in the style of the ancients, which gave rise to the Neoclassical period of architecture.

Other key destinations in the Grand Tour were Paris (to improve one’s French, the language of sophistication at the time), Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Holland. Of course, it was not all about the serious study of art and architecture. Grand Tourists made plenty of time for wine-ing, dining, and partying with all the loveliest and wittiest people in the highest circles. They weren’t all totally selfish either, sometimes they would bring artists (who would benefit tremendously from the exposure to ancient and Renaissance art) and other people of lesser means with them as companions.

The advent of the industrial age and the greater ease of travel opened up the idea of a “grand tour” of Europe to more and more people. It eventually became fashionable for older women to take grand tours of Europe, bringing along a lucky daughter or niece as a companion (for propriety and for the younger lady’s education). Of course, the idea still exists in the concept of a “gap year” in many countries, or just the general “study abroad” or “backpacking around Europe” that are still wildly popular today.

 

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do That Anymore: Travel in 1920

Original Penn Station [Via]

Original Penn Station [Via]

With peak summer vacation time coming to a close (if you’ve been wondering why we haven’t been posting much lately, it’s because we’ve been on vacation!), I thought it would be a good time to check in with Emily Post and see what she had to say about traveling in the 1920s.

Some pretty solid advice:

  • On trains (the main type of public transport at the time, most advice applicable to airplanes today), don’t eat smelly food (or smoke cigars) that are going to disturb other passengers. She mentions bananas specifically.
  • Keep your children occupied so they don’t disturb other passengers.
  • When traveling by boat to Europe (ie a cruise today), unless you are very wealthy and have many friends also traveling on board with whom to arrange a dining table, you should sit where the steward puts you and make conversation with your dining companions throughout the trip (a good story for another day is the time when Jaya and I were on a cruise with two other girls and the other four people at our dinner table basically did not talk to us the entire time!)
  • Don’t bother people with incessant talking when it’s clear they are not in the mood to talk. Try out a few remarks, but if they go back to their book, you need to go back to yours.
  • Don’t be an ugly American when traveling abroad (it’s impressive this was a problem as far back as the 1920s!)
  • Don’t steal from other countries/monuments for souvenirs. And don’t deface historical monuments to leave your mark.
  • Avoid traveling with others and potentially ruining their holiday if when traveling you are frequently in a bad mood, often don’t want to go along with what the group wants to do, get very frustrated with delays or bad weather, or get sick very easily. Don’t go on a boating trip if you get seasick, don’t go on hikes if you can’t walk very far, etc. The good traveling companion is cheerful, gets along with others, knows their limits, and avoids complaining about inevitable discomfort.

Surprising Advice:

  • Ladies do not have to travel with escorts. In fact, if you run into a gentleman of your acquaintance in your travels, you should take care not to spend too many meals with him or talk to him too much lest people start to talk.
  • When registering in hotels, men always write their names as John Smith, unless they are traveling with their wives in which case they write Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. Women always write their names with the honorific, such as Miss Jane Doe or Mrs. John Smith.
  • Wearing ball dresses on board a ship is in the worst taste because it implies that you have nowhere else to wear your best things. The most formal you should be is semi formal.
  • Don’t worry about what to called titled people if you happen to reach those circles while abroad, just call them “you” when you are speaking to them.

Bad Advice for Today:

  • Always tip 10% and don’t occupy a table by yourself if you are only having a simple (ie less expensive meal).
  • Bringing letters of introduction. (Although, I guess, Facebook introductions are kind of the same thing?)

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do that Anymore: Hire Decorative Hermits

[Via]

[Via]

You know how, when you are a British noble in the eighteenth century, and you are redoing your landscaping and you’ve got Capability Brown doing the design and are adding some nice fountains and follies, but somehow it’s still just missing something? What if…you just hired a living human to come and be a hermit on your property? That would be just the ticket, right?

It sounds a bit nuts, but ornamental hermits were a fad among the rich in both England and France for a while in the 1700 and 1800s!

It had to do with a romantic notion of sadness and meditation, and what better to remind you of that than having a person act it out in your presence? Hermit grottos would be built as part of the landscaping design and then men would be hired to come in and be the hermit- often for quite a lot of money. But they would have to agree to grow out their hair and beards and not trim their nails. Sometimes they would be asked to dispense wise words to visitors and sometimes they would be silent in more of a living diorama. Some hermits would stay as long as seven years or more.

I first came across the concept in one of those reality shows where people have to live for months like they are in a historical time period- this one was called Regency House Party and they had an actor playing the garden hermit. At the time I was just like, oh yeah, the hermit, that makes sense in this wacky world where they take baths according to rank, using the same water for each person. But now, I look back on it and I’m like, WHAT? It’s such a strange concept. It really makes garden gnomes and flamingos look very rational and charming!