It was an exhilarating two weeks, driving across Route 10. The plan was to drive from California to Florida (Paul will be working in Orlando soon), but that changed somewhere along the line and we are now on a house and pet sit on the Alabama coast. That is not very surprising to those of you who know us well, is it? I promise to post all about how we ended up in Fairhope and what it is like here soon. First, Route 10.
After our lease was up on the Ojai rental, we moved back in to Linda’s place. Linda is our friend with the ranch – the horses, the goats, the chickens and the cats, and one very fun little Whippet named Giselle. I took English and Humanities classes from Linda’s late husband Hugo – that is how far back we go. So, we stayed at Linda’s for a few weeks before hitting the road, sometimes sitting, sometimes rooming with her. Thank you, Linda. We love and appreciate you.
The Salton Sea
Our first night on Route 10 was spent in Palm Springs. Since I’ve recently written about Palm Springs (click on highlighted text for that post) and we didn’t do much there aside from sleep and revisit our favorite spots, I will carry on.
It didn’t take Paul long to stray from our original route. Neither of us had been to the Salton Sea so we decided to take a detour on our way to Arizona. What we saw of it was eerie and abandoned, sad and beautiful. What will become of California’s largest accidental lake? I encourage you to Google “Salton Sea” if you don’t know the story and would like to. If you feel like discussing it, leave a comment and I will happily reply.
The Arizona / Mexico Border
One thing I should mention is that most of these pictures were taken with my new iPhone 6. I normally use my Canon for blog pics, but this phone is so handy and I thought I would try it out. This border shot was taken while Paul drove and it looks like a movie set to me. The border is actually behind those dunes, but the metal barriers are what piqued my interest. My guess is that they are to stop someone from 4wheeling it through the border wall, over the dunes and onto Route 10.
Our first stop in AZ was at a Harrah’s casino. This was Paul’s idea, because he knows I like to play poker. Texas Hold ‘Em is the only game I care to play. He doesn’t gamble, so it was very sweet of him to pick this place. I turned $40 into $300 at one of the tables and had a great time doing it. Paul sat at a restaurant bar, away from the smoke and the noise.
Poker Room in The Distance
Neither of us had been to Tombstone, Arizona. We heard that it was touristy but worth it, and Paul loves Wild West history, so we put it on the itinerary.
O.K. Corral in Tombstone
Paul found us an inn belonging to an English couple. The husband and wife team came to Tombstone for a visit several years ago and fell in love with it. Soon after they were running the Trail Rider’s Inn. I love stories like that. Maybe someday we will fall in love with one place and decide to do something spontaneous like that. More likely we’ll be traveling around in an Airstream or something similar and continuously falling in love with everywhere, though.
Trail Rider’s Inn Bunkhouse
We wandered up and down and all around like we always do. It is an interesting little town, especially if you enjoy eavesdropping. Lots of short story material.
My favorite place in Tombstone turned out to be Big Nose Kate’s. I peaked my head in when we first got to town and was rewarded with live country music and a woman in neon yellow shorts dancing on the bar. According to Wikipedia, Big Nose Kate was a Hungarian-born prostitute and longtime companion and common-law wife of Old West gunfighter Doc “I’m your huckleberry” Holliday.
Big Nose Kate’s
We came back later for karaoke night with the locals. There was some serious talent in the room and I videotaped some of it. I am unable to post my videos here on the blog for some reason but you can “like” us on Facebook for more photos and a few travel videos.
Big Ass Beer at Big Nose Kate’s
Paul loved the bar at the Crystal Palace Saloon the most. It is gorgeous in person and has been around since the 1800’s. He also loved the costumes that the bar staff wore (I think it had something to do with cleavage). I tried to get him to take an old-fashioned photo with me in one of the numerous booths along Main Street, but he kept coming up with excuses not to. He really doesn’t love having his picture taken and since I take a lot of pictures (of him) I can’t complain (I guess).
Crystal Palace Saloon
Our wanders eventually lead us into the The Tombstone Epitaph, which has also been around since the 1800’s. Anyone else have a thing for old typesetting equipment?
Setting the Type at Tombstone Epitaph
And to the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. I’m not much into stories about people shooting and hanging each other, but I did get a kick out of this quote out of George Parson‘s diary back in 1880: “A man will go to the devil pretty fast in Tombstone . . . Faro, whiskey, and bad women will beat anyone.”
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
We hit Boothill Graveyard on the way out of town. Again, not something I would typically do but am glad that I did. See my favorite marker below. Every so often I like to remind people that they can double click on my photos to enlarge them. That’s your reminder.
Boothill Grave Marker (Keeping It Real)
What can I say about West Texas? Not much. We got ourselves rooms in El Paso and Ozona, but all we really did was eat, sleep, do laundry and watch The Big Bang Theory reruns. We were both shocked at what $109 a night gets you in El Paso, though. Our digs at Hampton Inn and Suites included a full kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom and bathroom with a tub.
It wasn’t until Fredericksburg that we really began to appreciate our time in Texas. We had a hearty and traditional lunch at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant which provided plenty of fuel to wander another day away, this time on one of the largest and prettiest Main Streets in America (according to me, anyway).
lots of German Food in Fredericksburg, Texas
My Kind of Main Street
Pioneer Memorial Library in Fredericksburg
After that, we headed to Austin. Our friends and fellow adventurers Thyra and David had kindly offered their guest quarters to us and we took them up on it for a couple of nights. They’ve recently moved from California to Texas and it was a treat to see their new home, hang out with their four-legged friends and compare travel notes.
Finnegan Says Hello
David, Paul and Thyra at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin
For our literary friends, David is in the process of having his second book of poetry published while Thyra completes the cover art. Find out more at MaxMundan. Prepare to have the wind knocked out of you.
Walking Into Austin
After visiting Thyra and David, we spent two nights at a Hyatt, chosen for its proximity to downtown. Austin was as enjoyable as everyone said it would be. Like California, it was in a draught when we left. Right now, a few of the places we visited are under water owing to the floods. A State of Emergency has been declared. Thankfully, our friends live on higher ground on the outskirts of town.
My Favorite Outdoor Austin Mural
My Favorite Indoor Austin Mural (Firehouse Hostel)
We loved Austin – it is a great walking town. Hours were spent inside the Blanton Museum of Art as well, which we just happened to stumble upon. Get there if you can.
Lone Star State
The Blanton Museum of Art
Best Margarita? B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub (Go Figure)
Rickshaw Boots (Because Airstream)
The Oldest in Austin, Hotel Driskill
Along with the Wild West, Paul loves a good detective series. He is a fan of the Dave Robicheaux novels by James Lee Burke, which take place in and around Bayou Teche. That is how we ended up at Country Charm Bed and Breakfast in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It was indeed charming, with Norman Rockwell plates on the wall above the kitchen table, a big bathtub with jets (I’ve really missed taking baths) and a pond out front.
Country Charm B&B
The View From Our Porch
Paul wanted to go on a swamp tour while we were in Bayou country. I wasn’t so sure. I was thinking mosquitoes, alligators, and snakes hanging from tree limbs. And rightly so.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours Headquarters
Paul Loves Swamp
But then we got there and it was beautiful. Plus, I felt kind of foolish over my initial trepidation seeing as how this five year old was showing no fear whatsoever.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tour with Gary
Our guide Gary grew up in these parts and returned here after having traveled the world. He shared with us all kinds of interesting facts. Example: we suffered no mosquito bites thanks to the dragonflies that kept the population low. And did you know that the biggest threat to baby alligators is fire ants? I could have done without all of the ex-wife and mother-in-law at the bottom of the swamp jokes, but that’s just me. Being in a swamp / bayou is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. It was an unexpected highlight.
We really wanted to have dinner at Glenda’s Creole Kitchen (a hole in the wall down the road from the B&B) but it had just closed for Mother’s Day Weekend. I almost wept when I read the sign – it still smelled so good from lunchtime. Instead, we found ourselves eating fried food and people-watching at Pont Breaux’s. The tall man dancing towards the front of the stage was celebrating a Birthday. Everyone there knew him and I could have watched him dance to Lee Benoit and his band all night.
Oak Alley Plantation
We stopped at Oak Alley Plantation on the way to New Orleans. It was random and since we hadn’t planned it out, we ended up having to choose between lunch and the last tour. Guess what we chose? That is right, we chose lunch. Maybe next time, or maybe not. Lovely on the outside, but with an ugly past. Thoughts?
Hurricane at The Ice House Bar in Hotel Provincial
Paul and I are enchanted with New Orleans; especially the French Quarter. First stop: Hotel Provincial. I freshened up and walked across the courtyard to a small bar across from the lobby and ordered myself a Hurricane from James. A proper one, with premium rums and fresh citrus. In a glass (as opposed to a plastic Bourbon Street cup). It was delicious. This bar was full of friendly locals and both James and Etienne know how to tend. We love everything about this hotel.
Below are some of my favorite New Orleans photos. Not my best photos, but my favorites. I have blogged about New Orleans before and have gone on long enough for one post besides.
Thank you for following along with us. I know some of you have been stopping by the blog since Day 1 (back in 2009). Some of you even give me grief when I go too long between posts and let me say that I do appreciate it. And we both LOVE hearing from you, as well. Feel free to leave a comment / question on any of our posts at any time and one of us will respond.
New Favorite Breakfast spot = eat
Johnny White’s for $5 Bloodies
Old Ginger Mint Tulep Mural in the French Quarter
Revolving Bar at Hotel Monteleone
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Oldest Bar in NOLA)
Faulkner House Books
Walk in Large Groups
Tarot & Palm Reader – Jackson Square
Outside Cafe Negril on Frenchmen Street
d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street
Early Morning in the French Quarter
The Courtyard at Hotel Provincial
Thank you again for stopping by. As a token of our appreciation, I will be sending one lucky commenter a copy of my favorite southern read so far. Simply leave a comment here on the blog and I will draw a name on June 15th. In the meantime, Laissez les bons temps rouler! XO,
Valynne & Paul
Kimonos, Slippers, and Buddha Chocolates. Ahhh.
Paul and I wanted to do something different for our Birthdays this year, so we treated ourselves to two days and nights at ten thousand waves, a mountain spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A Warm (Toilet Seat!) Welcome
Perhaps I am easily impressed, but I was pretty much in heaven before we even left our room. The toilet included a heated seat and a bidet. Another first for me.
The Star Lounge
I loved this little section of our room. The ceiling was full of starlight that flickered through the night. I am going to see about having this installed in my Airstream one day (I don’t yet own one).
This guy kind of freaked me out at first, but he grew on me. We had our own little courtyard. We spent all of our waking hours out here or at the spa.
Seeing this pleased me greatly. My Dad used one of these as his main cooking source ~ probably still does. My favorite hibachi (shichirin in Japanese) meal was veggie shish kabobs with teriyaki sauce. We brought groceries with us (the restaurant doesn’t open until this fall) but having access to an outdoor oven didn’t even cross my mind. Next time.
Paul in a Kimono
I thought Paul wore this quite well. We left our western clothes in the suitcase as the kimonos were so comfortable. Paul surprised me with Natalie Goldberg‘s latest book, The True Secret of Writing, and I read almost all of it while we lounged. Ms. Goldberg lives in Santa Fe and will be at Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse tonight. I plan on going and will most likely be blogging about my experience.
Another Cool Statue
This dragon statue lived next door. I am really feeling dragons lately. Not sure why.
Resting Along the Way to the Spa
We had a steep climb to the spa and thought this little outdoor couch was a great idea. The small hike wasn’t an issue for us, but there is a shuttle for those who could use it.
Koi, or Nishikigoi
I love the sound of running water and the koi ponds definitely added to the feeling of serenity throughout the spa.
We spent an entire day at this public bath and I was able to get a picture of it between waves of naked people. I told Paul I was going to title this blog post “Me and a Bunch of Naked Guys” but thought better of it. It was interesting to observe the difference between sexes when it comes to nudity. Guess who let it all hang out and who didn’t?
We treated ourselves to a private bath, as well. I love this picture of Paul, even if he is sunburnt (why he refuses to wear a hat I don’t know). Along with the private bath, we each had a theraputic massage and salt scrub. Thank you, Daniel and Dana!
This experience was so different for us. I wasn’t sure how Paul would handle sitting in one place and relaxing for two days straight. Come to find out, he really enjoyed himself and we are already making plans for our next little spa retreat.
My friend Sadie and I visited Ojo Caliente when she came out for a visit from Colorado, and I am looking forward to taking Paul there on our next spa adventure. Are you a spa person? If so, please share with us your favorite destinations.
I came across a mention of Marianne Cantwell’s new book, Be a Free Range Human – Escape the 9 to 5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills while perusing the facebook page of Barbara Winter. Per her suggestion, I contacted the book publisher and was sent a copy in exchange for sharing my thoughts here on our blog.
Escape the 9 – 5, Create a Life You Love, and Still Pay the Bills
Soon after receiving the book, I found myself working for someone else and struggling to find the time to actually read it. The irony was not lost on me. Paul makes this “location independent” stuff look easy, while I have struggled to earn a decent living on the move.
I am enjoying my new job at Estrella Del Norte Vineyard, but it is important to me that I find a way to support myself financially from wherever it is we wish to be (our sit here in New Mexico ends in October) without relying on an outside job.
I’ve been able to save us LOTS of money with Caretaking Couple; now it is time to make us some money. I want to be my version of a Free Range Human!
You may be wondering what free ranging even means. According to Marianne Cantwell, “Free ranging is about creating your ultimate life. Reaching your potential, building on that moment of magic you have to offer and creating a darn good income to boot. Freedom and fulfillment and a great income. No compromises.”
For me, free ranging means true location independence. For some people I know, it means walking away from jobs they hate and towards a lifestyle they love. This book will help you to clarify what free ranging means to you and encourage you to live accordingly if you aren’t already.
Be a Free Range Human is broken up into four parts. The first half will help you to decide what it is you want exactly and the second half shows you ways in which to put your plan into action. There are a lot of written exercises in this book, along with complimentary online resources. Do not ignore either ~ both are invaluable.
You will be given projects to work on, as well. Example: my current Play Project (i.e. a project that excites me) includes monetizing this blog with relevant affiliate links, setting up an e-Book shopping cart, and reaching out to potential sponsors. I am giving myself one week to finish this project, with the help of someone who can actually set it all up in a fraction of the time it takes me.
In this book, you will hear from others who are getting paid to do what makes them come alive. You will learn how to start a business for under $100 and how to set your salary. You will learn about branding and niches and how to get free press. You will be given advice on how to avoid “the beige army”, that group of scared but vocal people that try to talk you out of living your happiest life. Prepare to be inspired.
My copy of Be a Free Range Human is full of ink and plans and dreams, so you can’t borrow it. Two of my friends have purchased and are reading it at present, and I cannot wait to exchange ideas and epiphanies with them!
If you are interested in reading this book as well, please leave us a comment here on the blog. It can be about what free ranging means to you, or anything else you would like to discuss. I will have Paul draw a name next weekend (April 12th) and send a copy out to the winner. Book club, anyone?!
The $100 Startup
A couple of weeks ago, I won a copy of Chris Guillebeau’s latest book, The $100 Startup via his facebook page. I have read it twice since. If you would like to “Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future”, then this book is for you. I did a lot of highlighting and thought I would give all of you kindred spirits out there a teaser…
1. “Two years ago in Minneapolis, Lisa Sellman attracted my attention by telling me about her dog care business. At first, I didn’t think much of it. How profitable could a dog business be? But then Lisa told me how much money she made: $88,000 the previous year and on track to clear six figures the next.”
This one appeals to me for obvious reasons : ) Pick something you love and pursue it.
2. “To succeed in a business project, especially one you’re excited about, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills.”
What are your skills? Write them down and brainstorm. Some of the entrepreneurs featured in this book are doing things I never would have guessed there would be a market for. Good for them!
3. “The basics of starting a business are very simple; you don’t need an MBA (keep the $60,00 tuition), venture capital, or even a detailed plan. You just need a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid.”
Having a diploma doesn’t guarantee success and not having one certainly doesn’t equal failure. More startup capital would have been nice when it came to my businesses, but it wasn’t a necessity and less important than my goal of becoming debt-free.
4. He kept waiting for it to be perfect…and then he kept waiting. “I finally just had to give up on perfection and get the thing out the door,” he said later.
Odds are you do not have to wait until you finish taking those classes or writing that business plan to get going on that exciting project. I struggle with this one and am really trying to just learn as I go versus reaching ‘perfection’ before even trying something new. Obviously, this is relative. I am not performing surgery on anyone, after all. Odds are you aren’t either.
5. “The point is to do what makes sense to you. Get up in the morning and get to work.”
It is hard to work at something that doesn’t feel right. So many of us complain about our jobs over and over, all of the time. If this is you, please ask yourself what it is you would rather be doing and brainstorm ways of making that happen. You will be doing yourself and everyone around you a huge favor.
6. “Low paying buyers are the worst,” one business owner who sold a broad range of products at different prices told me. “We have far more complaints from people who pay $10 and expect the world than from those who pay $1,000.”
Some people will appreciate you and your services and some won’t. It does not behoove you to take it personally; those people are most likely treating everyone around them the way they have treated you. Let them and their $10 go. Seriously.
7. “My rule of thumb is that a successful partnership (or any type of collaboration) should create a combined business which is at least 33 percent larger than the sum of what the two individuals can achieve on their own.” Ralf Hildebrandt
I hadn’t looked at Caretaking Couple like that before, but it is absolutely true for us. We can say yes to more opportunities as a team. While we split a lot of CC down the middle, I enjoy promoting our biz via networking and social media, while Paul is really good at packing up the 4Runner and mapping our routes when it comes time for our next sit. We save a lot of time & money this way.
8. “All the bad days have two things in common: You know the right thing to do, but you let somebody talk you out of doing it.” Tom Bihn.
Tune out those that think they know what is best for you when it comes to your business and your personal life. You know what is best for you. Respect to the intuition.
9. “Without a doubt, the smartest decision I made was to set a specific intention to not grow the business. Growing up as the daughter of an entrepreneur, I watched my father’s creativity and inventor mind-set get sapped as the business grew from just him to over fifty employees.” Cherie Ve Ard
Go with what feels right to you and your business model. Again, don’t listen to what everyone else says (especially those that have never owned and operated a business). By the way, if you are a fan of location independence, you owe it to yourself to check out technomadia.
10. “There’s no rehab program for being addicted to freedom. Once you’ve seen what it’s like on the other side, good luck trying to follow someone else’s rules ever again.”
Chris Guillebeau will be at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR on Wednesday. Click here if you would like to catch him on tour!
Napping With Charlie (See #26)
I was introduced to Barbara Winter online a couple of years ago and share her words of wisdom often on our various social media sites. When I came across this list in her most recent newsletter, I immediately felt the need to share it here on the blog (with her blessing, of course). I’m thinking a lot of you will nod and relate (kindred spirits). For those of you who don’t get why I am the way I am, this list might shed some light…
29 Things to Love About Being Joyfully JoblessTM
Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit.
Jobs are not big enough for people.
~ Nora Watson
When Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways,” she wasn’t talking about her life as a poet, but I’m borrowing that idea anyway. My list isn’t nearly as poetic as hers, but it’s every bit as passionate and includes things that other self-bossers love about working on their own.
- 1. Control over time. Self-bossers are more likely to plan their work around their biorhythms, not a time clock.
- 2. No supervisor. Being self-directed builds confidence and maturity.
- 3. Imagination stays fit. Our creative spirit is like a muscle and needs frequent workouts to keep it in top operating form. The entrepreneurial life depends on constant creative thinking.
- 4. Office can be anywhere. We get to decide if we’ll work at the beach, in our RV or in our home office.
- 5. Time for creative excursions. Knowing how important it is to gather ideas all the time, we work frequent jaunts into our schedule and let ourselves be inspired.
- 6. No rush hour traffic.
- 7. No fast food. Not only do we save money but eating healthy is easier when we have time to prepare good food.
- 8. A more balanced life. Smart self-bossers begin by figuring out what’s important to them and find ways to spend time on the top priorities which include not working too.
- 9. Lifelong learning. Having experienced jobs where continuous learning was not valued, we now design our own curriculum of formal and informal learning.
- 10. Pet friendly office. Fluffy and Fido can be part of our staff.
- 11. Custom-tailored benefits. While we have familiar benefits like health insurance and vacation time, self-bossers might give themselves other benefits like weekly massages or exciting sabbaticals.
- 12. Constant personal growth. Our businesses call us to keep growing and discovering new talents and wisdom.
- 13. The coolest friends. Entrepreneurial souls tend to be fun and fascinating. Building a personal network of such friends is a joy.
- 14. No office politics.
- 15. Great tax deductions. Our tax system favors the very wealthy and the self-employed.
- 16. No dress code. Whether you’re funky or conservative, your wardrobe won’t be decided by a memo.
- 17. A variety of work. We resist doing the same thing day in and day out and our businesses reflect our love of different activities.
- 18. Learn talent management. Self-discovery leads to finding our biggest assets and making the most of them.
- 19. Be a positive role model. When we follow our dreams, we set the best example for our kids and others who we don’t even know are taking inspiration from our lead.
- 20. Longevity. Yup, we’ll probably live longer and happier lives by honoring the prompting of our hearts.
- 21. Master crowd control. We can go to the movies on Tuesday afternoon or to the bank when there’s no line. Not only is this efficient, it eliminates a lot of stress.
- 22. Practical mental health. Do you think it’s healthier to spend time problem-solving or complaining? Entrepreneurship, by its very nature, enhances mental health.
- 23. Meet fascinating people. As our businesses take us out into the world, we begin to encounter new and interesting folks we’d have never met any other way.
- 24. Feed our adventurous spirit. What others call uncertainty, we see as a passport to a rich life that keeps our curiosity busy.
- 25. Learn personal responsibility. If our parents and schools didn’t teach us this vital lesson, our businesses certainly will.
- 26. Naps.
- 27. Unlimited financial potential. We get to decide our money goals and create ways to reach them. What a lovely notion.
- 28. Harmony. Self-bossers are more likely to live in alignment with their deepest values.
- 29. FREEDOM.
Barbara Winter, author of the bestselling book, Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love, is also a business owner, itinerant teacher, and self-employment advocate who found her own right livelihood after overcoming her early notions that work was meant to be drudgery. Be sure to check out her Winning Ways newsletter publication and various Teleclasses and Workshops at www.JoyfullyJobless.com or www.BarbaraWinter.com.
PS WOW ~ Lots of hits on this page! I am guessing that is because you are either joyfully jobless or interested in becoming joyfully jobless. I think that this calls for a prize drawing! Simply leave a comment, letting us know one or two things you love about being joyfully jobless, or that you think you would love about it and I will pick a name on Monday, 5/28. The lucky winner will be sent a copy of Barbara Winter’s book, Making a Living Without a Job
A Glimpse of The Collection
This isn’t the first time I have written about collections, or handwritten letters in general. Both topics fascinate me, after all. I typically have an easy time letting go of material objects, and I don’t buy much “stuff” for myself or others, unless I truly believe it will be appreciated by the recipient and I can truly afford the expense. Yet, I am a hoarder of ephemera. Honestly, what you see above is just part of my collection. At least it is relatively light-weight and easy to haul and/or ship.
What does being a hoarder of ephemera even mean? It means that I am the person that has saved just about every little ticket stub ever handed back to me, every wedding invitation extended to me, and every post card and letter sent to me (how else could I keep track of all of the places I have lived?). I treasure journals and yearbooks, love notes from grammar school crushes, matchbooks from favorite establishments, creative business cards, and let’s not even get started on old photos. Oh, and it isn’t just personal. I love all ephemera, especially of the vintage variety.
I know that I am not alone, but it does seem that I am increasingly in the minority when it comes to things that have been easily replaced or tossed aside by technology. Please tell me. Do you collect ephemera? What kind? Or is there anything else that you collect that you feel you can’t/won’t ever voluntarily let go of? Books? Beads? Guitar picks? Records? Crystal? Matchbooks from vacations past?
*Leave me a comment between now and Saint Patrick’s Day and I will draw a name and send the winner a handwritten letter with my Waterman pen on some stationary or an old card. Your comment can be about anything – what you collect, why you collect it, the (lost?) art of all things handwritten, etc. etc. Rapport. It (still) matters to me.