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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Little Gold Dust Woman

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My urge to DIY has been snowballing.

I have already been working at knitting a throw blanket for my bedroom, and have also added a cushion cover to the mix.  I’m probably going to hack some kind of valance out of red bandannas, pretty much just by using clothespins to rig them over the blind frame.  I’ve also set aside a couple of flat sheets and a pillowcase that I’m going to try playing around with dye and a shibori tie-dye technique.

And then a couple weeks ago I suddenly got hit with the urge to start dressing a little more like Stevie Nicks – seriously, the whole swirly-skirts, lacey-shawls hippie 70s thing.  I poked my nose into eBay looking at what they had for lace shawls, but then realized – hey, I have a crapton of laceweight yarn and I know how to knit.  And so now I am looking at patterns to knit myself a lace shawl. I especially am on the lookout for something that will use this gorgeous hot-pink-and-deep-blue yarn – I just got a peasanty top at a thrift store in that hot pink, and am thinking it’s just what I need to throw over my shoulders when I wear it with jeans.

And I also spent part of an afternoon last weekend browsing in a junk shop in Williamsburg, just to see what they had – I’d been in once before just to look, and walked out with a genuine donabe pot they had balanced on top of an old foot locker and were selling for only twenty bucks.  This time I was looking more at all the silver and glassware, thinking of ways I could put them in my window to catch the light.  But I put that off to later.

And then I got home and on a whim, I dug out a lot of craft stuff from when I was in a papercrafts phase in the early 2000’s; scraps of fancy rice paper, cardstock, stamps.  I browsed scrapbook sites to see if I could finally do something with a backlog of travel photos I’ve been piling up, and am seriously considering a voyage to a Michaels’ in town.

…this kind of energy and frivolity is something I just plain haven’t had or wanted to do in about ten years.   I’m thinking this is a very good thing.

Conversation With My Roommate, March 19th, about 10 pm

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(My current roommate is in New York doing a post-doctoral study. English is not her first language, so she sometimes asks me to proofread cover letters or research grant proposals as a native-speaker.)

K:  Okay, I just finished this one.

R: Thanks!  How was it?

K: Nothing major, really I only had one or two comments on tenses and a couple of random words here and there.

R: Words? Like how?

K: Well….okay, you know how you talk about how something “peeks” at some point?  ….You actually used the wrong one; it should have been “peaks”.

R: (gasps) Oh, God, where did I do that?….(scans file)  ….Oh, there.  Oh, God.  Yeah, you’re right.

K: Don’t worry about it!  That’s actually pretty common….

R: Yeah, but still.

K: (shrugging) Hey, English is weird, yo.

Spring after Long Winter

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So.  I’ve said a couple times that it’s been quiet in here, but I owe a bit of an explanation – the day job situation has, for the past couple years, pretty much sucked.  Not because of the place I work – on the contrary, I probably screwed myself a little insisting on staying in a place I loved when other factors were less than ideal.  First I was a temp; the job itself was great and I got on wonderfully with my boss.  But the pay was….well, it was temp pay, and there was only one week paid time off for holidays, sick pay, or vacation time.  So I spent what little free time I had at home, afraid to do anything because oh my god it will cost money.

Then I finally got a full time job where I work, for a different boss in a different department – and I got on great with everyone there too.  But the actual work I was doing was a huge, huge switch from what I’d been doing (office management-type clerical to human resources data analysis), and I have spent most of last year feeling like a huge idiot because i don’t understand how human resources works and i need to deal with a whole computer system on top of it but i must not freak out because i don’t want to lose this job aaaaaauuggghhh


Over time, I got more comfortable with it.  And, working in human resources means that your boss looks at you funny when you don’t use your vacation time, which has been a really good foil for me; I’ve had a bit of a temp mindset for too long, where I don’t use free time because there usually isn’t much, but the paid time off I have has quadrupled from what it used to be, with a boss who eggs me on to use it.  (Human resources people get that people actually need free time.)

So that super-austere phase I’ve been in for two years now – while I was still recovering from yet more austerity from a few years prior – is slowly wearing off.  And thank God for that too – because I’ve been in survival mode for way too long.  A lot of the fun and relaxed things that made me me all got put on hold – cooking, exploring the city, travel, writing.  But things are coming back.  It’s like a few little shoots finally poking out of the ground after a really heavy winter, or after a forest fire.

And one of the surest ways I know this is…I have suddenly gotten the urge to redecorate my bedroom.

Now, I’m not really one of those lifestyle bloggers who is always posting DIY crafts and design tips.  My crafting talent is way more….aspirational than anything else; I can knit okay, and a simple dying project worked once, and I can do some extremely simple handsewing, but….quilting? Painting? Ceramics?  Forget it.  Most of my projects are either smudged, or the colors are all wrong or the nails break or something.  I even once managed to screw up spray painting something a single color.

But.  I have been squinting at my bedroom lately, wanting to change things up a bit.  Switch out a couple pillows, maybe pile on a couple of cheap throws.  Soften the windows up with a valance of some kind.  Get more art.  Actually do something with all of the craft shit I purchase because I think that maybe it’ll work this time.  I did have some success making a puppet theater for my niece and nephew this Christmas (even here, I ran out of supplies twice and there are a couple places where it’s obvious my lines are crooked), so there is hope.

So right now, there are some actual DIY projects in the works.  Fortunately they should all be simple – I’m starting a couple of knit cushion covers and a big blanket, and there’s a couple of plain bedsheets I’ll be trying to tie-dye using a sort of half-assed shibori method.

Part of it is because of spring – I want to clean old shit away, bring in things that are fresh and new, and also try to use some of what I’ve got in fresh new ways (or just get rid of it; there will be plenty of that going on too).  But part of it, too, is because I finally have the space and trust to start letting in a little joy again.

And tonight that joy is just so happen going to take the form of refinishing four random tins with….spray paint.  Wish me luck.


Speak-a Da Language

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(Hi.  I am slowly but surely making my way back in here.  I have a story from a trip to Paris for you all.)

One store I wanted to hit up while I was in Paris was E. Dehillerin, a place which all and sundry assured me was the spot for cookware – knives, sheet pans, pots, fiddly baking tools, you name it. All three guidebooks I got sang its praises, and every web site also gushed about it.

However – all three guidebooks and every web site also cautioned me that E. Dehillerin is mainly a wholesale shop, catering primarily to restaurateurs and professional chefs. That didn’t spook me, though – there are a number of places like that in New York as well, where everything is sort of pitched together haphazardly and you get little in the way of customer service. Also, they don’t put price stickers on anything – you have to flag down a clerk and give him the serial number, and he looks it up for you. It’s a hassle, but they figure that hey, if you want to go through all that trouble for a single dough scraper, well more power to you.

And a lot of people seemed to want to go through that trouble at E. Dehillerin.  When I got there, the aisles were packed with a polyglot crowd – I heard French, of course, but also some English, Japanese, German, and I think even Spanish spoken amid the throngs of people poring over the shelves, poking through the knives and the stewpots and considering the cookie cutters and financier pans.  Three or four clerks wandered through the crowd, making themselves available to anyone who wanted to look up the price of anything, while two harried shop girls sat behind a counter painstakingly adding up prices on manual calculators.

I didn’t have a particular goal in mind – I have a pretty extensive batterie de cuisine as it is.  So I was just going to survey the store and see if anything grabbed me.  During my travels, I passed an older couple a couple times – smartly dressed, frowning at the knives, and speaking English.  The first couple times I passed them, the woman was scolding the man for not remembering what kind of knife her sister-in-law wanted or something as I slipped past them as unobtrusively as I could.  The second or third time I started feeling sorry for the poor guy, and got enough of a listen that I could tell they were American.

I went downstairs to look over the larger stew pot stock for a while, and got away from them – studying the huge array of woks and pans and Dutch ovens they had, packed floor-to-ceiling on metal shelves.  They’d never be able to fit in my suitcase, I figured, much less my apartment; so I went back upstairs. And near the stairs, I saw the woman had cornered one of the clerks, who was looking slightly pained as she lectured him.  “I don’t get it,” she was saying.  “There aren’t any prices on anything, I just want to know how much these knives are, and there’s just too many to decide from so I was hoping the price would help, but how can I decide if there aren’t any prices on them, and — ”

“Pardon me, ma’am?” I tapped her on the shoulder.  She and the clerk both turned to me, surprised to hear me speaking English.  “Ma’am?  This actually is a wholesale store.”

“Oh!” she blinked at me.  “Oh, really?”

“Yes, madame,” the clerk jumped in, glad to finally have a chance to speak.  “Is for professional chefs mostly, but we permit ze public.” He shot me a grateful smile for explaining.

“So, how do people find the price?”

“They come to me, and I look in ze book.”

“Ohhh.” She blinked again. “Okay, so would you mind sticking with me while I look? That way when I find something you can look it up right there.”

I just looked at her in shock, but the clerk slumped slightly and said “Oui, madame….”  She swanned back towards the knives as he shuffled along behind her.

My own browsing kept me clear of her after that – she was mainly in the market for knives, but I was sticking to smaller, less deadly things so I could take them in my carryon going home.  I poked through, and rejected, things like cookie cutters and measuring spoons; the dough scrapers would work, I thought, picking out a couple.  And maybe a package of napkins.  Then I spotted a weird five-bladed set of scissors.  I was pretty sure it was meant for cutting herbs – a task that up to this point I’ve been using plain scissors and a shot glass to accomplish – but wanted to check.

I glanced around for the nearest clerk – and sure enough, it was the same guy, free of the older woman.  I slipped over to him; he recognized me from before.

But I made a point of speaking French. “Pardonez-moi, m’sieur – est-ce que ceci pour couper des herbes?”

He blinked a minute, registering that I was speaking French – and then beamed. “Oui, madame, bien sur!”

Merci, M’sieur!” I said back.  And I’m not entirely sure, but I think that when he gave me the price, he told me something a tiny bit less than what was in the book.