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Category Archives: DIY

Des Rêves Entre Mes Deux Mains

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So, this was a blog before the Movie Crash Course came along.  And while I wasn’t saying much, one thing that did get me talking a lot was how much I liked Paris.  ….Actually, “liked” isn’t a strong enough word; I flippin’ adored it.

I visited for the first time for New Year’s Eve 2016, and loved it so much that I went back again only six months later.  I gushed about it so much that when I got back from my second trip, at least three co-workers asked me if I shouldn’t seriously think about moving there.  ….And I did, for about five minutes; then realized that it would be untenable for a number of reasons; as much as I love Paris, I love New York more, and this feels more like home.  Also, from talking to a couple of expats, it would be nigh-impossible to get a residency visa.  (If I ever win the lottery I’m getting  a second apartment in the 11eme arrondisment on Rue Charonne and going bi-residency, though.)

There isn’t even anything I could necessarily point to about Paris that caught my heart; it’s more about who I am in Paris.  I’m more indulgent, I appreciate smaller pleasures, I live in the moment more.  It was after my second trip that I came up with the expression “carpe gaudium”, a Google-translated Latin for “seize the joy”.  I can get a little too ascetic at times, and I think that’s bad for me; I want to be more engaged with the world, open, in the moment, and effusive.  And Paris reminds me how to do that, and also reminds me that you don’t need a lot of money to do that, either.  While moving wasn’t an option, I did gush after my return in a starry-eyed Facebook post that “I’m going to be making annual visits to Paris for the rest of my life!!!”

….Weeeell, that didn’t happen.  The only reason I was able to make that second trip was by begging my parents for help with the money; I was underpaid at my job and had some debt I was politely ignoring by paying the minimum towards it every year.  I did finally get out of that job the following year, but didn’t feel right planning a trip only a couple months into a new job; so I didn’t go in 2017.  I was gearing up for a mid-September trip last year, but then needed some dental work and had to dip into the travel fund I’d started to cover it.  Then the thing I did in mid-September instead was to put on my big-girl pants and take care of some financial hygiene – build up that six months’ worth of emergency savings everyone recommends you to have, and wipe out that debt once and for all.  I’d started a small savings account for a travel fund – and I sighed and decided it was going to be better served as my emergency savings fund.  “….Paris will still be there,” I told myself.  “This will just take a couple years.”

Fortunately, a couple of tiny windfalls have come up recently which are helping that a lot.  I’ve been keeping careful track of the debt, and right now….barring any major life upheaval, I very well may be debt free by the spring of 2020.  And as soon as I’ve paid off the debt, all the money I’ve been applying to that will go into the savings, and I’ll have 6 months’ worth built up by Christmas of 2021.  That is not that far off.  My travel is pretty much set for 2020 – a couple of family engagements have been forecast – but 2021, I think I will finally be returning.

But this is 2019 and that means I’m kinda stuck here.

However: a major spelunking into one of my storage closets reminded me that “oh hey, I have a lot of crafting stuff I’m not using.”  I also live near some amazing thrift stores, with things that are begging to be re-purposed and gussied up and done over.  And – polishing up finds from the marches des puces is a very Paris thing.

was going to head out to Staten Island today, but the snow is going to make that transit path a little too hairy; so I think, instead, I’m going to hit up a couple of Williamsburg junk shops, wander down to a craft store and then head home for some crafting, making a bit of Paris with my own hands.

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Preview For The Next Review

So I’ve been doing more than a few Oscar-related posts but not as many films for the regular Crash Course format.  That is because (pick one):

  1. I wanted to get the Oscar posts done before the Oscars.
  2. I’ve been coping with paperwork processing for onboarding for a new job.
  3. I’ve been wrapping things up with the old job.
  4. I’ve been taking advantage of Alex being away by doing some spring cleaning of the house and Kondo-izing the hey out of a couple closets.
  5. The movie I have to review is Citizen Kane and that’s intimidating.
  6. I’ve been trying to get all the movie reviews copied over to the new site so I can start rolling it out to bloglists and such.  I have only fifty more to copy over and I’ll be done.
  7. It’s my birthday (today) and I feel idleness on one’s birthday is a…birthright.
  8. My procrastination has been taking the form of crafty things (I’ve made five container candles and upcycled a Pringles tub into a tea canister, gave some wall art a makeover and have actually done tablescapes with candles and trays from thrift stores and the like). These are things that do occupy time somewhat, and make other messes so then you need to clean them up, especially after you’d just spent a half hour scrubbing the sink…
  9. I discovered that Netflix has streaming rights to a British TV series with British comedienne Jo Brand where she follows around various RSPCA staff and vets trying to rescue and re-home tiny adorable homeless kittens and to be perfectly frank that kind of television can’t watch itself.
  10. All of the above.

But I’m determined to get the next review done tonight, so I can watch the next film tonight- and get that reviewed in time to watch the next two films after Alex returns.  He’s on his own personal movie challenge – a rewatch of classic horror films – and wanted to piggyback on The Wolf Man, coming up in the next couple days for me.

Right.  Citizen Kane. Here we go.

State Of The Kim: Of Resolutions And Rejuvenation

So I’ve recovered from the employment shock a bit, and I think I’m going to be okay.  I dove into job-hunt mode for a few days and have stashed a whole ton of irons into the fire, I have a bit of a game plan set into motion and I even have the promise of some temporary income streams coming in that will sustain me for at least the next two or three months.  In fact, the prospect of the next two or three weeks potentially being “downtime” actually sounds…attractive, instead of being a cause for blind panic.  I’m still going to be browsing job postings every day, but I’m also going to be going on long walks with my camera, checking out local museums with “free weekday” deals, and Marie Kondo-ing the hell out of a couple closets.

Best of all – since most of the challenges I set up for myself in the Year Of Challenges  don’t involve any cash outlay, I can stick with it. Maybe temporarily tweak a couple of them and make up for it later.

In fact, let’s check in on how I did in January.

  • Visit a New Neighborhood: ….Er, I haven’t just yet.  I may save the “January” plan for the first week of February to distract myself from the first couple days of “oh crap I don’t have a job to go to today”.
  • Eat lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood:  I think I can be excused this. I may also have to put this on hold for a couple months, and double up when I’m in funds again. But there’s a fish sandwich place that opened up on my actual block last week that I have my eye on as the first visit.
  • Reading Challenge: now, this is interesting. I initially signed up and planned to do the Penguin Books UK Classic Reading Challenge, thinking that there was going to be a specified list of books they’d mapped out for the month.  But when two weeks elapsed and I never saw any notice about that, I finally just scoured my own bookshelves and gathered a little stack of Things I’m Meaning To Read and dove into that instead.  But then just when I was finishing the first book….I finally got an email from Penguin, with January’s title on their Classics challenge.  And….so I read both.  I think I may just keep going at that rate – one from my own stack, then one from Penguin.  This first month, the first book was Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis – an unusual construction, sort of like a cross between Memento and Benjamin Button, but with Nazis.  (I have made total hash of that description, but trust me, it’s applicable.)  Penguin suggested Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! which was…alright, but a little too hand-over-heart embrace-the-salt-of-the-earth for my taste.  But – that’s double the success rate on the reading challenge.  Go me!
  • Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday: Yep, did that. Didn’t avail myself of any of the special events they have each time, but I rarely do anyway; I tend to prefer to visit some of my own favorite corners. Although I was drawn to a couple quirky things on display; there’s a retrospective of the museum’s feminist art collection there, and one of the pieces was a series by the artist Wendy Red Star, who found a series of five photos taken of Crow tribe chiefs in the 19th Century at a time when they were visiting Washington DC to negotiate land rights. Wendy Red Star’s work is a series of extensive notations on each photo, describing some of the symbolic elements of each chief’s attire and giving details about their lives.
  • Chinese Cookbook: ….So, I’m cutting myself slack on this for this month. My grocery list for the next few weeks is going to have to be trimmed and simplified, so I don’t quite have the money to spend on some of the specialty ingredients I’d have to buy for this (a shame, as I had my eye on making wontons).  However, there are some recipes that can be made using regular supermarket fare, and I just need to find those and then re-launch.  However, I have another cooking challenge I’m going to add to make up for it:
  • NEW Soup Cookbook Challenge. I also have another overlooked cookbook, this one concerning simple seasonal soups; it’s written by an actual monk, sharing recipes from his own kitchen at his actual monastery, so there’s also an intrinsic frugality there.  I’ve used this one a little more – but there are still quite a few recipes I’ve never tried.   So I’m also going to dive into that one over the course of the coming year.  Brother Victoire-Antoine also helpfully organizes the book with a separate chapter for each month of the year, so I can keep track.  (Coming up in February: mostly bean and vegetable soups, mostly French.  I’m down.)
  • Five Photos every weekend: Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  We’ve had a couple of BITTER cold weekends, but I’ve still stuck with at least picking up the camera and trying to find photo material indoors.  Also, I’m not so hung up on the “five photos” part as I am on the “every weekend” part; one weekend I only took three photos, but at least I took photos.  Last weekend I also signed up for a “photo walk” with a local photographer and birder; it was a friendly group of people who’d gone on walks with him before, and me, so the focus was mostly on people just diving in and taking pictures.  Exactly what I needed.  He led us on a ramble through some of the residential back corners of Coney Island, finishing with a stroll down the boardwalk back towards the subways. And I found a wealth of subjects…
  • Hike: According to my Fitbit the walk around Coney Island Creek counts as a hike, so there.
  • Craft Projects: I finished something!!! I have been working on a throw blanket for a couple years now; I’d had the yarn salvaged from a more complicated throw blanket kit I’d purchased some years ago, started, and decided I didn’t want to fiddle with it.  But that left me with a couple oddball balls of yarn that wouldn’t really work in other things; it’s a weird sort of fuzzy yarn, really lightweight and fuzzy, so not suitable for a garment. But the quantity was just enough for a simpler lap blanket, which is finally done and gracing the living room. img_5439

Attention To Detail

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So, um.  I tried sewing today.  And there were some failures (I totally botched the drawstring bags) and some successes (I made two throw pillow covers that look pretty decent).  And a realization that it’s probably good that I’m having now.

I don’t find sewing to be fun.

Sure, playing with colors and figuring out what fabric you want for something is neat, but the actual process of sewing is too fussy and precise and neat and fiddly and specific and meticulous for someone that’s a big ol’ messy haphazard improvisational slob.

I do like knitting, becuase at least with knitting you can fix things after the fact – there’s a process at the end, called “blocking”, where you soak the knitted whatever in water and lay it out flat in the specific shape you need it to be and let it dry that way, with pins holding it in the exact shape you need it.  It’s kind of magic – the process can be messy and imprecise, but then the blocking process magically evens out all the wonky stitches you did and your knitted piece is the way it’s supposed to look; the uneven stitches even up, the holes in lace yawn open, and your thing is nice and even and flat.  But with sewing, you have to cut things to the exact specific precise shape you need them and you need to sew in exactly specifically precisely the place you need your stitches to be and if you do something like sneeze you run the risk of your seam going uneven

Feh.

Well, it’s better I know that now.  There is one quirky and silly and fun thing I did like – there’s a quilt-top-making process people use with pre-cut strips of fabric called “Jelly rolls”, where you take a crapton of strips of fabric and sew them together end-to-end, and then take the big long strip and cut it in half and sew those strips together side-by-side, and then repeat that until you have a pre-sewn nice stripey bit of fabric.  I had some fabric I ordered off ebay from someone’s scraps – a strip about three inches wide and 60 long – and I tried that with it and ended up with a nice-looking front for a pillow cover.  I ordered some more strips off ebay recently that are coming, and I have some other random patches, so I may just use them to piece a quick throw blanket together and then give all the rest of my patches and fabric to Niki when I return the sewing machine, along with the two or three sewing books I’ve somehow found in my travels.  But I’ll have a couple cushion covers and a throw and the right to say that I sewed them, and that’ll be good enough and I’ll go back to looser-limbed crafts instead.

 

Summer Camp DIY

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So, in the past, I’ve had an occasional summer habit of getting semi-obsessed with some new Craft.  I’d be wandering in a store and see a kids’ craft kit that introduced you to something, or I’d be looking for a way to use up or upcycle some kind of Life Detritus, and come across some kind of Thing To Do With It – and then I’d be buying up all kinds of supplies and churning mass quantities of the stuff with an eye to giving things away as Christmas gifts.  However, after a few months my enthusiasm would peter out a bit, I’d look at my creations and set aside half for being a little too ugly or weird to give away, and I’d give away some of the good ones but still have a ton left over, and not really know what to do with the rest of the supplies and end up puttting those out on the curb.

Some of these crafts have worked a little better than others; The Summer Of Soap kind of came and went, and The Summer Of Glass Painting is probably best left unremembered, but The Summer Of Liqueur and The Summer of Jam went over really well.  Both are still things I dip my toe into now and again, along with The Summer Of Knitting.

As I mentioned earlier, though, we are shaping up for this being The Summer Of Sewing, thanks to Niki’s loan of a sewing machine.  And I’m trying to make this a finite pursuit by sticking solely to using up some fabric salvaged from old worn out clothes, supplemented by a yard or two from a cheap fabric store and some scraps from ebay; I splurged on some precut strips of things from quilt shops after watching an idiot-proof technique for laying them out and using them, and I also saw someone had a big pile of scraps from old 1930s feed sacks, and have always been charmed by feed sack fabric and got those as well.  But most of the fabric is coming from a collection of jeans and khaki pants; my pants all have the frustrating tendency to wear holes right in the crotch gusset, so there’s a point by which I can’t wear them any more even though the rest of the fabric is perfectly fine.

Let’s just pause a moment so I can give you a big and salient fact, though – I kind of can’t sew.  I tried some simple sewing in Girl Scouts, but had to use felt since it wouldn’t fray; and as a freshman in drama school I was assigned to an internship in the department’s costume shop, but I jammed two sewing machines on my first day and the manager just gave me a blanket pass to skip the internship after that.

But I’ve seen some really simple cushion cover patterns, and watched a million tutorials on Youtube, and I think I can put them together.  Cushion covers are small and don’t involved curves, mostly, and if you make them envelope style then you don’t even need to worry about zippers or buttons or stuff.  And Niki sat with me for a while and showed me how the sewing machine worked, and it seemed easy enough, especially sewing in a straight line.  Which is all I intend to do, is sew in straight lines.

And thus I’m going to mostly be making some cushion covers for the bedroom, and turning some old pajamas into drawstring bags that I’ll use when I travel; one of them had a print of high-heeled pumps on them that was just begging to be turned into shoe bags.  (Please note: I have never worn high-heeled shoes in my life. But this was still one of the most comfortable garments I’ve ever worn – if you are trying on pajamas and your very first instinct upon donning them is to lie right down on the floor of the dressing room and take a nap, you get those pajamas.  They could have had a print of flaming roadkill and I’d still have bought them.)

The Mount Everest, though, is going to be a patchwork quilt made of those old jeans.  Mind you, I’ll be sticking to straight lines, simple patches, no batting, just turning jean patches into a quilt top and stitching it onto the backing and calling it good.  I am a bit uneasy, thinking of the old college mishaps, but that “what the hell, I’ll try this” instinct that drove me to try glass painting and soapmaking and such is the louder voice.  If nothing else, I will learn that No, Really, I Should Not Sew.

State Of The Kim

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I’ve hinted at it, I’ve been all cryptic, finally I can come clean – My last day at my current job is Tuesday, and my first day at a new job is the following Monday.

Now, I like my current company itself.  I also like the people I work with.  The problem is, what I’m doing (human resources data processing) is something I didn’t have any experience in before starting, and am ultimately not that great at.  I wasn’t even supposed to be in that role as long as I was – I was supposed to keep watching for executive assistant roles and apply for them, so I could move into that instead.  And for two years I did exactly that.  However – that plan was kind of like the Underpants Gnomes on South Park: everyone overlooked the necessity of the middle step between my applying for a job and my moving into it, namely that I would have to be accepted into said job.  And that’s the bit that never happened.  I finally started looking outside my current company, and got accepted into a new place within about three or four months.

(Quick note – I don’t think I’ve mentioned the name of the place where I work.  I will not do so, nor will I mention the name of the new place; I don’t want there to be any perceived problem with anything I ever have, do, or will say on this blog.  I will say only that the current company is an NGO and the new company is a small development and housing non-profit startup.)

So that’s why I can’t do much traveling this summer; it isn’t that fair to be starting a new job in mid-June, and then take off for a week at the beach only one month later.  I also won’t have built up enough time off until September or so.  I have since learned that I’m being brought along to the company team meeting in upstate New York during my second week there (and this is the first time I’ve ever been considered worthy of inclusion at a team meeting, so I’m not entirely convinced this is really my life just yet), but any funtime travel is going to have to wait a while.  I knew that would probably be the case when I started my job hunt, however, so I have resigned myself to that.

But – the new job comes with something of a considerable improvement in pay over what I’m making now.  And it’s a very new startup in a shared-work space, so everyone’s walking around in jeans and polo shirts and khakis and t-shirts, so I can dress way more casually than I’ve had to.  And – and this is something I’m unnaturally excited about – I can walk to work.  It is a half-hour on foot from my apartment to the office, and even if I took a bus it would only save me five minutes.  So I have every intention of walking to and from work – I could leave home later, get home earlier, and take little exploratory detours or run errands on the way home (there is a major food mart opening up just a couple blocks off my route, and a Wegman’s will also open up a couple blocks in the other direction within two years).  And that’s also one hour of walking each day, five days a week.  So by the time I finally do go on some kind of trip, I will be richer, better rested, and in better shape, and I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna call that a win.

In the meantime: I have gone into a full-on DIY Home Decorating Mode.  I’ve tried making a couple of candles and I’ve stumbled upon several crafting sites that show you how to make erzatz Moroccan-style colored glass lanterns out of plain glass jars and paint.  That, plus the shibori-dying class I’ve signed up for, has sent me galloping into a plan to give my bedroom a slight “boho chic” makeover (which, really, is mainly going to translate into creating a few candle arrangements here and there, changing a couple lamps and then dumping a gabillion cushions on the bed).

And I’ll be getting back to the movies soon, of course; I’ve just been trying to get through the last couple weeks at the old job.  I’m doing a major cleanout of the file room as my Last Act And Legacy; it’s something I’ve desperately wanted to do for a year and a half (ever since we discovered one day that there was about a two year period when people didn’t actually file things in there, so much as “shove them into corners”), and that’s been a lot of lifting and toting and shoving and sorting and arranging, interspersed with cursing and grumbling.  At least four times now I’ve discovered a whole new pile of un-filed files, and opined to my coworkers that “I really feel like someone needs to die for doing this.”  Wishing others death is tiring work.

Summer Is Launched!

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Okay. We all know that summer technically doesn’t begin until late June.  But for most of us, it is unofficially in the national consciousness that “summer” begins on Memorial Day.  And I did have some good news to launch my summer into a good start (I’ll be able to share later), so I’m already in that mindset.  I’m still not going to be able to do much travel (and the news will explain why, I swear I’ll explain, please be patient), so I’m in a “playtime” mindset already.

And that brings in my friends Colin and Niki.  Or, rather, it brings in a habit the three of us have.  They travel a lot – they’re both freelancers, and Colin’s work in particular calls for a lot of travel – and they own a couple of rental properties so they can move around a bit.  And – they also own a car, which they are not always able to take with them – which means that it is in danger of being ticketed or towed if it isn’t occasionally moved to satisfy New York’s parking rules.  I, on the other hand, haven’t had quite so much of a chance to travel like they do (we will set aside my jealousy for the moment).  But – my being stuck at home means I am the perfect car-sitter.  So for the past few years, they have dropped off their car with me before they take off, and I can use it for whatever I like while they are in Honduras or Costa Rica or Newfoundland.  I’ve brought myself upstate for weekend trips, made big-ass Salvation Army or Ikea hauls, and have even used it for the journey home for Christmas when I had an assload of presents and the idea of wrestling things into a train gave me hives.  And except for one unfortunate evening where I had to visit an impound lot (i swear i thought i was outside the bus stop zone i’m still sorry guys) it’s worked well.

This summer, they told me they’re going to Montana and Colorado. But – they’re taking the car with them.  However, Niki had another idea to soften the blow – was I interested in borrowing her sewing machine?  And Niki used to make candles, but didn’t do it so much, and I’d been saying I’d be interested in taking anything she didn’t use, how about I do that too?

And thus, Niki and I spent an afternoon sitting on a floor as I sniffed my way through the contents of three enormous tubs full of essential oils (Niki had them by the quart, people) and made my various requests and she gave me a super-quick candlemaking 101 as she doled out bunches of wicks into different baggies.  Then she showed me how to thread the sewing machine, and we crammed everything into four bags and boxes and she called me an Uber to get it all home.

I’m going to have a tiny bit of a financial windfall soon (again, I promise, the news will epxlain it) and I’m already looking into ways to snazz up my bedroom a bit for summer. Still on a bit of a budget, though.  However – I’ve already found something from my summer bucket list – a shibori dye class in a couple weeks – and had to get something to be dyed in the class, and went with a couple of pillow cases.  But now that there’s the sewing machine, I’m thinking of just making way more cushion covers and pillow covers and just piling my bed with them.   And I just found a decent source of soy wax, and Niki sent me home with 3 boxes of containers for candles, and long story short, I’m already getting going on what is shaping up to be A Summer Of Making Shit.