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March Update: Year Of Challenges

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Let’s look back in on this.  I admit that my performance in the Year of Challenges has been a little spotty; mid-January threw me a financial curve ball, and February threw me another one – and kept me inside all month.  This past month I was finding my footing at a new job, and I’m still kind of in the “I don’t know what I’m doing and my head is exploding” stage.

But I’m trying:

  • Visit a New Neighborhood: So I finally did this!  I’ve been wanting to check out Flushing, Queens for a while now – there are three “Chinatown” districts in New York, and this is the biggest one.  I originally was planning to eat my way across the neighborhood, but ended up only getting dumplings and going to a tea tasting, each of them in little hole-in-the-wall shops in malls down in basements.

    But the dumplings were at a stall once feted by Anthony Bourdain and the tea tasting was an eye-opening half hour.  It’s in a little cubbyhole of a place tucked into the back room of a mini-mall, a place selling gourmet tea and fancy-pants tea implements.  But for a mere five dollars, the shopkeeper will sit down and conduct a tea tasting with you – pick your choice from the menu, and she’ll sit down with you at a table, letting you smell a scoopful of the dry leaves first and then taking you through a sampling; the tea is high-quality enough that the leaves can be re-used five times, and she takes you through five steepings of increasingly longer duration.  I picked the poetically-named “spring rain in the desert” green tea – and was stunned at the variations in taste that came simply from changing the length of time the tea was steeped.  The first time it was steeped for only a matter of seconds, and I picked up a surprising edamame flavor to it that was gone the next steeping.  It was a gracious and fascinating pause to the day.

    I also had the bonus gift of running into a friend from back in my hometown – a few of us theater kids all moved to NYC at the same time and scattered to our different paths; but every so often our paths cross, like when I was walking up to the historic Quaker Meeting House in Flushing at the precise moment that my friend Dan was walking out after meeting.  After squealing at each other, he snuck me inside for a quick tour.

  • Eat lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood:  In February I made a point of hitting up a crab place that opened up on my block.  I’m still looking for a place in Brooklyn that does clam rolls, but this made for a good seafood fix.  And this past weekend was a visit to a Vietnamese place which was blessedly a little empty – so no one saw me becoming a stupid doof when I was confronted with Vietnamese iced coffee for the first time. (I had to ask the waiter twice about “how do I work this coffee maker thing again?”…..)  I also got messy and fumble-fingered with their crispy spring rolls – four deep-fried rolls of vermicelli noodles stuffed with shrimp, presented alongside some big lettuce leaves and a sprig of mint for me to further wrap around the rolls as I saw fit.  At least, I’m assuming that I was supposed to wrap the lettuce around the rolls rather than dropping the lettuce on the floor.
  • Reading Challenge: Okay, the Penguin UK site finally posted a list.  And I discovered it in enough time to get through the one for March; a reread of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.
  • Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday: Big fat goose-egg here this month. Trying again.
  • Chinese Cookbook: This is back!  I found a simple edamame recipe, with the pods spiked with Chinese five-spice powder instead of solely with salt (as is done in Japan), and something called “Russian soup”, a concoction of oxtail and potato with a broth seasoned by ketchup.  Which brings me to:
  • NEW Soup Cookbook Challenge. …I didn’t do this.  New-job head-messery tempted me to hit up Grubhub for more dinners than usual this month, so I didn’t do much cooking overall.  But the cost of those Grubhubs is nudging me back towards cooking, and I’ll be revisiting this; my theater days taught me the value of having something ready on hand when you come home from work exhausted and all you want for dinner is “I don’t care as long as all I have to do is microwave it”.
  • Five Photos every weekend: The weather has sucked.  I’ve only wanted to go outside two weekends.  Leave me alone.  ….April will be better.  Pinky-swear.

Some Movie Crash Course Administrative Announcements

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So, heads up:

A few weeks ago I rolled out the new official home for the Movie Crash Course.  Since then I have been double-posting reviews in both sites, as a transition phase.  But after next Friday, April 4th, I will no longer post the movie reviews for the Movie Crash Course on this site; from then on, the reviews for the Movie Crash Course, will be posted exclusively over there.  If you’re following me for the Crash Course, this is your first warning to switch sites.


There are contemporary movies I’ll see now and then too, and I’m most likely going to want to talk about them.  So that movie talk, I’ll keep here.

Got it?

Good, because I saw Us this weekend and I’m going to have to prepare a post for it because holy God I have many many thoughts.  (One of which is how surreal it was to be explaining to Alex the in-depth history of Hands Across America, complete with finding the theme song – something I had not listened to in over thirty years.)

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.

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.

Well THAT Was Easy

…So, uh, I think I may have the next job lined up already.  We’ve done the deal verbally, still waiting for the paperwork.

Job hunting is never fun for anyone, but for me it’s especially fraught because the first time I ever really had to devote attention to such a search was right after the financial collapse of 2008/2009.  Before that I sort of stumbled into both a day job and all my theater gigs pretty quickly; my very first post-college job came via a call from my university’s internship office that came the morning after graduation, and I just stuck with the person helming that particular project for the next eight years.  Then I kicked up the theater career and signed up for temping, and got easily placed in spots for about ten more years, with one gig lasting four years alone (and it probably would have gone on even longer if the economy had lasted).  So the first time I ever tried to deliberately look for a job was in 2009, when such a search usually dragged on for months and months while your savings dwindled and your debt soared and you were living on ramen.  That…was kind of a scarring experience.

So I was girding my loins for a very, very lean year while I was searching – only to have this come along in under a month.  And I realized that my last job search was also comparatively quick.  It’s given me food for thought – and the space to dream a little bigger.  I’m still going to stay put at this new place for a good while (even when it’s fast, job searches suck), but I’m also seeing that this is letting me turn my attention back to “hey, you were going to try eating out more” and “ooh now you can get wonton skins, didn’t you want to use that cookbook more?”

Part of the idea behind the Year Of Challenges was just to get myself out and moving around more – because that’s how you find more connections and more things to involve yourself in out in the wider world.   Life doesn’t have to just be a slog to your job and then a slog home, and I had forgotten that.

Case in point – I was looking for a place to see one of this year’s Best Picture nominees, and discovered a little teeny community space up in Greenpoint was showing a couple.  I went out to one last night – it’s a tiiiiiiny theater space, which they also use for art galleries and video gaming contests, with an equally-cozy coffee house as well.  There were only four of us there for the movie, so the guy behind the concessions counter came in to offer us all a free glass of wine as well, for the heck of it.  I was intrigued enough by the space that I chatted with the staff for a few minutes after, even suggesting a couple films.  But it got me thinking, as I was heading home, that if I ever wanted to launch some kind of a local movie event, they might be down with that….

I mean, I’m still a train, two busses and about fifteen bucks in a cab away from doing that.  But the fact that I even was thinking along those lines is a sign of hope that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.

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

Bit Of A Bobble

So things got an eensy bit quiet in here for a couple days and I should probably explain why.

A few days ago, I learned that the company I work for is closing its office in New York City.  There is no option for me to do my job remotely.


Fortunately (or unfortunately) this is not a wholly new situation for me.  The bulk of my employment history was during the ten years following the financial collapse, and for a few years temporary work was all there was to be had.  So I’ve thrown myself full-tilt into a job search, and am pretty confident this will just be a few months’ bobble, and I’ll console myself by humming “Another Suitcase In Another Hall” now and then.

In the meantime – I’m keeping up with the Movie Crash Course, of course, and am going to definitely keep up with some of my other resolutions, especially the five-photos-a-week and the new-neighborhood-a-month.  A lot of the things I was planning on doing will require nothing more than time to accomplish anyway – and time is something I’ll have a little more of than planned for a few weeks.

Right.  Onward.