Archive for April, 2009

Sewing for Dummies

I really need to take a basic sewing course. Hand me a sewing machine and I think I can do anything on it, then rediscover the truth when it takes me three days to make a relatively simple bag. Yes, I just need some more experience, but with money tight and supplies dear I find myself unwilling to do the ridiculous things one must do in order to gain experience – namely, making pillow cases, bags I won’t use, and the like. No, I’m trying to jump right in to the deep end by taking apart an existing piece of clothing and remaking it.

Not only is it knit fabric, a medium with which I’ve never worked before, it utilizes fold over elastic (FOE), a new form of a tear-inducing medium that I haven’t worked with since I was a teenager. So here we go. I also discovered that it appears the bobbin should be threaded with what I’ve alternately read called “polyarn” and “texturized nylon”. Where does one find either of these items? Do they come in one width? You see, at first I thought it was elastic thread, or elasticized thread, and I even found some on the internet. But they came in multiple widths and eBay even showed me some designated as fishing supplies.

What is a hapless, low-skill seamstress to do? Why, ask the internets, of course! I found a tutorial for FOE, I asked Yahoo! Answers about the elastic thread (which is where I was pointed at texturized nylon), and I will now go to JoAnn Fabrics’ website in an effort to determine, in my native tongue (even though we nominally speak the same language the English call many, many things by a different name. Most recent case in point: duct tape = gaffer tape), to see what I could see. Aaaand, beading thread is what I can see. The woman who told me about my options also mentioned that neither were necessary so long as you use the right stitch. Seeing as my lovely free sewing machine offers me double and triple stitch options, I’m just gonna go with that.

Now I need an iron so I can iron flat the parts of the garment I took apart, then better scissors. I wish I’d known I would want my Ginghers here when I left NYC. I’ve bought a large bundle of FOE in varying colors and two shirts from the charity shop that I can take apart. I had been planning on using this shirt as fabric as well but seeing as I can’t buy another one for who-knows-how-long I’ll just deal with the stains a while longer.

Ooh, I found one on fleabay. Does anyone want to take any guesses as to whether or not I can find/follow a tutorial for making shirts smaller?

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Man, the boyfriend has warned me a couple of times that you can’t take for granted that the weather will stay the same here for any length of time. For instance, last Thursday, when it was totally warm when I set out and then became shudder-inducingly cold by the evening, and we still had the ride home from Wests to make. That was awesome. Or yesterday, when a low pressure front sapped my will to live and made me give up on the idea of riding my bike for the day. I was afraid that it would rain partway through my ride and I just didn’t want to deal with that. But did it rain again, even English-style, at any other point in the day? No. Then I was edified by a Jamaican, “You got to be careful here. You’ll have all four seasons in one day here.” I guess from now on I’m forced to bring my messenger bag with me, no matter what else I may actually want to do with my day.

Speaking of that messenger bag, I’m sick of not being a girl! So on Sunday, we were going to do something, oh right, meeting friends and then going to the polo court, and I had finally waxed my legs (yo!) so I put on a dress, capri-length leggings, fluffed my hair, put on eye shadow and two coats of mascara. NO! I didn’t want to take my messenger bag! I wanted to be a girl! I’m sick of grease stains all over my clothes, I’m sick of abrasions from pedals smacking into my shins (two, at present), I’m sick of not looking like a girl because I ride a bike. I have to come up with some way of both being a girl and being a bike girl. Also, I need one of Outlier’s merino wool hoodies (charcoal gray, small) and one of their winter weight hoodies (probably won’t be out again until next Fall). Seriously. If like, five of you didn’t know what to get me for my birthday, now you do. Pre-order, NOW! Their brand of bike-ready/office-ready style really, really gets me going. If I were a boy I’d be all over that site, no questions asked.

We cleaned the room. Hallelujah! *raises hands skyward*

I’m still exhausted but really want to ride my bike today. I love the wind in my hair.

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So it looks like I’m mildly lactose intolerant. But it only seems to affect me with yogurt. What is that all about? The boyfriend can’t really eat more than a little yogurt without it making him a fart factory and after going on a yogurt binge for the first few weeks that I was here, when it was £1 per pot, we noticed that my factory seemed to have mostly shut down. I love yogurt though, so I bought some soy yogurt, wanting to check it out. That crap is not right!! It’s like drinking tofu and I am not all about drinking tofu. So I went back to regular yogurt, had a larger bowl than usual, and was back to Fart City. I don’t want to admit it, but it looks like I can’t eat much yogurt anymore. I wonder if it would be any different if we made our own? Don’t see why, though…

And then there’s the Tesco brand Fruit & Fiber cereal. It’s gorgeous – coconut flakes, banana chips, big ol’ bran flakes, bits of apple, I love it. What I don’t love are the raisins. It’s like every other bowl I either have next to zero (the perfect amount) or 20,000 raisins. It would be so much better with about 30% fewer raisins in the box.

Am I crazy?

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Money is running out. Not as fast as it could, because I am careful, but still – the application to register to be a social worker has been fubar’ed and I have now lost at least another two weeks in the process. So that means that I will probably not have confirmation of my registration status before I am made to leave the country. I’m going to cry. I just want to stay here with my boyfriend, I have a skill that this country needs, why is everything so hard? I think I need to go to the embassy and see if there’s a way around this.

But back to the subject line. I need another tattoo, true or false? [keep in mind I have a barterable skill but would that be considered “work” for purposes of visa applications? ; ) ] It will be of a cute little bird, puffed up from the cold, because I love that image. Plus, I’ve a) wanted a greyscale tattoo for a long time, b) I’ve sort of wanted a bird tattoo (but every other hipster and their brother has a bird tattoo), and c) I’ve wanted red in a tattoo. Et, voila!

tufted titmouse

I’ve been cycling a lot more, trying to put in a lot of miles. Today I had a close call and almost forgot to keep pedaling. Thank god I was going quite slowly. I think I’m going to wander around Ealing on the bike, mapping the area in my head so I don’t feel like such an idiot not knowing which way is up. But when everything looks like this can you blame me?

P.S. Our location is somewhere on this map.

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I went looking for the newest Beirut album online, to download not to buy; I wanted to test it out before I purchased it because I had found the last one somewhat ho-hum. Among the three full-length albums, I also found several EPs and a compilation. Dark Was the Night is its title and it is among the offerings of the Red Hot Organization, an amazing group dedicated to raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS research, which I first heard of in high school. On this compilation are 31 tracks of the sublime, the joyous, and a few surprises. Another highly recommended compilation is Rough Trade’s Counter Culture ’08. Two CDs, two different moods, the whole thing grows on you.

These compilations together represent the best introduction to some of the newer indie bands out there (I’m differentiating between 90s indie and…gag with me on this designation…Noughties indie) that I’ve run across. The opening track by Department of Eagles is a highlight. And I had not heard Yeasayer yet. It was exciting to be introduced to Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. I wasn’t strongly in the know regarding Bon Iver. It took some digging to discover that Aarron and Bryce Dessner form one half of The National, a band for which I already harbor friendly feelings. I had forgotten how perfectly amazing Feist’s voice is. And how transcendent is Antony’s.

As with any compilation, the greatest joy is in having so many different voices in one place. Go buy them. Really. Most of the links take you directly to Other Music, a site where, if you live in the United States, you can purchase DRM-free tracks and albums at 320 kbps, the absolute minimum acceptable quality for mp3s.

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On Wednesday the boyfriend and I crossed the street, he on foot, me slightly worried on his brakeless polo bike (my ex-boyfriend, the Coventry Eagle). It was time to practice skid stopping and we were using the polo bike because of its extremely low gear ratio (49/26), which makes it easier to skid. So much easier, in fact, that I had my first skid within minutes. I hooted with the joy of it and busted out a few more right away then got overconfident and muffed one, nearly falling off the bike. It’s so easy to skid on that ratio that I was barely lifting out of the saddle, and as a consequence having short, heavy skids. The boyfriend’s look effortless and light, mine are like stolid old ladies in comparison.

I had hoped to be able to rock up to West drinks the next day and do a big long epic skid, stopping just in the right place to pick up someone’s pint and take a drink. It quickly became apparent that I am just not ready to skid on Evelyn. The gear ratio still seems a bit high for me at 48/19, I may drop down a tooth or two in the front. The cranks are too long at 170mm so I may sell the whole setup to a fellow forum-goer who wants it, provided I can get another one for under £80.

That most fix-it of Mr. Fix Its has just taken down the broken blind and replaced the messed up pull. I am quite proud of him. I am quite lucky to have a Mr. Fix It for a boyfriend, let me tell you.

Monday: 10.5m ride to Ruislip. Whoo!

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There are many differences immediately noticeable to expats: accents, stores, music, currency, culture, but there are also things that take a while to be noticed. It took us a little bit to notice not just the cars that are obviously different, we don’t really have Citroën, Renault or Peugeot (somehow mangled as Per-zho by the Francophobic Francophilic British), or the awesome smart cars. Then there are familiar brands, which are all different models, none of the ones you’re used to. And cleaning products provide a different scent to your clothes and your home.

I have also begun to realize that all of the people around me are different – I don’t just mean that I am in Britain and thus am surrounded by British people who have a different accent (! accents!!) but even the minorities are different. Britain has Poles, Asians, and a number of other groups I’m not aware of yet. Asians are from Asia, East-Asians are from further east. It does make more sense and is more culturally aware than saying “Indian” for anyone who looks vaguely like they came from the Indian subcontinent. But they may be from Bagladesh, Pakistan, you get the picture. But I miss Puerto Ricans. I miss Cubans. I miss Mexicans. I don’t know whether it’s just because I am learning Spanish, and thus miss the opportunity to practice, or because these are people with accents that I am familiar with, am comfortable with.

Recently the Best Boyfriend In the World and I watched the entire first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the best thing to happen to me since NARS Tobago lipstick. One of the queens, Nina Flowers, is from Puerto Rico and her accent brought it all home for me. (Ay, loca!) I love Western hemisphere Spanish speakers!! They’re totally different from Spaniards. Not saying they’re better, just different, and that “differentness” goes to the heart of what I’ve been feeling the past four months.

Here’s another thing I realized in the past week – yes, I have friends I can hang out with, yes, I’m having a good time, but I don’t have anyone I can just call up and chitty chat with or whine about something stupid happening in my life. Not just because there isn’t anyone with a schedule as open as mine is now (and was in NYC), but also because cell phone plans are different here. I’ve got a plan that allows me only 200 minutes per month. So I can’t just call someone up and while away the walk to the home improvement store or I won’t have enough minutes to last the month. *grump* I’m used to having 900 minutes a month. ‘Course here you don’t pay for incoming calls or texts, so at least there’s that. But we don’t have a land line yet, despite our roommate saying she’d get it a month ago.

All this adds up to an increasing feeling of isolation. I have to join a group or something, take a class, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to on my tourist visa, and I don’t really have the money to spend on something like that. Good thing spring is here and I can get out and meet chicks who ride bikes. That group is already available but I didn’t want to hang out with them outside while it was freezing cold.

I made cookies, I made biscuits, found a recipe for making pudding from scratch, want to come up with a color to paint the closet(s), and have to poke the boyfriend again about consolidating bike bits. I swear to god, they never end!!

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