mokie: Stonehenge with the sun shining through the stones (holiday hippie)
What better way to celebrate Secondhand Clothes Day than sharing the wonders of Katwise?

Kat O'Sullivan has built a glorious technicolor empire on recycled thrift store sweaters, transforming them into one-of-a-kind works of wearable art for bodies of all sizes. Her work is so popular that she can't keep it in stock: once a month she adds new sweaters to her shop, and they sell out within minutes. Her name is frequently used as a tag or description by the many copy-Kats, but rather than call the lawyers to go full-Disney on anyone who steps foot on her turf, she embraces the sweater love with grace and affordable tutorial PDFs so everybody can hop on the upcycling wagon.

And then there's her house - a 100+ year old farmhouse turned into a glorious riot of color, pattern and material, full of found and created art.

And her life...
"In no particular order: she’s worked for Mother Teresa, trained as a baker, been contracted by an exiled princess of Burma to teach refugees how to make Kentucky Fried Chicken, bought a burnt out school bus for $500 and painted it six thousand colours, learned how to poke thieves in the eye in Ecuador where she lived under an active volcano, perfected her Spanish as a translator in the Amazonian jungle, resided in a trailer on Broadway, hitchhiked across the Sahara and spent time in Mongolia where she came to the conclusion that she now wants a yurt." (Messynessychic.com)
It's a life of firsthand adventures, built on secondhand sweaters! I'd take the secondhand version, though - how do I be her when I grow up?

Happy New Year!

Friday, 4 January 2013 08:55 am
mokie: Stonehenge with the sun shining through the stones (holiday renewal)
Three days late for a new year post. Well, so much for that resolution...

Let's get right to business, shall we?

NEW
YEARS
RULIN'S


1. WORK MORE AND BETTER. I've been very fortunate in my current line of work, but I need to buckle down and more actively seek more of it. This means overcoming my oddly specific fear of work-related scheduling conflicts, a result of having to fight at three different retail jobs to make them respect my 'unavailable' days.

2. WORK BY A SCHEDULE. A new soap or related product every week! This year, I will keep the shop stocked.

3. Here's where I break from the Guthrie list, because the man has eight different hygiene-related resolutions, which is a little worrisome. So instead, I'll take one from a very cool project manager I know: PUT ON A BRA AND GO OUTSIDE. Between working from home and working night owl hours, it's easy for me to forget to put on real clothes and go outside every so often. While the fresh air may be trying to kill me, I could probably use the vitamin D, and the socialization.

4. DRINK GOOD. With all due respect to Mr Guthrie, I want to expand my alcoholic horizons this year, from trying out more of the local beers to adding some of the better reviewed absinthes to my liquor cabinet.

5. READ LOTS OF GOOD BOOKS AND WRITE EVERY DAY. When scheduling gets crazy, one of the first things to fall by the roadside is my own writing. The next is recreational reading. I miss both, and so this year, instead of being something to fit around the schedule, they're going to be part of the schedule. That includes staying on top of the journals, and getting older entries properly tagged. All thirteen years of them.

And a corollary: read less tabloid fodder and media gossip, view fewer celebrity photos. This isn't a new resolution for me. I was never big on gossip rags, and working in retail during Britney Spears' Very Bad Year, seeing her mental illness played out over rows of magazines every day for entertainment, didn't raise my opinion of them. Unfortunately it's easier to get sucked into gossip online, where you're often looking at a row of links to news stories mixed with a row of links to stories that shouldn't be considered news at all. ("The Senate passed a bill requiring--wait a minute, Lindsay Lohan did what?")

It also weirds me out that our celebrities have WWF-style heroes, villains, grudges and sob stories that are wheeled out as a form of advertising every time they have a movie coming out. That can't be healthy for us as a culture.

But mostly, it's the idea that being a celebrity means someone gives up their right to common respect and privacy--that they don't have the right to sit in their own yard without cameras peering over hedges, that they can't walk their kid to school without hiring someone to first push the press out of the way, or that it's acceptable to put lives at risk chasing them through traffic in search of that perfect shot. And for what? For a picture to put in a magazine intentionally designed to make the rest of us feel old, fat, ugly and unhip so we'll buy products to fix what isn't broken. Why feed that beast? Why pay anyone to make myself and a handful of famous strangers miserable, when I generally feel better not knowing or caring who's seeing/breaking up with/stalking who?

6. DON'T GET LONESOME. I'm not just an introvert, I'm one of those introverts that makes other introverts uncomfortable. But I've been slack when it comes to maintaining my social ties lately, so this year I'm going to make an effort not to be such a hermit--from a family game night with the nephew, to taking a friend up on an offer to tutor me in local beers.

7. LEARN PEOPLE BETTER. I've seen some cooing over Guthrie's self-awareness, and even a project on Tumblr about interviewing people to learn them better. As a girl with roots in southern Missouri, though, I suspect Woody was using 'learn' in the rural sense--that this really means "Teach people more effectively." That's how I'm taking it, albeit in a personal direction.

Though I rant about random topics that rile me and get way too cozy with the TMI, I'm really a pretty private person. I don't open up often or easily about my personal life, feelings, beliefs, relationship status--anything, really.

In my hesitation to become that friend who won't shut up about their cause or their boyfriend or their faith, I've become instead something of a relatable blank slate. The end result is that I find myself fairly often with an angry ___ who is upset because suddenly my experience/feeling/opinion/belief doesn't mesh with what they've projected onto me, and I'm not an angry ___ too. (It's usually atheists. Don't know why.) I'm never whatever enough to fit the idea they've formed of me, so they want to push me to their position, or lecture me on how wrong I am to not be like them, or tell me what I really am/believe (and you would not believe how much that pisses me off). There I am, left with the awkward choice of smoothing things over and putting up with their crap for the sake of peace, or telling them to fuck off and dealing with the fall-out. I admit that I lean more toward the latter these days, because life's too short to cater to other people's personal issues. But anyway.

Essentially, I need to open up more, and get comfortable with expressing who I am and what I think (etc.) a little more, and not worry so much about becoming that creepy friend who nags you for wearing leather, or being targeted by that creepy friend if I reveal that I'm not also a Baptist/vegan/UFOologist.

For the record: I'm a relatively liberal blue-haired bisexual hammock-dwelling pulp-reading hippie-ish single neopagan who eats meat, listens to whatever damn music feels good at the time, and really only feels strongly about reproductive rights and single spaces after sentences. (Never double. It's a relic of the printing press and HTML ignores it anyway. Let it go.) There's probably more worth adding, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. If you're conservative, don't eat meat, don't dig hammocks, listen only to K-pop, etc., it makes me no nevermind.

8. STAY GLAD. I used to live within walking distance of one of the world's greatest gardens; now I'm a tedious bus ride from any of the city's fun activities. I used to live beside a well-planted park, in a picturesque neighborhood that I wandered with a camera in hand; I now live in a closely packed neighborhood with bland lawns, where I feel like an intrusive guest even without the camera. I used to have my own little garden, with plantings older than I was and a makeshift pond; now I have a tiny patch of weedy dirt that I share with a rotating cast of neighbors who always, always, take it over and ruin it.

I've let this vague, sulky, gloomy dissatisfaction rule my roost far too long. I need to zhenzhizhenzhify my outlook! To look up and find the beauty in the moment and where I'm at, to look out over the neighborhood not as an intruder but as an explorer, to take bootyloads of photos and share them, if only to remind myself that it's not where my body is, it's where my head is.

9. SAVE DOUGH. Enough said, right?

10. LOVE EVERYBODY. And I do, even when I don't.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
Earlier this year, I imposed a tea moratorium: not another box, pouch, brick or bag would I buy until my drinking was under control. Until my stash no longer took up its own kitchen cabinet. Until I no longer had more varieties than the grocery store. Until I could look at my supply and reasonably say, "Uh-oh, better buy more tea before I run out."

It wasn't easy. I ran out of my favorite blends one by one. I used up my runners-up. I forced myself to pitch the try-it-outs that didn't work out. But finally, in November, my stash was down to one basket on the kitchen counter. Sure, it was holding about a pound of tea, but seven or eight varieties, and most of those green, and shut up, I don't have a problem, you have a problem! with cold weather coming, I decided some black teas were in order.

Long story short: I've got new sippage, so you get new tea reviews!

One of my new regular vendors is the English Tea Store, purveyors of bulk tea and snackage from the UK. One of the teas I ordered was 4 oz of blackcurrant 'naturally flavored' loose leaf black tea, to see how it stacked up to my custom currant-y blend from Adagio Teas. I love the custom blend, but Adagio botched it twice in a row and their customer service leaves one wishing for the care and attention of, say, Charter or AT&T.

I also regularly order from Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company, because they own the Eastern Shore Tea Company, seller of loose leaf tea in white paper pouches with nifty labels and reusable muslin bags. I don't remember where Eastern Shore and I first met, but after a long dry spell, they turned up again sporadically in the shop at the Missouri Botanical Garden, tucked behind items on random shelves like they'd been stocked by someone who's never worked proper retail before little surprises. Though it's been a few years since I had their blackcurrant tea, named Black Raven in honor of Poe, I purchased a pound because I remembered it fondly.

In the Bag:
- The English Tea Store's blackcurrant contains blue and yellow petals--cornflower and sunflower, probably, since they're popular fillers these days. (I guess hibiscus has been retired.) The petals aren't in the sample photo and the ingredients only list black tea and 'natural flavor' (i.e. flavoring sprayed on the tea leaves), so either the site is outdated or you only get uncut tea in larger amounts.

The bag smells like perfume with a whiff of berry behind it, and the reviewers describe it as 'smooth and fruity', much like you'd expect from people who've never tasted blackcurrant-flavored anything before. Put the two together and it doesn't bode well.

- Eastern Shore Tea Co.'s blackcurrant is just flavor-spritzed tea with no petals or mystery bits, so it's already a step ahead. It smells like malty black tea and Ribena. Taste buds puckered, I had a brief flashback and wondered what markfinnMark's up to these days. Good signs!

The Steepening:
Plain cold tap water boiled in the electric kettle and a little hot tap water in the pots to swish off any dust from the tea--a general hazard of dried plant matter rubbing against itself in packaging. Each tea steeped long enough for me to put on coffee for the non-tea drinkers, and each poured mug was sniffed and sipped hot before cream and sugar, for thorough comparisons.

- The English Tea Store's blackcurrant is ridiculously floral, almost like a berry chamomile, with a strange oily mouthfeel. Maybe the base tea is too bright--it's all perfume and no fruit, especially as it cools down. The effect is less a nice blackcurrant tea than it is sipping regular tea out of your great-grandmother's powdered cleavage.

- Eastern Shore's blackcurrant is already gone. I finished the cup before I could write anything down. Dark, malty and tart and perfect for cold mornings and long novels.

The Verdict:
Oh, Black Raven, I'll never let you go again.

Meanwhile, a quick trip to Google [turned up a now-defunct link that] confirms that it's not me: the English Tea Store's blackcurrant tea is all wrong. Not just cornflower and sunflower petals, but blackberry (not blackcurrant!) leaves, which are the special ingredient that gives Celestial Seasoning teas its gritty "How do you fuck up herbal?" astringency, and mallow flowers, which Google proclaims floral and earthy, and which is on the list of ragweed relatives (along with chamomile) for allergy sufferers to avoid--which explains why I had to suck down ibuprofen and sinus meds after breakfast.

And, again, none of these are listed as ingredients on the packaging or the website, but now I've got an inkling why their Earl Grey left me sick as a dog...

Update: The now-defunct link was to a blogger who had requested a full list of ingredients for the tea. The blog's MIA, but the English Tea Store itself now lists ingredients, so that's good.
mokie: A vintage image of a girl and kitten smiling (pets)
Back near the end of July, during that fun 3-month heat wave/drought combo platter, I got a call from Zaphod, my nephew, asking if I would take in a stray kitten he found. It had been hiding under some bushes near his house, panicking at the passing cars and panting in the heat, and it had been out there for a while.

But you know young animal lovers. A baby bird on the ground must be in dire danger, a bunny out of its burrow must need rescuing from any potential threats, and a kitten under a bush must be lost and in need of saving. I gave reluctant and conditional permission: I'd bring the kitten in, check it out, and let it get some water and cool off, but in all likelihood it was simply an outdoor cat trying to dodge him.

A few minutes later, my sister came up the street with the boy and a couple of neighborhood kids, and I realized it wasn't just Zaphod being oversensitive. The kitten wasn't starved, but it did seem a little bony and dehydrated, and it was petrified by every sound, from random dog barks a block away to squealing tires a few streets over.

That's how Maynard came to us.

The fact that he was so affectionate, and so willing to be lugged around and snuggled by Zaphod, told us that Maynard was most definitely not a feral cat, but he did like to dodge out the door--and then freeze on the porch, as if asking himself what he'd just done. We were banking on Maynard being a local kitten who'd darted out one day and not been able to get back in, so we checked grocery store bulletin boards, looked for Lost Cat posters, posted notices online, and the nephew said he even put up a Found Cat notice near his apartment building.

Nothing. Poor thing. I'd only saddled him with the name 'Maynard' because I thought he'd just be here a day or two.

As the month creeped by, the other possibility started to look more like a probability. Maynard was (I would guess) eight or nine months old, at that gangly stage where cats stop being cute and start knocking things over in earnest, and we live in a neighborhood dominated by apartment buildings, with a lot of turnover in the summer months. It was all too possible that someone simply decided they didn't want a kitten anymore, or was moving and didn't want to lug him along.

Due to a human medical emergency earlier this year, Ming and Murphy's visit to the vet to be fixed ended up being pushed back, but with a second intact male in the house, procrastination was no longer an option. Last week I called the vet to ask if they check for microchips as a last ditch effort to find Maynard's previous owners, and made an appointment for all three cats to be vaccinated. (It's required at least two weeks before spaying/neutering, even for indoor cats.)

I didn't even need to fully explain to the vet. I started with, "There are a lot of apartments..." and she knew where it was going. How's that for depressing?

Ming's check-up included an ultrasound to be sure there were no surprises. While the vet saw some fluid in her uterus, there were no signs of kittendom, so she was vaccinated and yowled all the way home about it. Kitty PMS!

Maynard's check-up revealed no chip and no health problems. He's now vaccinated and officially a member of the family. He took it so well, the vet's assistant dubbed him 'loverboy'.

Murphy's check-up took place in the office sink, since he felt a little less exposed there. He's about as social as I am--we both hide when new people come into the apartment--so I was surprised he was willing to come out of the carrier at all. The exam revealed a blocked eye duct and problematic tooth, possibly allergy/sinus related since the weepy eye seemed to act up most often when the people-allergies flared up. The vet warned that vaccinations and antibiotics together could make him feel sick, but I figured a little sick was better than stressing him out with a string of vet visits. Two minutes after we got home, he felt so sick that he bounded up the cat tower, flung himself at Maynard, dodged a swipe from Ming and rolled across the rug chasing absolutely nothing.

And everyone was happy to be home.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Darwin died last night.

He was about 6 or 7 years old, which is around the average lifespan for a Dutch rabbit. He hadn't been sick, nor lost weight; he had been more shy recently, more inclined to find a quiet and cool spot beneath a shelf and not come talk to us. I thought the recent visits of some neighborhood kids had made him uncomfortable, but in retrospect it seems likely he was looking for a place to die.

My nephew Zaphod and I buried him in the yard, beside Jade and Serafina. This makes two summers in a row that the nephew has lost a pet he's known longer than some relatives. On my way out of the yard, a little black and orange butterfly flitted two steps ahead of me.

And as I reached the line above, the nephew came in to say a package had just arrived. It's from [livejournal.com profile] eekers; there's a bunny on the shipping label, and butterflies on the envelope inside.

Thank you, Eekchan--it was just the smile we both needed today.

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