My list for August.

After days of rain, the sun peeked out for just a minute Tuesday evening. I have never been so happy to see the sun in my entire life. Though the city of Houston and its surrounding areas have a long, long road to recovery from the devastating flooding of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, I am very grateful to report that Lennox and I came through unscathed. We got a very small amount of water in our apartment during the worst of the deluge — literally just puddles — but they were from drainage issues, not floodwater, and they receded almost immediately. We have no damaged property (including our car), and were safe and relatively comfortable the entire time.

We lucked out.

We are making room in our September budget for some charitable giving for organizations helping with the aftermath of the storm.

August was a difficult month all around, though. My anxiety spiraled out of control again, and I have been having panic attacks almost every day. I had to start back into weekly therapy, which is a very large expense (we pay completely out of pocket as our insurance does not cover extended talk therapy). Our savings rate will be reduced to almost nothing until I can scale back to monthly sessions. Trust me when I say that this is disappointing on a lot of levels.

Anyway, in August I:

  • Refilled my dried parsley spice jar for $0.28. Herbs and spices from the bulk aisle are one of the best grocery bargains that exist.
  • Got a free sample of Kotex pads in the mail.
  • Used a Redbox discount code to rent a Blu-ray disc. I watched “The Fate of the Furious” for $0.81! That’s a LOT of over-the-top car chasing and a whole bunch of heavily muscled leading men for less than a buck.
  • Was actually able to use a coupon at Jo-Ann Fabrics (their coupon game is completely rigged, but that’s a whole other rant). I got 40% off a purchase of muslin that I would have gotten regardless, but it was nice to get a discount.
  • Only bought a few extra snack-type dry goods and three more gallons of water to augment what we already had on hand for our hurricane kit before Harvey hit. Panic buying and hoarding can be expensive.
  • Being in the middle of a natural disaster meant eating no take out, and mostly from the pantry. Not enough to compensate for lost income, but at this point probably anything that isn’t flood-related is a positive point.
  • Read 13 eBooks and 2 physical books from the library, and 2 free Kindle books. It was a slow reading month for me; I was mostly too anxious to concentrate.

I just hope my crazy ass has a more productive and less emotionally taxing September.

July has been a rough month.

Our cat had been sick for many months, but we had to have her put to sleep last week. So: July has been a rough month. Pet grief is a real thing, you guys. I can’t sleep, I’m depressed, and I’m having trouble feeding myself properly. To add insult to injury, we also got a terrible flea infestation in the last week and a half of her life (almost certainly from a neighboring apartment, as our cat had not been outside in many years, and had never had fleas — even when she came to us as a rescue). So she got to be itchy and miserable as well as in pain, because I didn’t dare use a chemical pesticide on her or in the house with her illness.

It was horrible.

Anyway, in July I:

  • Finally watched a movie I’d gotten for free from Google Play a long time ago. I had forgotten all about it — I sometimes watch TV episodes on the computer if there’s no other way to stream them, but very rarely watch movies that way — but our new Roku has a Google Play channel, and I noticed the movie in my library when I logged in.
  • Used money earned doing surveys to pay for both my Seamwork subscription and all my Patreon contributions this month. I almost never accumulate enough to pay for all of these, so this was particularly nice.
  • Started to transition back into eating more prepared foods instead of take out. Though more expensive (and likely less healthy, in many cases) than eating food made from scratch, it’s definitely less expensive (and healthier in most cases) than take out. I have to work within my limitations, and a marginal improvement is still an improvement.
  • Spent a very quiet 4th of July holiday. Cooked all meals at home, and went for a swim in one of the pools in our apartment complex.
  • Went to a free sneak preview for “Atomic Blonde” – 2 1/2 weeks before it opened. Look, I’m more than willing to pay for Charlize, but free Charlize is even better.
  • Had been reading a series on eBook from the library, but the next book was not available. This particular book was a re-release to eBook only (the physical book is out of print), and I didn’t want to pay full price for it. I found a used paperback on Half.com for $1.00, and even with shipping it was less than half the cost of the eBook. (File under hashtag #VoraciousReadingHabit.)
  • Snagged a 2018 Nature Conservancy calendar from the free pile at work. And it has lovely photos!
  • Got a free sample of flavored sparkling water from our grocery delivery service. It really hit the spot on a hot day. Kept me from buying a soda, in fact.
  • Restored all of the data (including all of my music files, how I had missed them!) from our old computer, and returned the external drive to our back up service on time, which refunded me the $99 I had paid to have the it delivered. Then I deleted the old computer’s license from the service, thereby halving our monthly back up service fee. Or, to be honest, returning the fee to its original single computer price. Still counts, I think — despite the procrastination. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Any progress is progress.
  • Spent an excellent afternoon visiting with E.K. and her partner when they visited from San Francisco. They brought snacks and I cooked lunch for them, and since they are probably the most frugal people I know it probably never occurred to them to demand a fancy, expensive outing. Now we need to carve some airfare out of the budget so we can go to the Bay Area and visit them.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Read 17 eBooks from the library, and 5 free books from Kindle.

That’s actually not a bad list for such a bad month. Here’s hoping for a much better August, at least emotionally, and that I can keep my frugal momentum going even in the face of my sadness.

“Atomic Blonde” was okay.

I went to a sneak preview for “Atomic Blonde” this evening, and I promised you guys some thoughts on the film. (This is pretty close to spoiler free, as far as plot goes.)

“Atomic Blonde” is not exactly an action movie. It’s a period piece spy thriller punctuated with extreme violence. And I do mean extreme. Many, many poor stalks of celery must have been sacrificed in the making of its foley effects. The fight sequences are nothing short of brutal — neither stylized nor overtly cartoonish. When Lorraine Broughton slams a dude with whatever is handy, it’s obvious that she’s genuinely fighting for her life. I am not generally squeamish about movie violence, but I flinched almost continually through the bloodier bits. One thing I appreciated, though, was how very bruised and bloody the protagonist became. This wasn’t glamour shot violence in which a severe beating leaves little more than the need for a bandage on the forehead or the lip and everything looks fine the next day. In an odd way, I respected this touch of realism.

I wanted to love this, but I only sort of liked it. I was bored on and off through the first third of the movie, which seemed like “here’s a little sparse dialogue, here’s a little violence, here’s a snappy song from the 80s” with little cohesion and some uneven pacing. I wanted to punch James McAvoy right in the throat from the first minute he appeared on screen. Charlize Theron seemed to be exhibiting a here-and-therian accent that was sometimes American and sometimes British — and sometimes neither, but nearly always off somehow. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that this was a character choice. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past her to do something like that as a symbolic gesture toward the amorphous nature of her spy character…but it might not have been anything so deep, either. I genuinely don’t know.

I enjoyed the latter half a lot more than the first, though. The pacing evened out, battles were waged, and everybody played their parts well. Events in the film were successfully woven around the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it became far more entertaining. Broughton is obviously a badass, but she doesn’t make it look easy. She makes it look bone-crunchingly hard. Also, the only sex scene in the movie was femme-on-femme, which — though a little male-gaze-y — was completely atypical for a movie like this, and an interesting touch.

Everything else aside, I have to say that I loved the costuming! Broughton is clothed almost exclusively in black and white, as if to symbolically deny the grey area in which a spy must by definition operate — besides being chic as hell. (Even the visible dark roots of her platinum blonde hair echo this theme.) Percival’s scruffy post-punk regalia (with hidden traditional English undertones) was also very effective.

I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, though Lennox thought it was too “mainstream.” I argued that since most movies are actually aimed at the coveted youth market, kids these days aren’t going to care that they used almost every single German pop hit that also charted in the US in the 1980s. They’re just gonna think that it sounds cool. And I also disagreed that it was only the most blatant pop hits. I mean, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” is likely not close to the first Bowie song most people will think of from the 80s, and “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie & the Banshees is probably mostly forgotten in households other than ours, where Siouxsie is perhaps more revered than average. So. Obviously I’m right.

Anyway, Lennox felt like he liked it a lot more than I did, and yet we both gave it 3 out of 5 stars. (What can I say? Maybe our scales are just different.) It’s worth seeing if you have any interest in it, but I wouldn’t recommend paying full price unless you’re a Charlize superfan.

 

My list for June.

This is probably not a comprehensive list, and — to be honest — I spent more than I intended to this month. I bought two pairs of shoes (on clearance, at least) as well as some fabric I definitely didn’t need, and we spent more on take out than I would like. Hopefully I will be too busy in July focusing on Camp Nanowrimo to spend a lot of money.

In June I:

  • Had a free Starbucks drink on my card.
  • Did an additional project for a client to bring in some extra income.
  • Replaced the streaming device on our bedroom TV. Using a combination of credit card points and a coupon, Lennox bought a new Roku for only $10! I have been watching a lot of PBS on there, which I had previously been watching on the laptop. Much more convenient! (The PBS channel is free, too.)
  • Spent a whopping $0.24 on bulk thyme to refill an empty spice jar. [Insert money bag emoji here.]
  • Had a free taco at Taco Bell with my Mom (they were free due to some sport-y thing again). We also got “happy hour” special iced teas for only $1 each. I do love a cheap outing.
  • Stocked up on inexpensive gluten free products at Aldi.
  • Had a free lunch at work to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday.
  • Had completely forgotten that I still had a small balance on a Google Play gift card I had gotten for Christmas, so I used that to buy a few eBooks this month.
  • Got a $5 Amazon card by taking a survey.
  • Read 2 physical books and 20 eBooks from the library, as well as 2 free Kindle books. I also watched 4 DVDs from the library this month.

I may finish another library book this evening, too. I read a lot, you guys. It’s a good thing the majority of my reading is free!

The pleasant ambiguity of “My Cousin Rachel.”

We went to see “My Cousin Rachel” this afternoon, and I really liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good overall — and Rachel Weisz was excellent.

I haven’t read the book since I was a teenager — it had been so long, in fact, that my internal misandry had erased the male protagonist from my memory altogether — so I can’t say whether or not the film was true to the source material. But as Lennox remarked, “It was like a du Maurier mobius strip of both misogyny and misandry!” Is Rachel wicked after all? Is it just a function of the male gaze? We never really know, and it’s better that way.

The costuming was interesting, too — subtle, but quite good. The vicar’s daughters have terrible, slightly out of style sleeves from the previous decade (fashions were slow to appear in Cornwall, I’m sure), the fresh-faced innocent is presented in all of her country glory (her at-times almost masculine daywear underscores how understanding she is, of course), and Rachel is a figure of enigmatic foreign mourning (with so many symbolic veils). Even Phillip’s scraggly and mud-spattered riding clothes imply his immaturity and artlessness as clearly as the actor’s performance.

And Cornwall! What is it about Cornwall that makes everyone in a du Maurier story fall into terrible trouble? Criminals around every corner! Wicked women and evil vicars and conspiracies of silence! Muttering, mad housekeepers! Amongst the cliffs, terrible misunderstandings abound. And a distant cousin, who may (or may not) have been every bit as horrible as a naive and suspicious young man suspected.

“My Cousin Rachel” isn’t a masterpiece, and isn’t for everyone. People with short attention spans or a low tolerance for costume drama will want to skip this, but others with a taste for gothic ambiguity will probably enjoy it. I thought it was worth seeing for Weisz’s performance alone, though I enjoyed all of it. I recommend it (although with my previously stated reservations). I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

A Month of Clothing Philosophy: Be the Handsome Villain You Want to See in the World

I’m wearing a repeated and remixed Comino Cap dress for the final day of Me Made May 2017, along with my eShakti cardigan and my favorite vintage scarf.

A Month of Clothing Philosophy — Part Thirteen
Be the Handsome Villain You Want to See in the World

We’ve reached the final day of my Month of Clothing Philosophy, and there was so much I meant to say that I didn’t. I may add a few more essays along the way in the future, but never with this level of saturation. I really want to thank you for reading these pieces, and I hope that I’ve encouraged you to think about your own wardrobe.

I wanted to do something a little different to end the month, so I decided to share a list of my current fashion inspirations. I’ve been following a few of these people from all the way back in the days of the Fatshionista LiveJournal! I often wish that I’d had some source of street fashion when I was a kid. Sure, I subscribed to Vogue as a teenager, but these days I can open up Instagram and see real people wearing awesome clothes and looking fabulous — a far more interesting thing, in my opinion.

First off, a couple of exceptions. Buttercup’s Frocks isn’t on Instagram (as far as I know), but her Tumblr is still going strong. One of the very few over-50 outfit-of-the-day bloggers, she proves that a cardi and dress combo needn’t be twee, but can be an explosion of color and creativity. I would also like to give a shout out to Australian blogger Kath Read, who I admire greatly for both her fashion sense and her role as an activist, but her Instagram is private.

My Current Instafaves:

Shannon describes herself as “dandy femme” and makes me long for a well-fitting waistcoat.

I simply love Yvette’s style — her dress game is on fire.

Sonya Philip is an artist and sewist, and the originator of the 100 Acts of Sewing Project. She is a fearless mixer of prints in a lagenlook style.

Tasha is known for her amazing vintage style, mostly self-made — both sewn and knitted.

Margot Meanie wears all of the things I would want if I were 20 years younger and still 100% goth.

Amina Mucciolo is both a unicorn and a mermaid in human form — and either way she is gorgeous.

Rachel Jayson is a very fashionable musician with a Fluevog collection so extensive and fabulous that it makes me want to weep.

Tanya Maile is one of my favorite sewists on the entire World Wide Web. Everything she sews is fantastic, especially her vintage-inspired stuff.

Cynara Geissler , the originator of “Toddler Grandma Style: The Fashion Approach That Will Set You Free,” is probably my favorite of all time. I would pay to raid her closet. She is the best. Really.

You might notice something about my Instagram inspiration list. Sure, some of them primarily buy ready-to-wear, and some of them sew…but only one person in that whole list is straight sized. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not disgusted by thin bodies. (You guys are beautiful, too! Besides, as the saying goes, some of my best friends are thin.) But representation is important, and one of the ways I learned to stop hating my own body was by surrounding myself with images of people who looked like me.

I turned to “regular” people who posted pictures of themselves online because — with very few exceptions — every pop culture representation of bodies that look like mine are meant for comic relief or are villains. When a fat body appears in a story, you can be pretty sure that you’ll either laugh at them or be afraid of them — or both. Sometimes it feels like there’s a fine line between Mimi Bobeck and Ursula the Sea Witch, you know? So I think it’s especially important for regular fat people to be visible — even when the culture at large wishes we would hide away.

I may look like a villain, but I’m just a regular person — well, a regular clothes-obsessed person. And although I may long for a glorious plaid suit in the style of TV’s Hannibal Lecter, I’m not actually a bad guy.

There’s no need to vilify my body or others like it.

A Month of Clothing Philosophy: Make It Your Own

I’m wearing a brand new frankentee today for Me Made May — basically a Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt with the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Gable Top neckline. Not all frankenpattern experiments are successful, but I will definitely make this combo again with a little further tweaking. And who doesn’t love a good fox print? :fox_face:

A Month of Clothing Philosophy — Part Twelve
Make It Your Own

In my opinion, the very best thing about sewing your own clothes is that you can make almost anything you can imagine. If you have the skills and you can find the right fabric, the sky’s the limit! You can make your clothing as individual as you want…or you can copy things you could never afford (or find in your size). Sewing can give you an almost endless sort of sartorial freedom.

If you only want to wear purple for the rest of your life, you can make that happen. If you want an entire closet full of copies of the same blouse, you can do that — even if you want to copy a ready-to-wear blouse you love. If you want to chase every trend or simply blend into a crowd, sewing lets you do that, too.

You don’t have to sew everything from scratch, either. You can alter thrift store finds to better reflect your style, and alter new ready-to-wear for a better fit. You can take off sleeves, add (or subtract) trim, or even dye a light colored garment to a more pleasing shade. You can upcycle garments for yourself or cut them down for children.

When you do sew from scratch, you’re not limited to just the sewing patterns you find. Even if you can’t draft your own sewing patterns (which isn’t as hard as it seems), you can “frankenpattern” your favorites together. Maybe you like the fit of one dress, but the collar and sleeves of a different dress. You can combine them and make exactly what you want. You can easily alter sleeves and necklines with just a little practice — and an absolute beginner can make something shorter or longer. Most commercial patterns already have a line marked for that.

I began sewing as a teenager because I couldn’t find what I wanted to wear in stores, and returned to sewing later as an adult for much the same reason. I like to wear pretty specific shapes, colors, and fabrics — and have a difficult to fit shape (even for a plus size person). Sewing gives me the ability to wear the exact sort of things I like, and even if it takes far more effort than ready-to-wear, I think the results are worth the time and energy I spend. I also just plain enjoy the process. I don’t enjoy shopping at all, but I really do love sewing.

Although there’s a temporary (and somewhat frustrating) period for every new sewist where your taste exceeds your ability, the first time your end result matches up to your imagination is an amazing feeling. You’ll want more of that. You get a distinct sense of satisfaction when you wear something you’ve made yourself. And it’s a heady feeling when people compliment your self-made garments — though it’s kind of hilarious when other people act like you’re a wizard when they learn you sew your own clothes. (They do that more often than you think! It cracks me up every time.)

Sewing gives you an opportunity to truly make a garment your own. You choose the design, the color and print, and through your own effort make something both practical and beautiful. It can be an art and a craft at the same time, and the end result can be as unique as you are.

A Month of Clothing Philosophy: Not Quite a Minimalist

In total relaxation mode for Me Made May this Memorial Day afternoon. I’m wearing a self-drafted knit tunic whose neckband will not lay flat because I miscalculated its length. I didn’t bother to fix it because it was only ever meant to be lounge wear, and sometimes good enough is just plain good enough.

A Month of Clothing Philosophy — Part Eleven
Not Quite a Minimalist

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and when it comes to my wardrobe accessories are clearly my weakness. This is partly situational. I’ve spent almost all of my adult life living in very small spaces with almost no room for storage. Consequently, I have less clothing than most clothes horses generally do, and very few accessories. I wear the same few pieces of jewelry again and again, mostly necklaces. I don’t have pierced ears, though I do own exactly two pairs of clip-on earrings — and a handful of rings I wear on special occasions. (I don’t usually wear bracelets at all because I don’t like the sounds they make when I type.) I don’t have many purses or belts, and only a few hats. I have terrible feet and need to wear very supportive (and sometimes pricey) shoes, so I don’t really have that many — and they’re mostly boring.

I do love scarves and have a good handful, but I often don’t think to wear them. I’m not sure that I’m really any “good” at accessorizing, but probably some of this is rebellion, too. Everyone expects a fat lady to have the best accessory collection, because that’s all she can buy in “regular” stores. Maybe I like to play against expectations.

Because of this tendency to pare back, you may think I’m a minimalist — but I’m not. I’m definitely drawn to minimalist imagery in both fashion and decor, but I’m also drawn to gleeful overabundance. Given enough time and money, I could definitely see myself becoming one of those people with an entire room full of clothes and accessories. Realistically, though, that could be overwhelming. One of the benefits of having a smaller wardrobe is that it’s easy to choose what to wear, especially if you really like everything you have. I think that’s the idea behind minimalist capsule wardrobes, but I think having a really small variety of clothes would be too boring for me. A popular number is 33 — just 33 items of clothing and accessories. I can’t imagine that. But I can’t really imagine having endless variety, either.

I described myself earlier as medium fat and medium femme. As a person drawn in some ways to both minimalism and maximalism, I’m again choosing a middle path. I think maybe — to coin a phrase — I’m a mediumist. I’m Goldilocks looking for that “just right” balance between too little and too much.

A medium sized wardrobe really is the best of both worlds. Large enough to be interesting, but small enough that favorites don’t get pushed to the back of the closet and forgotten.

Not everything is in balance yet. I probably do have too few accessories, and I think I probably have too many cardigans — despite having only 17 right now, a stunning five year low. (I usually have 23 – 25 cardigans. Maybe that’s too many. Maybe. I don’t know. I really love cardigans. It’s hard to say.)

Still, I keep striving for balance, and I get closer all the time.