katharine pins herself

promo

Pinterest is a major time suck. If you’re not searching for a specific thing, you can spend days just infinite scrolling through pictures of pretty things. Even if you are looking for something, you will lose hours. It’s kind of like a mall and women’s magazines mated on the Internet. While I’m sure there are dudes on Pinterest, it’s not really a masculine place.

And there are plenty of disappointments to be had on Pinterest. Sometimes click-through links don’t work or the original pinner just pinned the image and not the link or pinned an entire blog instead of the specific entry that matches the photo of interest.

I’ve created several boards full of things I like, places I’d like to live, things I might make sometime, fancy clothes I’d wear if my life were different, kitty cats, and Harold Pinter.

If you’ve got half an hour or so to kill, feel free to browse through my boards and repin things.

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katharine makes observations: katharine hearts words

observations

It’s time for an airing of the grievances over the English language. We’re fighting a war over grammar here on the Internet. Those of us who care about the language are constantly suppressing urges to correct people or we’re posting tweets and statuses with complaints about recent encounters with sloppy usages, which in turn incites a mix of commiseration and defense.

As someone with life-long hearing difficulties, I get cranky when other people show blatant disregard for the written word. When I was in grade school, I always aced my spelling and language classes. Even on spelling test day, when were were made to write the week’s spelling words in the form of sentences, which the teachers would read aloud for context. Thanks to my creative hearing, the subject matter of my sentences were occasional experiments in surrealism, but the words were always spelled correctly.

English is an evolving beast. How we read English now wasn’t quite how it was read two or three hundred years ago and might be entirely different in three hundred more. Or it might circle back around on itself and be exactly the same as today. We’re forever altering it to fit our own needs, ripping it apart and gluing it back together. We steal words from other languages and bungle up the pronunciations. We invent new words and change around the meaning to old words. We use language to connect as well as to alienate.

My particular trouble is not with the evolution of language. We live in the future, and as such we are party to the invention of new words. We need those new additions to the lexicon to describe all of these items and experiences that did not previously exist. And of course we’ll lose antiquated terms which have no place in modern society. But we’re also mucking about with perfectly legitimate words with little reason. I’m ambivalent about portmanteaus, the blending of two words to make a new word. Most of them don’t serve a real purpose but they are silly. And I do love silly. I also like to verb nouns for an occasional giggle. What I am adamantly against is the unnecessary abbreviation of words. Honestly, what does “totes adorbs” convey that “so cute” (or even “soooo cute”) doesn’t, aside from a subliminal craving for cupcakes? Are these abbreviations saving time? What do you gain by saying “cray cray” in place of crazy? Because you’re losing my respect.

Abbreviations and shorthand have been around for centuries. Even legitimate words have always been shortened. Like legit. And lab, info, memo, fax, vet, abs, ammo, limo, mix, max, and typo. I’m sure you can now think of thousands more. We used to associate the abbrev-ing of lang with crunchy-coiffed dude-bros who were going out of their way to seem hip. Texting and the 140-character limit allowed stuff like “natch” and “sitch” and “sesh” and “whatevs” to seep into common vernacular. We’re also using text abbreviations in spoken language. People now say LOL and OMG and WTF without irony. How long before people start saying IMHO or AFAIK or TTYL instead of “in my humble/honest opinion,” “as far as I know,” and “talk to you later”?

The Internet has played a large role in the recent evolutionary phase of English as she is typed. We’ve adopted some text lingo, which was to be expected given regular exposure and widespread use of it. We’ve also been exposed to the grammar habits of our nearest and dearest. People we communicated with only on holidays via greeting cards and social gatherings are now integrated into our daily newsfeeds and we’re inundated with their inanities. Some people, whom we once admired, come across as less than respectable with a slew of status updates and comments littered with typos and misplaced punctuation.

There is no legitimate excuse for typographical errors on the Internet. Typing on your phone? Use an app. I wanted to use “hors d’oeuvres” in a status update, as one often does, and instead of bungling the spelling and excusing it with an “or however you spell it, lol,” I simply typed my potential misspelling into Google, verified my error, and copy/pasted the correct spelling into my status. Voila! The Internet is here to help you, but it will mock you if you resist its assistance. I’m willing to let some things slide in personal emails and similar correspondence. But if you’re posting something that will be seen by multiple strangers, maybe you take a few moments to proofread.

A popular defense of typos or grammatical errors is “Oh, you know what I meant.” Of course I know that you mean “definitely” when you type “definately” or “defiantly.” Do I excuse your lack of care simply because I understood it anyway? Look, I get that language isn’t everyone’s strong suit. Maybe you’re gifted in other ways. I’m terrible at math. And a lot of science. And you probably shouldn’t ask me about any of the countries in Asia or Africa.

We’re being conditioned to believe that if there isn’t a red squiggle under it, it must be correct. Which is why we’re subjected to the “there, their, they’re” and “your and you’re” mix-ups. We expect our technology to catch our mistakes and fix it, which is why many people still rely on auto-correct. And why we have Damn You Auto-Correct. The dudes over at Reddit or Fark should start circulating new (possibly crude) definitions for all the variants of definitely. Maybe “definately” now means “monkey fondling.”

This is the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) era. People can’t be bothered to read an entire article, much less proofread their hasty replies in the comment section. Can we really expect people to carefully craft clever Facebook responses? “Like” buttons and Hallmark cards serve the similar purpose of allowing people to express a sentiment without necessitating actual thought. Shouldn’t that be enough? Perhaps my problem lies not with the abuse of language but in the absence of thoughtful consideration.

Viewing Habits: HGTV

viewing

Confession: I spend a lot of time watching HGTV. As long as I have cable, my non-scripted go-to is always HGTV. I’m finding it tougher to defend this particular viewing habit as the programming focuses on unattainable locations for impossible to please people. The shift from modest home decoration to extreme home renovation makes it difficult to pretend my house will ever achieve its potential.

I’ve always been a sucker for project shows. I could sit for hours with a bag of Cheetos and marathon of Bob Ross. My favourite after school program was Furniture To Go. My favourite segments on the Home show were the craft projects, although wicker baskets can only capture so much of my imagination. I wasn’t so hot for Bob Vila or This Old House.

When I first started watching HGTV in the 1990s (or “home and gardening television” as it was so quaintly known), it was mostly Carol Duvall’s craft projects and a couple doing little home projects like replacing a light fixture or putting up/removing wallpaper. How many cabinet knobs could be replaced before this channel would get cancelled? In those days, it was all mom jeans and sweater vests and floral stencils.

Then came Trading Spaces and the housing bubble and house flipping and extreme renovations. Now everyone wants to remove whole walls. It’s all quick cuts and heightened drama, stainless steel and granite. Carol Duvall is a relic of the past, destined to languish in the 4am timeslot on HGTV8.

HGTV was a fine way to pass time when it offered tips and ideas for improving one’s own domicile. It was dedicated to showing people how to best utilize small spaces and freshen up one’s decor. We satisfied a little voyeuristic craving by peeping into other people’s homes and filled our heads with attainable fantasies.

Now HGTV presents a slew of programs showcasing potential homeowners with inflated senses of entitlement and unrealistic expectations. What began as a string of shows giving homeowners a sense of real estate realities and hints for house hunting evolved into formulaic drivel that only tangentially reflect the current real estate climate. The featured homeowners regularly regurgitate things about closets and counter tops and “open concept” spaces that are “perfect for entertaining.”

The standard procedure for these home-based programs goes like this:
a) person(s) dissatisfied with living conditions
b) person(s) look to change living conditions, enlists assistance from professional
c) tensions arise, drama ensues
d) neutral narrator provides running summations of situation
e) time runs out
f) living condition altered, person(s) appeased with end result

If you’ve never bought a house and hope that a television show can help sort out the confusion, you are in for trouble. House shopping shows offer little in the way of helpful tips to apply in reality. Potential homeowners provide a budget and a list of unreasonable demands, neither of which can be compromised. The realtor presents three homes that are over budget and off the mark. Buyers are pressured to pick one and justify their purchase decision, oftentimes claiming their selection was perfect. And in 95% of all cases, the end selection was clearly not perfect. You, Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner have obviously settled. We can see you’ve settled. You could’ve retained your standards and walked away. Or admitted to the cameras that you’ve settled. But that’s not the satisfying ending. Audiences expect happy endings. The unlikely couple marries, the homeowner buys a house, the rag tag team of misfits wins the big game—all results of a satisfying narrative arc. You watch a show about buying a house, you expect to see someone buy a house.

Two years ago, we started seeing stories revealing the truth behind shows like House Hunters. The featured homeowners had already long made their purchase by the time they were chosen to film and went touring other houses that weren’t under consideration. Sometimes we’re just taking peeks around the homeowners’ friends’ houses. Which takes 80% of the fun out of watching the program. All the bickering and shoving spouses into closets and humming and hawing over which location is best and what can be done within the budget becomes a pack of pointless lies.

I don’t know why I continuing watching this channel. I’m not in the market for a new home. The internet keeps me up to date on the latest in wallpaper removal techniques and cabinet knob innovations. I’ve come to accept that none of the doors close properly in my apartment because there’s twenty layers of paint on the doors and the frames. I’m not going to paint the fireplace to “brighten things up.” We’re nearly 10 years into the whole stainless steel appliance fad, so I imagine popularity will soon wane and we’ll be conditioned to expect transparent appliances. At least we’d finally put the whole refrigerator light debate to rest.

(I would’ve included some ancient clips of HGTV but really couldn’t be bothered to do that much research for the sake of nostalgia. I do have limits. Those Mitchell and Webb sketches were pretty well spot-on. Your time would be better spent watching their clips on YouTube all day, since Netflix inexplicably removed That Mitchell and Webb Look again.)

Popped Culture: Nancy Sinatra

culture
You can find her on every female empowerment mix tape, wedged between Helen Reddy and Gloria Gaynor. Her biggest hit is the anthem for jilted girlfriends. Nancy Sinatra and her boots walked into the hearts of millions in the mid-1960s and made her a feminist icon. Now she seems little more than a feminist footnote. Let’s remedy our ignorance by putting on our nostalgia boots and taking a tour of Nancy’s career.

It would be easy, though inaccurate, to write off Nancy Sinatra as a celebuspawn with a career based solely on nepotism. At the initial launch of her career, Nancy was in danger of living a lifetime in her father’s shadow. A mousy brunette with moderate singing talent, she started out singing the same bubblegum pop and torch songs as her contemporaries. As Frank Sinatra’s Daughter she was entitled a chance at stardom but was posed for a mostly forgettable string of appearances on holiday specials and the occasional duet with Frank or Dean Martin. She probably didn’t set out with the intent to become a trail-blazing feminist and role model for aspiring women musicians. Like most entertainers, she just wanted to sell some albums.

When Nancy emerged with a new look and sound, she stood apart from her competition and her own father. Her rebel bombshell persona let her dominate the stage in way she couldn’t as a brunette. Songwriter Lee Hazlewood gave her an edgy pop sound and lyrics that turned the tables on the traditional male-female relationship. Nancy’s new bold blonde attitude made the feminist statement that she could be ogled but on her own terms, that she was a woman who doesn’t tolerate misbehaving men but isn’t above misbehaving herself. And with “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’“, Nancy’s proclamation was well-received and adopted by newly liberated women.

For all the talk of female empowerment and gender equality, none of Nancy’s songs purport the message that she doesn’t need a man at all. She may chastise a man for doing her wrong, but she’s gonna find a new man that she can whip into shape not give up on men for good. Nancy isn’t really about sisterhood and girl power so much as she is about sexual liberation, which shouldn’t be disparaged. It was the 1960s and these baby steps were giant leaps in that era.

Nancy’s tough girl act didn’t translate into dance. It’s rare to find a performance in which Nancy Sinatra performs a full dance routine. Most footage of her performances usually show her posed gracefully atop set pieces or standing amidst dancers who handle all the heavy hoofing. Cool girls don’t do choreography, it seems. Occasionally Nancy can be seen employing an obligatory wiggle. Based on her performance in Speedway, maybe some cool girls don’t need to dance.

After her initial success, Nancy began disconnecting from her brand. She maintained the physical appearance but veered off in different musical directions. Questionable song choices, like a duet of “Somethin’ Stupid” with daddy Frank, are used to fill out an album. Her albums become more disjointed with covers that show off her pipes rather than her persona. The argument could be made that tracks like “Until It’s Time for You to Go” and “As Tears Go By” balance out ones like “Sorry ‘Bout That” and “I Gotta Get Outta This Town” and give her a necessary vulnerability so that she doesn’t come across as a cold-hearted heartbreaker. The ratio of Hazlewood-inspired pop to mellow ballads decreased with each album. Two years after Boots, Nancy made a musical shift from pop into country, teaming up with Hazlewood vocally.

Despite the branding conflicts, Nancy’s pop offerings have interesting musical arrangements that are fun and unexpected. She really makes cover songs her own instead of crooning along to the original arrangement. Her foray into the country-western genre retain most of her pop edge, making it passably palatable even to someone who eschews country music.

After four years, Nancy began shifting out of the spotlight and into motherhood. Beneath the liberated modern woman facade lurked a traditional-minded woman content to settle down and raise a family. She resurfaced in the mid-1990s with a Playboy spread and a new album. She was 54 when she posed for Playboy in 1995, again blazing trails and challenging perceptions, this time leading the sexual liberation of AARP members. Nancy’s daring magazine appearance helped pave the way for society’s acceptance of sexy older ladies like Helen Mirren and motivated aging women to trade their blue rinse for Botox.

It’s a shame that Nancy’s legacy is one song when there’s so much in her musical catalog to be discovered and enjoyed. Love her or hate her, she’s an inspiration. She cultivated an identity separate from her father and managed a comeback at a time of life when most people are dreaming of retirement. And she’s still active, making music and donating her time to political and charitable causes. She keeps her Twitter (@NancySinatra) and website regularly updated and is a regular host on the Siriusly Sinatra channel on SiriusXM.

katharine makes a list: allergies

list

things to which i claim to be allergic

intolerance
douchebaggery
the word “douchebaggery”
extreme couponers who don’t bring their own shopping bags and carry out bajillions of bottles of sport drink and hot sauce in dinky plastic bags
dust mites
grass pollen
penicillin
autotune
babies
toddlers
overenthusiastic dogs
washing dishes
the music of hans zimmer
sad movies

katharine likes to make things: kitty plush

diyshowcase

I like scraps of fabric. Give me your tired shirts and I will happily stitch together some kind of lumpy figure while watching a dumb movie. I don’t have a sewing machine and most textile art befuddles me, but I can handle making small cloth items by hand. If I mess up a small project, it’s much less frustrating than muddling up a large project. Any project larger than five inches results in tears and vows never to craft again.

For a few months I was content whipping up little monster-type creatures. You may have seen them on this blog and there’s quite a few still up for grabs in my Etsy shop. Still, I’ve got more of them than I can give away and I got bored with the same-old template. To switch things up, I created a new, slightly more complex cat-like creature. It’s complex because I’ve added a tail, so instead of merely stitching two pieces of fabric together, it’s four and then attaching the tail at the end.

chenille3

Materials:
fabric
embroidery floss
felt
ribbon
jump ring
wooden disc
hand drill (for wooden disc)
filling/fiber fill

pfrank1Instructions:

1. Once I had my creature design worked out, I traced the silhouette outline onto cereal box and cut it out. I like sturdy patterns to cut around, especially for small pieces that aren’t easily pinned. Not exactly the most elegant solution but I like how well cardboard stands up to repeated use (so far).

2. With my pattern/template, I trace the outline onto backside of fabric.

3. Pick which side will be the face and stitch the eyes on first. My kitty design has the eyes closed, so I stitch that up with black embroidery floss. Sometimes I use buttons for eyes and will choose to glue those on after the creature has been stuffed.

4. Pin fabric together wrong way out for sewing.

5. Sew around the sides and top, leaving the bottom open for reversing and filling. Do the same with the tail. Trim excess fabric around seams, leaving about 1/2″ all around.

6. Starting with tail, turn the fabric right side out, pulling/pushing through hole.

7. Add stuffing to tail. Do not stitch up end, set aside.

stripers2

8. Flip main body right side out, gently push the ears out with a pencil tip.

9. Add stuffing to body.

10. Fold the 1/2″ fabric excess flaps into the body, pin the bottom, and decide where to place the tail. I try to aim for the centre.

11. Slip the unfinished edge of the tail into place between the bottom flaps, pin it. Stitch the bottom to finish. To secure the tail in right position, I do a quick whip stitch between the tail and the body.

12. Cut a little triangle from felt for the nose. Glue on felt nose and ribbon collar. Attach tag and jump ring to collar. For the tags, I used wood discs I had in my stash and got some use out of my hand-cranked wood drill. The discs are flimsy and it’s far too easy to split them with the drill. Lesson learned.

tubbo1
I can stitch up one of these in about two and a half hours, depending on the fabric. For stuffed creatures, thick heavy fabrics don’t make for cuddly toys and are tougher to wrangle batting into. I don’t recommend denim as a fabric choice for stuffed animals, unless you’re looking for something that can withstand drool and dirt. Softer acrylic-based fabrics are prone to overstuffing and warping. Jersey t-shirts are nice and forgiving for wonky stitching and more likely to hold the intended shape of the plushy.

pfrank2

kitty1

kitty2

This is the perfect project for upcycling that favourite shirt or sweater. You know, the one that you wore all through school but it’s all worn out in places and possibly paint-splattered but the fabric has memories. If you turn it into something like this, then (potentially) if you have an item worthy of display instead of a thing you encounter only when you move or clean out a storage area. This is not a great project for fancy fabrics, so don’t make a bunch of little wonky cats (or monsters or whatevers) from your wedding gown. That’s probably not considered “upcycling.” (I know, what I’ve done here may not be what you consider “upcycling” either, but that’s a matter of taste/opinion and a topic for another time.)