Saturday, March 28, 2020

Angela's TOP TEN home decor-related content creators

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get sick of watching regular TV shows and films. And spending so much time inside my house means I'm lookin' around, thinking about making some changes. Ok, so I'm like that pretty much all the time, even when the country isn't on lockdown. That's why I follow approximately ONE MILLION Youtube channels.

Don't have a house? No problem! You don't need a house of your own to enjoy home improvement content, first, because it is SO relaxing and SO gratifying to watch but secondly because a lot of the content is renter-friendly. Can we go to the hardware store for supplies right now? No. Can we order what we need online? Maybe. But does that have to keep us from dreaming of having a nicer space? HELL NO!

Right now, the amount of content out there is overwhelming, and who has time to weed through it all to get to the good stuff? Here's where I come in! I've done it so you don't have to!

1. Daniel Kanter aka Manhattan Nest (Instagram and blog, respectively)

I've been following Daniel since 2010 when he first started as a student, renting a small apartment in New York and then a second place in Brooklyn. The transformations he accomplished on a tight budget in a small space are impressively inventive. And then he reversed everything when he moved out! But then, THEN he bought a lovely fixer-upper in upstate New York. THEN he bought another fixer-upper down the street. And he does freelance projects also!

Recently Daniel started ramping up his Instagram activity and LET ME TELL YOU - His Instagram stories are everything: funny, interactive, informative, and so, so, soooooo gratifying. I know you'll love him as much as I do. But we warned: his Instastories are ADDICTIVE. You will be checking in every few hours to see how he's getting on. You will literally long to watch paint dry, and you'll love it. And for the dog lovers, he has two rescue dogs that feature prominently!

2. Dashner Design and Restoration Youtube channel

This.... guy -- I don't even know what his name is or what his face looks like -- has one of the most soothing, comforting voices of all time. Based in Minneapolis, he restores (mostly) mid-century furniture that he gets from secondhand shops. He also has an Instagram account, but for me, the Youtube channel is where it's at. You'd think that watching someone strip finish off furniture narrated in a semi-monotone voice would be boring, but it's anything but! We watch his videos in an absolutely entranced state.

3. Alexandra Gater's Youtube channel

This Toronto, Canada native is just a joy to watch. Her style might be on the feminine side for some people, but certainly, the projects she features on her channel are extremely adaptable to anyone's taste. Her channels is particularly helpful to anyone living in a small space, which, let's face it, is most of us! But really it's her cheery yet sincere demeanor and down-to-earth delivery that makes the channel enjoyable to watch. Sometimes Youtubers can be a little... hard to watch, especially (sorry!) people from North America. But Alexandra is a study in poise and charm!

4. Alexandra Gater's Make My Space Work Youtube channel

As someone who works from home, I was delighted to see Alexandra Gater's new channel, Make My Space Work, where she makes over the workspaces of entrepreneurs in the Toronto area. They aren't always work-from-home spaces, but they're always fantastic with lots of great ideas that anyone can try in their own space.

5. HouzzTV is a website where homeowners can connect with designers, vendors, and retail outlets on renovation projects. It's actually an amazing resource because you can find people in your own area, and use Houzz tools to collaboratively design spaces remotely. And I know this because of the Houzz Youtube Channel, which, while it exists as a marketing tool, is also great watching. Their videos are as professionally produced as any television show. And they've a neat series where celebrities do surprise makeovers for friends and family members. If you want to watch drastic, tear-down-walls renovations, check out HouzzTV. There are videos that feature cool homes that haven't been heavily renovated too.

6. The Lowes Youtube channel

 Lowes is an American hardware store -- kind of like B&Q but bigger and, it must be said, much cooler. They actually sponsor a lot of great content creators, but their own Youtube channel is a bastion of great and useful videos. My hands-down favourite series is The Weekender with Monica Mangin -- the premise is that Monica and the homeowner(s), with the help of a carpenter, transform one space in a home in one weekend and five DIY projects (using products from Lowes, of course!). There are 4 fantastic Weekender series (it turns out series is both singular AND plural? who knew?).

Another Lowes series we really enjoyed was Our Little Warehome, where a family in Panama City, Florida turn an 80-year-old warehouse into a residential home. But there are so many other great playlists in the Lowes channel, like Garden ideas, DIY Painting tutorials, really cool tutorials on turning boring doors and walls into architectural features, kitchen idea videos, bathroom ideas, and lots more, especially for DIY how-tos.

7. Apartment Therapy website and Youtube channel

Apartment Therapy is great for everything from IKEA hacks, house tours (specifically cool stuff that people have done with very small spaces), house plant tips, organizing tips, cooking tutorials, and design inspo of all kinds.

8. Mr. Kate Youtube channel

I guess you could say that I'm an old-school 'creative weirdo', which is what Kate, aka Mr. Kate, calls her followers. It's been pretty wild to watch the channel go from a fairly small operation to an interior decoration tour de force. Now joined by husband Joey (and often with new baby Moon in tow), the couple now do lots of different kinds of makeovers, from low budget to $$$. One of the things I love about Kate's approach is that she is always in for a bargain, uses loads of second-hand items, repurposes items inventively, and always adds an element of whimsy to the spaces she decorates. Kate and Joey can be a little on the schmoopy side, but jesus these days I think we could all do with seeing happy people doing things they enjoy together that make other people happy too. I really love when they re-do a follower's space -- it seems to always be on the channel's dime and they're great at choosing people in need, so the makeovers can often be emotional and cathartic. Yes, catharsis from a home decorating channel is a thing.

9. Engineer Your Space Youtube channel

Isabelle LaRue, the host of Engineer Your Space, is probably the most 'real' of all the home-focused channels I follow in the sense that she primarily features solutions she created for her own space, and the apartments she has featured are very ordinary, average apartments that many people will have experience with. Therefore, all of her ideas are renter-friendly, budget-friendly, maximise space, but they're really inventive! Some of them are nearly magical. But she gives step-by-step instructions that I think anyone could follow. Her style isn't to my taste, but the details of her projects are very customisable.

10. Lone Fox Youtube channel

I have really warmed to Drew Scott, the Lone Fox host. When I first started watching the channel a while back, you could tell that he had some nerves during filming, and his projects don't always turn out as planned or how I would have done them, but I've loved watching him evolve over time and tackle projects in other people's spaces, with great results! Drew does a lot of upcycling, 'thrift flips' and hacks, which is perfect for people on a budget. He just seems like a really nice, humble person and I don't know, there's an underdog quality about him that just makes me want to root for him. But also, he's got nice ideas, too.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Making plans for a bedroom refresh!

Never one to be satisfied (just ask my husband har har har), I'm making plans for what the youtubers call a REFRESH of the bedroom!

Bit of a back story: Our house has two bedrooms -- the second bedroom functions as a library, office, and guess bedroom (via sleepsofa). It's a room for Mark's crap, which we clean up whenever guests come to stay. Some day I hope that we'll have decluttered enough to look decent 365 days of the year. But our bedroom is a pretty good size for a 1930s Dublin house, so that's where my desk lives. In the corner. The dark, dark corner.

As some of you know, I got a new job back in October, and come May when my probation is up, I'll be working from home two to three days a week. I have no interest in working in the chaos of the office, but I don't want to be stuck in the corner of my bedroom either! So that got me thinking...

Just out of interest (because it's bonkers), I'll share a photo of what our bedroom looked like after we stripped the wallpaper:
ANYHOO there will be three major elements to the bedroom refresh. First, the desk situation. Here's how it looks now:
You can barely see my desk in that corner! And it gets quite cold under the desk, even when it's warm in the rest of the room. So I've decided to swap the desk and the wardrobe. But ALSO I want to replace my desk, which is currently a very small, white IKEA desk with two shelves above. Once the wardrobe is moved into the corner of the room, I'm going to put a slightly different configuration of this IKEA Svalnas desk/shelving situation next to the window:

The next area that I want to change up is the wall behind the bed. Here's how it looks now:
Lord give me strength that Mark has put that storage thing on the top of that bookcase, but ignore that -- it'll be going away, as will the pile of clothes ;)

As you can see, we have two tall black bookcases on either side of the bed. But the whole thing is kind of blah. So I'd like to do an accent shiplap wall and paint it black, sort of like in this video (except probably real shiplap instead of faux). Shiplap is generally a tongue-in-groove wood cladding. The end product will look a little like the wall in this video:

And then the third change is going to be very dramatic, I think. Because one of us (::cough::cough::not me::cough::) is a bit of a clothes hoarder, storage solutions are always needed. At the moment, I don't like how cluttered this wall is:
First of all, I'm not a particular follower of feng shui, but I have read The Joy Luck Club, so I do know that it's bad juju to have a mirror at the end of your bed, let alone two. Now that we have the mirrored cabinet in the bathroom, I don't really need a full length mirror anymore. And Mark needs more shoe storage. So I've decided to replace everything that's here with 4 Ivar cabinets, an unfinished pine product from IKEA.

The grey press here will go, and the mirror and everything that is in/on the press will go inside the lefthand two cabinets. On the right side, Mark will be able to store shoes and other items.

The Ivar looks like this:
It can be wall mounted or stacked on legs. And the possibilities are endless when it comes to finishes -- it can be left natural or painted or even decoupaged or wallpapered! I've decided to do something a little different. Since I'll be installing four (two by two on legs), I have decided to put a natural finish on the top two cabinets and paint the bottom two. BUT I'm also going to paint that wall the same exact colour on the bottom of the wall, sort of like this effect, except probably not blue and there won't be other furniture involved:
My makeup and jewellery, plus the mirror and the strip of lights will be tucked away inside a cabinet, getting rid of the chaos and clutter.

Other fun things I'll be getting are a new desk lamp, new trash bin, new desk chair, a rug, and I'm sure another couple of items as well :D Stay tuned for progress reports and plans!

Upstairs bathroom big reveal!

Yes. I started my bathroom renovation.... uh.... eons ago! And it's been finished for a couple of months at least, but the way the window and light are, decent photos required another light. Also, a clean bathroom. But today I finally managed to clean the bathroom, get out the light, and take a few shots.

Let's just recall where we started, back in 2016 when we stripped the wallpaper and the flooring:

Pretty grim! And other than adding some lino and getting a new toilet, we didn't do much to it until these renovations. It became sort of a storage room, a place for crap to collect on its way to somewhere else.

Back in April last year, I made SIX blog posts about my renovation plans, which, in retrospect, may have been overkill. But lots of people were very helpful in the decision making process! And I feel like everyone felt personally invested in my bathroom.

Before I go into what I learned and some of the particulars, I'll just post the after photos!

We already had the mirror
Pretty excited about the tissue holder and the marble accessories

The basket on the left holds toilet rolls and
the one on the right is for dirty linen
I decided to paint the radiator and I'm glad I did

The brass shelves came from IKEA
I love how the sinks came out, especially the taps
I'm overjoyed at how the faux pane shower door looks
Inside the cabinet is a double shaver outlet

The gorgeous brass hooks (4 of them) came from an antique wardrobe that I renovated last year

Having two sinks still feels ultra luxe. And this sideboard has tonnes of storage
While I like to think of myself as good with the ole DIY, we clearly needed to hire a builder for a good bit of this renovation. A lovely builder, Linas, was recommended to us. He and his colleague did an amazing, amazing job with the plumbing and tiling, ESPECIALLY since this was clearly not a standard job - I bought nearly everything off the internet without a clue what the heck I was doing. This did lead to some foibles, which I'll talk about at the end. 

The dresser is a particular point of pride -- stripping the white paint off without ruining it was a labour of love, particularly since I have little to no previous experience with stripping furniture. I was confident but not certain that there would be lovely wood underneath the white paint. I have to apologise because I had a heck of a time getting a good photo with the window. But the wood is lovely! The builders cut the holes for the sink and installed them. They did an amazing, amazing job. 

The yellow and white Mexican tiles drove Linas just a little bit nuts because they aren't all the same, neither in size nor thickness. I'm not sure he believed me when I told him I didn't want it to look perfect, and that he could just wing it with their placement. 

The black floor tiles are so perfectly done, especially considering how crap the floor was. They even matched the floor tiles to the bath surround tiles. 

Once Linas and his associate were finished with the plumbing and tiling, it was on me to do everything else, which included wallpapering, putting up the wall panels, painting the ceiling, putting up the hooks, towel rails, shelves, toilet roll holder, toilet brush holder, tissue holder, put together and paint the mirrored cabinet, remove and strip the door hardware, and paint the door, wall panels, and trim. It took me ages to get it all done! The walls are like chalk in some places, so I had to be fairly inventive to get everything up and secure (thank god for Sugru!).

Mark kindly painted the ceiling, which we did before we wallpapered. The walls are uneven in ways I didn't think possible, but I wanted the panels and trim to be at least somewhat level, so putting them up was... annoying. I chose a dark, daaaaark green paint for the wall panels and trim. Speaking of annoying, THE WALLPAPER! I miscalculated that situation and had to order more. Twice. And I still had to mismatch the pattern in TWO of the corners. But - no regrets! (Well, I do, but let's pretend I don't.) The decorator's varnish that I put overtop keeps it from being ruined by the moisture, but it also gave it a bit of a sheen so that it almost looks mural-like. I definitely did not try to make the walls even before I put up the wallpaper, so there are lumps and bumps, and I kind of like the imperfections. My whole idea behind this bathroom was that I wanted it to look like it belongs in an old house. I think I achieved that! 

Now, for the other fuck ups. The bath tub tap that I bought on ebay from China was apparently for a more high-pressure water system, so it took Linas hours to install it instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken, but he made it work in the end! 

I also bought a black metal ceiling pendant fixture, which turned out to be unusable because the original fixture didn't have a ground wire. So I ended up having to spray paint a plastic fixture and transfer the wire to it. Of course, then once I did that I realised that I didn't check whether the bulb bit fit into the glass shade we wanted to use. It's hard to see, even in person, but it doesn't sink into the shade how it should. One of these days, I'm hoping to get the glass cut. But for now, it's fine.

But the biggest mistake I made was the electric shower. DID YOU KNOW that there are electric showers that hook up to the mains? I DIDN'T EITHER. So, when the shower was finally up and running we realised that it's a bit temperamental compared to one that hooks up to the tank. If someone flushes, turns on the tap, or uses the dishwasher, the water either shuts off or goes cold, or both! So that's not ideal. When we have the money and the attic is cleared out more than it is now, we plan on swapping out the shower for one that can hook up to the tank. For now, we just have to take precautions. 

I made another expensive mistake when ordering the floor tiles. I wanted the largest black hexagon tiles I could possibly get. There were a few local places that had medium sized ones, but I had my heart set on something really big. But the ones I ordered from a place in Galway were confusingly labeled in an emailed photo, so when they arrived, they turned out to be basically a size that I could have gotten here in Dublin much, much cheaper. So that was a huge bummer that really burned me up until the tiles were in and I decided that the ones I bought actually look great. All's well that ends well. (As you may know, I do not believe that 'everything happens for a reason'.)

I also did kind of a crap job painting the yellow cabinet, so the paint is chipping off in places, but I'll fix that at some point in the future. For the moment, I feel very, very happy every time I walk into this room and it was definitely worth all of the effort. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey! 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Ethical Shopping for Clothes: Are you ready?

A couple of weeks ago I was travelling with friends. We were hungry and wanted to get a quick bite to eat. Doing our bit for the planet, we walked out of a couple places that served food in styrofoam, in search of a more biodegradable option. In this day and age, I think we can all agree that styrofoam is a no-no.

But when it comes to shopping for clothes, I think it's a little easier to ignore our principles in favour of buying that shiny new thing that feels soft and looks so cool. But often, it's the clothing equivalent of the styrofoam container.

The statistics of how much clothing ends up in landfill are actually STAGGERING. When you buy that cheap top that looks adorable and chic in the shop but isn't going to last the year because it's made of textiles that are going to look pilly, misshapen, and falling apart at the seams, you probably won't, in good conscience, be able to donate it to charity when it starts to look like crap. So it ends up in the bin where it won't break down. Like styrofoam.

There are two considerations when it comes to clothes: ethics and sustainability. Often, a brand or a line within a brand is 'sustainable' but isn't ethically made. In other words, it might be made of an organic or recycled textile, but it's manufactured by people working in awful conditions. And in some cases, it could be the other way around (though far less often). Read more about the different considerations around the fashion industry from the Clean Clothes Campaign: poverty wages, unsafe working conditions, lack of job security, workers rights violations, union busting, lack of supply chain transparency, waste and pollution, fake claims of ethics and sustainability, gender discrimination, and exploitation of migrants. It's a pretty big list when you think about what goes into even a simple piece of clothing.

Obviously, buying second-hand clothes is a great option, but these days it's harder and harder to find cool, good quality stuff in charity shops because they're filled with disposable clothes that don't cost much less than buying new disposable clothes. And to be honest, I used to be a thrift shop junky and now there just aren't enough antihistamines or hours in a day for me to want to do the work of finding the charity shop gems.

I've been trying to weed out the low quality garments in my wardrobe and gradually replace them with pieces that I feel great about wearing in every aspect: style, quality, textile, and manufacture. Sometimes it means spending a little more, but often it just means waiting for a sale! I put myself on the mailing lists of my favourite brands, and then hit up the Clearance Sales.

Admittedly, shopping ethical brands is easier in larger countries like the United States, where there has been an explosion of ethical and sustainable fashion. Shopping ethically from Ireland often means paying for shipping and not being able to try things on in a shop before buying. But once you become familiar with a certain brand, you will have a better idea of their fit and can make more educated decisions about sizing.

Here are my top tips for buying more ethical clothing:
1. Avoid acrylic and inspect the textile. This is actually SO HARD because acrylic is in so many lovely wool products. I can't tell you how often I fall in love with a jumper only to look at the fiber content and see that it contains acrylic or nylon. Acrylic just doesn't last. It gets super pilly and will start to look ratty after just one wash. For this reason, I try to go for 100% wool or cotton, or a wool/cotton blend.

Rayon, Viscose, Lyocell, and Modal are usually safe bets, however. These are manufactured textiles that come from natural sources and will stand up to wash and wear as long as you follow the washing instructions carefully.

Remember that even if a super inexpensive garment is 100% cotton, it may still be cheaply made and not wear very well. Give it a thorough inspection before buying.

2. Don't take a 'Sustainable' label at face value. Lots of big retailers like H&M, Marks & Spencers, and Zara have sustainable lines. But often, as I mentioned, they aren't made ethically. For example, researchers recently decided to follow the supply chain of a Zara hoodie that was part of a Sustainable line and discovered that it was being made in Turkey by workers whose pay would need to be nearly doubled in order for it to be a living wage.

3. Take the time to research. It's definitely a pain. Even in Ireland in shops like Kilkenny Design that claim to only sell "Irish design" -- when you actually look at the tags, you'll find that very few pieces, if any, are made in Ireland. But this is the beauty of the internet! If you go to a company's website and they aren't promoting the conditions under which their clothes are made, that is one red flag. But there are tonnes of watchdog sites that will tell you if a company is worth giving your money to. You can follow the Clean Clothes Campaign on facebook for the latest news on ethics violations of big brands. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has a company index so you can see every article they have about a particular brand's human rights violations. The Public Eye is a Swiss organisation that researches all kinds of shady dealings and is definitely another one to follow.

Companies like Everlane have tonnes of information about where and how their clothes are made, which is amazing. For example, on their website you can read about how their denim is made and see photographs of the factory.

4. Follow groups who curate ethical and sustainable brands. There are lots of people doing research out there, so you don't have to. In fact, all you have to do is google 'ethical brands' and you'll find list after list of places to buy beautiful and ethical clothes. Websites like Good on You, The Good Trade, and The Minimalist Vegan are just a couple of ones to follow. Pinterest is another fantastic resource! And of course, Etsy is filled with handmade and ethical items.

Here is a list of brands I buy regularly and have been very happy with. Tell me about ethical brands you love to support!
Thought Clothing
Seasalt Cornwall
Everlane (from the US, so customs charges may apply, but I think they're worth it)
Beaumont Organic

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I need your help with the very last bathroom reno decision

Hello friends!

Well, I'm happy to say that the upstairs bathroom renovations have gone mostly to plan, and we're in the home stretch of putting it all together. I can't wait to show you how it looks! Everything has been decided and ordered, and will be installed in the next couple of weeks...everything but one item.

There's a small space (about 55cm) between the door and the tub where I want to put a tall storage cabinet. This cabinet will conceal the shaver outlet, so it needs to have a door, at least at the top half (and not a glass door!). I have been trolling the websites for something used/vintage, and haven't found anything suitable. Buying something new is my only option, but at this stage to say I'm on a budget is an understatement!

Here's a reminder of the bathroom wallpaper and wall tile in the bath surround:

As you can see, the wallpaper is quite dark, and the wall panelling below the wallpaper is a very, very dark green. The ceiling, however is a cheerful coral pink colour!

So for the storage cabinet, I wanted to go with something on the lighter side, but NOT WHITE. The tub, basins, and toilet are white, of course, but I just don't think white is going to look good for the cabinet. This means that if I want it a certain colour, like the yellow of the tile, I'm going to have to paint it myself. Also, I like the idea of a mirrored door, as the cabinet will face the only window, so in theory, a mirror would reflect the light.

Another option is to simply go with black or nearly black, which is more readily available.

Here's the issue I'm having: the cabinet I think would look good (if painted yellow) is 200 euro. I feel like that's a lot for something I'm going to have to put labour into. Here it is, the Hemnes cabinet (left):
200 euro Hemnes

I think this one is very similar in style to the dresser I converted for the double sinks. It's simple, but not as cheap looking as some of the others.

For example, this cabinet is 70 euro cheaper (once you buy legs), which is significant. but it just doesn't look nearly as nice to me:
130 euro Silveran

So if I want to avoid painting, I am considering dark options. For example, this mirrored cabinet is even cheaper, coming in at about 100 euro with legs:
100 euro Lillangen
But I kind of... hate it? And the trim around the door is chrome, which I'm not into.

This leads me to wonder whether I should just forget about having a mirrored door. The Lillangen without the mirror would probably be inoffensive with a different handle and nice legs (and ditch those hooks at the top). It's still 100 euro, but I think it looks nicer:
If I go dark and non-mirrored, there are other inexpensive options, but honestly they aren't much better than this. 

What do you think? Should I just pay more and do the labour to get the thing I want? Or should I compromise?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Why I Quit My 15 Year-long Messageboard Habit

Back when I met my partner in 2004, in the days before Facebook was known to the general public, in the days of Friendster, MySpace, and Livejournal, he told me about the messageboard called Honeypump. At the time, I was working in a very boring office job with nothing to do for most of the day. I did so much online shopping during that time, I memorised my credit card number.

I registered on the Honeypump messageboard with the avatar 'Appletree' and it's the only name I've ever used. There are probably more than a few people out in there in the world who only know me as Appletree. A handful of people on the board, most of whom were based in Boston or had a Boston connection, used their real names, but most people used handles. Sometimes people would change names and you'd have to figure out who they were.

Some of the people on the board knew each other, some were strangers to nearly everyone, and some people started off as strangers but started to meet other board members in real life. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years and before that had gotten divorced -- in both cases I'd found myself needing to find a new friend group. So the timing was great -- I met a bunch of very nice people from the messageboard and they became my 'real life' social circle.

At the same time, the board was chock full of drama. Some of the drama originated from theoretical or political arguments, and some of it arose from real scenarios of conflicts that spilled over onto the internet. And I wasn't immune to either of these scenarios. As it was still the early days of the internet, and most of us were on the young side (though, in my early 30s, I was old enough to know better), so I think there was a learning curve in terms of healthy ways to conduct ourselves in this nameless, faceless space. But the drama made it a great way to stave off loneliness and to kill time in a cubicle.

When I moved to Brooklyn, I found a local messageboard called 'Williamsboard,' and that became my new online hangout. As I'd done in Boston, I went to board hangouts and became friends with some of the posters. I'll admit that it got a bit addictive at that time for me. I wasn't in a great place emotionally, and I felt overwhelmed by my school work and the financial pressures of living in New York. So I spent a lot of time on the board when I should have been doing assignments. But when I got myself on the 'top 20 posters list', I felt a weird sense of pride. Looking back, I see how messed up my priorities were and how bad it was for my mental health to escape into a world of jokes and pithy quips as a means to escaping a life where I didn't feel I was measuring up.

Honeypump ended, and another board called Lemmingtrail replaced it. Lemmingtrail went down, and that was replaced with another board, and again, and again. Each time, less and less people followed. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat had long replaced the internet messageboard. And I think by then, most of the messageboard veterans didn't have much use for that sort of thing anymore.

I found myself, nearly 15 years on, still posting. Sure, not with the same zeal or need as in the early days, but I remained a consistent 'regular poster' on the latest iteration of the board, which by now consisted of about half people I knew in 'real life' and a handful of people I only knew from the board. It's a funny grey area to be around people in an online space for over a decade. You aren't friends. You don't even know their real names. But they know things about you, and you know things about them. In this latest version of the board, because it was so small, I found myself sharing a lot of personal feelings and getting good advice. I hope I was able to contribute helpfully to others needing someone to talk to. But I also posted about my home renovations, clothes, shitting, exercising, and dumb stock photos I came across at work. It was a lovely outlet to have during the day when I needed a breather from my job.

All along, none of the boards I posted to were particularly diverse. I'd guess about 70 to 80% dudes, all cis gender. Only a very few of us were queer. Only a couple of people were not white. Nearly everyone had gone to college. In other words, a hot bed of privilege, myself included.

As a woman, I obviously move through a male-dominated world. If I didn't come to terms with that, as most women do, I'd be roaming the streets, ranting and raving like a lunatic, because it can make  you crazy sometimes. I think the most frustrating part of being a woman is that when you do finally find the courage to speak out and ask men to be more compassionate people, they usually respond by being less so. I am 46 years old and I have seen this play out more times than I can count. I'd say it's human nature, and maybe it is, but it's definitely a male quality. And I don't #notallmen me because I firmly believe that any 'decent' man will act horribly under certain circumstances.

This is a very long-winded way of describing what made me quit, despite the pangs of sadness I feel over the decision. And I want to write about it here because this is my space, where I have complete control. I want to write about it because the conversation is still happening without me. And I want to write about it because writing is how I make sense of things.

One of the threads on the board was about movies we'd seen -- old or new -- for people to post their opinions of films they'd just watched. Someone posted that they'd seen 'Hannah Gadsby: Nanette', a Netflix special that came out back in June 2018. It got a huge amount of attention for Gadsby's groundbreaking social commentary. I'll just copy and paste the synopsis of the show here: "Gadsby uses the piece to deconstruct the nature of comedy and asks the "straight white male" to undergo the same tension that marginalized people go through every day. She does this by explaining her experience as a lesbian and gender non-conforming woman. She explains that some are brought up to hate themselves, while others are brought up with the licence to hate others. Her realisation is that the self-deprecating humour common to standup comedy is doubly painful for marginalised people, because it is joining the chorus of people who insult and belittle them already. This leads her to conclude that she can no longer do standup comedy, and structures the piece around claiming she is giving up comedy. She has since stated that she is not doing so after all due to the surprising response to her show."

When it came out, I remember being impressed at how important the show was to so many people I knew or followed online. Gadsby had articulated something essential.

I was really excited to watch it! I put it on one Friday night after a long week and, predictably, fell asleep. I kept meaning to go back and watch the part I missed (ie, most of it). My partner, who didn't fall asleep, wasn't that impressed. "I don't get how it was so revolutionary," he said, "It was all stuff that was like, duh, of course -- I thought everyone knew that." I told him no, I don't think most people do.

Fast forward to this thread on the board. A single, brief post, stood out to me, which said, simply, "Nanette was so bad."

Ok, so, I had two separate-but-related reactions. First, one of my big pet peeves is when people say, "[X] Sucks", or "[X] is awful", thus dismissing it as if they are the arbiter of taste and it's so obvious that it needs no further explanation and implying that if you like [X], then you don't know what you're talking about, because it's awful. My pet peeve has been dismissed numerous times on the messageboard with the (condescending) explanation that if someone says something sucks, it's obviously their opinion (duh!). And, apparently, my opinion that actually it is precisely that it isn't presented as opinion, but FACT, is invalid. My being bothered by it sucks, if you will.

It's not that I saw Nanette and thought it was so amazing that I wouldn't have anyone cast aspersions on it. As I mentioned, I didn't see most of it. But I knew how important it was, and that simple statement of dismissal and disdain represented something really significant to me: extreme privilege.

Here, in Nanette we have a queer, gender non-conforming rape survivor creating art (yes, a standup special that turns the concept of standup comedy on its head and challenges the patriarchy is definitely art) engineered to challenge straight white male power, not just in comedy, but just generally, and here's a straight white male saying, ugh so bad. I think that needs to be examined. I think we need to stop and linger on that a minute. I think we need to unpack what that means.

For me, it's not a mere difference of opinion. I don't mind if this guy didn't like Nanette. You didn't like it? Fine. Articulate why. Engage with it. Treat it like it at least matters, if not to you, then someone. Because it should matter! But it shouldn't only matter to women and queers. It should matter to the straight white guys in our lives who want a better world for people who aren't straight white guys. I'd have more respect for a scathing critique of Nanette than a mere "so bad". "So bad" means, to me, "I am so comfortable in my privilege that I care more that the 'comedy' special wasn't funny than about the fact that this person risked their entire career, exposed their own trauma, told their truth, and spoke out against their oppression. It wasn't funny and so it was bad. End of story, nothing more to say."

I decided to comment and to try and unpack my response to his two word review, which was to immediately thing hmmm I guess he's not an ally. And that's about where I think most of the dudes on the board stopped reading. My point can be summed up like this:

Maybe if the performance you're critiquing was created by a marginalised person and is about their experience of oppression, how about considering not dismissing it so heartlessly? How about acknowledging that you didn't like it while maintaining its value? It's not hard. They think I am being pedantic but there actually is a big, big difference between "I didn't enjoy it" and "It was so bad."

And so the conversation still continues that when I said words to the effect of, "When I read what you wrote, I thought you aren't a good ally" that I was both accusing him of not being an ally and saying he was homophobic. I said neither of those things. I was sharing my reaction, which is to say, "Your saying that makes you sound, to me, like you aren't an ally." And P.S. You don't have to be a homophobe to be a shit ally.

An ally is "a person or organisation that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity". If you're an ally to a marginalised group, you are, to some degree, helping them in their fight against oppression. If you aren't helping, then you aren't an ally, no matter how great your opinions are.

So here's what happened. Dudes read what I wrote, put words in there and intentions in there that I didn't have. Other dudes read the interpretations and superimposed them onto my words, and then their interpretations became my words, no matter how many times I instructed them back to what I actually said. My voice became drowned. Finally I said whatever, let's move on. I didn't want to put the kind of energy it takes to get a bunch of dudes on a messageboard to change their opinions about something because I'm not sure it's ever happened in the history of internet messageboards.

(As an aside, if your comment starts off with a disclaimer that you know you sound like an Male Rights Activist, maybe consider not sounding like a Male Rights Activist.)

So I accepted that most of these people were never going to get my actual point and would rather slap each other on the back than to ask me clarifying questions about my point of view with the aim of greater understanding and... yep... being better allies. They'd no intention or desire to be better allies. Only self-assurance that they're super cool guys with great opinions that I can take or leave and if I was bent out of shape, it was my fault. The irony is that I don't give a shit what anyone thinks of Nanette. I incorrectly assumed (very funny now, in retrospect) that the person would be like, "Jeez, I didn't realise that saying what I said made me sound like I wasn't an ally. Maybe I'll avoid saying things that make me sound like I'm not an ally, because I am an ally and I want to come off as one because I love my LGBTQ friends." Nah. As I've seen over and over and over again, when you ask a straight, cis white man to change their way of thinking, they dig their heels in nearly every time.

Pushing on, I continued to post about the funny stock photos at work and other similarly banal topics. I figured I could put the situation behind me. But then that's when I was confronted with another reality: I was being mocked. My posts, which had been wildly misinterpreted, were still on their minds. Because god forbid we should move on when a man has been called homophobic! And told he can't have OPINIONS! How can she just keep posting here when she's policed our speech in such a heartless fashion! We can't say anything is bad anymore without this woman telling us we're having opinions wrong!

With a heavy heart, I quit the board. I'm quite sad over it. I'm not sure I've ever quit such a long-formed habit in my life. Logging onto the board had been a daily ritual. I already miss it. But I had to decide that my relationship with men has changed. Putting myself in the firing line isn't worth it anymore. Being where I'm devalued isn't worth it anymore. I can't purposely place myself in a space where I'm not respected and where my thoughts are treated like ammunition to distort and throw back in my face. They acted like I was trying to police them, but it was me who was policed.

It's wild! To ask someone to just merely consider another point of view and then to be treated like this idea, so altruistic, is the actual problem. After everything that's happened in human history! It's actually fascinating. And depressing.

Makeup thoughts, part 2

My last post was really the bare-bones basics for someone who wants to wear a little makeup, but doesn't want to go full glam. Now I want to dig a little deeper! I'd like to talk about other ways to use makeup -- I didn't talk about concealer, contouring, highlighter, makeup removal, or more creative and dramatic ways to approach the eyes. So, let's do it!

One thing to keep in mind when you watch tutorials on Youtube and Instagram is that these people are doing makeup to look good on camera or in a photo. In real life, they often look very, very different and not in a good way. And you've probably seen these kinds of makeup jobs in person, too, where it's like yiiiikes what is going on there? My point is that just because an influencer is flogging a product or technique and it looks great on them, it might not be great for you.

Before I buy a product, I'll usually do a search for the product name and review, and usually you'll find more than a few people who have made videos about their experiences with it. (Note: avoid "unboxing" videos because usually they're just literally the person taking the thing out of the box, putting some on their hand, and telling you about the consistency and smell.) Of course, just because some of the reviews are negative, doesn't mean the product isn't for you. For example, the person might have a different skin type than you or live in a much different climate. There's a Youtuber I like who has oily skin and lives in Florida so I take that into account when buying for my dry skin in a cold and wet climate.

🔳 Concealer can be your friend, but it can also be your enemy, especially if you are a woman of a certain age, like me. If you've ever watched a young Youtuber give a makeup tutorial, they will often slather on concealer in big triangles under their eyes, blend it in, and then set it with powder. If you have any fine lines or wrinkles under your eyes, let me tell you this will not look good in five minutes as the makeup settles into your lines. (I've posted a video below that shows how to avoid that.)

So there are three products that come in handy when you have something you'd like to cover up or minimise, like redness around the nose, under-eye darkness or discolouration, or a spot: colour corrector, concealer, and setting powder.

Step 1: Colour corrector. First let me say that you don't always need to use colour corrector, but it can really help. How you use colour corrector is going to depend mostly on what you're covering and what your skin tone is. They also come in pots, sticks, tubes, and more. The basic idea is that you apply the opposite colour of what you're covering. Colour correcting sets will have a variety of colours for this purpose, like this one from Anastasia Beverly Hills:

There are loaaaads of youtube tutorials on colour corrector, but the best thing is to find one made by someone with a skin type and tone similar to your own. Here are a couple selections:

Step 2: Concealer. You want to put a bit of concealer over the thing you colour corrected. The concealer should match your skin as closely as possible in that area at that time. (You might be lighter or darker depending on how much sun or self-tanner you've been exposed to lately.) 

Step 3: Setting powder. Just a smidge will do! Lightly dust the spot you covered up with translucent powder. Some people think you need to put foundation over concealer, but you really really don't.

Here are some other tutorials for covering specific areas/issues:

An overall no-foundation look using concealer:

How to cover up a spot:

How to prevent concealer from creasing:

How to conceal dark circles under the eyes:

If you're going for full face coverage, here's a deep dive into how to use concealer with foundation:

🔳 Contouring can be fun! Done properly, contour and highlighting can really make your cheekbones stand out, define your jawline, and it can even change the perceived shape of your nose! Done incorrectly, you can look like you've got painted stripes on your face. The key is to build thin layers so you don't apply too much and then blend, blend, blend.

Usually contour/highlighting products are powders, but they can come in creamy consistencies, or you can also contour with darker shades of foundation or tinted moisturiser. There are also different takes on where to apply the products -- for example, you'll see guides that tell you to apply them in different areas according to your face shape. But really, this is the basic concept:

I absolutely love the finished look in this tutorial. Shonagh Scott has created contours by simply using different shades of tinted moisturiser and the result is extremely natural and sun-kissed:

Here is a tutorial for a subtle look if you wear foundation:

This tutorial uses only different shades of concealer to contour and highlight:

If you're a little older, these might be the tutorials for you. The first is with cream products:

And  this one is with powder products:

And finally, there's a cool invention called 'setting spray' for keeping it all in place! It kind of reminds me of being in art class when we used to spray a finished drawing to keep the charcoal from going all over the place. Or hairspray, I suppose.

I have an allergy which keeps me from using setting spray myself, but there are loads of options at many price points. Some of them give you a 'dewy glow' and some of them have some SPF, while some are made for oily or dry skin. But if you find that your makeup doesn't stay put, especially in summer, give setting spray a go!

I didn't talk about everything I wanted to in this post, but sure I'll leave it here for now. And maybe tell me which products you're using so I can try them!