Archive for the ‘Beginners’ Guides’ Category

Beginner’s Guide to Pole Dancing

YES! FINALLY! I have been wanting to try a pole dancing class since I moved to Cary and found out my closest gym was a pole dancing one. One of my penpals does it and described it as “like swinging around the jungle gym as a kid except in high heels”. I had pretty much no faith in my strength or coordination but I knew I could count on a serious workout and having fun swinging around like an idiot! I accomplished both things.

To get pumped, I watched some “beginner” videos on youtube. There’s a reason I write the word in quotes because damn. Still, pole dancing is beautiful and hardcore as shit so I enjoyed watching the videos even if I knew I would never be able to do some of those moves. Esp after just an hour lesson!

My friend Alex agreed to go with me. She actually has ballet experience so she was much more poised and less floppy than my flailing self, but I like to think I made up the difference in sheer ENTHUSIASM.

GO TEAM

GO TEAM

We learned about five moves in all, and there was only one of them I could accomplish semi-gracefully: the pirouette. Surprise, it’s the only one that doesn’t require you to be able to support your body weight with just your arms.

Naturally my arms were HELLA sore for like three days after, but my legs were a little too because, surprise, pole dancing happens all on the balls of your feet and since I never wear heels, those muscles are not used to doing so much work. For this class we were barefoot, but when you move up the ~pole dancing ranks~ you do wear heels while doing it.

I decided I’m probably not going to invest the time and effort to get good at this, but it was fun to try. And it inspired me to go up a level in my usual weight-lifting because my arms are even less competent than I thought.

Previously: Free motion quilting
Next: ??? Email me your ideas

Beginner’s Guide to Free-Motion Quilting

I’m not a beginner to quilting, exactly, but I’ve only ever done quilting by hand. It takes foreverrrrrr so I decided to take a class at my local quilt shop to see if there was an easier way. Surprise! There is!

It's a quilted journal cover

It’s a quilted journal cover

See all those turquoise stitches? That’s the quilting holding the layers together. And I didn’t have to do them by hand! I did them with THIS:

It's my walking foot!

It’s my walking foot!

It’s basically a heavy-duty version of the normal foot that goes on my machine, so I’m not calling that trying something new. No, to do that we have to take this quilting rave to THE NEXT LEVEL.

FREE MOTION FOOT

FREE MOTION FOOT

That’s a free motion quilting foot, which basically allows you to draw using thread and your machine instead of graphite and a pencil. As you might recall, I’ve always kind of sucked at drawing so this was not easy.

The horror

The horror

It’s especially hard because the machine is doing nothing except moving the needle up and down in this kind of quilting. The length of your stitches as well as their placement depends entirely on how you move the fabric and how hard you press down on the pedal (making the needle go up and down faster or slower). Clearly it takes some serious practice to get anything approaching a non-mess.

A non-mess: not pictured here

A non-mess: not pictured here

Even hearts are hard!

Even hearts are hard!

The class I took was 3 hours, and I was definitely better at the end than at the beginning! I’m not sure how often I will be using this skill in the future, but I’m glad I’ve added it to my quilting arsenal. Maybe I’ll be signing my quilts like this from now on:

But how do you dot the I's?

But how do you dot the I’s?

Previously: Candy Making
Next: POLE DANCING

Beginner’s Guide to Candy Making

For July I decided to tackle candy making in honor of this book I bought from one of my favorite/most trusted bakers:

Sally's Candy Addiction by Sally McKenney

Sally’s Candy Addiction by Sally McKenney

Candy making is more complex than baking and requires a lot more minute attention to temperatures, something I was not always successful at. For instance, here is me failing at making butter rum candies:

Candy thermometer and everything

Candy thermometer and everything

Even though I followed the instructions and was watching the candy thermometer the whole time, they still turned out burned. Maybe my thermometer isn’t accurate or something. Oh well. On to the successes!

Birthday fudge

Birthday fudge

A layer of white chocolate fudge on top of a layer of milk chocolate fudge. With sprinkles!

Homemade Reese's Cups!

Homemade Reese’s Cups!

I only had crunchy peanut butter, but, surprise, that makes them EVEN BETTER!

Chocolate chip cookie bark

Chocolate chip cookie bark

The baby chocolate chip cookies this required were the best part. So cute!

And, my personal favorite:

Strawberry buttercream truffles!

Strawberry buttercream truffles!

These were rad as hell. The strawberry flavor is achieved through crushed freeze-dried strawberries so it really pops. Also Steven helped me perfectly temper the chocolate using the sous vide so, though it took a while, the dipping process was the easiest ever.

Winner!

Winner!

I also made chai tea truffles and lemon pie truffles, but they came out kind of underwhelming so I didn’t take pictures. This was a fun and delicious month!

Previously: Bullet Journaling
Next: Free Motion quilting

Beginners’ Guide to Bullet Journaling

As you may remember, I’ve kept a journal regularly since I was 11. So anytime there is news in the exciting world of journals, I take an interest. Bullet journaling is something I’ve been hearing about for a while now, but I’ve always been unsure about trying it for myself. Despite the best intentions, I’ve never written in my journal everyday, but when I do write I go with a narrative style and pretty long entries. The bullet journal is the opposite of that: part planner, part to-do list, part journal. You make entries every day and they should be short and to the point. But, in the spirit of journal science discovery, I was willing to give it a try.

This beginner guide explains things better than I can, and gave me some grounding in how to do things the “right” way. Then I pretty much just took the parts of it I liked and did whatever I wanted. First you’ve got your monthly calendar. Here’s mine for July:

20170711_133902

Other people have really fancy layouts and draw theirs, but my journal had a section of calendar pages at the beginning so I just used that. You can use it to plan out your month and to refer back to etc. After that is my table of contents:

20170711_133916

Surprise! I’m bad at recording things in a table of contents. Oh well. Then you get down to the daily entries. I would usually start the day (or sometimes the night before) writing down everything I needed and wanted to do that day next to open boxes I could fill in when I accomplished it. At the end of the day, any un-filled-in boxes got moved to the next day. I also recorded stuff that happened that day with bullet points:

20170711_134105

Near the bottom of the page I recorded what I ate and what I spent money on too. At the end of the month I could make a chart! Because if you love charts, bullet journaling is all about that. Here’s me recording monthly habits:

20170711_133924

I know, pathetic, but I was sick for a while this month. I haven’t made myself a little chart for July, but if I ever do this again, I want to try to use more fabulous colors. On the other hand, some of the elaborate bullet journal layouts you can find online seem, to me, way more trouble than they’re worth.

Overall, bullet journaling really kept me more organized than I have been, particularly with things like chores that don’t really have deadlines but still need to be done consistently. I still wrote more narrative entries below what I considered my “bullet journal entry” for the day, but not always, and often just short sentences elaborating on my bullet points. I’m not sure I’ll stick to this format, but I’ll probably incorporate some elements of it into my normal journaling. Like charts!

Previously: Make Up
Next: Candy

Beginner’s Guide to Makeup

The main thing I’ve learned this month is that when you tell people “I don’t wear makeup” they hear “I don’t wear MUCH makeup.” Because how inconceivable is it to go around everyday with your normal disgusting face on display?? Ridiculous, I know, but it is how I live my life. I have so far received no complaints (to said disgusting face, anyway). But I decided it might be nice to actually know what this stuff is about in case one day I feel like playing with it. So I made an appointment at Sephora and I spent an hour having little conversations like this:

Sephora Employee: What kind of primer do you usually use?
Me: I don’t wear makeup.
Sephora Employee: Okay, but–
Me: Also what is primer

Sephora Employee: Do you prefer liquid eyeliner or–
Me: I don’t wear makeup

Sephora Employee: Do you normally wear mascara?
Me: I don’t wear makeup
Sephora Employee: Never?
Me: Never
Sephora Employee: What about on your wedding?
Me: I was wearing paperbags

By the end I feel like she was wondering why I was even allowed to walk into the Sephora store and I was wondering why the hell people do this every goddamn day. Because it is a lot of work and also GET THAT POINTY THING AWAY FROM MY EYE. Here is what her tireless work (and my constant eye-watering from trying not to blink) produced:

Appreciate it, because it's never happening again

Appreciate it, because it’s never happening again

So here’s how to makeup:

1. Wash your face, you peasant
I feel like this was the only category where my Sephora employee actually had faith in my abilities as an adult. Since it was the first thing we talked about, it may have lured her into overestimating me, because I am into skin care, friends. I even subscribed to the fabled 10-step Korean skincare regimen briefly before paring it down to this:

1. Wash your gooddamn face (with an oil-based cleanser)
1a) Twice a week exfoliate
2. Toner the shit out of that
3. Moisturizzzzzze

Also sheet masks sometimes mostly because there is a Tony Moly outlet in HMart and I can’t stop myself.

I can only assume that this part is even MORE important if you slather your face with random crap daily.

2. Hide your imperfections with color theory

This is where she lost me. This step involves putting a bunch of stuff all over your face to “even out” your skin tone and hide your pores and whatever. My main problem is redness so I need to put on layers of green (??gold?? I forget now because I wasn’t taking notes. I thought about it, but I was afraid of incurring even more disapproval) in between other layers of things that match my skin tone. They had a special camera machine that they would hold against your cheek to get a SCIENTIFIC BEAUTY MATCH for your skin tone. It felt kind of like being at the doctor. Anyway, this step is like preparing the canvas for the art that is going to happen next:

3. Eyes: This is a form of torture

Stuff happened to my eyes at this point, but I was paying even less attention because of how incredibly uncomfortable it was. Keeping your eyes open while someone wields a pointy thing right up in there?? Nope nope nope.

I asked how soon I would sweat all this off and she seemed confused because apparently Real Ladies don't sweat lolololol

I asked how soon I would sweat all this off and she seemed confused because apparently Real Ladies don’t sweat lolololol

4. Lips: the only part I can kind of do??

Lol jk my ability to put lipstick on is as shitty as all my other non-existent artistic abilities, but at least this part was painless. She tried to teach me some technique about outlining your “cupid’s bow” with an x and then filling in… stuff…

5. Good fucking luck ever getting this stuff off

No wonder you need an intense skin care regimen, is what I’m saying.

So I’m never doing that again. I did buy some lip stuff that I have used a few times on ~special occasions~ without looking like a total clown, so there’s that.

Previously: Gardening
Next: Bullet Journaling

Beginner’s Guide to Plants

I’m a plant novice. The only time I’ve grown any kind of plant was once in fourth grade when I needed to grow grass in a tupperware for a science fair project. It worked, I guess, but like all science fair projects everywhere, I’m pretty sure my mom did most of the work. I decided that was going to change this April. I was going to keep something alive for at least a month, and I’m pleased (and surprised) to announce that I have accomplished that goal!

Here they are on April 1st, just after planting!

Here they are on April 1st, just after planting!

I got seedlings of thyme, rosemary, and basil, which are some of our most used kitchen herbs. They get a lot of sun on our balcony and the coconut husk liner in the basket keeps them pretty well drained. I water them every day, which is fun, because Olivia is invariably standing underneath and looks really miffed when she gets splashed.

This is two weeks in!

This is two weeks in!

We’ve used them quite a few times when cooking at this point, and they’ve weathered some thunderstorms and wind well. Olivia likes the fact that we open the balcony door so often, because she loves to keep watch on the parking lot.

And lounge in the sun

And lounge in the sun

This project was a lot easier than I thought it would be, although I did have a lot of help from both Caitlin Miller, the only plantologist I know, and Steven, who knew his way around Lowes Garden Center. Even if you’re like me and don’t feel like you have a green thumb or any plant instincts, if you choose your plants well, you can do it!

One month!

One month!

Previously: Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch
Next: Make Up

Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch

This month’s beginner’s guide was supposed to be about rock climbing, but I may or may not have been the victim of a rock climbing related scam(??? or I’m just unusually bad at reading comprehension, I guess). Anyway, I have now vowed never to rock climb and so my back up thing was cross stitching. This is kind of cheating because I have actually cross stitched before, when I was 13, out of a kit. But this is the big leagues now, my friends. Observe:

Got myself a plastic frame and everything

Got myself a plastic frame and everything

I got this cool Disney Villains pattern on Etsy and had to assemble the supplies myself.

Everyone is cuter as cross stitch

Everyone is cuter as cross stitch

Luckily, one of my coworkers was giving away a ton of cross stitching supplies, including a lot of embroidery floss! Yay! Hardcore cross stitchers agree that the best way to store your thread for easy access is to wind the skein around a little card, write the number of the color, and arrange them in a plastic box like so:

Numerically they don't make a rainbow, sadly

Numerically they don’t make a rainbow, sadly

I like this pattern because each figure doesn’t take a very long time, so you really feel like you’re getting somewhere after only an hour. I’ve probably been doing at least 30 minutes a day for a few weeks now. Yay!!

The pink line is to measure the middle to know where to start. It gets taken out at the end

The pink line is to measure the middle to know where to start. It gets taken out at the end

I wasn’t able to finish this project in a month, but I’m excited to have my first Legit piece of cross stitch art. I’ve read some articles online about how to frame them properly so I’ll try that when the time comes.

The back is less pretty

The back is less pretty

Resources:
Buzzfeed Beginner Cross Stitch Guide
Framing Finished Cross Stitch

Previously: Beginner’s Guide to Calligraphy
Next: Gardening

Beginner’s Guide to Calligraphy

This month I was learning on my own instead of taking a class, so I know I didn’t do as thorough a job as if I had the guidance of a professional/someone forcing me to do things. Still, I consulted a lot of professionals, in the form of taking their books out from the library:

Sources (Books)
Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thore
Spencerian Handwriting by Platts Roger Spencer
Simple Stroke Calligraphy by Marci Donley
Encyclopedia of Calligraphy Techniques by Dana Hardy Wilson
Calligraphy by Margaret Morgan
Calligraphy in Ten Easy Lessons
Step by Step Calligraphy
Mastering Calligraphy by Gaye Godfrey-Nicholes

Of these, I liked the first one, Modern Calligraphy, the best. It went really in-depth about supplies and what to look for, explaining where you really do need to spend some money and where it’s okay to cheap out, especially for beginners. I also had this amazing Christmas present from Melissa:

A calligraphy kit!

A calligraphy kit!

It had a good practice booklet, pen, ink, and vellum. It was nice to have the basic supplies already. Here’s a practice booklet:

As you can see, my lack of artistic skill is definitely a drawback

As you can see, my lack of artistic skill is definitely a drawback

I also can’t seem to get the thin vs thick lines that really define calligraphy. It’s all about the pressure you exert, which I suppose I could get with more practice:

My handwriting will always look kind of awkward to me, I guess

My handwriting will always look kind of awkward to me, I guess

I’m probably not going to get more practice, though, because I discovered this month that, though I like the results of calligraphy, I don’t really like doing it, particularly. It’s fine, but I don’t have the drive to put in the time and effort I’d need to actually get good at it.

HOWEVER, one of the online sources I consulted, The Postman’s Knock, had an awesome tutorial about how to do CHEATING CALLIGRAPHY!! I am all about cheating, y’all. You can do it with a ballpoint, which I write in my journal with all the time. I immediately started practicing.

What would you have tried first?

What would you have tried first?

I write fast, which is probably why my handwriting is largely illegible. But for this you have to slow down, so I’m hoping I’ll at least take that lesson away from it to improve the quality of my journals in general, if not have them in beautiful Spencerian hand like I maybe naively hoped would happen this month.

I've started doing the first letter of each entry, like I'm important or something

I’ve started doing the first letter of each entry, like I’m important or something

I’m glad I took this month to play with calligraphy since it’s something that’s always interested me. Now I know all I want to about it, and I don’t have to wonder anymore. Plus, I think it’s improved my writing in some little ways.

Best Part: Livening up my journal!

Livens up the journal!

Like this!


worst Part: Sucking at drawing means sucking at calligraphy
Will I do this again?: Nope

Not sure what my plan for next month is yet, but I’m tentatively saying rock climbing!

Previously: Beginner’s Guide to Weaving
Next: Cross Stitch (not rock climbing at all lol)

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