buy nothing year Archive

JacketGate Part II: The Chills of Consumerism

December 28th, 2009

JacketGate continues today as I do one last day of preparation for my three week stint at the MacDowell Colony. I am still unsatisfied with the situation of being warm enough when I’m out there.

It rained yesterday in San Francisco and my friend Wei-Ming and I wandered the Stonestown Galleria, the Goodwill in West Portal, the Big 5 at Lakeshore Plaza and the Sports Authority at Serramonte Center in search of an ugly jacket and other forms of warmth that will allow me to survive an East Coast winter.

Going shopping yesterday was a horrific experience for me as I’m trying to purge my belongings in half. I borrowed my family’s Prius and the parking lots were a clusterf*ck of drivers, all who felt entitled to the same slot of parking space. Under the din of bargain hunting immigrant families, teen mothers with babies in tow, and people I probably went to school with who have room in their homes for more crap they don’t need… we did frenzied laps around Macy’s, started asking the mannequins for directions, and emerged with a decently warm, below the knee jacket. It wasn’t the LL Bean or North Face Michelin Man uglyness I’d hoped for, but it was the closest thing I could find. Perhaps it is the warmest jacket for sale in the city.

The damage was $147. Mind you, I’ve never spent that kind of money on a coat ever before. So it’s kind of a dramatic purchase for me.

Then came similar nauseating choreography around the aisles of Ross and Big 5. Trying snow shows on at Sports Authority. Starting at the ones that were $39, but soon, I find myself putting on $49 shoes, then $79 shoes… and suddenly…. $100 shoes– because anything less than $100 was too narrow or tight.

At each purchase, I presented my card over the sales counter, mostly in denial. Trying not to look.

I spent $100 on snow shoes. Another $45 on snow pants. I just bought a bomber hat on ebay for $15. It’s getting mailed straight to me in New Hampshire.

Of course, after I got home from the puke-tastic day of feeding the economy to acquire things that I swear I could have borrowed from someone somewhere, I get an email from a woman on Craigslist responding to my ad post to barter my obscene amounts of yarn for a winter coat and snow shoes. She had exactly what I wanted. Serel brand snow shoes and an LL Bean Jacket.

I screamed. If only she had written earlier….

I guess I can always return all these purchases. Stay true to my martrydom of buying nothing and enjoy the thrills of old time “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” bartering. There are issues with bartering with her though… The coat is one size too large (L) and we’re not sure if the shoes will fit. She also lives in San Jose but has agreed to meet me tonight in Redwood City to do this exchange.

I also leave in the morning, so if after I find her items work out, my folks will have to return all this crap I just bought on my behalf for a refund. Not to mention, the pressure of wanting to make this barter exchange work after having driven all the way to Redwood City. And my father now wants to come with me in case this lady turns out to be a killer. My folks are very funny this way. I’ve been living in LA alone all this time, but when I’m here, they insist on driving me to places I could walk to, and coming with me as my personal security detail for benign Craigslist transactions.

The great irony of all this is that when I land at MacDowell there will probably be a store next door to the colony called “Really Warm Ugly Jackets, Only $5.”

Anyway, looking forward to my journey ahead. To being able to go for walks in my warm/not warm coat. And soak in the luxury of time and space. I’m actually making a commitment to keep the imbibement of hot toddies to a minimum… as it seems to be the trap of an artist residency… lots of time to unwind… perhaps too much. But before the joys of MacDowell, can I ask that this city stop bilking me of money so I can sit in a cabin in the woods and RELAX already?!?

I’m telling you folks. Life should not be this complicated. This is JacketGate.

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Category: buy nothing year, crafty

In Pursuit of Warmth.

December 25th, 2009

I am in the midst of a conspiracy I’d like to call “JacketGate.”

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles a million years ago, I have suffered from the inability of knowing what time of year it is. We don’t have seasons, we just have a couple months when it rains twice and we put on hooded sweatshirts and scarves and complain about the “cold.” But other than that, it’s one long summer with slight fluctuations. We have one major season in Los Angeles… and that’s “Pilot Season.”

Right now, I’m in San Francisco. Since my last blog, I’ve been in Los Angeles, Knoxville, TN and New York City. In the latter two cities, I really experienced what they mean by “East Coast Winter.” Imagine me wearing the one coat I own (a little suede number from the Out of the Closet thrift store) with the wind ripping right through me. Imagine me swearing through the windy streets of Astoria as I ran towards shelter and finally understood why people move to Los Angeles for the weather.

I am a cold weather sissy. And that’s why I decided, January 2010 would be the perfect time of year to experience what they call “a Maine winter” at the MacDowell Writer’s Colony in Monadnock, NH where I head in a couple days to work on my new play. I’ll be there for over three weeks.

A few years ago, my filmmaker friend Michael Kang went to MacDowell this time of year and he sent me this apocalyptic picture from his New Year’s Eve there. My jaw dropped (“froze” might be a more appropriate word) when I saw this…

This doesn’t look like much of a “retreat.” And granted, it’s a picture of the parking lot and a homemade fireworks NYE show. But from the looks of it, it’s going to be cold as misery (specifically, “feels like 11 degrees” says

I seem to have a knack for traveling the country during the worst times of the year. Two years ago it was Florida in July. This year it was Alaska in January. Alaska was not as bad as I thought. I was inside the theater most of the time. There were times when the wind and snow would hit my face and it would feel like pins were stabbing my skin. But it wasn’t apocalyptic the way Sarah Palin made us think Alaska was. And thanks to global warming, the weather hovered at a nice low of 30 degrees. I made it through Alaska wearing borrowed snowboarding clothes from my friend Teri. But this year, I didn’t even have time to ask around to borrow clothes. I was traveling so much, I barely got a Facebook tweet out asking for a coat.

Looking at Michael’s picture above has me realizing, that even a San Francisco cold weather jacket is not going to cut it. I need serious warmth. I need an ugly jacket.

If you’ve been reading, you know I have been purging the amount of stuff I own. Two yard sales and a half dozen trips to Goodwill and I have only shed the amount of stuff I own by 30%. I thought it was more, but as I really take a look around, I still got a lot of shit. Shopping has become a disgusting endeavor of late. The day after redistributing all my crap to the citizens of West LA in a yard sale, I was forced to go to Crate and Barrel to fulfill a friend’s wedding registry. I almost vomited having to spend the money from the yard sale to buy more crap.

I’ve come to really loathe the practice of shopping.

I’m learning that everyone on the East Coast must be broke because a good winter coat is expensive. We’re talking $300 North Face expensive. And I also realize, I need to get some real snow shoes which run $150. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to buy a bomber hat rather than rely on this little crocheted beanie I got. I’ve owned bomber hats in the past that have been given away or lost. Teri loaned me hers for Alaska but I don’t have it this year.

$450+ is an unfathomable amount to spend on winter clothes. My friends have all chided me: “But you might go out there again. It’s an investment.” But in my carlessness, I am in this time of life where I refuse to buy stuff, and I refuse to buy a jacket. Even if I need one, especially during this great purge. I’m trying to save up for this elusive house. And we live in a planet with such an excess of shit, surely someone has an extra coat to share. Surely, I can try to not contribute to mass consumption and utilize what already exists.

But nobody seems to have an ugly coat to share. My friends have offered their San Francisco winter jackets. But nobody has the floor-length puffy nonsense that I need.

I thought, I’d try Ebay. No luck. Winter coats are as much online as they are in the stores. I found some decent ones less than $200 on the LL Bean and Eddie Bauer site, that apparently have been “tested” to work in below freezing temperatures. LL Bean is sold out of coats my size, and the Eddie Bauer store in San Francisco doesn’t have any heavy ugly coats in stock. You see, because it doesn’t get cold enough here for that.

Then I thought I’d get clever on Craigslist. Nobody was listing a coat like the one I was looking for so I thought I’d offer up to $100 for an ugly jacket if I included a picture of one. No luck. Multiple offers of fleece tops, cashmere scarves, but nobody in San Francisco seems to have an ugly jacket for an ugly winter. I even attempted to barter for winter clothes– because the principle of bartering means using what exists and most importantly, not using cash. I have all this yarn from my yarn hoarding phase hidden up here at my parents’, and tried to barter that. Again, offers of things I don’t need or the right coats in the wrong size.

I went to a cocktail party last night in San Francisco, where the hunt for this winter coat was a consuming part of my conversations. (I know, I am such the party animal.) Everyone was pretty intrigued by this quest for a jacket for cheap or free. I was offered suggestions of websites I could find them cheaper, who in the city I could borrow one from… none have panned out.

I even thought for a moment of signing up for those free coat programs for homeless people.

So I broke down this afternoon and decided, I’d buy a damn coat and put it on the charge card. Burlington Coat Factory has an obvious name for an obvious product. But what I found was only a small selection of coats that would get me through a San Francisco winter. No ugly, Michelin man sleeping bag with sleeves jackets for a Maine winter. Just thin, lightly downed selections. My mother was trying to be helpful, handing me coat after coat on the rack, and I couldn’t help of being reminded of why I’d accumulated so much crap in all my years of living… because I always bought subpar shit and thus, had to buy it several times.

If I’m going to buy this ugly jacket and ugly snow shoes. I’m going to have to do it right so that I only have to do it once.

I may have to go shopping. At a mall. The day after Christmas. Like the rest of America. And still not find this ugly jacket. Ugh, nausea.

My friend Wei-Ming says she’ll go post Christmas shopping with me tomorrow. Nothing is making me more ill than the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on winter clothes, creeping along elbow to elbow, from store to store with the rest of America, spending hard earned cash on crap that theoretically, already exists somewhere that I know someone is not using that I could borrow or barter.

I’m telling you. This is JacketGate.

In other news, my friends are having babies, while I’m running around the country looking for a free coat that won’t put me in the poor house…. Meet Anja.

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Category: buy nothing year, marriage grown up crap, new york city

More Cash for Clunkers Tips: #10-19

August 31st, 2009

There was a lot of great feedback from my last Cash for Clunkers post with ideas for Creatives to survive… NO, make that thrive in a recession. I thought I’d post more related less to money and more towards growing joy in life. Here are ideas that I’ve been referring to a lot lately and that I’ve figured out over a good long lifetime. Some of these ideas are adapted from books I’ve read, some I’ve discovered, and others are from creative friends who’ve made livings doing more insanely obscure things than me.

Good luck! It’s the creatives that will help lead us to the light.

More Cash for Clunkers Tips: #10-19

10. Don’t ever ever ever let people characterize you as “broke” or “starving” and don’t ever describe yourself as those things out loud even if you are thinking it or its your “reality.” If you romanticize the idea of struggling, you will be your own self-fulfilling prophecy. ”Broke” and “artist” are not synonymous unless you say they are.

Other words to eliminate from your vocabulary: “victim” (best replaced with the word “survivor”), “struggling” (best replaced with “mastering”) and “trying” (ie You are a writer, you are not trying to be a writer.)

11. Grow an herb garden. Even if all you have is a tiny windowsill and a small handful of dirt. Sometimes when the world is falling apart, it helps have something nuture you as you nuture it. Grow things you can eat. Enjoy the novelty of harvesting your own food. Invite folks over to have a salad that you grew yourself. Watching the slow process it takes for a plant to grow will keep you from overbuying food or wasting food. If you kill your garden by accident, find a better place to garden, or start watering plants in the neighborhood that aren’t dying. Some easy plants to grow that are fun to eat are sweet basil and mint.

12. Get on that Martha Stewart Living tip and make something to improve your home or make a gift. A rag rug, a sock puppet, or just sew up the holes in your socks. Sure you could have a toddler in Saipan make the same thing for 99 cents, but just like gardening, there is a certain joy that is lost in crafting something with your own time and care. I like the tutorials on threadbanger for ideas of things to make. Some projects take less than 15 minutes.

13. Instead of panicking, write down ten possible solutions to the problem. Then action steps. Yay! You just made a blueprint of what to do. If you’re still stuck, go to tip #15 to get help.

14. Distance yourself from complainers, self-victimizers, naysayers, trainwrecks, and energy suckers. Yes, sometimes we are related to them. Yes, there are times when friends need our help. But we can’t help them if they try to cripple us with their crap. There are people who need a friend and there are people who want to pass their problems onto someone else. Set boundaries, find private time, do your thing.

15. Invite someone new to dinner with no ulterior motives. I have 1400 Facebook friends and am probably only close to 200 of them. In the isolation of working at home, I decided to start writing some of the ones on the periphery. “Hey, do you want to hang out? Can I take you to dinner?” It helps if someone you invite has expertise in a field you know nothing about because they will give you insight to life that you never considered before. Invite people over who you admire, don’t invite the folks I caution against in #14.

16. Work to learn, not to earn. If your job pays well but isn’t ultimately serving or providing any insight into what you want to do with your life, it’s often better to be at a less paying job where you can learn more in your field. If you can’t afford to work to learn in your dream field, then volunteer in your dream field.

17. When meeting people who are in a position to move you forward, remember that as an artist who is in this for the long haul, you are cultivating, not hunting. I’ve realized in how irksome it is to be approached with, “Hi Kristina, can you help me with grants?” Nobody likes being constantly bilked for their time and resources, especially from strangers. I’m always happy to help friends and people who have supported me because we have relationships that have been cultivated over time.

18. Find other ways to ask for “help” besides asking for money. With every non-profit holding out their hat, donors are a little fatigued. Here are some ideas for things you can ask for that may be helpful to your art: production or administrative assistance, airline miles, food for a reception, a contact list, rehearsal space. It’s much easier for people to offer resources or things that they can afford to share than part with money.

19. If you are going to ask for money, make it a positive exchange. Let potential donors know the long-term impact their money will have and how their contributions will be honored. Offer a credit in the product you are making. Breakdown how their money might be used in logical and compelling ways (ie $10 will rent an hour of rehearsal space). Believe it or not, most people would prefer to give money to a reputable and trustworthy person who will use the contribution strategically rather than give their money to temporarily plug the holes in a sinking ship. Email pictures of your progress. Nobody is obligated to give you their money, no matter how much it will help you. So never take it for granted. Graciousness counts.

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Category: buy nothing year, the secret, vision, winnings

Making Out with Kristina Wong #1: Turning an old Pair of Pants into a Yoga Bag

August 2nd, 2009

I’ve been re-reading a couple years worth of old blog entries where all I seem to do is pine about work, how I’m trying to get more work, or how I’m recovering from work… and I’ve decided I need more creative stuff to share on the blog.

Now that I have a sewing machine, it’s time to start a new series of blog entries where I make new things from old things! I’m calling it “Making out with Kristina Wong” but if you have a better suggestion for a title, I’m open to change.

Today! Turning an old pair of pants into a Yoga Bag! (Or tripod bag or cue stick bag…)

From this:

To this!

After what I thought was my brilliant idea alone, I discovered there are quite a few tutorials for making yoga bags from old pants online. But my yoga bag uses the existing leg, belt loops and back pocket of your pants to cut down the sewing time and is a very easy project for beginning sewers!

One pair of old pants (I used old cordoroys. You can use any pants with belt loops and a backpocket. Even pants with no loops and a pocket can by used but you will have to make modifications.)
Straight needles
Sewing machine (you can handsew this project but it takes a lot longer)
Needle and thread
Good scissors
Chalk or marker

Time: Less than 2 hours (with food and bathroom breaks)

Step 1: Select a pair of pants to transform. Make sure your yoga mat can comfortably slide from the top of the waist through the entire leg of the pants.

These pants have been with me since high school! I think they were actually pants that belonged to my aunt. I loved these old cords, so much so that I wore a big hole in the ass that even my patching and pinning efforts could not save. I’d been holding onto them for years trying to figure out how I could save them.

You can always make the legs more narrow, but you can’t make them more wide, so if your pants are too narrow, you will want to find a wider pair.

Check and see how easy it is to slide the mat in. Some material is “too sticky.” Wool pants may get stuck to your mat. Also, check for holes in the fabric of your pants. A hole along the buttcrack is ok (hey now!), but a knee hole will need to be repaired before you do this project.

Step 2: Cut the pants in half so there are two separate legs. Cut a generous seam allowance on the leg you will use for sewing purposes.

It doesn’t matter which half of the leg you use. I chose the side that was less worn out. I chose to cut the zipper part into the half I will use for the yoga bag to give me a generous seam allowance. But will trim it off later.

Save the other leg, you’ll use that fabric for creating the strap and drawstring for your yoga bag.

Step 3: Put the yoga bag in the pants (in the waist down) and trim the leg from the bottom. Pinch the top of the tube to get an idea of how much you will need for it to close. Cut the bag about 3″ past the mat.

Save the leg that you cut off to make the bottom of the bag. If it’s too short to make the bottom of the bag, but you should have enough fabric on the other leg to make a bottom.

Step 4: Sew a giant tube that will accommodate the yoga mat.

Turn your leg inside out. Use pins and mark off a straight line from the top of the waist that meets the inside seam of the pants. Sew from the top of your pants to meet the existing leg tube. Save the fabric you cut off to create the bottom of the yoga bag.

Because of the way pants are cut, the fabric may have a curve to it, or will not match the other side evenly. So you will have to pin and sew your tube so it will have a few ripples in it. These ripples are very unnoticeable once your bag is done.

After you have created the tube, trim off the excess fabric and turn the tube inside out.

Step 5: Create the strap for the yoga bag by using the other pant leg and cut a long rectangle about 4″ wide and as long as your pants length.

This will need to be a long strip, so I recommend cutting along the backside of the pants, not the seam. You will end up with part of the back pocket of the pants.

Step 6: Fold over the fabric, ugly side out, and sew along one side, then turn it inside out, save it for later.

Step 7: Create the drawstring for the yoga bag by cutting a 3″ wide and approx 25″ long rectangle, fold along one side, sew it, then flip it inside out. Save it for later.

Because this narrow tube is going to be tricky to turn inside out, I recommend using part of the pants that are not seamed. The fabric in the front of your pants before the pockets is ideal.

Step 8: Cut the bottom of your bag.

I used a plate that had a slightly larger circumference than the hole at the bottom to draw a perfect circle.

(In hindsight, I realized I should have used a square shape since circles are difficult to sew for beginning sewers like me)

Step 9: Pin the circle into the opening. Also pin the back strap in (it should be inside the tube) since you will sew this in also. Sew your bottom and strap in.

Remember, the back pocket of the pants will actually be used in the front of the yoga bag, so you need to align the strap so that it covers the front pocket of the pants. Also align it so that you will not later sew the top of the strap over a belt loop.

Trim the excess fabric and turn your tube inside out!

Step 10: Hand sew the top of the strap to the waistline to become another belt loop.

Some sewing machines can handle a lot of layers of fabric, but mine couldn’t. So if you are able to get your machine to sew this, all the better. I sewed where my pins lay.

Step 11: Sew front pocket closed.

I used little asterisk stitches to keep the front pocket closed. Sewing the front pocket closed prevents the strap and weight of the mat from constantly pulling the pocket open.

Step 12: Weave your drawstring through the belt loops. Tie it closed! You have a yoga mat bag! Namaste!

Now let your mat and new mat bag collect dust while you avoid yoga class for several years like I have!


Category: buy nothing year, clothing reconstruction, crafty, sex is unnecessary when you have yarn.

Decrapathon: The Update

December 19th, 2008

If you were curious. I set a goal a few posts ago to reduce the contents of my apartment by half. Sell at least $1000 of crap out of this place (via Amazon and Craigslist) and put that moolah into my friend’s restaurant. And move move move stuff out of here!

So far, I’ve made $500 ridding the crap out of this place.

Some nice surprises…

Got about $70 for a stack of old Bust and Adbusters Magazines.
Got $100 for a wetsuit I will never use.

The more I go visit my friends in their nice clean apartments, the more I want to stack stuff up and get it out of here.

Have not reduced the contents of my apartment by half. But what room I’ve made makes a big difference. Somehow though, I seem to have accumulated more since coming back from Seattle….

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Category: buy nothing day year, buy nothing year

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