Thankful.

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This year has been tough. It’s been full of thoughts of failure and regret, of frustrations and complications. It’s been rejection, a lot more than I thought, and a lot of patience.

But this year has also been one of thrills, victories, and love. Getting up at 6 am and writing my thesis, slowly punching out the right words in the morning at my favorite coffee shop while saying hello to the crows I passed in the morning. Walking by the sea, my beloved sacred place, and listening to the waves. Having my dad and Ella visit me there in the spring, taking each to my favorite haunts. Going home and looking at homes with Logan, trying to find somewhere that felt like it would work for us. Struggling with my thesis edits and getting everything right while applying for job after job, only to hear nothing made me feel worthless. Making pizzas with Logan in our kitchen, and eating on our front porch, watching the shadows grow as the sun set in the summer. Seeing movies and walking across the Clark Fork river on the bridge, feeling the breeze on my face while holding Logan’s hand. Hugging my mother and sister when I see them and playing with my mother’s dog. Holding a hot mug of coffee in a booth at Butterfly Herbs.

While Thanksgiving as a holiday is a lot of historical erasure, I still took the day to be thankful for it all. For the struggles and the lack of money, which feels constant. For the love and support I give and receive. For the roof over our head and the car that is still running and for the fact that I am healthy and okay and that it will be okay.

I hope that you had a good day of thanks and that you were able to take a moment or two and think about the good things or hold the ones you love.

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Fancy pants, one last nice day, and books.

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Montana is a notoriously fickle place. One day you’re basking on the front porch feeling like a queen, the next you’re huddled inside watching snow gather  holding tea in your hands, mentally prepared for the next six cold, unrelenting winter months. But, I did get to linger on our front porch, wearing nothing but a thin wool sweater, these glorious plaid pants, and this Icelandic wool hat that I got back in 2015 in Reykjavik. This hat has seen me through Hell and back, and the wool has always been so warm and comforting. These pants make me feel straight from the 1990’s in the best way, especially paired with the Dr. Marten 1460’s Logan got me last summer.

I’ve been bad at blogging here. My thoughts are chaotic. I feel restless, excited, nervous for the future. This lack of feeling static, of feeling like there are things to accomplish, lists to make and cross out, and chances to feel more alive, is good. I’ve got photographs to send to a lab and see how the prints turn out. I want to photograph more, and I am ravenous for subject matter. Life feels like it’s moving fast, and it’s rather scary but in a good way.

In a month I’ll be in Hawai’i, with a gallon of SPF 75 and a book, with my mom and sister, basking in the warmth like a lizard, soaking it in to save for later. It was a last minute idea, a last minute booking, but that’s often how the best things happen. This morning we made pancakes, with frozen blackberries from the garden this summer, and strong coffee. I’ve devoured two books in the last two weeks. The Round House by Louise Erdlich describes the events that come after an Ojibwe boy’s mother is brutally raped on their reservation in North Dakota. Ada Blackjack by Jennifer Niven describes how Ada Blackjack, an Iñupiat woman, survived on an ill-fated adventure’s trip into the Arctic, and the aftermath of her survival, including fame, fortune, powerful men conspiring around and against her for their own benefit, and how her life was drastically changed.

I loved both books for different reasons. Erdlich herself is Ojibwe and she brings to life the rhythms of life on a reservation and beautifully brings sensitivity and warmth to places that many of us are taught to be scared of. As a white reader, I loved reading about the complex relationship of law, land, and legacy that comes with being a tribal member on a reservation. I loved the realness of it, because I grew up with these grim, 2-D, unreal ideas driven into my head about “the res”. These ideas feel stale, and yet I do not know how to form my own, having not spent much time on a reservation and being thoroughly white. Erdlich gives me a peek into the beautiful, complex, loving, fraught realities.

Niven’s dive into the life of Ada Blackjack is different in that she weaves together a tale of one adventurer’s incompetancies and the ripple effects his bullheaded, optimistic, and cowardly nature have on the lives of men and women around him. Ada’s survival is also her downfall, and the way that she is treated as an object, an exotic “Eskimo” woman from the north, as a temptress and deviant in the press and by people around her, while also being embraced by the families of the men who died while in the Arctic with her, is thoroughly and tenderly documented by Niven.

Anyway, we’re making a Portuguese pizza (it involves boiled eggs!) and drinking a syrah we got last week, after we cleaned the house today and got rid of some stuff. Tomorrow is back to the scheduled monotony of working life, but the added bonus of a paycheck and something to do cannot be overly stressed.

Before all the leaves left the trees.

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Outside our window I can see the almost-naked trees sway in the wind. It’s cold and foreboding outside, and it’s the first snow of the year. I feel glad to be nestled in our house, warm and comfortable. I’ve had some health scares lately and am tired of calling doctors and making appointments and dealing with the what if’s of having a corporeal form.

But, having a job makes a lot of the worries feel less serious. I’ve been getting up early, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and walking to work. The normalcy of doing so is healing, in my opinion, and while I don’t relish the realities of having a lunch hour or watching the clock a lot, it’s refreshing to know that my time means something to somebody, that as I work I get money. Having not necessarily worked with that exchange full time in a couple of years (hey grad school!) it feels so good.

I’ve had some film developed lately and I’m so excited to share it! Here are some frames from when it was still light out in the morning and the foliage hadn’t fallen off the branches yet. I already miss those times even though they still seem like yesterday.

 

The “I finally got a job post!

Thursday evening I was in my house trying to figure out if I should look for more jobs or make myself a meal when my phone rang. I’ve been desperately attached to my phone lately, hoping for good news, and as I picked up the phone I steeled myself for more bad news, or a wrong number, or a telemarketer. Instead, I was offered a job. A real, with-benefits, do-good-for-humanity job! I paused when I was asked if I wanted it, because I couldn’t be sure if this was real!

Four months. Dozens of applications. Dozens of rejections (or nothing at all). Six interviews. One job offer.

I did it! I did it! On Monday I will walk to my new workplace and meet my coworkers. I will be working for a department that focuses on relationship violence/domestic violence, and I am nervous but incredibly excited to get to work with and help people who have survived such circumstances. It’s going to be very intense work and I will be blogging about self-care and stress more, as I think I will have to be very, very careful to not bring work home with me. How do you guys not bring work home with you? I’m planning on joining a gym and trying to learn to meditate.

Anyway, it has been a journey. I’ve been so lucky to have family and friends and loved ones who have been supportive and encouraging, and it would be ridiculous to not point out that Logan has been the best sidekick ever through all of this. Thanks to everybody who stuck around through my posts about this, but in a world where not having a job is often seen as shameful and a symptom of laziness, it felt so hard to not let my status weigh in on most of my day.

Things to think about.

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  • This VERY IMPORTANT CAN YOU HEAR ME YES YOU IN THE BACK conversation about sexual harassment in academia, the silences that departments and professors keep, and the lists and whisper networks (phrase from the incredible Jenny Zhang) that students keep to protect ourselves and each other. In light of the Harvey Weinstein bullshit, which came as a shock to NO WOMAN, I’ve been thinking a lot about patterns of sexual harassment.
    • I’ve been made aware of creepy professors with known reputations before. I’ve been warned and cared for. Not by my department or professors or staff but by students who saw what was happening and let me know to be careful, to limit my interactions, to be watchful, and to be prepared.
  • This incredible interview with a strong woman who terminated her pregnancy at 32 weeks, and the Hell that is getting a late-term abortion in America.
  • The wit and pander that is Hungry and Frozen, a clever food blog of very do-able meals with a plentiful heap of hilarity.
  • Been thinking about how badly I wish I had a job so I could afford to splurge on a beautiful bottle of Galliano and just sip it and watch the world change outside my window.

At the end of the day, here’s what we all need to do:

BELIEVE SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE

IF YOU ARE A MAN BE WILLING TO CONFRONT TOXIC MASCULINITY AND ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR COMPLICITY IN SEXISM AND HARASSMENT EVEN IF IT MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. BEING UNCOMFORTABLE IS GOOD. 

#WorldTeachersDay: In memorium.

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Hieronymous Bosch, closing panels of The Garden of Earthy Delights triptych. 

We moved to Montana when I was in second grade. I was skinny, awkward, and spent my days buried in books and authoring things on cheetahs, because cheetahs were the goddamn coolest animals to ever exist. My parents put me through lots of aptitude tests, which determined that I should skip a grade to continue to be academically challenged, but I was socially behind my peers due to my shyness and propensity for hiding with a book. Talking was hard with people my age, and making friends was absolutely terrifying.

Third grade came. I was assigned to be with Ms. Marcella Burke, a boisterous red-headed teacher who was so full of encouragement and love for us all it was sometimes overwhelming. I was young, too young for my memories to stand on their own in some ways, but she made me feel like excelling wasn’t nerdy or to be frowned on. She rewarded us with trips to meet important politicians such as the lieutenant governor and the governor. She had us put on plays, and we memorized lines, worked hard, and took pride in what we did. She spent her own money to buy things to reward us for our hard work, even as a single mom. She reminded us that every one of us had so much to offer the world, no matter our background or our challenges.

Ms. Burke was a proud Butte-born Irishwoman who talked about being bullied as a kid and being called “Marshmallow” instead of Marcella. I remember her as being inspiring and tall, even if she was in fact short. She made me proud of myself, and I wanted to make her proud in return. I remember losing my front teeth that year, and being dressed in horrible sweaters. It was the first time I remember being bullied as well, and feeling frustrated and ugly, something to be teased and remarked on. Books were my refuge, and Ms. Burke’s classroom was as well. She encouraged me to keep reading, and after school had ended, she invited my mother and me over to her house in early summer in a neighborhood nearby to talk to my mom about me, about plans for me, because apparently Ms. Burke saw something. Ms. Burke had recently been to Ireland and brought me back a postcard with the Gaelic alphabet on it, which I still have, and several coins, all in a beautiful white Irish lace bag. I ate brownies and sat patiently while they talked, because adults needed quiet sometimes. What I didn’t know was that she was already getting sick. Ms. Burke stopped teaching the next year or the year after, and she died in 2002 due to ovarian cancer, which my mother told me gently. I don’t remember my reaction, but the idea that she was no longer on the Earth was so foreign to me. How could somebody so intelligent, sturdy, hardy, and loving, ever leave?

Although I was young, too young to thank her in the ways that I wish I could, to this day I remember feeling like Ms. Burke saw something in me that nobody had yet. She saw somebody with potential, who was too smart for their own good and too awkward to show it in any way that mattered. She made me feel that my love of learning and reading were normal, and she assured me that I could go anywhere with literature. I wish she hadn’t died so young, and I dearly wish I could thank her for everything she’s done for me. I still have the coins and the postcard somewhere, squirreled away as mementos to a remarkable woman who made a serious impact on me, even when I was young and not necessarily paying attention. Marcella Burke, you incredible soul, I am so glad that you graced my life at a time when I really, really needed it.

Cloudscapes and thoughtscapes

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Cornbread muffins are cooling on the counter and the smell feels like a blanket. It’s early for a Saturday night but I feel exhausted in more ways than one.

We made pizzas last night and I have finessed two more cover letters to a point where I feel like they communicate what I want: That I’m capable and kind. At this point, it feels like a task that will never end. When will I wake up at 7am to get ready to go to work again? When will I have coworkers? When will that quiet assurance of a paycheck coming into my hands happen?

On Monday I worked for a day for a temp agency, filling in an admin position in an office for the day. It felt good to pack a lunch and spend a day at a desk pretending I knew what I was doing. Poor pay but damn, it felt right to be working again. I’ve been working since I was fifteen, after all.

Life is not just that limbo of unemployment, though it can feel like it. We finally had rain, steady rain that gently soaked everything around it. It was cold and we turned on the heat in our home for the first time since we moved here almost four months ago. I have found a place near our house full of locals who tell each other great stories in the booths there. I have heard men discuss the abstract art market, how to properly care for cattle, the benefits of tea over coffee, and other conversational snippets that are lovely to hear. This week I devoured The Picture of Dorian Gray finally, after having a copy in the house for a month or two now. It was brilliant and sassy and everything Wilde means to me. I have always loved the audacity that Wilde writes with, the sheer wit and breakneck pace of conversation about seemingly useless things driving you to turn each page faster and faster. The ending was brilliant, the book was horrifying, and the dense description was fantastic.

Anyway, here are some clouds I photographed on film from the plane that took me to Victoria about a month ago. The sunset was the most incredible I’ve ever seen, and the clouds and sky were beyond words.

Chocolate before dinner.

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It’s been awhile, eh? I am nibbling on some honeycomb covered in chocolate before we make dinner…oops.

In three days I head to Victoria to defend my Master’s thesis (!!!) but this last week has been something from Hell. I got really, really sick, had two job interviews which didn’t pan out (always a bit of a bummer), and generally loafed, hacked, and worked my way through the week the best I could. The smoke here has been dreadful- we aren’t supposed to be outside for too long, it’s so dense! They’ve got almost 700 firefighters from all over the country here to battle the Lolo fire in Missoula.

Besides fire and a bit of immune system failure I did bake some amazing blackberry pastries using a recipe from The Little Epicurean!  (Click through for the recipe!) We ate them up before I thought to make some pictures. Next time!

I also finished The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. An exquisite, sensitive, multi-layered book about the meeting of two cultures through the lens of an epileptic Hmong girl. If it sounds strange, fall into the pages. It’s a sad, extraordinary, determined story. Now I am reading Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map, which is about London’s cholera epidemic. I love medical history and stories about cities and this intertwines both. Again, if you ever feel ungrateful for modern medicine, go read something like this! You’ll be so glad that you’ve got anesthesia that isn’t ether or chloroform or cocaine! (Or a cocktail of the three!)

Anyway, these photographs are from a few weeks ago. Lovely Chelsea visited, Logan and I went to a diner, and I’ve been admiring the beautiful green plums that are on our little trees in the yard. One determined squirrel has been pilfering them, but we’ve had a host of birds, including a northern flicker, in our yard lately, and it’s been so lovely to see them! I like sitting quietly on the porch watching them flit and fly around. Birds really are so neat.

 

Alpine adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park

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As we drove up higher and higher I looked out and tried to not let my fear of heights wash over me. The trees were so regal and the cool air felt so good, and I tried to steel myself. My mother looked over nervously at me.

We were in Rocky Mountain National Park, up thousands of feet higher than the nearest town of Estes Park. We were driving the Trail Ridge Road and watching the landscape change as we climbed higher and higher. This was the park where my parents met and fell in love when they were in college and it felt very neat to be in their territory, where my mother and father used to rise at 4 am to get to the park to photograph bugling elk in the rising sunlight of autumn. Having parents who fell in love with each other because of their mutual love of the outdoors has its perks- you get to hear about cool stories like that one.

Up at the top of the road, we got out and hiked. At 11,000 feet, the air felt thinner, and we both had small headaches that would later bloom into larger ones due to the lesser amount of oxygen available up high. We were in the alpine region, where no trees grow, surrounded by delicate alpine flora and fat marmots who lazed on rocks posing like some weird animal Richard Burton. No doubt they were being fed by hapless idiots.

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On our way up some folks from Oklahoma stopped in the middle of the road, which is narrow and has little-to-no room for maneuvering, and proceeded to feet one of these fat marmots from the car and take pictures. My mother and I rolled our eyes and I wanted to get out, walk up to them, throw crumbs at them, and ask, “How do you like it?!”

Ahem…

Anyway. Being up so high was eerie in that you could see for what felt like miles. Miles of peaks, clouds, and valleys were all for the visually consuming, and I soaked it in. We saw a gorgeous bull elk in full, handsome velvet napping in a meadow, his red-gold head tucked into the flora. One man asked us if he was dead but we told him no, that elk nap and conserve energy and move about more in the evening and morning.

Eventually it was getting chilly, though thankfully without the strong winds that such areas are known for, and hopped into the car to go to a visitor’s center. We got to drink in even more spectacular views and then realized we were going to be late for dinner at my grandma’s house and left the park.

A too-brief glimpse into the incredible, fast-changing landscapes in that beautiful place.

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Good and new.

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Moving is hell with boxes of your shit that you never knew you had so much of. It’s being sweaty and scratching up the door of the new house you rented with the edge of the mattress you haul through the door with your partner as you both know you stink and want to take a break. It’s driving 10 hours back and forth between your hometown and your new town hauling a trailer or a heavy desk.

It’s also seeing the irises bloom in your new yard and smelling the neighbor’s epic lilac bushes. It’s seeing new birds and maple trees and decorating a space you’ve never lived in before. It’s looking around and wondering if this new place is right for you. It is unsettling and exciting.

And we just moved!

Montana Summertime

Yellowstone, Katabatic Brewing Company, Marks In & Out in Livingston, and some other moments from our early May summer in Montana.

Feeling really homesick for the good souls I love so much.

A visit from the patriarch/Rushed Victoria tour.

32267803113_bea5a4b522_c32219173604_165efc5467_c33046571755_088b1a2a8d_c32219174184_ba31509f82_cMy father came up on the Port Angeles ferry for 3 days of sunshine filled Victoria time. We ate a lot, walked even more, and had a blast. Below you’ll find a list of places we ate, my opinions, and lists of activities we did. Note: I had a father figure patronizing the food adventures. These are not necessarily grad student budget friendly places- I had a patron.

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Omakase Izakaya on Blanshard: We had a blast eating there. We went for the omakaze option, so the chef/owner ended up making us about a 6 course meal. We were the only ones in the place, and it was amazing. We shared a little ceramic flute of warm sake, ate some amazing food, and left satiated in our hearts and stomachs- the perfect combination.

Ayo Eat in Market Square: Epic, cheap, delicious Indonesian food from a little tucked in food stall. We had the pickled egg dish which was delicious! The guy who runs it is super friendly and Market Square has some benches and places to hang out and seat yourself.

La Tana outside Fan Tan Alley on Pandora: OH my god. This brought back so many memories of Italian bakeries and eating delicious panini when I lived in Lugano. (It doesn’t hurt that the owner, Claudio, is from Milan, only an hour from my little city!) Amazing baked goods, cheap delicious sandwiches, excellent Illy coffee (americano or espresso are your two options) all in one wee little shop. I’m going back- it fits my grad school budget and brings me right back to the best parts of my past in Ticino.

Pho Vy on Fort Street: Pho Vy is my favorite place to get pho. My dad had not had proper pho before, and it was delicious (per usual). I go here probably 2x a month and every time it’s delicious.

The BeaverTails Stand on Broughton Street: Cheap, perfectly decent Canadian dessert spot. Their gelato is amazing, the BeaverTails always awesome (and they can be cut in half if you can’t eat a whole one!), and the gentleman who runs the place has, ever since I moved to Victoria, been a really positive and friendly human.

33046571535_daaeeaba31_c32926919752_85ea6c3b03_cWent/Saw/Meandered around: 

The Royal British Columbia Museum: A really lovely museum that houses one of the most thorough First Nations exhibits I’ve ever been to. (Not without its criticisms, but still worthwhile!) They have amazing traveling exhibits that come in pretty frequently, and even though I’ve been now close to a dozen times, I still always find something I really enjoy, be it the replica theatre that shows Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush over and over again or the weird but still awesome replications of salmon canning operations in British Columbia.

Ogden Point: A great place to go for a walk in James Bay! Great views of the Olympic range across the strait, and good for people watching. I love taking people there and it feels less crowded than other parts of the main city.

Beacon Hill Park: While the rose bushes aren’t in bloom and things are quiet, the park will always have some beautiful, rambling paths to meander around. The park itself is pretty large so you’re guaranteed to find some spaces to enjoy.

All around downtown: My dad and I spent a lot of time just weaving in and out of slow moving tourists going around the historic downtown area. We grabbed coffee at a few places and I showed him some of my favorite buildings and historical spots.

If y’all are in my beautiful town and are wondering where to go, any of the above places are highly recommended! Check out my Victoria tag for more ideas as well. I’m headed to Mystic Beach tomorrow, so hopefully it’ll be lovely! Packed a bunch of film and a few cameras, I’m excited to get outside into the nature!

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The makeup post.

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To follow up with my skincare post I thought I would share some of the beauty products I love and use regularly!

There are lots of great beauty bloggers out there who focus on using more natural/organic based products and others who focus on luxury products or more high-end. I’m from Montana, where my access to high-end makeup shops was super limited growing up, so I always used drugstore products. Now that I live in Canada and beauty products cost so much more, I have also consistently stuck with using drugstore products.

Again, I am poor and I am lazy. I love trying new products but because my look is pretty consistent, if products don’t fit into my routine well enough they get reserved for special events or for when I’m feeling creative. This is my super pared down, every day routine.

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Eyebrows:

CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eyeliner in Mink

Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara in Soft Brown

I fill in my eyebrows with this eyeliner- I’ve been using it for years. The formula feels good on my skin, the color matches perfectly, and it stays on for a long time, yet comes off with micellar water easily.

I know that a lot of people were on the fence about the weird looking Maybelline brow mascara but I personally like it. It speeds up the process of shaping my brows a lot. I abandoned the Nyx Tinted Brow Mascara because the packaging breaks apart SO QUICKLY (seriously Nyx get your shit together- it shouldn’t be so fragile!). As somebody who needs to be able to throw things in my bag, the sad packaging of Nyx products have made me stop using most of them.

Eyes:

L’Oreal Paris Waterproof Voluminous Carbon Black mascara

L’Oreal Paris Silkissime Eyeliner in Black

CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eyeliner in Mink

I blend both eyeliners on my top lash and use 2 coats of the mascara. All of these products last a long time, and the mascara stays on despite the humidity and frequent rain here without giving me under-eye raccoon vibes!

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On to my favorite part: Lipsticks! I have become blatantly obsessed with the Maybelline Color Sensational matte lipsticks. The formula stays on for hours, is easy to apply, and the colors are fucking gorgeous. See photograph below! Gahhhh.

From top to bottom on the swatch:

Raging Raisin makes me feel like wearing all black, spending time with a resurrected Humphrey Bogart, and heading off in a 1930’s coupe to go day drink and banter.

Touch of Spice warms my skin tone and makes me think of the 70’s in the best ways. For some reason it also makes me want to read in brightly lit cafes and it vaguely reminds me of traveling around Italy.

-Toasted Truffle is a no-nonsense deep brown that makes me feel intimidating and invincible, as well as sexy in an aggressive way that I like. It’s a peculiar color in the best way!

-Lust for Blush is a 1950’s garden party sort of lipstick, the kind you’d wear with a vintage Christian Dior dress and with a perfect martini in your hand as you think that your life is perfect but the patriarchy is really limiting your options.

And there you have it! The products I come back to time and time again on my limited budget and my impatient habits. Happy trails y’all! Tell me some of your favorite products you come back to again and again!

 

 

Expired 35mm film

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Thrift stores are a gold mine of glorious potential. I have found luxury leather bags, exquisite vintage coats, jewelry, and my fair share of amazing/weird things.

I mostly trawl mine these days for forgotten cameras and film. Many people donate film to thrift stores- much of it expired- and for a fraction of the cost I’ll shoot it.

As you can see, most expired film gets grainy and can’t handle dark light at all. Colors are a bit off, too. However, when I found 4 rolls of Kodak Gold 400 speed film for $2.00 I definitely went for it. When I got the developed roll back from the shop, though, I found I only had about 12 usable frames- mostly because I had tried taking photographs at night, which on this expired film was nearly impossible.

Note to self with my remaining rolls: Be generous with daylight.

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