Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WHEN YOU CAN'T TRAVEL, WATCH FOREIGN FILMS!

I absolutely love traveling.  It exposes me to different people, languages, cultures, perspectives, and way of doing things.  It helps me to think OUTSIDE of the box and helps me to look at things from a more worldly perspective.  But when I can't travel, I expose myself to different people, languages, cultures, perspectives, and way of doing things by watching foreign films.

Do you ever get sick and tired of the same old Hollywood predictable plot lines?  Bank robberies, fast cars, and over-the-top special effects?  The good guy always winning?  The main character always getting the girl? 

Think about it.  English is just one language.  There are up to 7,000 different languages spoken around the world.  Why limit yourself to watching movies in English when there are so many other options?  Most people don’t realize that India producesmore films per year than the United States.  Japan, China, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany also produce a healthy number of films per year, along with many other countries.  There is so much amazing talent out there that most English-speakers haven’t been exposed to.

Watching a movie in a foreign language might sound more like torture than pleasure, but reading subtitles gets easier and easier over time.  When I find a truly great movie I often forget that I’m even reading subtitles.  And I get the added satisfaction that I got to watch something truly remarkable, that most of my friends have never even heard of.  Please watch the movies in their original languages!  Watching a foreign movie dubbed in English takes so much away from it.

Here is a list of ten of my favorite foreign language films and why I think you will fall in love with them.

1     Run Lola Run (1998) – Language: German – IMDB Rating: 7.8 – If you are in the mood for something original and thrilling, Run Lola Run should be on your watch list.  This movie will suck you in and have you on the edge of your seat from the very beginning. The music is guaranteed to have your heart pounding.  You will find yourself cheering for the main characters, even though they make some desperate decisions that are highly illegal.  You find yourself questioning your own morals and wondering, “What would I do in that situation?”  It’s the most original movie I think I’ve ever seen.  It shows us that each choice we make in our lives can lead to dramatically different consequences – so we should be careful to choose wisely because you don’t get a second chance…or do you?  This is a movie you will never forget, and surely want to watch again and again.  


2     Life is Beautiful (1997) – Languages: Italian, German – IMDB Rating: 8.6 – If you feel like watching something that teaches you to always look on the bright side, no matter how difficult the situation, Life is Beautiful is the film for you.  This movie is the most heartwarming but heart wrenchingly sad movie I’ve ever seen.  A family is victim of the Holocaust and gets put into a concentration camp during World War II.  Determined to shelter their young son from the horrors of reality, they convince him that they are merely playing an elaborate game.  This movie takes one of the most horrible events of world history and turns it into one of positivity, love, and hope.  You will feel more compassion for the characters in this film than you ever have before.  You will find yourself wondering what you would do in this situation.  You are guaranteed to laugh and cry as you watch possibly the most beautiful movie ever made.  

3     Amelie (2001) – Language: French – IMDB Rating: 8.4 – If you are looking for a film that will make you feel playful and happy and take you for a magical adventure, Amelie is the movie you should watch. You will simply adore it, especially the main character, played marvelously by Audrey Tautou. Amelie develops an extraordinary imagination because as a child her overprotective parents sheltered her so much that she didn’t get much interaction with others. She learns to use her imagination to make something extraordinary out of the simplest things, and will have you smiling the whole way through. When she grows up and moves into an apartment of her own in Paris she is still very shy and innocent, but becomes intrigued by the lives of others and begins spying on them. In her own unique mischievous way, she ends up bringing happiness to those around her. This movie is guaranteed to charm you, to make you smile, and to make you feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. 


4     Castaway on the Moon (2009) – Language: Korean – IMDB Rating: 8.2 - Even though I do really like Tom Hanks “Castaway” movie, this one is a million times better.  This movie is unique beyond description.  Castaway on the Moon is a perfect mix of drama and humor.  The main character starts out suicidal, but after a botched suicide attempt he finds himself stranded on a river island in an urban area.  He can see overpasses and skyscrapers, but it seems no one notices him.  If only he knew how to swim!  He has to adapt and survive using the washed up garbage and debris from the city.  In his fight for survival he develops a new appreciation for life.  While stranded on his island, he develops a relationship with an agoraphobic misfit who lives in one of the city’s high rise apartments and is obsessed with the moon.  When she spots him through her telescope she is sure she has discovered an alien from outer space.  You will fall in love with this quirky, unconventional movie. 

 
5     PK (2014) – Languages: Hindi, Urdu, English – IMDB Rating: 8.3 - This film is a goofy and wonderful gem.  It’s a tale of love, friendship, and life lessons.  If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film before, this one will get you hooked on the Bollywood film industry.  It’s colorful, musical, and just the right amount of cheesy.  The main character’s innocence and oddities will win you over instantly.  He looks at the world in a way no one else does, and makes others rethink their lives.  Social issues are looked at through this movie, but from a humorous angle.  It will have you laughing out loud and maybe even crying at some points.  You will be swept away to beautiful places on this adventure, and will get to experience the vibrant color and complexity of Indian society.  It’s an absolute masterpiece, and you will get to meet some of India’s best actors through it. 

 
6     Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Language: Spanish – IMDB Rating: 8.2 – This film is extremely creepy and magical at the same time. Although some people may describe Pan’s Labyrinth as a fairy tale, it’s definitely not for kids. It’s a dark fairy tale full of violence and brutality, but also hope. It is set in Spain at the end of the Spanish civil war under the regime of Francisco Franco. The main character, an innocent young girl, escapes the horrors of reality and finds herself on a desperate mission in a dark fantasy world. Some of the characters in the fantasy world of Pan’s Labyrinth would surely make little kids cry. The quality of storytelling and seamless overlapping of fantasy and reality is what makes this movie so brilliant. And as an added plus for people not used to foreign films, it doesn’t require an excessive reading of subtitles because it is more visual than dialogue driven. 


7     Ida (2013) – Language: Polish – IMDB Rating: 7.4 - Set in 1960’s post World War II Poland, this movie makes you believe that it was truly filmed during that era.  It is visually stunning, and the black and white images and choice of music are perfectly fit to the story.  The story is told in a very calm, quiet way.  The main character was raised in a Catholic orphanage.  She is about to take her vows to become a nun, but before she does that she has to go on a journey to meet aunt, her only living relative, and learn who she really is.  Ida is pious and innocent, and her aunt is a gruff alcoholic.  Ida learns that she is really Jewish, and that her parents hid her at the orphanage at the end of the war to save her from the Holocaust.  Ida goes on a quest to find her parents’ grave, and her experience outside of the nunnery make her question everything she thought she knew.  


 
8     Good Bye Lenin! (2003) – Language: German – IMDB Rating: 7.7 - The story line of this movie is extremely creative, tackling social issues in a humorous, satirical way.  It takes place around the time of the Cold War in East Germany, around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  A mother who has dedicated her life to supporting the communist party ideals has a heart attack and falls into a coma when she sees her son on TV getting arrested in an anti-communist protest.  When she awakens, Germany has been reunited and western ideals and goods have poured in.  Everything is dramatically different.  Her son fears that his mother will fall back into a coma if she learns the truth.  To protect his mother, he creates a false reality and goes out of his way to trick his mother into believing that everything is as it was before the fall of the wall.  You won’t believe the things he has to do to keep this illusion up!  

 
9     Like Stars on Earth (2007) – Languages: Hindi & English – IMDB Rating: 8.5 – This film is uplifting, heartwarming, and inspiring.  It sends us the very powerful message that every child is special, and is especially powerful for parents and educators.  What each child needs to be successful may not be the same.  The little boy in this movie is always misbehaving and failing in school and his parents and teachers don’t know what to do with him.  He gets sent away to a boarding school because his parents and teachers think that strict discipline is the only thing that can straighten him out.  Boarding school starts out horribly for him, and he becomes severely depressed.  No matter how hard he tries, he still fails.  When his usual art teacher gets replaced by a highly unconventional teacher, things start to look up for him.  You will feel an overwhelming sense of joy when you see the little boy’s world start to turn around.  Like Stars on Earth will make you look at “difficult children” in a whole new light.
 
10     My name is Khan (2010) – Languages: Hindu, Urdu, English – IMDB Rating: 7.9 - This film will introduce you to a beautiful way of looking at the world.  “There are only two kinds of people in this world.  Good people who do good deeds.  And bad people who do bad.”  The main character’s mother taught him this when he was a child, and he lives by it.  You will grow emotionally attached to this Indian Muslim boy with Asperger’s syndrome because of his innocence, blunt honesty, and good heart.  As a child in Mumbai, India he faces the challenges of being different than all the other children.  When he is older, he moves to the United States where he falls in love with a Hindu woman.  His open heart leads him to many new experiences, both good and bad, and helps him to make friends and enemies of different backgrounds.  This movie will help you to look past race, religion, and social class and see people for who they truly are.  


Give these films a try!  They will open up your world.  Nowadays it is easy to find great foreign films.  You can even find many of these films on Netflix.

What are your favorite foreign films?  Please post in the comments below! 




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

DIY Sailboat Interior Cushions - Part 1 - Planning


Our salon cushions and upholstery are gross.  They are ugly, old, no longer very supportive, have lost their shape, are thread-barren, filthy, and smell like mold.  I decided to give our salon a major face-lift and replace and reupholster our cushions.

Our GROSS old cushion and upholstery
 I have never done any upholstery work, and had very limited experience sewing.  Since sewing scrunchies in 8th grade home economics class over 20 years ago, I just recently got back into sewing so I could save money and do lots of projects aboard our sailboat.  

I purchased a LSZ-1 sewing machine from Sailrite a few months ago and have completed a couple of projects using my Sunbrella Marine Fabric in Forest Green from Sailrite including a generator cover, a helm cover, a splash guard for the aft companion way, lee cloths, and a sail bag.

My Sailrite LSZ-1 Walking Foot Sewing Machine
The generator cover I made
I made a helm cover
I made a splash guard for our aft companion way

The sail bag I made for our mainsail

 Realizing that I had zero knowledge about how to do a new cushion and upholstery project, I began by reading, researching, and watching videos.  I have included links to the most helpful information I found.  Not surprisingly, I watched lots and lots of Sailrite instructional videos.  They have a ton of them on all sorts of sewing projects, and I don't think I would have the courage or skills to do any sewing projects without them!  


  Eisenberg Upholstery: Understanding foam density & firmness  

Carrs Corner: A complete education about cushion foam


It is very important to understand some foam terminology before making your decision on which foam to use for your project.  It may seem overwhelming at first, but soon you will understand what all of this means and be able to choose your ideal foam.

Closed cell foam - Each individual cell is closed off from the others, meaning that water cannot penetrate the foam.  This foam floats, typically pretty hard, and is recommended for boat cockpits.  It is typically more expensive than open cell foam because of its higher density.

Open cell foam - Each cell is open, and moisture can penetrate it and potentially be trapped in it.  It is softer than closed cell foam, and recommended for use inside where it will not be exposed to much moisture.  It can, however, be covered with a moisture barrier to help with potential moisture related problems such as mold, mildew, and bacteria.
 
Biocide - a treatment added to some foams in the manufacturing process to prevent mold and mildew.

Dry fast foam - It's an open cell foam with its cell walls removed.  It is extremely porous, so water can run right through it rather than be absorbed into it.  It is significantly more expensive than regular open cell foam.  Good for outdoor applications, or places where it is likely to get wet.

Foam density - Pounds polyurethane per cubic foot.  Higher density foam is considered higher quality and will typically last longer than lower density foams.

Indentation Load Deflection - The force in pounds required to compress the foam by 25%.  The higher the ILD number, the firmer the foam.  The lower the ILD number, the squishier the foam.

Memory Foam - A polyurethane foam with added chemicals to increase its viscosity and density.  It conforms to the body and reacts to body heat, helping to warm you.  Not recommended in hot environments.

After my research I decided that I wanted an open cell 5" foam with a density over 2.3 lbs, an ILD rating of 35-50 lbs, and a long life.  I also decided that DryFast foam would not be necessary, since it would be used inside and it would not be exposed to water.  Some articles I read recommended more firm foam for the seat cushions than the backs, but I wanted the same foam for both the seats and seat backs because my settee converts to a bed.  It would not be comfortable for sleeping if the cushions were not all uniform.

I really wanted to buy my foam from Sailrite because I have benefited so much from their products and instructional videos, but unfortunately they didn't offer foam in the sizes, density, and ILD rating that I was looking for.

After searching all over the internet and comparing prices and quality, I decided to order foam from the Foam Factory.  Tiffany was the sales rep who helped me.  She was very kind and tolerant of my numerous questions, the headache of figuring out shipping to the Virgin Islands, and she even advised me on which foam I should get.
  
 I originally picked out the 5" LuxHQ foam.  It has an ILD rating of 50, and Tiffany warned me that this is very firm, almost like sitting on the ground.  Yikes!  I don't want that!  So I picked out the HD36 high quality foam instead.  It has an ILD rating of 35, so it would feel more comfortable.

The prices I found on their website were significantly better than anything else I was able to find online.  It was $205.99/sheet.  The foam density of 2.8lbs/cubic ft was in the range I was looking for (2.3lbs/cubic feet or higher). The Indentation Load Deflection (35 lbs) was in my desired range.  The foam comes in big sheets (82" x 76") so I won't need to puzzle piece my cushions together and can have some long cushions.  And it's rated to have a typical life of 12-18 years.

After I figured out what foam I would use, it was time to do some research on fabric.  I've included links to the most helpful videos and articles that I found.


I originally decided to go with Sunbrella Upholstery Fabric in Macaw green

  
But after some more consideration, I changed my mind and decided to go with Sunbrella Upholstery Fabric in Dupione Paradise because it has more of a texture to it and I think it would look more classy and not show stains as well. 


Now that I knew what foam and fabric I wanted to buy, it was time to figure out how much of it I should order.  I found a video that helped me take measurements.

I found a website with a great calculator to help you figure out how lay out your cuts to get the right size pieces with minimal waste.  You just input the dimensions of your starting piece, input the dimensions of your individual pieces, and then it lays it all out for you in the best way.


I was wondering if I would be able to cut the foam myself, or if I would need to get it custom cut (for a significant increase in price).  I found a great Sailrite video showing how easy it is to cut foam yourself using an electric kitchen knife, purchased from any store selling kitchen products for around $15. 
 

I was curious how you get the foam into the fabric, and I found this Sailrite video:


 To figure out how much fabric I would need to purchase, and later, to figure out how I should cut it, I used Sailrite's handy FABRIC CALCULATOR

I decided to buy Sailrite's Edge Hotknife Package to make my life much easier, and to prevent unraveling of the edges of my fabric over time. 
 
I also decided to add polyester batting to my cushions so they would be more comfortable and less boxy.  I took measurements and estimated I'd need 13 yards.
I decided to get cushion wrap silk film to use as a moisture barrier around my cushions, to prevent mold and mildew.
 
I plan to use a zipper on one of the edges of each cushion, so I measured and estimated that I'd need around 50 feet for my cushions and some throw pillows.  I decided to go with YKK® Zipper #5 Vislon® Continuous White because it wouldn't corrode and #5 is a good size for cushions.  I also ordered 20 YKK® Slider #5 Vislon® White Plastic Single Non-Locking Pulls.



I decided that I wanted to have piping around the perimeter of my cushions to give them more of a professional look.  You can buy pre-made piping in a limited number of colors and styles, but it is not cheap.  I decided to make my own piping, using Sailrite's 5/32" foam piping and a slightly different but coordinating fabric, Sunbrella Canvas Parrot Upholstery Fabric.  I found a photo on Amazon of a throw pillow that was upholstered in Dupione Paradise fabric with Parrot piping, and was convinced that these two fabrics would be a great combination for my cushions.



I was so excited to have found the foam and fabric I wanted, but living in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands poses a problem for shipping.
I got a shipping estimate for foam from The Foam Factory.  I wanted to order 2 sheets of 5" LuxHQ foam, but they cannot ship the 5" foam to the Virgin Islands.  Instead I could order 2 sheets of 2" foam and 2 sheets of 3" foam and glue them together.  I figured I could do that, but my eyes about popped out of my head when I saw the shipping cost estimate! 
 
2 Sheets of 2” x 80” x 76”= $ 84.99 (each) =$169.98  
                2 Boxes 24Lbs = $90.00 (each) =$180.00        
2 Sheets of 3” x 80 “ x 76” = $ 125.99 (each)= $251.98
                2 Boxes 34Lbs = $100.00 (each) = $200.00

Grand total for the foam plus shipping = $801.96 ...YIKES!!!  The shipping cost was almost as much as the cost of the foam!

I checked into alternatives, like taking advantage of their free shipping within continental US and shipping through a freight company based out of Florida.  I found out it would save me A LOT of money if I went through a freight shipping company, and I could order the 5" foam that I wanted after all.  Here are the quotes I got from a couple of different shipping companies that service St. Thomas for the following shipping dimensions: 

2 boxes - 55 lbs, 34"x21"x21"

SHIPPING COMPANIES: 

Caribbean Trans (340) 201-4668
Cost: $75 + $45 Maritime fee (bill lading fee) =  $120 TOTAL

Tropical Shipping (340) 776-8767
Cost: $78 TOTAL

St. Thomas Cargo  (340) 776-8660
Representative: Tracy Brian x100
Under 10 cubic feet Cost $20 + Insurance $10 minimum
Under 20 cubic feet Cost: $40 + Insurance $10 minimum
Over 20 cubic feet $3.95 cubic foot + $35 documentation + insurance $20 minimum 
Cost: $50 TOTAL

Less than 6 cubic - $25
Less than 11 cubic feet - $45
Less than 21 cubic feet - $75
Cost: $75 TOTAL

All of the companies I contacted quoted me much better prices than shipping directly from the seller to St. Thomas.  However, St. Thomas Cargo won my business.  They had the best prices and most clear and simple shipping instructions of all of their competitors.  They can even consolidate your packages from multiple shipments.  Cargo must arrive to warehouse by noon on Wednesday to make their Thursday sail.  Cargo arrives to St. Thomas on Sunday.  They unload cargo Monday Morning.  Their motto is: "Shipping is as easy as 1-2-3!"

I managed to save a lot of money by shipping my foam through ST. THOMAS CARGO instead of using standard shipping.   

Foam Original Shipping Quote: $380.00
Cost to ship to Florida + Cargo Ship to St. Thomas: FREE + $50 (including insurance)
Money saved: $330.00

Sailrite Original Shipping Quote: $120.00
Cost to ship to Florida + Cargo Ship to St. Thomas: $31.37
Money saved: $88.63

TOTAL MONEY SAVED: $418.63

I'm sure budget is a big deal for many liveaboard sailors.  To give you an idea of how much everything cost me for this project, my foam order was $411.98, my Sailrite order was $685.29, shipping via St. Thomas cargo should be $50, and the electric kitchen knife cost me $12.  

My grand total for this project was $1159.27.  I should mention that this amount also includes some extra things from Sailrite, including extra fabric to make throw pillows, extra bobbins, extra V69 thread, extra #16 needles, and an extra soapstone marking pencil




 I am excitedly awaiting the shipment of my materials so I can get started on this project!  I'm really hoping my measurements and estimates were right, and that the foam and fabric are what I expect!  I will blog again once the project is complete!!!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

AIRPORT ADVENTURE ST. MAARTEN - DO SOMETHING AMAZING!


Let's say you're going to St. Maarten on a cruise.  You want to do something fun and memorable, but no one can agree on what to do.  Has this ever happened to you?  Airport Adventure has the solution to your problem!  It combines beautiful views, a boat ride, snorkeling and swimming, airplanes landing right over your head, delicious affordable food & drinks, great music, and even offers frozen tropical drinks.  Their trip is sure to please the whole family.


We went out on the Airport Adventure boat yesterday morning, and were so impressed with the trip.  It took us to Maho Bay, right in front of the airport landing strip!  It was different from all of the other excursions on the island, and unlike anything we'd ever done before.  It took many of our favorite things to do and combined them into one awesome trip!    


The boat was very well thought out.  It was very easy to get on board with a solid ramp with handrails.  The crew was there to help, too.  Downstairs there is a little restaurant, three bathrooms, and a shaded area for those who want a break from the sun.  



Upstairs there is some more shaded seating, picnic tables, the bar, and a huge sun deck with lots of chairs, benches, and another picnic table.  They had lots of cubbyholes underneath the benches so you could store your bags in a safe place, out of the walkway.



When we got to Maho Bay we had another surprise of incredible ingenuity!  The front of the boat has a huge ramp the width of the boat that folds down into the water, making it incredible easy to get in and out of the water.  

 
The side of the boat has a big floating platform attached to it, that also folds down into the water.  As soon as the crew lowered the floating platform, the other crew members had chairs and tables set up on it in no time!  The floating platform is another place you can hang out, dangle your feet in the water, and get some sun. 



The crew was amazing.  Not only did they make things run smoothly, safely, and efficiently, but they were all extremely welcoming.  They made us feel right at home.   It was obvious that they truly cared that everyone aboard was safe and having a great time.  




We jumped off the top deck of the boat into the water.  Fun!  The crew was very good about keeping everyone in the water safe.  One crew member was padding around in a kayak so he could be close to everyone.  Two others were on the ramp keeping a close eye on all of the swimmers.  They provided masks and snorkels, fins, noodles, and even a blow-up unicorn float for guests to use.  


We snorkeled, swam, and floated around, enjoying the clear blue waters.  They sunk a little sailboat in the sandy area and created an artificial reef that the fish like to congregate around, and there is also some coral reef along the rocky shoreline.  


Suddenly there was an announcement over the intercom that a plane was about to land!  They didn't want us to miss an opportunity to see it whoosh over our heads, and wanted everyone to have time to get their cameras ready.  St. Maarten's runway is very very short, so the planes come in very low to the ground and it's an exhilarating experience to see them right overhead!  We watched the first few planes land while we floated in the water.  What an amazing vantage point!  

We decided to get out and grab our camera so we had photographic (and video) evidence of this incredible experience.  But first, we rinsed off in their fresh water showers - a luxury not common on boating excursions.  We got some pretty cool pictures just using our cell phones, but kind of regretted not bringing a better camera.


After all that swimming and snorkeling we were hungry.  The crew was very attentive, and walked around to check on everyone often.  I ordered a hot dog and Skeeter ordered a hamburger.  Their menu had quite a few choices, and at very reasonable prices.  The crew even delivered our food, so we could just relax and enjoy ourselves.  The food was delicious! 



We found out they sell really nice Airport Adventure t-shirts and tank tops.  We regrettably didn't think to bring enough cash for souvenirs, but we'll be on island a while and will be sure to get our shirts another day! 


The crew seamlessly packed up the floating platform and brought the ramp up, the captains started up the engines, and we were headed back.  We were sad this amazing trip had to come to an end, but so happy we got to experience it.


We gathered up our stuff, thanked the crew, and of course remembered to drop our tip in the tip jar.  Lots of people don't realize that the crew's livelihood depends on these tips...so please don't forget to tip your crew.  15-20% of your trip's overall cost is customary for good service, but you can leave even more if you think they went above the call of duty.



Thank you so much to the crew of Airport Adventure for a fabulous day!