the alternative how to

guide for vagabonds, bohemians, and others

Books: Making Stuff & Doing Things


If I were suddenly homeless, and could only pack a backpack of things to carry with me, Kyle Brano’s Making Stuff & Doing Things would without a doubt be the one book I would carry with me. Essentially a crust punk bible, this book contains diy guides for everything from dumpster diving to making your own cat food to making rope out of plants. This is one of the books I can read over and over again and always learn something new, and it’s one of the books that inspired me to make this blog. It’s a fantastic read for advanced do-it-yourselfers and newbies alike.

tonight’s inspiration: Oscar Wilde

“Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”


a true bohemian, who was imprisoned and starved for his art. perhaps we talk about him too much but with good reason. mr. wilde had few things but he did have guts and passion.



How to kinda replace a typewriter ribbon

Using a typewriter brings a different kind of satisfaction than typing on a notepad. The clackity clack sound has always been music to my ears. I’ve been obsessed with typewriters for as long as I can remember, but it became a true love when I was around the age of 9. The American Girl magazine came to our house every month and I would spend hours pouring over the pages, and that year they introduced a new doll Kit Kittredge, and a whole new set of books to go along with her. I checked out every Kit book that came out of the library, and immersed myself in stories about the young girl growing up during the Great Depression. Depression-era history was another love of mine, one that would reemerge later when I read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath in my teens. But I’m rambling. The most memorable and enchanting part about the Kit books was the fact that she had a typewriter that she used to write her own community paper. I wanted to be just like Kit, and my mom had an old black Remington typewriter she let me use when I played. I loved to clackity clack in my blanket fort, and pretend that I was a journalist writing my own paper in the Great Depression like Kit. The typewriter ribbon had no ink however, so the best I could get were indentations in the paper that you could kind of read if you held it up to the light. I typed on anyways.

I don’t know what happened to that typewriter, it was probably sold in a yardsale a long time ago, but my love for them continued on as I got older, and I vowed that one day I too would have my very own typewriter, and this time, it would have ink. I guess I had some sort of idealistic vision of myself typing out a masterpiece to the tune of the clackity clack, perhaps while chain smoking and drinking whiskey like the many great authors of days gone by. So when I visited my local thrift store a few months ago, I saw a great black suitcase from across the store and recognized it immediately. Typewriter sized. And when I opened it up, to my joy, it was indeed a typewriter. A more modern version than the one Kit Kittredge or my mother had, but it was a typewriter nonetheless. I bought it quickly, glancing shifty eyed at the other patrons in case they too had an almost freaky obsession with out of date technology and tried to buy my (it was mine as soon as I saw it) beloved typewriter.



I got home, set it up, ignored my boyfriends protests of “You’re never going to use that thing!” and “Why do you need a typewriter when you have a laptop!” and quickly realized that like it’s predecessor, it too had a dried out ribbon. So I packed it up, and off to the office supply store we went. I didn’t really know where typewriter ribbon would be in the office supply store, and asking just got me worried looks, but after much looking, I found something that would work. I replaced the ribbon in the middle of Office Depot, but today I took apart my lovely typewriter in order to show my readers how I did it. I’m still not sure if I replaced it right or if there’s a better way to fix the ribbon, but this works and it was cheap and easy. So first things first, you need a typewriter. I have a newer model, the older ones use strictly black ribbon so keep that in mind.


This is the kind of ribbon you’ll need for the newer typewriters. You can find it at most office supply stores, but it’s used for adding machines, not typewriters. It will come on two spools, and the size of those do not matter because you won’t be using them. What does matter is that the width of the new ribbon is the same as the old ribbon. If you can’t tell from looking at the package, sometimes the store will let you take it out of the box to check, just ask nicely.



Next you’ll take the cover off the top of the typewriter, in order to reveal all those beautiful insides. Easy.


Now, in order to remove the spools, you need to jam the typewriter (press a bunch of keys at once) in order for the ribbon holder thing to come up where you can get to it. Unhook the ribbon from the holder, and remove each spool. Then you’ll unwind the ribbon and remove it from both spools.


Now take your new ribbon (which you’ve unraveled from the other spool it came on), and wrap it around the new one. The best way to do this is to keep the new ribbon on the new spool on one side, that way you only have one lose end at a time. Some spools have little hooks on the inside, and you can hook the ribbon on the spool with those.


If this happens, good luck getting it uncurled without yelling a stream of obscenities and scaring your dog.


Prepare yourself for inky fingers.


Perfect! Now all you have to do is replace the spools and rethread the ribbon into the ribbon holder thing (somebody must tell me the name of that part please!), and you’re ready to type a new novel.



Be sure to wipe off all the inky fingerprints! Of course, after typing a page or two, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that there’s a reason we have computers now, and it’s awfully difficult to type without backspace, spellcheck, or knowledge of how to set up margins. Don’t let this keep you from keeping your typewriter in a place of honor on your desk, even if you only use it at 2 a.m. to type your favorite song lyrics after six glasses of boxed wine. Even if it’s only for the aesthetics and nostalgia, my typewriter will always hold a place in my heart.


-your lovely muse

Music Monday: Latency


I can’t get enough of Latency, the latest and greatest indie band to come out of Pennsylvania. Their new album I Should Have Met More People Tonight, was written, recorded, and produced by the two band members Sam Moran and Ryan Milloy in a basement, but it sounds anything but homemade. Fans of The Killers or pop-punk will enjoy this album, and it would be a perfect soundtrack for a first date or a laid back get together. My favorite track on the album is “Oh I Said It”, a song about unrequited love. The album is free to download on Latency’s bandcamp site, so give them a listen today.

how to become an artist in 5 easy steps

Nothing in world is quite as romantic as the idea of the starving artist. Genius and eccentric, the artist lives in the moment and is unrestrained by ideals and standards set by modern society, a slave only to his work. Many dream of devoting their life to art, but few succeed, mostly due to monetary constraints. You don’t have to starve to create however, small changes and steps can help you to harness that talent you’ve always had.

Step 1: Find the time to create

If you hold a steady job, you may have to wake up early or stay up late, but this is desirable. Your lovely muse has always found that a lack of sleep helps tremendously in the creative process, perhaps the brain is less censored during this time. The morning is a wonderful time for new ideas to take effect. The air right before sunrise is crisp, fresh, and alive, and everything is still, before even the birds are awake. And the night is just as wonderful, when the darkness softens edges and makes everything more mysterious, when the day’s responsibilities are over and done with.

Step 2: Create even if you think it’s terrible.

The world would be a much different place if every bad idea a genius had was made public to the world. As an artist, you are your own worst critic, but it would be terrible to waste talent and inspiration due to self doubt. Whatever your medium is, writing, painting, sculpting, song, or performing, the best thing to do is dive in. Write until your hand cramps, paint the first thing that comes to mind, sculpt that sculpture you’ve always seen in your head, and write that song that has yet to come to life. Audition for all the plays, and practice monologues in your spare time. Remember, bad art is always better than no art.

Step 3: Share your work

The internet is big wonderful place, with enough space for anyone and everyone who has something to say or be seen. Create a blog, a tumblr, a deviantart account, or a youtube. Post to reddit, twitter, facebook, anywhere you want your art to be seen. Take feedback with a grain of salt of course, there will always be trolls and people wanting to put you down, but constructive criticism can help you look at your work through a different eye.

Step 4: Create with others

Artists can be found in the largest of cities and the smallest of towns. Seek out those who share your passion, and don’t view them as competition, but rather as allies. Artists tend to be introverts, but it’s worth it to put some effort into friendships with the right people. We use different parts of the brain during face to face conversation, so get a group together and discuss ideas over a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine, it might just be the creative spark needed for your next masterpiece.

Step 5: Decide that YOU are an artist

Society puts many labels on people, but it’s what you call yourself that will have the most impact on your self perception. You don’t have to define yourself by what you do to pay the bills, or who you’re dating, or where you live. Rather, define yourself by your values, by what you’re passionate about, and what you want out of life. Instead of introducing yourself as a barista/salesclerk/nurse/etc, introduce yourself as what you consider yourself to be, and see how much better it feels. Just because you have a “day job” doesn’t mean you are that day job. If you introduce yourself as “John the Poet” and people ask you what you’ve published, and you haven’t published anything yet, just make something up. Maybe one day it’ll be true. Consider it practical performance art. The phrase “Fake it till you make it” had never been more true, and as long as you have a love and passion for your work, you will always be a true artist.


-your lovely muse.

Welcome to alternative how to!

If you’ve stumbled across this blog, chances are you’re what people call “the creative type.” Perhaps you travel across the country on trains, or you’re busy creating sculptures out of your neighbors recycling bin. Maybe you draw pornographic anime on old vhs tapes, or make your own wine out of grape juice and yeast packets. Maybe you’re a writer, an expert on surrealism, a fashion designer, a musician, or just a working stiff with a wild side. You might live in a busy city, a quiet beach, a suburb, in a house, a loft, an rv, or even a park. Regardless, you’ve just come across this blog because you are different. You have the insatiable desire to leave a mark on the world in your own unique way, the need to live differently and be inspiring. Welcome, readers, to alternative how to. A guide for anything and everything related to an alternative life, follow directions loosely and make changes as necessary. All advice given is merely a suggestion, intended to inspire and educate. Thank you for visiting alternative how to, and welcome.


– yourlovelymuse