Thoughts on Pennsic XLIV (44)

Sometimes I write about my Medievalist Adventures! This past weekend I had one of those, so here is my newest collection of thoughts!

The C is For Creative

This past weekend, Gunther and I attended the Pennsic War near Slippery Rock, PA. We were able to attend the middle weekend due to the generosity of a good friend in our local group. The following are some thoughts on our mini vacation.

Visiting Pennsic as a Day Trip was one of the best decisions we have ever made in regard to SCA events. I do love the fresh air and comradery of sleeping outdoors, surrounded by friends,  but . . . I am 4 months pregnant; we are poor; our personal encampment style is not at all what I want it to be (our Shire encampment is wonderful!); last time we camped I had a heat exhaustion induced migraine and our neighbors talked drunkenly and loudly pretty much ALL night. Living only 2 hours from site afforded us the ability, however exhausting, to visit for a few hours each day…

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Miracle.

And sometimes, just sometimes, after hardship and heartache, you get a miracle.

Expected January 2016

Expected January 2016

Farmageddon

So did everyone else in my hometown have the same experience just now? Visions of the start of world war three? The apocalypse? Pompeii?

Opening shot: Modest couple. Standing happily in the garden with a bouquet of fresh cut daffodils, and a happy dog.

When suddenly….. MOTHER FUCKING WAR PLANES.

Followed, presumably, by a shock wave, walls of fire . . .

Inevitably: breadlines, breakdown of government, looting, squatting, gang warfare, etc etc etc.

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Ohp, there go the sirens.

Dregs

I gazed longingly across the counter at the Large cup, imagining how sad I would be when I did not drink it fast enough and its remains sat cold and lonely on the break room table until someone took pity on it and threw it out.

I ordered the Medium instead.

I paid and she placed the paper cup and plastic lid on the counter before me. I immediately regretted my decision.

Ten minutes later I sat cold and lonely at the break room table staring longingly at my empty coffee cup.

And rethinking a lifetime of bad decisions.

Tales from the Costume Shop Fairy

I have so much to say about costuming. Like, so much. It’s hard to know where to start. Or, I guess to be more accurate, it’s hard to know where to stop. And I’m gonna do it with the use of a lot of pictures.

I started playing dress up as soon as I could make decisions about clothes. My sisters and I had a pair of trunks in the hallway between our rooms filled with pieces of clothing, costumes, crinolines, funny shoes, scarves . . . Stuff found at yard sales, the library fair, or that our parents made for us.

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Gypsies. Me and a supportive friend on a very depressed Halloween in the early 90s. Photo by Lou Barranti.

I LOVE to dress up. And not, like, formal wear. I mean, I love formal wear. It’s just that I can’t keep it on for more than two hours at a time before I’m totally sick of it and want to go find a pair of yoga pants to wear instead.

(Our wedding was the sole exception.)

Take our formal New Year’s Ebony & Ivory party this winter. For instance:

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New Year’s Soiree

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Hostess’ Privilege

These photos were taken a couple hours apart at our house. At the beginning and in the middle of our New Year’s Soiree. Cuz we love dressing up. For a very limited amount of time. That’s my husband all classed up in a tux shirt. With jeans and a hoodie. Hey, at least we kept the color theme!

Still, I do love dressing up. And I always have.

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Dorothy Gale from Kansas

Whether as my favourite movie character or a beloved character in one (or seven) of a hundred favourite books,

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Nymphadora Tonks playing Guitar Hero. Halloween 2007

Or because we were learning how to sword fight and needed to wear spiffy (and not so spiffy) armor,

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Gunther & Ginny. Fighter Practice.

I have always loved dressing up.

So much in fact that despite everyone’s assumptions (including mine) that I would choreograph a dance work for my senior thesis project in college, I chose instead to design costumes for a non-existent production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (to date, still my favourite play, and probably my best sketches as well).

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“Was it for this?”

I learned a lot during that project, though I’m not sure it all came out in the final product as much as it sank into my deepest thoughts on clothing and society.

During one meeting, Robert, my thesis adviser – a justifiably pompous designer who had previously taught a workshop during which I cursed his very existence on a regular basis – told me something very very important that reflected what every PART professor had ever tried to instill in us: The concept of CHOICE.

Every single one of us is dressing for a show every day. Every single one of us is making choices about how we portray ourselves to the greater world. Every Day. With Every Choice. We present to the world a very specific vision of ourselves.

It is a choice to spend forty-five minutes styling one’s hair. It is a choice to put on a freshly pressed suit shirt and tie or to stay in your pajamas (guess which I chose today). It is a choice to grab a pair of unmatched socks out of the basket of unfolded laundry (clean or otherwise). It is a choice. A choice of how we present ourselves – the version of us we show the world. No matter how simple or prolonged the decision, every single day, we are presenting ourselves to the world through choice, even if we think that presentation is really only for ourselves. Everything we do on a daily basis, innocuous as it may seem, is still a choice that reflects back upon ourselves (with or without judgement).

I have, therefore, Costumed Myself in a number of different Unacknowledged Productions throughout my life.  Some more obviously fictitious, and many a bit more historical. I was a theatre and dance major in college, and have always loved theatre in some way. I also, I’m sure you’ve noticed, have a propensity for re-enactment and historic recreation.

I started reenactments young.

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My First Ren Faire Dress. Courtesy of Mom’s Costume Wardrobe (tm).

The taste for Medievalist & Renaissance learning and recreation has stayed with me for decades. (Check out my Medievalist Blog The C is for Creative in which I go into more detail about that particular hobby.) I have played with the Society for Creative Anachronism in five different Kingdoms, and worn garb borrowed from friends and relatives, made for me (by same), and, more recently, increasing numbers of ensembles I have created for myself, such as the following:

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Pelicon Style Overdress. The very first gowns I ever made completely by myself. (Left sleeve tied out of the way of bow string). Georgia, 2005ish

I eventually found a style that resonated more.

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Nearly Heraldic Particolored Cote. (Missing the Counterchanged Swan) Photo by Lou Barranti, 2006

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same dress, at Pennsic, still not fitted quite right. photo probably taken by Rachel Rosado.

And dabbled in different activities.

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Fencing Jacket. Fully functional.

And delighted in new styles for themed events.

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Full Norse for Baronial Procession. War of the Wings, North Carolina

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Byzantinesque. For Coronation of Val & Arielle.

I have also made garb for other people.

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Coptic uniform for guards at Coronation of Val & Arielle, with rendering provided.

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Finished Coptic uniform for guards at Coronation of Val & Arielle.

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AEthelmearc Crown Tourney

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Harvest Raid 2014

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Harvest Raid 2012

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Ice Dragon

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He extolled a passion for cloaks coming back into vogue, so I made him one for our first Xmas together.

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Norse Set. For Sister, Nephew, Dolly

I didn’t stop there, of course. I have a love for the subcultural style of Steampunk, which I discovered by accident while searching Flickr for something unrelated, and completely forgotten, back in 2008 or so. I started creating my own steampunk wardrobe which naturally took on a rather bookish theme.

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GOGGLES OF FAME (+10) Carolina Ren Fest Photo by Lydia Towery

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The Librarian photo by Lou Barranti, who insists on noting that I did all my own styling, as he is a more naturalist photog. Who would probably hate being called a photog.

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Gloves made by noirknits

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Because Steampunk Hermione is the Best.

Halloween Parties? Always Themed. In 2013 we had a wedding instead, but here are images of the costumes I made for our parties in 2012 (Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass) and 2014 (Wizards, Warriors, and a Word from Our Sponsor):

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The Queen of Hearts & Alice Through the Looking Glass, complete with Pepper the Pig. (I really wanted cap sleeves but ran out of time and patience.)

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Danny Vasquez & Beth Tezuka from Bravest Warriors. Costumes mostly from found clothing, pieces together, stitched up, decorated, and worn with great style and enthusiasm.

Remember what I was saying about Robert’s amazing pronouncement about clothes and choice in Everyday Life? Thinking about it I decided to include here some examples of how I costumed my every day life, most of the time without even realizing it.

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Vintage among my Popular New Style clad classmates, 10th Reunion, Class of 99.

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Goofing off at Pop Killer in Los Feliz, 2011

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A confidently stylish & self possessed me. First date. 2011. Photo by the (now) Mister.

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Them: Why aren’t you wearing a dress? Me: I don’t wear dresses. Them: It’s the SEMI-FORMAL, You have to wear a dress! Me: Fine! Here’s your fucking dress! Main, 2nd Floor, on way to Wells College Semi-Formal, December 2001.

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Emergency Adventure 2012. Sometimes you just gotta grab a scarf and hat and hit the road.

If this last photo isn’t a solid piece of proof of my love of dress up combined perfectly with what Robert told me all those years ago, I don’t know what is.

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Sometimes You gotta Be Your Own Hero. Tonksified KJ, Fountain Inn, SC, 2008 (featuring costumed images from Wells Dance Department, 2004 & Ulster Ballet Co, c. 1993)

Every day I’m making choices about how I dress and pretty much every one of those days I’m also plotting our next theme party. Whether it’s going to be a 1920s birthday speakeasy next month . . . Or a Lord of the Rings Halloween gathering next October . . . Or a party with costumes based on paintings or other works of art . . .  Or the Old West . . . Or Doctor Who . . . Or . . .

Gah, I gotta go write down some of these ideas!

How are you dressed up today?

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

Today’s Schedule:

Sleep in.

Brush teeth.

Stay in PJs.

Walk Dog.

Eat bagel with old Manhattan deli amount of cream cheese.

Drink coffee with all-the-creamer.

Sit on butt in living room playing LEGO Harry Potter from the very beginning and seeing how far I can get in one day.

Have Tea.

Eat super bowl of macaroni and cheese.

Keep playing.

Eventually have pizza and cherry coke.

Maybe watch some Bones.

Live Happily Ever After.

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Saving Quidditch

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Another cuppa?

The Tea List

I’m working on another book list, but as it’s not finished yet, what better thing to preface it with than a tea list?

1. Ceylon

Regal Ceylon Tea is a black tea that tastes like morning sunshine.

I found a box at TJMaxx which made me think I’d probably never see another one. So glad I was wrong!

I have a feeling it’s swiftly making its way to the top of my every day tea list with every cup I have. (I bought it two days ago and I’m on my fourth bag, which means probably my 7th or 8th cup)

2. Peppermint

This is a wonderful, herbal, non-caffeinated tea. It’s good for every time of day. Take a Trader Joe’s chocolate bar and take a small bite with each sip. You will thank me, and in turn I’ll thank my sister (noirbettie) who introduced this practice to me.

It’s also perfect for when I am nervous or upset, or simply do not feel well. It has a calming effect and is very good for the stomach.

3. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Since I started drinking earl grey eight or nine years ago it has been hard to go back to my old favourites of English Breakfast and Darjeeling. In fact, neither tastes very good to me at all anymore (unless there is no other option, because: Tea!)

There are many different kinds of earl grey. Plain old e.g. is great. So are the flavoured and specialty ones I will get to in a moment.

If you live in the south, or have, you probably love sweet tea as much as I do. Once when my (southern*) ex-bf’s mother ran out of regular black tea, she stole his box of earl grey and made a pitcher of sweet tea with it. THERE IS NOTHING BETTER IN THE SWEET TEA WORLD.

4. Winter White Earl Grey

Back when I worked at Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Cafe in South Carolina, we served several Harney & Sons teas (I believe this is still their brand of choice) including a white earl grey that became my favourite. For the past several years, whether it is time or distance, I have not been able to find this tea in B&N cafes up north. Once I asked at the BN in Erie, PA, and the barista told me she remembered it but hadn’t seen it for some time. Enter: the Woodstock Tea Shop in Woodstock, NY. They carry many Harney & Sons teas as well as many of their own. And there on the shelf behind the counter was a huge black canister marked “Winter White Earl Grey.” I bought a pound of it.

5. Cream Earl Grey

Because the Woodstock Tea Shop was filled with all sorts of teas, I took the opportunity and sniffed a number of different teas, including jasmine pearls (of which I bought a tiny bag) and a bizarre earl grey with pretty purple flowers in it. The woman behind the counter claimed that this type of tea tasted, once steeped, as though you had already added cream to it. The thought repulsed me as I add nothing to my tea unless I am sick – and Never cream! However, the gentle coxing scent of this tea prompted me to buy a teensy bag to try, anyway. About two weeks later, when I ran out, I begged my mother to bring me a pound bag when she visited for our wedding shower that following month.

This is by far my very favourite tea. You can order it from WTS or go there yourself! It’s a nice little shop with loose leaf teas and tea accoutrements. When I was running out of it a second time, my little brother (who had been equally taken with it), brought me a canister of another version from Teavana – Earl Grey Creme. I have to admit, after trying it, I won’t drink cream earl grey that is not from the Woodstock tea shop, as it all smells somewhat of candy and artifice.

6. Duchess Grey

I don’t know if this exists anywhere anymore. It was a TJ’s specialty that they no longer carry. It was a citrus black tea that made AWESOME sun tea as well as hot.

(Similar to Lady Grey, which I have in decaf which makes this tea less interesting)

7. The Tea of Inquiry

First off – What a brilliant name for a tea! I discovered my love for it in 2000 when I worked as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble in Syracuse, NY. At the time, the cafe there served Republic of Tea products. These came in lovely tall cylindrical canisters containing round tea bags or loose leaf. The Tea of Inquiry is a Genmaicha. It contains only two ingredients: Fine Japanese Green Tea and Toasted Rice.

The earthy flavor is very grounding. It is tasty and calming.

I have found no other version of this tea that I enjoy. Other sellers combine these two fine ingredients with popped corn. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS PRACTICE. I mean, seriously, unless you want to drink Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, Why would you do this???

*I accidentally typed ‘souther’ which I also think is kind of appropriate. I may take to using this term in future.

More than the Sum

Today was my “If you are not pregnant in six months come see me again” visit with my new ob/gyn.

I went straight from her incredibly promising session to the lab down the hall to get four different blood tests done.

I have two more tests to be done over the next three weeks.

My new doctor is so supportive and so positive. It’s hard to face this without that attitude and caring attentiveness. I am thankful for her.

All the same . . .

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. . . This is my life right now.

And now, for some inspiration for those like me feeling a little less:

Janruary

It’s snowing again. I was quite liking the rain. Rain is easier to deal with (unless it freezes). Yesterday’s wind was a different story.

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Our neighbors’ yard.

The new year has started, as all new things do, from the ashes of the old version. It’s the same material. Ordered in a slightly different way. New experiences altered out of old ingredients. With increasingly better results.

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At home, with the dog curled up on the other couch, and I have a cup of coffee with about 7 creamers and three teaspoons of sugar, because I really only like coffee as a splash in the sweet creaminess of the condiments.

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I made bread dough on Saturday, so I’m waiting for my morning roll to bake. Apricot marmalade (the only version sold in stores here) and a room temperature stick of butter await. My new pink piggy timer buzzes loudly and keeps ticking when it’s time to check the oven. Almost done.

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It’s hard to feel accomplished when the kitchen is a mess. I’d hire house-elves, but the accomplishment also comes from having done it myself.

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(You are welcome to clean the bathroom yourself, however, because that’s one area I loath to approach.)

I found my knitting project in the guest room. I don’t know how long it’s been since I last picked it up, but last night while we watched Bones, I carried on a few rows, only forgetting which side needed the k2tog twice.

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I’m trying to keep reading. I’m slow at it, so I give up often. But This Book is Full of Spiders is entertaining and keeps my brain and eyes from getting lazy. If you want a fun set, start with John Dies at the End. These are my husband’s favourite books and I’m glad I’m finally getting to them.

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This week is for baking, reading, knitting, and wearing red nail polish. Also, for eating at Panera. Because we finally have one. Fuck yeah. Next up, Five Guys at the mall. If only B+N, Target, and World Market would move in.

As one who suffers depression I know this is a ridiculous idea, a tall order, an impossibility to predict or even capture . . . but my only New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is this:

Be Happy.

LEGO: Lord of the Brains

I’ve definitely been playing too many video games lately. Well, the same two video games, perhaps a bit too much.

Last year Nic gave me both LEGO Harry Potter games and lately I’ve been playing them hours on end, for days in a row, often falling asleep controller in hand. To the point where when I dream, all the people are LEGO figures, and everything around them explodes in a spray of lego studs.

As I woke this morning I had a vision:

Two LEGO mini figures on an upper deck of a cruise ship. It reminded me of a recently watched episode of an old tv show. And it hit me in that moment – the realization of what this world needs.

LEGO: Murder She Wrote

(Preferably without dialogue. The Tolkien ones really lost something when real words got added.)

Some other important video games that our cultures needs to happen:

LEGO: Bones (Heroes of the Jeffersonian)

and

Banjo Hero: Mumford & Sons Edition

What video game do YOU need to happen Right Now?

UPDATE: ideas from friends and readers!

The Classics in LEGO: Zelda, Mario Bros, etc

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