Links of Awesome: Introversion, Insecurity, and Introspection

Today, I just can’t resist sharing some cool stuff I’ve come across lately in the vast universe of the interwebs — one that I found myself, and two that were shared with me by good friends. These articles are kind of just tangentially nerdy, but they’re all very much worth passing on, and I hope you find them as valuable and thought-provoking as I did!

The Battery Life of an Introvert

Yes, this whole introvert/extrovert, it’s-okay-to-be-introverted, stickin’ it to our extroverted culture thing is starting to get a little beaten into the ground, and extroverts are probably like, “UGH we freaking get it already, you guys.” BUT this article looks at the “recharging” idea in a very literal and unique way, and I really love this explanation of what being an introvert is like. Never has being compared to a smartphone been so illuminating!

Why Is Everyone Succeeding Except Me?

I found this advice-column-style article by way of a link on the Captain Awkward blog (also an advice blog, and another wonderful corner of the internet), and it really stuck with me. I’ll admit that it contains a fair amount of millennial angst, but it’s the same sort of angst that I’ve dealt with periodically both as a Creator of Stuff and as a person, and the message that the author ultimately leaves us with is one that I need to be reminded of frequently because I’m constantly forgetting it — namely, the fact that there are other options in life besides “not amounting to anything” and “being the ABSOLUTE VERY BESTEST EVER.” Far from celebrating mediocrity, this article encourages the reader to rejoice in what they have accomplished thus far, realize that there’s still a lot of time to accomplish even more and better things (and that it’s okay if it takes a while to do so), and that even if we’re not the greatest, our contributions to the lives of our fellow humans are still valuable, even though making those contributions and having those successes sometimes takes what feels like forever. Seriously, guys — I think I need to reread this article every couple of months or so; it’s that good.

Twilight: Abuse and Attention

I know, I KNOW, this ship sailed at least five years ago. As well it should have. Why on earth am I still thinking about Twilight?? Because up til now, I haven’t been able to understand how I can get so sucked in to something that’s so poorly written and so very problematic, and I’ve been questioning my sanity in relation to this ever since I read the things. This article helped me understand the answer to this more clearly than I ever have before, and it was like the last piece of a puzzle finally clicking into place. I’m not crazy (or at least not for that reason…); it’s the way the books are written and the unspoken (and sometimes unrealized) things they appeal to in me that keep me coming back to this story to stare at it some more like a moth that knows it shouldn’t fly into that lamp but REALLY, REALLY WANTS TO. I had a couple of really great conversations about this piece with the friend who sent it to me, and it was so validating to find out that other people feel the same way about this stuff as I do. This article was, in a word, liberating. Just read it, you guys.

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Anachronistic Adventures at the Renaissance Festival

Before it stops being All-Ren-Fest-All-The-Time Land around here, it’s time for one last post about it — gather ’round and I shall tell thee the tale of our Renaissance Festival adventures!

As luck would have it, we got absolutely perfect weather to complement our day at the Fest — sunny with a high of 75 (and now you have that one Relient K song in your head…)! When you’re wearing a giant dress, that’s a very welcome forecast. Last time I went to the Fest wearing garb, I spent a goodly portion of the day feeling like I was walking around in a woolen oven.

Peder and I attended the Fest with our friends Ashley and Clint (the same Ashley who was instrumental in my costume-making efforts), both of whom also went in costume. Ashley wore the dress she made for this year’s Fest, a cute blue-and-pink gown based on a traditional style, and Clint went as a buccaneer-type fellow, complete with epic pirate coat.

By pure happenstance, we also ran into our friends Anne and Bill, who walked right past Peder and me as we were parking. We knew they were coming to the Fest at some point, but had never heard when, so it was quite a fun surprise to see them, and great to hang out with them for a bit!

The six of us didn’t end up staying in one group past the morning, however, since Ashley, Clint, Peder, and I had tickets for the Feast of Fantasy, a several-course meal that lasts through the middle of the afternoon, during which you are entertained by various festival performers. Ashley and Clint went to it last year and really enjoyed it, and Peder and I were more than happy to join them for round two. The feast was at 2:00, and since we arrived at the Fest at about 11:00, we had a little bit of wandering-around time beforehand. We used it to watch an escape artist performer, visit the fairy forest, and take in one of my favorite parts of Ren Fest — the joust!

Tiny fairy town!

Tiny fairy town!

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At the Fairy Forest exit

At the Fairy Forest exit

Sir Marcus preparing to tilt

Sir Marcus preparing to tilt

The last time I went to the joust, we got there a bit late, and I had a hard time seeing much behind all the people in front of us, shorty that I am. This time, we got rather better spots, and we had a decent view of the lists and could hear the heralds — both the one that was encouraging us to heckle the crowd on the other side of the lists and the one doing the same on the opposite side. We could also hear the knight that our part of the crowd was supposed to cheer for as he introduced himself and told us we should chant his name whenever he was about to joust. Or whenever we felt like it, really. Naturally, there was much chanting of “Marcus, Marcus, Marcus!” over the next 20 minutes.

After the joust was done, it was time for the feast! Which we were more than ready for, having eaten very little prior to it in order to save room. The feast was completely worth it, and we loved it — from the super tasty food to the bunches of performers we got to see to the absurdly hilarious emcees, it was a wonderful time all around. We decided that one of the things we liked best about it was getting to see so many different performances in one place; it was like getting a nice little tour of the Fest without having to try to make it to a bunch of different shows.

Outside the feasting hall! Side note: as you can see from the voluminousness of my skirts, I did in fact find time to make a bum roll.

Outside the feasting hall! Side note: as you can see from the voluminousness of my skirts, I did in fact find time to make a bum roll.

Party hats required, of course

Party hats required, of course

My favorite was the juggler, who juggled with flaming torches, breathed fire, and juggled ping pong balls using only his mouth, you guys. Like…what? How is that even accomplished? It was pretty amazing. I also really liked the singing group that sang us an Irish drinking song called…Irish Drinking Song. Naturally. And I have to admit to kind of, sort of liking the poet — whose poems were so vulgar they made my ears burn…never have I heard such brazen jokes told in such flowery language before.

After the feast, we headed to the free Woodchuck cider tasting…because obviously, we needed to consume more beverages directly after eating all of the things. Like you do. It was lots of fun, and Peder and I particularly liked their newest cider, which we will hopefully be able to track down sometime soon!

At the cider tasting

At the cider tasting

Though we’d had a great time seeing the performers at the feast, we did want to make it to at least one sit-down show — we ended up going to see the Danger Committee’s last performance of the day. I’ve seen them a couple of times before, and they’ve been so much fun to watch every time. I mean, where else can you see guys juggling tasers and lighting whips on fire and throwing knives that slice through cucumbers being held by someone on a spinning wheel? I ask you. The Danger Committee is one of those things I feel like I have to see in order to feel that I’ve had a complete Ren Fest experience.

Once the show was done, it was nearly dusk — in other words, closing time. We wandered around and visited a few of the shops (those that weren’t already closing down, that is). We didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without, but we did enjoy looking at the nice, shiny daggers at the sword shop, and Ashley and I got fairy-dusted (read: had glitter sprinkled all over us) at a fairy-themed shop. I tend to think that when you get the chance to wear purple glitter, you should probably take it.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, and possibly the best time I’ve had at the Ren Fest so far, made even more fun by the fact that I got to wear a sweet costume that I made myself (well, made half of, more like, but still)!

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Let’s hear from you guys! Did you attend Ren Fest or any other such fests or fairs this year? What was the best part about it/them? What did you run out of time to see that you wished you could have? Let us know in the comments!

Making Garb for Ren Fest: Part Five – Re-Creating Paul Bettany’s Geoffrey Chaucer

Good day to you, lords and ladies! It’s time for the tales of the second component of this costume-making venture — namely, putting together my husband Peder’s Ren Fest costume!

A couple of months ago, Peder decided that he wanted to go to Ren Fest dressed as Paul Bettany’s portrayal of Geoffrey Chaucer, as seen in the absurdly anachronistic and delightful film A Knight’s Tale. Admittedly, Geoff is more of a medieval character than a Renaissance one, but since people often go to Ren Fest dressed as fairies and LOTR characters and etcetera, which don’t exist in any time period whatsoever, we’re valuing enjoyment potential over historical accuracy.

This dude!

One of the best part of this process has been rewatching the movie for “research purposes” — good grief, I love that movie. It’s so ridiculous and wonderful and I can’t get enough of it. Jousting! Improbable outfits! Tansy cakes!

But I digress…on to the costume! For the most part, I opted not to use my newfound sewing skills for this costume, since, unlike my garb, there’s no way I could make it any more cheaply than what we could buy it for. With that added to the fact that time was already running alarmingly short when we started building the costume, using my well-honed Etsy-trawling and thrift-store-hunting skills seemed like the better option.

We decided that this costume needed four main pieces–a plain medieval-style shirt, a pair of simple brown pants, shoe covers (this is the only part I made from scratch), and a long coat to top it off.

With the wealth of skilled costume-makers’ Etsy shops that are out there, it was easy enough to find a good shirt and pants there. Unfortunately, I somehow had my old address hooked up to PayPal, and through some kind of click-happy misfortune, I managed to send the shirt there instead of to my current address. Cue massive rage and anxiety spiral.

After FINALLY getting the apartment staff to respond to my pleas, only to be told that they hadn’t seen the package even though it was supposedly delivered mid-August, we ended up buying a replacement shirt off of Amazon (they have some surprisingly decent ones and I kind of wish I’d gone there in the first place). The original one actually did make it back to the seller, who was kind enough to resend it to me, so naturally, it finally came our way a day after we needed it…sigh. But Peder can use it for a different costume down the line, or possibly even the same costume next year, so at least it won’t go to waste, as we feared it would when we thought it was lost.

In less frustrating news, the pants thankfully came, and in good time considering the lady who made them had to add some length to them (the max size she had listed on the product page was 5’7″…and Peder is 6’4″). They look pretty good, despite the fact that their creator seemed to interpret “pants for a 6’4″ person” as “pants for someone who’s 7 feet tall and about 300 pounds.” I (rather unskillfully) hemmed them, though that didn’t reduce their voluminous-ness, but at that point, we decided they would just have to do.

For the shoe covers, I used a pattern I found on Pinterest. Since we made them from felt, and since my sewing machine was already threaded with some nice heavy-duty brown thread, this was the perfect job for Ol’ Reliable. Peder helped me figure out the best way to construct the covers since he’s got a much better head for spatial stuff like that, and I put them together based on a method that someone had used to make boot covers for a kid’s Halloween costume. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, and Peder likes them, so that’s what counts! At least one part of his costume turned out as planned…

As for the coat, we started by looking at Savers, the obvious place to go for such things. Except…not. We set out with great hope of finding something flamboyant (and large) enough to suit this costume, but despite the fact that Savers already has their Halloween costume stuff out, we didn’t find anything in that section, and there wasn’t a single coat of any kind to be found in the place, costume-y or no. We thought it was a bit strange that they don’t have any of their coats out yet (this is Minnesota, after all…), but so it goes. So in the end, we hit up Party City and found a long jacket-y/vest-y/vaguely pirate-y thing that works pretty well. It gives a fair approximation of the look we’re going for, and kept Peder from roasting all day in a heavy coat.

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And here we are at the Fest in full costume! When all was said and done, Peder looks reasonably Chaucer-y and definitely very swashbuckle-y, so I’m counting this one a success.

Phew…we made it, you guys! After a fair bit of travail and a lot of ingenuity, we were officially ready for some good ol’ fashioned Ren Fest shenanigans! More on that to come very soon.

Making Garb for Ren Fest: Part Four

The costume is officially done, folks!  For this last sewing session, I went back to Ashley’s, where we put the finishing touches on my outfit.

We ran short on both time and bias tape last session, so I didn’t quite get that part of the vest done — this time, however, I finished it up, and I’m really proud of it! I was expecting this part to be a lot harder than it turned out to be, and while it’s not perfect, I’d say it’s pretty darn good for a first-timer.

There was a small crisis when I realized that I’d somehow picked the wrong shade of brown when I bought my second package of bias tape, even though the number on the package was exactly the same…grumblegrumblegrumble. So I took off the bias tape I’d sewn onto one of the arm holes (I knew I wouldn’t get out of this without a little seam-ripping…) and sewed the lighter colored bias tape to both armholes, so that at least the parts with the other shade match each other and I don’t have one rogue armhole that’s two shades lighter than everything else. The end result looks a tiny bit goofy, but thankfully it’s not very noticeable when the vest is worn, so I’m over it.

While I was finishing up the vest, Ashley took care of hemming the two skirts — the underskirt actually ended up being the perfect length and not too short at all, despite my fabric-cutting goofs! There’s even room for a bum roll, if I ever get to that…we shall see.

Ashley also finished up the sleeves of the tunic, and it looks fantastic! Though I’ve been learning a lot, I was happy to leave this piece in Ashley’s capable hands, since I wasn’t yet feeling quite prepared to create the cinch-y neckline and sleeve closures for it.

The last order of business was to add a little boning to the vest and create the holes to thread the cording through. Per Ashley’s advice (and partially due to our dwindling time), we decided to just put boning along the front edges of the vest to stabilize it — in Ashley’s experience, stays have a tendency to become stabby and uncomfortable very quickly, and they’d have been awfully putzy to put in at this stage, so since the fabric is already pretty stiff, we figured that less is more in this case.

After putting the boning in the front of the vest, we decided we’d use the buttonhole method for the cording. Under the circumstances, this was the most expedient and hopefully the most durable option. Ashley created some beautiful buttonholes with the fancy buttonhole foot on her sewing machine (again, I left this part to the expert, but it was pretty fascinating to watch!), and after threading the cording through them, the costume was complete!

rencostumev1

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And here I am in my finished garb (ignore the fact that you can see my shirt underneath…and the horrendous hair day I seem to be having…it was a leeeeeetle humid that day)! I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I can’t wait to wear it at the Ren Fest! Next time you see me in this outfit, it’ll be against a backdrop of jousts, mead stands, mermaid lagoons, and lots of anachronistically dressed Minnesotans. Huzzah!

Playing the Waiting Game

As you may have heard, a new story by Tolkien was published on August 26, and can now be pre-ordered. It’s called The Story of Kullervo, and it sounds SO COOL. Cue fangirly shrieks! I’m the sort who would read scribbled, half-nonsensical notes written by Tolkien if someone typed them up and published them, but YOU GUYS, this is a retelling of an epic Finnish poem that is thought to be Tolkien’s first work done in prose, and some say it got the ball rolling as far as his inspiration for LOTR is concerned. It’s kind of a big deal.

It’s also said to be the darkest thing he ever wrote…and if you’ve ever read his short story The Children of Hurin, you know that’s saying something. Kullervo has a lot of heavy themes, apparently — like, don’t-really-want-to-mention-on-this-blog heavy. Get ready to have your hearts torn out by Tolkien yet again, people.

As dark as I’m sure the story is, though, the most heartbreaking thing at the moment is that it doesn’t come out until April.

APRIL.

My fangirly shrieks turned to frustrated howls when I realized this, which was shortly after I pre-ordered the book.

Maybe I’ll just read The Simarillion in the meantime…because I totally have a chance of finishing it in eight months, right? Riiiiight…

Making Garb for Ren Fest: Part Three

Onward and upward we go! It’s time for Part Three of what has been an extremely fun costume-making process. This time, we set up shop at Ashley’s place, since it was time to start on some of the more delicate work. As wonderfully sturdy and reliable as my sewing machine is, using it for some of this fussier stuff/thinner fabrics would be a little like using a car wash to do your dishes…definitely not ideal.

Ashley’s sewing room and the lovely Ashley herself, teaching me how to sew on bias tape!

As we got started, Ashley took care of the next steps for the underskirt–I was definitely in need of her help, since all manner of wonky things happened when I was cutting the pieces for the skirt. I got as far as serging the three main panels together on my own, but in addition to my earlier crookedy-cutting mishap, the hem turned out to be fairly crooked overall after the panels had all been put together, so Ashley evened it up with her serger.

Nearly completed skirts!

When all’s said and done, it will probably be a tad shorter than originally planned, but this will be okay, since, while it’s historically accurate to have your skirts skimming the ground, it’s not very practical at Ren Fest, where the ground is always either absurdly dusty or really muddy, depending on the weather. This way, I’ll hopefully keep from having a hem so dirty it would scandalize Caroline Bingley beyond all reason (wrong time period, I know…moving on…).

Another hang-up with the skirt was that I cut the panels out according to the extra seam allowance Ashley had left when she made her skirt, but I then forgot to add length to the waistband, so it was of course too small. Smart me…a side effect of this project is learning how to plan ahead, I’m finding. Still, this kind of stuff is bound to happen to a first-timer, so I don’t feel too bad about it (even as I try valiantly to quash my raging perfectionist streak…). Ashley solved the problem by adding a couple of gathers to the back of the skirt — the perfect fix, since the gathers won’t even show, and will add some extra oomph to the skirt, which is kind of what you want for skirts like these anyway.

As Ashley worked on the skirts and started on the tunic, I worked on attaching the bias tape to the vest. A little daunting at first, since it’s pretty delicate work, but it turned out pretty well if I do say so! There’s a little bit more to do, and we ran out of time to start putting in the stays, but I was able to get the majority of the bias tape put on, even though I sewed at a tentative, rather glacial pace (which was MUCH easier to do on Ashley’s machine than mine).

Here’s how it’s looking so far (sorry for the extremely blurry picture…usually my phone camera isn’t quite this bad)! After finishing up the bias tape and putting in the boning, the last thing to do will be to add grommets somehow and thread the laces through them so the vest can be pulled tight.

I’m not sure how I’m going to do this yet…the lady who helped me at JoAnn’s strongly recommended not using the grommets they sell there (or any grommets at all, if I can help it), since they’re not great quality and apparently aren’t really meant for clothing. She said that, over time, the grommets will start to tear the fabric a bit and come out due to the pressure from the laces. Which they will indeed do, as demonstrated by Ashley’s version of this costume — hers has held up very well overall since the time she made it a few years ago, but the grommets are definitely starting to come un-sewed from her vest.

To hopefully avoid this, I’m either going to see if a woodworker acquaintance of mine will put the grommets in for me so I’m not making any cuts in the fabric, since doing so would speed up the raveling process (this would both save me some time and be super hardcore) or come up with a workaround, most likely by hand-sewing button holes of some kind…more to come on that later once I finally decide.

And here’s the tunic, the product of Ashley’s fine handiwork — all that’s left is to finish up the sleeves, which will have drawstrings like the neckline does. Ashley’s dress form is modeling it very fetchingly here!

I’m so excited that we have this much done already! Things are shaping up very nicely, I must say. I’ll do one more post about the finishing touches, and later, a post about the costume my husband and I are putting together for him — he’ll be going as (the wildly historically inaccurate yet delightful version of) Geoffrey Chaucer from A Knight’s Tale! I’m still trying to convince him to go around the Fest saying things like “We walk in the garden of his turbulence!!” We’ll see if I succeed…

And of course, I’ll plan to do a post about the glorious time we shall most definitely have at the Ren Fest — I can’t wait!!

Making Garb for Ren Fest: Part Two

The saga continues! We’re getting to the real stuff now — the actual sewing! As fun (and horribly nervewracking) as cutting out the fabric was, it’s great to be putting everything together.

Louise decided to “help” me cut out fabric…for some reason, the blue stuff was super exciting. Coincidentally, I decided to move to the office shortly therafter.

Minor mishaps notwithstanding (including accidentally cutting out two right-side vest pieces — which turned out to be okay since I have a lot of extra vest fabric, a slightly raggedy edge on one of the skirt pieces that could have been a lot worse than it was due to my failure to plan ahead, and a lot of wasted chunks of tunic fabric due to my inefficient spacing when I cut it out…sorry, Mom), I now have oodles of (mostly) properly cut fabric pieces that are starting to come together.

Ol’ reliable.

Here’s my lovely sewing machine! It’s a fairly ancient Singer that once belonged to my grandma on my dad’s side, and I have no idea how old it is (maybe one of you sewing buffs out there can enlighten me? Or at least share your best guess?) but my dad and Ashley both suspect circa 1960, and possibly even older. Whatever its age, it doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that it spent somewhere between 10 and 20 years sitting in an old Montana basement. I thought for sure that the light would be burned out, or there’d be a short, or something somewhere would need some grease. Not so! The thing works like a charm. Ashley told me that these old sewing machines tend to be pretty rock solid, albeit a bad choice for sewing delicate fabrics.

Besides one quick tutorial from my mom on how the thing works, I’m pretty much starting from scratch here, so Ashley and I started with the basics. She showed me how to insert the bobbin and thread the machine, how to set the foot properly, and some tricks for regulating the speed (something that, so Ashley tells me, tends to be tricky with an older machine…it’s hard to get it to do anything besides groan along or race so fast the fabric gets away from you. I’m still getting that part down). With that, I was off and running (more or less)!

After session one, I’m a reasonably successful sewing padawan, and I have a fair bit to show for it.

As you can see (no thanks to the shoddy picture quality…), the vest is coming together nicely! I put together the lining and the outer shell on my own, and Ashley serged the two together (I can use the serger for straight lines, but I haven’t graduated to curves yet). I then reinforced the seams with a straight stitch. This process helped combat the alarming fraying that was happening, and the fabric’s tendency to bunch up in my sewing machine…the vest fabric is fulfilling my misgivings in those respects, but it seems to be cooperating well enough for my purposes, thanks to Ashley’s expertise!

And here’s the overskirt! To keep things moving along, Ashley serged it together for me while I was working on the vest; I’ve run the ribbon that forms the tie closure through the waistband of the overskirt, and soon it’ll get hemmed up a bit.

I’ve also put the underskirt mostly together, and will have Ashley help me with the waistband and hem. With with the way I ended up cutting out the pieces, there’s not much of a margin for error with the hem — the length of overskirt fabric I bought was juuuust long enough for me to cut it out in such a way that the damask-looking print runs vertically instead of horizontally. Which I’m super thankful for — horizontal would have worked too, but it would have looked a little goofy with the way the print is configured, so I’m glad there was enough!

And that’s it for this part of the process! We made some great progress — one or two more sessions and this thing will be fair-ready! At this rate I might even have time to make a bum roll (which is an old-timey undergarment that isn’t quite as goofy as it sounds; it’s basically a stuffed roll of fabric that’s tied around the waist to make one’s skirts stand out more and create that fashionable square-hipped look that 17th-century ladies were such fans of). Next, I’ll be heading to Ashley’s place for Sewing Session Round Two and we’ll finish the vest with bias tape and add some boning to it, as well as work on the tunic and finish off the skirts. Part Three coming soon!

Making Garb for Ren Fest: Part One

The summer is way too close to being over here in Minnesota — it feels like it’s just begun, and yet I’m already being bombarded by back-to-school stuff in seemingly every store (something that still somehow fills me with dread even though I graduated high school quite some time ago…), and some of my friends are already talking about how they can’t wait for it to get colder, making me want to run away singing LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUU…

However, while it’s getting increasingly harder to continue my annual campaign to forget that winter is a thing, there are upsides to this time of year — it’s almost fair and festival season! And despite my intense dislike of crowds, it’s one of my favorite parts of summertime and early fall.

As will come as no surprise to anyone, I’ve started getting ready for the Renaissance Festival. The one here in the Cities area is one of the best, so I’m told, and this will be my third time going, so I’m pretty stoked. Jousting and fairies and mead, oh my!

And with help from my extremely skilled seamstress/fellow blogger friend Ashley (check out her writerly amazingness here!), I’ll be making my own garb for Ren Fest this year! Or, rather, I’ll be clumsily trying to work my vintage sewing machine with copious amounts of assistance from Ashley (sorry in advance, my friend…I am most definitely going to owe you one by the end of this).

So far, I’ve completed the first step in the process — buying the fabric! Ashley took me to the AMAZING and kind of overwhelming fabric store she regularly frequents for her own sewing needs, and here’s what we found:

These will be the skirt fabrics — the pretty goldy-creamy one will be the underskirt, and the dark navy will be the overskirt. We found the underskirt in the upholstery section — as Ashley showed me, those fabrics tend to have patterns with a more Renaissance-y vibe, and they generally have a nice heft to them that lends itself well to a structured costume like this. After much deliberation over the many options we found, Ashley and I looked at these two together and found that we loved the contrast and richness they have when they’re next to each other.

This will be the vest/corset — another upholstery section find. This is actually the wrong side of the fabric (the motif is a light goldish-tan on the other side), but this side suits my purposes much better. It’s a subtle yet rich pattern that will pair well with the pattern on the underskirt and make the whole ensemble look really nice without making it look overly fancy. I figure I’m going for the middle-class/merchant sort of look as opposed to peasant or noblewoman, based on the combination of fabrics we ended up with.

Here’s the fabric for the tunic — it looks fairly nondescript in the picture, but the fabric has a subtle weave that will give the tunic a nice sheen, and it has a nice drape to it that will make a tunic that has a bit of volume but isn’t overly poofy.

And here’s the pattern! This is the one Ashley used for her first Ren Fest costume as well, so it seems fitting to be doing the same. Mine will look similar to the one on the right.

The next steps will be to wash the fabric, start cutting out the many pieces, and do a JoAnn’s run to get notions — I’m still not sure what color I’ll do for the laces on the bodice, but I’m leaning toward gold or possibly a slightly darker brown. Mostly, I’m planning to go see what they’ve got and be inspired!

I can’t wait to get started! The pattern I’ll be using is fairly simple, and should hopefully be manageable for my (thus far nonexistent) sewing skills. Here’s hoping the bodice cooperates, that I can manage to learn how to sew a grommet, and that there’s not too much seam-ripping in my future!

ALL HAIL!: Recap of CONvergence 2015

So I wouldn’t be any kind of proper nerd if I didn’t attend a convention every once in a while, and last weekend, I did just that — after two years in a row of longing to attend but being unable to, I finally got to go to CONvergence!

CONvergence is one of the biggest comic book/video game/TV show/movie/general nerdery conventions that’s held yearly in the Twin Cities area. It’s always held over the weekend nearest to the 4th of July, and since I was traveling during that time for two summers running, I had to look on from afar as my friends posted scads of envy-inducing photos.

But my cosplaying, people-watching, fangirling dreams were realized this year, and how! It was a jam-packed weekend of panels, cosplay admiration, and visits to party rooms, and it necessitated being around large amounts of humans for long periods of time (something that never fails to wear me down, no matter how much fun I’m having), but I somehow found I mostly had enough stamina for it, which was probably primarily fueled by geeky zeal (and tasty, tasty rice from consuite).

One of the best parts of the convention was the panels — we (my husband and the friends we went with) attended several of them, and enjoyed them immensely. As the theme for the con this year was dystopian/post apocalyptic, events were often punctuated with declarations of “All Hail Mark II!” (in reference to our fearless robotic leader/con mascot, Connie), and had a distinctly sci-fi/speculative fiction/dystopian trope flavor to them overall, which I found delightful, since I’ve read approximately 340874093490 dystopian/post-apocalyptic books during the last several years.

My favorite panels included the ones about Outlander and the works of Georgette Heyer (because I am a highly old-ladyish kind of nerd, more often than not), as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy one which my husband and I attended while wearing our Groot and Rocket costumes (both of which I finished constructing during the wee hours of the previous night and which turned out pretty decently, thank you very much). And let’s not forget the infamous PowerPoint Karaoke panel, in which contestants had to come up with an on-the-spot presentation using a pre-chosen topic, supplemented by 12 completely nonsensical PowerPoint slides they’d never seen before. Joseph Scrimshaw’s talk on fear of public speaking was the winning presentation, and completely deserved to be.

Before this post completes its nosedive into stream of consciousness-land, I’ll leave you with some general highlights of the weekend:

– SO MANY Mad Max cosplays (I now have a mighty need to cosplay as Capable at some point) — there were a ton of really impressive Imperator Furiosas, buzz cuts and all

– Amazing cosplays in general — these events always remind me how many ridiculously talented costume-makers are out there! I can only aspire to such heights…

– Singing “Jackass, Jackass” in the Eolian Inn party room — both the room and the song were inspired by their identically-named counterparts in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind (which I recently read and loved)

– Earning my talent pipes by singing the Outlander show theme song in said party room

– Hearing my husband say “I am Groot!” throughout the first day of the con

– Rolling pods in the Manticoran Army party room (it’s hard to explain, but involves extremely tasty shots of booze)

– Playing Artemis, a group video game in which you fly a spaceship and shoot down your enemies. I was the gunner, which was a grand old time by all accounts, even if I wasn’t particularly good at it

– Watching the masquerade and getting to see a friend showcase the incredible Trainee Link costume she made (complete with HANDMADE CHAINMAIL, YOU GUYS), as well as getting to see the amazing costumes made by the other competitors

– FINALLY seeing Harisen Daiko, the amazing taiko drumming group that three of my good friends are part of, perform their sci-fi medley in person

And of course, the obligatory photo reel!

Some Guardians of the Galaxy friends on day 1!

Hangin’ with Starlord

Watch it, Greedo…

Cosplay day 2 — Rogue, Gambit, and some Browncoats (from Firefly, for the uninitiated)

Legend of Zelda party room

Tasty potions! I had the yellow to fill up all of my heart containers.

So, friends, did you attend CONvergence this year as well, or a similar con? I’d love to hear about your favorite moments — feel free to share with us in the comments!

Let’s Play Nice Together: Cooperative Board Games

Hello, friends! It’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming of nerdy shenanigans. As much as I’m still pondering Quiet and how flippin’ amazing it was, my last few weeks have been filled with heavy thoughts and discussions, and I’m in the mood for something with a bit more levity. And what better thing to choose than the wonderful world that is tabletop gaming? Tabletop gaming (or as normal people like to call it, board games) is one of my more recently acquired nerdy pastimes. I of course played the old standbys like Monopoly (horrors…), Scrabble, Sorry, checkers, Clue, etc. as a child, but I didn’t know then what I know now — those tried-and-true games are just the tip of a very, VERY big iceberg.

Ernie knows; he finds our chunk of that iceberg to be a pretty solid hiding spot.

I mostly have my extremely gaming-savvy husband to thank for introducing me to the near-infinite possibilities that board-gaming offers, as well as a few friends who knew (and still know) way more about it than I do. They showed me that board games aren’t just for family night and half-hearted youth group activities anymore — oh no; you can be part of entire stories now. And since trying to live inside of stories is what I tend to spend much of my waking hours doing, this was a pretty exciting discovery.

Fairly early on in my foray into the vast realm of board games, I decided that by far my favorites of the new games I’ve been lucky enough to play are just about any sort of cooperative game. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, I’m not a very competitive person and tend to lose most regular board games, which is usually fine but gets old after a while (at least when we inevitably lose cooperative board games, we all lose together!). And for another, most allow for more group involvement throughout so that you’re not sitting around waiting for it to be your turn again (granted, most people would be strategizing during these lulls, but why on earth would I ever employ strategy?? Let’s not get too crazy here). Also, cooperative games tend to be more story-based than other types, which, as I said before, I am all about. It all adds up to the perfect gaming formula, at least as far as I’m concerned.

And there are still lots of cooperative games out there that I’d love to try, but for now, here are my favorites:

1. Lord of the Rings

Okay, so I was already predisposed to love this game, and I would probably still love it even if it were crappy. But crappy it most certainly is not. Out of all the cooperative games I’ve played thus far, this one seems to me to be one of the best designed, best paced, and most beautiful.

One of my favorite things about this game is that it predates the movies, so the artwork is done by John Howe, (who ended up doing a lot of the concept art for the films, as it happens), and the characters look nothing like any of the actors, which I kind of love. Since the game is pre-films, this also means that the storyline is faithful to the books in ways that the movies weren’t, or in some cases, couldn’t be, which gives the story new life in a really interesting way.

Each person plays as one of five hobbits: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, or Fatty (Fredegar) Bolger. Fatty Bolger, you guys! Who doesn’t even show up in the movies — he’s that great character from the books who the other four hobbits ask to join them on their journey as they’re fleeing the ringwraiths and is like “LOL, nope.” He gets a second chance to come along in the board game, whether he wants one or not. Sadly, I haven’t gotten to play as him yet, but someday I’ll be playing in a group of five and will be able to.

There is only one way to win the game–you must get past Moria, Helm’s Deep, Shelob’s Lair, and Mordor and throw the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom (obviously). However, there are a bunch of ways to lose, and just when you think you’re doing well, you fall right into one of them. I think I’ve only been part of one winning session of this game, and losing a cooperative game is heart-wrenching enough; with LOTR, you have the added misery of knowing you’ve failed Middle Earth and condemned it to hundreds of years of subjugation and, eventually, complete and utter ruin. Isn’t it great?!

But seriously, you guys. The stakes are high, the artwork is amazing, and the gameplay pulls you in almost as much as the stories themselves do. Do yourself a favor and play this one!

2. Pandemic

This one is either a close second to LOTR or ties for first as far as my favorites go; I can’t decide. It’s another world-saving game, and in this one, you must work with your fellow players to cure and eradicate four deadly diseases that threaten to take over and plunge humanity into the apocalypse.

At the beginning of the game, each player is randomly assigned their role (such as Medic, Dispatcher, Researcher, etc.), and each role has different abilities. For example, the Medic can cure a whole city in one action instead of several, or the Quarantine Specialist can keep an outbreak from happening in any city they’re connected to. The players must work together to keep the different diseases from outbreaking and spreading farther, all the while working to eradicate them.

Much like LOTR, there are a TON of ways to lose this game, and the one way to win is nigh impossible to achieve. This is another one I’ve only been part of a winning session  once or twice, and even then we were playing at the “easy” level. But all those losses somehow haven’t made this game any less fun; the second you lose the game, you just want to start up another round and see if this time, you can get the optimal combination of role cards, or manage to wipe out a disease early on, or some other strategy that will TOTALLY MAKE YOU WIN THIS TIME FOR REALS.

My favorite thing about this game is that it has probably the most group involvement of any I’ve played. Even more than LOTR, it requires the whole team to be constantly strategizing together and contributing ideas about what the group’s next step should be, which makes the game feel really fast-paced and exciting; even when it’s not your turn, you’re still a vital part of the process. It has all the elements that make co-op games great, and just talking about it is making me want to go play it!

3. Castle Panic

This one is probably the simplest of my favorites, and by far the most lighthearted, despite the presence of various monsters. The object of this game is to protect your walled-in castle, which stands at the center of the board, from the attacks of assorted orcs, trolls, goblins, and the occasional giant boulder. Each turn, new monsters appear from the forest into one of four colored quadrants, and move down one ring every time each player has had a turn. Players can attack the monsters heading toward the castle as long as they have a card that corresponds to the colored quadrant and ring a monster is currently in (for example, a red knight or a green archer).

It feels complicated written out, but it isn’t in practice, which is one thing I like about this game; it’s simple enough to pick up quickly, but tricky enough and luck-based enough to make it challenging. It’s a pretty fast one to play, too, which is nice because, if you lose, it’s easy to play another round and try to beat the monsters again, which you will immediately want to do. In short, this game is quick, simple, and has just enough story-ness about it to keep you invested in the safety of your castle.

4. Betrayal in the House on the Hill

Arguably the spookiest of the cooperative games I’ve played, I think of this one as a glorified version of Clue — you’re given a mysterious scenario to solve as a group by traveling through the various rooms and levels of a scary, decrepit old house full of things like burned-out rooms and mysterious splotches on the walls. It’s easy enough until the Haunt happens and one of the other players who’s supposedly been on your side the whole time suddenly betrays you!

The rest of you must then both fulfill the win conditions of your scenario while trying to keep the betrayer from picking you off, one by one. The great thing about this one is its variety — there are dozens of scenarios to play through, each with its own win conditions and betrayer, both of which are assigned at random. Add that to the fact that you (or at least I, because I’m a giant wimp) are bound to get just a little creeped out by the story you’re immersing yourself into, and you have a game with a lot of great depth and intensity that makes you want to keep coming back to see what creepy story you can get yourself embroiled in next.

5. Elder Sign

Capitalising on the Lovecraftian flavor that most of nerddom seems to have taken on lately, this game puts your group in a spooky museum, wherein you must keep the gates to another dimension shut to prevent The Old One or Cthulu or Azathoth or some other of H.P. Lovecraft’s horrors from appearing and destroying the world.

Elder Signs is kind of Arkham Horror lite, for those of you who have played that one, and is great for getting into the Lovecraftian world when you don’t want to spend half a day there. What I like most about this game is the creepy factor — from the flavor text to the artwork to the setting itself, it’s so delightfully spooky and otherworldly, while being vaguely steampunk. It’s a really cool aesthetic, and makes the game both delightfully nerdy and compelling enough to keep you coming back to it.

A downside to this one is that it’s really complicated–it has a lot of pieces, a lot of cards, and a lot of incidental rules that are hard to remember. I’ve played this one a few times, and it seems like we’re always discovering some rule about something we’ve been doing wrong the whole time. Another con is that this one has probably the least amount of group involvement and highest amount of individual decision-making of any co-op game I’ve played. This is really sort of a personal downside; as a poor strategist who would rather work together with a group and defer the final decision to someone else, I sort of have to work myself up to play this one (in other words, I am a lazy bum).

That said, I do enjoy this game quite a bit — the stakes are high enough to keep things really exciting, but the difficulty level is just low enough (but only barely just) to allow players to actually win the thing once in a while, which is immensely satisfying.

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So there you have it, friends! Have you played any of these games yourself? What were your thoughts? What other co-op games have you played and loved? Let’s hear it!