I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. – M. Cole
So, I’ve finished a story I’ve been working on for…. oh 10 years or more. I figured I needed to finish something since I’m depressed, tired and generally pissed off about a job that I interviewed for and then the employer decided that, at 3:30 on a Friday, they had to “rethink” the position.
It’s a sword and sorcery story, the beginning of a long possible set of stories about D&D characters we played long ago that I am very fond of. It’s nothing original, but not much is. It’s how you do it, not how original it is. It’s loosely based in the Forgotten Realms, but my husband’s version. Some names are the same, a lot of details aren’t.
If you are interested, you are welcome to read the 42 pages I wrote. If not, no harm no foul. If you like to do some critique, I welcome it. If you are just out to be mean, trust me, no one is as hard on me as myself. I won’t be impressed.
This painting was much more of a challenge. The most peculiar part is the pauldrons on the outside of the coat. There are a couple of ways one can interpret the painting. 1. There is a coat and there are indeed pauldrons on the outside of it (the way I went)., then there is a breastplate under the coat and a gold gambeson under that. 2. It could also be interpreted that that the “coat” is really a long vest, and the paracountess is wearing a red gambeson under her breastplate/pauldrons, and a gold shirt under that. On afterthought, I think the second version would have been a bit easier.
The photo shows the costume well enough. I do need to remember to have my tall husband sit when he takes pictures of me so I’m not looking any more short and squat than needed by the angle 🙂
The pauldrons are also small in the image and for them to stay in place they need to be bigger or have some type of odd harness to get them to be where they are. I had straps under the arms and two across the back.
I bought a jumbo sheet of Worbla for this experiment. I got it at cosplaysupplies.com, it comes with free shipping. This was 100 cm x 150 cm. I had this and a little left of the small sheet that I had initially ordered. At the moment, I probably have about 2 square feet of it left. Out of this I made bracers, a breast plate, pauldrons/spaulders, and a cutlass, plus the staff for Ezren. It cuts with a large pair of scissors (think regular sewing shears), and it is moldable like clay (rather hot clay, since it has to be heated before you can form it).
There is no secret for how any of these were made: it was trial and error. I used thin cardboard (beer boxes) to make patterns. I did reference various armor tutorials online and I’ve seen my share having once been a member of the SCA. Cardboard doesn’t quite move like heated Worbla but it does the trick.
Once I cut out the worbla after finessing the cardboard patterns, I needed to decide how thick it had to be. A tutorial on the worbla website had how to avoid using a complete sandwich of worbla/craft foam/worbla and I was able to cut down on how much I needed. You can see the technique here. You can also see how I rigged the strapping. I used plastic clips to hold the straps where I didn’t use elastic bands.
To heat the Worbla, I used a regular heat gun that you can get at any hardware/home improvement store. I also used the sun, since we had a few 90+ degee (F) days and I just let the Worbla sit in the sun. Small pieces can get too warm, and I literally had to lift some of them up with a spatula. The larger ones just got soft enough for me to only need a few seconds with the heat gun to finish the forming. One tip I have to offer is to use baking parchment (paper infused with silicone) to use under your worbla parts. Then they won’t stick if they get too hot. The paper can also show you when you are getting too enthusiastic with the heat gun since it turns brown at around 400 degrees (F). It *will* burn. Continue reading “What the Boss Likes – Gen Con 2016 and our adventures in cosplay, part 3”→
At most science fiction and fantasy based conventions, there is cosplay popping up. This is at its simplest, recreating a costume of a favored character and wearing it around. It can get as complicated as acting like the character when interacting with other cosplayers or with the audience. The idea is as old as SF/F conventions but has become much more prevalent recently. I’m going to guess that this is because it isn’t as odd as it used to be, there is the internet and technology has improved so much that one isn’t limited to a copy of a Starfleet uniform. There are also tv shows like Face Off (make up and effects) and Heroes of Cosplay to make it more familiar.
Gen Con isn’t by far the most popular convention for cosplay. You can look to the various Comicons and Dragon Con for that. However, more and more folks are partaking. I decided last year that I wanted to try my hand at it and gave myself a year to do two costumes. I refused to be sewing the costumes my hotel room. I really hated that Heroes of Cosplay show for being idiotic in amping up the drama and stress for no reason (well, there was a reason, some humans like to see misery).
My personal opinion is that cosplay is best done if you physically resemble the character that you choose to play. I know that many people disagree with this, and I do understand why. However, there are characters I’d love to cosplay and it would simply be ridiculous (think Storm from X-men in her punk phase being played by me). I figured I could make a decent middle aged villainess and my husband is a great Ezren even without the costume.
This isn’t a “how-to” blog post. It isn’t step by step. If the reader has any questions that aren’t answered, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to explain what I did and why. I’m a seamstress of middling ability (lots of work in doing historical re-enactment garb) and I have a good mind when it comes to tearing apart images and figuring out how they would work in three dimensions. I also have a fairly high tolerance for failure, and most importantly funds that I can play with. Continue reading “What the Boss Likes – Gen Con 2016 and our adventures in cosplay – part 2”→
Well, we’re home from GenCon. A very nice vacation and I’m exhausted. Here are some more photos of what we saw and did out in Indianapolis. If anyone sees a photo that they would like a copy of, I do still have the original digital files. I’ll probably keep those around for a few weeks. The following are my cleaned up versions of what I took. (part one of this series can be found here)
Meet the blog’s new mascot, Ruby. One of my other hobbies, other than cooking, collecting unusual alcohol and dealing with religion, is sewing. I used to do a lot of sewing of costumes for historical recreation and for science fiction cons, as well as for my friends. I got out of the habit a few years back for various reasons.
One day, when cleaning up the house, I stumbled upon an old pattern I had bought more than 10 years ago. It was a pattern for a dragon, and I had wanted to make one after I had been cheated by someone who was to make me one and who took my money and ran. A pity that some people can be such vermin, but it did lead to me to this point.
The pattern was from Smallworks, a pattern company by the very talented Melinda Small. The dragon pattern is here. It’s very small and detailed pattern, and I was unable to accomplish some of the finer turning of the tail and horns so they’ve been altered to meet my sewing level. The pattern does have very good directions but I have no idea just how one could actually do the turning through the narrow areas. Evidently it’s not impossible, thanks to Ms. Small’s photos; I simply was unable to do it myself. Ms. Small uses an old technique, called button joints, to great effect in this little beastie. The buttons can be seen as the small circles at the joints.
The fabrics are a odd dark red linen I bought years ago that is shot through with real copper threads. That’s what gives the glistening effect. The purple is a black and purple shot taffeta. I would not suggest using such a fabric, unless you know how to deal with the fraying edges. I was using what was in the stash I have. The eyes are black faceted beads from an old broken necklace. I intentionally used black thread so I could see what I was doing on this test subject.
Ruby is my first attempt at the pattern and she didn’t come out too badly at all. I don’t think she’s a dragon; being an old Dungeons and Dragons player, I find that all dragons need four legs and two wings. A critter like this with two wings and only back feet is a wyvern to me. 🙂 I know I know, fantasy purist…. I’ll be working on my own pattern for a while and hopefully get a working dragon before we go to GenCon this August.
Here’s couple of old pictures of my earlier costuming work for your delectation and amusement:
Finally, a picture of our cat, Muffin, being cute.
Finally, we have a new beer brewed by us. This is Northern Brewer’s Elevenses, a recipe that they co-created with John Palmer, evidently a well-known homebrewer, but you couldn’t prove it by me. In that both my husband and I spend inordinate amounts of time imagining what our sword and sorcery characters eat and drink, of course we had to make this.
We used the partial mash version rather than the all-grain version, but the partial mash has all of just over 3 pounds of malt syrup and the rest is grain. So, in that, it’s a great way to get your courage up to start brewing all-grain recipes. One thing you will need is one very large sieve (VLS) or a large colander to drain the boiled grains. I got my VLS at a second hand shop. Another piece of equipment that you should have is a hydrometer to determine the amount of alcohol in the ale. I broke mine into about a bazillion tiny pieces and thus have no idea what the ABV of this is. It’s designed to be a session beer so it’s likely around 4.5 or 5%.
One other thing that we did that may be a bit unusual: I toasted the oats as recommended but I did it in the microwave, 15 seconds at a time and stirring, until I got the color and aroma I wanted.
The ale is described as a brown ale. The head is light brown and settles to a skim after about 20 minutes. The ale a dark brown more toward a porter in my opinion. It looks like a mug of cola when the head dies down. The smoke flavor from the oak smoked wheat malt is a little too strong for my absolute pleasure but it’s not undrinkable like I consider rauchbier to be. I just like my smoke in my pipe and in my fish not in my drink. 🙂 This is lightly hopped, only three-quarters of an ounce of German hops. Incidentally, we used the Wyeast Thames Valley Ale option. No reasons except that I like the smack packs puffing up.
We’re thinking of making this again but with some tweaks. My ideal ale for a bunch of hobbits would be a little less smoky and a little more full in mouthfeel. To achieve this, I think backing off the oak smoked malt and adding more flaked oats. This ale does need a decent amount of time in the bottle, at least a month, to fully come together.
As an explanation of what “boggie slobber” has to do with this ale, some of you may be familiar with Lord of The Rings. Some fewer of you may be familiar with the parody Bored of the Rings (beware, it’s a TV Tropes link and I’m not responsible for the hours you may lose), by the folks at the Harvard Lampoon back in the late 60s (these folks became the National Lampoon later). This is a hilarious, utterly filthy parody that I first stumbled upon in college at a book sale. Thanks to that sale, I have an original copy complete with rather psychedelic cover. I’ve rarely laughed so hard over a book.
It is dated, with references even I had to research, and I know loads of useless trivia. It can be a little like listening to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” if you were born after 1990. Tom Bombadil becomes Tim Benzedrine, to give you an idea of just how bizarre this book is. You can read a little of it here on Amazon thanks to their “look inside” feature. If you get easily offended and will get in a snit as a LOTR purist, don’t read it.
We’ve not taken a vacation for a couple of years due to various circumstances. So this year, we decided to go somewhere relatively close to us here in central Pennsylvania but somewhere we’ve never been before. We chose the Finger Lakes region of New York state, a place full of wineries, restaurants and interesting geology.
First thing I’ll tell you that in my opinion there are too many wineries up there. The place started in wine production back in the 1800s, had a pause thanks to the utter ridiculous idea of Prohibition, and restarted in the 1970s. There are some very good ones and then the rest? Well, it’s far too many people making meh wine to cash in on the tourists. And the meh wine can be dry or sweet, it’s just not anything special.
There are a few breweries springing up and distilleries. I’ll get into detail on some of them later. The breweries will likely get too many also since hop production is returning to the Finger Lakes and the state is offering tax incentives to use them.
The area is very much like where my husband and I grew up, though writ larger with the hills being twice as high and the valleys twice as wide. (nice satellite photo here, the lakes are at the bottom) As the name indicates, there are lakes, long, narrow and some quite deep (the deepest, Seneca, getting over 600’ or 188 meters). These are the result of glaciers and very soft rock, mostly shale, created from the erosion of the old mountains on the east coast.
We stayed on Keuka Lake in Hammondsport. We also spent some time around Seneca Lake, the largest of the lakes. My husband is having a great time postulating lake monsters, and with US Navy testing equipment in Seneca, it has all sorts of possibilities for stories on how the tests aren’t tests at all….. 🙂
These posts are going to combine stops along the road, reviews of food, wine, etc and of course my opinions. I’m going to try to keep it vaguely chronological.
We headed up US Route 15 which is pretty much a straight shot between Harrisburg PA and the lakes. We stopped in Watkins Glen, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. It’s the location of the Watkins Glen state park, with great geology. It also has the Watkins Glen NASCAR racetrack, an American pastime that seems to be nothing more than high-speed chariot racing, with the audience just as blood thirsty as the ancient Romans. It supposedly had its origins in the bootleggers from Prohibition who had to get their illegal alcohol cargo in and out fast. (incidentally, my husband’s grandmother, Effie, was one of those bootleggers, she was the hammer girl in the backseat who would smash the glass bottles so the liquor could drain out the holes drilled in the floor of the car. Thus, law enforcement would not catch them with the goods). As you can see, the leaves are beginning to turn colors thanks to autumn in these latitudes.
We stopped for lunch at the Wildflower Café/Crooked Rooster Brew Pub (they stock Rooster Fish Brewing’s ales). One reason we wanted to stop there is that they have deep fried jalepeno peppers. Also got a blue cheese burger and a caprese Panini (tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil). Beers were a good Hefeweizen for myself and a classic Mysterious amber ale for my husband. Most of the small towns in the area are full of lovely Victorian mansions, results from the old wealth of timber, etc.
After lunch we headed to the state park, right on the edge of town. The ad copy for the park says that it leaves visitors spellbound. It also leaves them breathless, literally. The park is a chasm between 200 foot cliffs and has 800 plus steps on slippery rock paths that are all up from the town. Sometimes they have a shuttle to bring you back down but they didn’t have that when we visited. You want to be in shape for this and have good shoes. Also, take water. There’s plenty of it in the chasm but none to drink.
The park is very similar looking to the slot canyons in the US southwest and other parts of the world, although it’s wetter and darker. The chasm is lined with walkways, all about one person wide. They do have walls on them but the walls only go up to about mid-thigh. If you have issues with heights, I would recommend giving this place a pass. See photos in the gallery below.
Since my husband and I do like our sword and sorcery fiction, this all looks like where one would be meeting dwarves or elves. One can imagine just how hard it would be to fight with sword and shield on such a small path.
Next post, more about the wine, mead, whiskey and food.
This weekend, it being a little cooler than last, we decided to grill. I pulled out a recipe from my latest issue of Saveur Magazine, Gai Yahng or Thai style chicken with sweet chili sauce. It is basically a cilantro and garlic marinade for chicken, which you then grill. I find gas grills to be banes of my existence, never getting hot enough and making everything taste of propane. I’m of the opinion I may as well just cook on my gas stove on cast iron. We grill with charcoal, preferably hardwood charcoal pieces and not briquets (our grill here, sans optional smoker box). For chicken, I find that indirect grilling works best (instructions here), with the coals under one part of the grill grates and the other side empty. Then you can control just how much heat the chicken gets. It took about 50 minutes to grill 4 fat thighs to an internal temp of approximately 200 degrees F (around 100 celcius).
This recipe made some of the best grilled chicken we’ve had in a long time. However, you *must* love cilantro and garlic. I made a basic shredded carrot salad with a basic vinaigrette with cumin, paprika and just a pinch of cinnamon and caynne. Quinoa with toasted onions rounded out the meal.
For beverage, we got the new Leinenkugel shandy pack (all cans). They have just come out with an orange shandy to join their already tasty lemon and lemon/berry shandies. The orange has a great but not overly sweet true orange flavor. They *all* went very well with the grilled spicy chicken. They don’t even have the orange on their website yet, so here’s a link to the lemon.
The movie for the weekend was Jack the Giant Slayer. I will have to say that I wasn’t expecting it to be very good. However, I thought it was one of the better fantasy movies I’ve seen in a long long while. It had appealing characters, the bad guy gets what he deserves, decent CGI and it was a great deal of fun to watch even for this pair of 45+ year old nerds.