Saturday, December 31, 2011

Medieval Yule Feast

Here’s the timeline of me not getting my act together until the very last second.   Hey, at least my fails are very well documented...
Sept 4th
Been spending a lot of time thinking about SCA wear, unless I want to miss Yule for lack of anything to wear. 
Besides clothes for everybody we need some feast gear and where to get that? Need to shop garage sales for any old-looking plates, knives and cups, and a basket to carry stuff in. 
Can I sew anything? Still after these months don't have a dress even for myself, but enough about that. 
Note to self!  As the writing teachers tell you, thinking is not doing! 
Oct 12th
At the goodwill I found a great, thick white organic cotton bathrobe for me for $7!  And looked for feast gear, but was unsure what to get.  I did get two plain blue pottery plates. 
Oct 13th
This morning I looked at a lot of pics online of people’s feast gear.  Dave looked around downstairs and came up with a couple of crockery cups that'll work very well. The blue plates I got are ideal, we need a few more like that. And a basket! And candles, I didn't think of that but what fun to eat by candlelight! That'll give it atmosphere! Andrea asked about garb.  She asked what the kids are going to do?  I said I'm going to make the kids something. She asks WHEN, and haven't I saved enough pictures and should actually sew something now? That's a very valid suggestion. 
Oct 14th
Went to Goodwill and found some great inline skates, and bought two more plates for medieval feast. 
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night wanting a steak.  Went to store today, looked at filet mignon, it’s $15 / lb, and apparently top sirloin is next best.  There was a lady in the meat section, what a beautiful lady!  Small, with a pretty face, nice even features, a friendly and pleasant expression, clear skin, classic blue eyed blonde, sure you see them like her quite often, but not back in the meat section stocking shelves with bloody slabs wrapped in plastic. 
I told her I’d woke up wanting a steak but didn’t know anything about steak.  She said that rib eye was very nice meat, but chuck eye is the same and is cheaper, it was only $6 / lb.  It looked very nice, and it cooked up very nicely, too.  The lady pointed me towards tenderizer, but unfortunately I read the ingredients, so I just salted that meat up and cooked it slowly on both sides.  It smelled funny at first, and then started smelling extremely delicious and tasted delicious.  It was as soft as chewing on candy and tasted BETTER.  Had it with a salad and I must say that was a very satisfying steak. 
I digress. 
Oct 26th
Sigh, even going in there to sew a square to cheer up doesn't work, when I should be doing medieval and I know I'm just gonna fall down on that again too, we won't have anything to wear to Yule etc etc, stupid woman. 
Yep, berating self.  How useful and helpful! 
Nov 4th
Made a couple steps on the new blue dress, but I'm gonna shelve it right after it's basically together, must work on medieval and not swerve, must get act together for Yule!
Okay, off to bed now
Now pep-talking self!  But you notice that no actual steps were taken towards Yule sewing. 
Nov 6th
I MUST sew for Yule feast, the reservations just came by email…
Translation:  on Nov 6th, I didn’t sew for Yule feast. 
Nov 9th
Found more cool feast gear at Goodwill, three nifty old pottery looking goblets and some other stuff. 
Nov 19th
Right at the moment, dinner’s over and they're watching a movie, I have a bit of precious TIME on my hands, but I don't care if my story gets written or our Yule clothes get sewn, my fiction is stupid, boring and pointless and Yule probably won't work out, it's too much work for one short event at which I'll probably feel uncomfortable the whole time anyway. 
Whoops, sometimes we get interrupted by an outgoing message from the pit. 
Dec 2nd
… and here's an email from the SCA, they’re going to have a "sewing day" and it’s during the daytime!  It’s a long way off, but I could leave all the kids home and make a trip down there for some sewing help and advice, this Yule thing is kind of assuming importance in my life…
Well, I’m not going to the sewing thing, I had an idea for what to do for the boys after looking at the medieval coloring book, I CAN DO THAT therefore I must get busy and do that, oh poor me, the talking of self into things that I have to do! See, I'm in here talking to you.  I don't know if anybody would understand this NEED to psyche myself into stuff, blah. 
Wait, I remember finding … sitting in front of a Steven Seagal movie and telling me he was "getting himself into the mood to exercise", at that fail-proof age I thought, But if you want to exercise why don’t you just go start exercising??? 
Anyway yeah, must go in there and unearth some black and some white, cut out a shape for the boys, come on, I know the steps, just gotta DO it!
And later: 
Yule also seems particularly pointless. Why am I going through all this? Their food won't be any better than mine at home, so why bother?  Just for the challenge level?  For the fun of sewing something different?  I sense possibility of public embarrassment which doesn't do anything for me.  Oh well, can't give up right at this point... on we go.
Translation:  I didn’t sew today. 
Dec 12
Zooming out of the house only… I got no further than the end of the driveway.  And I really should have noticed sooner.  I even commented that the van didn’t feel like it wanted to drive today!  The tire was completely flat, flat as a pancake, down to the rims.  I backed up just to get back in our yard again, and the tire started flopping!  It was going very dramatically wrong, driving on rims on the ground and the tire coming all the way off.  I backed only far enough to get out of the way and stopped right there. 
I probably should have stopped at the neighbors but I'd rather cut the tire all up with the rims and have to buy a new one than be marooned blocking the road and have to work on the tire out there tomorrow morning!
Went in house and got dirty clothes on, tried to get rim off with crowbar, way not as easy as the tire guys make it look.  It was already pitch dark and freezing cold out there.  I told Ed about the tire, and he came right home instead of buying chicken, but he really didn’t intend to work on the tire in the dark!  So there he was home and we had no dinner.  Scramble.   
It’s been freezing out there all day long, even when I went out at three in the afternoon to get eggs the whole ground was covered with frost, crackling and white, very pretty, but you don't want to be out in it. 
So the van was gets to sit on the rim on the tire all night, and there’s nothing I can do about it. 
Dec 13
Hard to get out of bed, it's so delightfully cozy with a feather blanket!  VERY COLD air rushes in as soon as I move it.  Took me a while to talk myself into getting up. 
Gotta have some van adventures today, get on the phone early, hopefully get a spare on there and drive to Costco. 
Remember my last flat tire?  Various helpful people in a parking lot couldn’t get my spare loose or the rims off, and I've neglected to tell anybody afterwards to do something about either problem.  When they aligned the van I could have asked them to practice getting the bloody spare loose.  Could have.  If. 
I did Walk It Out for a brief time to get myself warmed up a little.  It's 60 in the house!  My fingers feel too cold to type. 
Hey, done by 2:30!   That wasn't so bad. 
I went outside in the freezing, got the van owner’s manual and read the directions, got the spare down and then realized how silly that was.  You only need a spare if you’re not in your own yard.  I am in my yard.  Hm.  Followed directions and put the spare back up again. 
The idea here is to jack up the van and take the wheel off.  The little jack that comes with the van works really slick!  Got the flappy flat tire off and phoned the bus.  It was 11:20 and they happened to have a ride going in at 11:45.  Of course ALL the kids wanted to go on a bus ride, I mean what a huge thrill!   So we had to scramble. 
I used that short piece of thick yellow rope (which has come in so handy so many times) to carry the wheel down the road to the bus, sharing the burden alternately with girls.  That wasn’t so bad. 
The bus is never any fun!  The bus is nice and the driver is nice, but oh, the company you end up with! 
A bus trip every now and then is good for me.  It makes me love my veeehicles that much the more!  I wanted to French kiss Ed's truck when I finally got to it, sitting there shining in its crappy Maaco paint job glory. 
Went into tire shop, carrying this popcorn-looking wheel on a yellow rope.  That great guy who owns the place said, “Wait-- you were on your tire swing and it broke?”  and the next guy over doubled over laughing so hard he had to sit down. 
I got a lot of astonished looks from people this whole trip which did a great deal for my spirits!  One guy came by while I was holding the folded rope while waiting for the tire to be worked on, and asked if the rope was for beating them to make them work faster!  Ha! 
So they said the tire was okay, showed me this gigantic hole that had been punched in it, patched it and remounted it, and away I went with it.  At least now I can roll it instead of carrying. 
Came home, jacked up the van further and put the tire back on, and I was feeling very HOT I assure you, for accomplishing this thing, my very first tire change of my life! 
All that happened instead of the second SCA sewing day that I didn’t go to. 
Dec 14
Went to Jo-Ann, and as usual was totally inspired to leave without buying anything.  Looked at baskets for feast, they want $12 for a stupid junky basket made in China, EVERYTHING in there from China, even the trim was from China! And I would rather wear a plain boring unadorned dress than benefit China by yet another $3 / yd!
Looked at grommet pliers too.  They're only grommet pliers (the ones that I had and can’t find now also did snaps) and they're like $26, they were actually made in USA but that doesn't mean I want to buy a duplicate of something I know I already have somewhere at home!  I simply despise that habit which some people I know have, of buying another instance of an item because you can't locate the first one among your piles of junk. 
Day before the feast: 
Really need to go shopping today, we need a bunch of things, but I really must not. Trim for blue dress, headgear for me, purse, and something to carry dishes in, black pants for boys, and the applique on their vests, what else? All of that TODAY.  By rights we should go shopping, it's almost the last Saturday before Christmas, but I did sign up for this Yule feast back in July! 
By 3:30, I've basically accomplished a purse.  That blue dress is so ugly I'll be ashamed to be seen in it, but I'm going to go, and get through this, if I can.
Best I can do right now is to not lose my temper at the kids.
Just been outside searching the surrounds for what might have flattened the tire, with no such luck.  I thought a breath of air might help, it didn't. 
Court isn't until four tomorrow and feast at 6:30, so we don't have to leave here before two, I can assemble some kind of burlet tomorrow morning.  


The problem with the blue dress is that it looks too much like an underdress.  That’s what I intended it for at first.  So, I got up THE DAY OF THE FEAST and started an overdress!  I cut it out of a dark green queen-size sheet (cutting around a cigarette burn hole—I wonder who I got this from?) with satin orange sleeves and collar facing. 
I cut the orange sleeves a bit snug.  I don’t know if it’ll work, but it’s gotta go together now, one way or other!  So I sewed like my tail feathers were on fire.  PANIC is such a great motivator!!! 
I started at 8:00 and skipped breakfast.   Dilbert says, “If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” 
So, we don't have a basket for our feast gear, but the boys have those two large beach bags of simple striped cotton with canvas handles, they'll do. 
I don't have cloth napkins, so I'll just smuggle a roll of paper towels and keep them hidden.  I scooped up some candles and candlesticks that don’t look too modern, one carved marble and two brass. 
I machine topstitched the reverse collar facing.  At least it'll look okay from a distance, it will not bear closer inspection.  Later on, I'll hand-embroider over the top of it to hide it.  (Sure, I will!) 
There was no time for any hem but fold over and zigzag, and I was zigzagging as fast as the machine will go, which is very fast.  I usually don't do that because I don't like that machine-at-top-speed whizzing sound.  This was about the time the event was starting, fifty miles away. 
Found grommet pliers, right where I put them, and neatly labelled too.  With them in hand, putting laces in the back of Karen's dress too minutes.  Yes, that's a shoelace.  We're down to the wire now...
The girls got dressed and looked really cool.  They were in extreme doubt about the advisability of trying to make a dress for me at this point, but then all of a sudden it was done!  Suddenly it was ready, and it looked nice, too! 
I’d cut out a veil, machine-hemmed the edge and basted it to the burlet, and to my shock it worked just fine.  I was afraid it would blow right off or fall off, but it didn't, it seemed to magically cling where it's supposed to be, and it was the finishing touch which made it all look properly medieval. 
So I was ready, and I actually felt like I looked good!  What a great feeling!  Like the fairy godmother had been by and I get to go to the feast. 
What a relief too, when it was so unplanned and I wasn't sure how it would look, but that "striving for perfection and accomplishing nothing in the meantime" is what held me back all along.  At zero hour there's nothing else to do but hurry in the most promising direction. 
There was SOME foresight, you know, such as paying the extra money for a contact lens prescription last time I went in, and buying those $1 each single-use lenses.  And the shoes!  We have three pair of ladies black suede boots around here, which I bought with exactly this in mind.  The boys’ last pair of everyday sneakers were chosen for their quality of being plain black and unadorned by any bright colors or logos that would mark them as obviously modern. 
Imported necklace that I couldn't resist for $9 at Forever 21.  It's got that foursquare cruciform look that I like so well, and I think the "cheap China crap" clunky quality actually makes it seem more convincingly medieval.  Maybe should have lost the tassel, but didn't have time to decide on that. 
The green drawstring purse I made is substandard in so many ways and should have been totally different, but hey, it’s there and it works.  All that junk modern people have to haul around with them fits in the bag and it looks okay to just carry the bag in my hand. 
So we hopped in the van (which already felt weird; the van is NOT period accurate) and off we went. 
Had to stop first into Toys R Us to get the Toys for Tots contribution we’d been asked to bring (which in lieu of any fee for the event was surely reasonable).  Honestly, I was hoping for some reaction in there!  The door greeter said he loved my dress, he said he really, really loved my dress (with emphasis in order to pass along that it was his genuine opinion and he wasn't just doing his job right now) but aside from him, everybody else was scrambling around crazily shopping for Christmas and nobody batted an eyelid!  I was a fair bit disappointed!  At least the cashier should comment, I hoped, but she didn’t seem to notice anything out of the usual. 
Americans are used to ignoring very strange things, I guess. 
So we drove out to this nice large hall out in a rural area, where the event was.  On the way there I had a full blown nervous fit complete with breathing and heartrate, and was lucky to be able to keep driving.  It’s true what they said, “You poor thing, you don't get out much, do you?” 
But walking into there was definitely a wish come true.  We were there, and we looked respectable enough to hold our heads up.  Everybody else had a very varied assortment of garb, and we fit right in! 
We had our feast gear.  They said to just sit anywhere, so I looked for an open table.  Basically the only spot left with enough seats was right up front with a great view of the thrones.  I suppose it's natural that all the sides along the walls and in the back would be taken first, maybe human instinct to get a defensible position, or modesty?  But as far as finding somewhere to sit to enjoy the show, our spots were premium. 
I didn't want to walk around or interact, I was happy just to be there.  Look at that, it really did work out and I'm really here!  It had a certain familiarity, because I’ve looked at so many photo albums of feasts on the internet, with all the lords and ladies walking around, and this was kinda like that only real, and with no right-clicking, but with a better view of the details. 
An extravert sat down and introduced himself, and started giving us all kinds of interesting information about how the whole crown system works and stuff.  I said it was my first event, and then felt like a liar twice; as I’ve not only been to the Port Gamble event which it turns out this guy used to organize, I've also already met the chatelain at a different meeting long ago.  Well, I meant it was my first real event where I was dressed up!  It gets no more real than this, except for entering a contest. 
And then there was the king.  OMG it’s a KING!!!! 
Have definitely never seen such a thing before.  I had been wondering how I was going to handle all that.  Will I be an American butthead and have to be told to bow?  I really hadn’t decided about that yet. 
Well it was actually SO MUCH FUN to see a real freaking KING, and everybody bowing or curtseying to him or even to his empty throne as they walked by it, and I was so impressed and thrilled that I seriously wanted to play along, too. 
But, oops:  it didn’t work out for me.  I actually walked right by the KING on his throne at one point, not realizing what I was doing until it was too late, and I couldn’t manage anything:  not through unwillingness, or any desire to have my head lopped off, it was just that my intractable uncooperative American knees didn't bend. 
Anyway, the KING and the QUEEN (for our next thrill, yes, really!!) were both totally lovely.  They were regal and sweet and gracious, and humorous.  F’rinstance, when the queen was presented with a little sheep plushie, she went on about how important sheep were to their whole economy, but, “It looks like somebody put this one in the dryer on hot!”
Someone warned me that court was going to be long and wearisome.  I didn’t mind.  I was just watching the court and everything was wonderfully entertaining.  Even though it did get a bit long, I didn't get tired of watching the people all around us. 
The group next to us at the table had it totally going on.  It was a mom and dad and grandma and three lovely daughters who were rocking Italian renaissance complete with luxurious tied sleeves and embroidered bodices and strings of pearls woven into the hair.  Whoa. 
But the couple on my other side were both wearing glasses and Nike shoes, who'd brought their Victorian-era plates in a plastic Safeway bag, the lady with her modern  purse and the gentleman with his can of pop, and no sign of shame. 
I decided at that point not to worry any more about my topstitching! 
I also noticed a lot of people with modern printed fabric in medieval-looking designs, and it looked fine.  I’m totally hacking up the gorgeous scales fabric and making it into something.  And we’ll bring some ruddy forks henceforward; everybody else has them! 
Besides the king and queen, we had two barons and baronesses, who proceeded to declare war on each other over the taxation of a baby—in loud angry voices with grins on their faces, which was perfect fun to watch! 
Then came the food.  Food was very tasty, although just unfamiliar enough that the kids didn’t eat much.  That’s okay, they came out with cake (it’s a chunk of a dragon’s tail, get it?) and the cake was recognizable! 
Yule-Feast-20  Yule-Feast-19
So, I got to go to the ball.  That was my Cinderella event!  But I assure you I was all evented out by about 8:30 and just as happy to go home again  :-) 
On the way home Dave told me he'd encountered the KING in the restroom, and asked what his name was!  And he got a nice friendly answer.  The king’s name is Thorin. 
Dave wants to join.  He’s all over this one.  He wants into this organization, wants to compete and get awarded a rank and be recognized before the KING.  Mike too.  Andrea wants to do the archery...

Monday, December 26, 2011

The $10 Christmas Tree

We have a plastic tree that we pull out every year, but it’s just not the same as the real thing. 

The kids hauled out the Christmas junk in enthusiasm on November 20th this year, which ticked me off extremely.  They asked Daddy and Daddy said okay! 

I snobbishly declined to help in the decorating process at all.   I figured the kids would make a royal mess of everything, and then I’d have the satisfaction of knowing they did it all wrong and somehow that would make me feel happy inside.  But… Karen was in charge of decorating and it came out like fairyland, really beautiful.  The plastic tree was a picture, and they had nice application of lights and symmetrical draping of garland around the living room.  They even got the garland over the doorways mostly even.  They did the downstairs too, and put the smaller plastic tree in the boys’ room. 

So the whole house was decorated for Christmas for Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is the only holiday I really like and get enthusiastic about, and I don’t appreciate its being trespassed upon that way. 

(I don’t mind New Years or Valentine’s Day, which may be pagan but at least aren’t masquerading as anything else, but there isn’t that much to do on those dates.) 

Well… I ignored it and did my whole turkey feast and THANKS thing as well as I could. 

After that it was okay.  I’ve said before, I admit the pagans had a valid point re lights.  In Northern parts it does get very dark and we may be tempted to panic that the sun will die and never come back again.  The lights do cheer our eyeballs up a bit. 

And the good thing about the plastic tree is that we don’t have to pay money for it, and we don’t have to kill a tree. 

On Dec 21 we all got some kind of foodborne illness thing, which caused me a great deal of interesting symptoms, but I’ll spare you having to skip through the description.  What with the lost sleep and the tummy pains and overall weakness and unhappiness, I suddenly HAD TO HAVE A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE.  I don’t know why that follows, but it just did.  I was too sick to tolerate that plastic mockery of a fake tree any more.   Ed said he wanted a nice fancy Christmas this year, and now I needed Christmas to smell like Christmas. 

So I dragged my barely-mobile self into the van with a couple kids, a tarp, a rope and a saw.  There’s a place just up the road where I got a tree more than a dozen years ago, for only $20.  If they weren’t still a going concern, there was another place over the hill that I was sure was;  I had seen them when I drove by, harvesting the trees that would end up for sale at Walmart for $45.  I had a twenty in my pocket and was ready to bargain. 

Well I stopped at the place just up the road first, and this is what I saw: 


Hm, I’d say they’re not in business any more!  A guy came out of the house and told me the tree business had been his father’s thing and that was a long time ago. 

I asked if I could have one of the little ones for $10, and he said Sure, he guessed so.  Or a top off one of the big ones would be okay too.  He had to go back in the house and take care of his grandson. 

Those overgrown stalks are noble firs! 

I didn’t have to behead one of the tall ones.  There was a little tree just a bit taller than me growing up almost in the roadway, a nice little noble fir though unsuitable for tree sales anyway because of the duplicate trunk that it had, and one really long branch sticking out.  Who cares, it’s fine for me. 

I was SICK blast it, and not in the mood to saw, could barely manage it, but at the first cut of saw into tree trunk that SMELL filled the air, and Christmas aromatherapy kept me going.  The pagans have a point about the tannenbaum, too. 

Watch me as I fling this tree on top of the van and then loop a rope around it.  Then drive home slowly, because that wasn’t exactly secure. 


I was SICK blast it, but somebody’s got to get busy with a whisk broom getting all the forest debris off, shaking the needles and then lassoing it upstairs via the rope (I knew what would happen if I tried to bring it over the carpet on the stairs!)


Beginning to SMELL a lot like Christmas  :-)

Of course I’m really posting this well into January, I’ve slid behind on everything!  

Here it is January 6th and the tree is still up.  Everybody else has taken theirs down, but I have no intention.  That lovely sappy noble fir smell gets into my nose every time I walk up the stairs, and it’s not like it’s not still dark outside and we huddled in our caves don’t still need cheering! 

I’m keeping it watered and it can stay until it turns orange! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

progress of garb, Dec

Made a few more steps since we last spoke!

You've seen the white underdress already,

and I also made a shorter underdress, partially to finish testing that pattern,

today I made an overdress, very simple with short sleeves, and either of those looks fine under it!

This is for Karen. I'm going to add lacing in the back to make it fit her.

Andrea's outfit, from this pattern,

is done except for the side lacing (I'm putting off learning how to do eyelets)
The sides aren't perfect, I kinda messed up that part, but I don't think anyone will notice.
For the record the surcote is forest green and the underdress is bright light blue.

But Andrea likes the cool-tone blue dress I made for myself under it better! So I'll try to make something else for myself, because the blue dress was a bit plain. If I don't have time then she'll just have to use this one.

I showed you the jumper idea I liked... I don't know what era this is supposed to be (if any)

Here's a pattern I went just far enough with to see that it comes out the way I want. Later on I'll add the gores and finish the test model for everyday use.

The plan was to cut it out of the gorgeous scales fabric! But I simply cannot get scissors near that fabric with that intention. My subconscious wants to save that for something else, I guess. So what am I going to make the jumper out of? Or what will I make the gorgeous scales into? I don't know yet.
It's so pretty!

In the meantime, here's the plan for the boys:

Enormous side-trip into bias patchwork for trim... no idea if that's the way it's done, but I was having fun.

Worn over a basic long sleeve shirt

That MUST have some kind of applique on the chest, which will make all the difference.
Ignore the camouflage pants. I'll make them some black ones (if time permits)

So the next tasks in order of importance are:
something for the head, for me (to hide the short hair)
handbag for me, cell phone and car keys being what they are,
and then cloaks for everybody, but it's not a disaster if we just wear our coats and pile them somewhere
napkins and something to carry dishes in, should be a big basket only I haven't secured one yet!

This is all terra incognita for me. One step at a time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Painted Butterflies

Karen made these to send to her penpal.