Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lately I've Been Spinning

I've been getting back into spinning again. My wheel was broken for quite some time, but my parents repaired it as a Christmas gift and now I've finally cracked open my fiber stash and started making yarn again. 

I'd forgotten how relaxing it is. I love sitting and listening to the almost silent thrum and whirr, sending the wheel spinning with my foot on the pedal and spreading fibers through my hands. It's so peaceful, such a straightforwards method of creating. 

Nathan was a bit surprised to learn that spinning the yarn myself isn't really much cheaper than buying it prespun. "Why do you do it, then?"

"Because I like it," I replied. "It's calming and plus it makes the finished product extra special."

And I'm learning that I really love the different texture of handspun yarn. To purchase it really would be cost prohibitive, but it really is a joy to work with! I'm experimenting with different weights and colors and want to try some different types of fibers soon. I promised myself and Nathan that I wouldn't buy any more wool until I'd used up at least half my stash. Which is fine because it goes pretty fast - there's a LOT of air in a fleece! 

When I was younger, spinning was done for it's own end - I wove but I didn't knit and it's a lot harder to start a weaving project than a knit one. Now however I'm a very avid knitter and it is SO fun and SO easy to take my own yarn and knit it up! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Behind the Seams by Betty Hechtman

One fun thing about CONvergence is the book swap. Basically one of the poolside porches is turned into a little book nook, and people bring in their old books and you can browse and take whatever you want home. I meant to bring some this year and it got forgotten in all the hustle... sorry CONvergence, I'll bring a bunch next year!

I did take a few nonetheless and I'm glad I did because I found some cool things. Someone was really into fiber arts because I got a spinning magazine, a knitting magazine, and a crochet mystery.

Yes. You read that right.

Molly Pink is a middle-aged widow who spends her time minding a bookstore, crocheting fiber crafts with her like-minded friends, and solving mysteries. It's a little bit like Agatha Christie, only not so dark, and, y'know, there are cell phones.

"Behind the Seams" is the title I picked up at the book swap, and although it was not the first in the series, I was able to pick it up and start reading no problem. It was a fun read, with a better mystery than I'd anticipated, even if a few clues at the end were a little too coincidental.

(Coincidence happens all the time in real life, but in books things have to make sense or the readers will call it lazy writing.)

The crochet obsession of the group (they call themselves "The Hookers" ironically) is more over-the-top than anything I've ever encountered, but it's funny and reminds us never to take our passions so seriously that we overlook the realities of life.

Anyhow, I'm placing the rest of the series on hold at the library and recommend checking them out yourself!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Some things about House Hunting

We are in the process of finding a house. It's kind of an overwhelming crazy scary process, so I try to find the humor in it when I can. That's not terribly hard to do because in our price range, there are some really wacky things that show up.

(Especially the basements. The basements are scary.)

One house had a garage that was really about to fall over. We didn't know quite what to make of it.

This isn't so much funny as me going "What kind of fruit is that, anyone know?"

Guys. I kid you not. This weird egg epcot sculpture thing was in the yard of the last house we looked at. I don't know what it is or why it was there, but it was there. (In case you wondered, the house was a pit, so no, we are not even considering acquiring the weird sculpture.)

The *perfect* house of the night was in a neighborhood we didn't feel comfortable in - alas! However there was another abode in another locale that has potential... if you feel led to pray for us, we would greatly appreciate prayers for wisdom and guidance! 

UPDATE: Summer of 2014 was not the right time for us to buy a house... but January 2016 was! And it didn't involve any creepy basements, but rather a miracle!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The 5 Photos Self-Esteem Meme

If you're on Facebook, you've likely seen the meme floating around. "I've been tagged in the beautiful picture meme, and need to post 5 photos where I feel beautiful..."

Actually, I think the meme is a good one. We have so many girls with self-esteem problems, that it's a good exercise for them to personally go through their own photos and identify "this is when I feel beautiful." 

Honestly, I land more on the other side of the spectrum. Sure, I have self esteem issues, and there have been plenty of photos taken of me that I hate, but for the most part, I have plenty of photos of myself that I enjoy going back to and looking at because I feel beautiful when I look at them. 

18 months ago, something happened that made how I feel when I look at those photos pale in comparison and I am forever blessed. I feel in love with a man who can look at me when I haven't taken a shower for four days, have a gushing head wound, and am just wearing the most comfortable clothes possible, and without a bit of prompting, randomly pause, stare wistful at me, and say, "You are so beautiful."

This is the photo that makes me feel beautiful.

It is not that I need a man to give me worth, but there is a huge affirmation when someone you love looks at you this way. I was surpremely blessed to have a father who made a big point to always tell me, my sister and my mom that we were beautiful. Now I am blessed beyond words to have a husband who constantly tells me that with his eyes every time he looks at me.

People tell me that they admire how I deal with my handicaps and my health and how I don't complain about them. The truth is, so much of the time I don't think about how these issues make my life hard. I think about my blessings. And that is really easy to do with a husband like Nathan.

As I said in the beginning and feel the need to repeat here, I think this is a good meme. I've been really happy to see so many of my girlfriends posting shots where their beauty comes from their happiness and joy, not from glamour poses. Not only does this affirm their own self-confidence, but it perpetuates the strength of this meme - that we are all beautiful, and our beauty comes from our character, which can show profoundly in a true expression, be it a smile, a wry look, or a totally goofy face.

(Total side note, but one of my friends turned this meme into a different kind of social commentary by posting five photos of famous people looking weird. I loved that she subverted the way we usually compare ourselves to models and actors.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Week of Science Fiction and Fantasy (and a little mystery!)

This past week my husband and I hosted my brother by mutual adoption, Matt, at our apartment and introduced him to Minnesota. Technically he was here once before, for my wedding, but I was a little absorbed at the time! 

I was a little caught up in finishing a major sewing project at the beginning of the week, but we nonetheless made time on Wednesday to head over to Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, which is a used bookstore that I've never been to. Wall to wall science fiction and fantasy. Totally overwhelming. Matt took advantage of the opportunity to spoil his little sister and bought me a bunch of books. (YAY!)

Of course he was also a very good big brother in allow Nathan and I to go off by ourselves on Wednesday evening and celebrate the anniversary of our engagement by returning to Como Lake. It was a beautiful evening made even better by some delicious frozen yogurt.

Thursday and Friday were taken up by writing - or rather, plotting. In addition to being my brother, Matt is also my editor, and we were doing some intense plot mapping for my next book in "The Chronicles of the Ruahim." True, book #1 isn't out yet, but since we only get to see each other every six months (at most!) we had to take advantage of the time we had.

I took Matt to one of my favorite writing nooks and introduced him to Caribou Coffee. He didn't much like the coffee, but did appreciate the other drinks on offer and the atmosphere.

On Thursday night we took a break from writing and sat down to watch the Veronica Mars movie. Matt wrote up a great review here - pretty much all of my thoughts are in his post so I'm not going to bother to write my own.

On Friday we invited over some of our friends for a night of fantasy and adventure! Nathan ran a role-playing game for us based on the Dungeon World System, and involving a grumpy druid, an adorable goblin, and a flamboyant elf bard among other delightful characters.

All of the player characters were pre-generated by Nathan and myself which made the events flow a bit smoother as we didn't have to spend half the first session on character creation. Even so, we didn't finish the whole adventure and are hoping to continue next time Matt is in town!

(I created character pictures on Doll Divine with touch up in GIMP)

 All in all it was a fun but creatively exhausting week and I am really enjoying the chance to relax this afternoon... until we go house shopping, that is!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Inner Drama of a Haircut

 It's interesting to note how different people tend to handle drastic hair changes. Some like to put it out on facebook for opinions beforehand, others like to get it done and then reveal to the world, either for shock/surprise value, or because they know that (assuming their circle is polite) they won't get negative reactions once the deed is done.

The last reason is really why I didn't broadcast my haircut plans. My hair was very long and lovely and I adored it and I knew there would be people begging me not to cut it off. I loved my hair a lot and it was an emotional thing to do, so I didn't need any more words running through my head when I was at the hairdressers.

Anyone who has ever made a drastic hair change knows how it is. Sometimes it's relief to have it gone, other times it is an emotional loss, even if you have good reasons for making the change (and even more so if an illness is making the decision for you.) Sometimes it's both.

I was definitely emotional while the scissors were snipping around my head. I had to really hold onto the logic of my choice and not the emotions of the hair falling to the floor.

Okay, most of it didn't fall to the floor but was saved by the hairdresser for donation. Honestly a part of me doesn't even want to admit this because I'm NOT trying to seek out attention or accolades. For me it was just a practical thing - if I went a little shorter than originally planned, I could donate my hair and it's a heck of a lot easier to get that much hair cut off when you know it is going to a good use rather than into the garbage.

But donation was a side effect, not the driving cause. I wanted to cut my hair short because:

4. I was tired of it taking forever to dry after a shower (a real pain when one wears hearing aids)
3. My hair was tangling ALL the time and keeping it snarl free was more trouble than it was worth.
2. It was getting in the way all the time and when I pulled it back the pressure/strain caused tension headaches.
1. Nathan had been saying for over a year that he thought I'd look really cute with short hair.

It all got precipitated when my friends and I decided to do Hipster Disney Cosplays for CONvergence and the couple Nathan and I chose were Flynn Rider and Rapunzel. My head couldn't deal with the weight of a Rapunzel wig, so I decided now was the time to make that long-deliberated haircut.

It was fun doing the cosplay for the CON, but that pales in comparison to Nathan saying "You look SO CUTE with that haircut!" and "I just love your hair!" about three times every hour. The look on his face makes every snip worth it.

Plus the cut itself is really growing on me. It's marvelous to be able to wash and dry my hair quickly, and the discovery of some gorgeous ear cuffs at the CON meant I could add some shiny stuff to my ears that didn't get lost or tangled in mounds of hair.

Everyone has also been super complimentary which I really appreciate. I know I always get a little sad when I see a friend cut off her long gorgeous hair, but I understand the reasons, obviously. And the good news is that my hair grows out pretty quickly so I'll have my long locks back without too long of a wait.

The best part has been that my haircut doesn't require styling. I was initially wary of the hairdresser at Fantastic Sam's because the blow-dried cut was pretty flat and straight. BUT once allowed to air dry it has gotten great body and I really love it.

Probably still not as much as my husband does, though. ;)

Monday, July 7, 2014

CONvergence 2014

If you've been wondering where I've been for the past two weeks, the answer is prepping for and participating in CONvergence 2014! 

CONvergence is a giant geek party that takes place at the Bloomington Doubletree Hotel in MN over the 4th of July weekend. Unlike bigger cons such as SDCC, C2E2 or Wizard World, CONvergence is essentially a celebration of the geek community. It is usually attended by upwards of 7000 fans who get together to party, discuss, and celebrate everything geekily awesome. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it! 

(You are only able to purchase a four-day pass, which is $60 for adults if you register prior to December 31st, 2014. This is to help facilitate the ongoing party-ness feel, as opposed to a more commercial con with higher profile guests).

 Although alcohol is allowed at the convention, it is nonetheless a very family friendly con, with many children in attendance in absolutely ADORABLE costumes. There are some panels and parties with children themes, as well as craft activities. Areas with potentially problematic content (such as some nude art in the Artist Gallery) are usually advertised as such. The con also has very strict rules about weapondry, and even our squirt guns were required to be peacebonded. The volunteers were so kind about telling us to head over to the bridge, though. (Seriously, the volunteer staff ROCKS).

In addition, everyone at the con is usually really friendly and nice. And conscientious! Last year my friend lost her iPhone, and it was brought to the LOST and FOUND right away! This year my badge fell off on the second day, but sure enough, we found it in the LOST and FOUND!

Oh, want to see more photos of our Pirate and Disney cosplays and learn how we pulled them together? Check out my post on the sewing blog!

This year our group included Nathan, myself, Meg, and our friends Andy and Claire. We had a blast hanging out together!

I also cut my hair halfway through the con. People didn't recognize me that day!

BTW my hubby was great. I've been having pain in my foot that makes walking hard, and he went out of his way to always bring the car around to the front door, and provide a shoulder for me to lean on while walking. He also carried our backpack/shoulder bag with our stuff (and water bottles!) the entire time, refusing to allow me to carry it at all.

The weather was MUCH better this year than last year, with only Sunday rising to unbearably hot levels.

The Dealer Hall/Vendor Floor, while smaller than other cons, is PACKED with goodies! Nathan and I found one of the games he worked on at one of the booths. So cool! (Descent: Oath of the Outcast by Fantasy Flight Games).

I did not get nearly enough photos, relying on Meg and her Magical Camera to take the best ones. However, I did snap shots of some of my favorites, such as the adorable couple above.

There is an abundance of free stuff to partake of at CONvergence,  including the coffee and tea bar.

There's also rice? I saw this Saturday night, however, and didn't have time to partake.

I'm now addicted to earcuffs. Although I have had my ears pierced, they don't like to work well and it's usually... messy and painful. The cuff was so comfortable though, that I ended up purchasing four of them! I figured with short hair it was necessary to have dangly bling.

Hawkeye and Natasha!

As always, fans are allowed to hang up random signs (so long as they are affixed with THE ONE TAPE).

A MARVELOUS Hagrid cosplay!

A Tressym! I almost got this mug, but between the price tag and my husbands declaration "We have too many mugs!" I passed.

(I also bid on a piece of Tressym art in the Art gallery, but someone named Crazy Cat Lady scooped up ALL the cat pieces. Sniff sniff.)

CONvergence is truly multigenerational... case in point, pictured above are two of my parents high school classmates! (Steampunk Green Lantern cosplays). They also served as judges at this year's masquerade.


Steampunk Aviators!

Steampunk Jedi!

...with working lightsaber!

With this year's theme being "A Midsummer Night's Dream" there were plenty of fairies in attendance!

Lady Lovecraft. The peacock feathers on her shoulders were amaaaaazing, and she made everything in her costume herself!

Oh look, it's our favorite sassy elf...

...this Rapunzel was SO excited to find a Thranduil!

Such a lovely Margery from Game of Thrones!

Poor Ursula had a hard time getting inside with all of the cameras flashing at her!

Alas, I could not get very good photos of the Masquerade costumes, with this Incredibles cosplaying being the best image I managed. However it was marvelous this year, with am absolutely hysterical halftime show. If you go to CONvergence and miss the Masquerade, you are missing the best part of the CON. SO DONT MISS IT!

AND THEN! Chronicles of the Ruahim fans, take a look at that commission! Unicorns... Paris... yes, I got a piece of art commissioned by the lovely Courtney Thomas. I fell in love with her booth display and just had to get a piece done!

This is NOT official series art, just something I got to inspire me as I write the final act of the book. I adore it - Daphne is captured PERFECTLY! (And Courtney and her sister are so nice and talented, I hope they come back next year!)


Now. The Parties. Guys, the entire court around the pool, BOTH levels, is ringed with rooms that have been turned into themed party rooms. This one is Bag End, where we partook of cider, mushrooms and poppyseed cake.


There were other awesome rooms as well, including one made to look like a space station. It was too crowded for me to get a good photo there, but it was amazing. We mostly just toured the upper level of parties and headed home, but even that was great fun and I really recommend checking them out!

There was a greater turn out of fiber artists this year. I came across a lady carrying around her portable spinning wheel made from... PVC!

Oh look, it was sold by the same lady that I've bought nearly all my wool from!

We had to attend the Timey Wimey tea party, of course, hosted by the Victorian Lady Doctors and featuring a proper English tea and even GLUTEN FREE COOKIES! AND CLOTTED CREAM. UM YUM!

Lookit, a Castle and Beckett Cosplay! (Beckett's vest reads "Heat" rather than police, to comply with the rules regarding impersonating an officer of the law or military).

Our very last stop was the fairy wing jewelry making at Connie's Quantum Sandbox. I'd wanted to attend one of the craft sessions there all weekend, but they were either at problematic times or full. I was so happy to finally get into one!

Made this. I'm hoping to convert it to a necklace once I get my hands on some more chain.

My "big purchase" of the year was a leather bound sketchbook. I went back and forth between the various leather booths several times before deciding on this book. It was just gorgeous and I liked the $28 price tag better than the $55 offerings at the other book. Also, the vendors said when I use up the pages they'll refill them for me!

I was too exhausted from overstimulation to do much drawing, but I did challenge myself with this 10-minute sketch of Nathan.

I was a little afraid the gears would be prone to popping off, but they are actually stud-secured through the leather and are VERY sturdy.

Well, that's all for now, folks. It was a blast and we are looking forwards to next year! Will YOU be there?