Friday, December 16, 2005

What I love and hate about Christmas

I love Christmas and think it's a beautiful time of year. There are tons of things I love about the season. And of course there are tons of things that drive me nuts. So, here you go, in no particular order, what I like and don't like about the season.

What I Like...
  • Multi colored lights
  • Lots of shiny things
  • Eggnong
  • Christmas trees
  • Candy canes
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and other 'classic' Christmas specials
  • Finding the perfect gift for people
  • Anticipating people's reactions to your gifts
  • Getting together with friends and family who live far away
  • People being a little more generous towards each other
  • The smell of pine trees
  • Hot cocoa with a shot of Dr. McGillicutty
  • Decorating Christmas cookies
  • Sharing holiday traditions and learning new ones
  • Acting like a 10 year old under the tree on Christmas morning
  • Writing letters to Santa with little kids
  • Cooking (and eating) large extravagant meals
  • Peppermintstick Icecream
  • Sitting in the living room with only the Christmas lights on and looking at the tree
  • White chocolate KitKats
  • Wearing my santa hat or reindeer ears for the entire month of December
  • Decorating the apartment
  • Spending a bit more than you normally would, because it's Christmas
  • Calories don't count during the holidays (Oh, I wish this was true!)
  • Making home made gifts
  • Singing Christmas carols (way off key in my case)

What I don't like...
  • Rampant consumerism
  • Forlorn, dying Christmas trees abondoned on the curb after New Years
  • People who don't put any thought into gifts
  • Commercials that make you feel bad if you don't take out a mortgage to buy Christmas presents (particularly jewelry and car commercials)
  • Being broke and not being able to give gifts
  • Not being able to spend as much time with people I really care about
  • Fighting for parking spots
  • People who go shopping in a bad mood
  • Feeling guilty if I don't spend enough or spend too much
  • Bill O'Reilly and the alleged War on Christmas
  • People who don't appreciate what you give them
  • Feeling generally stressed out
  • Updates of classic Christmas specials
  • Not having the time to do all the special little things you had planned to do
  • Christmas music in the stores 24/7
  • Feeling guilty for not sending Christmas cards to everyone
  • People of different faiths who are offended by receiving a Christmas card
  • Christians who don't understand that not everybody celebrates Christmas

Most of my dislikes revolve around how commercialized the holiday has become. I read an article in the local paper today that said the average American spends $700 on Christmas (including gifts, meals, and decorations). I'm not sure where they got their numbers, but I am certainly well below average.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Surcoat project - update

So I finished the surcoat for the Captain. It fit him well and he was quite plwased with my work. I asked if he thought the cross was crooked, and he didn't notice it. Whew! Here's a picture of the good captain in his knightly garb. I have to say this is a good look for him. I'm going to start the cloak after Christmas.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Decking the Halls

First off, let's get something out in the open. I'm one of those annoying people who really enjoys the holidays. I like a lot of the silly traditions. I like shiney objects and pretty blinky lights. Merry Christmas!

On Tuesday, my brother and I pulled out the decorations and put up the Christmas tree. I'm being a little generous here. I pulled out the decorations, assembled the tree, and then he got into putting up the decorations. This is my third year with an artificial tree. I do kind of miss the pine smell and feel of a real tree, but I don't miss having to constantly check the water and vacuuming up all the little needles that off because I can't seem to remember to keep an eye on the water. Also, the cats are far less inclined to climb a fake tree. Here it is in all its glory. And again with the lights off. A very fine tree, indeed!

We don't have a chimney in our apartment, so the stockings are hung on the stairwell with care. Our rather sterile stairwell itself has also been dressed up a little with green pine garland. And this year I put up my nativity scene. I'm pround of the lights. The figures themselves are clear glass. My mother gave me the set years ago. I drilled a few holes in a cookie tin and installed a small strand of Christmas lights. And there you have instant cheesey light up nativity scene. Have I mentioned I'm easily distracted by shineyt objects?

I own an amazing number of Christmas lights. Some I purchased, some were given to me, and some were left by roommates past. On strand was retired this year. With so many lights, I just didn't feel like chasing the burned out bulb. My brother hung some of the excess lights in the kitchen window. You can see these lights from the street. They look better from the outside. To complete the festive mood, I hung my silver instrument garland across the lving room entrance while my brother hung gold garland across the patio door. He even hung the lonely left over pine garland around the fish tank. To finish it off I hung the mistletoe in the middle of the living room. Right now it's some sad looking mistletoe, but this stuff has seen a few holidays come and go. It's been around. Ok, it's old and falling apart. I'll replace it at the first opputunity.

To anyone who actually reads this, I'm going to give my shameless plug. I started a CafePress store to support my pirate crew, Harlequin Specter. The procedes from the store will (hopefully) pay for the website and help with the buss project. If you're looking for unique gifts to give to your piratey friends, take a look at the Harlequin Specter merchandise store. I designed a special ornament just for the holidays. Here it is, hanging on my tree.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Templar Surcoat

The Captain will be knighting a small groug of children for a birthday party. Wanting to look the part of the knight, he wanted a tradtional crusaders surcoat. Museum Replicas is currently selling reproductions based on the movie Kingdom of Heaven. This is the set he originally wanted.

Given the time frame (1 week, keeping in mind I work a full time job), I realistically couldn't do the cloak and the surcoat. After talking with the Captain about what he wanted, I decided to just do the surcoat for the birthday party, and work on the cloak throughout the winter. I'd rather not rush through the cloak, plus I'd like to use a good quality fabric. A full sized hooded cloak will take 7-8 yards of fabric for the outer layer and then again for the liner.

The Captain supplied me with a nice thick off white cotton for the surcoat The plan was to line the surcoat with the same fabric. Unfortunately, as large as the fabric was, after drafting the pattern, there was not enough for a liner. I made a quick trip to the local fabric store and picked up 3 yards of unbleached cotton muslin for a liner. Here Chupa supervises as I rough out the surcoat pattern.

After cutting the pieces for the surcoat, the next task was to make the cross to be applied to the front. I searched on line and came up with a few images of what a templar cross should look like. Instead of the straight edges that Museum Replicas has, the ends of the templar cross are flanged. Since this cross is symetrical, I caould get away with making it in 2 pieces. I drew the cross freehand on a piece of dark red fabric and cut 4 pieces, 2 for the cross to go on the surcoat, and another 2 to for the cross on the cloak. Applying the cross was time comsuming and frustrating. I carefully floded over the edges and ironed them under. Then I pinned the cross pieces into position on the surcoat front and sewed around the edges of the cross. After all this, the cross is a bit crooked, not much, but enough for me to notice. Shhh...maybe Cap'n won't notice.
Sewing the 2 surcoat pieces together for both the outer layer and the liner was pretty easy. This is a very simple design. Next was to sew the liner into the outer layer. It took some time pinning everything into place, but was fairly uneventful.
Now that the surcoat was nearly complete, I just needed to put the split in the front and back. I simply cut up the center of the surcoat, from the bottom to about wasit level. After that i just folded the outer layer and liner in on themselves and sewed into place. And I have a completed knight's surcoat. Now I just await the Captain to try it on.
My sewing machine glows with pride

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There and Back Again

How soon the blog withers away. It's been awhile since I've updated, but, well, I'm feeling particularly mouthy today. It might have something to do with the amount of diet coke I've managed to consume today. Hmmm...

First things first. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. That special time of year when families get together and try to pretend they like each other while giving thanks to those noble native peoples who made this great country possible before having their land ruthlessly stolen from them.

All kidding aside, I like the Thanksgiving and I enjoyed visiting my sister, her husband, and his family over the much too brief holiday. I was able to get out of work a little early on Wednesday and start my drive to Pittston, PA. Even with the traffic on the NY throughway and a couple of stops it only took a little over 7 hours. I was greeted by 4 of the 5 cats. Vinnie, a rescued stray, was a little too shy to come meet the guests. I'm told he's quite affectionate when the house is a little more empty. The others are Chewy and Tylo who was declawed and then put outside, both rescued
from a previous neighbor; Jacob, another rescued stray; and Liza, the old queen of the house, now currently missing an eye due to cancer, but otherwise fine.

Instead of cooking dinner at home, we decided to go out for a Thanksgiving buffet. The food was great and while I made a great attempt to sample a little of everything, there was just too much to choose from. The bueaty of a buffet is that there is something for everyone there. Don't want turkey? Try the ham, roast beef, fish, or pasta dishes. Not in the mood for pumpkin pie? Go for the chocolate silk or one of the many cheese cakes. Needlessly to say, I left with my pants fitting a bit tighter than when I went in. The only downside - no Thanksgiving leftovers (although this wasn't such a problem for me since I ate enough at dinner to last me a couple of days).

On Friday morning we went to Steamtown, a train musuem. We looked at a few of the exhibits and some great WWII propaganda advertising and then rounded out the visit with a ride on one of the trains. I'd like to go back next time I'm in the area to finish looking at the exhibits. Unfortuanely because of my tight schedule I didn't get to look at the technology exhibits. I'd also like to go on a day when they're running the steam engines. The train we rode was a 1920's-ish diesel engine.

After lunch I had to get back on the road to head home. The trip was pretty uneventful and I was kept energized and awake with the help of Rob Zombie, StaticX, and Mastodon. I arrived safely home and said brief hellos to my own cats before repacking my suitcase for my trip to Chicago. This trip, unfortunately, was for busines and not for pleasure. My boss had asked me to attend the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) annual meeting, talk to vendors about new products, meet some colleagues from around the globe, and attend a couple of lectures. I would have been much more excited about the trip if the timing had been a little better. I'm not sure who decided the Saturday after Thanksgiving was the best time to start a conference, but he (and I'm pretty sure it was a he) needs to be beaten about the head and shoulders with a tirkey drumstick and perhaps a pumpkin pie.

Which brings me to holiday traveling and our friends at the TSA. I like to think I'm generally good natured about things and handle most stresses well. However, the brave people of airport security just really get to me sometimes. I stood patiently in the unexpected line at Burlington International Airport. Who'd have thought that many people would want to fly out of Vermont on Saturday at 6am. I removed my shoes, belt, coat, and suit jacket before I got to the metal detector, thinking I'd be able to just zip through. Nope. First I was asked to get rid of my coffee, the one I had bought just around the corner at the airport coffee shop kiosk. Grumble, grumble, ok, what ever. I threw the coffee away. Now my bra sets off the metal detector. I know it's the bra, the guard knows it's the bra, but I can't take it off, nor can he wand me or pat me down. So he calls a female guard and she wands me before I go on my merry way.

I had a brief layover in Newark. There is nothing good about Jersey. Sorry, but there really isn't (ok, maybe the possible exception of Bruce Springsteen, but that's it). I don't like to fly through Newark and have actually paid a higher fare to not be routed through here. It was unavoidable that day. I had to do the sprint across the airport, not the terminal, the entire airport, while wearing those cute heals that look so good with my suit. What's really obnoxious about Newark? When you enter another terminal, you need to go through security again even if you just got off a connecting flight. So I got in line to repeat the process above.

I arrived in Chicago and make it to the conference on time. Sitting through the 3 hour lecture was rough. At times I started to zone out and then snap back to reality with the thought that I needed to be learing something. There was an absolutely amazing number of vendors at this show. I knew there would be a lot, but I was unable to grasp just how many. The vendors were spread out over 3 buildings of the conference center, all with shiney new equipment and flashy displays to grab your attention.

When I got to my hotel and unpacked my bag, I noticed I had been the lucky recipient of a random TSA bag search. I must just look guilty or something, because I'm always the person chosen for the random search. I had one of the neat little letters from the TSA explaining why it's necesarry to search luggage sitting on top what was once a neatly packed pile of clothes. Somebody needs to teach the TSA guys how to fold. My packing jobs are generally a work of art (too much Tetris as a child) to get them into the suitcase. I make an effort to not wrinkle my business clothes. Whoever searched my bag just kind of wadded everything up and through it back in. Thanks. I wanted to have to iron everything.

The rest of the conference passed pretty uneventfully and I headed back to the airport on Monday afternoon. I was told my flight was running about 2 hours behind and that I would miss my connecting flight in Cleveland. I was in luck though, Continental was bale to put me on an earlier flight to Cleveland. As it turns out, whith all the flight delays I left at roughly the same time as my orignal flight. Getting through security at O'Hare was slightly annoying. I had expected and was prepared for large lines. Even being the random person called for a thorough search didn't irritate me. What got to me though was the guy in front of me that had to argue with the security guys. Just take your freaking shoes off and we can all get on our flights!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Joy That Is Static-X

I was introduced to a great new band over the weekend. So I went home and did what any good little music lover would do. I hopped on my computer and downloaded a few of their songs. Now, before the RIAA jumps down my throat, let it be known that I do intend to shell out my hard earned 12.99 for Wisconsin Death Trip. Static-X isin't exactly what one would consider metal. The dark metal/techno/synth mixture is more in the vane of Rob Zombie and I know that be a turn off for hardcore metal enthusiasts. Wayne Static adds high-energy gutteral screaming vocals to the mix. Think White Zombie meets Ministry. Definately worth a listen.

Bowling Night

Yep. Wednesday is bowling night. Sometimes it amazes me what a happening swinging social life I have. For those keeping track I had a respectable 344 series. Much better than last week.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

St. Johnsbury vs David Lynch

My friend Marge and her husband bought their first house last month. They're now happily living in St. Johnsbury in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Marge made a comment to me on life in St. J. It went something like this 'Living in St. Johnsbury is like a David Lynch film. It's boring and nothing really happens, but it's also kind of odd and creepy.'

Why make things hard for yourself?

An aquaintance of mine recently had her car stereo stolen. While it was a bummer that the thief got away with a hundred dollar Wal-Mart stereo, the truely obnoxious part was the fact that the window was broken in order to get the stereo out. OK, first off, the said stereo was stolen out of a 1989 Nissan. Stereo thieves, stop and think a little bit. Why steal stuff out of an '89 Nissan? You know the driver doesn't have any money. Pick a nicer car that might possibly have something of value. I recommend trying a Subaru WRX or any car with a 3 foot high spoiler. They have the good stereos. And now on to the second point. Don't make things harder for yourself. The Nissan in question is always left unlocked, since if you actually lock the doors you're never getting them open again. Stereo thieves, try the doors first before you start breaking windows.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Random Quote of the Day

Coffee was only a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your slightly older self.
-Sam Vimes, in Thud! by Terry Pratchett

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Quotes taken out of context

One of my favorite mental exercises is to pervert things that people say. With the pirate crew, innuendo is second nature and conversations go into the gutter in about 3 sentences. It's easy to turn a conversation dirty. What's more fun is to take perfectly clean and serious quotes out of context and hear how dirty they sound. I've started keeping a notebook and am currently on the second volume.

The following were collected while I was supposed to be taking notes on a particular ventilator service school, but kept my ears open for some good quotes. Keep in mind that no sexual situations were implied.

This is a long one.
You hold it and I'll pull the handle.
This controls your pop off.
Stick your finger up there and pull it out.
A lot of guys will stick this in there.
There's a hole.
Let's go in there.
People have had some chances to touch it.
I'd like to show you the box.
I have played with it a lot.
Everything is flexible.
The sequence you want to use is up, down, and enter.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chupa the Wonder Cat

I share my apartment with a furry little demon known as Chupa. She likes to put herself in strange places, like on top of the kitchen cabinets or curled up in the bathroom sink (that one tends to terrify unsuspecting guests). I guess Chupa decided that I haven't been paying enough attention to her, so she decided to put herself where I couldn't possibly miss her. I came home tonight to find this...

Chupa the Wonder Cat

Bowling Night

Wednesday is bowling night. Yep. I just said said that. People tend to look at me strangely when I tell them that I bowl on a league. I guess it's one of those things younger females aren't supposed to do. It really is more fun then one would think.

I first started bowling as one of 2 required PE credits in college. I figured since I was taking scuba diving and only getting 1 credit, I'd take something else that wasn't really exercise. So every Tuesday afternoon for an entire semester, my roommate and I would head to the local bowling alley for our class. I was actaully quite good by the time we finished. A couple of years ago I joined a league out of shear lonliness. I was hoping to meet some people my own age, or at least who I shared some interests in. Unfortunately I was put on a team with a really creepy older guy who kept trying to entice me over to his apartment to 'watch some bowling films'. I'm not positive what his intentions were, but either way I wasn't interested.

I started bowling again recently with a few of my friends. We have a great time, share some laughs, have a few drinks, and throw heavy objects around. Tonight I bowled a 317 series. For you non bowlers out there, that's your total for 3 games, out of a possible 900 points. Now I never said I was good now, I just said I enjoyed bowling. I only have a 115 average now. I've also recently gone from an 11 pound ball to a 12, and then to a 13. I'm still having trouble controlling the 13. Tonight was one of those nights where the bowling gods did not smile upon me. Perhaps they need a sacrifice.

Monday, October 31, 2005

World, Quartermaster. Quartermaster, World

So, this here's my very first blog post. My friend Yomper has suggested I start my own blog (usually after I've been ranting to him for a few minutes). I've finally gotten my pirate arse in gear and actually put one up. So, now what?

I gues I should start with what I'm the quartermaster of. Most people (both of you) who read this know of my involvement with a crazy pirate crew. The Harlequin Specter is a small group of theatrically minded people who cruise the renaissance faire circuit in northern New England. I serve as quartermaster on our theoretical pirate ship (although technically we're privateers). Basically, I take care of all the details that make the faire season happen. The Captain comes up with the plan, I make it happen.

So, what to expect in this blog? Like most blogs, just about anything that happens to flutter through my wee pirate brain. You'll see updates on projects I'm working on from costumes to the infamous bus project (more on that later), thoughts on various events and faires, rants, and much, much more. (Insert evil laugh here)