Saturday, January 31, 2009
"When life gives you lemons, throw them back and ask for chocolate."--as seen in someone's e-mail signature

Life hasn't been giving me lemons lately. Actually things are going fine. In October I went to Sicily with a small local tour company and had a wonderful time. I definitely recommend Sicily for SCA members looking for some interesting history. Before leaving I sat down to do a list of the different ruling cultures/countries of Sicily throughout history (starting with the Phoenicians) and got lost somewhere between the Aragonese and the Hohenstaufens in the mid-to-late Middle Ages. You think Israel is a "club sandwich" of cultural layers, you ain't seen nothing yet. We stayed in Siracusa (island of Ortigia), Palermo, Agrigento, and Taormina, and I liked all of them for different reasons. If you're interested, pictures are at:

Work is still going fine. The winter holidays were weird this year: because I was gone for that period during 2007-2008 (in Israel), I didn't realize how quiet things get when all the teachers are gone for winter break. Nor did I know that we get two days off for each holiday! So although I technically worked through that time, I had two weekends per week. It turned into a very contemplative time during which I got much work done on special projects at work, and much knitting and movie viewing done at home.

SCA stuff: I am now no longer the baby Laurel of the Northshield. Simon Morcar was put on vigil and Laureled at 12th Night in Nordskogen a couple of weeks ago. I got to be there for the whole thing and even got to do a little flourish in Court as I presented the Northshield legacy Laurel medallion: I told him that it was an honor to pass it on to him, because what he does is every bit as much poetry and as much song as what I do. (I guess I was referring to his fencing, having seen him fight several times, though technically he was laureled for his research and teaching in that area.) As I returned to my spot in the bunch of Laurels, I got Owen's highest praise, his little fierce nod and a whisper of "Good. GOOD." Even though I'm not his apprentice anymore, that was nice to get.

We finally have a date for Bardic Madness: June 20 in Border Downs (Sioux Falls, SD). It's obviously extremely late this year, and the date isn't ideal for a few other reasons, but this was what the site had available, and it does sound like a good site: a church with plenty of space, good hall, great kitchen, etc.

(Break to put some tortellini in boiling water for dinner. I'm trying frozen tortellini for the first time; not that I don't like the dry kind, just a change of pace. There's Renaissance Farm cilantro pesto to dress them, bought last summer at the Farmer's Market downtown. They aren't kidding when they say it keeps great frozen!)

In November one day I was fighting a sinus infection, so I stayed home from work, but got dissatisfied for the last time with my desktop computer giving me weird error messages and blue screens of death and the like. So I went to Best Buy and bought my first-ever laptop: an Acer Aspire 6930. It's perhaps bigger than I needed in terms of the screen, which was billed as 16:9 for watching movies, something I probably won't do on it. But if that made the keyboard bigger, so much the better; I am remembering how little I used to like typing on petite laptop keyboards. As it is, with this one I keep hitting caps lock with my left pinky, usually aiming for shift, but shift is further down on this keyboard.

Otherwise I like it. It's been doing great on speed, lack of error messages, etc., and even has functional wireless access, though I leave it hooked up to the high-speed line when I'm at home. Sometime I might get a wireless router, but the idea of typing on this keyboard on a non-standard-height surface--say, on my bed, on the couch, etc. is not exactly appealing, and I do best on computer games at the desk, too. Cake Mania rules!

(Technically I had a laptop at my job in Marshfield years ago, but it was my main computer at work; I had a docking station, separate keyboard, etc. So it was not usually taken out of the office unless I was traveling to do workshops and such.)

Mmm, the tortellini are pretty good, though I like them a bit softer. I gather frozen pasta doesn't go beyond al dente? Oh well. The pesto is excellent. Maybe cheese tortellini next time...the meat is only okay.

And on that note, I'll leave you to go eat dinner.

Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wow, this is some kind of a record between posts. My apologies...

David Cook has been voted the next American Idol. Someone with actual musical brain content has won over a sweet young fellow who could not have a new idea if you paid him. I didn't get to see it (I was at the presentation for our Israel trip) but I got home at 9:09 and found it via Google News right away. The people of the United States of America are less full of stupid than I sometimes think.

It's been a weird season. I spent about two months of it sick (first post-tonsillectomy bronchitis, then a nasty sinus infection right around Passover). Just in the last week or two I feel like my voice is back to normal, which makes me quite pleased. I was starting to worry about what kind of damage I was doing to my voice, with constant coughing and draining and how I would lose even my speaking voice if I talked too much. (Hard for me to avoid, admittedly.) I do notice that my stamina is still low; it only takes a half-hour or so of singing before I start to get throat tickles and other signs of tiredness. With any luck this will improve over time.

I don't want to say I was wrong to discontinue my allergy meds, but it's becoming more and more apparent that the negative consequences aren't nice. I'm itchy, my eyes/nose water more or less constantly, my ears plug easily, and I still get the occasional bit of whistling in my chest (of the type which led the NP to prescribe a rescue inhaler for me in early April during the height of the bronchitis!). BUT: I can wake up in the morning, for the first time in years. I've even discovered the joy of running errands before work, which would have been completely impossible on Zyrtec. I got to work 15 minutes early this morning, having stopped at the ATM, for coffee, and for a bagel on the way. It remains to be seen whether I will ever want to give this up. Probably never in the winter, when it's harder to wake up anyway. But then, it's not in the winter that I need allergy medication.

This weekend is my first quasi-outdoors event of the season (Ages of War, in Austin, MN), though I'll be "camping" at the Super 8. (It's been cold in the upper Midwest this season--there's no earthly way I'm sleeping outside in 40 degree nights!) We'll see how my allergies react. If they're untenable, I'll plan on trying the next one with Claritin. Pennsic will be tough: last year I only managed it with double-dose Zyrtec and Flonase. I'll do everything I can not to go back on Zyrtec (last year I didn't wake up before 10 am once, wonder why) but who knows whether it will be enough...

Also at Ages of War: my first Laurel meeting. I have already given my first elevation advice on the e-mail list; I plan on delivering Eithni's letter for her (she will be at ARRG VII) and then doing a lot of listening and learning.

Past weeks: Mom is now President of our Temple. I got her to stop calling it "my Coronation" and referring to herself as "the Queen"; it didn't seem humble to me. And the joke of "yes, it's my installation, I'm being installed in the wall and I won't get to come home for two years" is funny enough, though a little hoary (we used it at Dad's installation as President in 1988). In all seriousness, I'm very proud of her and think she has a great big heart and a way with people, two things that are essential to being a good leader.

And the weekend of the installation was really fun: my sister and her fiance came to town, as well as my favorite aunt & uncle, and we spent the weekend hanging out and eating and relaxing. We stopped by the lilac grove in the Arboretum, which was in full bloom, along with the various crabapples and other flowering trees. Perfect weekend for that! And my sister/sister's fiance made a delicious brunch for Saturday morning, then invited my sister's friend Gia and Gia's friend who was visiting from Hawaii: a very nice young man who I think we all hope will be with Gia for a long time!

I have not yet written a public thank you for this year's Bardic Madness, which was nearly 4 weeks ago, and I feel bad about this. Probably I should at least write the event staff and thank them personally. I did do a full round of thank-yous at the end of Feast. It went great: perfect site, nice attendance, delicious and well-served feast, and as always, wonderful performances. And we got to celebrate the local group's 20th anniversary with three of its original members, including a Baroness who came up from lower MI to visit and reminisce.

What wasn't so great for me was that I talked up a storm on the way down on Friday with Eithni and Cerian, then discovered Friday night that my voice was essentially gone. So I had to keep asking people to herald things for me (which they did), and I couldn't really perform, not even in the challenges I had been looking forward to. Saturday night someone requested Three Words, and Berwyn was there with Cy's drum to play along, so I gave it a try, and fell flat on my face. Not even enough voice left to make use of my breath and produce a supported tone. I might as well have whistled it. I hope my voice doesn't get that bad again...but if it ever does, I need to promise myself not to try to sing. It sounds like s*** and just makes things worse.

Last week I took Wednesday and Thursday off and drove down to suburban Chicago for the Duran Duran concert at the Rosemont Theater. (Not the Rosemont Horizon, the venue I used to hear about on the MTV concert rundowns when I was 12. Nearby that.) This was my first time seeing them live since I was 14 and my dad took me, my sister and Gia, and my friend Tanya to see them at the Coliseum in Madison.

I went on a whim (and because I can't currently take Mondays or Fridays off due to job demands), but the show, while unbearably loud, proved to be really fun. Not just for the nostalgia factor, though they did almost all of their hits and some obscure-but-fun ones too. The fact is, they put on a good show after 27 years together. There was a full artsy light show with ropes of small golden bulbs, fluorescent fixtures that blinked in time with the music, color-changing strobes, patterned spotlights, and big muted lamps in an asymmetrical pattern. They went completely electronic at one point and the four original members gathered in a line at the front of the stage with two synthesizers, a synthesized drum set, and Simon's ocarina (for The Chauffeur) for a six-song medley from various points in their career. When in regular performance setup, they were even more impressive, with an energetic backup singer sharing the stage, and a saxophone guy that I later found out has worked with them since before they became famous.

Personally, I haven't been a rabid fan all along; I don't think many have, with the long pauses in their productive career as a band. I stopped being rabid in high school. In grad school I remember hearing "Ordinary World" on the radio and thinking, "Hey, that's not bad", and I rather like the recent Justin Timberlake collaboration, but I haven't bought an album or sought out their music in 20 years. Yet I've never stopped liking Simon's voice (and I can always recognize it, even in an unknown song). And their energy is still considerable. And while Simon has become a bit Mick Jagger-like with his weird swaggering dance style and poutiness, John and Roger Taylor are still adorable and fun to look at, even approaching 50. My enjoyment, on the whole, was only partly nostalgic. I highly recommend the show.

When I wasn't at the concert, I surprised myself by navigating the Woodfield Mall/Schaumburg area beautifully: I didn't lose the motel, I managed to get to the concert--and back in the dark--with only one easily-correctable wrong exit, and I got lots of fun shopping time in. One of the holdovers from my early fear-of-driving problems was that I have always refused to drive in the Chicago area. When I go to Pennsic with someone, they drive there; when I go alone, I drive south through Rockford and give Chicago the widest possible berth. So, to be in the suburbs proper, and not just travelling through but travelling within, was a bit of a challenge, but I rose to it. So proud of myself...*sniff*

Overall, I've been a bit flat this season emotionally. Not in crisis, but not having truly pleasant times either. Nothing anyone can do about that, I suspect.

Monday, March 03, 2008
More isolating this weekend, though not as bad as the previous post. Saturday I slept in, took a walk (ice not much better than the previous time I tried to take a walk, but the 30+ degree weather was invigorating), and got some stuff done around the apartment (hung a framed picture I have had sitting up against my dresser for at least 2 years now).

Went to see a concert by The Festival Choir of Madison--they conveniently have concerts at Asbury UM Church which is kitty-corner from where I live, though I wouldn't recommend trying to navigate the icy paths around their parking lot right now. (Yes, I walked. I'd have felt stupid driving.) The choir has hired a new, awful darn cute young conductor, who seems to be very good (and selected a nice program, if a little too modern for my tastes). He talks a bit too much between songs, unfortunately...and he's not actually funny like, say, Bruce Gladstone who conducts various UW choirs, such as the UW Summer Choir I often sing with. Funny people can get away with a lot, I think. Even if they're charming, earnest people are much less entertaining.

The choir sounds good, though. Better, tighter, than the last couple of years. The dynamics have improved dramatically--quieter quiets, louds that are well-controlled but spirited, better phrase-shaping. Interesting situation: they now have a Musical Director who is local and rehearses with them (and guest-conducted a couple of pieces), while the conductor (Artistic Director is his title) lives in Ohio and teaches at Wright State and lives the life of a traveling conductor, probably not making it to many weekly rehearsals. Who gets the credit for the improvement? I don't know, but they both seem like they'd be good to work with. I'm going to look into joining for the 2008-2009 season, when details are up (they have one of the nicer choir websites I've ever seen, but understandably, info is not yet available on joining next fall).

Did some work on the striped medieval Islamic knit purse, originally from this issue of the West Kingdom Knitting Guild's newsletter but most recently featured on the cover of Tournaments Illuminated. That is, I did some work on it--and then discovered to my surprise that it was done. Now that's a weekend project! I did it in roughly Northshield colors: black, white, gray, tan, and gold, all in Knit Picks Palette. (Mom got me a box with every color for my birthday in 2006; apparently you can't get that anymore, or not for a discount anyway. It's been quite useful.)

All there is left to do is some tassels for the bottom, and a non-wool cord of some sort to use as a drawstring. If it's wool, over time, it will felt with the pouch and be useless as a drawstring! Eithni mentioned making some Viking whipcord (is there anything that stuff can't be used for?). So I am refraining from bringing out my lucet. I completely suck at luceting. My tension is off the charts. It's like when I was 9 and knit so tight I couldn't get the needle under the yarn. I am constantly picking and pulling at the loops with my fingernails just to get them up and over the prong of the lucet, which wreaks havoc on the yarn/string and doesn't do my fingers any favors either.

Yesterday I felt like getting some fiber, so I got veggie sushi and asparagus for dinner at Whole Foods. YUM.

Tomorrow night I have a private class in peyote stitch with Delica beads, which I've never worked with before. I was wandering town Friday night (yeah, I know I should have gone to Temple, but I just didn't feel like it) and happened on a new bead store on the far west side, Modern Bead, run by an enthusiastic woman named Shannon. When I admired a peyote bracelet she had, she mentioned a peyote beading class coming up, with which I had some kind of conflict, so she offered to do it just for me for $20! (Plus supplies, of course, but you never have to convince me to buy beads.) You can see on the website how nice her store is--simply organized, with neat lighting and spectacular attention to color flow. Something you can't see is that for all the gemstone strands she also offers a bag of half-a-dozen or so beads of that type, so you aren't spending $40 for an entire strand of garnets when you only need four for your project. AND she's got more Swarovski crystal beads than anyplace else in town. Way to carve a niche!

In the same shopping center there is a small gourmet food shop called Grape and Company, which always frustrates me because 75% of the shop is wines, not gourmet food, yet their advertising stresses the food aspect. Still, I like to stop by when I'm in the area. This time I got lucky: it's one source for David Bacco chocolates (no idea how many other places in town you can get them; he is opening a west-side chocolaterie sometime soon, but has no website), as recently featured at the now-defunct Cocoliquot restaurant. I got the last box in the store, which is now but a charming memory (the chocolates, that is, not the box--I'm keeping the gorgeous yellow box with the magnetic closure!).

I got to examine the beautiful decoration on the chocolates in good light, at my leisure, unlike when I was at the restaurant. There were 8 chocolates in an assortment of flavors. As near as I can tell, they are coated in a thin layer of cocoa butter or some other type of fat with a similar consistency to chocolate, sometimes tinted with what seems like food-grade Pearl-Ex powders, if there is such a thing. He must be working right in the chocolate molds, pre-pouring, to get the effects he gets: the cocoa butter takes shapes beautifully and has great shine, producing the effect of a color-lacquered chocolate. The Exotic Caramel, which is passion fruit-flavored, is my favorite. It actually has a thin layer of white under the metallic red and orange tinted layer, which gives it the look of those vinyl bike seat covers from the 70s, sparkle sparkle sparkle. $15 well spent.

Bronchitis is nearly gone (gauged by amount of lung stuff I cough up in the space of a day), but I'm still having coughing spates every so often, and singing is just plain out. Yes, I did yield to Chandler Thursday night and sing the Alto part in his arrangement of Evensong, but only because Owen was visiting rehearsal and he wrote the thing, and there were no other Altos. My contribution wasn't pretty, though.

I do not like skipping my period (and no, there is no reproductive reason why I should miss it). I realize it's because of the Feb. 1 surgery throwing my body off its schedule. But my hormones are all out-of-whack, I've been PMS-y for two weeks, and I don't know what to expect next month, either. Grumble.

Sunday, February 17, 2008
Hooray for being just about back to normal (or what passes for normal, where I'm concerned), 15 days post-tonsillectomy! Still a little swollen and a little sensitive in the back of my mouth, and yawning hurts, but I can eat just about anything I want, and bore my parents to tears talking at them as usual.

I don't recommend tonsillectomies for fun & recreation, but mine wasn't horrible. I am NOT interested in taking opiates again anytime soon, however. Apparently when those in the health care profession say "the drugs will give you constipation", they mean, "the drugs will close your anal sphincter so tight, the consistency of the contents of your bowels will not matter one whit". I was taking a stool softener like a good little surgical patient. The result? My bowels talked to me and swished around, completely liquid, for four days until I could taper down on the pain meds and finally poop.

Constipation? I do not think that word means what you think it means...

In any case, I can talk nearly normally, I can sing for short periods (though I don't think my vocal tract is quite ready for normal breath pressure, as I sound just a little airy), and I can breathe all night through my nose, which I haven't been able to do in a long time. Time (and the disappearance of the remaining swelling) will tell whether the extra space will really help in breathing/swallowing. In the meantime, I am assured of never having tonsillitis again. In 2002 I missed a Medical Library Association conference AND a choir performance (not to mention 7 days of work) because of tonsillitis!

Enough health talk. I've found that the more I talk about my health on this blog, the more frequently health searchers visit, and I can't stand the idea that there are people actually taking what I say about my health as health information or advice. I was a consumer health librarian. I know where the good information is, and it ain't here. Go visit MedlinePlus. Your tax dollars paid for it.

My first week back was busy and very productive. I worked my butt off and, for my trouble, was able to look around Friday, recall two things I was supposed to do that I didn't get to, and feel assured that everything else had been taken care of for the week. I even watered the plants, which is normally my library assistant's job on Friday morning, but by Thursday they were looking pretty sad after nearly two weeks without water, so I did them. They will now probably die. This is what I do to plants. Oh well. They had a good run.

Tuesday afternoon I decorated the library for Valentine's Day. Hearts everywhere! Thursday morning I had the entire school in the library at one time or another--3 separate groups of kids--and two adult groups in the afternoon. I gave each person a wild strawberry heart gummy candy, from a tub of gummies I got at Ikea when Eithni and I were there after 12th Night. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but felt like I had not just done the necessary things, but had gone the extra mile to help everyone feel welcome and glad to be in the library.

I was rewarded by hearing a patient say to a staff member, as he left the library, "That was enjoyable, we really needed it".

Awww, shucks...

During my recovery time I read The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn, which is one of the most fun books about food (and the people who love it) that I've read in awhile. Kathleen loses her high-powered job and, after some soul-searching, moves to Paris to attend the famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. The book is full of loving and hilarious stories about her cooking school friends, Paris and its idiosyncrasies, her very understanding boyfriend who puts his life on hold to be with her on this adventure, the chefs at the school who inspire her and sometimes intimidate her, and the hard work and fun she has cooking. It's also a very revealing look at what it's like to go to a school like Le Cordon Bleu, where the pressure to succeed is great, but the school really does give a student all the tools, including encouragement when it is most needed. Also, I learned a better way to cut onions. This was a terrific read--highly recommended.

I followed that up with the first Harry Potter book, finally. My friends know I rarely read a bestseller while it's a bestseller, but this was getting ridiculous. And I think I get what people like about it, though I'm not really able to enumerate what that is yet. All I know is, I liked it, and I think I would have liked it when I was a kid, especially with it being just a tad british in tone and humor.

Now that I've waited this long, I can wait as long or short a time as I want between each book, since they're all published now--and I work at a library that has multiple copies of each. You see...I meant to do that. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Today: tidied the kitchen, worked on challenges for Bardic Madness, sent off a poem I wrote for Their Majesties to use in a gift basket for TRMs of the West at Gulf Wars, took my first walk since surgery (much needed, esp. with snow coming tomorrow, but a bit chilly), and watched this movie (which turned out to be made-for-TV when I looked it up, but it actually wasn't bad, and I looove Tom Everett Scott). Then I went out and ran a few errands, and met my parents for dinner, then did some shopping. I even found a new Speedo swimsuit in a lovely color of blue at Marshall's for $16.99. A productive day.

Tomorrow: I need to upload the Bardic Madness website and send the link to the site autocrat for approval, return my way-overdue videos, finish the challenge list and send it off for feedback, and...that's it. Probably play some Cake Mania 2. I have such a rough life. ;)

Monday, January 21, 2008
(I very rarely post the same text on both my LJ and here, but I don't know if I can re-write this entry again!)

I think my breathing has returned to normal now...!

This weekend I went to Nordskogen's Twelfth Night, where I was pretty much blindsided by my Laurel begging a boon of King Hagan and Queen Eilis during morning Court. I was put on vigil for the Order of the Laurel, the SCA's highest award for the arts. I spent the day laughing and crying and nibbling on nutella/almond cookies and smoked Gouda cheese and hearing advice and compliments from people I knew and people I hope I get to know more over time. I didn't get a chance to shop (or, really, do anything else event-related)...but I did wear the ring I got at my first Twelfth Night ten years ago!


  • Aleksandre bringing four bags of Smarties from Canada for my vigil is just completely emblematic of how I felt treated on Saturday. Everything was taken care of for me.
  • I love my friend Sarra so much!
  • I am so glad I'm not Owen's apprentice anymore. I always wanted to be his friend first and foremost.
  • 9 people used the phrase "It's not an elevation, it's a recognition" in their advice to me. I believe in that concept too, but it may possibly now qualify as an overused phrase.
  • Thank G-D for Elashava's quick extemporaneous speaking skills.
  • I believe I actually forgot my own name during the ceremony.
  • I realized Saturday evening that I had tried on my own Laureling hood at Yule Moot a week earlier. Eithni: "Do you think this is a workable design?" Iohanna: "I don't know, maybe we should try it on someone?" Eithni: "Eliane, do you mind trying this on for a second?"
  • Not one but TWO people wrote me poems! Not one but TWO people gave me adorable nesting boxes! And I received TWO really useful blank books, besides the gorgeous one Ingus contributed to be used as my vigil book.
  • I am still too freaked out to read my vigil book.
  • Cerian, Garraed, Ana, and Flieg sent letters for me. How many baby Laurels get a letter from one of the founders of the SCA on their elevation day? I was floored.
  • One friend was so excited for me, his blood pressure became dangerously high during the drive to Minneapolis and he had to turn around and go home! (Just kidding...Dolan had a sudden medical problem and had to turn back. We missed him a lot. But he did call during the post-revel. Feel better, Dolan!)
  • Iohanna put up my hair in a crown braid, and did the Italian Hair Taping thing for me. It turned out beautifully! I had asked her to do this at Yule Moot, completely clueless about the fact that she had just been taken aside and informed about my impending Laureling! She is the best.
  • Shava commissioned an illuminated, calligraphied rendition of my song "Three Words" from a Lady in Jara whose name is pronounced identically to mine. It's gorgeous. Shava cried when she gave it to me and told me what the song meant to her.
  • My promissory scroll is nicer than many people's actual scrolls. And it's the first thing I've ever owned with my device on it. Mysie is amazing. I so wish she could have been there...but I know life sometimes dictates otherwise.

Big thought: I AM READY FOR THIS. I'll be patient with myself and with the things I don't know yet, but this is a logical step and I am glad to be taking it. I may have been surprised Saturday morning (though I guessed in enough time to put down what I was holding, exchange a smile with Colleen, and hand my camera to Dahrien), but overall I don't feel unworthy or unready. For that I feel lucky.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who helped, gave me a gift or a needed item or advice, listened to me babble, offered me small but meaningful choices on a day when I only had one huge decision to make (and it was a foregone conclusion), furnished my vigil room, drove me around, escorted me at the event, assisted at the ceremony or spoke for me, recommended me, or just gave me a smile and a "Congratulations!". You all make me feel so grateful for the SCA and the friendships it has given me.

Since the event: smallish but fun bardic circle in Owen/Flori's incredible multi-level tardis home, Sunday morning had a refreshingly fun casual conversation about religion with Kyle and Staci in the hotel room, hung out with Eithni and Master John from the East, mildly disappointing trip to S. R. Harris fabric warehouse (but I did get a nice length of blue linen and a piece of trimmed black shearling), an extended visit to IKEA with Eithni, and then a very talk-y drive home.

Today: slept entirely too late, did laundry, did dishes, have been tidying a little as I realize that my mom has to be here for 24 hours after my tonsillectomy, and my apartment looks, as she would say, "like a goat exploded". I have a little under two weeks to clean, so it's not urgent, but it's easier for me to clean in smaller chunks over time.

Tomorrow: going to work. I'll be interested to see what I answer when people say, "So what did you do this weekend?"!

Sunday, January 13, 2008
Not a fully-fleshed out post for right now, but some info people have asked me for:

Where to get Master Avatar's early music books (and Istanpitta CDs): "Medieval Songs and Dances" is the one I usually practice psaltery with, since it has more vocal music than his other book.

Where I got my plucked psaltery: Musicmakers' Kits. It's called a Hognose Plucked Psaltery and it's under "Other Musical Kits". Prices have risen a little since I bought it, but it's still a very good deal compared to other instruments out there, and they do good work. If you look at other models on the web, compare the range--Musicmakers' has a full two octaves and a wooden bridge, plus the more period hognose shape. Other models are often smaller, have fewer strings, metal bridges, and a more trapezoidal shape. The Russian-made models are very mass-produced-looking in my opinion. More information on psalteries is at: Be aware that the bowed psaltery is NOT a period instrument, despite the fact that there are a few SCA folk playing and teaching it as though it were.

My Israel pictures, about 60% captioned, are at: The captions are really my main way of journaling the trip. Go see, and I hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2007
Things are going better than in the last post. I don't feel quite so flattened. But I'm not fully inflated, either.

It's the seventh day of Hannukah and I've only forgotten to light the candles once. So proud of myself...! Last year I don't think I did it even once. It's not that I feel some sort of compulsion to follow "Jewish rules" and light the candles every night. It's that, in Reform Judaism, we are asked to follow the traditions that mean something to us--and lighting candles means something to me. Light means something to me. I'm still exploring what that is, but besides having a family history of seasonal affective disorder, there is the fact that my alma mater's motto is "Light, More Light", that the symbol of the Northshield is the Compass Star, that I love christmas lights and now have a tradition of displaying them in my bedroom in December since that's my birthday month...I could go on.

I even lit candles at Dahrien/Mysie's Saturday night. A non-Jew guest complimented me later on "the little song you sang when you lit the candles". He took me by surprise since I think of the Hannukah prayers as just another set of Jewish prayers, not really a song, and sing the generic tune I learned as a little kid.

Today: much cataloging at work. (Monday is my relatively quiet day, only one group scheduled to come visit the library.) Things are still going great. My boss is truly wonderful and I'm still in love with the library space and all the things I can do with it. Last week I took down the slightly floppy magazine rack labels (the magazines kept getting stuck on them as people picked them up from the rack, not to mention they were stuck on with masking tape which was damaging the finish) and put up all new ones, leaving spaces for new magazines for 2008. Friday before I left I stood and admired my handiwork. It is much easier to read, much neater-looking, and it's quite the well-rounded magazine collection if I do say so myself.

I love this kind of stuff. I hope I never become an administrator and get all isolated from the library space and the patrons. That would be very sad. I need to remember that small works of "library magic" are what I thrive on.

This past weekend: Boar's Head. I needed to stay in town Friday night for the Israel trip send-off at Temple, so first thing Saturday morning I drove Sarah the Foole and Aurora to the event. The early part of the day was a little sad as Sarah just missed the sign-in period for participants in the Princess' Sleeve tournament, and friends had challenged her to enter it and got her all worked up to participate. I felt bad for her.

The day was good, in general. For my first SCA event in three months, I didn't LOVE LOVE LOVE it like I thought I would. This is the third Boar's Head at the current site near West Bend, and it's a nice but uninspiring site. Kudrun taught a morning class on period Christmas carols (which I thought she put together beautifully, even if we didn't get more than halfway through her list of carols), I spent an hour serving lunch in exchange for free food, and then there was some aimlessness in the early-mid afternoon during which I introduced Annora to the Queen's attendants so she could gift Her Majesty with really cool clay tokens. I also shopped, meeted-and-greeted with various friends I ran into, defended Masha from Grimmund, and attempted to go to a class on the Cantigas de Santa Maria (but the teacher had been unable to make it to the event).

The Pippins (a choral group from the Chicago area) were in attendance, and the Jararvellir-Choir-and-Friends met up with them at 4 for a random sing-in. I adore the Pippins. Got some good singing in.

Kit, the Kingdom Webminister (and husband of Addah, my site autocrat from Bardic Madness when it was in Shattered Oak a few years ago), drew me aside in the early afternoon to ask whether I would be willing to set to music/perform in court some statistics about the new Kingdom website to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". The idea was too absurd to turn down. I blinked a few times, thought about it, and said, "You betcha". Kit and three people who were instrumental in the project were being called up to court to be recognized (and Kit was inducted into the Order of Tyr a minute later) and I was to deliver the statistics in a fun way.

Mid-afternoon I sat down to write. Kit had given me a list of eleven stats along the lines of "Over 50 award recommendations received" and "Task list currently at 30 items, have processed 140 tasks related to changes recommended by users". Not very medieval, but that wasn't the point. Basically I changed each point so it nearly scanned to "12 days" (forced scansion being something that adds to the humor, and something I can handle when singing, more than some other singers anyway). I think I was crouching down near my stuff for all of 11.5 minutes writing. This was not a hard task. Coming up with a 12th point was tougher...I originally put "Kit Marik is fabulous!" but Kit (such a gentleman) scotched that and suggested "4 tired webministers", which stuck to the format better anyway.

The performance was pretty good in my estimation--I got laughter for some of the lines, and after I stuck in a quick "Guys, c'mon, sing along, don't let me do this alone!", people were actually singing along. I had a sense of deja vu after standing up to sing; I must have sung in Court last year, but I don't remember what. People complimented me for the rest of the event, which was nice, but Owen agreed laughingly with me that this was a one-off: it was what it was, it fit the occasion, and the lyrics need to be saved, but outside the bardic book.

It is definitely good to know that I can handle a quick commission, under the right circumstances and given something that's easy to work with. I've never been able to write at events, and my improvisatory skills are minimal. So this was a very positive thing for me.

Dahrien did not seem offended that I really didn't understand his elaborate Agincourt-based game during dinner. All the diners got glass gems and special cards, and a staff of runners took challenges between the French and English diners. I kept winning challenges without really knowing how I'd won. The feast was delicious but a bit overwhelming, especially with the game going on at the same time; by the last course I was tiring of the whole shebang and had already eaten my fill. (I did get to show off my European language pronunciation skills by heralding the names of the feast dishes, from four different countries.)

The Bardic Barracks was rather quiet this year, even with the two first-time barrackers I brought; several of the "regulars" did not attend, including the families that often come for Boar's Head. Bardic on Saturday night was mostly conversation with the occasional poem or song thrown in. (That's okay; Midrealm Bardic Madness is coming up this Saturday!) It was good to be with the friends who were there, and the conversation was good, but it wasn't really the highlight of my year that it has been in the past.

It's in me, this inability to really have fun. I know what it comes from, but part of it is pathological and part of it comes from the treatment for that pathology, and it's not possible to separate them. I'm working on it. Slowly.

This week: several holiday meals on various units at work, should I want to attend them; my departmental lunch tomorrow; a visit to my mom's friend Hilde who has invited some of the Israel trip-goers to her house to see slides from her past Israel trips; possible work on my new cotehardie, which is nearly assembled (but the prospect of aaaaaaaall the buttons and buttonholes keeps me from wanting to finish it); then packing/leaving for Midrealm Bardic Madness. I also need to get some phone calls made, then start actual constructive packing activities for...

My trip to Israel! I'll be gone Dec. 22-Jan. 4. The shopping has been done (the new backpack, the hairbrush so small it makes me go "awwwww", the travel-knit long skirt that will function as a Shabbat-services dress-up piece as well as over my jeans for Muslim holy sites) and now I need to get my regular wardrobe washed and ready so I can pick out what I'll wear on the trip. I'm thinking I'll bring my large (non-expandable, but I have an additional folding bag if needed) suitcase, but haven't really tested its capacity; the small one is expandable, but less steady on its wheels, and may not be as big as the large one even when expanded. We'll see.

I'm not really planning on a spiritual awakening on this trip. To be frank, I've been looking at this as a chance to see wonderful sights, get to know a country I've never visited, do some amazing shopping, and even do some SCA-period historical sightseeing. Israel is huge in the consciousness of modern Jews, but I am more of a realist; I see it as an interesting and perhaps necessary experiment, that unfortunately has become so embroiled in political and human rights issues, that its culture is now one of war. (This does not mean I'm pro-palestinian. More I cannot say right now. I'll be happy to discuss it with friends when I come back and know more about how I feel about it.) Judaism, at least as I know it, seems so...peripheral to what Israel is these days. I'm not going into this as an Israel cheerleader excited to see "my homeland" for the first time (I already have a homeland). But I'm going to try to be keep an open mind about things, and let's face it, I wouldn't be the first person to have an unexpected spiritual experience in Israel!

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