Author: Beth

Projects I’m working on – the winter edition

I recently had the idea to write about the craft projects I’m working on – not just to show them off, but for other reasons as well.  I’m thinking sharing what I’m working on might help keep me accountable, and remind me “hey, I should probably finish these things at some point”.  Plus, it’ll be good to see the progress I’ve made on some projects – like the Hue Shift blanket, which is slowly but surely getting bigger.  I don’t think I’ll make this a monthly series, but I do want to make a post like this semi-regularly – so we’ll see how well this works out.

Russell Street shawl

Photo of a shawl draped over a couch.
This shawl is so long that it’s a little awkward to take photos of – I can’t imagine how big it’ll be after blocking!

This shawl’s given me a bit of trouble as I’ve been working on it – it started off easily enough, knitting the stripe at the bottom of the shawl, but when I started picking up the stitches to knit the main body of the shawl, I ran into some trouble.  The edge stitches stretched out a heck of a lot during my first attempt to pick them up, and looked really awkward when I started knitting the body.  I tried a couple of different methods of picking up the edge stitches before I gave up and just picked up two loops instead of one for each edge stitch and just ran from there. The back is a little weird as a result of my awkward stitch-pick-up method, but the front looks fine – and I’m getting pretty close to finishing it.  My goal is to get this one done by the end of the month – once I finish it, then I’m going to let myself start a new project!  It’s been hard, focusing solely on one project, but I really want to get this done.

Russell Street on Ravelry

Secret Paths shawl

A shawl in different shades of purple.

It’s been a while since I’ve crocheted anything, and when I ended up getting a skein of Scheepjes Whirl yarn recently, I knew I had to crochet something with it.  The Secret Paths pattern had been sitting in my Ravelry library for a bit, and so I figured this would be a good project to use that skein of Scheepjes Whirl on.  It’s been working up pretty quickly – I started it shortly after the holidays, and have been working on it on and off since then (I’ve been alternating between this one and the Russell Street shawl).  It’s currently in a brief hibernation while I try to finish the Russell Street shawl, but once I finish that, I’m going to bring this back into my craft project rotation.

Secret Paths on Ravelry

Hue Shift afghan

Part of an afghan, in shades of red, pink, yellow, and orange.
It’s getting bigger!

Oh hey, it’s the Hue Shift afghan again!  It’s been a bit since I’ve shared this on the blog, and I’ve made a fair bit of progress on it since then.  I did a lot of work on it over the holidays, as it was pretty easy to work on while visiting with family.  It’s currently hibernating as well, but once the Russell Street shawl gets finished it’ll go back into the rotation as well.  I’m pretty darn close to finishing off the first quarter, which is exciting!

Hue Shift afghan on Ravelry

Harvest Cardigan

A sweater in progress - it doesn't have arms yet.
So close to the bottom edge of this sweater…

I’ve been working on this sucker for a while now – I started it early last summer, thinking I could easily finish it by fall, but nope – it’s still on my needles.  I am, however, very close to done with the body.  I’m maybe two inches away from finishing the bottom border, and then it’ll be time to work on the sleeves!  This is the first piece of clothing (aside from socks) that I’ve knit, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turning out – even with the switch from accidental twisted purls to proper purl stitches. I learned I’d been doing the purl stitch wrong for years while I was working on this, heh.

I worked on this quite a bit before starting the Hue Shift afghan, almost to the point of burnout, so it’s been sitting in the “I’m working on this, I swear” pile of knitting that I’ve got in my living room, along with the other projects in this post.  One of these days I need to just sit down and finish those sleeves…

Harvest Cardigan – Tin Can Knits

Here’s hoping I can get at least one of these projects finished soon!  I always feel good when I finish a project – I just need to finish more of what I start.

Another new hobby – Magic: The Gathering

I’ve been meaning to write a bit about how I’m finally learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and, well, what better time than now?

My first attempt at learning to play was back in 2005, when I was in college – a couple of the guys in SUNY Potsdam’s Gaming Club built me a simple deck, I watched them play one game, and then I think I got pulled into a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign and forgot about learning Magic entirely.  I had that deck for years – I think I ended up donating it to Goodwill a few years ago, before Ross and I moved into our house.  (I’m kicking myself for that now – I wonder how much some of those cards might be worth now!) I was still vaguely interested in learning, eventually, but I didn’t know anyone that played – until I met J, anyway.

Last year, I finally decided maybe I should try learning to play again – and J was more than happy to teach me.

A Magic: The Gathering game in progress
The beginning of a game where I got whomped by a pile of merfolk. And yes, I do have a Doge playmat.

I’ve been learning for a while now – I think J started teaching me the game last summer, and I only recently got to the point where I decided “okay, I’m going to stick with this, maybe I should get a deck of my own instead of borrowing one of J’s many decks every time I play.”  So, with J’s help, I picked out one of the 2018 premade Commander (or Elder Dragon Highlander, depending on your preferences) decks and did a little tweaking to make the deck a little more powerful.  I ended up choosing the Exquisite Invention deck, after looking through J’s copy of it – I’ve been calling it the Thopterpocalypse Deck, because when my deck is behaving, I can generate a lot of thopters and servos to rain down doom on my opponents.  (I say when my deck is behaving because the last two games I’ve played, all my land has ended up at the bottom of the deck, no matter how many times the darn thing gets shuffled.) Now that I’m getting a feel for the game, I’m comfortable enough to be silly – like giving personalities to creatures I play, for example.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but sometimes it’s fun to say “oh, the Master Thopterist is in a bit of a mood, so he’s going to attack with his two thopter buddies.”  It’s fun to be a little sassy while I’m playing, haha.

One thing is for sure – I definitely don’t know nearly enough to make decks on my own.  Deck building is insanely complicated.  You have to think about how all the cards interact with each other, and how certain cards can trigger combinations that may or may not wipe out another player’s creatures.  It’s mind-boggling.  I don’t know J does it – then again, he’s been playing Magic for far longer than I have.

I will say, sometimes it’s hard for me not to just buy all the cards I can. I like collecting things, and if there’s something I’m enthusiastic about, I end up wanting to throw money at it and buy all the things. I’m really glad J is guiding me in what to buy and what not to buy, because otherwise I’d probably end up with a hot mess of somewhat useless stuff because I think the card art is pretty. Also, good lord this hobby involves buying so much stuff – not only did I end up buying a deck of cards to play with, I had to get a deck box, and I bought Saheeli-themed card sleeves (since she’s the commander for my deck), and of course I had to get that Doge playmat, and yesterday I just picked up some token counters because Saheeli likes to make ALL THE THOPTERS  – and speaking of thopters, I got lucky with that blind bag draw!

Three Magic: The Gathering token counters - one with a dinosaur on it, another with a thopter, and the third with Liliana.
why yes, Saheeli, let’s make 50 thopters and rain down the thopterpocalypse, yesss

I sort-of knew what I was getting into when I got into the hobby – at least with the fact that cards can get expensive and there are LOTS of them, heh – but I didn’t quite absorb just all the little things you need to play Magic. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s not stopping me from wanting to play.

I’m really enjoying learning how to play.  Each game is like a constantly shifting puzzle that you need to solve. Sometimes you get lucky and can solve the puzzle early and knock out your opponent, and other times you just end up stuck waiting for a needed card or two that never come up.  It’s fun, and exciting, and sometimes overwhelming – and I love it. I’m really glad I got into this hobby.

What I'm watching: January 2019

What I’m watching: January 2019

Hi folks, and Happy New Year!  You might remember a post I made a few weeks back, about some resolutions I made for the blog for the year — one of them was writing more reviews, especially for TV shows. I watch (or at the very least, listen to) a lot of TV while I’m crafting, and I mean a lot. While I don’t know that I’d be able to write great, in-depth reviews on the shows I’m watching, I could at least share some of the shows in my Netflix and Hulu queues and share my thoughts on the shows without too many spoilers.  (And possibly share some shows I tried out but didn’t quite get into.)

So, here’s what I’m watching this month: Battlestar Galactica and The 4400.

Battlestar Galactica (2004)

The main cast of Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica is a show I’ve been meaning to watch, well, since it came out almost 15 years ago. I had friends in college who were obsessed with it, and I’ve had friends in the years since who were big fans. When I started dating Ross, he was working through re-watching the series and was somewhere in season 2 before Neftlix lost the licensing to it.  Now it’s on Hulu, and we’ve started watching it together as our evening “let’s watch this together” show. I’m sure most of you readers have at least heard of it before, but if not, here’s a short summary from Hulu (who explains it better than I could):

Battlestar Galactica continues from the 2003 mini-series to chronicle the journey of the last surviving humans from the Twelve Colonies of Man after their nuclear annihilation by the Cylons. The survivors are led by President Laura Roslin and Commander (later Admiral) William Adama in a ragtag fleet of ships with the Battlestar Galactica, a powerful but out-dated warship at its head. Pursued by Cylons intent on wiping out the remnants of the human race, the survivors travel across the galaxy looking for the fabled and long-lost thirteenth colony: Earth.

We’ve only watched the first six episodes (and the miniseries) so far, but I’m already ridiculously attached to many of the characters. When Starbuck ended up in mortal peril in episodes 4 and 5,  and then managed to get herself out of it and back to Galactica, I cheered with the rest of the crew and got a little misty-eyed. I feel for President Roslin and Commander Adama as they make some tough decisions in order to keep what’s left of humanity alive and safe. I’m always looking forward to the next episode — and I’m glad Ross and I are watching an episode or two a night so I don’t binge-watch the entire thing over a weekend.  I like being able to enjoy each episode, process it, and then go watch the next episode tomorrow.

Battlestar Galactica on Hulu

The 4400

The main cast of The 4400.

The 4400 is a show I stumbled across on Netflix while trying to find something to watch while crafting.  I’d just blasted through Season 3 of Travelers (a show I really enjoy) and was looking for more sci-fi to watch, and Netflix suggested this.  The premise seemed alright (albeit a little cheesy): 4400 people, each of whom disappeared in a beam of light anywhere between 1938 and 2001, are deposited on the shores of a lake in Washington state by a bright ball of light.  None of these people have aged a day since their disappearance, and some of them have come back with special powers (such as the ability to heal or see the future).

The show follows Tom Baldwin, an agent of the National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC) as he and his partner, Diana, investigate events involving the 4400.  It also follows a handful of the 4400 themselves, including the following:

  • Maia, an 8-year-old girl who disappeared in 1946 and returned with the power to see the future
  • Shawn, Tom’s nephew who disappeared in 2001 at the age of 18 and returned with the power to heal/kill
  • Richard, a 29-year-old Air Force pilot who disappeared in 1955
  • Lily, who disappeared in 1993 at the age of 27 and returned mysteriously pregnant

While the show does have some cheesy moments, it’s pretty enjoyable.  It also doesn’t hurt that the show’s creator, René Echevarria, was a writer on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and one of the producers (Ira Steven Behr) also worked on DS9. (And speaking of DS9: Jeffrey Combs, who plays Weyoun and Liquidator Brunt in DS9, also stars in The 4400!) I’m in the middle of season 3 right now (I think I started the show sometime last week), mostly due to all the time off I’ve had recently, and I’m curious to see where the show ends up going.  If you’re looking for something in the sci-fi realm to watch and don’t mind if the show gets a little silly at points, you should try The 4400.

The 4400 on Netflix

Five free craft patterns to keep busy with over the holidays

It’s the holiday season — a time when many of us have some time off from work, school, or other obligations.  And if any of you are like me, you’ll want to spend that spare time crafting, so I’ve pulled together a collection of five free (and in many cases, easy) craft patterns to keep you busy with during the holidays!

The World’s Simplest Mittens by Tin Can Knits

A set of four knit mittens in different sizes and colors.

If you’re looking for a way to keep your hands warm this winter, and have never tried knitting mittens, check out this pattern from Tin Can Knits!  With sizes from toddler to adult, you can make mittens for just about anyone.

The World’s Simplest Mittens – Ravelry

Hermione’s Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder

A foot on tiptoe in the grass, showing off a sock made from the Hermione's Everyday Sock pattern

Here’s another free and simple knitting project — this one’s actually been in my queue on Ravelry for quite some time.  And come on, what Harry Potter fan wouldn’t want to make these simple socks inspired by Hermione?  You could even try making them in Gryffindor red and gold, too.

Hermione’s Everyday Socks – Ravelry

Lazy Waves Shawlette by Dedri Uys

A shawl with a simple wave texture pattern.

I love this pattern — in fact, I love it so much I’ve made two of these shawls.  This pattern works especially well with yarn that has a slow color change to it, like the Lion Brand Shawl in a Cake yarns, as it results in a really pretty striping pattern.  The shawl works up quickly, and the rhythmic pattern is somewhat soothing to do.  If you’re looking for a quick and simple shawl to make, this one’s for you.

Lazy Waves Shawlette – Ravelry

Finn and Princess Bubblegum Cross-Stitch Pattern by Monica

Finn and Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time, hugging.

Who doesn’t love Finn and Princess Bubblegum?  Here’s a quick little cross-stitch pattern of them hugging.

Finn and Princess Bubblegum Cross-Stitch – by Monica (site is in Italian)

I Aim to Misbehave by Quaternion Creations

Cross stitch pattern with the quote "I aim to misbehave" from the movie Serenity.

A great quote from a great captain, from the movie Serenity.

I Aim To Misbehave – Quaternion Creations

2018: the year in review

We’ll just pretend that in the featured image, Steven and friends are getting ready for the new year, haha.

It’s December!  (Well, it has been for two weeks now, actually.) And with the end of the year nearly here, I figured there’s no better time to look back at some of the more exciting things that happened here in Crafty Nerd land, and look forward to next year and where I’m hoping to go with the blog!  So, without further ado, here’s a look back at 2018!

  • In January of this year, I took part in my first ever crochet-a-long!  It was an interesting experience, especially trying to focus on one specific project for roughly two months. Eventually, I got distracted by other projects (as is often the case with me and crafting), and finally finished the darn blanket in June.  Given my propensity to lose focus on a project and switch it out for something else for a little bit, I’m not sure if crochet/knit-a-longs are for me, but I did have fun making the Woodland Blanket!
  • Back in May, I started learning how to play Magic: The Gathering!  FINALLY.  It’s something I tried to pick up back in college, way back in the day, but the guys from the Gaming Club who were going to teach me Magic got distracted by another game and I never actually learned to play — until this year, when J started teaching me the game.  I recently picked up my first deck, and did some customizing to it (with J’s assistance, as he’s been playing for many, many years), and won the first game I played with it!  I’d been meaning to post about how I started learning how to play, but I only got so far as a half-written draft of a post.  Ah well — I’ll likely do a post soon that goes into a little more depth on my start into the crazy world of Magic: The Gathering.
  • I read a fair amount of books this year, too.  I beat my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, and I’m on my way to having read 29 books this year (I’m almost done with Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay).  I really should talk more about books here on the blog, given how much I love reading and how much I tend to read in a year. (If anyone’s interested in keeping up with what I’m reading, you can find me on Goodreads here.)
  • One of the biggest things I focused on this year was putting together my Sailor Moon costume for Gen Con. This is a cosplay I’d been dreaming about doing properly for, what, half my life now?  And I was finally in a position to actually get all the pieces I needed and put together a costume I’d only dreamed about up to this point.  Heck, my Sailor Moon cosplay even won a Hall Costume Contest award at Gen Con, which made wearing those terribly uncomfortable boots so worth it.  (Next year, I’m investing in a good pair of gel inserts for those boots.)
  • I started collecting fountain pens, which has been a fun hobby to get into.  Granted, I’m not planning on buying incredibly expensive pens or anything, but I’ve got a couple nice ones, and I do love that I can keep using a favorite pen while putting new ink into it to keep things interesting. My 9th pen is due in the mail any day now, and I’m excited to fill it up and add it to the collection!
  • I started 16 different yarn craft projects this year, and managed to finish 10 of them — which, for me, is actually pretty impressive. I made a lot of shawls, a couple of blankets, and worked on a couple of sock projects I started last year (and still haven’t finished).  I still need to block some of those shawls I made, and I really need to give my neighbor the mitts I made for her, but overall, I’ve made some pretty darn good progress in my yarn crafts this year.

As always, I have a lot of ideas of where I could improve and what I want to do in the future.  Granted, I may not actually end up following up on everything (my eternally distracted brain will probably throw me off track a few times), but for next year, I’m going to try to…

  • Post more reviews: I read a lot, play a fair number of different types of games, and watch a heck of a lot of TV — which has largely been an untapped resource for interesting blog posts.  However, I’ve got that reviews category here on the blog, and I should fill it up with posts on things I’ve discovered that I want to share with everyone.  I’m going to try to do one review post a month next year, in hopes that’ll give me something to write about when I can’t really think of much to share on the blog.
  • Finish more craft projects: While I managed to finish ten of the projects I started this year, there’s still a whole bunch of unfinished projects lurking around my craft room, waiting to be completed.  I want to make a list of all those projects, and try and get them all crossed off if I can.  (It might be a good use for that craft project database I’ve been working on over on Dreaming Pixels, my personal website.)
  • Maybe start a Crafty Nerd podcast: I’ve been wanting to do a podcast of some sort for The Crafty Nerd for ages.  I do a lot of video and audio editing at work, and I really love it — and I’d love to incorporate it into what I do here at The Crafty Nerd.  I’ve been learning how to work with Adobe Character Animator, and I’d really love to use that for a video podcast of sorts here on the blog.  We’ll see what next year brings!

So, that’s what happened this year and a little of what I’m hoping for next year!  I hope everyone reading this has a happy holiday season and a fantastic new year, and as always, thanks for reading The Crafty Nerd. Here’s to making next year awesome!

The Hue Shift afghan saga, part 2: starting over

So, remember the Hue Shift afghan I started a month or two ago?

I ended up starting it over again, and I blame KnitPicks and their holiday sales.

If you remember from my previous post on this blanket, due to me being impatient and wanting to start the project right away, I went to Michaels and bought yarn that was as close as I could get to the colors used in the pattern.  And they were definitely pretty colors, but not quite what the pattern called for.

Super bright, but a little off from the colors KnitPicks suggests…

I was knitting along, making alright progress with these colors, when I saw an ad for KnitPicks in my Facebook feed mentioning that all pattern kits were half off that day.  My curiosity got the better of me, and I went to see just how much the Hue Shift kit cost – and when I saw it was right around $20, I caved in and bought it, and figured “what the heck, I’ll just start it over again with the right colors this time.”

Basket of 12 skeins of yarn - 10 of the skeins are in various rainbow hues, while the remaining two are black.
As you can see, I came close with some of the original colors, but others were way off.

I will say, take two of the Hue Shift afghan is going to be a bit smaller, since the yarn KnitPicks put in the kit is sport weight instead of worsted weight, but that’s okay.  I’m really pleased with how the afghan is turning out, and the Brava Sport yarn is so much softer than the yarn I was using from Michaels.

Three and a half squares of the Hue Shift afghan, laying atop a basket of yarn.
It’s coming along pretty well so far!

You might be wondering, though, what I’m going to do with the yarn I bought previously.  Well, I’m one step ahead of you there – over Thanksgiving, I cranked out a new blanket for my desk with most of the yarn from the original Hue Shift yarn batch.

A rainbow blanket draped over a desk chair.
It gets cold in my office building, but this blanket has done a good job of keeping me warm this week!

This was pretty simple to work up – I just used two strands of yarn and an L hook, and the stitch is a double crochet.  I switched out one of the colors every 4 rows, which let me blend the colors together a little bit instead of having stripes of a single color.  I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I’ve got enough yarn left to make a smaller lap blanket, too.

After I finish the Hue Shift afghan, I think I’m done with making blankets for a while.  I have way too many blankets already, between crocheting and quilting, but I figure one knit blanket to add to the pile can’t hurt, can it? 🙂

Habitica: four years later

Lately, I’ve been struggling a bit with keeping up on my daily habits and chores (and, obviously, posting regularly here in the blog) – more often than not, I forget to do part of my routine, or space out on some housework I’ve been meaning to do.  So, I thought it was about time to revisit an old friend: HabitRPG.  Or, as the site is now called, Habitica.

Boy, how things have changed since I was last on Habitica!

The Habitica interface, showing the Habitica Market.
Wow, things have gotten fancy since I last played regularly.

There are lots of new costumes, lots of new quests, and so many new quest-related pets – I’ll probably never be able to hatch them all!

I’ve also made a lot of progress over the years in Habitica…

Images of my Habitica avatar at different levels.
From level 4, to level 65, and now at level 89!

…I’m actually pretty close to hitting level 90, and I’m excited about that.  Habitica’s done a good job of motivating me to get things done – granted, I’ve only been back at it for a week now, but I find myself adding to-do items to my list as things pop up (the mobile app really helps with that) and actually working to get things done, so I can make some more progress with quests I’m working on as well as leveling up my character.  I really hope I can stick with this, because I’ve actually managed to get a lot done with this extra motivation.  Sometimes that’s all my brain needs – a little extra motivation.

If you need a little boost with motivation and keeping on top of your tasks and habits, but want to have fun doing it, you should check out Habitica.  It’s available on the web, as well as for iOS and Android.  It’s free to play (but donating or subscribing will get you some extra goodies), and there’s lots to keep you coming back to the site.  Four years on, I still recommend it as a great way to help you get things done.

Game review: Patchwork

Yes, there is a board game that’s essentially about making a patchwork quilt. My friends J and Kasi bought this game recently, and when J pointed out that they had a game about making quilts, I had to play it.

The box for the board game Patchwork, with game pieces surrounding the box.

In Patchwork, two players compete to make the most complete (and highest-scoring) quilt they can on a 9×9 game board. Gameplay is pretty simple — players move tokens along a board (called the “time track”) to determine whose turn it is, and as players move along the board they can collect extra buttons or small patches to help fill in empty spots on their board. Each space on the board represents a unit of time, and each of the patches has a time listed on them, indicating how many spaces you’ll be moving along the board.  (After all, quilting does take time!)

Around the time track is the collection of quilt patches you can choose from. During each turn, players have the option to purchase a quilt patch or earn extra buttons by moving to one spot ahead of your opponent.  You’re limited in which quilt patches you can buy, however: a marker works its way clockwise around the circle of patches, and you can only choose from the three patches in front of the marker. This is where sometimes moving ahead of your opponent can come in handy, if there aren’t any patches you can afford or any patches that fit on your board — you can simply choose to earn extra buttons, one per spot you end up moving along the board.

The game Patchwork set up and ready for play, with a square board that keeps track of player turns and differently shaped pieces of various colors representing quilt patches surrounding the board.
The game, set up and ready to play!

The buttons that players collect are really important.  Not only are they the game’s currency, but they also help determine who wins at the end of the game: whoever has the most buttons at the end of the game wins.

Game pieces from Patchwork, each displaying a button cost and a "time" cost. One patch has three buttons on it.
The patches that have buttons on them really help you out in this game.

As you can see, some patches have buttons on them – and those help you out as you move around the time track.  If you move past a button on the time track, you earn a button for every button that’s on your quilt.  The bigger your quilt gets, the more buttons you can earn at a time. (At one point, I think I was earning 15 buttons every time I hopped over a button on the time track — my quilt was very decorated!)

Patchwork game board with a couple of pieces on it, arranged to make a small, irregularly-shaped quilt.
My patchwork quilt, early on in the game. I didn’t end up winning – I had too many blank spaces at the end, boo.

When both players get to the end of the time track, that’s when you figure out who the winner is.  First, you count up how many buttons you’ve earned, and then subtract the amount of blank spaces on the board from the amount of buttons you’ve earned.  Whoever has the highest point count after that is the winner!  I didn’t win yesterday’s game, but I certainly had fun playing and will definitely be picking this game up for my collection.

Patchwork on Amazon

The Crafty Nerd tackles the Hue Shift afghan

I’ve been wanting to make a Hue Shift afghan for years. Many, many years. Before I got back into knitting and started getting better at it, I was a little intimidated by the mitered squares, and also by the prospect of knitting an entire blanket. I’ve never knit a blanket before, and the Hue Shift afghan looked like it’d be a heck of an undertaking.

However, last week, I went and bought the pattern and headed over to Michaels to find the closest colors I could to what Knit Picks called for in the pattern. I think I came pretty close, but some of them are a little different — and that’s okay. I want to make this blanket my own, since there are so very many other Hue Shifts out there. Why not try to be a little unique?

I do love how these colors look together.

I just started the fifth mitered square – only 95 more to go, haha.  I was originally thinking “hey, if I crank out a square a day, I could have this blanket done in 100 days!” But I know me too well. You folks know me too well. If I try to crank out the blanket on a deadline, it’ll end up taking me three years.

The blanket so far.

Instead, I’ll work on it at whatever pace I can manage (and try not to give myself repetitive stress injuries in the process!), and post some updates on its progress from time to time.  I want to enjoy making this blanket, instead of feeling guilty about it like I did with the Woodland Blanket. I’ve been wanting to make this blanket for so long, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Sheet of paper with the words "Fountain pens: My new obsession" written on it, with a fountain pen laying on top of the paper.

Fountain pens: my new obsession

I’ve fallen into a new… hobby? obsession? Whatever it is, it ties in nicely with my bullet journalling hobby (yes, I’m still keeping up with that!), and given my love for pens, color, and fancy paper, I’m not surprised I fell into this hobby.

Calling it a new obsession isn’t exactly truthful, though – I was always really intrigued by my dad’s fountain pens when I was a little girl. They were so fancy! And my dad would do silly things like draw smiley faces on my fingers and toes with his fountain pens. It always made me laugh when he’d do that.

Pointer finger with a smiley face drawn onto it.
Just like my dad used to do, haha.

When I was a little older, maybe in my teenage years, I decided that someday, I’d own a fountain pen, just like my dad. And, well, now I own six!

Photo of six fountain pens - two Pilot Metropolitans, a TWSBI Eco, and three Pilot Kakunos.
From left to right: two Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop pens, a TWSBI Eco, and three Pilot Kakuno pens.

What’s interesting about writing with fountain pens is that they all feel slightly different – it’s almost like they have personalities of their own. My green Metropolitan Retro Pop feels like it’s grumpy, and isn’t always the smoothest to write with. (That might be because when I first bought it, I only used it a little bit, then let it sit for two years to dry up… At least I learned how to clean fountain pens, thanks to Green Metro!) My clear Kakuno feels precise, peppy, and energetic. The purple and white Kakuno feels welcoming, friendly, and stable.

Oh god, I’m ascribing personalities to my fountain pens. Please send help. 🤣

More seriously, though, they make writing much more fun, whether it’s for work, in my bullet journal, or in a letter to a friend. I have a different color of ink in each pen, and even more colors to choose from if I want to switch out the ink I’m using. (The Goulet Pen Company’s little ink samples are perfect – I get to try out lots of different colors, and if I find one I love I can buy a big bottle of it.)

It’s been really hard resisting the urge to buy more pens and ink.  My wish list on Goulet Pens just keeps growing and growing, haha.

Screenshot of part of my Goulet Pens wishlist, containing a couple of different pens and bottles of ink.
This isn’t even my entire wish list!

I’m looking forward to seeing what other things I can do with fountain pens aside from writing a lot and playing with different ink colors.  Having fancy pens to write with might actually get me working on making my handwriting neater, at least. 🙂

Finally got a Kickstarter I’ve been waiting for!

I think I got a little burned out on everything after Gen Con – hence the lack of a post last week.  Don’t get me wrong, I tried to get the last of my Gen Con reports put together, and there’s a start to it in the pile of half-finished blog posts I’m accumulating, but I just couldn’t nudge myself towards getting it done.  I’ll try to finish it soon, though, as there are some pretty cool vendors and artists I want to share with you all that I discovered at Gen Con.

So that this week’s blog post isn’t all just me being down on myself for not posting last week, I’m going to talk about a Kickstarter whose rewards I’ve been eagerly awaiting for a little while now.  Those rewards showed up on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t help but share them with you all, because they’re so beautiful!

Yep, that’s right – the Name of the Wind Art Deck Kickstarter started shipping last month, and I finally got my goodies.  They were definitely worth the wait, that’s for sure.

Now, this isn’t the first deck of cards that’s had artwork from Name of the Wind on them – a deck was released a few years ago (also the product of a Kickstarter, if I remember right), with artwork by Shane Tyree depicting the characters we all know and love. I’ve got the Shane Tyree deck as well as the new ones with art by Echo Chernik, and it’s really interesting to see how each artist envisioned the characters.

From left to right: Auri, Denna, and Kote, with Shane Tyree’s art on top and Echo Chernik’s art on bottom.

The coin that I got as part of the rewards is beautiful – and pretty hefty, too!  I’d be afraid to flip it and accidentally dent a table with it when it lands, haha.

The prints are beautiful, too – I can’t wait to get them framed.  I’ve been especially excited about them, since I love Echo’s work, and it was really exciting to get to meet her at Gen Con.  All in all, I’m really happy with the quality of everything – the cards feel great in your hand, and the artwork is absolutely wonderful.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with four decks of Name of the Wind playing cards. 😛

Gen Con 2018 Report: the LARPs

This post is part of my Gen Con 2018 Report series – you can find the whole collection here!

As I mentioned briefly in some of my daily Gen Con posts, I took part in two different LARPs this year at Gen Con, in very different roles.  I’ve never actually LARPed at Gen Con before, so being involved in two different games might have been a little ambitious, but in retrospect, I had a heck of a lot of fun.  Both games I was involved in were put on by Phoenix Fire LARP, a group that my dear friends J and Kasi run with some of their friends. Since convention halls don’t really lend themselves well to boffer LARPs (or, LARPs that make use of foam weapons for attacking others), J developed the FIRE System, which uses a deck of playing cards to determine damage dealt to characters, help add an element of chance to certain actions, and to help with determining initiative for the players.  It’s a really neat system that’s pretty quick to learn.

While both games made use of the FIRE System, they were about as different as things can get – and I had completely different experiences in both games, what with running one and participating in another.  Read on to learn more about Return to Paragon City and Showdown in Sacramento!

Return to Paragon City

The three main storytellers from Return to Paragon City – Daniel, Kasi, and myself.

Return to Paragon City was the game I helped run – it’s based on the beloved MMO City of Heroes, which I didn’t get to play for long before they shut the game down back in 2012.  The game was run as a hybrid tabletop/live action game, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. However, to be honest, when I first volunteered to help run Paragon City, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect I’d be running part of the game by myself, but that’s what ended up happening. And given that it was my first experience running any sort of game, I was anxious as heck about it. I’ve played in tabletop games for years, and I’ve got a year and a half of LARPing experience under my belt, but running a game?  Telling a story and keeping track of where everyone is in location to the bad guys and keeping track of the bad guys’ health ended up being a really overwhelming prospect for me.  I was so worried I’d mess something up, and then freak out about messing things up, and it’d all spiral out of control.  Each playtest we did helped me feel a little better about things, but not much.  I ended up showing up to the game in the middle of a massive anxiety attack. Oh, brain.  Why do you do this to me?

Some of the fine superheroes from my table at Return to Paragon City.

Anyhow, I told J that my brain was conspiring against me and that I had no idea how I’d be able to run my section of game, so we tag-teamed my section of the event – I’d do the storytelling, while J handled the combat parts.  That combination worked out well – during combat I focused on keeping track of where people were on the map and how many hit points the bad guys had, while J handled the actual logistics.  And our group had loads of fun!  We had some great superheroes in our group, including Professor Photon, Cameraman (who had a camera prop and involved it in all of his attacks), and The Spicy Taco (whose attacks were, of course, taco-themed).

All in all, I learned a lot – and learned that maybe I need training wheels, so to speak, for a little bit longer when it comes to running a LARP.

Showdown in Sacramento

Showdown in Sacramento was an entirely different experience.  In fact, the only thing Showdown and Paragon City had in common was the FIRE System – everything else was incredibly different.  Instead of being set in a fictitious city full of superheroes, Showdown is set in Sacramento during the gold rush era, and is full of supernatural beings- mages, werewolves, vampires, and fey (in addition to regular plain old humans).  In last year’s game, an event happened that caused all the supernatural beings to glow with a specific colored aura around them, based on the type of supernatural being they were.  This made things a little… interesting for this year’s game, especially when it came to the political elements.

I like how J and Kasi handled character creation, although I know it resulted in an immense amount of work on their end.  Instead of creating our own characters, we were each assigned a character and given a fair bit of backstory for them as a starting point for this year’s game.  I ended up playing Lucina Finch, a relative newcomer to Sacramento who’d recently purchased a mine and was planning on using her abilities as a mage to construct machines that would work in the mines, to lessen the potential harm to humans.  Having the character information to start from made things much easier for me, especially since I was new to the game – once I got into character and started interacting with others, I had a great time.

Lucina Finch with J (who played many roles during the game, haha).  And yes, that’s the mole from my Marco costume earlier in the day – I’ll have to remember to add that for next year’s costume, haha.

Lucina partnered up with two other mages (Isadora and Adelia) to work on making more machines to work in the mines, which was one of Lucina’s main goals for the game.  There was also a lot of mining (Lucina had to pay Adelia for the rights to her gold-detecting machine somehow!), a marriage market where Lucina got matched up with a friendly werewolf named Thomas, a number of fights with thugs attempting to raid the mines (Thomas protected Lucina from one such attack by transforming into a werewolf, which Lucina thought was pretty awesome), and even voting on political issues that would affect the supernaturals living in Sacramento both immediately and in the years to come.  And with the help of a couple of others, the lady mages found out the source of the auras that were affecting the supernatural folk of Sacramento!

 

The cast of Showdown in Sacramento!

I had a heck of a lot of fun in Showdown, and I’m really glad I decided to jump in and play this year.  Granted, doing two 6-hour LARPs over the course of two days was exhausting, but I really enjoyed it.

 

Gen Con 2018: The Report

Well, Gen Con 2018 is all done – which I’m rather bummed about, I had an absolutely wonderful time this year!  Thanks to staying in a hotel in Indy, I actually had the energy to post something little each day of the convention, but I’ve got a heck of a lot more to ramble about – so here goes! To keep this one post from getting too ridiculously long, I’ve split out the long and rambly parts into their own posts:

My experience this year was pretty good in general – I kept up on what was going on with the Fans of Gen Con group on Facebook, which was full of good information.  From where to find certain games to how long the line for Will Call was, the folks in Fans of Gen Con posted about it all – and it helped me feel a little more connected to the convention in general.  I’m hoping I can actually make it to their pre-Gen Con event next year, the Stink, so I can meet more of the great folks in that group.

Speaking of Will Call – what the heck was up with Will Call this year?  The lines were insane, from what I heard – this year I ended up getting my press badge with my friend Rachel (of The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast) on Wednesday, and then hopping into the Will Call line – which stretched almost entirely across the convention center.  It moved pretty quickly, though – Ross, Rachel, and I were only in line for a half hour.  However, Thursday was an entirely different story.

This photo was taken by someone in the Fans of Gen Con group on Facebook, at around noon on Thursday.  That was the end of the line – snaking almost to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Apparently the line was really, really bad on Thursday – so much for Will Call being such a well-kept secret!  I think Ross and I are going to plan on getting my press badge on Wednesday of Gen Con from now on, so we don’t feel so rushed trying to get things taken care of early Thursday morning (and so we avoid the potential horrors of the lengthy Will Call lines). 

I don’t know about everyone else, but it felt like some parts of Gen Con were ridiculously packed compared to last year.  It felt almost impossible to navigate the Block Party, where all the food trucks were congregated, during meal times (and forget about finding a place to sit!) – and the dealer hall was insane on Sunday.  I get easily overwhelmed when there are too many people somewhere, and while most of the time I was fine, there were some spots where I just got so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people crammed into a small area.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how to alleviate this outside of finding a new place to do Gen Con or expanding further into the surrounding hotels – it’s just something I guess I’m gonna have to deal with.

I will say, watching the crowds enter the dealers hall on Thursday morning was fascinating.  I actually recorded the tail end of the opening ceremonies for Gen Con this year, and at about 4 and a half minutes into the video, you can see the crowd start pouring into the hall (and hear my silly commentary on it, too).

One of the things I love about Gen Con is the fact that I can run into friends from pretty much every part of my life here – over the course of the convention, I ran into a bunch of folks from Kishar, friends from work, my wonderful mom-in-law and brother-in-law, and even folks from SIGUCCS (a professional organization I’m a member of).  It’s like one big geeky party that all your friends are at, and it’s fantastic. I always love running into friends and family at Gen Con.

Star, Marco, and Steve from Blues Clues! (Or, Ross, myself, and Ross’s brother Damion.)

Overall, I had a great time – I got to eat tasty food from the food trucks (including some pierogies from Pierogi Love, and a rainbow cupcake covered in glitter called “The Mike Pence”, haha), I got to wear a Sailor Moon costume I’d only ever dreamed about wearing before, I got to play in some awesome games, and I spent a ridiculous amount of money in the dealers hall (I bought a Utilikilt this year!).  All in all, this was a great year, and I’m looking forward to next year’s Gen Con!  Here’s a little taste of Gen Con 2018, in photo form.

Keep an eye out for the more specific Gen Con Reports! 🙂  And if you want to listen to a more detailed (and much more tired) report about Gen Con, I guest-starred on the most recent episode of The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast, where Rachel and I talk about our Gen Con experience!  

Gen Con 2018: the cosplay

This post is part of my Gen Con 2018 Report series – you can find the whole collection here!

Here’s the post you’ve all been waiting for – the cosplay post from this year’s Gen Con! First, I want to show off mine and Ross’s costumes from Gen Con, since I’m really proud of how they turned out.  First off, our Friday costumes – Ross and I dressed as Star and Marco from Star vs. The Forces of Evil.

Not many people realized who I was until I pointed out the mole and the fact that I was wearing a red sweatshirt, haha.  I think next year, I’m going to have to dress as Princess Marco Turdina if I want to do Marco again.

Saturday was the really big day for cosplay for Ross and I – he wore his Star costume again, and I got to wear my dream Sailor Moon costume.

Ross is best Mewni princess. (Photo taken by TheMOX on Flickr.)

 

I had SO much fun getting to dress up as Sailor Moon for the day.  (Photo taken by TheMOX on Flickr.)

In general, there were loads of great costumes, and I really wish I’d been able to take more pictures – however, it’s incredibly hard to manage a cell phone with gloves on, so Ross was my photographer for most of Saturday.  

Without further ado, here are the pictures!  Click on the photos to see a larger/uncropped version – and if you’re in any of these photos and want a larger resolution version, leave a comment and I’ll link you to the high-res versions on Google!

And for those of you who are interested in watching the Costume Parade, check out this video from Naptown Buzz – Ross and I are about a minute in, after Gandalf the Dog. 🙂

Gen Con: day 4

or: Gen Con: the day I officially ran out of spoons.

But it’s okay that I ran out of spoons today, because it was the last day of Gen Con, and I didn’t really have anything planned!  So I went and did the one event I was signed up for – a crocheting event.

Soon to be a dragon scale scarf.

Do you know how hard it is to attempt to crochet at 9 am on a Sunday at Gen Con? My sleepy brain spent a few minutes thinking “does this pattern use American or UK crochet terms?” before I realized I was being silly, this pattern totally uses American terms, the image at the top of the pattern uses the same double crochets you’re used to.  Then I spent some time trying to get all those double crochets where they needed to be.  Eventually, after an hour of talking to my yarn and telling it to behave, I got two rows of scales done.

The rest of my day, outside of packing and loading stuff into the car, was spent wandering the dealer’s hall – I won’t lie, it was a little overwhelming with so many people crammed in there.  I got some tea and some dice, and Ross went on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for a fancy leather writing/sketching book.  We eventually found something close to what he liked at the Medieval Collectibles booth, and so he’s perusing their website as we speak to find the book he wants. 

Around 1 pm, we finally gave up and decided to head home – we were both exhausted (especially after 6 straight hours of cosplay photos, wandering around the convention center, and participating in the costume parade), and I almost fell asleep in the car on the way home. Now, I get to unpack, spend time with the cats, and slowly rehydrate myself.  Plus, I get to spend tomorrow writing up blog posts, reacclimating to normal life, and guest-starring on another episode of The Five-Ish Fangirls Podcast where Rachel and I (and the other podcasters) ramble about the past four days. 

I miss Gen Con already.