Author: Beth

I am The Crafty Nerd! :D

The social distancing nerd (or, how I’m surviving staying at home)

Yes, folks, I’m still here! I didn’t give up on the blog — although I’ll be honest, the past two months have been rough. I’ve been a hot mess half the time, between anxiety and depression and stress. It’s kind of hard to try to come up with topics to write about when you’re struggling emotionally, and it’s been a rough time in general for pretty much everyone I know. However, it hit me yesterday: I do have something to write about! I can talk about what I’ve been doing to help keep myself occupied while in stay-at-home mode. Surprise, surprise – it’s been a lot of crafting and gaming.

Crafting

I’ve been doing a lot of crafting. For a little while, it was the only thing keeping me sane. I only had to focus on where to put the next stitch, or how to piece fabric together.  I’ve made quite a few things since I went into stay-at-home mode in March.

Hand sewing: more relaxing than using a machine

I did a lot of hand sewing because, for some reason, I find it less stressful than sewing with a machine. I made a lot of face masks! Everyone’s making them, everyone should be wearing them, and I made a couple of really nice ones for myself and friends. I hand-sewed them, too,

A couple of hand-sewn masks - one is made out of rabbit fabric, the next is Star Trek themed, and the last is made out of sewing machine print fabric.
A couple of masks in progress.

I also picked up quilting again! With some of the leftover fabric from the masks, I started a simple small quilt that’ll likely end up becoming a wall hanging.

Quilt top featuring fabric with cats, dragons, and rabbits on it.
My tiny little quilt top!

Yarn crafts: because I can’t just sit and watch TV

You know I’ve just about always got some sort of yarn craft in progress, too – and stay-at-home time is no different. With all the TV I’ve been watching, I need something to keep my hands busy with. I’m currently working on three yarn craft projects, all crochet:

  • a large Rozeta in worsted weight yarn (affectionately called Rozetazilla)
  • a corner-to-corner wrap using a couple of Caron Cakes
  • a Trio blanket, using three Scheepjes Whirls, which is probably the most expensive blanket I’ve ever made (Whirls are lovely, but also pricey!)

Gaming

Of course, I wouldn’t be The Crafty Nerd if I didn’t play any games! They’ve all been online for the most part – playing games online has been my primary mode of socialization over the past two months.

Depths of the Weald: playing Blue Rose online using Roll20

While my usual Blue Rose game is on hiatus, Kasi (who plays Paroum in the game J runs) decided to start her own Blue Rose campaign!

Screenshot of Roll20 interface, in the middle of a game.
A screenshot from the middle of an epic battle we had yesterday.

J and I and a few friends from Kishar have been playing in that game, and Kasi runs it on Roll20. I hadn’t had much experience with Roll20 before the Depths of the Weald game, but I’m enjoying it as an online alternative to tabletop games. We can use maps, I can keep track of my character sheet inside the app, and if we wanted to, we could even do video/audio chat over Roll20! (Our group tends to use Facebook Messenger’s video chat options, though.)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons — the next best thing to having an actual social life

The new Animal Crossing game came out at the PERFECT time. Everyone’s stuck at home for an indeterminate amount of time, and we needed some way to cope with it. Enter Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Screenshot of a celebration in Animal Crossing.

Not only do you get to make friends with cute animals, but you can also hang out with your real-life friends! For example, Kasi, Rana, and I took a field trip to one of our museums. We wandered around explored all the bugs and fish and fossils in the museum and took lots of pictures too.

Screenshot of people in Animal Crossing looking at an aquarium full of fish.
From left to right: Rana, me, and Kasi checking out some fish.

Plus, when it’s your birthday, your animal friends throw you a party! (Yep, I celebrated my birthday almost two weeks ago, and partied with my Animal Crossing buddies Katt, Melba, and Hamlet.)

Screenshot of a birthday party in Animal Crossing.
They even made me cake!

It’s silly, how attached I’ve gotten to my Animal Crossing villagers – I won’t lie, when I came back to the game after a week of not playing, and they all said some variation of  “where’ve you been the past week? we missed you!” I just about started to cry. (I won’t leave you alone again for that long, animal friends, I promise!)

Blog posts

Now that I’m starting to work myself out of the worst of my anxiety and depression, I’m going to try to write more. Work doesn’t drain my energy as much as it used to (seriously, while I love driving, dealing with traffic in Bloomington is stressful!), so hopefully, I’ll have it in me to write once a week again. I’m going to get the What I’m Watching series back up and running again, and while I won’t have any posts about Kishar or my other Blue Rose game for a while, I’ll try to write about the games I am playing.

Thanks for sticking with me, folks — I hope everyone’s hanging in there during these downright scary times.

Screenshots from the game Magic: Puzzle Quest.

Magic: Puzzle Quest – my latest obsession

I’ve been playing Magic: Puzzle Quests a lot lately! Until I found out about the game through J, I’d never even heard of it, but I’m glad I started playing it. After all, I do love puzzle games, and I also enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering, so Magic: Puzzle Quest has been a lot of fun for me.

A little about the game

One of the core features of the game is using Planeswalkers and their abilities to help augment your puzzle-solving. When playing, you choose a Planeswalker to play with, and you end up fighting other Planeswalkers as you go through the game. Everyone starts out with Nissa as their first Planeswalker, but you can earn mana crystals (or buy them) to add more of them to your collection.

Screenshots from Magic: Puzzle Quest - on the left is a screenshot of my collection of planeswalkers, and on the right is detailed stats for Saheeli Rai.
Left side: my current collection of Planeswalkers. Right side: Detailed stats about Saheeli Rai from the game.

In addition to collecting Planeswalkers, you also collect cards (which probably isn’t surprising). The cards fall into three categories in Magic: Puzzle Quest – creatures, spells, and supports. The cards you collect are then used to build 10-card decks for your Planeswalkers. While the abilities each card has in the game might be slightly different than their physical counterparts, they largely align with actual cards in Magic: The Gathering, which is actually helping me learn how to play Magic a little better!

Screemshots from Magic: Puzzle Quest that focus on cards. On the left is a close-up of Foundry of the Consuls, in the center is a collection of my cards, and on the right is the card Flames of the Raze-Boar asking who I want to deal damage to.
A couple of different views involving cards in Magic: Puzzle Quest – on the right is one of my favorites for raining thopter doom on people with Saheeli. The center screenshot shows a small percentage of the cards in my library, and on the right a card’s been played that wants to know who I want to damage.

There are plenty of ways to add cards to your collection, and many of those ways are free! You can get new cards by grabbing a free booster pack every 6 hours, winning boosters as prizes in events, or buying them with mana crystals.

Gameplay basics

A screenshot of gameplay, where the opponent's only creature was just destroyed by a stack of 12 thopter tokens.
Oh hey, look, someone just rained down the Thopterpocalypse down on the opponent. 😀 (seriously, look, that’s a stack of 12 thopters!)

The gameplay is straightforward: match three or more colored orbs to earn mana and Planeswalker loyalty points that can be used to play cards or use Planeswalker abilities. A match ends when one of the Planeswalkers runs out of hit points, and the goal is to be the last Planeswalker standing. Winning matches gets you mana runes (which can be used to level up your Planeswalkers), as well as additional goodies like mana crystals and even card booster packs (if you’re playing in an event).

Screenshots from Magic: Puzzle Quest - the left screenshot shows story mode, and the right side shows events.
Left: an example of Story Mode. Right: A sampling of the events you might find in the game.

There are two main ways to play the game: in Story Mode, or by playing in events. Story Mode has you fighting various computer-controlled Planeswalkers while telling stories of events in the Magic: The Gathering universe. Events, on the other hand, have you playing player-created decks controlled by the computer to win all sorts of prizes. Events typically have a restriction on what color Planeswalkers you can use, and often have a theme you can build an event deck around to meet some of the criteria for winning extra prizes.

Where to find it

Curious to try it out for yourself? You can find it on the Android and iOS app stores!

Android: Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest on Google Play

iOS: Magic: The Gathering – PQ on the App Store

Introducing Santoki: My new Kishar character

That’s right, I’m creating a new character for Kishar! Her name is Santoki, and she’s a rabbit Hiwani. (One of my Kishar friends – I think it was Pumpkin – suggested her last name should be Caerbannog, haha.)

Wait, why are you making a new character?

There are a couple of reasons I’m working on making a new character. First off: because I think it’ll be fun! It’ll be nice to mix things up and have the choice between playing two different characters. Additionally, making a new character will allow me to try out some things I’ve never done before, like:

  • Working with costuming that’s a little more involved than “throw on some elf ears and a vaguely in-genre dress” — after all, I want to do a convincing job of being a rabbit, and that happens with more elaborate costuming!
  • Attempting to play a LARP character that’s not essentially just me in elf ears. Because let’s be honest, here — as much as I love Ëlinyr, she’s pretty much just me in elf ears. And sometimes that gets a little old.

Why the heck are you playing a rabbit?

Well, for one thing, I like rabbits. They’re cute, and some of them help with crafting — like angora rabbits, who produce fluff you can spin into yarn and knit or crochet with! Plus, rabbits can be fierce too. I mean, come on, look at the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python’s Holy Grail – that’s one fierce rabbit.

Small plush Monty Python rabbit, next to a Pinkie Pie figurine.
A tiny Monty Python bunny, complete with lots of teeth. So fierce!

What’s Santoki going to be like?

While I haven’t figured out everything about Santoki yet, I’ve fleshed out a fair bit of her character already.

Costuming

Me dressed up in what I've got of my costume for Santoki, which includes her shirt, pants, and bunny ears.
An early test of Santoki’s costuming! (please ignore the mess, though)

Santoki’s costume is currently composed of the following:

  • Black rabbit ears on a headband, with the headband covered by a fabric bandana of sorts to cover up my actual ears
  • A black tail to match the ears, although I haven’t figured out how it’s attaching to my costume yet
  • Flowy pants and a midriff-showing shirt over a black bodysuit and black leggings —my plan is to try to get some faux fur and sew it to the front of the bodysuit, to help sell the illusion of me being a rabbit a little better (after all, rabbits do have fluffy tummies)
  • A little bit of pink cream face paint on the end of my nose to create the illusion of a bunny nose, and whiskers drawn on with eyeliner pen

I’m really excited about getting to experiment with costuming for Santoki!

Character class

Santoki’s going to be a Chirurgeon — essentially, a healer that can fight too. There are times when we’re pretty darn short on healers in Kishar, and I figure having a character that can heal as well as fight will be helpful. Her weapon will likely be a staff to start with since that’s about all my clumsy self can really handle well. Plus, it means I don’t have to learn an entirely new weapon for Santoki, as Ëlinyr uses a staff when she’s not slinging spell packets.

Personality: Santoki’s quiet. Not necessarily the “blend into the background” type of quiet, but more of the “hey, can you speak a little bit louder?” kind. At least, outside of battle anyway — when Santoki’s fighting, she’s a loud and noisy and fierce rabbit. I’ll be trying to stick with how rabbits are in real life, as they’re typically pretty quiet unless something makes them scream. And from what I’ve heard, rabbit screams are pretty loud and terrifying. (That’s based on what I’ve heard from others, anyway — I’ve never heard a rabbit scream, and honestly, I’m not sure I want to.)

Background

Santoki’s originally from the mountains near Shalazar (the Sapphire City), and she grew up with her parents and 40 brothers and sisters (there were more, but they got older and moved out on their own). She’s interested in folklore and mythology, but mainly as a hobby – “I’m not exactly the scholarly type”, she’d probably say.

She originally thought she was going to spend her life working on her parents’ sheep farm, turning wool into cloth and yarn, but eventually, she learned about the Adventurer’s Guild while visiting a bookstore/coffee shop in the Scholar’s District of Kishar, Lin’s Rest. (Yes, Lin is short for Ëlinyr – and yes, Ëlinyr owns a combination bookstore and coffee shop.) After talking to the owner about some Hiwani folklore Santoki was interested in, the Guild came up, and Santoki thought “hey, maybe that’d be better than working as a sheep farmer” — and she decided to join up with the guild.

What about Ëlinyr?

I’m not retiring Ëlinyr quite yet, though I did hit her progression cap (or level cap, essentially) at the last game of season 8. While I can still get new skills, I’m not getting them automatically anymore — instead, I can purchase them using kismet, the in-game currency that enables players to get extra skills and unique items in exchange for helping out with the game in some way.

I’ll be posting more about Santoki in the coming months, as the start of season 9 of Kishar gets closer — and possibly creating a site for her, as I did for Ëlinyr and her in-character writings. I’m really excited about getting to play as Santoki!

My 2019 in books

Happy new year, folks! I can’t believe it’s 2020 already — it feels like Gen Con was only a few weeks ago. With 2019 at an end, I thought it might be a good time to look back on some of the media I consumed over the year, and what better place to start than with the books I’ve read?

I don’t talk about books nearly as much as I should on the blog. I read a lot, and I really should share more of what I read. However, I’m pretty terrible at describing books. I don’t know why — I just know that I struggle to do justice to a book when I’m describing it to someone. (Maybe that’s a sign that I should do more book reviews on the blog, and get more experience talking about books?) For my 2019 books, though, I want to share what I read over the year and touch on what books were my absolute favorites. So, with the help of Goodreads (where I keep track of my reading), I present to you: my 2019 in Books!

2019: The year of book series reading

There’s nothing I love more than losing myself in a good book series. Sometimes just one book in a particular setting isn’t just enough for me — I often find myself wanting to see more of certain characters and worlds. 2019 seemed to be the year of book series reading — I read through five different book series and worked my way through a chunk of two more:

Some of these I’d read before, like most of Anne Bishop’s The Others series, but that was mainly to refresh my memory before I tackled the last two books in the series. Out of all these, though, I think the best series I read this year was The Expanse (which, to be honest, I’m obsessed with).

Cover Art for Leviathan Wakes, book one of The ExpanseMy favorite series: The Expanse

I ended up plowing my way through the books in The Expanse after I finished watching season three of the TV show this summer. I couldn’t get enough of the storytelling and world-building, so I dove right into the eight-book series and finished it just in time for season four to come out! For those of you who enjoy science fiction, especially hard sci-fi, you’ll like The Expanse. If you’ve only seen the TV show and are worried that any differences between the books might make you frustrated, I can share my experience. There’s just enough difference between the two to keep me interested, and the changes made from book to TV make sense and don’t detract from the storytelling.

 

Front cover of Twelve Kings in SharakaiRunner-up: The Song of Shattered Sands

Now, I’m still only halfway through book two of The Song of Shattered Sands at this point, but I’m enjoying what I’ve read. The worldbuilding is well done, the story is engaging, and I find myself coming back to the books eagerly each day to see what Çeda, Emre, and the other main characters are up to.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this series goes!

My full year in books

If you’re curious to see all the books I’ve read this year, feel free to check out My 2019 in Books on Goodreads! It’s got every single book I read this year listed, plus some additional fun stats about my 2019 reading.

A short hiatus

Hey folks – I’m sorry I didn’t get anything posted last week. Last week was crazy, work-wise, and tomorrow starts my two-week conference marathon, so I’m unfortunately going on a bit of a hiatus.

Never fear, though! I’ve got plans for new podcast episodes to record when I get back, and I’m hoping to have some fancy yarn to show off when I get back from my second conference! I do love doing a little yarn tourism while I’m traveling, and it’ll be my first ever trip to New Orleans, so I’m looking forward to checking out the local yarn stores near my hotel.

Thanks for sticking with me, and I’ll be back to a regular posting schedule in a few weeks!

A ramble about ArchRavels

This week was originally going to be a podcast week, but I caught a cold. Recording a podcast with a cold is less than ideal since I sound weird right now and keep having to blow my nose. So! Instead, I’m going to post about one of the things I was going to include in the podcast: ArchRavels! It’s on Kickstarter, and as of right now, there are 34 hours left before the campaign finishes. It’s over 300% funded, and as of the time I’m writing this, it’s about $3000 away from unlocking the last stretch goal.

ArchRavels is a game that I’ve been interested in since I heard about it at Gen Con this summer, back when it was called ArchRavelry. I’m sure you can guess why I’m interested in it: it’s a game about yarn crafting! It’s like it was made for me, someone who enjoys board games and crafts. The game seems pretty straightforward: Compete against other players to see who can craft the most items before the end of the game. Just like in real life, you have to collect patterns and yarn before you can make things – and also just like in real life, some events can happen that’ll make crafting difficult, like the cat.

Tangled Cat card from ArchRavels.

Just like in real life, cats can come in and mess with your yarn, causing you to stop, untangle the cat (or in my case, splice ends together because someone decided yarn makes a good chew toy), and lose a turn while you sort things out.

I backed the game pretty quickly after it came out, and the stretch goals added since then have made me even more excited about the game! There are additional characters you can play as, more patterns to make (including the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Wizard packs), and even an upgraded insert for keeping game items organized. The last stretch goal is one I hope happens: they’re going to make a Cat meeple you can put in a player’s yarn bowl when you draw the Tangled Cat card if they hit that last goal.

If you want to learn more about ArchRavels, check out the campaign on Kickstarter or read the rulebook for the game here. Once I get my copy, I’ll be sure to review it for everyone!  (Now, to wait until next August for it to finish production!)

Indiana Toy and Comic Expo 2019!

This weekend, I went to the Indiana Toy and Comic Expo for the first time – and had a great time! I’ve wanted to go for a couple of years now. Up until this year, it was held immediately after Gen Con, which is when I usually end up experiencing con burnout. With it being in October this year, nothing was stopping me this time around! 

Indiana Toy and Comic Expo ad.

Indiana Toy and Comic Expo focuses on precisely what the name says – toys and comics! It was held at the Monroe County Convention Center here in Bloomington, and it seemed like it took up the entire convention center. (Granted, the convention center isn’t all that big, but it’s still nice to see that the expo filled it up!) Events included a costume contest, a custom action figure contest, and a silent auction. Plus, there was a lot of space dedicated to vendors, so there were plenty of goodies to look at and buy! I ended up picking up the following: 

  • a Sailor Moon Perler bead magnet
  • some cute bunny cryptid prints
  • a set of Star Trek: The Next Generation trading cards
  • an autographed photo of the actor who played Damar on Star Trek: Deep Space 9

There were a lot of folks in costume, and I also managed to grab some photos from the costume contest as well! (Some of them didn’t turn out so well, as my phone is a little slow at taking pictures and some of the action shots turned out blurry or awkward.) I especially enjoyed the Harry Dresden cosplayer pretending I was a demon and blasting me with his blasting rod. (I guess the Trill spots made me an easy target, haha.) I posted all my costume contest photos on The Crafty Nerd’s Facebook page – you can see them in my ITCE album here.

And before you ask, of course, I went in costume – Jadzia Dax got a little more time in the costume spotlight!

Me in my Jadzia Dax costume!

I also got to hang out with some of my nerdy blogging buddies – Rachel, Lizz, and Tony!

Myself as Jadzia, Rachel in her Timebuster gear, and Lizz as the 13th Doctor.
Myself, Rachel, and Lizz! Not pictured: Tony, because he was taking the picture.

I also ran into another familiar face while I was there – or, more accurately, familiar droid!

Rachel and I with the same R2-D2 I posted about a few weeks ago.

And yes, that’s the same R2-D2 I had my picture taken with at IU Southeast a few weeks ago! That little droid sure gets around. 😊

Overall, I enjoyed ITCE – it was busy but not overcrowded, and there was enough to do and see without feeling overwhelmed. I’m planning on coming back next year!

 

The Crafty Nerd Podcast: Episode 2

Okay, I swear, after this episode I’ll move to a saner posting schedule. I’m so ridiculously excited about this project of mine, though, and ended up cranking out another episode.

In this episode…

  • I ramble about how hard it is for me to do a podcast,  especially when I’m so used to working off scripts (so many filler words!).
  • I tell the story of my first ever LARP experience! (It’s the first nerdy thing that popped into my head.)
  • I also talk about how I ended up in Kishar, especially after that first LARP experience.

Give it a listen! I think it turned out better than the first episode. 😀

Mentioned in this episode:

Kishar LARP – http://www.kisharlarp.org

 

The Crafty Nerd Podcast: Episode 1

Holy crap, you guys, I did it.

I recorded my first ever podcast episode. It’s short, and it’s rambly, but IT EXISTS! This first episode has me rambling my way through a podcast version of What I’m Watching, which was… interesting. Plus, I talk about craft projects I’m working on and video games I’m playing. You can listen to Episode 1 of The Crafty Nerd Podcast using the player below.

You should also be able to find me on Google Play Music, YouTube, and Spotify shortly – I’ll still keep sharing new episodes on the blog as I make them, though, so no worries about needing to subscribe to listen to the podcast.

Podcast shout-outs: