Sunday, December 15, 2013

An afternoon of Downton Abbey and tea

What a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon: watching a sneak peak of season 4, episode 1 of Downton Abbey followed by a delightful tea. Even better? The episode was shown at the lovely IU Cinema.

With Amanda at the IU Cinema, awaiting Downton Abbey
Period dress was encouraged, so Amanda and I wore costumes we had sewn. Yes, this is my dress from Gen Con. Amanda sewed hers in the last three weeks, finishing yesterday.
In our costumes

A gift with our tea: Downton Abbey breakfast tea to enjoy at home
 Tea consisted of tea, of course, plus cucumber sandwiches and toast with asparagus or salmon mousse. There were also a selection of sweet breads and lemon squares.
Cucumber tea sandwiches, asparagus and salmon mousse on toast
 Part of the program included a presentation on period dress from the Elizabeth Sage Collection and a presentation on afternoon tea.
Gloves, shoes and fans from the Sage Collection

A period dress from the Sage Collection

A period driving coat from the Sage Collection
Oh, and that season 4 episode? No spoilers here, but... Of course there was a moment that made me cry. And moments that made me want to talk back to characters. And I can't wait to see the rest of the season!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy movie couples?

A few days ago a friend posted this on Facebook:

Saw a movie tonight that involved a married couple being miserable. *shudder* I think next time I see anything wedding related I might just run away shrieking.
Of course I started thinking about couples in movies. And it's true, many are unhappy, sniping at one another, and make me wonder why they are even together in the first place. But there are happy movie couples out there, ones in positive relationships, who aren't saccharine sweet. Here are 10 movies with couples who aren't miserable, who might have problems, but whose love is always a given.

  • The movie that came to mind first is last year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film (and was a nominee for Best Picture), Amour. If you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend it. In it, an elderly couple, Georges and Anne, after a long marriage, face a challenge--but their love is never in question. This is a film that left me feeling wrecked, but in a good way. 

  • Another fantastic love story in film, filled with the small, quiet moments that make a relationship, is Carl and Ellie in Up. In about eight minutes, we see a truly lovely love story from beginning to end. And how that love lasts beyond.

The internet is right in this case.

  • A little unconventional, but I also submit Harry and Helen Tasker from True Lies. Sure, he's lied about what he does, but their love for each other isn't in doubt. They face those lies, have an adventure in which they discover a lot about themselves and each other, and come out stronger on the other side.
  • Phil and Claire Foster from Date Night may be a little bored, but they are bored together. They have a pretty typical family life. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, the strength of their relationship comes in handy on the inadvertent adventure they find themselves on.
  • Do you remember the 1989 film Parenthood, on which the current tv show is based? If you haven't seen it, go watch it. Really. Especially if you have or are planning to have kids. The various Buckman couples face their problems, but there are plenty of pretty positive relationships in the movie, along with kids puking and other hilarity. Are they all perfect? No. But they sure show a lot of love, and Grandma sure is smart.
  • An overarching theme of the Harry Potter movies (and books) is motherly love. Which brings me to Molly and Arthur Weasley. Through all the books/movies, their relationship is never in doubt, and their love for their family is one of their biggest strengths.
  • One of my favorite movies, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, centers around an engaged couple facing a huge obstacle (he's black, she's white, it's 1967) and her parents. Both couples fit the mold of not miserable. Joey Drayton and John Prentiss are a team, facing a world that questions their right to be together, including her father. Matt and Christina Drayton may disagree, and about their daughter's intended they most certainly do, but they clearly love each other and have a solid relationship. 
  • Rock Hudson and Doris Day made a trio of movies. In Send Me No Flowers, they are George and Judy Kimball, a couple who prove they are meant for each other, despite his hypochondria. The Hudson/Day movies are fluff, and sometimes wincingly dated, but go watch anyway if you're looking for a light comedy.
  • Top Gun may center around Maverick and Charlie, but I've always loved Goose and Carole. There is never any question that these two characters love each other and have a good time together. One of the most memorable lines in the whole movie is Carole's, despite her being a minor character: "Hey, Goose, you big stud!...Take me to bed or lose me forever." 
  • Pixar created another good movie couple with Bob and Helen Parr (Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl) in The Incredibles. Is Bob a little bored? Yes. But it's not with his wife; it's with the lie they are living. Do they have things to work out? Of course, especially when he starts lying to her so he can be a superhero again. Are they miserable or nasty? Nope. We're always sure that they love each other and their family. 
One thing I notice in common with a lot of these is that the trial they face is often from outside the couple. They are a unit, facing something together. Movie couples don't have to be antagonistic to be interesting. They don't have to be all lovey-dovey either. 

Can you think of more? Share your picks in the comments.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A trip to the past

This past weekend was the 20th reunion for my high school class. I wrote a while back about why I wanted to go. So Chris and I spent a whirlwind weekend in my old stomping grounds.

My high school is somewhat unique: it has two campuses. The older north campus, dating to 1928, houses juniors and seniors while the newer south campus, built in the 1950s, houses freshmen and sophomores.

North Campus

Part of the homecoming festivities included tours of both campuses, starting with a presentation on the history of North Campus in honor of the 125th anniversary (the school began in a different building in 1888). Parts of the 1928 building still exist, so it was very interesting having those areas pointed out. I was able to show Chris the tunnel under the street connecting the main academic building to the building with the gyms and music rooms. Other highlights of the tour included the campus radio and tv stations, a classroom with original cabinetry, and the panels outside the auditorium which are replicas of the frieze in the Acropolis.

Noil and Nessie, the mascots.

South Campus has seen a lot of changes in the last 20 years, especially in the last 10. There is a new pool (there has always been a pool at North Campus, but the diving well was not deep enough for competition; the new pool at South is) and field house. And, of note to a band geek who performed on the stage in the old gym, there is a new performing arts center.

A new lion sculpture at South Campus. Yes, I lettered... in band.

Having decided to go to the reunion, I wanted to have the full reunion experience, so we walked along with the Homecoming parade, which winds its way from North Campus, in La Grange, to South Campus, in Western Springs. Oh, did I forget to mention the campuses are in different towns, about a mile apart? If you've never been to the suburbs of Chicago, moving from town to town and even county to county is a matter of crossing a street.

The marching band, lining up for the parade.
As a former band geek, I was happy to see the band actually marching and in better uniforms than we had. A few years after I graduated, the band was marching in sweatshirts and the halftime shows were done standing still, no marching, no figures. It was sad to see a really good band go downhill. We stayed at the football game, the only one now played on Saturday although all games were on Saturday afternoon 20 years ago, through the halftime show. By then, we were soaked. The rain that had so far held off poured down about two minutes before halftime.

The old uniforms, puffy shirts, ascots and all. Pet Parade 1992
We drove past the house I grew up in. Which is no longer the same house. My parents sold the house 10 years ago, and the new owners completely changed it. The white stucco is gone. There's now a wraparound porch and bay window. I wouldn't have recognized it if not for the address and the surrounding houses. It's ok, though. La Grange isn't home anymore. 

The house I grew up in, sort of.
Saturday night was the official class reunion, a cocktail party. There are a few people from high school that I'm still in contact with, but I haven't seen most of the 700+ in my graduating class in 20 years. Some people looked so different I had to read their name tags; others I recognized from across the room. I reconnected with several people, even friending one old classmate on Facebook right then. There were several people I was very glad to see again, a few a was disappointed couldn't come, and a lot that I just didn't really remember. And, very much like high school, Chris and I ended up talking and dancing with Pete, the only one of the small group I used to hang with who was there. 

My senior picture.
I'm glad I went. I don't look back very often, and I most certainly do not want to go back to high school. But I wanted to show Chris some of my past, see some old friends, and just have the experience. And I did all that. 

I've found in my life that the things I regret are the ones I don't do. There won't be any would've, should've, could've about this reunion. We went; we did the whole experience. I think Chris enjoyed the school tours, at the very least. And we had a kid-free weekend. Will I go to another reunion? I don't know. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The opposite of shame and embarrassment

A lot of women are ashamed and/or embarrassed by their bodies. I'm not talking about "flaws" but deep-seated shame. Embarrassment that they have breasts, that they bleed each month with their periods.

I've actually heard someone say they were embarrassed to say they were pregnant "because then people will know what we've been doing." Yes, sex usually, but doesn't always, precedes pregnancy.

I don't really want to talk about that though.

TMI, but I've had some "female problems" lately, so I went to the doctor. Who happened to have a male med student working with her. I was asked if he could come in and ask questions before she did, since he needs to gain experience.

I said yes. And bluntly explained the problems I was having. Afterward, my doctor came in to have a similar discussion and thanked me for seeing him. Apparently other patients with similar problems were reticent to talk to a man about their reproductive systems.

Maybe I'm weird, but the older I get, the more I realize it's just a body. We all have bodies. They sometimes don't work the way they are supposed to or do what we expect. But there's no reason to be embarrassed by that.

Doctors are there to help. And they can't help if they don't have experience, if we don't talk to them. How do we get doctors that we trust if we don't help train them? And not just doctors--nurses too!

When my oldest was born, I was the only c-section on a mostly empty maternity floor (over a holiday weekend). A whole class of nursing students was on their OB rotation. The following week they would move on to another floor. Did they all come see my incision and learn how to care for it? Yep. I was asked if they could. If I hadn't, these students would have no practical experience with caring for a c-section.

The nursing instructor actually showed them a less painful way of massaging the uterus than what the regular nurse on the floor did. Now, I don't know about you, but I appreciate that there will be a half dozen nurses out there who have that knowledge and will be less likely to inadvertently hurt their patients. And they wouldn't have that experience, knowledge or my feedback if I hadn't let them come in.

Maybe it's having babies. After having what seems like half the hospital poking around in areas usually kept covered.... well, let's just say there's no mystery after pregnancy.

I've heard story after story of women who didn't see a doctor until it was too late because they were too embarrassed to talk about their period, their digestive issues, whatever. It isn't all reproductive organs.

Where does this shame and embarrassment come from? Maybe the messages we receive from the time we're little: school dress codes that target female students for their 'distracting' bodies, lessons in modesty (not necessarily a bad thing), slut shaming, the use of euphemisms for female body parts, the admonition that women need to cover up to protect men.... Heck, Original Sin, if you believe in it, is the fault of Eve and her tempting, distracting, female body.

All these things add up to female bodies being bad. If you are repeatedly told that your body is bad, is it any wonder so many women grow up to be embarrassed or ashamed to have those evil female bodies?

For as many women who have breast augmentation, how many try to hide their breasts? How many teenage girls do you know who are developing a hunch from hiding their chests?

I still remember the first time a boy snapped my bra--in 5th or 6th grade! I remember the embarrassment in 7th and 8th grade gym class when taking a 'menstrual' exemption from showering. And the expectation of the teachers that a period would be exactly 3 days, no longer, and always be exactly 28 days apart, something that was humiliating in high school swimming class if your cycle wasn't precisely that. Have a period come early? Too soon according to their checklist (and the gym teacher had a check list to mark down each girl to make sure we all took those showers!). Have a period go into a 4th day? Heaven forbid! You should be done so you must be lying to get out of....

Those are just my experiences. I know why women are ashamed of their bodies. I know why they are reluctant to see a doctor if something isn't quite right. Especially if a doctor has ever questioned if there is something actually wrong. I understand wanting to talk to a female nurse or doctor about 'female' issues.

What do we do about this? I don't have any answers except to try to accept that a body is just a body. And try to teach that to our sons and daughters. Male bodies, female bodies, they are all bodies. We can use real terms for body parts. We can look in the mirror and accept what we see.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Little Free Library update

Our Little Free Library has been up for about a month. I'm happy to see it is getting some use. Hopefully we'll be on the map soon.

Step on the path to your next favorite book.

We chose to stock our library with a variety of books, including children's books. The children's books have been very popular.

If you're in the Grandview Hills neighborhood area, stop by and borrow a book.

Here are the current selections in the library:

Floors and Stairways, Time Life reference book
Weatherproofing, Time Life reference book
At Home, by Bill Bryson
The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Dracula, by Bram Stoker
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
They Wear What Under Their Kilts?, by Katie Maxwell
Survival in Auschwitz, bu Primo Levi
Mama Makes Up Her Mind, by Bailey White
Quite a Year for Plums, by Bailey White
Sleeping at the Starlite Motel, by Bailey White
Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back, by James Carville
Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin
A Guilty Thing Surprised, bu Ruth Rendell
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
My Quiz Book, by Lizzie McGuire
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers, by Donald J. Sobol
Dragon Slayers' Academy: The New Kid at School, by Kate McMullen
How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
Ramona the Brave, by Beverly Cleary
Fudge-a-Mania, by Judy Blume
1, 2, 3 Count with Me, Sesame Street
Opposite Race, The Backyardigans
Super Senses Save the Day!, The Backyardigans
Deep Sea Countdown, The Backyardigans
The Shape-Jewel Hunt, The Backyardigans
Splat the Car with a Bang and a Clang, Rob Scotton
Curious George Flies a Kite, Margaret Rey
The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, Jane Thayer
Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss
Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban
The Soapsud Fairy, by Candida Palmer

Polite Elephant, by Richard Scarry

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gen Con 2013 in review: part 3

This is part 3: Sunday

Sunday was a little more relaxed, with us spending time in the exhibit hall or just hanging out, and one last panel for Chris, on 3D filmmaking. We ran in to several friends who just came for Family Fun Day.

This was also my steampunk day. I chose the shorter day because wearing a corset all day is not fun. I completed my outfit early on in the hall with the purchase of the overskirt and a map holder. I'm quite pleased with the results. I received a lot of compliments on my costume, including one from a self-professed history geek, who delighted in my very Victorian (other than the corset as outerwear) costume. That pleased me because I built it from the Victorian base and then steampunked it, rather than the other way around.

Sunday was Steampunk day for me

I was delighted to see some Battlestar Galactica cosplay. Starbuck and Apollo, perhaps? A few years ago I had BSG and Firefly on my Bingo card and didn't see any cosplayers. This year, I found both.
Yep, Battlestar Galactica pilots

There was something interesting I noticed this year. A lot of attention has been spent on women who cosplay, and the number of sexy outfits. My thought on that is that if you want to feel sexy, if you have the confidence, go ahead. But I don't, so I have more conservative cosplay. Sure I'll wear a corset, but it has a shirt underneath. 

Now, what I really noticed this year, perhaps because I was paying attention, was that, while the 'sexy' cosplay got plenty of attention, there was a lot of admiration for the 'non-sexy'* cosplay. Even from men. Which is only worth remarking on because there has been so much attention paid to the more lascivious attention. So, I'm just putting this out there: good cosplay is good cosplay. Men who enjoy seeing the costumes, men who aren't just looking for half-naked women, are out there. They are there admiring the hard work and creativity. And they aren't getting enough credit. Some of them are cosplaying as well. 

I like dressing up. It's fun. Sometimes Chris joins me (this year he was just too busy so he didn't). I love seeing what costumes other people wear. 

And a final note on cosplay: If you like the idea but find it intimidating, here's an easy costume just about anyone can put together. Wear a bathrobe and carry a towel. Viola! You're Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There are plenty of easy costumes. They don't have to be handmade (my steampunk outfit is all purchased). They don't have to be expensive (mine usually are, despite my best intentions). The point is to have fun. 

* By non-sexy, I don't mean to say that a costume isn't sexy, just that it isn't overtly sexy. 

Gen Con 2013 in review: part 2

This is part 2: Saturday

Saturday I cosplayed as Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey. At least one person recognized my costume, calling out "Downton Abbey!" and asking for a picture with me. I got a lot of compliments and a few pictures taken, but I'm not sure how many people got the costume. Considering I don't recognize half the costumes I see, that's ok.
Cosplaying with Amanda

Amanda got compliments for her costume as Elizabeth from BioShock. She chose the early version of the costume rather than the corseted later version, and a lot of people seemed to appreciate that. I'm not familiar with the game, but I can concur that a day in corset is not fun.

My Little Ponies!

I saw several people throughout the weekend cosplaying as My Little Ponies. These are just the first. Yes, men and women alike were cosplaying ponies. I saw several Rainbow Dashes, a couple Pinkie Pies, Rarity, Fluttershy.... I love that so many people love the ponies. And I am kind of excited about the MLP collectible card game coming out in November. I think it's something they boys might enjoy.

There were superheroes galore at Gen Con. Just after taking this picture, The Joker appeared and joined the group. Even though they didn't know each other, Batman and the Joker did a little role playing for the cameras. I saw a lot of Wonder Woman cosplayers this year.
There was a balloon artist at the con this year. Balloon-thulhu was in the corridor outside the main exhibit hall.

Lady Sybil
There was a Gen Con backdrop next to Balloon-thulhu to take pictures, so of course I had to get my picture taken there. I'm really glad I had comfortable shoes for my costume, because my feet were still sore by the end of the day just from all the walking. Chris's mom lent me the gloves that really pulled the outfit together. She also lent me a necklace and the pin in my hair (not shown), and she made matching earrings Friday evening while we were walking the halls! I think she enjoyed helping with the costuming.

Cosplayers in the halls

One of the things I love best about Gen Con is wandering the halls and floor admiring all the wonderful and creative costumes. Three of the wizards from Lord of the Rings (Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown) posed next to Boba Fett and a Transformer. (I don't know who the woman in blue is.) Just down the hall were Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers, including one in a kilt. There's always one in a kilt, because kilts are awesome.

Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers

Another group posing together

 And just past the Transformer was this group posing for pictures together. Saturday is the big costume day, with the costume parade and costume contest. It's the best day for seeing cosplayers if you can only go one day.

A harpy?
 The wings on this costume were fantastic. She spread them out for the picture, but they folded in to walk around.

I love turning around to find some of my favorite characters. Who wants to take a ride on the Serenity?
Wash, Kaylee, Simon and Captain Mal

Harley Quinn Vader
We finally hit the exhibit hall Saturday. I got there late in the morning for a bit, then had lunch and wandered the floor again with Chris. 
One of many TARDIS dresses.

Rhonda on the exhibit hall floor


Thor and a watcher

Steampunk Iron Man

She made this costume!

With Michelle Hartz, zombie belly dancer

Street performer

Some costumes I saw but didn't get pictures of: Prince Leia, Katniss Everdeen, Merida from Brave, many versions of Doctor Who, a knight is real armor, pirates galore....

We spent a delightful hour Saturday afternoon enjoying the music of the Doubleclicks. I highly recommend checking them out.

ZOE/DG crew
Gamers 3: Hands of Fate cast and director

Saturday evening was dedicated to film. Actually, to Dead Gentlemen/Zombie Orpheus Entertainment films. We screened the rough cut, test screenings of The Gamers: Humans & Households and The Gamers: Natural One. Both were quite fun and should be released as webseries once editing and effects are done.

After the test screenings came the big event: the extended edition premier of The Gamers 3: Hands of Fate. We missed the world premier of the festival cut Thursday. I loved one of the themes the crossed several story lines in the film: that women are not a prize to be won.

Gen Con 2013 in review: part 1

Gen Con 2013 is over. We have a whole year to wait for the next convention. In the meantime, I want to remember the last 2 1/2 days (we couldn't make it up to Indy until Friday night).

This is part 1: Friday night.

A group of cosplayers in the hall
posing for pictures
and entertaining a crowd.
Wandering the halls at the convention center Friday night filled a decent portion of my Gen Con Bingo card. We came across this group of cosplayers posing for pictures, pulling in more costumed folks as they walked by.

Dr. Horrible stopped to take a picture of the group and ended up in the pictures. Also in the group: Secret Snake, Mario and Luigi, Spiderman, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle... I actually don't recognize all the characters. Secret Snake set his box behind the group before joining in.

Dalek in the hall.
 A dalek was also wandering the halls. Yes, there is a person in there. It moves and speaks. And a pair of zombies. And Captain America.
Zombie mom and daughter.
Captain America

Friday, August 16, 2013

Annual Gen Con BINGO card

It's that time of year to unveil my annual Gen Con BINGO card. Here is this year's iteration.

My rules: I try to play blackout BINGO to make it more fun. I usually fail but have a good time trying. I try to take pictures of everyone/everything I see on the card, but sometimes the opportunity doesn't present itself. Also, it's polite to ask before taking someone's picture.

I create the card based on things I think I might see. Some years I guess better than others. Yes, there are a few givens by design because it shouldn't be impossible to fill the card!

Updated 8/19/13: I filled all the squares except Red Shirt this year. That's usually an easy space to fill. Just goes to show that every year is a surprise.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cosplaying Lady Sybil

I love Downton Abbey. (Who doesn't?) 

How do geeks show their love of things? Well, some of us by cosplaying. 

So I decided to make a Downton Abbey style costume for Gen Con. I'm sort of cosplaying Lady Sybil, although I don't have the mad skillz to make a costume like one of the outfits from the show. 

My skill level requires a pattern, preferably an easy one. Finding early 1920s style patterns was a bust (the few I found were authentic, thus beyond my skill level). Searching for first season era (1912-1914) I had more luck. Working with Simplicity pattern 8399, I made this:

My Edwardian style dress.
I chose the colors and fabrics based on what I could find and colors that suit me, but I also liked that the colors and the ribbon evoke, at least for me, Lady Sybil's harem pants, one of my favorite of her outfits.

Since I had plenty of fabric left over, I decided to make a reticule. I'll need to carry my wallet and phone around the convention all, and this is the appropriate way to do so.

A reticule, to carry my stuff.
 I can't wear high heels anymore, so period style shoes were out. I seriously considered just wearing my running shoes, opting for comfort, until I found these on sale, inexpensive, and comfortable shoes.

Comfort is important when you'll be on your feet all day.
 And, with my current short 'do, I needed something a little longer. I found a $10 wig at the local costume shop and styled it. Here is my husband modeling it. He allowed me to use his head while he played an online game. I'm quite pleased with how the styling turned out.

A very Sybil-esque style, I think.
I'll take pictures in full costume next Saturday at Gen Con.