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Thursday, September 5, 2019

From Pennsic, Onward (the year so far, part 3)

This year I dithered about attending Pennsic, but I ended up going for the second week of Pennsic 48. It was the 15th anniversary of my first Pennsic (2004), but only my 12th Pennsic because I've missed a few. It was a tight squeeze to get a week of War fitted in among my freelance writing assignments, but I'm starting to realize that I won't live forever, so I might as well go to Pennsic while I am still "young" and healthy enough to walk around and do things.

This year I did not take a single class at Pennsic University, though I had taken a full day of classes in mid-June at the most recent session of the University of Atlantia. Some Pennsic classes tempted me, but ... I had chores and shopping and chatting with friends who don't live near me in the "real world." Also, I did something I've sadly neglected doing for some years: I volunteered one afternoon at Heralds' Point. I colored device and badge submissions in the art tent and got some free ice cream for my troubles.


I went to a couple of evening balls, although I felt rather awkward at the first one -- not because of the particular dances, but because one of my camp chores was to refill the tiki torches, and my hands continued to smell of kerosene, no matter how much I washed them. I don't think anyone particularly avoided me, though.


The second ball I attended was Lady Sonya Flicker's "Reduction Ball," which started with dances for sets of large numbers of couples and ended up with dances for individual couples. Sonya, also known as Patches, made a new dress for herself, and she also brought along the "BEAR-on" and "BEAR-oness" of Storvik. (The real baronage were unable to attend Pennsic this year.)

Dance mistress of the Reduction Ball! 20190808_230648 The Bear-on and Bear-oness of Storvik at the Reduction Ball. 20190808_204053

While I was packing up my gear at the end of War, I felt rather wiped out. Once I got home (or started my "50-week town run"), I realized I had that kind of chest cold known as the "con crud." I hardly ever get sick, so I wanted to sit around and mope, but I had freelance writing to do.

Now that another Pennsic War is in the books, I'm looking forward to a few fall events. I'm even making a new dress for the next Coronation, which Storvik is hosting. (The dress will be the subject of at least one other post here.)

To kick off the season, Storvik had its first-ever information booth at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival (which is rather like an old-fashioned fair). Lady Sonya was in charge of our booth, and she did a great job -- we won second place!


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Two events, one site (the year so far, part 2)

In late April and early May I attended two very different events at the same site in the Shire of Spiaggia Levantina, mundanely known as the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The first was the Shire's own event, Revenge of the Stitch, which is now in its sixth iteration, making it a truly annual event in my book. Some people, I know, would not find staying up almost all night to hand-sew linen very enjoyable, but it gets my competitive juices flowing, and I always learn some aspect of garb-making that had previously eluded me. This year -- my fourth such challenge -- I helped Meisterin Johanna's team make a houppelande with undertunics and hood for Master Richard Wyn in his heraldic colors. I was rather tired after the competition, but I did manage this "action shot" of Master Richard posing in his new duds:


Notice the leather shoes -- they were made during the competition by one of our six team members. I think we were the only team that made footwear this year. We didn't win, but I think Wyn (as he is usually called) looks spiffy in his new outfit.

Half a fortnight later, I was crossing the Chesapeake Bay again for Spring Crown Tournament. The rain held off, the competitors fought fiercely and cleanly, and Duke Cuan won his eighth reign. He and his consort will step up to the throne at Fall Coronation, to be held in Our Glorious Barony of Storvik. My friend Lady Kunigunde will be the autocrat/steward of Fall Coronation, which will have a 16th-century German theme, and I feel highly motivated to make myself a suitable dress for the occasion.

My friend Lady Meleri was the head cook for both of the Spiaggia Levantina feasts, and were they ever good! I could barely finish the last couple of courses at each meal. Meleri dedicated the Revenge of the Stitch feast to one of her schoolteacher colleagues who had operated a catering business on the side ... and who had just passed away from cancer, at a much-too-young age.

Just this past weekend, I attended the 30th edition of Highland River Melees, the signature event of the Barony of Highland Foorde, which encompasses the westernmost counties of Maryland (and is surrounded on three sides by the Kingdom of Aethelmearc). Two of my friends were "retiring" after serving as Highland Foorde's Baron and Baroness for the past five years. I talked with one woman who came all the way from Massachusetts to attend the event because she is a good friend of the new Baroness of Highland Foorde. I have a lot of experience driving between Massachusetts and Maryland, so I know what a haul that is!

During the afternoon, I took a class in using wire to make jewelry that isn't Viking-wire-knitted. Here are my results:


I posed these pins in the order in which I made them from top to bottom. Not a bad start, I'd say. :-) The bottom fibula had three beads at first -- a red bead between the two blue beads -- but the red one must have had a crack in it, because it fell off and got lost. Ah, well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Only in Lithuania...

Some things about modern Lithuania just make me shake my head and smile. (Imagine the reaction people without any Lithuanian ancestry must have....)

For example, šaltibarščiai, or cold beet soup. I can take it in small doses, because I wasn't exposed to it while I was growing up in the USA, but real Lithuanians really, really love the stuff. In case you're wondering ... it consists of beets and dairy (buttermilk or cream), looks like Pepto-Bismol, and tastes like ... well, beets and milk. It's usually garnished with hard-boiled eggs and dill. You can find a recipe here or on many other websites.

So, imagine my jaw dropping when I stumbled upon a photo of these men's briefs on Facebook:

As George Takai might say: Ohhhh, myyyyy!! Especially note the strategic placement of the hard-boiled-egg slices. You cannot unsee that.

Even more amusing is Google Translate's English version of the product description:

Men's underwear with colds "Horseshoe". For real fanfare fans who are not afraid that the girl will want to eat them from the body. 😂

Apparently there's a whole website called that sells a full line of men's and women's clothing made with this kind of cloth that's printed to look like an endless supply of cold beet soup. (More details on the underpants: "The underwear is made of an elastic microfiber that is pleasing to the body and absorbs moisture and prevents skin contact. Such underwear will be irreplaceable on hot summer days, workouts at the sports club or just if you tend to get more sweaty.") You can get sweatpants, leggings, T-shirts, swimwear ... all in šaltibarščiai cloth that will make you (apparently) look like a cool, delicious summer treat.

Skanaus, indeed!

Monday, April 15, 2019

This year so far, part 1

We're now more than three months into 2019. So far I've been to a a couple of baronial business meetings and a few SCA events in other Maryland baronies (Lochmere and Bright Hills, specifically). At the end of March I attended an unofficial event, Storvik Performers' Revel, which is intended to be by and for performers to show off their skills in a relaxed setting (and to eat the food produced by a couple of talented chefs).

At the beginning of January, I marked the 15th anniversary of my first SCA event: Storvik Yule Revel 2004. That day I met so many people for the first time ... and, strangely enough, quite a few of them are still in my life today. I am definitely grateful for how those people have enriched my life.

This has been another one of those seasons in which Their Majesties Atlantia have seen fit to bestow some long-delayed Peerages and Orders of High Merit (Grant of Arms level) on people who should have received those awards in the past, but didn't for whatever reason. My friend Janina Krakowska, one of our former Baronesses of Storvik, received her well-deserved Laurel for embroidery; my friend Sonya Flicker, who organized the 2017 Known World Dance and Music Symposium, was inducted into the Order of the Golden Dolphin for service; and another longtime Storvik and Southwind friend, Tirzah MacCrudden, was elevated to Laurel at Ymir in February.

Also, Baron Stefan of the Barony of Black Diamond became a Laurel in dance, Baroness Wynne became a Pelican, and a longtime scribe, Baroness Daniela, became a Laurel for calligraphy and illumination. I could go on and on....

On the personal front, I've been plugging away as a freelance writer, so I'm not rich by any means, but this year may end up a bit more remunerative than the last. (*crosses fingers*)

In the news I've found a couple of items of interest to the Baltic region. First of all, a 5,000-year-old barley grain was found in what is now Finland. So people were doing at least some rudimentary farming in that area back in that time, not just killing and eating seals and fish.

The other news item garnered more press coverage than the little detail about ancient barley. The Smithsonian Channel showed an hour-long documentary on scientists who studied Casimir Pulaski's bones and concluded that he may have been an intersex person. Casimir Pulaski was, of course, the Polish nobleman who crossed the ocean, proved his cavalry skills to George Washington, got promoted to brigadier general, and was killed in Savannah, Georgia. (Pulaski's birthplace, Warsaw, was still part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth when he was born in 1745, so Lithuanians could theoretically claim him as well.) Pulaski has long been a hero to Polish Americans; when I was a kid, my neighborhood in my Massachusetts hometown had a Pulaski Playground, though I didn't learn about the origin of that appellation until I was a bit too old for the playground equipment.

Apparently, when Pulaski's bones were disinterred so that his memorial could be rebuilt, anthropologists found that his skull and pelvis were shaped more like a woman's than a man's. It took a while, but finally the bones were confirmed to be Pulaski's through a mitochondrial DNA match with his grand-niece. His baptismal record suggests he was "debilitated" (or something like that in Latin), so he may have had congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), which would have made his body produce excessive androgens despite female chromosomes. (I'm using male pronouns because he was raised as a male and probably considered himself completely male. Given the relative status of the genders for most of European history, it's not surprising that he was designated male, even though he might not have looked like a "regular" baby boy inside his diaper.)

In addition to the Smithsonian Channel show, the research was covered in the Washington Post and the Guardian, among other media outlets.

One final note: Thanks in part to a post in the Kingdom of Atlantia's unofficial Facebook group, I've been finding a lot more SCA-related blogs, so that they don't all fit in the Blogroll anymore. I'm going to start a separate page for lists of blogs and other interesting websites. That will be a work in progress, so please don't expect it to look organized right away.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Another "Restoration of Independence" Day

I've said before on this blog that Lithuania is the little country with two independence days. Today is the second -- the 29th anniversary of Lithuania's historic declaration of its independence from the Soviet Union (which ceased to exist less than two years later anyway).

Recently I read an online essay about what the Lithuanian revolution/restoration of March 1990 was really like. Heady days indeed -- and sharing the experience on television must have seemed extraordinarily amazing to viewers who were accustomed to nothing but Soviet TV.

I want to write an update-type post on my SCA activities, but that will have to wait until I finish my current crop of articles-for-pay.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Cookies! Or ... ?

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while have probably noticed that I don't do much actual medieval cooking in the SCA. True, I pitch in with the household dinner plan at Pennsic, but we don't cook period recipes. (Yeah, sometimes I would like to try to cook from medieval recipes at Pennsic, but it's easier to please everyone's palate by declaring "taco night" or "spaghetti night" or "grilled chicken night.")

But then our current Baron and Baroness of Storvik decided to entice more people to come to the December baronial business meeting by declaring a cookie contest, with actual prizes. And my competitive instincts kicked in: Whoa, just let me make some genuine medieval cookies!!

The only problem: Real medieval people didn't leave behind a lot of recipes for "cookies" in the sense of Keebler and Nabisco products. They had some sort of gingerbread, but not much else. I couldn't help thinking, "Gee, if everyone brings gingerbread, it's not going to be much of a competition, is it?"

Fortunately, even though "period" was one of the prize categories, it was not mandatory for every entry. (Probably because of that dearth of extant recipes.) So I started to think ... my persona is Lithuanian ... maybe I should look for something that is considered "traditional" Lithuanian, even though "traditional" usually means 18th- or 19th-century stuff.

So ... I thought of ... grybai! The word translates to "mushrooms," which is one of the five basic Lithuanian food groups, along with fatty pork, cabbage, potatoes, and sour cream. :-) But it also refers to mushroom-shaped cookies.

A couple of years ago, one of my friends from the Lithuanian Hall in Baltimore made grybai and posted about it on Facebook. Her cookies had dark brown caps and white stems, like these over here. I thought they looked adorable, although she averred that large quantities of vodka needed to be consumed to make them come out right. :-)

Anyhow, I latched on to the notion of making my own grybai, because even though the recipe isn't from the SCA period, the idea of making a "sottelty" or "subtlety" -- a sugary concoction that looks like something that isn't edible, like a castle or a ship, or something that is edible but not sugary, like a rooster -- is perfectly medieval.

What recipe? I quickly found three: one in my hardcover copy of Art of Lithuanian Cooking by Maria Gieysztor de Gorgey, one in the "Our Moms' Lithuanian Recipes" group on Facebook, and one on a blog site called The Culinary Cellar (a reprint of a recipe from a 1972 magazine called Sphere). I ended up using the last of the three, just because I figured I'd better pick one, any one, since they had essentially the same ingredients in different proportions. (Baking relies a bit more on chemistry than other types of cooking, so I didn't want to end up with inedible lumps by using mix-and-match proportions.)

Making the grybai wasn't terribly difficult, just a lengthy process. Here's what the dough looked like before I kneaded it for a bit:

I posted this to Instagram just as a teaser -- to keep everyone's competitive juices flowing. *grin*

I had to bake the stems and caps separately, then glue them together with icing (confectioner's sugar and water). Then I let them dry overnight. THEN I mixed up more icing -- some left white, some with added cocoa -- and dipped the cookies in the icing and sprinkled them with poppy seeds and shavings from a dark-chocolate bar to look like "dirt."

Did they actually look like mushrooms? You tell me:

As things turned out, my grybai were one of 22 entries in the cookie competition! It was a tough contest. I didn't win, but it was close, and I received lots of compliments on what was supposed to be a "test batch" but ended up being my entry.

When I posted all this to Facebook, my friend and neighbor Tina asked me to make some for her Solstice Party on Friday night (yesterday, as I write this). So I made a second batch. I was conscious that the first batch seemed a little dry, so I made sure I put the full half-cup of honey into this second one (I may have shorted the honey on the first). I also lowered the oven temperature slightly. The cookies turned out a smidgen softer, especially the caps, but they were easier to stick together that way. And the non-SCA folks at the party loved these grybai just as much! I brought home an empty container.

If Storvik makes this cookie competition an annual affair ... for next year, I am thinking of making another Lithuanian "cookie subtlety" that will be much easier to make. Just saying.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Letter from Pennsic 47

(In the style of the #pennsicletters hashtag, which follows the style set by the #secondcivilwarletters trend a few weeks or months ago...)

Dearest friends, I have much news to relate to you. My journey to and from the Pennsic War was eventful, with many twists and turns.

Before I departed home, my place among the warmongers was far from certain. Several days before my journey was to begin, my elderly steed, Draco, came down with a frightful fever. To prevent a fatal wound to his vital organs, he had to be carted home on a special wagon. Fortunately, after four days the pyrexia broke, and he contentedly let me load him with the bedding, clothing, and other necessities of travel.

Upon my arrival at the front lines, the members of the household known as Southwind welcomed me to their dinner feast, and a young man named Treavor, who was making his very first pilgrimage to the lands of War, provided me with kind assistance in setting up my shelter and furnishings. His helping hands enabled me to be prompt about setting Draco loose in the large paddock to be with others of his kind while I attended the War.

My goal during this year's travels was to pace myself with leisure. I took no more than one Pennsic University class per day. One of my most interesting lessons was in Chinese heraldry, about which I have been queried on numerous occasions, with not much knowledge to provide to my questioners. I also learned about archaeological excavation reports and the long-armed cross stitch, and I sat in on a history lecture taught by a fellow named Igor, originally from Ukraine.

For the first time, I attended the event known as the SCA Medieval Barter Town, in which I relieved myself of two articles that I no longer use. In return, I gained two pairs of handmade earrings and a "coiling gizmo" that I plan to use to recreate accoutrements from the ancient Baltic lands.

The second day of my sojourn ushered in a brutal wave of heat, so that several of my campmates departed to spend their evenings in a distant, and apparently marvelous, building where a "condition" is applied to the air to remove the heat and humidity from it. However, I remained in my tent, which I affectionately dubbed the "Green Monster."

At the end of the week, I found Draco to be reluctant to leave the bucolic, hilly pasture in which I had left him. He needed several prods to get moving again. In return, I took him on a nice long ride out to Ohio, where I procured a moderately delicious dinner from the estate of His Royal Majesty the King of Burgers.

My journey homeward was uneventful, and I made no side excursions. I shall always cherish my memories.

Monday, July 30, 2018

From "medieval crack" to Pennsic prep...

So far I've been having a rather quiet SCA year in 2018. Not completely dead -- I have NOT quit the SCA. No way am I doing that! But I've had to watch my pennies, and I've had unavoidable time conflicts with some events. I've been to only three events so far since New Year's Day, and one was technically a baronial activity, not an official event.

On the first Saturday of March I attended Atlantia's Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival in the Barony of Stierbach. It's an annual event, but I haven't attended it annually. Last year it was in South Carolina, which is an awfully long drive from Maryland, so I went to my church's annual women's retreat instead (sadly, they're usually on the same Saturday). In 2016, I had a head cold and just stayed home.

"Medieval crack" is how one Facebook user described the inspiration she got from seeing all the displays and competitions. I totally agree! I went from table to table and gaped at all the wonderful things that I never knew existed or could be made. I took quite a few pictures; unfortunately, I still haven't sorted them out yet. (I know, I know ... I keep taking photos and dumping them into the cloud and then never getting around to organizing them....)

One Saturday in April I went to Storvik's Performers' Revel at the home of Master Igor and Mistress Fevronia, two longtime stalwarts of the Barony. It made for a long day, because in the morning and early afternoon I went up to Baltimore to attend the "Windmills" dance festival at the Lithuanian Hall. As it turned out, one of my Lochmere friends dances in a Scandinavian folk-dance group, so it was great to see her there and share some of my non-SCA interests with her.

Then I had yet another time conflict in June. (Seeing a theme here?) On the same day that Storvik held its annual Novice Tourney -- a single-day event without camping due to site limitations -- I was invited to a "celebration of life" for a college classmate who had passed away in February. What to do? Once again, I split my day: in the morning I went to Novice, then left mid-afternoon, changed my muddied clothes at home, and then went downtown to attend the memorial gathering at an art gallery. It rained a bit toward the end of the second event -- we had a very wet June around these parts -- and as I walked back to the Metro station, I saw traces of a rainbow in the sky. My classmate was smiling down on us....

Even though I'm a little light on my event schedule, I'm still keeping busy with other SCA-related activities. I have been making a few medallion cords for the Kingdom and finally learning how to knit with multiple colors of yarn. I'm dancing in the dance group, and I try to attend baronial meetings when I can. One highlight of the year so far was an SCA group outing to see the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of the classic Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot. The theater not only gave us a group discount, but also a free drink coupon if we attended in garb. After the show, a couple of the actors invited us on stage for group photos. They were as happy to meet us as we were to meet them!

(Incidentally, there was someone else in the audience who would have been interesting to meet ... her initials are R.B.G.)

I should probably also mention that this spring I did a fair amount of reorganizing of my craft and sewing supplies, as well as my books on SCA topics, so that it should be easier to get off my duff and accomplish some creativity. (I am a naturally disorganized person, so a friend helped me with this.)

Now I'm getting ready to go to Pennsic again. Starting in 2004, I've attended every Pennsic War with the exceptions of 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. (I *registered* for Pennsic XL in 2011, I loaded up the car ... and that car's transmission was croaking before I got out of Maryland.) This year I'm keeping things simple -- going for War Week, editing the stuff I'm bringing so that I don't end up with a tub full of unworn garb. I've already done a fair amount of packing and staging my belongings in a spot in the spare room. (This is NOT the kind of packing one can do in an hour, or even an evening.)

I'm trying to finish a linen dress and turban before I leave, and I also have some work-for-pay that has nothing to do with the SCA. I'll try to write about the dress in a future entry.

Since my car is in the shop for a thermostat replacement, wish me luck in my travels -- I'm going to need it.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Archiving the Blogroll

I like to add new blogs to the "Blogroll" whenever I find them. However, some of them seem to be, shall we say, quite abandoned. Many of them still contain interesting information, so I don't want to lose track of them completely.

Therefore, I'm going to make a list of blogs that have not been updated in at least one year and take them off the active Blogroll on the side of the page. Here they are, in no particular order:

One year is an arbitrary choice, I'll admit. If any of these blogs reactivate, I'll add them back.

Friday, February 16, 2018


As I've said before on this blog, Lithuania is the little country with two independence days. Well, today is the first of those two holidays, and it's a big one: One hundred years ago today, the Republic of Lithuania got its independence back!

If you remember your Lithuanian history ... Lithuania was the biggest country in Europe circa 1400, but during the 1700s the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was carved up, with Russia ruling the land during the 19th century, to the point where Lithuanian cultural expression was driven underground, to the point where book smugglers helped to keep the language alive.

My grandfather came to America as a young man in 1911 to escape being forced into the Russian army. Seven years later, Lithuania regained its independence, so young men no longer had to worry about the Russian army. By then, though, my grandfather had married my grandmother and they had a baby boy (my father), so they just stayed in Massachusetts for the rest of their lives.

I'm very happy that Lithuania is celebrating its statehood today and I plan to join my friends at the Baltimore Lithuanian Hall in celebration. Valio!