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The Hubs and I are off to Germany and Austria in three days! I am super excited! (Especially by the fact that we’ll be connecting in Iceland on our flight to Munich. I have extracted a promise from the Hubs that we’ll go back someday and spend a proper amount of time there, but I fully intend to spend the 45 minutes between flights with my nose pressed to the glass of the nearest window, drinking in as much as possible.) We’ll be cramming as much as possible into our short trip, which includes several days in Munich, one in Linz, and one in Salzburg. I fully intend to blog about it (seeing as how this is my first trip to Europe), though probably not until after we return due to the aforementioned cramming.

I’ve gotten back into editing quite a bit lately, and it feels really good to stretch my fiction-editing muscles again! Nonfiction editing is enjoyable, but definitely not in the same way as helping an author whip their manuscript into the best possible version of itself. Check out http://www.stephaniericker.com if you’ve got a writing project in the works. I’d love to help!

The Hubs and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary on June 14th! Hard to believe it’s already been two years; hard to believe it’s only been two years. It feels as though our lives have always been entwined at the same time that it feels like our wedding day was last week. I cannot imagine losing a spouse after fifty-odd years; after just two years, the very idea of that uprooting, amputation-pain is incomprehensible. Ross is the most tremendous blessing I’ve ever experienced.

On a less dramatic note, we enjoyed the annual Medieval Month festivities at the Sanders residence last week. This year’s theme was Vikings. I’m sad to say that the Hubs and I played right into the stereotypes: he was Hagar the Horrible, and my costume was inspired by the historically inaccurate Vikings tv show. But we had a blast, per usual.

2017-06-24 14.01.27I was really proud of the beard. That’s some kind of curtain trim (I think?) from Goodwill, layered and pinned to a cloth headband he was wearing.

 

I won the archery competition! (Several years running, ahem.) That darned kool-aid still hasn’t faded from my hair, after a full year. I had dyed it red for last year’s Medieval Month when I dressed as Lady Macbeth.

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The Hubs very definitely won the knife- and axe-throwing.

Ross demonstrated a hitherto-unknown, terrifying ability to throw knives and axes. Don’t mess with the Hubs, apparently.

19399711_10158811590140702_2483069792448447790_n (1)The party would not be complete without boffer sword duels. I did not fare nearly as well here! I’m missing a leg (read: hopping on one foot) in the above shot after being hit.

 

Next up: European adventures! Less weaponry, more getting lost and trying to decipher German street signs.

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I failed to tell you about our adventures at the tea room! *wavery back-in-time music*

The Olde English Tea Room, alas, closed its doors for good on December 23, 2016. My friends and I had the intense pleasure of being able to visit (for the first time, for most of us) on its final day of business. I was both elated that we managed to check it out before it closed and devastated that we could never go back again.

Isn’t it adorable?? And the tea was exceptional.

We all dressed up because that’s what you do at an old English tea room. Each afternoon tea came with its own tiny tea pot, which you could get refilled with hot water as much as you wanted. We basically sloshed our way out of the place.

They even had sugar cubes!! I had never actually seen sugar cubes before. And, as you can see, there were tea sandwiches, scones, and petite desserts. The food was incredible.

And such good tea. Not pictured in the group picture: my amazing sister-in-law, who took the photo for us. We all had a glorious day, topped off by a visit to some antique shops and a book shop.

I recently discovered the Oak Park Tea Room, so a reunion may be required to explore that new location and see how it measures up.

Here are some bookish internet discoveries for you:

Next up, all the other adventures I didn’t have time to write about when they were happening!

November was full of marvels. The best one was that at long last, the Hubs finished his master’s degree in medieval history! He had slaved over it for 5.5 years. (For those who don’t know, he’s a teacher and was working 60-70 hours per week during those years, so it didn’t leave a lot of time for master’s work.) I planned a massive surprise party for him, and we actually managed to surprise him! This is quite the achievement. My husband can smell surprises. My brother did a really cool vlog about the party here.

We also hosted Thanksgiving for both sides of the family here at our little apartment for the first time, which went really well! There’s a long but fun video of that too. The part at our house starts around 4:20.

We went to NC ComiCon dressed as Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers and had a BLAST!

Then we reprised our Lord and Lady Macbeth costumes for a trip to the renaissance fair. It was in the 50s and kind of drizzly, so we had to make some cold-weather adjustments, but they worked well!

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We also just so happened to go on Time Traveler weekend (hence the cool costumes sported by the other members of the group) and had a great time taking photos with some of the props.

A busy, costume-filled month! It was fun, but so full of commitments that I kind of wanted to sleep for a week. Lots more to tell in December, but it’ll keep till next time!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a 1920s-themed party! I adore a good costume party and will dress up for any excuse. A good friend came over early so we could attempt some vaguely 20s-esque hairstyles.

The finished flappers:

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As you can see, that Kool Aid hair dye is nowhere near washing out. Looks like I’ll be a semi-redhead for a good while. Blondes beware, if you attempt the same thing!

The party was lovely, and included blackjack (not for actual money, naturally), dancing, live music, and good conversation. Everyone really went all-out on the costumes, which made it even more fun.

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The Hubs is exceptional at accents, and he maintained a great Chicago gangster accent all evening–quite the accomplishment.

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My husband and I believe very strongly in taking full advantage of Chik-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day, so on Tuesday we dressed up as cows–twice–in order to obtain free chicken.

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Go big or go home.

We enjoy costume themes, so this year we were city cow and country cow (Aristocattle and Cowntry Bumpkin, specifically) for lunch.

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And high society cows for dinner. I particularly enjoy the disparity in facial expressions in this one.

These two bovines are headed to Boston next week (my husband has a week-long teacher development thing at Harvard, and I’m joining him for a few days), so with any luck I will have further adventures to relate after that.

In the meantime, here’s my review of Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s new book, A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold:

I  am in love with Stengl’s characterization. While there were many aspects of this book that I savored (it’s certainly the best retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses that I’ve ever read), the characters were my favorite part. Heloise is brilliant, and the interactions between all of the characters are incredibly lifelike. The contradictory nature of the love-hate bond between the sisters was spot-on, and even the character who initially seemed relatively bland (Evette) turned out to be multi-faceted and intriguing. I confess, as a result of my love for the characters and their interactions, I preferred the parts of the book that dealt more with the character development/Near World and less of the sections that dealt more with allegory/Faerie. As with Golden Daughter, there were a few parts that felt wordy to me–I liked the more pared-down prose of Starflower or Dragonwitch–but my affection for the characters easily carried me through the slower parts. I ate this door-stopper book right up in just a couple days and couldn’t put it down!

Speaking of books, there are a couple days left on the giveaway for The Battle of Castle Nebula, so don’t forget to sign up!

Friends of ours threw a medieval Scottish party last weekend, and costumes were encouraged. Even if they weren’t, my husband and I would’ve dressed up. Any excuse to bust out the medieval gear! We decided to go as Thane and Lady Macbeth.

I’ve always wanted to try temporarily dying my hair red and Lady Macbeth seemed like a good excuse, so a couple days before the party, I spent some time with my head in a pot of hot Kool Aid. My husband obligingly helped ladle the stuff over my hair.

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This is a totally normal thing to do.

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The end result of the Kool Aid experiment. Not bad!

I made my husband a quick kilt, and we reused other pieces from old costumes. We each won best costume for our respective gender!

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The party was a lot of fun and gave us a chance to fight with swords, throw knives and axes, and practice our archery skills. My husband also ate haggis, because he’s a brave, brave man. I decided I was okay with not being brave.

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And it was a good chance to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

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“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other.”

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“Out, damned spot! out, I say!”

 

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The couple that kills kings together stays together? Pretty sure that’s an incorrect interpretation of the play.

Three days into the new year and guess who already bought a bunch of new books.  Ugh.  (I mean that in a good way.)  A friend at work had never been to the Reader’s Corner, so you can imagine how that turned out.

I spent New Year’s Eve at a gathering thrown by some friends who happen to live on State’s (currently abandoned) campus–driving around State without coming close to hitting any kids on bikes is such a lovely novelty.  I had a good time, although I didn’t know too many people, and we played group charades and toasted the new year with champagne or sparkling grape juice, whichever the individual preferred.  Guests were supposed to dress as their favorite day of the year, so of course I was the first day of winter.  I definitely went overboard on the costume, but I love an excuse to dress up.  Sadly very few other people wore costumes, but I didn’t regret my brief foray into the realm of blue eyeshadow and glitter.  Not that I’ll be venturing near that territory again…days later, I’m still finding glitter everywhere.

A few of us girls got together on Wednesday for tea, chocolate, and the season 3 premiere of Sherlock (about which I just wrote extensively).  I can’t imagine a better way to start the new year!  This weekend I’m going to see Seascape with Allison.  I’ve never read the play, but it has sea monsters, so I’m pretty sure it has to be good.

Geekery:

Intriguing:

Critters:

Music:

Books: Somehow I went my whole life without knowing that Agatha Christie wrote a murder mystery set in ancient Egypt!  I was very excited to read Death Comes as an End, in part because it was based on some real letters of an Egyptian man to his family back home, taking them to task for their treatment of his concubine.  In the end, though, I have to admit that this novel isn’t one of my favorites of Christie’s.  The setting is intriguing, to be sure, and the murder mystery plays out nicely, but there’s little else to make it stand out from her other works.  I discovered after the fact that apparently she changed the ending, against her better judgment, at the urging of the Egyptologist she consulted for the novel.  She always thought the unpublished ending was better, and I’d love to have read that version.

I did end up on a fascinating and disturbing Wikipedia rabbit trail after reading her introductory note, though.  She says, “The terms ‘Brother,’ ‘Sister,’ in Egyptian text regularly meaning ‘Lover,’ are frequently interchangeable with ‘Husband,’ ‘Wife.’ They are used so on occasion in this book.”  I knew that incest was fairly accepted among the Egyptian nobility, and I wondered if that’s where the interchangeability came from.  Preliminary googling seems to indicate that is the case…bizarre.  From there I ended up learning that in one particular region of Roman Egypt, almost 1/4 of recorded marriages were between brother and sister.  The Wikipedia article on incest says that 20-36% of children of parent-child or sibling-sibling unions will die or have major disability due to inbreeding, so you’d think the Egyptians would have caught on to that little pattern.  This of course led to googling universal taboos (if there is such a thing): there aren’t any that are strictly universal, but there are several things the majority of societies frown upon (incest and cannibalism, among other things).  Interesting stuff, folks.

I’m currently at work on The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison, about which I have many thoughts, but I’ll hold off sharing until I get further along.

Man.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  Half of my friends are going through some kind of crisis or other, and work has been hideous lately.  Next week better behave itself by comparison or I’m kicking it in the shins.

On to happier topics.  I completely forgot to post pictures from last week’s festivities!  Me with the Singin’ in the Rain poster, posing awkwardly (“What does a flapper sit like?”), and with a group of other costumed movie attendees.  Also, here’s me working on my 1920s cow for Cow Appreciation Day with friends.

I’ve decided that I’ll dress up for the Star Trek screening if a friend or two ends up going with me.  I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go alone in costume.  Come on, you guys, you don’t have to dress up, just come along to laugh and point at me.

Read:

Watch:

Listen:

On Monday we’re discussing the second half of Pilgrim’s Regress, which I enjoyed reading and admired even more than the first.  I found Superbia to be the most genuinely disturbing character in the book; that’s quite a visual, there (and one which I will not spoil for those of you who haven’t read it).  A lot of Lewis’s points make me squirm; he holds a mirror up to me and makes me look at myself more honestly.  He’s enjoyable medicine, though, and I love reading his works.

I just finished Valley of the Sun by Louis L’Amour, yet another short story collection.  I promise, I only have a couple more to go after this and then I’ll be done talking about westerns for a good long while.  More of the same, quintessential L’Amour stories, but none of them particularly knocked my socks off.  All of those lean-jawed hombres with tied-down guns and names like Rye Taylor, Ward McQueen, and Red Clanahan are starting to blend together; I need to take a break pretty soon here. : P

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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