Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Travel Log: Southern Adventures

Since I'm currently on vacation and am enjoying a bit of quiet time at the beach house before everyone else begins to get up, I thought I'd write a brief travel log entry rather than my usual thematic entry for a Thursday.

So far, despite intermittent rain all week (that's been downright torrential at times), we've managed to fit almost everything in that we've wanted to do and have just worked around the rain.  I've checked the hour by hour weather forecast on far more times than I care to count, but I digress.  We still have two more full days here, in the Charleston, SC area, to fit in the rest of the things that were on our "things to do while we're here" lists.

Monday, we drove into Charleston and enjoyed shopping at the open air market that is formally known as "The Old City Market".  There has been a market on this site since 1788 and the current buildings date to 1841.  A wide variety of vendors here offer everything from locally made sweetgrass baskets to candied pecans and salt water taffy, as well as a large variety of souvenir items.  A number of shops line the streets on each side of the open air market, one of which is Black Market Minerals, a favorite stop for my boys.  Of course, we had to stop in here so they could each purchase a small selection of fossils and unique rocks to add to their collections.  They also sell a number of different gemstone beads and beading supplies which I know a number of my friends would find hard to resist (those of you reading this - they also sell them online).  After lunch in Charleston, at California Dreaming - my Mother in Law's favorite, we headed back to the beach house to change clothes and head to the beach during a brief break in the rain.  At the beach, we found a number of seashells and enjoyed hunting for them until we heard the clap of thunder and decided it was time to head in for the day.

Tuesday morning, we drove back into Charleston and took the boys to the South Carolina Aquarium while my in-laws enjoyed a boat ride over to Fort Sumter followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride around downtown Charleston.  The highlight of the aquarium trip for the boys was the new rare albino alligator they have that was rescued in the wild and then raised in captivity.  The aquarium also now has an interactive feature where the kids can "drive" an underwater exploratory robotic device inside one of the large tanks that house a number of tropical fish.  Needless to say, this was also a huge highlight of the trip for my guys.  The aquarium also has several shark and a sea turtle in it's largest tank which is always a must see.  After a successful trip to the aquarium and a visit to the gift store there, we headed back over to the open air market and enjoyed lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp, located alongside the market.  After lunch, the boys noted that it had stopped raining and seemed like perfect beach weather, so we headed back toward the beach house and stopped only at Rosebank Farms along the way.  While they initially grumbled about my desire to stop for corn on the cob and green boiled peanuts, they quickly stopped complaining when they saw the assorted farm animals they could visit.  The rabbits and ducks had both just had babies, so we especially enjoyed visiting them.  Once they discovered they could buy bottles of Coca-Cola, they were begging me to bring them back again while we were here this trip.  After a visit to the beach, we enjoyed a meal at our beach house, made from fresh local ingredients, including the corn I'd purchased.

Wednesday we drove to Savannah, GA, which takes just a little over 2 hours from Seabrook Island, where we're staying.  We enjoyed the River Street Shops, had lunch at Bella's Italian Cafe, then the boys headed to a toy store with my in-laws while my husband and I headed to Bonaventure Cemetery.  Those of you who know me well, can only imagine how thoroughly excited (geeked even) I was to be here.  There are few places more romantic to me than old cemeteries, with their marble monuments surrounded by plants that have resided next to them for decades, and this is especially true of Southern cemeteries filled with old oak trees draped with Spanish Moss.  Bonaventure sits on the site of a former plantation and was been a private cemetery from 1846 to 1907, when it became a public cemetery.  The cemetery is most famous for being featured in the novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" which later became a movie, but the statue of The Bird Girl that was featured on the cover of the novel is no longer here, having been donated to a museum to protect it after the book's popularity risked its safety.  There are still several phenomenal statues throughout the cemetery and I took a little over about 36 pictures on film and countless pictures with my digital camera here.  Once I'm home, I'll sort through all the pictures from the trip and will share them in my Flickr photo stream

Today, the weather forecast is for sun, and a high of about 88 degrees so for now, the only plans for the day involve visits to the beach.  Here, on Seabrook Island, we never know what the day will bring, though, and that's part of the fun of vacationing here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Meals with Mincie: Sweet Tea

As long as I can remember, Mincie always had sweet tea in her refrigerator, in a yellow ceramic pitcher.  While I now possess the pitcher, it's far too valuable to me to actually use for tea, so it sits in a prime location in my kitchen as a decorative piece.  My father especially loves sweet tea and their refrigerator isn't complete without it so I learned to make it at an early age.  For me, it's more of a summertime drink so I haven't had any for awhile, until yesterday.  Since then, I've been drinking sweet tea with every meal and it seemed a fitting offering for today's entry.

Saturday, we left our home in the morning, stopped in NC for the night, then drove on down to Seabrook Island, SC Sunday.  Our housesitter is settled in and our dogs seem happy with him, so all is well at home.  Here, the smell of Star Jasmine hangs in the air while a chorus of tree frogs sings outside my window and I have a week to enjoy the relaxed pace of the South.  I can't ask for anything more, except perhaps a glass of sweet tea in hand while relaxing on the porch.

How to make Mincie's sweet tea:
6 regular size tea bags (or 3 family size ones - I use Luzianne brand)
2 cups cold water
1 cup sugar

1)  Put 2 cups water in a saucepan.

2)  Add tea bags to the saucepan.

3)  Bring water to a boil, then turn off heat.

4)  Allow the tea to steep, then pour warm tea into a quart pitcher.

5)  Add sugar to pitcher while tea is still warm and stir to dissolve.

6)  Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with cold water, refrigerate and enjoy.

Note:  You can also reduce the amount of water and add ice cubes to fill the pitcher if you're feeling impatient.

Sun Tea variation: (method I use)
Quart sized jar or other clear glass container with a lid
1 quart of cold water
3 family sized tea bags (or 6 regular sized ones)
1 cup sugar

1)  Fill glass jar with water.
2)  Add tea bags.
3)  Secure lid to keep debris out of the water.
4)  Set outside in the sun until tea reaches the desired color.
5)  Bring inside and add 1 cup of sugar.  Stir until dissolved.
6)  Refrigerate until cold.

The sun will warm the water, but it will not reach high enough temperatures to kill any bacteria that may be present in the water.  If the tea looks strange - such as being extra thick or syrupy or has strands in it - discard it and try again.  This is not, however, a problem I have very often at all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Steampunk World's Fair Recap

Last weekend, May 14th - 16th, 2010, the first ever Steampunk World's Fair was held at the Radisson hotel in Piscataway, NJ.  My friend, Niffer, of 19Moons, travelled with me and shared a vending room.  We arrived at the hotel early Friday afternoon and there were already quite a few participants in costume in the lobby.  After a quick, smooth check in, we unpacked the car as fast as possible, began setting up, then had to quickly change to attend the Cup of Brown Joy Tea Party being hosted by Professor Elemental

After only about 1/2 an hour at the tea, we headed back to our room so we could finish getting set up and opened.  Our vending space was our hotel room, which was a first for us, but it worked out really well and offered us a bit more flexibility with how we decorated the space.  We already have several plans to improve things for next year.  The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur as we suffered sleep deprivation and sensory overload thanks to too little sleep the night before and being surrounded by so many amazing costumes. 

Niffer, preparing to attend the tea party.

Starfish Necklace by 19moons, made from repurposed materials

Jellyfish Necklace by 19moons, made from repurposed materials

Me, after dinner, utterly exhausted

The majority of the participants practice the art of Trashion, repurposing watches, brass pipes, cogs, clock gears, and anything else they can find that fits the aesthetic, as they create their accessories, and even their costumes themselves.  One of the attendees we met, Miriam, had fashioned a bracelet from the bubble portion of a broken construction level she'd found at the side of the road and her cape was made from a pleated skirt someone in her apartment building had thrown away.  I had to get a picture of her as it was a prime example of trashion.

Unfortunately, each shot I tried to take from the front was blurry.

I can't say enough about how fantastic the event was.  There were several other vendors, all with a great variety of items, everyone we met was unbelievably kind, and phenomenal costumes abounded.  Throughout the weekend there were a number of performances by several different musical groups, as well as other entertainment events and panels.  Over 3,000 people attended the festivities over the weekend and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many creative like-minded individuals.  On Sunday, when it was time to leave, I was actually sad to head home.  Somehow, being back in the "real" world, seems so dull without the costumed individuals at every turn and the varied, always enjoyable, random performances of Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, including parades through the hallways of the hotel and a parking lot dance party at 1:00 am Saturday morning.

A special thank you and shout out to just a few of the new friends I made this past weekend:  Marisa Taylor of  Marisa Taylor Photography, whose camera I had the privilege of using to take a shot of her (I want one now).  Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, who bought a couple of items from 19moons and I and wore them on stage.  Brigid Ashwood, artist extraordinaire, for, well, being her, and for the tips on new supplies to try.  Chrononaut Mercantile, who not only are purveyors of a number of fine wares, but are both unbelievably nice and interesting to talk to., Madame vonHedwig & P Phineas vonHedwig whose blog offers stirring adventure tales, tinkering, madscience, salvaging, & sewing.  Voltaire, who I finally got to see live, but who I also was able to meet and speak to briefly.  He seems to truly appreciate each of his fans, and took the time to converse with each one that approached him and even posed for pictures with several of them, including myself.
There is so much more to say about the pure fantabulousness that was The Steampunk World's Fair, but I must call it a night.  For all of you who were eagerly awaiting this blog post, thank you for your patience.  While I would have liked to have written this blog post this past Monday, it took me until now to get caught up, both on sleep and on projects that got pushed aside as I was furiously finishing projects last week prior to leaving for the fair.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Free Form Friday: Gearing Up for Steampunk World's Fair, Oddmall, and the end of an odd, odd, week

Firstly, I have to say this has been a seriously strange week, even by my relatively lax standards when it comes to judging what is strange.  Several friends who also sell online, have had to deal with unbelievably ridiculous customer complaints.  In the process of answering their questions and requests for advice with how to deal with them, I've found myself getting angry and I'm not even directly involved in it.  I guess it just upsets me when I see someone trying to take advantage of another person.  Since we're all concerned about customer service, it can be a fine line between being fair to yourself and your business and adopting the philosophy that the customer is always right.  Even when shop policies say something completely contary to what the customer expects, we have to be concerned about how our reply might impact our feedback score since prospective customers read them.

Then, several discussions have come up this past week that all center around the fine line between being inspired by someone else's work and outright copying it.  Some artisans are new and overly enthusiastic and don't see anything wrong with it because they see other people doing it.  I like to think that if their own moral compass doesn't already lead them in the right direction, they'll eventually be copied and realize why they shouldn't do it.  Unfortunately, others take this to the opposite extreme.  There are times when some artisans feel the need to claim that everything they make is copyrighted and will attack anyone else who makes anything even remotely similar.  For example, in the steampunk community there's a certain look and feel that is a unifying thread through everyone's work, particularly the inclusion of gears and often watch movements.  I have created things, with no other inspiration than the objects in front of me and the aesthetic I love only to later find that another steampunk enthusiast has made something that was virtually identical.  Some sellers would try to accuse me of copying them though I know I didn't.  How do you defend something like that?  This past week, due to undue concern about protecting myself from being copied, I unintentionally hurt a friend's feelings.  It was an honest misunderstanding, but I feel more terrible than I can possibly convey and am truly sorry.  Too bad I haven't perfected my time machine, or I'd go back and undo the conversation that occurred as a result of the misunderstanding.  I wish she could understand my perspective and hopefully, with time, things will be fine. I am constantly trying to evolve my work and include my own spin on things, so that the viewer will hear my artistic voice.  Now, I am trying to focus on this and try to put events of this past week behind me.  Eventually, it is my hope that I develop a style so distinctly unique that everyone who looks at it will know I made it, or that it was made in my style.  Andy Warhol, whether you appreciate his art or not, definitely accomplished this.  Perhaps someday, things will be referred to as "Barkeresque".  Or not.  It's certainly a goal worth striving for, though.

I've been trying to create as much as possible lately, especially with some of the shows I have coming up, so I apologize for neglecting the blog this week, but I fear weekly posts will have to be the norm this month.  In June, things will slow down a bit and it will be easier to divide my time between writing and creating than it is this month.

I'm off to Oddmall Emporium of the Weird tomorrow and am still busily gearing up for the much anticipated, first ever Steampunk World's Fair and am an equal mix of nerves and excitement, with a little stress over finding time to do everything thrown in.  If you attend either event, please stop by and say hello.  Niffer, of 19 Moons, will also be at the World's Fair with me.  Don't miss checking out her fantastical creations.


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