More Fun and Homework

Well, I survived my first quarter as a student again.  I don’t have official grades, yet, but everything went pretty well, so I’m confident.  And now I get three whole weeks off!  I have great plans for cleaning up and cleaning out and crafting and so on.  There are holiday presents for me to make!  Hopefully, I will also have the time to post about things here.  The first thing I’m going to post, though, is a project I did for my environmental science class.  One of the professor’s big focuses for this class was to take what we learned out into the world, so a big part of our grade was a service learning project.  I was not thrilled at first (I’ve never been a good activist type), but it turns out that we could do something a little more personal and grass routes…and even fun!  I wanted to do something fun for my friends and family, and since most of us are crafters of some sort or another, I decided to do an Upcycled Craft Party.  We did three write-ups for the project (and I also did a Facebook invitation), but I am only going to post my final one.  Here it is, as turned in (with a few notes of friends’ “names” that are known here).  Bear with me, it starts a little science-y, but there are pictures and links to projects!

 

Upcycled Craft Party – Completed Project

Introduction

For my service learning project, I chose to host a craft party featuring projects that use unconventional materials (i.e. trash / recyclables) and upcycle them into pretty and usable items.  I chose this subject partly because I am a crafter, as are many of my friends.  I thought something that related to our interests and was fun would be a better vehicle for learning.  I also chose this project because, while my friends are a pretty environmentally aware group, I don’t think many of us had applied that thinking to our crafting.  Not that any of us are particularly wasteful in the area, but I was pretty sure that our thinking and knowledge had not extended as far into the cycle of materials as it could.

group1

Background

At this point in time, recycling is automatic for most people in our part of the country.  Facilities may not take all of the materials that we wish they would, and receptacles may be harder to find than ideal, but the practice is fairly widespread.  Still, a lot of people don’t realize just how many resources are still being used to make recyclable products and what percentage of those products is actually being recycled.  For example, 311 million tons of plastic was produced globally in 2014, while only 7.7 million tons had been recycled the year before.  In the US, only 9.5% of the plastic generated nationally in 2014 was recycled.  Over three-quarters went to landfills.  Every year in the US, 2.4 million tons of PET plastic is discarded, more than a quarter of which is water bottles.  PET water / soda bottles do have one of the better recycling rates among plastics, though approximately 20-30% can’t be said to be a good rate.  Americans also use around 102.1 billion plastic bags per year.  On the other hand, the recovery rate of newspaper is currently around 72%.  Recycling these materials saves both resources and energy.  Recycling one ton of plastic saves from 1000 to 2000 gallons of gasoline and reduces energy requirements by 66%.  Recycling one ton of paper saves 165 gallons of gasoline and reduces energy requirements by 60%.  Further, recycling paper saves approximately seventeen mature trees which will then continue to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.  As we’ve discussed, release of CO2 is the primary cause for climate change and heavily associated with creation of new materials from natural resources.

group2

One stream of waste that many people don’t think about is textile waste.  The textile and clothing industry is considered one of the most polluting industries.  The manufacture of textiles uses large volumes of chemicals and water; thus, wastewater treatment is very important in the industry to avoid polluting local water resources.  There are a number of chemical, mechanical, and biological methods being used, many of which return the treated water to the manufacturing process.  There is also a great deal of fiber waste in both the manufacturing process and in the textile supply chain, mostly as unwanted clothes in the supply chain.  Some of the fiber waste is recoverable; natural fibers can be used as a source for bio-based products.  There is even the potential to recover sugars as monosaccharides from waste cellulosic fibers (e.g. cotton, linen, rayon, and viscose).  The fact that fashion has come to have a very quick cycle is part of why the textile industry has such a high rate of resource consumption and waste generation.  However, recently, there has also been a trend of fashion consumers who are more interested in alternative ways of managing their textile waste.  Most people dispose of or donate their unwanted clothing, but fashion consumers are now also participating in efforts to resell, swap, or take back their clothes, sometimes with the help of clothing companies.  For example, as part of their company sustainability strategy, H&M clothing stores collect unwanted garments for recycling.  On another encouraging note, at least one resource in the textile industry may be having a positive environmental impact.  The production of silk requires mulberry trees.  The trees must be grown without pesticides for silkworms to feed on them, and mulberry trees have been shown to have a high capacity of carbon mitigation.  The research is still in progress, and there are likely other offsetting factors like transport, fertilization, or water use, but it is possible that sericulture’s carbon footprint may come out on the positive side.  Silk production also has very little waste fiber, as even lower quality fibers can be used in a number of applications.

Crafters, depending on the craft, are heavy consumers of textiles at the individual scale.  (Some crafters, of course, don’t use textiles but do use other resources.)  They can also be a mitigating factor in textile waste.  They can affect the manufacturing side through what products they choose to buy and in how they use their materials.  I have one friend who got interested in sewing daily wear garments in order to limit her personal textile waste (Meris was not able to attend the party but see her blog at https://fabricalchemist.com/).  It is very encouraging to me that silk may be a low impact fiber because it is very popular among knitters, especially for making lace shawls.  The ability to craft, of course, can also be useful in mitigating other waste streams as well.  In this case, I wanted to harness the power of crafters to transform the materials I highlighted above: plastic bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers.

group3

Results (aka The Party)

I invited approximately twenty people to the party and had nine attendees.  Sadly, no one took the option to participate virtually.  I also had only one person bring any materials for the craft swap, and those ended up in my collection!  Not everybody brought materials, but between what I had collected and what people did bring, we had plenty to keep us going.  I also had plenty to recycle at the end of the night.  It was interesting to see what people brought.  I hadn’t managed to collect much newspaper, but one friend (FlowerFriend) was able to bring a large stack.  She made a basket out of some of the newspaper she brought.  My mother brought newspapers and magazines.  She made a tiny bowl out of the latter, and her colorful Sweet Adelines magazines were also very popular source material for the people making paper beads.  I had one friend (VetFriend) bring plastic bags, on which she had done a little pre-party work to turn them into “plarn” (plastic yarn).  She had underestimated the amount she would need for her crocheted plarn tote bag, but luckily my mother had also brought plastic bags and I had a few on hand, though that too was not an item of which I hadn’t managed to amass much.  What I did have a good quantity of was plastic soda bottles.  Lucky for me, not only was that the material for my main project (pencil cases), but another friend (GameFriend) used some to make some very pretty flowers.  One friend (BookFriend) brought her standby project, little tiny origami cranes that she makes from colorful paper scraps.  My sister also worked on a project that she already had, a quilt made from t-shirts (and onesies) that my niece has outgrown but we all loved dearly and hold many memories.  Everything was so fun that even after the party was over and people left, my sister and I each had to make one more thing.  She made a couple of the soda bottle flowers, and I made a newspaper basket.

group4

As I said, my friends and family are fairly good about their resource use and recycling, but pretty much none of them had ever done an upcycled project before.  There was a good deal of surprise at how sophisticated some of the projects could be.  Also, everyone seemed pretty excited by not just the projects but by the concept of transforming something as a method of reuse instead of just recycling.  We talked about resource use and waste generation in general terms, and as people left I gave them a goodbye with a reminder to “reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order!”  In retrospect, though, I wish that I’d introduced some of the actual numbers that I reported above.  We were all having some much fun, that it just didn’t happen.  I know I got people thinking, but I think the numbers would have made a bigger impact.  Some of my friends are pretty into in data.  Based on the differences in the things that people brought, it might also have been interesting to have people come up with their own projects based on the materials that they had on hand.  Altogether, though, I think the party succeeded in spreading a little knowledge and a little more thinking about resource use in a fun way.

 

References

“Plastic Recycling Facts and Figures.”  LeBlanc, Rick.  The Balance.  Updated June 2017.  Accessed November 3, 2017.  (https://www.thebalance.com/plastic-recycling-facts-and-figures-2877886)

“Brazilian silk production: economic and sustainability aspects.” Giacomin, Alessandra Maria; Garcia Jr., João Berdu; Zonatti, Welton Fernando; Silva-Santos, Marcia Cristina; Laktim, Mariana Costa; Baruque-Ramos, Julia.  Procedia Engineering 200: 89–95.  2017. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2017.07.014)

“H&M Group > Sustainability > Get Involved.”  H&M Group.  Accessed November 28, 2017.  (http://about.hm.com/en/sustainability/get-involved.html)

“Recovery of Old Newspapers/Mechanical Papers.” Paper Recycles.  Accessed November 3, 2017.  (http://www.paperrecycles.org/statistics/recovery-of-old-newspapers-mechanical-papers)

“Recent Trends in Sustainable Textile Waste Recycling Methods: Current Situation and Future Prospects.” Pensupa, Nattha; Leu, Shao-Yuan; Hu, Yunzi; Du, Chenyu; Liu, Hao; Jing, Houde; Wang, Huaimin; Lin, Carol Sze Ki.  Topics in Current Chemistry 375: 76. October 2017.  (https://doi.org/10.1007/s41061-017-0165-0)

“Recycling Facts.”  Recyclingbin.com.  Accessed November 3, 2017.  (http://www.recyclingbin.com/Recycling-Facts)

“Review: Treatment and reuse of wastewater from the textile wet-processing industry: Review of emerging technologies.”  Vandevivere, Philippe C.; Bianchi, Roberto; Verstraete.  Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology 72: 289-302.  August 1998.  (DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4660(199808)72:4<289::AID-JCTB905>3.0.CO;2-#)

“Fashion interest as a driver for consumer textile waste management: reuse, recycle or disposal.”  Weber, S., Lynes, J.; Young, S. B.  International Journal of Consumer Studies 41: 207–215.  March 2017.  (doi:10.1111/ijcs.12328)

 

Links to Projects

Coiled Magazine Page Round Coasters – Johnnie Collier @ Saved by Love Creations (http://savedbylovecreations.com/2011/09/coiled-magazine-page-round-coasters.html)

Basket From Coiled Magazines (and a bunch of other ideas!) – Neecey @ AllWomens Talk (http://diy.allwomenstalk.com/crafty-ways-to-use-old-magazines/13/?utm_campaign=PostSharing&utm_medium=Image&utm_source=pinterest)

How To Make a Magazine Basket – Jon @ Dump A Day (http://www.dumpaday.com/genius-ideas-2/simple-ideas-that-are-borderline-crafty-34-pics-3/attachment/how-to-make-a-magazine-basket/)

I Make: Magazine Boxes – Abstract Octopus (https://abstractoctopus.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/i-make-magazine-boxes/#more-155)

Plastic Bag Yarn – Gooseflesh (http://hellejorgensen.typepad.com/gooseflesh/2007/02/plastic_bag_yar.html)

Make a Basket Out of Plastic Bags – Instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-basket-out-of-plastic-bags/)

Turn Plastic Bags Into a Recycled Tote – Daniel Castro and Greg P. Gleason @ BuzzFeed (https://www.buzzfeed.com/danielcastro/turn-plastic-sacks-into-a-recycled-tote?utm_term=.ioVwpxJ0a#.wrkxPn60e)

Plastic Bottle and Crochet Totes – I can’t actually read the website, but the pictures are pretty good (http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/helen1/post321383888/)

DIY Plastic Bottle Napkin Ring – Fab DIY (http://www.fabdiy.com/diy-plastic-bottle-napkin-ring/)

Upcycled Soda Bottle Pencil Case – Doodlecraft (http://www.doodlecraftblog.com/2013/08/upcycled-soda-bottle-pencil-case.html?utm_source=bp_recent&utm-medium=gadget&utm_campaign=bp_recent#)

 

 

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Somewhere Between Homework and Fun

Sorry I haven’t been updating here much.  I’ve had a lot of homework, even if some of it is art (I’ll try and post pictures of some of my projects some day).  I had a class canceled this week, though; and to make-up the time, the professor gave of several options of  activities we could do and then post a brief summary on the class discussion board.  I chose the activity that we had planned to do in class that day: leaf chromatography!  I’d been excited to do it in class and had already picked several leaves, and I’d wanted to do it with Sister and Munchkin at home, too.  So, this is the results of my replacement option assignment as posted to the class.

 

Option E: Leaf Chromatography

prep

Materials
– Leaves
#1 – Japanese Maple variety 1
#2 – Ornamental Plum
#3 – Japanese Maple variety 2 – back yard
#4 – Japanese Maple variety 2 – side yard
#5 – Maple
#6 – Apricot
– (6) Half Pint mason jars
– Pint mason jar
– 80% Isopropyl alcohol
– (3) Metal spoons
– Metal strainer
– Glass bowl
– Hot air blow dryer
– Coffee filters
– Clips
– Paper towels
– Black light
– Assistants – Munchkin and Sister

process1

Method
First, I collected five or six leaves of the same color from each tree.  The next day, with the aid of my assistants, we tore the leaves into small pieces, removing as much of the woody stem and leaves as possible, and put the pieces into the mason jars.  We added just enough alcohol to the jars to cover the leaf pieces and then mashed them with the metal spoons, cleaning the spoons with paper towels between jars.  We left the leaf mash mixtures to sit overnight, permitting the pigments to extract and the alcohol to begin evaporating.  The next day, we strained the leaves using a metal tea strainer, transferring the liquor into a glass bowl and then decanting back into the original jars, and left the jars overnight to evaporate further.  On day three, we forced further evaporation by agitating the mixtures and gently heating them with a blow dryer.  Then we cut approximately 1” by 5” strips out of the coffee filters.  The strips were placed in the mason jars with at most 0.5” in the pigment liquids and clipped to the top of the jars.  The filter paper strips were left in the jars for about 90 minutes.  We then removed the strips from the jars and clipped them to the outside of the pint mason jar to dry.  When the strips were dry we examined them for color bands under both room lighting (LED) and black light.

process2

Results and Discussion
Some of the leaves started releasing pigment immediately as we mashed them in the alcohol.  The bright red leaves (#3) spread in the alcohol particularly quickly.  Others, like the yellow apricot leaves (#6), were more difficult to both soften and to see pigment starting to stain the alcohol.  Despite this, all off the mixtures developed clear bands of color on the filter paper.  At approximately the same distance from the bottom of each strip except #6, there are thin lines of yellow and yellow-green.  These should be from the chlorophyll remaining in the leaves.  In the same area, there is also a slightly wider band of clear yellow, which shows on all of the strips, which is probably the xanthophylls.  Further up in most of the strips is a wide, diffuse band of red, showing how far the anthocyanins travelled.  Again, this color is missing on strip #6.  The uppermost stain on each strip fluoresces brightly under black light.  On strips 3, 5, and 6, this edge shows yellow-orange but is only slightly yellow on the other strips.  The color is from carotenoids; but as this band of color coincides with the solvent line, the glow may be an artifact of the alcohol.  On a related not, the liquors for leaves #2 and #4, which otherwise looked olive green, glowed red under the black light indicating that those two leaves probably had the most chlorophyll remaining in the leaves.  They also had the clearest green and yellow-green bands.

results

References
“The Chemicals Behind the Colours of Autumn Leaves.”  Compound Interest.  September 2014.  Accessed October 13, 2017.  (http://www.compoundchem.com/2014/09/11/autumnleaves/)

“Chlorophyll Lab.” Cynti, Laura.  C-Lab. December 2010.  Accessed October 13, 2017.  (http://c-lab.co.uk/experiments-details/chlorophyll-experiment.html)

“Find the Hidden Colors of Autumn Leaves.”  Scientific American.  October 2011.  Accessed October 13, 2017.  (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-leaf-colors/)

 

Honestly, even if it was for homework, I had a lot of fun.  Of course, I got to do it with one person who is the target audience for the experiment and one person who is a professional chromatographer.  I guess maybe I cheat a little.

Welcome Fall!

Fall is in full swing here.  Munchkin has been back in school for a few weeks, the temperatures have cooled down, the leaves are turning, and the rain has finally come back.  I feel energized and ready to organize and make some changes.  I’ve spent so much of my life in school that I still tend to look at fall as the time of year of beginnings and resolutions.  That is absolutely true this year as I have made a new start by quitting my job and going back to school!  This week was the first of the quarter, and I’m already busy!  I’m new to the quarter system (my other schools were all on the semester system), so I’m a little weirded out that I have a full-time schedule with only three classes.  Two of those classes are hybrid on-campus / on-line courses, though; and it seems that I’ll certainly be spending the equivalent if not greater time on those classes at home as I would in class.  Lots of reading and writing assignments to make up for missing lecture time.  My new field / career choice is Interior Design.  I’m really looking forward to it, but I’m also nervous.  I come from a science background; all this art stuff is scary!  It does come with awesome school supplies, though, and I love school supplies.  I get to not only have pens and notebooks and highlighters, but sketch pads and paint and silk screening tools!

In other news, Munchkin is going to GeekGirlCon next weekend, so we’ve had to step up our construction process for the cosplay she’d already chosen for Sakura-Con next spring.  She’s going to make a really cute Akatsuki (Log Horizon), though, and the costume should carry her through both cons and Halloween.  Fingers crossed she doesn’t grow too much.  With football season  and cooler weather, I’ve also been knitting more, so I’m really going full steam with arts and crafts here!

It’s Fun to Try New Things

Even when you fail miserably.   A couple of weeks ago, my massage therapist suggested that I try Epsom salt soaks for my feet to relax some of the tightness in them with a side bonus of softening some of the calluses.  Okay, I can get behind that.  We already have Epsom salts in the house for baths when Munchkin has growing pains or one of us works out too hard.  Sister ordered me a small tub and voila! I got to soak my feet the other night.  Munchkin and Sister wanted to get in on that action, too, so we had a foot bath party while watching TV.  It also came up during the evening that it would be fun to make bath bombs (of which Epsom salts are a main ingredient), and a little internet research got us an easy recipe and a fun DIY idea for Christmas gifts.

We figured we should practice a little before that point, though, so we tried it out this weekend.  Sister had ordered that last ingredient we needed online, which arrived earlier in the week, and we already had everything else we needed.  Putting the mixture together was fun and pretty easy.  Packing the molds (we used silicone ice-cube and cupcake trays) was a little more fiddly but not hard.  We turned the finished products of both batches (small peppermint foot bath bombs and larger orange bath bombs) out onto cling wrap and left them to dry while we went out to get dinner and feed Mom’s cat.  We got home to puffed up, stickier-than-before, weirdly misshapen bath bombs.

Turns out you shouldn’t make bath bombs when the humidity is higher than 40%.  Umm, this is the Pacific Northwest, when isn’t the humidity higher than 40%?  Okay, maybe some of this past summer, but of course we tried making bath bombs for the first time on the first day in ages where there was precipitation.  Oops.  We tried popping them in the oven on low heat, but that just activated the baking soda and they puffed more.  We took them out, and they deflated, but have remained a little sticky.  We salvaged the larger, heat shaped, orange scented bombs, but ended up just crumbling the smaller, flower shaped, mint scented bombs into jars.  Both should still be usable if not quite professional quality bath bombs / salts, and it was absolutely still a fun project to do with Sister and Munchkin.

Sometimes, I’m A Little Crazy

I have had a very busy weekend.  I had two different groups of friends who wanted to do 5k races this weekend.  One was set for Saturday and one for Sunday, so I figured, “Why not?”  Actually, since we walked both, and I’ve gotten pretty used to the 5k distance, doing two races in one weekend wasn’t difficut.  What was difficult was getting up early both days.  I think there might be something wrong with my logic when my hobbies involve getting up earlier than I do for work.  Nonetheless, I had fun.  The Saturday race was The Bubble Run, which I did two years ago with the same friends.  Munchkin came along with us this time, and had a lot of fun.  She’s already excited for next year.  Today’s race was the Cosmo 5k/7k; a race that I did last year with a similar group to this year.  Last year was miserably hot and humid, but this year we got done while the weather was still nice.  Of course, we were also in a different location this year and opted for the 5k instead of the 7k.

Both races came with shirts.  The Bubble Run shirt was a standard logoed white t-shirt ready to get dyed by the colored bubble bogs.  I tested using a vinegar spray to see if I could get the dye to set this year, but it was only partially successfull.  There’s still a little bit of color on the shirt, which will make it fun in a t-shirt quilt, along with my Color Run shirt and 2015’s Bubble Run shirt.  I’ll also be using the back of this year’s shirt because we used Sharpie markers to write our team name.  Munchkin and I also put our actual names on our sleeves to make it easier to identify each other in case we got seperated.  That did not turn out to be a problem, though I did run over her in the green bubble bog.  Oops.  I’m very excited about the Cosmo run shirt that I got today.  Last year’s shirt is one of my favorite tech shirts to wear to they gym our out walking / running.  They provided really nice tech shirts again this year, but they’re even better because they’re long sleeved!  I’ve been trying to collect long sleeve tech shirts to encourage myself to continue to train outside even when the weather starts getting cooler and wetter.  As an added bonus this year’s shirt is a pretty light blue, though I’ve come to appreciate the eye searing pink from last year!

We did a thing!

A day or two ago, a friend on Facebook posted a meme that buying craft supplies and using craft supplies are actually two different hobbies.  (Absolute truth.)  I added that planning craft projects is a third related hobby.  (Also absolute truth.)  I am adept at doing all three hobbies quite independently of each other.  I have planned a beautiful matching cabled knit skirt and hoodie that had made it no further than my sketchbook.  There a numerous skeins of yarn in my room that I have no idea what to do with.  And then there are some actual projects in progress around the house – probably more than there should be.  Maybe finishing projects should also get its own category?  I am not the only person in my family to enjoy the planning hobby.  In fact, it’s a hobby Sister and I frequently do together.  Every year we think of projects we want to do in and around the house, particularly over the summer.  Every year, most of these projects remain undone.  Mind you, few of these projects are necessary for living and we generally ignore them to do other stuff as a family, but we can also be a little bit…lazy?  Slow to start?  However, we have managed to accomplish one of our projects!

Munchkin has a fairly prodigious stuffed animal collection, but we had never installed a really good way to store it.  Sister and I had both looked at “stuffy zoos” online.  I had looked at some easy to build versions using wood or PVC pipe to make a frame and rope or shock cord to make “bars” that are flexible enough to pull stuffed animals through.  Sister managed to find some pictures of version where people had threaded the shock cord on to bookcase frames.  Given that I have some old bookcases in storage, that seemed like a super easy way to get stuffy storage.  Admittedly, we came up with this idea months ago, fairly quickly after the Ikea trip where we bought the insert and supplies to construct Munchkin’s closet and “magic changing room.”  That may have been two years ago, plus or minus, but we determined we were going to do it this summer.

The first impediment and task was to get the bookcase out of storage.  My storage unit is close, but the bookcase is just big enough I didn’t want to try to manhandle it out by myself.  Thus, we had to find a time when we had enough people available and a vehicle big enough.  A couple of weeks ago, we managed to take Sister’s SUV and load it up.  Munchkin and I had bought primer and paint a day or two earlier.  Last weekend, they painted the outside of the case while I was off at a tea party.  At some point, Sister ordered eye bolts and mini bungees, and today we screwed in the bolts and attached the bungees.  BIL and I manged to get it upstairs, and we filled up the bottom to shelves with books and the top three with stuffies.  (We had fuzzy supervision, but she was too busy doing her own thing to help.)

This bookcase has actually been in the family for a long time, and kinda holds a special place in my heart – despite being a cheap, pressboard, piece of junk.  It was originally purchased (along with a second) to be the pantry in the house we lived in when I was between the ages of seven and eleven.  They have fixed shelves and are very sturdy, but no pretense was ever made that they are pretty.  Dad and I painted them a bricky red on the outside and white on the inside.  When the two bookcases moved with me to Montreal, I re-painted them a dark garnet red (all by myself!).  They were a featured part of my living room / office decor the entire time I lived in Canada and generously held a ton of books for me.  They’ve been in storage since I moved here, so I was happy to donate one to Munchkin.  It is now lime green but still has the original white paint inside the shelves…thirty years later.

Tea and Croquet

My office manager (who I am going to call BookFriend) and I ventured out today to check out the Alice In Wonderland Tea Party and Croquet Game held in Gasworks Park.  The location was perfect, all the old industrial plant remnants were perfect for the steampunk flair of the event.  There was plenty of lovely tea to taste and yummy food nibbles to snack on (it was a potluck event, so I brought some mini frittatas).  Sadly, with the heat and the smoke haze, some of the organized activities were cancelled (and I don’t think there were many to start with).  Neither BookFriend nor I are much for mingling with strangers, so we mostly kept to ourselves with only quick interactions – like complimenting people’s costumes.  Still, it was a ton of fun seeing all the clever and beautiful outfits and the food and the crowd.  We looked pretty good ourselves, a fact of which we are both quite proud since we put together our outfits from stuff we had on hand.  I finally used the ruffled blouse I purchased at least five years ago with steampunk in mind but had never put together a costume it worked with.  I also discovered that the capri pants I run around in all the time make adorable pantaloons under the bustle skirt I made for Oni-Con three years ago.  So successful day altogether despite the beastly weather.

Birthdays

Today was my birthday.  My family treated me to brunch at Salty’s on Alki Beach. That’s always a treat, and we had a fun little driving tour of West Seattle afterwards on our way to the Bellevue Art Fair. We didn’t stay for long but got to see some beautiful arts and crafts, including booths by our favorite kirie artist and a washi kimono artist.  I need more walls to hang art on (and more money to buy that art).  At home I got some lovely gifts, including a Garmin running watch from Sister and company, some earrings from Munchkin, and fun canning jars from Mom.  (I’m really excited; she found jars tall enough for asparagus!)


A couple of weeks ago was Munchkin’s birthday.  After doing her parties at a bouncy house place for a few years, she decided to return to the backyard theme party style we’d done when she was younger.  In some ways, I think Sister and I were as excited as Munchkin.  We always have fun designing activities and finding prizes and favors that match theme.  This year, Munchkin decided on a Pokémon theme, which practically planned itself.  Also, it wasn’t one of those times when we were a year ahead of the trend, so there was plenty of swag and decorations to find.  Of course, it was still a lot of work; but we had fun and the kids seemed to have fun, so it was a great success!

Out and About

This was a good week for going out and doing stuff with people.  Tuesday was my slightly delayed but regular meeting with my World of Darkness RPG group.  One of our members ran a D&D one shot for us that turned out to be a giant pun / joke.  That was a fun and relaxing session, and I got to dust off some of those seldom used D&D dice I posted about last time.  On Thursday, I went with an old neighbor to Stitch N’ Pitch – Mariners vs. Yankees and knitting in public.  Amazingly, after weeks / months of picking up projects only rarely, that wasn’t even the first knitting I did this week.  I’ve done a few more rows on my Scoreboard Blanket and accomplished several more cable repeats of the neckline for my bamboo Henley shirt while at the game…even though they never did turn on the lights for those of us up in the nosebleed section!  Today, Sister, Munchkin and I went to the zoo.  We went and saw some of the animals on a loop we don’t usually do – and they were out and active –  and then hit some of our favorite exhibits.  I got to see two different types of otters, so my day was complete.

My Dice! No Touchy!

(Note: Sorry for the missed weeks!)

I was sitting on my room reading the other night when Munchkin came home.  She wanted me to talk to, which was absolutely fine.  Then she wanted to investigate my World of Darkness dice bag (three or so sets of 10 sided dice), which was less okay.  I told about how it’s often considered rude to touch other people’s dice (which I only sometimes apply to my own dice), but I really couldn’t explain why.   We act like other people touching our dice will change their luck even though, intellectually, we know that there’s no such thing.  This got me thinking about gaming traditions, how they get started, and how these occasionally very odd behaviors bind gamers together as a group, a very widespread group.  There are dice shaming posts on Facebook with contributors from all over the country, or even world.  I, personally, have threatened to put my dice in the freezer when they’ve misbehaved (seriously! eight dice and no successes?!?).  We pick up behaviors and vocabulary (I’ve never had to deal with THAC0 tables, but I understand they’re a thing) from each group we play with and become part of a huge web of people over space and time.  It’s amazing really.

Of course, it’s not just role-playing games where a shared set of vocabulary and traditions and in-jokes bind together a far larger group of people.  All my crafts and knitting friends and experiences connect out into millennia of crafters – both professional and amateur.  We fondle yarn and knit in public and talk of frogging and SABLE and FOs, and thousands of miles away complete strangers are doing the same thing.  I’ve participated in the SCA with all of its traditions and culture, which have spread across the globe (aka The Known World).  My recent entry into the running community has certainly come with a new set of vocabulary (bonking and Fartleks, anyone?).  Even friends and families have sets of idiosyncrasies that create a personal feel to your own nearest and dearest but connect to other groups of people over distance and generations.

I love the feeling of inclusion when I start on a new hobby or meet new friends and start picking up habits and lingo.  You get a new tribe and find your people.  The only danger is that shared behaviors can also become exclusionary to people outside the group.  That big web of connections may spread far and wide but be isolated from other webs.  People are people, and we love to feel special, so sometimes we use our private languages and group traditions to keep other people out.  Each of us is part of a lot of different webs, which sometimes intersect and sometimes don’t.  Sister thinks my new-found desire to run is crazy, and probably doesn’t really need to know about some of our terminology, but I still try to share with her my excitement – hopefully without boring her too much with details.  That’s what I hope most people try to do, open up the edges of their web so that people can join or at least share.  True, sometimes you really “had to be there” to understand a reference or joke that keeps coming up with one group, but if we find other ways to connect between groups and people then I think it’s still okay.  And, wow, this is not where I expected this post to go.