Handpainted Eye of Sauron Holiday Ornaments!

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake… 😉

Last year, I designed and made an Eye of Sauron pen holder for a convention booth. After the event, I looked at it and thought “That would make a great Christmas ornament design!”… and here we are!

Perfect for any Tolkien fan on your gift list, this ornament will add a special something to any geek’s holiday tree – Lord of the Rings themed, or not. Go ahead, hang it next to a TARDIS, it’s all good!

Ornaments are all hand painted on plastic (I’m a cat owner. I can’t wrap my head around glass ornaments hanging from a tree!), are durable, and look great!

The “eye” is painted on both sides of each ornament, so it looks great from multiple angles.

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Due to the hand painted nature of these ornaments, no two will be alike – expect some variation from the photos shown. Order before December 12 for delivery before Christmas, US only. To order, visit our Etsy page, HERE

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2.5″ Diameter Ornament

$12.00

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3″ Diameter Ornament

$15.00

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3″ Diameter Disk

$15.00

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Set of 10 2.5″ Ornaments

$95.00

Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

The One CHEESE Ring
How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

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Election Day Playlist

Like many people I share traits with – women, young people, Canadians, immigrants… alive and breathing… – I’m kinda stressed out by the election tomorrow.

It’s been only a year since my homeland’s longest, most stressful election ever… and that one was 78 days long! I will never get used to multiple years of campaigns, attack ads, trauma, scandals, etc. It’s exhausting.

So, as some of my friends have panic attacks (literally), and others seriously consider exit strategy, I figured I’d distract myself by compiling an election day playlist. I tried to keep it a good mix of serious and fun, only a little snark, and tried to just avoid going down the whole apocalypse rabbit hole, for the most part.

Here is what I came up with:

Spirit of the West – “D is for Democracy”

Going to start this out with a good, uplifting song. Very “GET OUT AND VOTE” theme, IMHO.

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Gaelic Storm – “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story”

This one actually has nothing to do with elections or politics… but damned if I don’t think of the election every time this one pops up on Pandora!

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Voodoo & Serano – “Overload”

I think a lot of us can identify with the feelings expressed in the video and lyrics, at this point.

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Great Big Sea – End of the World as We Know It

Yeah, I know that REM did the original… but I’m Canadian, this is the first version I ever heard, and it’s my default. 🙂 Pandora seems to agree on the song (REM’s version, though) being appropriate. While I’ve never heard it played on any of my Pandora stations before, it’s been coming up *all the time* the past week or so!

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K’Naan – “Wavin Flag”

As a VERY homesick Canadian living in North Minneapolis (“Murderapolis”), this song speaks to me on a spiritual level. Powerful, beautiful song. Somehow seems appropriate, even though it was written about Somalia.

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The Guess Who – “American Woman”

Not as in the misunderstood “patriotic song about an actual woman” way. Nope, I’m including this song in its intended meaning, as an anti-war song. Tired of all the fighting.

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Genesis – “Land of Confusion”

Is any commentary really needed on this one?

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4 Non-Blondes – “What’s Up”

Because a lot of us are asking ourselves this.

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The Cranberries – “Zombie”

Yep, it’s about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, but the message is pretty relevant to this, to us, to HERE.

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Lohen & Lomax – “Live On”

Beautiful song, beautiful video, beautiful message.

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Ice MC – Think About the Way

Anti-Racism song. Great message. You may wanna look up the lyrics if you’re not used to Ice MC 🙂

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Les Miserables – “Do You Hear the People Sing”

I don’t know, the election just makes me want to listen to it. Chose the multi-lingual version for a reason. Also: R.I.P Michael Burgess, who will always be my one true Valjean.

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Liza Minelli – “Cabaret”

If you know the musical and have any sense of pattern recognition with regards to past/current events (and accompanying dread) … you know why it’s here.

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So, that’s it for now… what songs will YOUR Election Day playlist contain?

Aspie Thoughts on Mainsteaming.

Recently, I applied for a job.

This is a unique experience for me, as someone who’s long considered herself unemployable. It’s not that I’m incapable of working, or that I’d even be considered an undesirable hire … it’s more a matter of … how do I put this?

I’ve long felt like any possible outside career I could take up would end – in very short order – with me feeling like a square peg being forced into a round hole. I can do pretty much anything, I can learn – and master – things incredibly fast… but that ends up being a negative, for most careers. Even with my own self employment, I hit a wall and need change, new challenges, etc.

I’ve always joked that the day a career is created where I could basically get paid to problem solve all day (with lots of research involved), but where those problems were ever changing, crossing many different subject areas… that’s the day I could settle into a career.

Until that point, I would keep doing what I’m doing. I know myself well enough to have settled into a pretty decent grove – keeping things varied between costuming and writing – that I’ve managed to stave off another career regeneration well past my normal limit.

Well, I found that perfect hypothetical career opportunity, and I applied. I know there’s only a very slim chance of getting accepted… but it would be amazing. Not only would it be amazing *for* me, it’s something I could do a great job at it – it’s something that could put almost all of my Aspergian traits to really good use. They could really benefit from adding someone like me to the position.

So. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I’ve been approaching the whole thing the way I did when I applied for MasterChef. I feel sort of bad for making the comparison, given how that whole experience was… but there are definite similarities in the whole apply -> wait a long time to hear back thing. It’s actually kind of surprising how much it’s been reminding me of the pre-MasterChef period. Though the end goal is VERY different from MasterChef, even a lot of the “training” I’m going through is similar.

I’m doing a LOT of reading and viewing. There is so much subject matter and history to get acquainted with, and it’s fascinating. Also, it’s really exciting to see all of the subject matter I could be dealing with, and interesting people I could be working with.

I’ve been studying up on the logistics involved, and formulating the plans for the life upheaval that would be involved, including a move. (This part was easy – I’m a logistics nerd, so we’re all set!)

The most perplexing area of preparation/study/etc is what I actually planned to discuss on this blog entry, now that I’ve rambled so. It’s the matter of “mainstreaming”, as someone who … well, who is pretty settled into their ways.

I’m someone who didn’t really know how to meet people and make friends until I was 24. It’s taken time, but I actually do strike up conversations with strangers now!

I’m someone who spends her work days at home, in sweat pants and t-shirts. Comfortable cotton, no irritating closures. When I go outside for errands, it’s nicer sweatpants, yoga pants, etc. Comfortable shoes (men’s sandals).

When it comes to outdoor shoes, my year looks like this:

Sandal season
Socks with sandal season
Kamik boots season
Socks with sandal season
… back to sandals season.

Those sandals are the exact same manufacturer and style across the past few years, btw.

So, in considering a job that will require professional dress… this is actually the biggest challenge to me. Over the past 13 years or so, I’ve come a long way in passing for neurotypical… but appearance is the one big area that has lagged behind.

So, here’s where I’m at:

1. Makeup

Makeup was a “Few times a year” thing, and even then, just enough to look like I tried.

At age 37, I’ve finally been convinced to invest in good makeup, and actually wear it. I think I’m getting pretty decent at it now, though I’m convinced that eyeliner (Both the invention and decent application of) is the work of the devil!

2. Hair

I cut off 6+” of my hair, and am ready to go even further. Hypothyroid disease has done me no favours in the hair department, and bleaching (for teal hair!) hasn’t helped things. I’ve listened to friends who know better, and have invested in decent hair products. It’s soft now!

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Looking more or less like and adult human being!

3. Shoes.

AUGH. I am saying goodbye to my men’s sandals, for the most part. Boo – they are so comfortable! I have invested in a few pairs of fall boots – replacing my “socks with sandals” season. They have actual heels, which is really throwing my body/senses for a loop. It’s been interesting, feeling which muscles are engaging in the whole process of walking in heels. Certain muscles feel good, as it’s a nice stretch… others aren’t as nice.

I’m training my feet for wearing heels, as my large toe joint in particular has an issue with this whole idea. A few hours every day, I wear them at my desk, walk around a bit, etc. When we go out, I wear the smallest heel, for now – I’ll graduate to taller ones little by little.

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Starter heels, and higher heels. Definitely a style upgrade from men’s sandals!

4. Handbags.

I have a strong preference for extremely utilitarian, cross-body messenger bags. For the past year or so, this has taken the shape of a Star Trek sciences uniform bag, which I adore. I’ve also been eyeing the Klingon one, which has a built in bat’leth as decoration.

.. However awesome these are, they’re not so great for the whole idea of professional look, mainstreaming. There is a lot of baggage (hah!) wrapped up in the carrying of a handbag, so this has been a weird bit of study for me. I’ve developed a bit of an obsession, though on a different track than the sort of stereotypical female handbag worship thing.

For one, I have a definite “type”, and eschew anything outside of it. As my husband was quick to point out, the ones I deem acceptable all fall pretty close to Golden Ratio proportions. It’s not something I was consciously considering, but it definitely has been holding true.

Beyond shape/ratio, I have a strong preference for actual leather, no logos. Decorative pockets are great, as long as their locations, shape, and size are pleasing.

For me, this has all culminated into the realization that I am into old Coach bags. I am not a fan of their recent stuff, or basically anything that is “current” fashion, regardless of designer. While not being into anything current is a bit of a blessing on the wallet, I’m a bit dismayed at my apparent steadfast preference for a designer name – it’s jarring, for someone with a past refusal to spend more than $30 on a purse.

On the upside, “old” means “much more reasonably priced on Ebay”… and they’re built like SADDLES. I’m pretty sure their old leather purses will last decades. A $130 purse that lasts even a decade is a more economically sound choice than spending $30, and replacing every year when worn out.

It’s been weird, researching purses with regards to looking more adult/professional/”neurotypical”. I knew that there are a lot of status-type issues wrapped up in the choice and purchase of a purse; I knew that colours and styles are seasonal, etc.

What I had never considered before were the logistics and “status” messages wrapped up in the type of purse you carry – handbag, cross-body, etc. While I understood that my Star Trek messenger bag would be deemed less than professional, I assumed it was solely because of the “Star Trek” – not necessarily the “messenger bag”. Sure enough, when observing people… you don’t see a lot of professionally attired women carrying cross-body purses. (Those that do have skinny straps that dig in, not nice, wide utilitarian ones!)

Switching to a shoulder bag has been weird, with losing some use of the arm I’m carrying it on. I’m constantly adjusting it to be on my actual shoulder, as it slides.

Handbags are even worse, carrying in the crook of the elbow. I actually had to google “how do you carry a handbag?”, as it was something I’d never paid attention to. My preferred method is to put my forearm through the straps, aim it downward, and support the bottom of the bag with my hand – it’s less strain on the elbow, and prevents it from flapping around and annoying me.

My husband says it looks like I’m carrying a football, however. He demonstrated how the professional women at his work carry theirs, with their hand aimed upwards. He then related it to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, made a generic “raptor” noise, and we both dissolved into giggles.

I find the whole thing fascinating, though sort of ridiculous. I don’t get the point of spending more money, to lose the use of one arm. If you are a professional, you are likely very busy and DOING things… why is it seen as a more professional look to hamper the use of one – usually the dominant – arm? That’s illogical.

I’m assuming that – much like pockets in women’s clothing – it has its roots in ingrained, systemic sexism. That a woman doesn’t need to be doing anything, so it doesn’t matter if her mobility is hampered. That being the case, shouldn’t messenger bags be ULTRA professional?

The same thought can be applied to shoes. Heels are “professional” (to a degree, anyway), but comfortable sandals are not. Heels cause you to take smaller strides, hamper speed, etc. They cause bodily fatigue – why is that professional? Men’s dress shoes are such that their strides aren’t significantly hampered, after all. It’s kind of a gross message, when you think about it – especially considering many workplaces actually require women to wear heels.

When you combine heels and handbags, the problem is even greater than just “your stride is hampered and your arm/hand dexterity is hampered”… you add in issues of balance and muscle strain.

Who knew there would be so much to consider when choosing *accessories* that have literally no impact on anyone else!

Anyway, I digress. Unfortunately, my glorious TARDIS wallet was similarly ruled to be less than professional, and I’ve had to buy a more adult looking wallet. While my TARDIS wasn’t actually “bigger on the inside”, it held a lot of stuff – plenty of cards, a coin area, a sections for bills, etc. It’s been hard to find something similar in “professional”.

Wallets shouldn’t be so hard to buy! While searching for a nicer wallet, I’ve found that many are tiny. A whole bunch of them don’t have space for bills, and/or don’t have a clear window for ID, etc. Many don’t hold more than 5 cards. I’m no credit card demon, but almost every store one shops at now has some kind of loyalty card involved!

Perhaps not carrying loyalty/reward/discount membership cards is also a status thing? I suppose that fits the pattern established.

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If it were any more perfect, it would have a cross-body strap. (And would then make me feel like Indiana Jones!)

5. Social

We are getting out of the habit of holing up in our “Fortress of Solitude”, and aiming to be more social. While that has led to more going out to events *with friends*, the big change has been going out more just us + strangers. We recently went to an event for Canadians living in Minneapolis, and met people! We’ve also been going out to the theater, which has been fun.

It’s kind of amusing to me that the social stuff has been far less stressful / less effort than figuring out the handbags/shoes thing!

To be fair, though, I’ve spent a lifetime observing neurotypicals. I’ve paid attention to their behaviours, social norms, etc. For the most part, I can sort of blend in on that front, now… though I wish I’d paid attention to things like “how do you carry a purse?”!

So, I’ve been focusing on honing my reactions to people online – quite the task, given the current political climate. I’ve gotten a lot better about measuring my responses, and just keeping my mouth shut in certain instances. I’m waiting for my husband to get sick of my “LOOK AT WHAT I RESTRAINED MYSELF FROM REPLYING TO!” messages!

… So, that’s about where I’m at right now.

Moving Forward

The next two areas to tackle are clothing (suits, ack!), and nails. I’m a “short nails, no polish” kinda person. I don’t see the short nails thing changing (even though I know long nails are a professional/feminine thing), but I have resolved to try nail wraps. Perhaps that would solve my problem of chipping polish almost immediately.

Overall, I’m finding it really amazing to me how much I have to actively work *against* comfort, to project an image of professionalism. Uncomfortable shoes and handbags that hamper mobility. Restrictive clothing that requires MORE care than just normal laundry. Nail length that restricts activity, polish that doesn’t hold up to working hands.

To go to work, you’re expected to maintain an image that actively hampers work. To show that you can do a job, you have to employ attire and accessories that eschew comfort and hamper your stamina and focus.

We are a truly bizarre species, aren’t we?

Maple Leaf Roses

This weekend, we went up the shore to Duluth, to enjoy the fall colours. Managed to not take any photos of anything, somehow… but we DID collect some leaves. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making maple leaf roses for the past couple years, ever since seeing them popping up on Pinterest. October is usually my busiest time of year, but with my elbow injury preventing me from sewing… I finally had some free time.

These came together pretty quickly once I figured out what I was doing. All told, it took about 1 hour from the time I first sat down. I soaked the leaves overnight, let them dry to the touch in between paper towels, and then went to it. I folded and wrapped them around lengths of florist wire, using floral tape. Once they were all done, I soaked them with some serious hairspray, and let that dry.

I love how they turned out – a gorgeous bit of fall colours right in my living room! These would be so pretty as wedding bouquets or centerpieces – they did lose some of their vibrancy overnight, though. Thankfully, my husband took these beautiful photos while it was still bright and fresh!

What do you guys think? Any plans to make a set yourself?










Explaining Autism: Interoception, and Something Other Than “Pain”

Earlier this week, I had to go see a doctor about an ear issue. As they asked me “On a scale of 1-10, what is your pain level”, I struggled to provide an answer they would understand.

After over three and a half decades of life as an autistic woman, I can honestly say that one of the most frustrating things about life on the spectrum is the lack of shared frame of reference between autistic people and neurotypical people. Many/most people tend to think of their views as being the default, and have no idea what others live.

We’re guilty of it too, of course. Neither my husband or I had ANY idea that most people don’t feel their entire digestive system / process happening. We weren’t really aware that – much like the variety in sensitivity to smells, for example … people can have wildly different levels of interoception.

Interoception is your internal sense, your awareness of what’s going on with your body. Hunger, thirst, temperature, and more.

For most people, interoception covers the basics: Tells you when you’re hungry, lets you know when you’re getting sick, alerts you of the coming need to find a washroom.

For some autistics, interoception is muted: They don’t get the same feelings until much later in the game.

For others, our interoception is hyper sensitive. We feel EVERYTHING… and it’s really annoying. Where you feel “hungry”, I can feel when I’ve specifically not had enough animal protein lately. (It’s a terrible, full-body feeling. It feels like every cell in my body is sluggish and dying). I can feel when I’m low on iron, before it dips past the low bar of “acceptable”.

Think of it like the dashboard of a car.

For the most part, it will tell you when you need to top up your oil, how fast you’re going, etc. It lets you take good care of your car, without overwhelming you with unnecessary information.

For those with less sensitive interoception, it would be like having a car where the sensors don’t tell you that you’re running low on oil until you’re basically on fumes, and about to blow your engine.

For those like me, it’s like… having a car where all of the sensors are WAY too sensitive. You hit a small bump in the road, and it sets off, say, the O2 sensor.

Unlike the earlier two examples, however, the hyper sensitive interoception wouldn’t be akin to the warning light blinking on for a few seconds. It’s akin to multiple loud alarms and flashing lights going off every time that warning symbol is tripped.

Take pulse, for example. That’s another instance of assuming that my experience is just the default – I had no idea that most people aren’t *constantly* aware of their pulse. I hear and feel my own constantly, whether it’s running low or high. I don’t have to think about it, it’s just there – like slightly too-loud background music.

The problematic thing is that I am also hyper aware of tempo and force with it. If my pulse goes up or down by even 3-5 BPM, if my blood pressure rises or drops a little, I can sense that change – and the warning lights go off. I understand that those with normal interoception can feel their pulse “racing” when it happens – as a result of strenuous activity, for example. For me, an uptick of even 5 BPM comes off as “racing” to me, even when it’s completely within the normal, healthy pulse range. It’s… distracting.

I’m not even sure I’m explaining this in a way that makes sense, because I don’t have a ton of frame of reference on life as a neurotypical, beyond conversations that I’ve had with friends. Fascinating conversations happen, when both sides discuss “what is this like?”, “How does X feel to you?”, and “If you can feel Y, then what about ….?”. I learn a lot from such conversations.

Think about it … how would you describe a colour – or even explain the concept of colour – to someone who has never had vision before? Conversely, how would a person who was born blind explain their concept of sight /lack thereof – never having had it – to a sighted person? It would be very difficult.

When neurotypicals encounter autistic people with sensory issues – particularly from what I read of parents of autistic children – there seems to be this feeling that autistic people are being babies or drama queens, over sensory overload. There isn’t a lot of effort put into understanding that we just tend to feel things differently.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am 100% OK with being Aspie, and I appreciate the “gifts” I have. I put many of my autistic traits to good use. As an Aspergian female – with a keen sense of pattern observation, to boot! – I enjoy a HUGE amount of “pass privilege”. Most people have no idea that I’m on the spectrum when they meet me – though this was certainly not the case even 15 years ago. (Observation, empathy, and pattern recognition put to use in understanding NT ways!).

As soon as I get even a tiny amount of fluid behind my eardrum? All of that “passing” goes right out the window. I am never as visibly, stereotypically autistic as I am when there is something wrong with one or both of my ears – and I cannot help it.

I am 100% aware that my experience of ear issues is completely different than the average neurotypical experience, and that my outward appearance from it definitely comes off as “weak” or “crybaby” or “drama queen”. My neurotypical friends go to work when they have ear infections! That will never cease to amaze me. I’m so terrified of the *possibility* of an ear infection, that the slightest twinge in my ear – feeling like there could be an oncoming issue – is enough to send me into a full, anxiety-ridden meltdown.

I’m not an anxious person. I can deal with major stresses, no problem. I have weathered storms many people will never see – literally even (Tornado!). I may actually thrive on stress, for that matter – I get things done.

I’m also not a wimp, physically. When I was younger, I refused to let a doctor put a cast on my broken ankle, because I had a VERY important (to me) skating competition that weekend. My skates were stiff as bricks, after all – so I figured I’d be fine. I was – I landed my Axel, on that broken ankle… and used crutches while not actually skating. I went in to get it casted up the day after the competition. Smart? Probably not… but I think it does speak to my ability to deal with pain.

Similarly, I’ve landed a botched death drop in such a way that I stabbed the heel of my blade into the palm of my hand, deeply… put a thick glove on and went out to try it (the spin, I mean) again. I have sliced myself wide open, broken bones, pulled and torn muscles. I had a back injury after a car accident that was bad enough, I was told I’d “never walk properly again”. It took a LOT of painful work, but I rehabbed THAT one.

My ears, though… are my Achilles heel. Anything “off” about them is my Kryptonite. I’m not even talking about a full blown infection – which, as I understand it, even NT people feel as actual pain. I’m talking about the subtle, non-painful stuff.

Right now, I have a “small” amount of fluid behind my eardrum. The doctor was very “whatever” about it, it’s no big deal. From all I can tell from neurotypical friends / those with less sensitive interoception, that’s an understandable reaction – that it’s a mild annoyance at best.

It’s not fully clogged, I haven’t lost MUCH hearing (it’s definitely muted slightly), there’s not even enough water that I can hear it sloshing. It’s not even that full/popped feeling you get from changes of pressure. I can absolutely understand how – to those with less ridiculous senses – this would be no big deal.

… but it’s driving me nuts. If you were to have a pillow smothered over your nose and mouth, that’s kind of what it feels like in my ear – complete with the resulting panicky feeling. The AIR feels different in that ear, and I am all too aware of it. It’s off balance from what the other ear is experiencing. While it’s not actually affecting MY balance, the lack of symmetry in ear sensation is tripping my “warning lights” terribly.

… but it’s not PAIN.

The thing is, there is a word for “pain”, and there is a scale for it. Sure, my 5 may not be YOUR 5, but at least we can try to plug in a number based on our perception of 1 and 10.

… there isn’t such a term – or scale – for what drives me to freak out about my ear.

When the doctor asks me “1-10, what is your pain level?”, truthfully, it’s a 1. If I say “1″, he has no sense of the urgency I have to fix this, how absolutely unacceptable the sensation is. People don’t curl into a ball and cry their eyes out over a “1″, after all.

If I translate it into “1-10, what is the level of unacceptability here?”, it would be a 9 or 10. I can’t ANSWER with 9 or 10, because pain is a very specific concept, and he would take that 9 or 10 to mean something VERY different than what is going on.

I have to wonder how medical care of autistic people suffers, because of this break in experience / frame of reference. I’m verbal, and I like to think I’m fairly articulate. I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this, and put care into explaining it – but not all people on the spectrum are, can or do. My “bridge” to the NT side of things is fairly well developed, because I’ve been able to put a lot of observation, thought, and effort into it. Not all Autistics enjoy the same level of.. NT fluency?

I digress.

The reason I write this, is because I’m hopeful it can shed some light on what life can be like for people like me, and hopefully prompt some understanding and empathy for autistics that have a rough go of things.

Remember, though, interoception is only ONE sense, as systemic as it may be. Many of us have multiple senses that are overdeveloped – taste, touch, sight, hearing, etc.

Going back to “It’s akin to multiple loud alarms and flashing lights going off every time that warning symbol is tripped.” … that’s for just the internal sense. Imagine living with that as your reality, while ALSO being exposed to external stimuli, while experiencing it at a higher sensitivity than most. The sound of an automatic door or grocery conveyor belt that is slightly out of balance can be physically painful, feeling like someone is drilling your brain. Fluorescent lights can be similarly painful.

When your senses are hyperactive, you can have that level of stimulation coming at you from not only multiple outside sources (for example, a HELLISH Cub nearby has the door, conveyor belt, AND lighting issues happening all at once), but internally.

When you see an autistic person having a meltdown, know that there is a very good chance that this is the reality that we are living with.

Everyone is different, the levels to which we experience things are different, and even the triggers are different (for example, mid range tones bother me more than my husband, who is more sensitive to certain frequencies of high pitches than I am. )… but when sensory overstimulation is an issue? Well, it could be something very different than what you experience in your own life.

Not only is this relevant to the time of year – colds/flus/seasonal allergies / hellish barometric pressure swings / etc – the holidays are coming up. With all of the extra smells, lights, noises, etc that the holidays bring… please be kind to the autistic people in your life.

On the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek

With the official release of Hedonistic Hops just a week away, I participated in an author interview yesterday… and subsequently kicked myself for one of my answers.

The question was something like “If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 books would you want to have with you?”.

Without hesitation, my reply was “A book on tropical plant identification, a book on survival skills, and a book on primitive boat making”.

Hours later, it hit me that I may have answered the question, but managed to miss the spirit of the question – that they were likely framing “what are your favourite books” in a whimsical manner. I guess I was so focused on the idea of being stuck on a desert island, I went straight to the most logical answer… rather than indulge in whimsy.

Whoops.

I fussed about it a bit online: I categorized it among “social missteps”, which – as an Aspergian adult – I’ve been trying to be better about. My friends were very nice about my gaffe, making comments about how they appreciated my literal interpretation, etc. A comment was made about “Spock level logic”.

How fitting it is that just a few short hours later, September 8th hit – the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek.

As everyone I know seems to be pouring their hearts out about what Star Trek has meant to them, I figured I should do the same!

My introduction to Star Trek came from an unexpected source: non-geek bullies.

Though I wasn’t diagnosed till my mid teens – and there wasn’t even a name for it in my early years – my Aspergers didn’t go unnoticed by the other kids I went to school with. When I was very young, the other kids called me “Spock”. I had no idea what that even meant, until I watched Star Trek. Though it was used in a pejorative sense – as a slur against my being “different ” – I took it as a compliment. This was a character I could relate to!

There was no representation of people like me in the media in those days. While he may have been a pointy eared alien, Spock was the very first “person” I was ever able to relate to – on screen or otherwise. I guess that him being an alien is appropriate enough, having always felt like I’d been dropped off on the wrong planet! (Which I now know is a common feeling with Aspies).

I have no idea where to even start with describing what that’s like. There was no social media back then, there was no one “like me” in my elementary school, no one like me on TV… Except Spock. Kind of a little glimmer of hope that I wasn’t a complete freak, I guess? At the time, I rationalized that… Sure, he may be a fictional character, but SOMEONE came up with him. One way or the other, the Spock character gave me how that there were other people like me out there. It was a BIG DEAL… one that I can’t accurately put into words.

On the subject of “representation matters”, I always appreciated how diverse Star Trek was. I appreciated that there were all these characters of different backgrounds, races, even SPECIES… just working together.

As I grew a bit older, I came to notice and appreciate that the diversity I so loved about the show was so… organic. That it was written so naturally, and not in a “Look at us! We’re being so EDGY!” kind of way. I appreciated that this show – one that was almost a decade and a half before my time – put this vision of the future out there. It was… hopeful.

As I grew older yet, I met my “tribe” in the Geek community – many of whom are Trekkies. I have friends that I met as Klingons first, and “Klingon” is how I think of them. I suppose some of them might feel the same sort of way about Klingons, as I did – and do – about Spock.

I met and married a man who not only agrees that going to see “A Klingon Christmas Carol” is the only really acceptable holiday tradition for us, but was RIGHT there with me when Leonard Nimoy passed – leaving work early and instituting “grief sushi” as a thing. Nimoy was the first and only celebrity passing either of us cried about, and we were both pretty traumatized by the surprise meeting of Spock Vegas just a month later. (Though he seems to be a lovely man!)

Oh, this is getting dark. I guess it’s hard for me to talk about Star Trek without the fixation on Spock- and Nimoy, by extension. Neither one of us are what you’d consider “Trekkies” – we’re casual fans, in general. We haven’t seen all the series, though we enjoy the movies, and enjoyed TNG as children. We enjoy the enthusiasm of our Trekkie friends, for sure! (I will admit to having been SO pissed off at how they killed of Tasha Yar, that I stopped watching. LOL)

Anyway. In the past years, autism has come to be slightly better represented in the media, so I am very happy that kids of today have non-alien, “real” characters to look up to: Gary from “Alphas” (Ok, he’s a mutant, but STILL), and Connor from “Degrassi” (The most accurate representation I’ve ever come across), for example.

… but I will always be thankful to Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, and Leonard Nimoy in particular for giving me the gift of Spock, and the gift of … relating.

I’m thankful they’ve given that same gift to other friends of mine, whether as Klingons, as women, and/or as people of colour. It’s a beautiful thing, and definitely a show – and milestone anniversary! – to be celebrated!

So, Happy 50th, Star Trek! May you continue to Live Long and Prosper.

PS: Also, thank you for making William Shatner famous. That man is a national treasure.

My Convention Survival Guide

Con season is upon us!

I was planning to write a blog entry on convention food recipes, but that idea has snowballed a bit. As it turns out my little “adventure” in LA gave me some unique planning experience when it comes to hotel rooms!

This is now more of a survival guide pack list kinda thing, coming from a logistics nerd: Everything beyond the “clothes, costumes, toiletries, booze” basics that you should consider packing for con.

So, let’s get started.

HOTEL ROOM

There are a few things that you can pack that will make your life easier, especially with multiple hotel roomies:

Collapsible Garbage Can Let’s be real, those tiny garbage cans hotels have really aren’t going to cut it. These are relatively cheap, twist down to take up very little room, and hold a LOT of garbage. Think something like THIS, and pack a few contractor garbage bags to go with it. Make life easier on the hotel cleaning staff, and leave just a full, tied off garbage bag or two.

Collapsible Laundry Bins. Rather than stuffing dirty laundry back into your suitcase, dump it in one of these. Makes life so much easier.. And cleaner. Do your part to prevent con funk! I like THIS ONE from IKEA.

Hand Sanitizer. I like to have a large bottle in the room, as well as a small bottle in my pocket at all times. I’m no germaphobe, but I DO have a pretty good idea of what hotel surfaces would look like – on a microscopic level – after even a couple hours of a convention.

Water. I like to bring a few 1 Gallon jugs of water, as well as individual bottles.

Cleanup Stuff. If you are planning to host a party, or expect that your roomies may be messy… It’s good to bring rug cleaner spray. Some convention hotels are VERY liberal with charging damages, so try to head that off at the pass. Plastic table cloths from the dollar store work great as drop cloths on/near your food area.

Towels. On that note, if you’re planning any kind of cosplay, bring some hand towels to clean up your makeup. Doesn’t hurt to use your own towels even for regular makeup – I know one person who got charged a fee because she got normal, everyday foundation on a towel.

Old t-shirt for Pillow. This is mostly if you don’t tend to wash off makeup before bed, or have your hair dyed with something that tends to rub off. Cover your pillow with a shirt, prevent those damage fees!

A Fan. Many hotels are older, and their A/C can struggle to keep up during summer month events. A fan can make a huge difference for comfort.

Sleep Stuff. Do you tend to snore? Be a good roomie and pack some disposable earplugs to offer your roomies. Do you tend to party late? A sleep eye mask can help deal with a bright room.

At Least One Power Strip. Hotels are notoriously lax on the outlet front – if you have roomies, they’ll all want somewhere to plug their phones in! The “flat plug” style is handy for hard-to-reach areas, btw.

Paper Products. Not only does the toilet paper run out quickly, but it’s awful stuff. Same for the kleenex. Your butt and nose will thank you if you bring some good stuff. Paper towels, for spills.

PREVENTING CON CRUD

In addition to packing hand sanitizer and using it fairly religiously, there are other things you can do to avoid “con crud” / “con plague” – the generic name for whatever bugs happen to be floating around at a packed convention, knocking people down in the following week or two.

Sleep: Get at least 6 hours sleep per night. Or morning, depending on how you party!

Water: HYDRATE. HYDRATE. HYDRATE.

Food: Don’t rely on consuite, and don’t skip meals. Try not to eat junky food. Trust me, all this makes a difference…. more on that in a bit!

Beyond that, I tend to avoid high-risk foods and open/communal food presentation in consuite. That bowl of chips? Dip that’s been sitting out for who knows how long? Hell no. Stick to individually packaged foods, shelf-stable etc foods, whenever possible.

Wash your hands. OFTEN. Enough said. Also, shower at least once daily… for you, and everyone around you.

FOOD AND DRINK

The better you eat, the better your con experience… and the better your POST-con experience. Since we started bringing our own food for our room, we’ve yet to get concrud again. Several years, many BIG conventions – food makes a huge difference. Try to hit the major needs with every meal: protein, fiber, carbs. Load yourself with nutrients!

Breakfasts: I like to do hotel room smoothies. It’s a few easy ingredients, and all you need to pack is a blender. This year, we will be doing it a bit different, as my husband is currently dairy free: No yogurt, substitute flax milk. It’s all good – the idea is very adaptable! See this post for full details: Hotel Room Smoothies

Main meals: I like to bring a crock pot or two, and have entree type meals on the go for most of the afternoon and evening, so there is good food available for you to grab quickly between panels, etc. Convention Chili is great, as is Convention Sloppy Joes. Both recipes were developed to be loaded with protein, fiber, and vitamins!

Bring crockpot liners to make clean-up SUPER easy! Also, trial/travel sized dish detergent.

Snacks: My go-to for hotel room snacks is my “Con Brownies”. I developed this brownie recipe to not only be delicious, but to be loaded with protein and FIBER. (Wow, I sound really old right now.) Tasty, easy to grab on the go, filling, and will.. Help you out. You know. Bonus? They can be done gluten-free!

Another great snack food to make ahead is my Gluten-free Lembas. Not only is it the most canonically sound recipe I’ve seen, it is tasty and lives up to what Lembas is supposed to do – it fills you up, and keeps you full. Also: protein and fiber!

Beverages: As mentioned, bring water. Additionally, Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks – or instant powder – is usually a good idea.

GENERAL HEALTH

Pain relievers, Tums, Allergy meds, etc. Pretty self explanatory.

Supportive Insoles and Good Shoes. You’re getting old, even if you won’t remember that til the end of the convention. Trust me – take care of your feet. (RACHEL I AM LOOKING AT YOU). Don’t wear new shoes to con – break them in first. Also, consider bringing some Moleskin for good measure.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

Cash. Many hotels and convention centers have ATMs, sure… but they do tend to run dry during large events. Plan ahead! If your convention has party rooms, be sure to bring a lot of small bills for tipping.

Repair Kit, etc. Even if you’re not a cosplayer, stuff happens. Also, you could be a hero to someone who is less logistically-minded! Mini sewing kit, safety pins, etc.

Favourite lanyard or Neck Wallet. While you can usually get some kind of basic lanyard on site for your badge, sometimes you just have better ones. My husband has a favourite one – the band is about 1″ wide, and more comfortable than the skinny rope kinds. I like the neck wallet type, so I can put other stuff in there – my room key, a few dollars, a pen, whatever.

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So, that’s about it, for now. Anything you guys would add?

SurvivalGuide

Let’s Talk about the Autism “Puzzle Piece”

As April starts tomorrow, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time fighting the good fight on social media – Educating people about the evils of Autism Speaks, speaking up for autistic rights, and thanking allies for spreading good information.

One question I’ve been asked a lot lately is “Why is the puzzle piece considered offensive to Autistic people?”.

While I can’t speak for all autistic people, obviously, I’d like to take a few minutes to give my own personal view on the nature of the offense.

A popular saying to accompany that symbol is “until all the pieces fit”. Admittedly, this sounds nice enough on the surface… but to those of us who have spent our lives on the spectrum, it’s actually a really gross and horrifying sentiment.

First of all, there’s the idea that we *have* to fit. That we’re not *allowed* to be different. As I’d mentioned in an earlier entry, I’ve read that autistic people who hide their autistic traits “often have high degrees of anxiety or other mental health problems”, from the constant acting. I believe it. The stress to “fit”, to not be singled out as different, and – in many cases – to conceal your spectrum status from employers/potential employers is a huge issue.

I spent most of my life trying to fit in, to pass as neurotypical, and to ignore my diagnosis. I didn’t “come out” until I was well into my 20s, around a decade after having an official diagnosis. It was exhausting… and I was never truly happy until I accepted myself, and just let it be. I am who I am.

Do you know what happens when you try to force a puzzle piece into a space where it doesn’t belong? It warps, folds, and can break. Assuming you can actually force it into the space you’re trying to, physically… it still doesn’t “fit”. There is no reason in the world to force a puzzle piece into the wrong space.

Not only does it not ADD anything to the puzzle it’s being forced into, it takes away from the piece itself. Forcing it into a wrong space deprives that puzzle piece of completing the puzzle it was meant to.

Anyway, enough metaphors. Let’s talk real facts – the ways that autistic people are forced to fit in.

There’s the more benign things – being shamed and otherwise discouraged from saying and doing what comes naturally to us. Flapping, toe walking, whatever. For me, it was chewing collars and disassembling pens / binders. Was it harmful to shame me out of habit? Probably not, in the long run… but it definitely contributes to this narrative of us being “lesser than”. Sometimes it seemed like those who would address my quirks felt like they were trying to train a monkey to be human. It’s gross to be on the receiving end of that.

As I was diagnosed early on in Aspergers even being a thing – and because I’m seen as “high functioning” (I hate those labels, btw. Super disrespectful to many autistics), I got to avoid most of the problematic “therapies” out there. The only thing I can really remember having to do, was getting taken out of class on a regular basis during elementary school, to go sit in the art room with an adult .. Councillor? “Big Brother/Sister” type thing? I don’t even know what their actual title was. We’d sit and talk and mess around with craft materials. Not particularly damaging, and I looked forward to getting away from my classmates.

I didn’t get subjected to ABA – Applied Behavioural Analysis.

ABA is something that Autism “Warrior” Moms and organizations like Autism Speaks LOVE to support, promote, and push on others. If you read ABA as it’s marketed, it sounds pretty harmless, and potentially even helpful.

… however, if you read about it from those who have gone through it – many of whom suffer from PTSD as a result – you’ll see a very different picture being painted.

25+ hours of intensive “therapy” involving forced coercion every week. Kids being denied meals until they “comply” with whatever it is that’s being forced on them at the time. Subjugation. “Treatments” that – if applied to non-autistics – would be considered child abuse.

As I haven’t gone through it myself, I don’t feel it’s my place to go into too many details – but I really suggest reading the stories of those who have gone through it. A few examples:

ABA and Autism: The Thorny Problem of Control and Consent

Touch Nose. Gummi Bear (First in a series on that blog)

Quiet Hands

My Thoughts on ABA

Judge Rotenberg Center

ABA

.. And when you read that, and see how people – HUMANS – get literally forced into “fitting in”… hopefully you can see why that puzzle piece is so offensive. I see it, and I feel for all of my autistic brothers and sisters who have been subjugated and even tortured in the name of “fitting that last puzzle piece in”.

… and that’s just the most popular “therapy”. There are all kinds of more “under the table” ‘therapies’… including administering bleach, both orally and by enema. Again, the kind of thing that would be seen as child abuse, IF autistic children were seen as full humans.

That’s why so many of us feel that the “Autism Awareness” thing needs to go away, and that society should adopt Autism ACCEPTANCE as the focus. We don’t need awareness, especially the kind of “awareness” organizations like Autism Speaks puts out there. We need acceptance. We don’t need or WANT a “cure”, we want to be seen as equals, and treated as humans.

So please, this April… Don’t “Light it up Blue”. Don’t join in on the giant, crowd sourced advertising Autism Speaks ad campaign that is “Autism Awareness”.

Instead, please join those of us on the spectrum in fighting for Acceptance.

My personal favourite is “Tone it Down Taupe”. It’s a tongue in cheek campaign, but I love it.

Additionally, “Walk in Red” and “Light it Gold” are other social media campaigns for autism acceptance, organized by #ActuallyAutistic people.

So far as I can tell, neither of these market for any particular organization, and are purely grassroots efforts to fight for our equality.

If you ARE looking to donate to an organization, I recommend Autistic Self Advocacy Network. It’s by Autistics, for Autistics, and does *not* promote the “cure” narrative.

Whew, that turned out to be quite the long entry! Thank you for listening!

It’s my hope that more neurotypical / “allistic” people take posts like this to heart, especially when you come upon Autism Speaks / Light it up Blue / puzzle piece items online. Those of us on the spectrum are in the minority, and can always use help from allies. If you see something, say something

Sad to “Kiss Them Goodbye”…

TheNylonsFeatured

A couple months ago, I came across a notice that upset me greatly – The Nylons were going on a farewell tour, before calling it quits.

I want to talk about what all transpired as a result, but I warn you – this is going to be the most emo post I’ve ever written. Probably going to be pretty disjointed too, I’m sorry! I have a lot of feels right now.

So, I’ve been listening to The Nylons since I was about 4 years old – they’ve been together as long as I’ve been alive, though. Their song “Up the Ladder to the Roof” was popular on the radio station that my mother listened to, and I LOVED it. Through all of my other favourites in music – Eurodance, Celtic Rock, etc – this one song has stood the test of time and remained a favourite all the way to today, for me.

I loved watching Brian Orser skate to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight“, and Landry/Johnston skate to “Bop til You Drop”.

As I got a little older, my little sister and my “peers” discovered boy bands… and I never understood the draw. My sister would plaster her wall with NKOTB posters… I would have to go to the Centennial Library in Downtown Winnipeg to search through Microfiche for old news articles about The Nylons, and print included photos off as MY wall decor. My little sister would have NKOTB dolls, a sleeping bag, accessories, etc.

… I got some FIMO clay and made jewelry inspired by the angular Silhouettes on the One Size Fits All album cover. Way too big and heavy for anyone to actually wear, but it was one of the few ways I could actually explore and express MY fandom.

When I was 12 or 13, I got dropped off to the Centennial Concert Hall, alone, for my very first concert. I was the youngest in the hall by DECADES… and I loved every minute of it! I’m pretty sure Micah Barnes sent me careening into puberty, too. He became my first celebrity crush, even though he was probably twice the age of all the boy band guys my sister and peers fawned over. That fabulous 90s hair! His dancing!

I remember so much of that concert so clearly, it’s amazing it’s made it with me this long. I can even remember the final line to a joke – more like a spoken word poem? – that the opening comedienne made. I remember she was blonde, and it was snarking about her ex boyfriend, in talking about his sweater. “It was 100% ACRYLIC.”

I learned about relationships. Rather than grow up on some of the relationship themes you see in boy band music or other top 40 stuff, I grew up listening to a more mature message. “That Kind of Man” warned me about.. well, that kind of guy… long before any instance of “The Talk”. The Stars are Ours, A Touch of Your Hand, Grown Man Cry… Sigh. So much beauty. I could rattle off song titles and themes all day. It was all night and day to the kind of relationship drama I’d hear about from kids in school… and a HUGE contrast to what I’d learned of relationships from my parents. They provided themes and examples to aspire to, when nothing in my life did.

When I was about 16, I saw them in concert again – again, on my own – and I’ll never forget what happened. The guys had said something that prompted a cheer from the crowd, and I’d let out a LOUD “WOO!”. Arnold Robinson pointed right in my direction and said something raunchy. I don’t even remember what it was, exactly… I just remember turning bright red and trying to disappear into my seat. To this day, I feel awful about it. Like… guilty somehow. There was no way he could have known he was saying something like that to a 16 year old – I think the next youngest person there was in their 30s! I felt awful!

Arnold was always my favourite. He had this deep, rich voice… unlike anything I’d heard before, or have heard since. The passion and energy he put into it.. Ah hell, lemme just share a video. The sound isn’t the best on this, but trust me, in person? Goosebumps.

.. And here come the tears. Augh. He passed away a few years ago, and … I don’t have words.

He had retired from the group around the same time I moved to the USA. I was so upset, I hadn’t bought a CD or seen them live since moving to Minnesota ten years ago.

Yes, I know I’m a terrible fan. In my defense… you should never underestimate an autistic person’s inability to handle change. I try to be good about it most of the time.. And most of the time, I CAN roll with the punches. Arnold leaving the group? NO.

I was still feeling pretty petulant about it when I heard the news of the farewell tour. I tearfully told my husband that we would need to plan a last minute trip to Winnipeg, and he was totally fine with it. As it was happening the day after our 10th Anniversary, we decided to consider the trip to be our anniversary “thing”.

As we arrived at the concert venue, I changed my Facebook status to “I’m about to be emotionally compromised, send kitty pics, please!”… and then proceeded to bawl through the whole damn thing. (Thank you to all my friends who responded my request, by the way – HUGE thread of adorable cat photos was there for me when the concert was over!).

It’s weird when you get really emotional, and you can’t figure out why. It’s like someone just turned the faucet on in the beginning, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I spent a good deal of the concert lost in my own head.

“This is the last time I’ll hear this song live”.

“I am such an idiot for not seeing them more often, while I still could”

“I miss Arnold. I remember exactly how he sounded, singing this very song. RIP”

“This group started the year I was born. Claude has been at this as long as I’ve been alive. Now it’s over. *Insert various thoughts on facing my own mortality*”

… and then there was the matter of trying to figure out why it bothered me SO much. Many people there were fans, and not ugly crying their way through it, after all.

What I came up with was this: Having loved them for almost as long as I’ve been alive, their music has really factored into a lot of memories for me, both good and bad. I’ve listened to their music in celebration of some life events, and their music has gotten me through some other, horrible life events.

During the darkest years of my life, growing up with constant physical, verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of my mother and stepfather, their music was there for me, a mental escape from the hell I was living in. When I got out of that and moved in with my grandparents around age 12, they were the ones who drove me to that downtown library, and who dropped me off for concerts. When my grandparents passed away, I consoled myself with that music. Through every move, every nasty breakup, every major life event… I think The Nylons are the closest thing I’ve had to consistency in my life.

Once I realized that THAT was what was upsetting me, the tears slowed somewhat. I still cried a few times more during the concert – some out of happiness, some from laughing so hard, etc.

The concert was amazing, as always. You know, four year old me had incredible taste – I can’t think of any group with anywhere near the talent of these guys. Just ridiculous control over their voices, their lungs, etc. I love their banter. I loved the addition of rapping, such as in “Don’t Look Any Further” – where the rap was performed by a guest artist. (OMG, can we appreciate Micah’s hair for a moment? Glorious)

Claude… man, I’ve seen him in concert when he still had dark hair- now, it’s white. The amazing thing is – for the most part – he sounds exactly the same as I remember him sounding in that first concert… with about as much energy, to boot!

At the beginning of the concert, I joked to my husband “Quick, guess which one is the original member?” and his reply was “The one with the most energy on stage?”… and Claude really kept it up the whole way. Dancing around, great showmanship.. Even doing the moonwalk at one point. I wish I had half that energy NOW, never mind “when I get to be that age”.

… I finally accepted Gavin Hope. It only took me 22 years to get over my snit about Micah no longer being in the group. Good lord… I am such an asshole! Gavin was hilarious. He won serious points with my husband by doing the Carlton, and kept us laughing the whole time. I wish I’d given him a chance sooner… what a treasure he is!

At one point, they surprised the audience with performing a “bucket list” song – “For the Longest Time”. Apparently I was FAR from alone in wishing they’d do it, and they did NOT disappoint. (Bawled through this one, too!). How often do you see a cover that blows the original away? It was very special… an honour and a privilege to watch / hear!

Towards the end, they performed “Me and the Boys” – a song that I’ve loved for decades, but I’m pretty certain that I’ve never actually heard live. It sounded like some of the lyrics had been changed to personalize it to some of the new members, but I couldn’t make out what was being said in those parts. When Claude belted out “Dance, well I can really dance, you ought to see me move across the floor”, it felt… poignant, somehow. These were lyrics written over 30 years earlier, and here he was singing it with just as much energy, and living up to it – he really CAN dance, and we really enjoyed seeing him move across the floor… myself for the last time, my husband for the first AND last time.

… and it also felt special that this – the final time I’ll get to see them live – was also the first time I’ve shared the experience with someone. It felt profound and symbolic, but not in a way I can really put into words coherently. The concert happened at a time when I was already facing themes of saying goodbye, and losing ties/connections to the past. To share the experience for the first time, with my amazing husband – the light that has balanced all the dark of the past – it was beautiful.

(As I write this blog entry, and think back on all of those earlier themes on what to aspire to in relationships, I am so happy to report that my husband lives up to all of them. I’m listening to some of their older tracks as I write this, and they give me the same warm fuzzy feeling they have my whole life… just like he does. Comfort, love, safety, reliability…)

We didn’t stay for the meet and greet, because I was a mess and knew I wouldn’t be able to put anything worthy into words at the time. I guess you could say…

I won’t ask you to stay
I can love you when you’re far away
Please, don’t stop to say goodbye
Unless you want to see a grown woman cry

…SO here I am, trying to be a little less messy (whoops) and a little more coherent, trying to put into words… just how much this group and their music has meant to me.

If you guys are reading, thank you for everything you are and have done. For all of the lightness, smiles, laughs, joy, and tears that you’ve brought not only me, but the rest of your fans. You are amazing – a national treasure – and I wish you all of the best in your future pursuits.

TheNylons1

The One CHEESE Ring!

Recently, I had to make something to bring to a Lord of the Rings themed potluck. I wasn’t in the mood to make my Lembas, and didn’t have time to order the Elderflower syrup to make my Miruvor.

I was on a big cheese kick (as always!), with a lot of cheese in the fridge. We started with the idea of somehow making a LOTR cheese ball (??), and that idea quickly spawned the final plan: We would make The One Cheese Ring.

I like to make cheese balls in the same way I make my Fromage Fort: See what we have in the fridge, use a bit of everything. What can I say, I like adventure! For the less adventurous / those without a ridiculous amount of cheese sitting around, you can always go with a mix of cheddars, goudas, etc – it’s all good!

When it comes to the black speech piped on the side, I decided to use Sun dried tomato paste, which you can buy in a tube. Really, you can flavour the cream cheese with anything you like, and tint it any colour you like. Dijon mustard, horse radish, pesto paste, etc. If using pesto paste, use one without nut chunks in it, or it will be hard to pipe. You can get basil paste in the produce section of many grocery stores.

Once you’ve piped the Black Speech onto the cheese ring, you may feel an overwhelming desire to keep THE PRECIOUS all to yourself … but you should probably share this with friends. 2 1/2 lbs of cheese is a lot, even for the tricksiest of Hobbits.

We’ll definitely have to serve one of these at Tol-Con – A new Middle Earth Fan Convention happening here locally in November!

The One Cheese Ring
Makes 2.5 lbs of cheese ring

1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 lb cream cheese, softened
Splash dry white wine
1 1/2 lbs cheese of choice, grated
Salt, pepper
~ 1.5 cups finely chopped pecans

4 oz softened cream cheese
Flavour paste of choice – we used sun dried tomato paste, pesto is available, etc.
Food colouring, optional

Place onion and garlic into food processor, blitz until finely chopped. Add mustard, cream cheese, and white wine, blitz until very smooth. Add cheese, blitz once more until mixture reaches desired texture. Taste, season with salt and pepper if desired.

Line a large plate with parchment paper, and wrap a wring of parchment paper around a large round can – large can of tomatoes works well, we used a can of mango pulp.

Center can on prepared plate, mound cheese mixture around the can evenly. Using very clean hands (we wear gloves), sculpt the cheese mixture into a rounded ring shape. Once you’re happy with the ring, chill for 2 hours or so.

With your final display plate nearby, carefully remove the can and the parchment paper from the center of the ring, and carefully turn the cheee ring over onto another plate, or your hand. Transfer (flipping in the process) to the display plate.

Using a hot wet knife, clean up any imperfections in your ring, if desired. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to warm up slightly.

Carefully press chopped pecans into all exposed surfaces of the ring, including in the center. Brush away excess nut pieces, chill ring.

In a small food processor, blitz cream cheese and flavouring paste together until very smooth. If using food colouring, tint to desired colour.

Transfer flavoured cream cheese to a pastry bag, pipe Black Speech around outside of ring.

PRECIOUSSSSSS.


Lorien, of The Feral Fellowship

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Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

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