Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wisconsin: Art, Crafts, Shooting, & Beer!

My time in Wisconsin has continued to be entertaining, and also fairly uneventful, a relief after some of the “interesting” times I’ve been through lately. I’ve been taking this week as a good chance to re-group after Pennsic, rest, work on some projects, and I’ve also been doing some “real work” and am learning some new digital art skills.

As many of you know, I show some of my artwork at science fiction and fantasy conventions. They are a fun place to display (but usually not sell) some of the more interesting and obscure things I create. I also have started doing prints of some of my 2D work, and that’s actually where I actually make a little bit of my money back, selling cards and the occasional larger print. Recently I’ve been inspired to start some new projects, and one of my goals is to become proficient at creating digital paintings and art. I’ve just started in on the learning, and while in Wisconsin I’ve been borrowing my friend Ursula’s Wacom Bamboo tablet to use along with my copy of photoshop. My first totally digital piece is still in progress, but here is a sample of what is on its way:

Of course this means I need to get my own tablet before too long, and preferably a Wacom Intuos. And at some point I may pony up for a new copy of photoshop. And a new computer that can handle all of the digital editing. Weeee. But for now… learning!
The other projects I’ve been working on include a fourteenth century fitted dress that I’ve had partially done for a while now. I’m currently trying to complete the arduous task of making and sewing on a gazillion buttons and the button holes to go with them. I have all of the buttons on one sleeve done, and am almost done with the button holes on that side.

One of my hosts, Brian, helped me with another project, making a sheath for the cute little carving knife I got at Pennsic. This is my first time making a knife sheath, and it’s still drying in shape (hence the wrap around the knife in the picture), but I’m really looking forward to when it’s done and I can play with it!

And there was shooting! Brian also took me to his local shooting range where I fired a gun for the first time since I was a teen. It was great! Now I just need some more excuses to go shooting back home.

Let’s not forget the other element of relaxation: beer. After making good art, and blowing stuff up, some nice micro-brews are definitely a good way to top off the night. The beer pictured below was quite tasty along with the brownies we made last night. Plus, it is made by Valkyrie brewery, and since Valkyrie is the name of my apprentice, I just couldn't pass it up.


I totally forgot! I also had my first fish fry! This tradition is apparently a staple of the upper mid-west. Everyone goes out on Friday and partakes of fried fish! Since Ursula and Brian had yet to experience this, we did a google search for the best fish fry in Eau Claire, and settled on an option. A deceivingly seedy looking establishment of drink which was already known to serve great burgers, so we had hopes for their fish. Apparently other people share the opinion that this place (the Court-N-House) serves edible food, because when we got there it was standing room only. We got a seat maybe 20 min after we got there (though a waitress took our order right away), and then our fish came. It was pretty frikkin' good! Nice thick chunks, tender and moist inside, crispy on the outside, served with fairly tasty coleslaw and nice crispy waffle fries. We are counting it a win!

And tonight at dinner we had some more brews from the multi-pack we got from Valkyrie Brewery:

The entertainingly named "Dragon Blade," behind a locally made brat, with Brian photo-bombing in the background. :)

Additional local brews we've been experiencing. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Week in Wisconsin

Guess where I am? Ok, I gave it away with the title, but I'm fairly sure that most of you wouldn't think of Wisconsin as a likely spot for Adventure Girl Vandy to visit. So why am I in Wisconsin? A very good reason actually; after Pennsic I drove back to Wisconsin with two of my oldest and best friends, Ursula and Brian, to visit them, at their home. Last year Ursula and Brian purchased a 100+ year old farmhouse, and we've been looking for a good time for me to go out and visit. 

My biggest surprise about Wisconsin so far: It's not nearly as boring/bad/nondescript as I imagined the mid-west would be. Of course I've been informed that this is the Upper Mid-West, and thus it is superior to the rest of the mid-west. 

So far there are some things I actually really like about Wisconsin. The abundance of great produce and farmer's markets is pretty awesome. I also love that the farmer's market in the town I'm in (Eau Claire), has a permanent market pavilion roof, so the farmers can just pull up and unload rather than have to set up booths. I wish we had more of that sort of thing in Oregon. Also, being able to buy things like inexpensive lamb is a total win! 

Our spoils from the farmer's market!

Compared to spending a lot of time in California and Arizona, where I've been all to much recently, visiting an area that is green, with low rolling hills, trees, and attractive water-ways, is a huge relief to my eyes. I've always been skeptical of living somewhere not near a coast, or far away from the closest mountain range, but I'm guessing that the proximity of the great lakes would at least lessen the feeling of being trapped that I always assumed I'd have if stuck in the center of the country. My eyes do miss terrain, but I'm going to try to make up for that by hopefully soon by visiting some underground terrain, namely the Crystal Caverns, which are less than an hour from my temporary home. 

Another nice thing about this area is the large amount of scandinavian influence. Every town has a scandinavian import shop, and I've been informed that we can get some really good pickled trout, which I am eagerly awaiting tasting. Of course the high population of scandawhovians also means that there is a decidedly different look to a lot of the population. There are a lot of blond, blue-eyed, football player types around here, so I'm sure I stick out quite a bit, but so far people have been quite nice, also a regional trait apparently (though I usually think of courtesy and hospitality as more of a small-town survival skill). I've already tried another regional delicacy, fried cheese curds, sampled some local brews, and am awaiting trying the traditional friday night fish-fry. 

And speaking of cheese curds, I have already been to *TWO* cheese stores! Yay cheese! While driving back from Pennsic we stopped at an amazing cheese store in Madison, called Formagination, for sandwiches. They had about a gazillion kinds of cheese and sausage, and even chocolate!

Yum Cheese!!!

Goose, boar, and more!

We also visited the little, but packed full, Nelson Cheese Factory Store, in Eau Claire. There we saw a variety of yummy and entertaining things.

Aside from attending the farmer's market, I've gone rock climbing at the local college rock wall, walked around town a bunch, went to an awesome three-story antique shop where I could have spent a week looking through piles of art books and old auction catalogues (I only bought two!!!), have been to a couple of local pubs for libations, and last night I attended a hwa rang do (a Korean martial art) class. 

Oh, and also on our way back from Pennsic we stopped at this knitting/spinning/weaving store in the middle of nowhere (sort of near Madison), and it was AMAZING! Rooms full of every kind of fiber and yarn imaginable. 

Drewwwwwllllll. Yeah, so much fiber goodness. I managed to restrain myself to gettin 3 oz of cashmere... somehow. 

I'll be in Wisconsin until Monday evening, and we have several possible plans about things to do, including going to Crystal Caverns, going shooting, making some more of my coins, and possibly a trip to which ever of the great lakes are closest. And I have decided that I need to come back in the winter and go ice skating and ice fishing!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pennsic War!

Hey everyone, I just got back from Pennsic War, the largest Society for Creative Anachronism event in the world. Pennsic consists of two weeks of camping, in what is usually a pretty hot and muggy environment, but also can be a very rainy at times. This was a good year. While the attendance of the event was down a little, most likely due to it being a week earlier than usually scheduled, it was still a lot of fun! While there were some rain storms, the weather stayed a bit cooler than normal, which was especially nice for fighting. I fought for a couple of the days, practiced my juggling, worked on crafts, ate lots of awesome food, saw old friends, and made new friends. Hard to go wrong with that! Here are a few images from the war:

In the Feed the Ravens booth, where I was working and selling some of my glass. 

Practicing club passing with my friend Ethan, in front of our camp, "Camel Lot." 

Juggling clubs at the front of the Lac Pride Parade, an annual and very silly event that the lake-dwellers do around the lake at Pennsic.

A picture I took of fighting at Pennsic (on a day I didn't fight)