Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dragon Age Week Day Seven: Skyhold at Christmas

Well, I've been off playing Dragon Age: Inquisition for the past month and it's no secret that I'm thoroughly impressed! It's my Game of the Year for 2014 and probably the next two years, too! I'm currently on my second playthrough, and every time I play, I find something new to explore and love. So, when it came time to decide what our annual holiday LEGO display was going to include, I knew it had to be Skyhold! We started with lots of mountains in the background, blue sky and clouds, and Cullen's Tower (which you can see in detail here). Many thanks to my long-suffering LEGO husband! Here's a look at the results...

Skyhold at Christmas with Cullen's Tower on the left...

With the Herald's Rest and training ring on the right - note Sera on the roof!

Blackwall & Cassandra with the training dummies.

Dorian and Josephine with random loot near the ice.

Cole on the snowbank against the stone wall.

Christmas tree & presents next to Cullen's Tower. More loot & guards.

The Herald's Rest! We tucked a battery operated candle inside so the glass glows. And this is supposed to be Varric and Bianca, but we couldn't find the right hair. Iron Bull is inside of course!

Dragon Age snowmen need helmets! (And who put Legolas in the scene?)

Great way to add a bonfire! Tiny elastics, 1x4 tiles & fake flickering candles.

Cullen & my Inquisitor, with a tower shape in the background to suggest a bigger castle.

Season's Greetings! And a happy Dragon Age New Year to us all...

(These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014 on my old blog. I've moved them here so I can keep all my geekdoms in one place.)

Dragon Age Week Day Six: Jar of Bees Tutorial

Make your own Jar of Bees!
Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Dragon Age: Inquisition launches tomorrow in North America! And yes, it contains the infamous Jar of Bees. As soon as I heard that this really was going to be a thing, I knew I had to make one for myself. The Jar of Bees is a weapon that you throw at your enemies - it summons a swarm of bees that attacks the nearest enemy, and apparently can be upgraded by adding wasps! How could you not want our own Jar of Bees to share with your Dragon Age friends? So here's an quick and easy tutorial so you can make your own.

Instant Lead Lines, Bees & Jars

I got everything I needed at my local craft shop:
  • Small corked jars - preferably with large corks so you can get the bees inside.
  • Gallery Glass Instant Lead Lines - the wider size.
  • Bees - I found these in the floral section, you could also make them with Fimo.
  • Craft paint - to touch up the bees.
  • Craft knife - make sure it's sharp.

Painted bees ready to be bottled.

First thing to do is to make your bees! I was lucky enough to find some pre-made bees in the floral department of Michaels. These were made to wire into floral arrangements so all I had to do was to take out the wire, and give them a little better paint job. You could also make your own bees with Fimo, small pom-poms, and I did find bee buttons and small wooden bees at the same shop, so the possibilities are endless. You could also leave the wire on, and use a bit of clay in the bottom of your jar to make the bees appear to buzzing around.

Using the lead lines on the jar.

Take the strip over the other one, then cut to lie flat.

Next, wash and dry your jars. Make sure they are completely dry before you add the instant leading lines, or they won't stick properly. This is a great product for this project. The jars in the game appear to be caged in a metal frame to protect the jars from breaking prematurely - we wouldn't want those bees getting out accidentally! The lines are just peel and stick, and you can use a sharp craft knife to cut them. The leading is pretty forgiving and I was able to move my lines around before committing to exactly where I wanted it to be. To get the right look, tuck the lines underneath the jar, almost a lantern kind of look. When two lines intersect, you can use the knife to cut them to make them lie flat. Don't forget to place some of the leading around the top of the jar, or even a double line.

Triangle Jar of Bees

Jar of Bees ©2014 EA International

When you've finished with your lead lines and have the perfect temporary cage, then add your bees to the jar, put the cork on and you have your very own Jar of Bees! Pretty easy, huh? Be careful not to let anyone throw them, but they make a great addition to a shelf with your Templar & Mage Pincushions and your Dragon Age Keep Banner. I'd love to see your Jar of Bees, so if you make one come back and leave a comment with a picture. Happy Dragon Age Release Day and Bzzzzzzzzzz...

(These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014 on my old blog. I've moved them here so I can keep all my geekdoms in one place.)


Dragon Age Week Day Five: Cullen's Tower in LEGO

Cullen in his bedroom at Skyhold, our version of the promo shot!
My family loves LEGO! Especially my husband, who is an AFOL (adult fan of LEGO), and this is his hobby. We have way more LEGO in the house than normal people, but who wants to be normal anyway? So, I asked him if he would build me Cullen's Tower at Skyhold. Happily, he agreed.

It's even more impressive because he's not a gamer, and the only thing he knows about Dragon Age is that I'm a little bit obsessed. Especially with Cullen. So, I showed him the Skyhold Twitch stream, and under a wee bit of guidance, this is what he built for me. Pretty awesome, don't you think?

And best of all, this is just the beginning. I've convinced him that our holiday display should be Skyhold at Christmas, so stay tuned. The doors will eventually connect to the rest of the keep, and I know we took a bit of liberty with adding a balcony - but they needed someplace to play chess! In the meantime, there is only two days left until Dragon Age: Inquisition releases in North America! Check back tomorrow for my Jar of Bees tutorial...

Working at his desk with the owl decoration above, shot though the door.

Cullen playing chess with my Inquisitor. She's not about to let him win.

Skyhold is a fixer-upper so there are building materials everywhere.

What is Cullen working on? Note the sacks to the side.

Climbing the ladder to bedroom. Hope he's not been drinking!

Outside of the tower with vines growing up the side.

Maybe they should patch the roof soon!

(These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014 on my old blog. I've moved them here so I can keep all my geekdoms in one place.)

Dragon Age Week Day Four: Hanged Man Stew

Hanged Man Loading Screen ©2010 EA International
I probably enjoyed Dragon Age II more than most people, and completed five full play-throughs plus a handful of uncompleted ones. One of my favorite places to visit was The Hanged Man. I loved the music playing in the background, that so many quests started and ended here, and of course visiting Varric and drinking with Isabela!

According to one of the loading screens, the featured dish at the Lowtown tavern is its daily stew, made with a different mystery meat each morning. Since we all need to eat, I plan to make a stew the day Dragon Age: Inquisition releases. To save more time for gaming, I'm going to prep the veggies the night before and put everything in the slow cooker in the morning. Then I'll take my youngest to school, and rush off to pick up my copy of DA:I at my local EB Games - who are unfortunately not doing a midnight release, but at least will be open an hour earlier than normal. 

You could make this stew with your favorite mystery meat, but I plan to use pork as that's what is plentiful in my freezer. Beef works just as well. I'm sure Cameron Lee would be happy to use Nug meat in his. 

Hanged Man Mystery Meat Stew

2.5 lbs of pork cubes
2 TBSP olive oil
¼ cup flour
1 - 26oz can tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP Italian Mixed Spices (or oregano & basil)
1 Stock Bouillon (I use Knorr)
2 large sweet potatoes
4 large potatoes
4 large carrots
1 large onion
2 cups frozen peas
salt & pepper to your taste

  1. The night before, peel and chop all veggies (sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots & onion) your favorite stew size. Place in a large bowl and just cover with water.
  2. In the morning, use a large skillet heat to medium-high, dredge meat in flour with some salt and pepper, and brown in hot olive oil. You may need to do this in 2-3 batches depending on the size of your skillet. When finished browning place in a large size crockpot - mine is about 7 quarts.
  3. Mince garlic. Drain veggies and add garlic & vegetables to crock pot over meat.
  4. Open tomatoes, crush a bit and add to crockpot.
  5. Add bay leaf, Italian spices, salt, pepper, stock bouillon & stir in.
  6. Set timer to cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 6 hours.
  7. About an hour before, add frozen peas and stir.
  8. You shouldn't need to any other liquid to the stew, but occasionally a bit of water may be needed. You could instead a bit of stock or tomato juice.

It won't take long before the lovely smell of mystery meat stewing permeates your house to add an extra layer of authenticity to your gameplay! Serve with buns. Makes a lot of stew, so you can probably eat it for two nights for a family of 4-5, or you can freeze some for later. You'll notice I don't have a picture of it yet - I'll add one when it's done on Inquisition Day.

In the meantime, here is a short list of snacks that might accompany you on your journey to Skyhold:
  • Cut up summer sausage & cubes of cheese
  • Almonds or mixed nuts
  • Hummus & cut veggies 
  • Popcorn & pretzels
  • Add 2 TBSP peanut butter, 1 tsp honey and a dash of cinnamon to a small tub of Greek yogurt for a high protein dip with apple slices.
  • Slice a bit of cucumber and add a sprig of mint to your water jug for flavored water - need to stay hydrated!
  • Or freeze juice in ice-cube trays and add a couple to a glass of club soda
  • Frozen grapes 

What will you be eating during Dragon Age: Inquistion? Leave a comment with your favorite foods for gaming and quick ideas for dinner for those with families!

(These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014 on my old blog. I've moved them here so I can keep all my geekdoms in one place.)

Dragon Age Week Day Three: Dragon Age Keep Banner

Dragon Age Keep Tower...
The Dragon Age Keep is where you can set up your personal history in the Dragon Age series in preparation to play Dragon Age: Inquisition! If you've played Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II while connected to the servers you'll be able to sync your prior playthroughs at the Keep and choose which specific version of the Warden and Hawke's story you'll use.

Did your Warden make the ultimate sacrifice to save Ferelden? Does Anora rule with Alistair? Did you romance Fenris? Did you execute Anders or let him live? Side with the Mages or the Templars? In the Keep, each decision has a beautifully illustrated tile to accompany it, and you can change any decision you've made, or make it for the very first time if you've never played before. When you're done, you can watch a lovely animation of your personal story, narrated by our favorite storyteller - Varric himself! Save your world history, then export it, and you'll be ready for the Inquisition.

I love the Keep! I was part of the closed beta testing, and was so excited when it opened up for everyone. I adore the tower logo and thought it would be fun to make a small banner to celebrate. The materials are easy to get at any craft store and fabric shop, cost less than $5 if you already have needles and thread and it comes together quickly. Make one this weekend before Inquisition releases next week!

Most of the supplies needed...

First, gather your supplies. I used a 9x12 piece of black felt, and found some grey cobblestone felt with great texture for the tower. You could also use light grey felt. You'll also need heavy paper for the template, a Sharpie pen, Tapestry needles, embroidery floss, a small stick or dowel, some cording and some fringe for the bottom. If you don't sew, you could use tacky fabric glue to attach the tower - just not too much or it could bleed through, and a glue gun works for the trim.

Using template to trace around.

You could draw the Keep's tower freehand or to get an exact copy of the shape, I went to their Twitter page, clicked the avatar to make it bigger and copied it to my computer. I opened it up in Photoshop, made it bigger and printed it at the size I needed. If you don't have that program you can simply make your printer print at the size you're wanting. It took me 4 tries to get it right, so don't worry if it doesn't work the first time. When you're happy with it, cut out the template, then use a marker to draw it on your grey felt, and cut it out of the felt with sharp scissors.

Stitching the tower to the felt.

Next, figure out where to put it on your background - I placed mine just down from the middle - you'll need to fold over the top to make a pocket for the dowel or stick, so remember to account for that! I found it stiff enough that I didn't need to pin it first. I used six stands of light grey floss, and sewed it down with buttonhole or blanket stitch. When that's done, cut the fringe just slightly larger than the width of the banner. Fold a small bit behind itself and sew it down to prevent fraying, then stitch it to the bottom of the black felt. I used a running stitch.

Take your stick or dowel, cut it slightly longer than the width of the felt. Now you'll know how far to turn the top over to create a pocket for the dowel. Stitch the folded part to the back of the banner, and you're almost ready to go. Insert the stick, and attach the cording with some clove hitches so you can hang your new Dragon Age Keep banner!

Finished Dragon Age Keep Banner

Hang somewhere where you can admire it, or give to your favorite Dragon Age fan. While you're waiting for Tuesday, you can also log in to the Keep and play the fun text-based game: The Last Court! I'd love to see your banners, so if you make one, please leave a comment with a picture. Have fun in the Keep!

(These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014 on my old blog. I've moved them here so I can keep all my geekdoms in one place.)

Dragon Age Week Day Two: Rivaini Spice Cake

In Dragon Age: Inquisition we will have the opportunity to explore both the Kingdom of Ferelden in southeast Thedas, and the Empire of Orlais, in the southwest. Orlais is ruled by Empress Celene, and famed for its rich culture and extravagance.

In the wonderfully crafted Dragon Age novel The Masked Empire by Bioware writer Patrick Weekes, the Empress sips some tea early in the book... 
"It was an excellent tea, a Rivaini blend of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, sweetened with honey just as Celene liked."
Cinnamon, ginger and cloves are one of my favorite flavor combinations, especially for this time of year, and so I present a recipe for Rivaini Spice Cake with Whisky Infused Cream! This is an easy cake to make, and if you skip the Whisky infused cream (but why would you?) it's a non-sticky dessert that's possible to eat while gaming. It's great to pack for lunches, and keeps for a week though my family will down it in about two days. I will be baking one the night before Dragon Age releases, because it's also yummy for breakfast!

Rivaini Spice Cake

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup melted butter
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 TBSP boiling water
2 cups flour
1 cup boiling water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Using a large bowl, blend eggs, sugar, molasses, melted butter and spices.
  3. In a heat-proof container, dissolve the baking soda in the 2 tablespoons of boiling water, then stir into the mixture.
  4. Carefully stir in flour, then add one cup of boiling water and mix.
  5. Batter is really thin! Don't think you've done something wrong when it's thin.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. Use a toothpick to check, but don't overbake.
  7. While still warm, sprinkle a bit of sugar over the cake.

Whisky Infused Cream

1 cup whipping cream
2 TBSP whisky
2 TBSP honey
  1. Whip cream to soft peaks.
  2. Add whisky and honey and blend in.
  3. Cut cake and add a dollop of cream to each serving.

What will you be eating when Inquisition releases? Stay tuned for ideas of quick and easy snacks, and my version of The Hanged Man Stew - crockpot style, so you can get back to gaming! Tomorrow though, we celebrate the Dragon Age Keep...


(These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014 on my old blog. I've moved them here so I can keep all my geekdoms in one place.)

Dragon Age Week Day One: Mages VS Templars Pincushion Tutorial

NOTE! I'm moving old content from my other blog to this one. These Dragon Age posts originally appeared the week before Dragon Age Inquisition released in November of 2014. I intend to post occasional fandom related entries here, might as well keep all my geekdoms together.

Dragon Age Inquisition is almost here! The third installment of the popular Bioware series releases on Tuesday, November 18th in North America, and Thursday, November 20th for Europe and the UK. It will be available on PS3, XBOX 360, PS4, XBOX1 and PC. To celebrate, I will be publishing a week of Dragon Age posts to countdown to the big day!

If you've played the Dragon Age series you know that one of the major conflicts is the Mages vs Templars. You were forced to pick a side in Dragon Age 2, and as Dragon Age Inquisition opens we discover that mages and templars are involved in an all out war with each other. At Haven, a peace conference has been called to try and halt the conflict, but if you've seen even one trailer, you know it doesn't go well! I thought it would be fun to make a pair of pincushions with the symbols of the Circle of Magi and the Templars. Think of them as both therapeutic and useful - stick pins in your least favorite!

Circle of Magi & The Templar Order

I used the bottom of two watchmaker tins for the base, these are about 2 inches in diameter. You could use large bottlecaps, or tiny ones, tins, flat food containers, whatever you can find that might work for you. You'll also need some felt in your chosen colors, embroidery floss, scissors, fiberfill for stuffing, needles and strong thread. I started by embroidering the two designs onto felt, making sure they would fit on the tin.

Tin, felt circle & sewing the strip into a loop.

Next, trace around your base, and cut out a circle for the bottom. Then, cut a strip of felt that will go around the side - make this about 1/4 inch taller than the height of the side of the container. Using a whip stitch, start by sewing the side piece together, making it a tight fit around the container. Then tuck the loop onto the tin with the thread on the bottom, because now you'll use that thread to sew on the circle for the bottom of the pincushion - use a blanket or buttonhole stitch.

Sewing the bottom on.

Finished bottom with a felt lip for sewing the top on.

I used the top of my frappuccino cup to trace the circle for the stuffed part. It's about 4 inches across and had the added bonus of being clear so I could position the embroidery properly!  Cut that out, thread a length of strong thread (I broke regular thread on the first attempt) - color doesn't matter and baste around the edge. Grab your stuffing, and gather the two threads so the felt circle becomes like a pouch. Stuff as much fill as needed - I poked some with a pencil to help smooth out the design and get more into it. Then tie off the threads. Tuck it into the base and use a blanket stitch to attach to the felt covering the tin.

Tracing the circle...

Pulling the basting and stuffing.

Sewing the cushion to the base.

The last and most fun part is adding some decorative embroidery to your pincushions. I used gold accents for the templars, chain stitch, feather stitch and some French knots. And for the mages I used silver accents, chain stitch and four colors of feather stitch for the different schools of magic: spirit, creation, entropy and primal. Just use Google or YouTube if you need to learn how to do any of the stitches.

Add some decorative embroidery. Mages or Templars? Your game... you decide!

These pincushions are pretty easy to make - felt is very forgiving, fun and would make great stocking stuffers for your favorite Dragon Age fan! Now... which one are you going to stick the pins in? Will you support the Mages? Or the Templars? Let me know in the comments!

More Dragon Age Week coming tomorrow as we visit Rivaini for some luscious dessert...

PS. I know that the Circle symbol doesn't entirely work as a symbol for the mages, but I went with it anyhow. Perhaps my choice is clear!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Daffodil Medicine - Scholar's Project #1

Daffodil Medicine (photo by Jason Armond)
Recently I shared a project I've been working on for months, an entry on Daffodil Medicine for the "Daffodil in Any Medium Contest", which takes place during Seagirt's annual tournament. During the event I also submitted my application to Baron Conall to enter into the Seagirt Scholar's evaluations, and this was the first of my projects to be judged.

Photo by Kimberly Grigg.
I have long been interested in the study of herbs and apothecary, having mundanely studied with several well known herbalists, and when we jumped back into the SCA last year, I began to study more about the period medicinal uses of plants. Although daffodils are quite toxic when ingested, they were indeed used for a variety of medicines from antiquity, and even today a compound found in the bulbs is being used to treat Alzheimer's disease. 

For my project I re-created three medicinal remedies: an impotence ointment from 7th century Greece from The Seven Books of Paulus Aegineta, a plaster for spots on the face from Gerard's 1597 Herbal, and a medicine for clearing out filthy ears from Culpeper's 17th century book, The English Physician. All the preparations used the roots of the daffodil as an active ingredient. I tried to find a good mix of period containers for my remedies, and also those that would enable the final products to be seen. I had a lot of fun making the beeswax linen covers for the pots.

Since none of the remedies could actually be tried, I also made a plain beeswax salve with rose oil (leaving out the lead the original called for), using the same ratio as my impotence ointment, so that there would be something for a more 'hands on' experience. This worked really well, I received some very positive feedback on it and a request for a jar made with lavender.

Warning & 'Try Me' salve (photo by Jason Armond).
One of the most interesting things about this project was that daffodils have several names within the medieval period, including Daffodilly, Daffodowndilly, Lide Lily, Primrose Pearls, and Affodil. The last one is particularly interesting as William Turner states in his 1551 A New Herball that narcissus' are indeed called both Daffodils and Affodils, but he also goes on to identify that the Affodil is actually a completely different plant - the Asphodel, and that it should be called, "The Ryght Kind of Affodil". In Turner's entries about the virtues of the Affodil, he writes, “It is also good for matery ears brused with frankincense, honye, wyne, and myrr, the same put in to the contrary ear sooageth the tuthake".

Culpeper, writing a hundred years later, writes of a similar remedy, "…the juice, mingled with honey, frankincense, wine, and myrrh, and dropped into the ears, is good against the corrupt filth and running matter of the ears”. But here, Culpeper is referring to the Daffodil, not the Asphodel, though the ingredients and the remedy are virtually identical, and enough to believe that this is not merely coincidence.

One of my hand-colored pamphlets (photo by Jason Armond).
I also created a short herbal pamphlet on the historical uses of daffodils in a period style entitled, The Ryght Kynde of Daffodil which can be downloaded along with my documentation here:

The Ryght Kynde of Daffodil: Herbal Pamphlet
Daffodil Medicine Documentation

The more I learned, the harder it was to keep a tight focus (and I believe this is going to be an ongoing challenge for me). I could easily have written an entire paper on daffodils and their varied medicinal uses, and I struggled with keeping my documentation to just five pages. The judges' feedback was very useful, and I see some of the gaps that I will remember to include for my next project. For now, I am very pleased to have passed my first Scholar's project, and to have won the contest in the advanced category as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gold Tape Lace

Fifteen Feet of Gold Tape Lace
One of my favorite pieces of bobbin lace that I've made is also one of the simplest. This is a tape lace, made with gold machine metallic thread, with a pricking (pattern) that I designed. It's based on the tape laces which can be seen on early seventeenth century buff coats, and sometime in the future it will be attached to a buff coat for my lord husband. There is approximately 15 feet of it, and is the longest piece of lace I've made to date. It's about 13mm wide, and took about 80+ hours to make.

Richard Neville by 
William Dobson, 1630's
This is a portrait of Richard Neville, a Royalist soldier during the English Civil War. He eventually served as commander at the First Battle of Newbury in 1643 where he commanded the Royalist side. He later served as High Sheriff for Berkshire, and after the restoration, he became Berkshire's Justice of the Peace. In 1670 he was elected to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire serving until his death in 1676. On his lovely leather buff coat there are five stripes of plain gold lace trim on each sleeve. My lace is much more of a burnished gold than the picture suggests. The colour is actually much closer to the portrait in person!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Welcome to Lucy Holgrove's Receipt Book

Grace Acton's Receipt Book, 1621 Wellcome Library
Welcome to Elinor Holgrove's Receipt Book! Here you will find my historical passions and my journey within the Society for Creative Anachronism. This will be a place to collect and share my research, projects, tutorials, persona development, class handouts, photos and notes from events, and of course, general discourse.

Why a receipt book? Historically in the early modern period, a receipt book was a collection of receipts (recipes), for both food and for treating sickness or injuries. The receipts were written and gathered by women and sometimes there were notes in the margins on how effective or how tasty a recipe was. They nearly all contain an index so individual maladies and recipes could be looked up quickly. These books offer a fascinating glimpse into everyday life of women at the time, and have become a passion of mine. Many can be found scanned in their entirety on the web, and I will share some of my very favorite entries on this blog.

Fare thee well, and return soon...