Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Not another...

You know, there are times I feel like the universe is using me for target practice. This is one of those times.

My primary care physician sent me to see a rheumatologist, because the fibromyalgia pain, coupled with the arthritis pain, has gotten out of hand. I've been taking aleve and ibuprofen by the handful, with not enough relief, and for some reason she won't prescribe anything stronger. (I think this partly may be because of oversight by OHP, or simply something of profiling, as I live in a maybe not-so-good neighborhood, etc.)

So I went off to see the rheumatologist. She poked around, made frowny faces at my joints, and at my chart, but was visibly upset about the NSAID use. And apparently my creatinine levels are too high, which indicates kidney stress. So she told me to drop the NSAIDs, cold, and fill in with tylenol until we can track down the kidney issue. This does not please me, because if tylenol would do it, I wouldn't be taking the high doses of NSAIDs. And she sent me for more labs.

The next labs were no better. And my right knee (the bad one) and hands are pretty bad. So we took xrays, more labs, and she sent me back to my primary care to get a referral to a nephrologist.

Back to Dr Becher. She didn't seem to be terribly exercised about the kidney stuff, but took yet more labs and put in for a referral to a nephrologist. That was Friday.

Monday I get a call from her nurse. The Friday labs did more testing than just the creatinine. They were bad. The official words are Chronic Kidney Disease. They're fast-tracking the referral, and they gave me a sheaf of info- mostly new diet stuff- to go through while waiting for the nephrology appointment.

Interestingly, a fair proportion of the stuff in the diet recommendations, etc, are directly opposed to diet recommendations I have to follow to deal with my meds, mostly the bi-polar meds, and those are not negotiable. And the potassium is a problem.    This could be interesting, trying to balance all of this. The bi-polar stuff is not negotiable. But my kidneys are also very important.

(bang head on desk)

So we wait and see what the nephrologist has to say.

In other news, Phil and Annie went to 12th Night with me, which was great fun. Phil even enjoyed court, which was unexpected. They are getting tucked in to the Madrone scene, and it helps that they got involved with Pembroke and his household right away. And they are both in armor, which is cool! Phil is enjoying himself, but Annie is loving it, and she's decided that she really wants to be a knight! That is cool as all get out.  :-D

Church is good. I don't know if we have the stove issue resolved yet. Annual meeting is Sunday, but there's supposed to be 6" of snow on the ground.

And my hair is still a wreck. Bah. Rain, I said! Now snow!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dry, dry, dry, dry, dry...

Ok, this is not actually me. But that is pretty much what my hair looks like these days.

It's not far off of that normally, but our weather has been really dry of late (yup, no rain in Portland), so it's even worse. If I leave it completely alone after washing ti- no combing, just towel dry and fluff it- it has ringlets for about half of the day. And then it gets fuzzy. If I use the hairbrush on it, it is even worse. I look like Roseanne Roseannadanna. .(Yes, I know I'f dating myself there.) Or worse, Cousin it.

Leaving the conditioner on longer than usual makes it floppy, but still frizzy. (and I don't get the ringlets at all.) Product makes it crunchy and frizzy.

So mostly I wear it pulled up with a big clip, or wind it into a chignon, or braid it. Bah.

There are days I'm tempted to shave it off.

Pray for rain.

It's not just my hair. My sinuses and the inside of my nose are really dry, and one side of my nose cracks and bleeds, so I get nosebleeds. Not fun. I keep putting lotion in it (the thick Nivea stuff that comes in a canister), and I got myself a wee crockpot to put a little moisture into the air, but it seems that it is not enough. And my throat is sore, same reason.

Pray for rain.

Oddly enough. our hyacinths are coming up already. In January. The greens are already about a foot tall. I worry a bit about them, as it's been really cold (26F at the moment- cold for Portland) but they seem to be ok.

In other news though, I'm not doing so good. I was in to see the rheumatologist on Friday, and she was not happy. My last labs came in with elevated creatinine, which means I have a problem with my kidneys, most likely due to the ibuprofen and naproxen I've been taking. Well, as I told her, I'm taking scads of it because I'm fucking desperate. My pain levels have been way up, and unmanaged pain just feeds the inflammatory process, which snowballs. So we took more labs, and some xrays of my hands and knees, which are inflamed at the moment. I'm actually hoping to get neck and back done too- I know there's problems there, and I want to see what we can do, if anything.

So we've dropped those pain meds completely, which means I'm in a LOT of pain right now. She wants me to take Tylenol, specifi doses and times, to see if that helps. Well, Tylenol has never done anything for me before, and it isn't now. But I'm suppose to give it a couple of weeks. Bah. My hands really hurt, and my feet are flared up- feels like I'm walking on rocks.

I have to admit I'm worried about the kidney issue. That could be really bad.

Church has been good. We're still working on getting stuff together for the search for a new priest. For some reason it's really dragging on. This survey, that survey... though I can understand how we're really really trying to make sure that we get a good fit this time.

We got the renovations finished, so at least we won't have to worry about the dry rot on that corner of the roof. Hopefully we'll be able to maintain the building a bit better than has been for the past 10-15 years. We're also looking to refurbish or replace the stove in the parish hall. It really needs work. But somehow that project is dragging on and on and on... it's becoming a standing joke.

Pray for brain.

Valentine's weekend James and I are going to a couples' conference at Good Samaritan in Corvallis. It's basically once of those enrichment things, but I'm hoping it will help us get through some of the communication problems we've been having. I think it will be good for us.

Pray for sane.

Friday, December 6, 2013


So, I've been busy...

August had Sport of Kings, a four-day SCA event with lots of classes for fighters. I mostly went to host a dinner. It went over very well, and I was pleased with how it went. And Phil and Annie unexpectedly showed up, which was delightful. They ended up talking stick and drilling a little with Amalric, which was fun to watch. I came home exhausted however, which was not so fun.

In September I went down to Myrtleholt for Summits Coronet. The weather was pretty ghastly. I spent my time sitting under Bera and Alail's dayshade, drinking tea. I was not particularly thrilled with the Laurel meeting. (Can't say any more than that.) After the tournament was over I drove to Ashland and spent the rest of the weekend with James. It was nice to be warm and comfy while the rain was coming down.

Went to visit my granddaughters on the way home, but had a difficult trip home- just north of the Coburg exit my wipers died. It was something in the link between teh motor and the arms that broke, after 32 years of service. But I had to drive the rest of the way home with no wipers. At night. With copious amounts of rain coming down. I'd prefer to never do that again.

In October I taught the second section of the Survey of the Middle Ages series, covering the time from the death of Charlemagne to the Magna Carta. It was utterly exhausting, but rewarding. I have a new map- Europe, modern borders but laminated, so I can draw on it. It's fabulous and was very useful. And hitting the Burgerville before going home was very nice.

November was bust with the Diocese Convention, held in Eugene. I was a delegate this year, which was interesting. There were a lot of votes on various positions, which was somewhat boring, as I don't know a lot of the people yet. But the two votes I was interested in were good ones. We passed a resolution to work on divesting our Diocese investment portfolio from fossil fuels. It will not be easy, and the financial committee will have quite a task to do it, but I think it is a step in the right direction. The other important measure was a resolution to support the advancement of marriage equality. This even made the Portland news, which was interesting. (I didn't know they cared about church matters.)

Now to the bang...

Saturday morning of Convention, James and I were going from the motel to the convention center, through the one-way grid downtown. I couldn't remember which direction which streets went, so I was looking up on the pole for the one-way sign.

And ran a red light.

James yelled, and that split second I saw a car coming from my left, and I turned the wheel as hard as I could, to get out of the way. Didn't make it. There was a very loud BANG!

I managed to turn around and pull over. The car was still going ok, so I figured that was good. Damage was... less than I'd thought, but still bad.

(Not all of my pictures would upload from my phone.)

The light panel on the driver's rear was crushed. The bumper was pulled completely out on the left, and it didn't bend or twist- it punched in the right side. And it had pushed back hard enough that it went up and over the trailer hitch.

The other driver was fine. No one was hurt. There was some damage to her front end, but her car was also drivable. Whew!

We took Zippy to a body shop for an estimate, and they said that they didn't think it could be repaired, and if it could, it would be $4300. Not likely! But James managed to pull the bumper back up and over, and pushed it on, though it is still missing some bolts. The light panel we're not sure what to do with. So she is going down to see out usual mechanic next week, and we'll see what he can do. In the meantime, I am without wheels, unless I borrow Wanda's truck, which I don't like to do.

Wanda and I went to see the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. It was interesting. Sure was nice to see David Tennant in the pinstripes again. :-D

But Thanksgiving was terrific! All of my kids were here, with their significant others, and of course two 3-year-old girls, to make things exciting. Turkey Day was rough, as the oven decided it was not a good day to cook, and the 4 hour turkey became a 7 hour turkey. But it was eventually done, and the rest of the dinner was very nice. And the rest of the weekedn was fun- the kids played games, I had some time with the girls, and I had time with James, which is always nice. Saturday we had a birthday party for the girls, complete with balloons, dinosaur cupcakes, dinosaur candles, a box of plastic dinosaurs, and new dresses. It was a lot of fun, having cake, and watching them chase each other with dinosaurs.

The rest of December is sort of up in the air, partly because of Zippy, and partly because of finances, and the holidays. And I have no idea what to get James, which is a bummer. My kids will get some small things, and the twins will get some new clothes, I think. It's fun to sew for them.

And I am hoping that I have something more to say soon!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Documentation Basics for SCA Artisans

This is from a handout I made a couple of years ago for a class on documentation. I thought it might be useful for others, especially with fall and winter events and A&S competitions coming ahead...

Documentation Basics for SCA Artisans

*The first thing to remember: DOCUMENTATION IS NOT RETROACTIVE!*

    There are three parts to documentation:
                    Before the project– research
                    During the project– process
                    After the project– synthesis


Start with a question–
    i.e. “I want to make a Thing. What was the Thing like in the Middle Ages?

Look at your sources–

A primary source is an extant object (or photo for SCA purposes).

A secondary source is writing about the object. (Inbetween primary and secondary is sort of a half-step– archeological dig records and notes.)

A tertiary source is writing about the writing, such as a review article, annotated bibliography, etc.

WIKIPEDIA IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE SOURCE! It is at best a tertiary source. You can use it to point you towards sources, but combing through their citations. But don’t rely on any of the information you see there.

Take careful notes as you go– including dead ends, things that didn’t fit your vision, or opposed your basic theory. Particularly note: What did you find? What didn’t you find? From there you can narrow your research into some more specific questions.

So what do you want to know? The basic five questions that a journalist asks are a good place to start.

    *WHO made the Thing? (This would be People or Ethnicity.)
    *WHAT is it? What does it do?
    *WHERE was it made?
    *WHY was it made? What was it for, why was it needed?
    *WHEN was it made? (Rough time period, at least to start.)
    *HOW was it made? What tools, techniques, and materials were used?

If at all possible, come up with at least three sources. If you have one that is very primary (such as extensive photos and the records from the dig where it was found), two might do. The more sources, the better.

Take notes of all of this, make photocopies, take photographs, etc.

Note any conclusions you might make– i.e. “The Thing was made in France and England, but I was not able to find evidence of it in Italy. It shows up in the mid 15th century, and faded out with the introduction of the Whatsit. The Thing was made of calfskin and pickled herring, occasionally with lutefisk.”



Basically, this entails taking notes as you make your Thing. Costumers often do this as a ‘dress diary’. Take notes, draw diagrams, and snap photographs as you go, including parts, the interior, the underside, etc.

Assemble your tools and materials– refer to your research notes, and cite them: “I used Persian calfskin because examples 3 and 4 in the museum at Bayeux were made of it.”

Not any variations or deviations you make, and why: “I used canned pickled herring because my wife threatened to divorce me if I made my own in her kitchen.” Also note expected or possible differences that might arise in your project if you make changes.


Keep notes of your techniques, any problems with tools or materials or the process of construction: “The calfskin fell apart if the herring was spread too thickly.” A fair amount of this will involve trial and error. Record your findings: “½" was too much, 1/8" was too thin, 1/4" was just right.”
    Note how it is or isn’t like a period Thing. Does it work? If not, do you know why?


Writing your documentation for an Arts & Sciences competition entry:

Documentation is the synthesis and writing of Research and Process: info that you already have!

Summarize your research notes. If you have drawings or photos, add them. Be sure to cover your Who, What, Why, When, and How questions and their respective answers.

Summarize your process notes– and be sure to detail your choices and the differences from the period Thing, and your reasons for those differences.


*Books and articles: The format (MLA, APA, CHICAGO, etc) doesn’t matter so much as being consistent with it. The information you need to record is: the author, title, publisher and place of publication, and the date of publication. If it is from a journal or magazine, note the issue and page numbers.

*Websites: the URL and title of the website, and the page, if it is a multi-page site.

*Illuminations: Illuminations have specific systems– i.e. if the picture is captioned with something like “BN 1179, 4v”, it is from the Bibliotheque Nationale, document number 1179, page 4, verso (front). These citations will vary some from museum to museum.

If you personally took photos such as at a museum, note where you took them, the information on the exhibit card (provenance), and if possible, the light level.

Personal interviews should note the interviewer, the person being interviewed, and the place and time it took place.

If this documentation is being assembled for a competition, there may be specific rules. Be sure to read them, and assemble your information accordingly.

If this isn’t for a competition, write it up anyway! It will come in handy when you go to make another one, or to share with another artisan, to write an article, or simply to add to the knowledge base of the re-creation community.

    So that is the basics of Documentation: Research, Process, and Synthesis!

You now have the basics of arts and sciences research and documentation and are ready to research, make stuff, and share your learning with others! Go forth and create!

copyright Laura C. Minnick, 2011

Monday, June 24, 2013

Coronation Dinner De-brief

Ok, this is something I posted on Facebook last summer, and I'm moving it over here so that people who have not succumbed to Zuckerberg's empire can see it. Cheers!

The Coronation Dinner de-brief

First off: We did it! I am still alive!

There had been much planning, research, buying of serving dishes. Re-construction of notes (lost my notebook on the way to Investiture- disastrous!) and cross-checking on stuff happened.

And then I cut part of my finger off.

Only a little- the tip of the pad on my left index, WHERE ALL THE NERVE ENDINGS ARE. We couldn't get it to stop bleeding, and ended up in ER. This was of course the weekend before the big dinner. This was the beginning of prep week, of course.

Also had interesting challenges: two of the diners were both lactose and gluten intolerant. That cut down my options significantly. I dealt with it.

Sources and research:

Well, there aren't any extant Carolingian cookbooks. So I've had to work from a number of things, and sort of triangulate from there.

We do have Anthimus, a diplomat and doctor who wrote his little book on food about two centuries before my time. (I'm shooting for 780-800.) He doesn't really offer recipes per se, but somewhat oblique instructions on how he thinks food should be cooked. But he's a bit odd. He says that the Franks are very healthy because they eat their bacon raw, but then turns around and says it's not good to eat.

We have archeological soureces, which have accounts on what is found in the middens, etc. If there's fish bones in the trash, you can be sure someone ate the fish. Bonnie Effros in particular has some good information.

We also have the Capitularies- documents that Charlemagne sent out to the managers of his various estates. He detailed what cereals were to be grown in the fields, what vegetables were to be grown in the gardens, what animals to raise, even what sort of bedding should be there when he visited. These documents give us detailed information on what foods were available- very solid info for determining their diet.

We also have the later Roman cookbooks. The Franks weren't a whole lot later than teh Romans, and much of France in particular was heavily Romanized. The Roman cookbooks were still in circulation (the doctors in Charles' court were known to have some) but we don't know how much they might have used them.

The foods I tried to keep to things we know were grown on Frankish lands, or readily accessible by trade. I also tried to keep to what was available seasonally, or kept in storage in a cold cellar.

Diners were:

TRMs Vik and Astrid
TAH Telisia, of the Summits
THs Gemma and Steinn of Tir Righ
THs Ogedei and Ifatayo of Avacal

Staff were:

Serving and some kitchen help- Malcolm and Yseult, with a little help from the young Gryphon.
Kitchen help- Idonia, Ursel, Katrine, Ulric, Diedre.
Cleanup- Ulric and Diedre, Gerard, Idonia.
Comic relief- Amalric.

And my staff got noshes too.


We were pretty sure that court would be late, so we planned for the first course to be things that could probably wait, and the second course to be cooked while the first was being served.

First off, there was formal hand-washing. I seated the diners all on one side of the table, and we did the handwashing from the front (as well as the service). First the sanap was laid over the dishes, then the water and towel were offered, and the sanap removed. This proceeded according to precedence, with TRMs first, TAH Summits next, the Avacal and Tir Righ.

The hors d'oeuvres were trays of fruits, nuts, cheese and olives. Fresh apricots, cherries, salted almonds, an assortment of kalamata and green olives, some Dubliner and havarti with dill. I almost hated to send them out, they were so pretty.

And we served a cabbage soup made with beer, beef broth, and caraway. I found a gluten-free beer, thanks to a tip from Malcolm. We also served this beer with dinner, as well as a sparkling white wine. I didn't get to the red we had for the second course, and I completely forgot about the pear cider.

The First Course:

Pork roast, marinaded with vinegar and wine, a little olive oil, lots of garlic, salt and pepper. The leftover marinade was boiled, and with a little more wine, turned into a sauce to drizzle over the pork.

Plum sauce, made of plums from our tree out back, red wine, and powder fort.

Rainbow trout, roasted with lemon slices stuffed in the cavity, and served with a drizzle of lemon and some capers.

Black-eyed peas, boiled with a little chicken broth and some smoked pork neck bones.

Carrots and parsnips cooked with a little chicken broth, white wine, drained, and tossed with white wine vinegar and a little honey.


Salad, dressed with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few raspberries tossed in with the greens.

Roasted pears, cut in eighths, half of which had the centers filled with goat cheese and drizzled with a raspberry goo, the other half filled with an almond paste and topped with candied ginger. (I wanted one of the raspberry ones and I'm still peeved that there were none left!)

The Second Course:

Chicken with fennel (very tasty!).

Sweet and Sour Beef (sort of borked off of Anthimus, but much simpler), the sauce was more subtle than I'd planned, mostly because I ran out of vinegar and honey, but it was very nice that way.

Lentils with cumin (always a real hit- I had to squirrel some away so I could have it later!).

Leeks simmered in chicken broth and white wine, salt, and pepper.

I know I used a bunch of parsley, but can't remember on what.

Dessert: Tarts- one filled with almond paste and Morello cherries, the other with mascarpone and peaches. I made gluten-free crusts by making basically graham-cracker crusts, using almond meal in place of the crumbs. I'm not entirely happy with how these worked- in particular the cheese didn't work- the combination was too fatty, and the crust burned on the bottom. The almond and cherry one was very tasty but was gummy. I'd worked on the crust earlier in the week, but hadn't tried it with the filling. Note for next time- try the whole thing.Wrap-up:

I was REALLY happy with it on the overall. The diners were happy and went away stuffed. The staff was happy and got noshes, I was happy. We worked hard, but I felt prepared and didn't feel rushed or anxious. The only disaster was dropping a bowl of leeks I'd reserved for the beef. I managed to not hurt myself, we had enough food, and the leftovers are not vast.

Have I learned anything? Yup! For one thing, I'm learning to ask for and accept help. And I'm learning who I can rely on. And I've learned just how much I can do when I'm prepared.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Well, after my bank account recovers. Ow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chasing Frankish geese...

So here's the deal. I've had this picture in my files for awhile now, and I have no idea where I got it. The little strip at the bottom says "The Australian National University", but a search of this university's website, including their art collection, has turned up nothing. I have no citation for the damn thing.

It's ivory, and from the style of the carving, the drapes, clothes, etc, I suspect 8th or 9th century.

The scene, confirmed by the inscription, is of what we call the Visitation, when Mary, newly pregnant with Jesus, visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. The scripture says that upon meeting, the fetal John leapt for joy and the presence of the embryonic Savior.

My problem is that I want to use the image in a class, and have no citation, so I really can't. Going through my pictures, I'm finding that this is true of a lot of them.


And my usually mighty Google-fu is not so mighty.

I has a sad.

In other news, I talked to my doctor about the sleep problems that I've been having, and happily she actually had help for me! Yay! But it is more drugs! Not so yay!. On the other hand, IT IS WORKING. Like a charm. No more dementors trying to kill me in my sleep. I had one nightmare, but it was an ordinary, garden-variety nightmare, and I'm ok with that.

Also, my granddaughters are cuter than ever:
 Ilyana, looking mischievous...
Anastasia, sweet and shy.

The best of friends.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To sleep, perchance to dream...

There's a reason I'm starting this blog post at ten to 5 am.

I'm afraid to sleep.

There's an interesting phenomenon we call 'Sleep Paralysis'. Some people call it lucid dreaming. Basically we go through several cycles as we sleep, from deep sleep to lighter sleep and back again, several times. REM is the deep sleep, and we do most of our dreaming then. To keep us from flailing around and acting out our dreams, our bodies put us into an atonia, or paralysis. The problem is that sometimes the REM and the semi-wakefulness get out of sync, and we're semi-awake but paralyzed.

People going through this report things such as hearing noises in the house or in the room, an intense feeling that someone is in the room, usually a malevolent presence. Often they can feel someone touch them or climb on the bed, and it is VERY common to feel that the being is choking or smothering them. Attempts to cry out or defend themselves are futile. The terror is unlike anything else. And this phenomenon is known in nearly every culture around the world. Sometimes it is known as 'The Hag' and often the malevolent beings have names. Sometimes they are vaguely human/demonic, sometimes animals or other creature such as aliens. Sometimes they appear to be ghosts, reanimated dead, vampires, succubi or incubi, or demonic religious beings. Often they are hooded.

Frequently the victims are aware that they are not quite awake but are dreaming- but the being is still there, and the threat and terror are still present. Thinking 'This will end if I can just wake up' leads to increased struggles to move or shout, and sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn't.

I've had the episodes off and on as long as I can remember. Things would come out of my closet and climb on the bed. I would try to scream but couldn't. Vampires were frequent visitors. As I got into adolescence and deeper into the pentecostal religious frame, the beings were demons of various forms. The most memorable episode (until of late) happened when I was staying over in Sutherlin, with James. I was in that partially awake state when I hear something come into the room. James was asleep but I couldn't move to wake him. A hooded figure appeared at the end of the bed, and it leaned over, and with long, bony hands, it grabbed my feet and dug its thumbs into my soles. I woke abruptly, screamed, and tunneled my way under James (who was very confused).

I looked at my feet in the morning, and couldn't see any marks, but they still hurt incredibly.

(Odd things is, a couple of years later I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and when the Dementor first appeared I was so shocked I couldn't move, there in my theater seat. It was the being that had grabbed my feet. I could swear to it.)

So, what is this all about? Well, I've been having these episodes again. A LOT. Like, several times a week. Sometimes I'll get into a series, where I'll have the dream, manage to wake myself up, but as soon as I drift off again it happens again. And again. And again. I end up sitting up in bed, heart racing, terrified to go back to sleep. One night last week the being crawled up on my bed and over me, and held me down by the wrists. At first I thought I was going to be raped, and then suddenly I thought "No, I'm going to die." The thing put the sheet over my face and tried to smother me. Fighting for my life, I finally moved enough to wake myself. Terrifying thing was that the sheet was over my face. And I never sleep with the covers over my face- because I can't breathe.

Needless to say, I'm not getting much sleep. I'm sleeping at weird times, sometimes not able to sleep at night, but ok with napping. It's wearing on me, making the fibromyalgia worse, making me feel thin-skinned and sharp, making it difficult to deal with stress or conflict.

Yes, I have an appointment with the doctor. And I know what they'll say first "Maybe we need to adjust your meds." Drugs. Always with the drugs. They'll talk about sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques. They'll make suggestions about sleep position, etc. And it will make me want to yell. I'm doing all these things (except adjusting meds) already, and they haven't helped. Don't you think I haven't tried to fix this without going to the doctor?

So that's what I'm dealing with these days. I go to sleep and meet Mr Hoodie and I try to wake myself up because he'll kill me if I don't. And I'm not interested in dying right now.