January 25, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post #4

Happy Friday! This week I pretty much did nothing but work. (At least it was Friday, when I typed this post up. My computer has been giving me tons of problems lately.) It may be time to start saving for a new computer. This month is coming to an end and it's been hard to remember to take a photo everyday but hopefully it will become habit. I can't help but think of how cool it will be to have the collection of photos at the end of the year and to see a full year in photos.


Feeling under the weather on and off all week. I feel like I'm being such a bum because I've been sleeping so much and not getting a lot done. It's horrible that I've been fantasizing about sleep.


Started putting together my outfit for a dance get together I am going to next weekend with friends.


Andy and I played a very close game of Egyptians. So close that we were tied and the first person to roll a 1 would win. I rolled a 1 first but then we let Andy roll just for fun. He likewise rolled a 1.


Birds out in the cold. 


Snowed enough that by 2:30 when I was leaving work, my car was already under 6 inches of snow. I ended up leaving my car in the parking lot and walking home.


Polar vortex part II. 


Worked on dance outfits with a friend. We ended up getting little done and defaulted to girl talk and catching up instead. We did get a little done and made plans to meet up again before we need them.


Much needed color after all of this bleak winter white and gray.

Hope everyone is staying safe in this cold and taking time to hibernate and enjoy toasty indoor activities.

January 21, 2014

The Value of Costumed Interpreters: Part 1

No one can deny that costumed interpreters have become very popular at historic sites in recent years to the point that they are ubiquitously associated.  This may be a strange topic, especially for someone who spends a great deal of time teaching as a costumed interpreter but after years as one, I often question the effectiveness of it.

I almost dread when people ask me what I do. It's silly, because I love what I do. I tell them that I work at a museum. I am an educator and guide. I create educational programs and do extensive research. (I also have a B.A. in History and am certified to teach high school. But I think this is besides the point.)

This is the typical response when I tell people what I do:

"So you wear a costume and stuff?"

I can't help but think that visitors  find tour guides in polo shirts and slacks inherently more credible than guides in costumes. There are many good reasons to have costumed interpreters at historical sites. For one thing, it definitely catches the attention of children and teenagers and can draw them in. Costumed interpreters generally make the experience more interactive for visitors. Many people find the difference in what people of the past wore compared to what they wear very interesting and it is always the source of many questions from visitors. 

I understand why costumed guides have become so popular. They do a lot of good and are sometimes the only draw to a site. Take for instance, living histories that are only displays of costumed interpreters and nothing else. But I also wonder if it is hurting as well.

Reenactors and costumed guides have become something laughable in popular culture. A costumed interpreter will certainly appear less credible than a tour guide in a uniform holding a binder full of their research and notes. (Something that few costumed interpreters do for the sake of not wanting to ruin the immersion experience.) 

But the main downfall of costumed interpreters is also one of their biggest strengths. They can make everything seem more like theater or a costume party, not a source of valuable research. They can also make some people feel like they shouldn't try to interact with the "actors."

Historical sites should take note of the benefits and drawbacks of costumed interpreters. Reenactors fulfill their purpose at reenactments where entertainment value is more inherent but for sites, but it is not always perfect for historical sites trying to emphasize education.

There are many ways to minimize drawbacks and reinforce the benefits of costumed interpretation:

-Have both costumed and uniformed guides. Some sites that take this approach choose to have uniformed guides explain what costumed ones are doing but others just have a good mix of both present to appeal to more visitors.

-Let the visitors dress. This is by far an expensive option not accessible to many sites but even just letting a one or two visitors slip the clothing on over their clothes as a display is enough to draw the others in and makes them feel less alienated from the guides. 

-Have your costumed guides give a little background about themselves and specifically what areas they focus on. It's much easier for visitors to accept that your guides are credible if they talk a little about their personal research areas. It also helps visitors know what particular questions to ask to whom. Guides don't have to have extensive "historical credentials" to do this either, just let the visitors know you aren't just a random person with no interest in anything historical.

What do you think of costumed interpreters or if you are a costumed interpreter have you ever experienced issues?

January 17, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post #3

 I've been having a rough week. This was one of those weeks where taking a photo every day seemed like such a big deal. It's really not. It's just a click a day and even if they aren't masterpieces, they are still a little snapshot of my life.


 The past few days were strangely foggy.


 I worked on inking a calligraphy piece I started ages ago. This is my blotting sheet.


Stirred way too much cake batter today. It all smelled really good though. 


Saw these neat contrail in the sky.


Light dusting we got in the night.

Strangely having the same day off, Andy and I took advantage and went to the zoo for a nice walk. We also visited my favorite animal, King Phillip, the African Pygmy Goose. 


Cannoli cake? Yes please.

This week went by fast but I've been really down. I've been generally exhausted. I hope next week's better.

January 13, 2014

? ! : Les Miserables 2012

I finally got around to seeing the 2012 movie version of Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman and
Russell Crowe as well as many other big names. I had been anxious to see it when it came out as I am a Les Miserables obsessive. The minute I heard that a new version was coming out I couldn't wait. I made a list of all of the things I was looking forward to seeing and the trailer gave me hope. 

A little risque for the time, the Les Miserables collection has been a massive classic since publication. It was translated into English early and a popular book with Civil War soldiers who considered themselves "miserable ones" as well.

  Dealing with themes of good vs bad, and the humanization of criminals and prostitutes, Hugo questioned the success of the first part of the series, Fantine. While on vacation he is said to have taken part in the shortest conversation ever with his publisher to find out what was going out with the book. While on vacation in 1862, he sent his publisher the telegram message: ? To the response of !     

That's how I felt about the movie rendition. A mix of ??? and !!! 

The trailer really made the movie look awesome. I was ecstatic to see the ship in the trailer. I was so excited that they were going to show the part in the book where Jean Valjean breaks out of prison while saving a man's life whom was caught in the rigging of a ship. I thought this was going to be a brilliant start to the film. If there is one downfall of the musical version, it is that it doesn't go into a lot of the more interesting parts of the books. We don't get much in the way of back story. I was excited to see some of this lesser known material find it's way in.

I was disappointed that they kept to the musical version almost exact. While the scenery was stunning, there wasn't much detail added. We don't ever fully understand the history of any of the characters or the relationships between them.  We do at least see Marius' wealthy grandfather and the accusation that Marius only pretends to be poor. The Thénardiers, the crooked innkeepers, severely underwhelmed me. We don't see their sale of the young Cosette to an old man who seems to take a liking to the little girl. Nor do we see Cosette, the original orphan who lives under the stairs.

If they weren't adding anything to what we've seen from the musical before. I am baffled why they didn't opt to show a more realistic portrayal of 1800s France. Eponine just ripped me out of the story when she entered in her designer dress and very modern hairstyle. (Not that the dress isn't awesome because, let's face it, I'd wear that.)   

Additionally, the vocals and emotions just weren't there. I could accept less than perfect singing if the raw emotions came through. They producers of the movie made a big deal about not remastering or editing the vocals of the singers. My only question is why? I'm disappointed that many of the powerful and emotional notes were spoken or whispered. There was very little strength behind Jackman and Crowe but the rest of the cast were very capable. If prerecording would have made the tracks beautiful and powerful, they should have done it.    

Overall, the movie had highs and lows. As someone familiar with Les Miserables, this adaption didn't really add anything novel.  I enjoyed it and don't think it's a bad rendition. But I also don't think it's fantastic. When you see it, you are awed by the majestic scenery and action but the movie falls short of its epic potential.    

Have you seen it? Did you love it? Hate it?

January 10, 2014

The Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 2

I can't believe a whole other week has gone by so fast. I feel like I've gotten nothing done. Not that I am overanxious to do anything. This cold air has me not wanting to do much at all. 


Went for a walk in the park with a friend while the snow was still out. 


My sister made me take a few photos of her cosplay wig. She has a habit of asking to do things well after midnight.


At the grocery store, I couldn't help but try to capture the colors in the sky that brought this freezing cold weather. 


This week I've been seeing some funny signs at work. I liked this "battleship cabinet." Is this the cabinet that you use on a battleship or the cabinet where you store the game, Battleship? My boss uses it as his desk. Part of me wants to put the game in there just for fun.


I've been sick so I tried curling up with a good book but promptly fell asleep.

Here's another goofy work sign. Did they really have a problem with inquiries? I understand the "no riding" because that's slightly tempting. :)  Or did those who ignored the former sign prompt the later sign?

If you're participating in the blog party, please be sure to put a link your post in the comments. I can't wait to see how people have started off the new year. I hope the cold hasn't put a damper on things.  

January 7, 2014

How to Make a Travel Watercolor Kit out of an Altoids Tin

Back in August I made a tiny watercolor sketchbook out of a sketchbook I had lying around. I wasn't fond of the size of the book. It was larger than I like to work with. I was contemplating buying a new one when I decided that buying a new one would be a bit wasteful as I still had this one I never used. I planned to take the smaller one out to do field sketches and wanted it small enough to fit in my purse. 

Well I finally got around to making the tiny field watercolor kit to go with it.


There is a whole art of tiny paint boxes. There are some people who make them out of Altoids containers and people who make them out of the tiny, Altoids mini containers. But the extremists make them out of all sorts of tiny containers like this make-up compact or this vintage pill box. I have to admit I'm probably going to be hooked on making watercolor kits from decorative tins after seeing such cute examples.

Most people use some sort of clay to make the pans for the paint, another good idea I have seen is using old soda bottle lids. I opted to be very resourceful (lazy) and use empty gum containers. The whole process is very easy. You just pour tube watercolor out, mix it with a drop or two of glycerine or honey, stir with a tooth pick and let it dry. 

I'm still on the fence of what I want to use for paintbrushes. A lot of people just chop the ends off of their brushes so that they fit in the tin. I'm not sure I want to go that route as I like being able to use the whole brush. I've also been seeing more and more "waterbrushes" which are brushes filled with water that slowly seeps out while you paint, eliminating the need for a separate water container. 

I'm anxious to try it out but today's temperatures of 3 degrees that feels like -18 means that I probably won't be doing any field panting any time soon. Hope everyone is keeping warm and fighting winter boredom.

January 3, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Week 1

I can't wait to get started this year! The Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party is back! I can't wait to see how everyone's new year's unfolds.This is definitely a new year for me with a lot of big changes. 

The new year gives everyone a chance for a fresh start. We can analyze what didn't go as planned in the previous year and set goals and make plans to reach those goals in the coming year. I'm a big believer in creating goals to achieve, no matter how small. One of my small goals is to take a photo every day. So without further ado, this week's blog party photos:  


 Watercolor painted with Jeff. We were both trying a new painting style unfamiliar to us both.

12-30 -13

I bake a lot of muffins at work. Many more muffins than people should bake.


People work where they work for many reasons. I promise my reasons have nothing to do with this industrial sized dough hook...or the ultra convenient automatic bread slicer.


Andy and I had a discussion about his instrument hobby (read infestation.) We weren't sure whether this counted as a 4th fiddle or not as it's not yet assembled. 


Finally got through painting all of my thank you notes from Christmas.

Thanks for reading and I can't wait to see everyone's photos. If you are new to the blog party, add your link in the comments section. Wishing everyone the best year yet!

January 1, 2014

Goodbye 2013

Another year. I'm always amazed at how fast a year goes and how much happens during one. One of my personal reasons for keeping a blog is to track what has happened in my life. It's great fun to see what I was doing or what I was interested at a given time.

I want to sincerely thank my readers. You guys are the best and have been with me through thick and thin. You keep me going and I have met so many great friends through blogging. I frequently get such awesome emails from readers and love hearing about who they are as individuals.

Some key events this year:

- Joined the crew of Barkentine Gazela.
- I've started taking my photography hobby a bit more seriously. (Probably a joke as those of you who know me personally know I am pretty serious and that a camera is pretty much permanently attached to my hand.)
-My father was in the hospital, which I did not write about.
- I attended a few reenactments that I've never been to before such as Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. 

I found it a bit difficult to adjust to life without school for the first time in over 19 years. It's strange to not have a force making you learn something whether you want to or not.

Plans for 2014:

-I hope to completely redesign this blog to make things easier to find.
- I'm thinking of turning the Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party into a 365 project. I had a lot of fun with it and it helped me take some time out of my day to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Anyone who wants to take part this time around, just leave a comment.  
-Much much more!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! I'd love to hear everyone's plans for this year and new year's resolutions.

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