Tag Archives: events

Corazon III: Post-assessment

I started drafting this post a week after the event, but then Kingdom A&S loomed large, and then, and then – suddenly it’s been two months and I still haven’t sat down to finish it.

I took part of a slow boring afternoon to rectify that. I’ve got the menu, a couple of recipes, and some other information up in their own section; this post is reflective.

This is the most ambitious feast I’ve done, by far. Over lunch on Sunday after closing out the site cleanup, my Laurel asked me, “Was it too ambitious?” I had to think about that for a minute, and then replied, “It was right on the edge.”

Right on the edge. It’s where I live. I feel odd – guilty, almost – if I’m not pushing myself to the limits of my capacity, growing my capacity, and pushing some more. There’s no question, I could not have pulled off this feast, this time last year. I’m proud of that, and yet it makes me anxious too. The reward for success is an ever-shifting goalpost.

What worked:

  • Kitchen crew! I had a solid crew, recruited in advance, and created a private Facebook group to share information and coordinate with them in advance. Kitchen ran incredibly smoothly all day and things that had to be started in advance finished at the correct times to come together for feast. And having several of the kitchen crew staying AT MY HOUSE could have been a wreck but actually worked out extremely well – we got good work done on Thursday and Friday, and had a lovely little after-revel (of the “fall about the living room and drink till our feet quit hurting” variety) on Saturday.
  • Pre-cooking/freezing EVERYTHING lunch-related. Lunch was “heat this, mix these three bags, set it out.” The only bobble was that the vent fans drew heat away from the ovens and caused their effective temperature to drop by over 50 degrees, which slowed down the rate of rotating stuff through. Once we turned off the fans, everything was fine. VERY GLAD we found that out at lunchtime and not in the leadup toward feast.
  • Hall Steward: Having someone who’s entire job is announcing dishes as they come out, rather than trying to brief servers and have them remember.
  • Pre-cooking!
  • It was awesome to have our own servingware and not have to worry about borrowing Dragonsspine’s. We need more. Working on an inventory, a “fill in the gaps wishlist”, and will be requesting funding for totes.

What didn’t work:

  • Prior to this year, we’ve always sold out and had people who still wanted feast and so were willing to serve. Since we didn’t sell out, we didn’t have that ready pool of serving volunteers. Next time: smaller reservation limit, to be raised closer to the event if we want to or kept sold out. Also, more advertising of need for servers in advance.
  • Also, because I cooked for 96 and we didn’t serve 96, lots of leftovers. I save a lot of money by shopping sales far in advance, but I could have saved MORE money by buying 2/3 to 3/4 of the food in advance and making a late decision about whether or not to buy the rest at full price just in advance. (For example, buying only 8 turkeys at .89/lb in November and making a late decision about whether I really needed the other 4 at $1.49/lb. I actually needed one or two, MAYBE.)
  • Cleanup crew: We were lucky on volunteers, especially after Garick started organizing people, but that was luck, not planning. Madhavi made an interesting suggestion of something they do in Trimaris: Hire a group (household, guild, or shire) to come in and JUST do cleanup. I will definitely be pitching this in the future.
  • I was pretty comfortable delegating longer cooking and prep tasks to kitchen crew (both pre-arranged and on-the-spot volunteers), but closer to the end, I ended up at the stove, doing the things that needed done quickly, instead of supervising the whole operation. Recruit a saucier – someone who comes in half an hour before feast is served and just runs the stove during service.
  • Could have done even more pre-cooking! I ran out of room in my own freezer (and fridge, and coolers…) but could certainly have been more organized about transferring finished pre-cooking to other people’sfreezers. And there were certain dishes that I wanted to cook fresh but would have been fine frozen in advance. FOUR DOZEN CREPES.

It’s strange to realize – after three consecutive years of “leveling up” in the complexity and scale of feasts, the next couple of cooking gigs I have lined up are far less ambitious – things I feel very confident about pulling off almost effortlessly. Maybe that’s a better approach – alternating challenging projects with ones that give me a little room to get comfortable in my own skillset and focus on details and precision rather than careening along the edge of the possible.

Some great pictures that my Laurel took and gave me permission to share:

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Battlemoor II & Outlands 25th Year: and time shifts

Where do you start?

There’s an old Leslie Fish song called “Valhalla.” It’s perhaps over-sentimental and melodramatic, but it captures the deep subjective experience of the SCA – of Living the Dream. It talks about how a weekend camping event can put you thisclose to a transformative headspace, but a longer, larger war can really take you there.

I went back to work on Tuesday morning, to a job where my co-workers and patrons know what I do on weekends and how much I’ve been looking forward to this particular event, and, meaning well, they all ask how it was, and I don’t even have the words.

I’m still re-learning how to camp, and learning for the first time really how to field cook. I had a very ambitious menu planned, and for the most part, I pulled it off – a little re-shuffling at times, a little streamlining at times, and a little creative disbursement of leftovers, but by far and large, the menu came off as advertised. I learned a great deal and have pages of notes of what to do better next time, but I’m not sure when “next time” will be; I’m buying into the meal plan at both Fall Crown (the last camping event of the year) and Known World Cooks and Bards (the first camping event of next year).

I sat and watched an entire tournament from start to finish, and stood on the edges of a woods battle, watching the fighters move in and out of the trees in clusters and then boil out all at once to fight furiously for the flag.

I spent a lot of time just talking to friends, an endless succession of small conversations, catching a breath in the shade or sharing a drink or a meal or walking.

I learned to work gate.

My cell phone’s battery died before noon on Friday and I spent the rest of the event on pre-clockwork time, waking with the sun and resting in the heat of the day. At night, I partied until I could barely stand and danced for hours and then slept under the stars.

I stood in a circle with some of my dearest friends and some of my newest friends and swore my oath of honor to my Laurel, ending one long and winding journey and beginning another.

It was one of those nearly perfect events. Even the heat and dust and fatigue just melted into the background, becoming part of the embodied experience of doing a different thing, of departing the clean conveniences of modern life altogether, heightening the pure emotional flavor of the thing. It was just what I needed; it was everything I needed.

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Outlands Kingdom A&S 2011: Full Circle

After an incredibly hectic month and more, I’m finally getting caught up on some overdue posting. I’m only just now writing about Kingdom A&S in the Barony of Fontaine dans Sable on April 9th.

It’s hard to articulate just how significant this event was to me. I never competed in A&S in Meridies; I was the perpetual newbie, never feeling that my work was up to competetive standards, not sure how to go about getting from here to there, too shy to ask for help, ever more wound up over it and just unable to jump over my own shadow. I’ve joked that it became a 40-Year-Old Virgin kind of thing. So when I started thinking about coming back, I promised myself an unencumbered new beginning in this. Among other things.

And so I came back. And my first event back, my first event in this kingdom, was Kingdom A&S 2010 in Caer Galen. It was an incredible event – a high-intensity madhouse in too small a venue, incredible entries, glorious clothes, intense conversation, everbody constantly elbow-to-elbow. I was dazzled and astonished and inspired, and for the first time in my SCA life, I thought, I can do this. I’m in the same league with this.

The year flew by; I attended Battlemoor I and helped a bunch of newbies find their way; I went back to Trimaris to assist at Fall Coronation/25th Year; I helped found a shire, and that took almost all of my time and energy for several months; and during all of that, I was starting from scratch myself, building up garb and gear for myself and my family from nothing. I came up for air in mid-January and realized that Kingdom A&S was 11 weeks away, and I dove headfirst into my project, a handwoven, natural-dyed, tablet-woven belt. (I always seem to be careening from one thing to another, just-in-time style…) I secured a sponsor, got my research written up, worked through the project, and made several friends along the way, and, finally, I met with one slight aquaintance and five total strangers to roadtrip to a barony on the other end of the kingdom. Because this is the SCA, several of these people had become dear friends by the time we made it back to Walsenburg, a few hours short of two days later..

This event was slower, sprawlier, more comfortable than last year in Boulder. I got on site quite early (because I stayed with the trollcrat) and set up my display and settled in and started getting visitors immediately. I got a LOT of visitors. I talked about my research and my persona and my vision of Baltic studies and my passion for underrepresented cultures in the SCA endlessly, it seemed; it all blurred together. I broke away now and then, to do the circuit of other entries, to work the competition/donation luncheon (reprising the Feast of Fools cumin broth and earning a respectable chunk of money for the kingdom travel fund) and a couple of times just to clear my head. Finally the call to break down went out and I changed out of my old, now-ragged, first-attempt belt and into the lovely new competition belt I’d just pulled off of my table.

I was wearing it for court, when they announced I’d taken the Costume Accessories category and placed second in the Textile Arts division, and a little while later, when I was called up to receive my Award of Arms.

There are some truly awful pictures on Facebook. My hair (which had just been cut in layers; it’s cute as hell in a professional style, but fell out of braids terribly) is in disarray, I’m crying and my face is red and splotchy, and the pattern of the cloak I’m playing is terrifically busy. I treasure those pictures. I never did get any pictures of my own; I did not know that my camera charger had shorted out, so I pulled a battery off the charger and loaded it back into the camera still depleted, and didn’t know it until I got to the event.

I have to make this clear: I loved Meridies. I still do. I was very happy there; and those things about it that were dissatisfying, I entirely brought upon myself with my timidness and my anxiousness – and, to be fair, life circumstances that extremely limited my ability to be involved. There’s absolutely no one in Glaedenfeld or Meridies in general who ever gave me anything but the warmest welcome, and I have many dear friends there still, and will always think of it as my first home.

But I played there for years, and never left the fringes, and sometimes I felt like I never would. The long, unwanted break from the SCA gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted, and the fresh start in a new kingdom gave me the chance to go after it. The Outlands, this year here, has been a revelation and a transformation. I feel that I have finally, truly, begun.

(View online version of paper here.)

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