Wednesday Noms: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I’m shifting things around again because my garden is getting vibrant and productive. With the onset of late summer/early fall comes the first picking, and so Wednesdays are dedicated to experiments with food.

Last night I heavily adapted my secret recipe banana bread to make a chocolate zucchini cake with cream cheese “drizzle.” I use the term loosely because it was more like a frosting than a glaze. I also apologize for the quality of the picture–my cell phone was the only thing handy:

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Hopefully that’s appropriately appetizing. Now, on to the directions! These are high altitude, just keep that in mind:

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a large bundt pan by greasing it lightly (I used avocado oil, you can use coconut or vegetable oil) and sprinkling unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s here) instead of flour.

For the cake, combine in a bowl:
2 1/4 cu unbleached white flour
1/2 cu wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cu plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used the lightly sweetened ghirardelli)

Whisk together in a bowl (my cheating way of “sifting” and set aside.

Soften 3/4 cu (1 1/2 sticks) butter in the microwave for around 15-20 seconds, or until soft but not melted. Combine butter with 1 packed cup brown sugar, 4 heaping tbsp local honey and 1 tbsp vanilla (I prefer madagascar vanilla). Beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add 3 large eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.

Add 1/3 of the dry mixture and beat until smooth, then add 1/2 cu milk (I use whole milk, but 2% would work too). Add 1/3 of the dry mixture, another 1/2 cu of milk, beat again. Finally add the last 1/3 of the dry mixture and 2 cups of finely grated fresh zucchini and beat until well mixed.

Pour into the prepared bundt pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before turning out onto a plate or rack. If you get impatient (as I did) the hot cake will probably split.

Allow to cool completely, then ice with this creem cheese frosting:

Combine 4oz softened cream cheese with 1 tbsp vanilla, 1 tbsp milk and 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar. Whisk until the desired frosting consistency is achieved.
If you prefer a lighter glaze, add extra milk in small amounts (IE a tsp at a time) until a drizzle consistency is reached. Drizzle accordingly.

Like banana bread, this will freeze well if you freeze it before adding the glaze. It will keep in an airtight container for around a week in moderate weather, but the taste will degrade over time. Moral of the story, eat this deliciousness immediately! Next time I’ll add chocolate chips too.

It might not be pretty but it sure is delicious…

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Relationships: Lovers and Pets. Especially Cats.

This post was meant to be the first in a series of fashion commentary on the benefits of wearing clothing tailored for men. Instead it will be a discourse on cats, and next week we will begin discussing clothes.

The change happens because–like many authors of the world–I have cats, have grown up with cats and have always loved their bitter stares and flagrant disapproval of rules. Despite their string eating, ankle-biting, allergy-incurring habits, I still love having their fluffy little feet pitter-patter-crashing through my house at all hours of the night. The only reason they aren’t allowed to sleep in my room is because they have this annoying way of sleeping between my head and Jamie’s, thus eliminating many late-night cuddles. This, of course, is unacceptable.

I pity the couple who is so mismatched in their affection for animals that they cannot compromise on pets. Allergies are tough, but someone who refuses to enjoy pets misses out on all the good chemicals that sooth the brain after a good cuddle from a willing participant of the furry variety. The Egyptions worshipped cats–especially black ones, if the heiroglyphs are to be believed. Further proof they should be loved and rescued.

The true measure of my affection for the wisened devils is evidenced by a story from six years ago, ish. Back in early August of 20007, Jamie and I had been together for a couple of years and she was already tugging on my sleeve and asking me to find a way to acquisition us a child. Aside from knocking over a stork, I was having a hard time figuring out a way to pay for a baby on the black market on the meager salary of a field engineer on a retail pay scale. I made $17/hr at the time, and it seemed like a lot until you figured the cost of a newborn child into the mix.

So I did what any sane furparent would… I found a kitten to distract Jamie for a while. It was like the Universe had it in for me, because I was visiting a frequent client to fix her AOL email (again) when she revealed to me that her neighbor’s cat had died, leaving behind 3 homeless kittens who were barely old enough to be force-weaned. I went in to meet them, ever a sucker for cats, and delightedly chose the one that attacked my shoelaces. Little did I know that would be the defining moment of my relationship with that little black cat.

I brought her home as a surprise for Jamie, who instantly fell in love. Our little ball of evil terror developed into an only slightly bigger ball of evil terror named Sheydan–it means Love, apparently. Luna was too geeky. She was shorthaired, brown with yellow eyes, and in her early years she took great joy out of leaping onto my bare leg with her claws out. I may or may not have screamed and launched her across the room. And Jamie may or may not have found me with blood pouring down my thigh, and asked me why I went straight from the shower to the computer chair…

Ahem. Anyway. The battle of wills between the two of us persisted until one day, three years later, when we adopted her little big sister, Bailey. We also went and got them fixed at the same time, which may have had a little bit to do with Sheydan’s mellowing out. Or maybe she was jealous because Bailey would cuddle for hours. Regardless, a family was knit. When Aubri came along a year later, the evil ball of fur softened into a puddle of overprotective mommy kitty. If the baby so much as cried the cat would be there checking on her. When Aubri was big enough to attack cats in her toddler way, Sheydan just took it like a tolerant parent. Aubri learned how to be gentle and how to be a kitty because our cranky “old” 5-year-old miniature black hair let Aubri cuddle, tug, kiss, squash, and generally adore her.

Until one day she didn’t. And that one cat scratch should have been our warning, but it wasn’t. It took bad breath to tip us off, and by then the tummy tumor growing inside her has reached a capacity too large for her stomach to handle. Our poor sweet black familiar is starving. So tomorrow my longsuffering (and very puffy-eyed, at this point) must take our first shared child to enter the long dream sleep.

But we have lots of adorable pictures of her. Her antics in shoes and hats and attacking my pant leg. Pictures of her checking on Aubri. Her fiery little spirit has inspired us, and while it will be a little while before we open our hearts to another tiny black cat… we will remember her with all the joy that laughter prompted by demon kitty claws can provide.

And so I offer to you our dedication to Sheydan. Thanks to Marc Gunn – Black is the Color (of My Cat’s Fur).

The following is NOT OUR CAT, but I wanted you to be able to hear the song:

Relationships: Body and Self Image for Men and Women Part Two

This topic to be expanded upon by popular request…and because one post is just not enough.

In addition, this is partly a rebuttal to this post that my friend DP linked on his Facebook. He did not write this article, simply was interested in our responses to it. I suspect this post will get both long-winded and tangential. Brace yourselves.

If you haven’t yet read the article (which is very thoughtful and completely worth reading), I’ll summarize my takeaway. This is not the same as his intended message, necessarily. From my perspective, the author holds that men–I would argue, “adults”–feel as though it is impossible for anyone to want them, and so they have an inherent need to be needed in all of their relationships, because that’s all society has left for them. They must be the heroes, the ones opening the jars and fixing the broken light bulbs and bringing home the best bacon, because otherwise why would a woman even think about being with them?

Now, I think it’s important to note that in our culture, self worth is very much based on what adults do with themselves. There’s this blindingly infuriating observation that women can’t both work and have families, or they are doing both a disservice. And then this guy complains that women need to need men or the men don’t know what to do with themselves. While his tone isn’t remotely aggressive, all I can hear is “So if you women don’t need us, we justify brutalizing feminist theory, blaming you for the bad economy, and generally teaching you that without us you couldn’t survive.” All I can think is that if women had forced young men in the past few centuries under 20 to marry them in order to be provided for, we’d struggle to find those 20ish year olds loving us too.

And I hear people complaining that no one needs them while I’m at work at my high-paying systems engineering job for that company everyone wants to work for. My observations after years of career employment tell me that the best way to progress, to have job satisfaction, to accomplish things of significance, is to be socially conscious. To be capable of learning new skills and to be willing to each others new skills. Forbes has something to say on the topic. However, I find a pervasive mentality–often generational, but not always–that hoarding knowledge and being the “only one” capable of doing a particular task or handling a project will provide job security for the individual involved. This is typically not a drive for excellence, but for others to rely on them. In other words, they feel that being constantly needed will provide security–this is where relationships reflect into the workplace, and both are an extension of self image. This is not strictly limited to men, though I work with more men and thus have more experience with that attitude in men.

This was my initial response to this article, for DP’s benefit (and to catch you all up):

 Since I am a lesbian and the breadwinner, I kinda feel both sides of the bite here. I feel that this “needed not wanted” concept also ties into the fact that our culture celebrates and popularizes the extroverted person, whether male or female. Quieter, gentler people are not appreciated (regardless of gender, except in 50s media: Source http://www.susanbiali.com/your-best-you/why-it-s-hard-to-be-a-highly-sensitive-hsp-introvert.html I have better somewhere…). It’s the same irony that makes men afraid of non-macho sports or exercise (like yoga, for example).

Men span the spectrum of introvert to extrovert just as widely as women do, but because many “dream jobs” (such as major league sports, for example) require a certain level of aggressive behavior, the introversion/introspection is not-so-casually beat out of many younger boys. Case in point, men in even minor league sports make WAY more than women in sports, and so except for olympic and scholarship purposes, sports just aren’t as much of a focus in girls’ rearing (source: http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/home/research/articles-and-reports/equity-issues/pay-inequity ). Boys are more likely to be encouraged to fill rolls when they grow up that will require them to be outgoing as they grow up. The result? Emotional squelching for the 3 out of 4 boys (or girls in similar situations) who naturally fall into a personally style other than Driver. Out of self defense they may seek out situations where others will appreciate this false front they’ve put on for themselves, and so continue to perpetuate the same need to be needed. It’s also a bit of a loan shark idea, because if you’re the only one who can do it, no one really sticks around after the job is done… I’m not completely sure of this, but I suspect it’s because from a teenagerish age those 3 out of 4 personality styles are all afraid that having close social ties will reveal that they “aren’t really” The Hulk with Bruce Banner’s intelligence and Tony Stark’s money…

I see this more in the older generations of guys (35+) as well as certain butchy dykes, and it interestingly coincides with an obsession with the idea that if you are the only one who can do the job, you have job security. But job and company environments are becoming much more social, and becoming more about whether you can share the knowledge and teach other people what you know, rather than being the only one who can do what you do. Relationships are also evolving into this concept-responsibility-life-sharing that isn’t clearcut and role defined. That means that the caveman needs to evolve. Younger generations are starting to “get” this as more kids are being raised by single moms, or two moms, or dad instead of mom so that gender roles are blurred for them. But men still can’t cross-dress or vacuum or let their wives do the books because it reveals a weakness in their facade. Women, on the other hand, have this wonderfully horrible line where we can cross-dress and work “men’s jobs” (for less pay*) and be with women because we’re trying to move up to that higher standard of extrovert. As long as we don’t raise our voices.**

And don’t get me started about emotions in the workplace.

* I have made more than most of my male coworkers for the last 8 years.
** It’s usually women who tell me to keep my voice down. Grrrrrrr.

Moving on to the rest of my commentary here in this post:

Now fast forward to the part of his article where he says that beautiful women hear it all the time, but beautiful men may never know they are beautiful. This somewhat hilarious conversation between various regular people about “why not” is a good example of preconceived notions. One woman notes that she is afraid the man will take it as an invitation to have sex. I laugh so I won’t cry. But since women are being told they are beautiful all the time, why does this pretentious jerk think telling women they are beautiful is enough to earn him the right to kiss them? And why does society think rape victims are to blame if they are pretty?

So now we get down to the real meat of the problem on both sides of this argument. People–especially adults–define themselves, by and large, by stereotypes set for themselves by their society. In the case of Western culture, it’s primarily by their career–or lack thereof. When you meet a random stranger in the store or the park, they are most likely to ask “What do you do?” because it’s a safe question. No one can really feel like a question about career is too personal. And yet, it defines much of what we feel about ourselves.
And why is that? Is it because our body image and self esteem have already been thoroughly trashed by media and other social influences before we ever reach the adulthood that would define our career? Is it because we observe on some level that physical beauty is not an absolute requirement for success?
I mean, look at this guy:
Trump

If he can be ragingly wealthy and successful by dressing well even though he’s ugly, so can the average computer nerd with more achne than panache.

Now, some of this problem comes from pre-conceived notions of attractiveness and the masculine/feminine. So here’s a little exercise. Look at this image below:

Faces1

Now look at this one:

Faces2

Can you tell me which faces of the six in the first image and 5 in the second are female? Which faces are male? Leave a comment with your guess. It’s more ambiguous than you think.

So if facial features are not masculine or feminine by nature (especially in children), what makes us define ourselves that way? Simply put, we are identified by others based on what we wear and how we cut our hair. That is why parents obsess with dressing their boys in blue and their girls in pink–a stereotype that is ironically only a somewhat modern occurrence.  The well-meaning parent wants to make sure their child is not confused for someone of the opposite gender. In doing so, they cement in the foundation for body image woes.

In the adult, part of our problem with self image could well stem from some silly but simple issues of angle. For example, I’m short waisted. That means that my torso is short in proportion to my long legs. If I look down at how I am dressed–rather than looking at a properly angled upright mirror–I will feel extra short and can see more of my hips than anything else. I am by no means overweight, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling like my hips and feet are all anyone can see of me. By contrast, if I look in a correctly positioned mirror and I’m not wearing baggy clothes, I can see that my long legs belie my short height (I am 5’4″). In addition, a mirror that is tilted slightly upward will make individuals seem taller, particularly in the torso, when they admire themselves in it. One tilted slightly downward will make the individual seem shorter. If the mirror is above their natural line of sight they may feel wider when they see their reflection. Wide mirrors versus narrow ones can also be a problem.

Another issue I observe is the thought that people notice blemishes. Aside from the fact that most people are too busy worrying about themselves to notice you, the average person doesn’t have sensitive enough sight to notice blackheads across your nose–unless they are up close and personal. What you can see three inches from a mirror is much different than what an observant passerby can see from several feet away. Be kind to your skin. I recently met a woman in a grocery store, and she suggested that the “Black Beauty” scar I have on my forehead (the remainder of chicken pox when I was 7) should be covered up by makeup. I just laughed it off and didn’t bother to tell her that I don’t wear makeup. In the last 20 years less than ten people have noticed or remarked on my scar.

I am going to confront some conversations about clothing and dress (especially for the masculine) in a series on dressing and accessorizing in more “masculine” style for various body types. That will likely be a 4-part series and will start next Monday, so stay tuned.

I warned you all that this would be tangential, and it certainly is. I am not saying that “everyone is beautiful in their own way, so we should not celebrate beauty.” Certainly not. What I am saying is that people need to learn to define their attractiveness outside of their job or the impossible standards imposed upon them by a society who does not need to acknowledge any one person as an individual. What that means for adults struggling to be needed is a new hobby. If your friends and your loved ones don’t want you, re-examine whether you are someone who should be wanted. If you don’t find desirable qualities within yourself, it’s time to pick up Darren Hardy’s “The Compound Effect” and get to work on yourself. In the book he talks about keeping a journal of who he wants to be. Get to work. Get a lined notebook and start writing. What kind of friends do you want to have? What kind of job do you want to enjoy? Where do you want to live? What do you want to do for fun? You should have pages of material, and you should write it in present tense as a story you are telling about your dream life–as though you already have those things.
Now start writing about the kind of person you would need to be in order to have those things. Would you be talkative? Beautiful? Talented? Would you work every day for twelve hours or would you just get up early so you can finish early? What would be necessary to have those things?

Now get to work. Being needed requires fostering dependency in the people around you–but being wanted is your responsibility. Being desired requires you put in the effort to be desirable. You don’t get As by not enrolling in college–you don’t get good jobs by not applying for them. Go forth and be awesome!

Now, what does all of this have to do with sexuality? Well, take George R R Martin’scharacter, Daenerys. She was sold into a slave marriage for her brother’s ambition and regained her power by taking control, something she could only do when an unlikely friend informed her that embracing her own future and her sexuality was the only way to earn the respect of her now-partner, Drogo. By turning the tables on him and eliminating her need for him, she also earned his respect and love. He, like many other symbols of masculinity, was unwilling to admit his need for something gentler and less masculine than violence and conquering. I’m not condoning the sex-for-favors relationship they seem to develop, but she certainly overcame her struggling self image to become a powerful female character in every sense of the word.

 

Steampunk World: Steampunk Archetypes

It might be said that you know a genre has hit it big when it has more than one archetype. Steampunk probably has hundreds, but there are a handful of “character archetypes” that I’d like to discuss today. If you’re struggling to come up with costume or character ideas, these will hopefully help you get started. I don’t have a full complement of photos, but feel free to add your own!

Note these are not ALL the Steampunk Archetypes, just the most common ones…

First, there’s the ever-present Airship Pirate Captain. This character has the tendency to be a mixture of Mal from Firefly, Captain Jack of Pirates of the Carribbean fame, and Indiana Jones. The character will most likely wear more pirate-esque clothes, may be male or female, but likely carries more weapons than anyone else. The gadgets are not as necessary to the image as the style. Charming rogue is the name of the game.

Next, though less common, is the Airship (non-pirate) Captain, whose attire is likely more militant. Naval Captains fall under this group because there simply aren’t enough Naval Captains to get their own category. This is a more lawful good type, but they still have a roguish quality about them. They are most likely well-decorated and may fall under the category of the Modern Major General of the Pirates of Penzance.

LyttonMajorGeneral

Now we have the Pilot (Airship or biplane). Amelia Earhart falls under this category and it is more often characterized by women in the Steampunk genre. This person is a speedster, constantly dresses as though they are about to hop into a plane, always has goggles, likely has a scarf, and certainly would never be caught without boots. This character looks like Indiana Jones in aviator form, and is likely obsessed with the air. They don’t necessarily have the confidence to be a Captain–or they are a loner, or they understand that there are more captains than airships in the world. This person might also pilot a dirigible.

Earhart

Next is the explorer, who is likely to dress as an individual just coming back from Safari. They likely have something like a weather vane or goggles on their safari helmet, probably have whiskers (if male), and likely dress in khaki. They might carry compasses, spyglasses, fairy nets, scientific objects or any number of varietal “exploration” tools. This character is likely eccentric and certainly will be entertaining on a field day. He likely will have a monocle on him somewhere.

Lionel

Now–and I’ve edited this post to add this forgotten (but vital) archetype–you’ve got the Airship (or whathaveyou) Mechanic. She can be male or female and sports engine grease and a knack for making the mechanical magical. They tend to love their machines and desperately want you to respect them. Sometimes they just need a coal-smudged hug. A great example is Audrey from Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

AudreyAtlantis

Next is the Highborn Lady or Gentleman of the aristocracy, whose clothes are of unquestionable cut. These likely wear either a glorious range of colors or none at all, sticking strictly to black. Both ladies and men are likely to wear tophats, and pocket watches are an absolute must. They may or may not carry weapons, but are just as likely to have parasols, canes, monocles and fancy jewelry. They may wear tailcoats and will surely have neckware. Accessories are not as important as fine cut cloth. This is the most Victorian of the Steampunk stereotypes.

VicCou

Now we have the Gambler/seedy gentleman/lady of questionable background. These are likely to dress in a western style, often show more skin than they should, and might include such well-dressed entrepeneurs as Howard Hughes or span all the way to the devilishly handsome lady with bare ankles who runs a brothel. These often wear bowlers rather than tophats. They aren’t poor, but they are certainly industrious. Women will likely have pinstripes on them somewhere and men may wear waistcoats without ascots, sleeve garters, etc for example.

HHughesNow there is the inventor, who might also be eccentric and certainly is intent on showing off their latest gadget.  This character tends to be similar to the airship pilot or the gambler, but with more handmade objects. They might blow something up. They are fond of jetpacks/wings/other flight objects. They likely carry unusual wristwear.

Airship

Finally, we have the Mad Scientist, whose view of the world really comes down to “can I weld/redesign/rebuild/reproduce that or blow it up?” They are likely to wear lab coats (not period), leather aprons, other big coats and simple enough clothing, but literally be covered in gadgets and strange objects. They might go the route of an alchemist and carry phials and vials with toxic chemicals. They enjoy freaking out their fellow Steampunks.

Relationships: Fantasies and Dreams and a Woman’s Body

Adult topic alert! This post will, in fact, go into the realm of TMI.

First of all, let’s talk about the difference between fantasies and dreams. Dreams are goals that your subconscious sets in retaliation for the input you give it. If you have goals and want to make them a reality, you meditate on those things by feeding your brain what you want. If you do NOT have goals and do NOT make an effort to feed them, whatever negative malarkey you input as a result of peer influence, television etc will influence your dreams. Input, output. What goes in is what comes out. And try to avoid eating fast food right before bed. Ugh.

Separately, fantasies are wishes or desires that are not likely to be achieved and are possibly unobtainable, whether intentionally or because it’s just not physically possible for you. For example, I will never be Michael Jordan, for a variety of obvious and less obvious reasons. Fantasies don’t have to be sexual in nature but often are, because we all think about sex. A lot. Some of us more than others, but it’s still a basic need for survival, and we haven’t really gotten past needing that interconnection between each other.

Now, on to the relevance of this distinction and relationships.

Once upon a time, years and years ago, when Jamie and I were young and still nurturing our budding relationship (please hold the giggles), we had a serious conversation about fantasies. I told her that I wasn’t comfortable with the amount of role playing we did, because I “felt like” she didn’t want to have sex with “just me.” If I recall correctly, this was a year or so into our relationship, and before I took a class called Human Sexuality (with a textbook by the same name) as my last elective psych class before graduating. A good delve into that class material really opened my eyes to a lot of the myths that we as women (and especially as lesbians) have bought into over the years.
It also made me realize how much I hurt Jamie by dumping my body insecurities in her lap the way I did, though it took me a couple of years to work on straightening that one out.

The things that my textbook covered that I hadn’t understood previously included:

Body image. Women are taught by other women from a very young age to be ashamed of the fact that they are a woman from the waist down. First there’s fact that there are no words that are both sexy and scientifically accurate to describe a woman’s sex organs. Try saying “labia” in bed and see what happens. But don’t expect to get laid that night. Romance novels that go into great detail about the female body are usually clumsy and awkward. Nicknames for those parts given to young girls are usually designed to make them avoid touching themselves–things like “Private parts,” “girl parts,” “dirty parts,” etc. And then there are the horrible slang words like “Va-jay-jay.” Yep, that’s totally hot. Makes me really horny right now.
Obviously not.
Language is important, and going through this part of the lesson made it very important to me to not teach my daughter that anything about her body is inappropriate or “wrong” somehow. But now as a parent, I stumble on the words to teach her to call herself… She’s at the age of labels, and the scientific words are a bit tough (and awkward) for a two-year-old. And so the struggle continues…

I’m really concerned that when I google “teaching our daughters” the first eight or so hits I get involve the word “modesty.” Modesty is a code word in the modern world for suppression, although I don’t believe that girls should be allowed to run around showing whatever skin they feel like showing. But when I was growing up and being told I needed to be modest, when the boys could go shirtless, I was being told that my body was too _______ and needed to be covered up. And later I was being told that boys couldn’t be trusted to control themselves, so it was my responsibility not to be attractive.
That’s a good lesson for a young woman to learn.

Back off of this part of my rant. The next thing that my textbook taught me is that only a small percentage of women report regularly orgasming, a large percentage report “faking it” to keep their partner happy, and an even larger percentage report that they have to be very active in achieving their own orgasm–either by working themselves up first, by moving to be in the right position regardless of the action of their partner, or by fantasizing during intercourse. The latter was a very large percentage (like 64% I believe, if I am recalling the study’s numbers correctly).
We discussed this in class because it seemed very foreign to a lot of the people in class, both male and female. The argument that “fantasy is cheating” went around quite a bit.
What do you think? Is fantasy cheating?
This was a complicated topic for me, for various personal reasons. I think the conclusion I finally settled on was that fantasy about real and obtainable people (like a coworker, for example) is in fact cheating, because it’s not so alternate universe as to be impossible. Fantasy about someone unobtainable (celebrity, imaginary character, etc) is not cheating because it’s not real outside of the moment. Obviously this is a case by case sort of thing. It’s up to the individual couples, consenting adults, to decide what they deem “OK” in their own sexual relationship.

Now, this article has some thoughtful points about both sides of the story, if you are curious.

It’s interesting to note that, since books like 50 Shades of Grey have gained popularity, the modern public is more comfortable admitting to having sex and being sexual in other ways than the missionary/heterosexual standby. Being sexual is not necessarily deviant as compared to, say, 50 years ago (see Pleasantville the movie). All of the swirling mayhem about women being rejected in the gaming and media communities goes down deeper, to a thought process that women and men are completely different biologically to such a level that women are incapable of operating on the same wavelength.

Weigh in–where do you stand?

Steampunk World Wednesday: Steampunk Kids

Those readers visiting for the first time will be delighted to know that my toddler, now-two-year-old Aubri, has been wearing costumes since she was only a few weeks old. It’s about time I got around to talking about ideas for costuming your really little one, especially where Steampunk is concerned.

I’ll begin by saying it’s almost impossible to avoid having your female child mistaken for a boy when in costume, unless she’s wearing a dress. That being said, finding Victorian-style dresses for babies usually involves shopping for a summer flower girl dress, such as this one or this one. Naturally you’ll want to add accessories, like a miniature parasol, a cute little hat, or some baby-sized goggles.

Now, for baby-sized goggles, I personally raided a stuffed animal–I found a stuffed dog with motorcycle goggles and snagged those for my 7-week-old. If your kiddo is that young, those little wedding teddy bears with tuxes might sacrifice a pinstripe vest (or even spats, if you’re lucky like I was) to dress the kiddo. I also found mini pocket watches on Ebay (made in China, but super cute), such as this one. The nice thing is that they are pretty cheap, so if the kid chews on it you don’t have to worry that much.

Little hats are a lot harder, because the typical clips for mini tophats (which are full sized on some babies) are way too big for most kids’ thin hair. I settled for using “golf/newsboy” caps, because they are frequently available in adorable sizes at places like Babies-R-Us.  

Now, if you want to do accessories like pouches, backpacks, wings…just remember that THIS IS NOT STEAMPUNK. On the other hand, this DIY jetpack could be VERY Steampunk, if you work out some extra accessories. Try cutting out gears from grey or yellow foam, if you have a kid who likes eating inedibles… I’m working on one of these myself, so I’ll post results.

The nice thing about costuming with kids is that they can get away with plastic even better than a grown-up…who’s going to get upset about a three year old with a repainted squirt gun?

The most important part of Steampunk for kids is getting them involved in the creation process. And for the record, if the kid is under 5, you can in fact glue some gears on it and call it Steampunk.

For your reference, a couple of pictures of Aubri’s first costumes:
At two weeks ish:

FSP1

And then at 7 weeks:

FSP2

And finally, one of the whole family at AnomalyCon 2013:

FSP3

Relationships: The New

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend! For those serving or working in a service industry who therefore had to sacrifice their weekend so that the rest of us could enjoy blowing things up and roasting marshmallows, I thank you.

Last week my colleagues and I celebrated the union of two of our coworkers (to each other, which was great fun). As a bit of a dig our team lead asked us to go around and give the newlyweds a piece of advice from our experience in relationships, long or short. Here are some of those I can remember–I’ll weigh in on my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours.

“Listen to your wife.”
I would argue that this should be “Listen to your special someone,” and it should be noted that “listen to” is not the same as “obey.” Although my coworker probably meant it that way. Communication is 95% active listening and 5% talking, so this is really valuable advice. And if your SO is not the talkative type, it’s even more important that you listen carefully to avoid missing the important stuff. There’s a country song that says “I knew her hair, her eyes, her clothes…but I paid no attention to what mattered most.” Speaking as someone who has a propensity for steamrolling my competition, this is vital advice for me.

“Friendship before romance.”
This is partially accurate. I believe what he meant to say is that enjoying each others’ company and a good cuddle on the couch are more important than having a constant spark that means you can’t keep your hands off each other. They each have their place, and sexual excitement is vital–but can be coaxed and coached. Friendship is harder to create if it wasn’t the initial basis for a relationship. That’s why it’s important to know each other–and not have your whole relationship based off of the kids.  

“If she says she doesn’t want anything for a special event, she’s lying.”
Ugh, this is probably true, but came from a really cynical point of view that goes back to communication. Only a select kind of communication style will even say “I don’t want anything” and not mean it, so this is a situational piece of advice.

“Always celebrate your anniversary.”
True true true–and do something special for it, not just dinner. Jamie and I began a tradition of celebrating our “half” anniversary our first year together, and we still do it now. We have a wonderful time in mid-December before the true insanity of the holidays settles in–and it has paid 0ff time and again. Time away from the rest of the world refreshes our spirits. Don’t just celebrate, get away–even if it’s just a hotel in town.

“Be patient.”
Only a jerk would disagree with this one, though patience is not the same thing as tolerating abuse. Remember that you are both in it for the long haul. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and think of the positive things that they have done lately. Don’t focus on this thing you wanted from them now that didn’t happen. People are not computers.

“Remember that just because you walk away doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it later.”
If you’re hot under the collar and they’re hot under the collar, you’re both right and both wrong. Walk away from the conversation. Come back later when you’ve both had time to think–not just about the argument, but about how the relationship is more important than the argument. No matter what the topic.“Make sure your core interests are the same.”
This is a tough one if you’re already married/committed, but I feel like it’s an evolving process. Jamie and I only had barely passing interests in common when we met, but through years together we’ve developed a liking for many of the same things–foods, teas, sci fi, etc. There are still many things that don’t overlap, but I think that the vital other importance is that both members of the relationship get some self time too–hanging out with people who aren’t each other. Provided those people are supportive of them as individuals and as a couple. Unsupportive friends are bad news for a relationship.

 
“No matter how hectic things get, always have a date night.”
This one was mine, and it was a piece of advice I got from a very wealthy and wise individual who has had a great marriage despite lots of crazy occurrences. Date night without the kids is vital. And don’t always double date. Get away from the responsibilities of anyone except each other, and agree not to talk about the kids/bills/anything negative. Just enjoy each other. If kids are making the romance difficult, let them stay the night somewhere and plan to have sex. It might take a couple of weeks (or months) for “planned” sex to seem exciting, but you will find that it brings back that anticipatory spark, no matter what combination of genders are involved in your relationship. I recommend using something like Groupon and finding interesting new restaurants and activities that you have never done before–like Wine and Art, Mini Golf, Murder Mysteries, Horseback Riding, etc. The possibilities are endless.
 
Some other pieces of advice were bandied about, but I found most of them unhelpful.
 
If you’re single or have been together with someone a day or a decade, what has been successful for you? If “nothing” is the answer, then what are you doing wrong? No “I’m just a nice guy/gal” comments here, please–constructive conversation is the key to personal enlightenment through the company of others.