Star Spelunking! And Miso Soup!

So I promised the miso soup recipe last week, but I got distracted by a ton of baking… peach cobbler, strawberry rhubarb streusel, etc. Also, astronomy.

Monday night (August 26th), Neptune was in opposition (which means it was directly opposite the sun and as close to Earth as it’s ever getting). So I packed the family into the car and invaded a friend and colleague’s home to strap my camera to his 8″ Meade telescope. It was pretty cloudy until about 11pm or so, but we got amazing photos of the moon (to follow). I also snapped a few of Saturn, but since he was racing out of my view as fast as he could set in the west, none of them were really post worthy.

Neptune, Uranus and Pluto were all wee dots on the 8″ scope, so I didn’t even try for photos. It was cool seeing a few nebulae though.

Now for the moon photos:
(Taken with 100 iso at 1/30 with the camera strapped directly to the telescope, which has a set f stop of f10)


And this one, with the clouds scattering across her face (200 iso and 1/30):


Finally, we zoomed way into the craters, but this was the largest image I could get without causing camera shake by knocking into the viewfinder. Taken at 400 iso and 1/25:

We also saw a few lingering Perseid meteors and a really cool pulsar star big enough for Jamie to see well through the viewfinder. Too bad Aubri was up until after midnight with all the excitement… We were hoping to see the nova near Delphinus but I think it’s faded too much now, we couldn’t find it at all.

Now, on to the miso recipe:

Kronda’s Special Recipe Cure-What-Ails-You Miso Soup:

This version makes about 12 servings, unless you’re really hungry.

Dashi powder (Japanese style beef soup stock powder)
1 pkg extra firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced into straws
1/4 cu (or more) chopped green onions
1/2 cu shredded carrot (pre-shredded is fine, or grate the carrot)
1/4 lb (1/2 8 oz container) crimini mushrooms (AKA baby portabellas), washed and thinly sliced
1/4 cu wakame (dried seaweed) in small piece form (usually comes in a baggy)
Miso paste, preferably the kind that comes in a tub (I use the brown tub, not the spicy red tub)

Start by boiling 8 cups water. Add 1 tbsp dashi powder per cup of water, so about 1/2 cup dashi powder. You can also use beef or chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want it to be vegetarian), but dashi stock will give it the most authentic flavor. When the stock reaches a rolling boil add onions, mushrooms and carrots. Allow to boil for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors incorporate.
Ladle out about 1/2 cup of the broth into a separate cup or bowl and allow it to cool slightly so that it is no longer boiling. Use that broth to dissolve two heaping tablespoons of the miso paste. DO NOT combine the miso into the boiling water, as boiling temperatures kill the miso and ruin the beneficial health properties of the paste. Set aside.
Add the wakame and the tofu to the soup and turn the heat down so that the soup just simmers and doesn’t break apart the tofu. Simmer until the seaweed is pliable but not gummy, about 5 minutes.
Take the soup off of the heat and allow to cool slightly until no longer bubbling. Reincorporate the reserved stock with miso and stir well to combine. Serve soup over prepared rice and top generously with green onions. (Cilantro is also a delicious alternative topping).
Will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge but naturally the soup is better fresh. The tofu gets weirdly squishy after a few days.

For the locals, all of these ingredients are easily acquired at Hmart!

A Woman in Man’s Clothing: Part 2

The long awaited second part of the series. If you recall, I discussed the basic fundamentals of taking measurements, accessories, etc in this post. Now we’ll continue on to discuss some actual fashion Dos and Don’ts, including the difference if you want to pass as male or not. Also, tons of thanks to Penny for being one of my models–her build is similar to mine.

You might recall that I mentioned that I’ve got a trim waist, small upper body and respectable hips. The space in the trunk, so to speak, makes getting men’s pants a little bit complicated. Generally if you’re shaped like a man with little to no hip, you would purchase pants with your exact waist and inseam measurements (IE 29/30, in my case). Aside from it being extremely difficult to find waist sizes smaller than 28″ in men’s clothes (look in the boys’ section), you are also facing some complications in fit type. However, my solution to having a much larger hip size is to rachet up one inch each direction–in other words, I buy 30/31 or 30/32 (waist followed by leg length). This usually results in the manufacturer of the pants having allowed more crotch spice, which translates to space in the back for me.

First thing’s first: No pleats. Do not wear pleated pants unless you have absolutely no hip–the hip shape will unfold the pleats and make them look odd across your front. The same is true for an overweight male, it’s generally just a good idea to avoid pleats. Also avoid wearing traditional “girl cut” underwear, specifically thongs and bikini cuts. They will be horribly uncomfortable with the usual seam placement in men’s pants.

Now, if you just want to be comfortable and look good, you are looking for (in dress pants) slim fit, or “modern fit” depending on the brand. These will be more hip-hugging, are more likely to be made of a slightly stretchy material and usually have pockets designed to be slim. Avoid putting anything bulky in your pockets, and make sure they fit comfortably but not too loosely–a loose fit in “slim fit” pants will sag in weird ways. As you can see here, I’ve done a 28″ waist and 32″ inseam to allow for the shape of my hips.

If you are more inclined to want to pass as male, you will want to get a looser fit to avoid emphasizing hip shape. For this you want “traditional fit” pants, and should look for wool pants because they retain the shape of the pant better than polyester blends. If you have much hip, like I do, make sure you get the pants just slightly too big (IE my 30/32 trick) and let them hang on your hip rather than your natural waist. This also gives you room for underthings, including packing if you want to pass fully:20130727_115059
It’s very important if you are wearing nice pants to wear shirts that fit the same group. Tucking shirts in is better, and men’s shirts are usually designed to be long enough to tuck deep into the pant. Look for shirts without breast pockets, as these will just emphasize your upper shape. If you want to pass you will want a shirt that is not too big at all, because oversized shirts make it clear that you are wearing clothes not designed for you. A lot of guys have this problem too–they just buy whatever is close without picking the best fitting. If you’re small like me, neck and chesk size are going to be the most difficult here. I find it easier to look in the boy’s section for dress shirts. However, a “modern/slim fit” 32/33 14 1/2 shirt (which translates to a 32-33″ chest and 14 1/2″ collar) will fit me fairly well depending on the cut. You have to try these on–the manufacturer sometimes makes the arm holes weirdly shaped so that the shirt won’t be comfortable even if the measurements are right:


This shirt was an atrocious color but “fit” correctly. Except when I lifted my arms. Then it got tight and uncomfortable across the shoulders. By contrast, here’s a size 12 boy’s shirt:


“But it’s summer time, I don’t want to wear long sleeves,” you say. In which case, you have three choices. Polos, tshirts, or rolling your sleeves. Don’t do short sleeved dress shirts. Just don’t. The style is very “worker class,” and it’s even harder to find sleeves that will not make the average arm look tiny by comparison. There are lots of great tutorials on how to properly roll your sleeves, like this one:


Polos are great, but avoid big logos or images. Screen printed tshirts are accessible everywhere–but make sure that it fits closely without billowing. You can leave some polos untucked, but generally I would recommend tucking your shirt in and wearing a belt unless it’s a tshirt–and even then, consider wearing a belt. This will help keep the waist of your pants in place, so it doesn’t shift around with your hips–a vital step both to comfort and passing. Also avoid vnecks if you have any chest shape and plan to pass, because they will lend to the feminine air. If you’re just dressing for comfort, though, vnecks are totally ok.

Now for jeans… again, if you want to pass and have hips, it’s probably a good idea to get a looser fit of pant and let them hang on your hips. The same rules as dress pants apply, but for modern fit you will definitely want to avoid putting things in your pockets if you want to pass. Darker colors are easier to pass in, for some reason–likely because most womens’ jeans seem to be the lighter colors. Remember that mens’ pants can also have indigo dyes, so be careful where you lean. Try to avoid tons of holes, though a few dings are OK.
Personally, I like to do jeans with button-ups for a classy semi-casual look:


A few vital tips:
1. Never let your ankles show. Wear long black socks with black or brown men’s style shoes (dress or dress casual), or wear a pant leg long enough to cover your ankle and the top of your shoe even if you are sitting down.

2. Test drive the pants you try on by crouching. If the crotch of the pants bulges weirdly, the fit isn’t right. You’ll look oddly proportioned while sitting down if this happens.

3. Vertical stripes, never horizontal. They both slim you down and make you look taller, thus adding to the illusion.

4. Dark colors are great but bold solid colored shirts (or earth tone shirts with bright ties) will both grab attention, make you look professional in a cutting-edge sort of way, and draw attention away from other features.

5. A big wide-faced watch is a good accessory if you are likely to wear cuffed or short sleeves. Avoid thin-faced watches, as they go better with women’s clothing.

6. Wearing a ribbed tank or a v-neck undershirt can help hide bra lines and make shirts that are often semi-transparent (IE almost every men’s dress shirt ever) less awkward. If only guys would learn to do this.

7.  Iron your pants. Really.

8. Places like Target, Aeropostle, and H&M that cater to a “metrosexual” look are more likely to have smaller guy sizes and clothes that really lend to passing. Avoid really heterosexual stores.

9. Experiment! At least in the dressing room…

A Woman in Men’s Clothing: Part 1

This is going to be a multi-part article because it just needs to be… You could also consider this a guide for men of various sizes.

First, why wear men’s clothes? Or, more accurately, clothing assumed to be cut/made for men. Let’s start with the simple reasons. Availability of pockets. Sizing that makes sense and is based on physical dimensions rather than some arbitrary weight concept invented by whatever white middle aged man owns XYZ company. Necklines that actually have buttons all the way up and can accommodate a tie. Buttons that button in the right direction. History lesson, the reason we still have men’s and women’s shirts button differently is because women were expected to let their servants button them up. Because apparently buttoning our own shirts was too tiring…
And don’t get me started on shoes.

Generally speaking, many clothing manufacturers still assume that men want comfort and women want style. So even the most stylish mens’ clothes are designed to last longer and fit more comfortably, with less chafing, sweating, and general ick.

So, to begin with, our first lesson is going to involve the actual fitting of clothes. Now, I am somewhat short waisted and long in the leg for my height. I also have some hip to me, but almost no cup size to speak of.  Keeping my dimensions in mind, I also have involved several other willing models so that we can cover different body types. This is NOT a series of articles on how to pass as male–although I will throw in a few tips here and there to help with that. Instead, this is a series on how to shop on the other side of the store, for comfort, functionality and style. Also, as my wife likes to remind me, androgyny can be sexy.

Start by getting your physical measurements. You will need the following measurements for typical or partially custom-fit clothing:

Neck – Hold the measuring tape around the thickest part of your neck, typically where an adam’s apple would be if you had one. Add two fingers between your neck and the tape to make sure a tie wouldn’t choke you to death.

Arm length – The measuring tape should start right at your shoulder joint and end at about the crease between your thumb and forefinger.

Wrist – Measure the diameter of your wrist.

Head – Measure your head diameter at about 1/4″ above your eyebrows and roughly 1/2″ above your ears. That should be about the thickest part of your head, and where most hats sit. Even 1/4″ of diameter is important here, as hats can slip and slide with even a little give.

Chest – Hold the measuring tape tight around the thickest part of your chest (yes, including your breasts if you have them). Wear whatever kind of bra you usually wear to make this measurement, since the shirt will go outside of that. I prefer sports bras, personally, but that’s because I don’t have to worry about holding anything up. If you want to pass and have to bind or otherwise flatten breasts to do so, make sure you are taking this measurement with binding in place.

Waist – This should be your natural waist, so that means measure this right at where your belly button is.

Hips – This may be right across your butt or may not, but should be wherever the widest portion of your hips are.

Inseam – This is the hardest one to get yourself. You need to measure the inside of your leg from the side of your crotch (all the way up in the joint there between inner thigh and exceeding PG-13 rating) to the floor. Do not wear shoes to take this measurement. Mine is exactly 30″, for the record.


Now that you’ve got all of your measurements down, you’re ready to get started. In the next article I’m going to talk about actual clothing selection and choosing the right styles of cuts to fit you, both in dress clothes and in more casual attire. To wrap up today, however, we’ll talk some about accessories of the necessary variety.

First of all, let’s start with belts. Belts are a necessary evil that can make any outfit –casual, semi or formal) look nicer or just ruin it. It’s a fact that usually the smaller you are, the wider a belt you can wear. Generally I would say that if your waist is the widest part of your body, you want to keep your belt width below 1.5″ but above 3/4″. If your hips are wider than your waist you can do a wider belt, but anything wider than 2″ will have a hard time fitting belt loops and generally look more feminine anyway.

Consider suspenders if you have difficulty keeping pants sitting at your natural waist because of waist size. They will hold your pants up and, if you wear them over your shirt, can be considered a fashion statement. Suspenders are coming back when done right. There are also men’s shirt garters (like these from Men’s Wearhouse) that will keep your socks up and your shirts down, but under your clothes. Good for men and women of any size.

Next, and of a bit of interest, is the underwear. Men’s clothes rarely have a waist that makes sense with the thong or bikini cuts popular right now. Personally I recommend boxers for comfort, but there are also “boy cut” women’s briefs that don’t ride up too much. If you are planning on passing, consider boxer briefs. They have a shape that expects a package, and so are really weird on a girl with hips unless you have something to add to the front of them. However, a well placed deception looks best in close fitting boxer briefs.
Avoid the kinds of knits that will be uncomfortable on your skin. Woven soft cotton is wonderful. Satin feels good but will raise the temperature (not in a good way) on a hot summer day.

Moving onward, ties… Now, ties can be just downright fun, but I recommend avoiding very wide tie styles. Also avoid obnoxious patterns–stick to stripes, solid colors, paisleys, etc, but avoid very bright and “loud” ties (Mickey and Garfield, anyone?) that are designed more for casual fun than for formal attire. Silk ties are beautiful but tend to wrinkle, so make sure you don’t leave them tied. A mid-width tie is also easier to tie into unique knots, like the eldredge knot. The latter has been one of my favorite party tricks, so to speak. You can see how to tie it here.

Finally, hats. If your method for passing runs the way of the gangstah, you might consider a big thuggish ballcap. That’s not really my style, so I enjoy a variety of newsboy caps and fedoras. Places like Target carry lots of these right now, and they come in small (which is really medium) and size huge. Whenever I find one that fits, I snatch it up because my head is fairly small. This is where your measurements come in handy! If you want a nice top hat, for example, or a bowler, you will need your band size to order them. There will be a lot more on this when we come to the final part of this article, the part about dressing in men’s clothing (in period attire).

Keep reading next week for part 2: Style for the short and smaller than average…

Steampunk World: Tea Dueling

Since the Denver County Fair is coming up this weekend and the Colorado Steampunks and AnomalyCon will be represented there, I thought I’d talk about Tea Dueling.

The first known instances of Tea Dueling in the US occurred in 2012 within a couple of weeks of each other–one of which was at AnomalyCon 2012, courtesy of the patronage of BB Blackdog. It was a raging success and has spread like wildfire, leading to the formation of the American Tea Dueling Society. Some argue that it should be spelled “Duelling” as in the British spelling, but for the sake of my spell check I am ignoring the anglophiles.

Usually when we discuss tea dueling, the first image that comes to mind is that of two gentlemen duking it out over a tea table with foils–or holding tea in one hand and a dueling cane in the other. While this might be an entertaining development of Bartitsu, it’s not quite what we have in mind.

Thanks to Susan Rahmsdorff’s diligence and a little help from Dryad Tea, AnomalyCon and the Colorado Steampunks are keeping tea dueling alive and well in the Denver Metro Area.

Here are a couple of videos from AnomalyCon 2013’s competition:

And the finals:

In 2014 we expect to have proper double-elimination and a very standardized tournament. With cookies. Of course.

Basically, the rules are as follows:
Two duelists sit across from each other at a table, each with a cup of tea and a biscuit (or cookie).
On the count they dip their cookies in the tea, and then it’s a game to stare each other down until one lifts out his biscuit and tries to eat it. The winner is the one who both holds his biscuit in the longest AND gets the entire biscuit into his mouth without it breaking.
This is a serious sport. Only the most elegant and graceful gentlemen and ladies can compete with a straight face. Better yet, it is a duel fought without violence. Maybe.

Those who would like to see or participate in a live demonstration and tea dueling competition should join us on Sunday at 3pm at the Denver County Fair! Badges for the entire weekend are only $10, and we also will be putting on a fashion show on Saturday at 5pm. Join us all weekend for shenanigans, new interesting swag and a good old fashioned time. Also probably pie.