header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Life Archives – Kristen Koster
Jul 032016
 
A widow's dress with shawl and mobcap for a Colonial Days presentation in 5th grade.

That was 8 years ago?!?

Once again, I’ve been scrambling to finish a dress and it managed to pull me away from both writing and social media for a while. Long-time readers of the blog may recall the purple widow’s dress I made for a 5th grade presentation… good gracious that was 8 years ago!

Anyway, this year, we needed a dress in time for Anime Expo in LA for a cosplay of Eliza Hamilton from the Broadway musical. Over the last few months, the cast album plays here non-stop.

18th Century Gown (Simplicity 4092) for Eliza Hamilton for Anime Expo 2016

Simplicity implies “easy”, right?!

Simplicity pattern 4092 18th Century DressWe ended up settling on Simplicity pattern 4092 (AMZ affiliate link) and decided on the larger pictured variation.

We didn’t find any mint green fabric we liked at our local Joann Fabrics store, so I asked my friend who does a fair amount of sewing and she recommended fabric.com. Lots of pretty fabrics there and all the types and colors we were looking for. And then some. They also have a nifty feature where you collect virtual fabric swatches and then arrange them on a project board. That was VERY handy!

 

Simplicity 4092: Fitted BodiceI’ll be honest. I haven’t really done much sewing in the past 8 years. And the pattern we chose looked the part but was a bit beyond anything I’d done before in terms of complexity. I’d never done a fitted bodice with boning before. I’d never done anything like panniers before. So I blindly followed the directions on the pattern as written. Turns out I probably could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d just sewn down the cover that came on the boning and used it as the channels instead of marking and sewing the channels in myself as they’re not seen on the outside at all.

Simplicity 4092: Fitted Bodice and overskirtBut, I like learning new things, so that was a bonus and it’s done. The pattern for the dress doesn’t show it well, but the bodice and the overskirt are one part, and the underskirt is a second separate piece. This considerably lightened the load of what we had to work with at any one time and meant it didn’t pull as much against where we were sewing. Working with multiple layers of 5-6 yards of fabric means you’ve got a lot of fabric to juggle!

Lessons Learned

 

Simplicity 4092: Back view with Panniers from View A underneath

• A new sharp seam ripper is your friend. One with an ergonomic handle is heaven. Did you know that your laptop screen can be used as back-lighting to see where the stitches are easier?

• Directions, as written, can be confusing and numbered steps bear no relation to actual time required to complete. The fitted bodice & panniers took forever!

• Do NOT ignore the diagram for laying out the pattern pieces to be cut. (I knew this and should have supervised closer. We ended up short one panel of the underskirt with no extra fabric. It worked.)

• Fabrics that fray easily are EVIL. Fabrics that are slick and slip and slide easily are EVIL. This means that pinning carefully and extensively is recommended. Finishing all raw edges as recommended is also a good plan.

Simplicity 4092: Complete with underskirt• Proper seam allowances and straight seams matter. Otherwise you might not end up with the size you need (good thing for corsets!) or you’ll miss catching something and end up with a hole where you don’t want one.

Lessons RE-Learned

• If things are going together too easily, stop, stop and check what you’re doing. There is a big problem. If you can’t find the dot that’s mentioned on the pattern piece, check to make sure you and the directions are talking about the SAME pattern piece. These were also supervision issues.

Simplicity 4092: Eliza Hamilton - Work!• Sleeves can be put on the correct sides, the first time! Ok, we had to fix one.

• I can do a nice neat neckline using bias tape and slip stitching by hand when I try. Glasses are helpful for close work too. Who knew!?

• Check your hems before you sew ’em. I was much happier with the results this time around!

• I still hate putting in zippers, so we avoided a zipper this time, but grommets for lacing can be a pain in the butt too.

Simplicity 4092: Detail of using grommets and ribbon lacing instead of a zipper
• I have far more patience than either of my children.

• I am so relieved that I live in a world where sewing machines exist and the whole thing did not have to be sewn by hand. I’m not sure I would have survived. My friend suggested that maybe I was taking my first hand modiste research a bit too seriously. Ha!

So, in the end and even a day before they left, the costume came together and seems to be a hit at Anime Expo (Eliza and Alexander got interviewed by Cosplay America on Friday night! Pretty cool!) although I’m glad the heat has been dialed back a notch from last week.

Nov 112015
 
Poppy Installation at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

Poppy Installation commemorating the centenary of WWI at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Armistice Day. End of the war to end all wars.

Veteran’s Day.

My uncle turned 91 this fall and served as a WWII Marine. He’s always out every Memorial Day with the VFW selling poppies and impressing upon today’s youth (yup, that would be anyone younger than him!) the significance of the poppies and Flanders Fields. He’s genuinely disgusted when someone doesn’t know the importance of either. So if you’re asked to buy a poppy, be patient and appreciative for all the sacrifices our veterans have made over the years.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 3, 1915.

My uncle was just 18 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His brother (younger by almost two years) lied about his age and went into the Navy right after. My uncle refuses to go to DC through the Honor Flight program. I had to take photos of the WWII Memorial while there to send to him. He doesn’t want any thanks or special recognition for what he did (a sentiment many vets share, they were just doing their duty to their country), but he believes in not just marking the cost of freedom, but that the poppies serve as a reminder.

Lest we forget.

SONY DSC

National WWII Memorial, Washington, D.C. April 2011.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

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Apr 052015
 

eggs2I realized this morning just how much I missed all the fun of holidays that comes with having younger kids now that mine are on the upper side of their teen years. The joy and wonder are not as easy to draw out these days. There’s nothing worse than a jaded teenager, right?

Does this mean I’m ready to be a grandmother?

Oh, hell no!

easter_silly3

I’m happy to sit and look at old photos from when my kids got caught up in those moments of joy. Easter egg hunts used to be one of my favorite things about Easter at my grandparent’s with my cousins. There were so many great hiding places there. And I tried to continue that sense of fun and wonder for my kids often getting up at the crack of dawn to go hide eggs before they woke up and found their baskets. It was always a challenge to make sure there were enough easy to find ones, but not TOO many so they both had a chance.

Anyway, times change and I hope they’ll pass the magic along one day, but for now, I’m gonna go hug them and embarrass them with sloppy sentimental mom-kisses. =)

happyeaster2015

Mar 252014
 

It has been said that the romance community is the most supportive and generous of all the genre communities and I have seen the evidence many times over in different situations.

Last week one of our beloved authors, Jackie Barbosa, lost her seventeen-year-old son in a car accident. Although most of us will never be able to understand the depth of her and her family’s pain, Jackie’s loss is also our loss and we grieve for her and with her.

Today, in support of Jackie and her family, I’d like to introduce you to some Jackie’s books. One of the first stories of hers that I read was one of the Lords of Lancashire series, THE LESSON PLAN. I loved the way everything is blended seamlessly into the story: the emotions, the history and that wicked naughtiness that makes her heroes spark.

Jackie Barbosa's THE LESSON PLAN cover

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The next one I read was BEHIND THE RED DOOR. This was much spicier than my usual fare, but the excellent storytelling kept me turning pages and rewarded me with three great novellas that I might have missed out on otherwise.

Jackie Barbosa's BEHIND THE RED DOOR

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Jackie also has two free historical short stories available — THE REIVER and NINE LADIES DANCING (part of the 12 Days of Christmas Anthology) — so you can get to know her wonderful writing with no obligation. Of course, I hope you fall in love as I have and explore her full catalog.

Jackie Barbosa's THE REIVER cover12 Days of Christmas Anthology cover

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I had the treat of hearing Jackie read from SKIN IN THE GAME, one of her contemporaries, last fall at the San Diego Lady Jane’s Salon. The wry humor, the sexual tension and the details that made this female football coach believable were all present proving she is at home in this genre as well and her writing strengths shine here as well.

You can find information about her and her many books on her website: http://www.jackiebarbosa.com/

My heart aches for this very talented author and amazing woman who is always so generous with her time and knowledge of publishing. And while buying a book and leaving a positive review if you enjoyed it may not seem like much, it can really lift an author’s spirits and I hope you’ll join me in sending some good thoughts and light in these dark times for Jackie and her family.

A memorial fund has been set up in her son’s name. Details to donate can be found on The Season For Romance website. Any and all donation amounts are greatly appreciated.

Mar 022014
 

Fragrant Rain 09/52: Photo of a raindrops clinging to a climbing vine of flowers by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

Fragrant Rain

We’ve been getting some much needed rain here in SoCal for the past several days. The intermittent downpours haven’t dampened the scent of these pretty little pink flowers that bloom right outside my kitchen window making it seem like we’ve had a quite fragrant rain come through. Usually a steady rain here makes everything smell either squeaky clean and fresh or it brings out the deep, rich, earthy smells. So this heavy floral scent is a noticeable change.

I’m not sure what kind of flowers these are exactly, but when you walk outside and the breeze blows the right way, you get hit with a wall of fragrance, even from 15-20 feet away. It’s a heady sweet scent to match their girly pink blooms. The fence that they’re growing on has been taken over by it and they’re threatening to consume the bird feeder hanging there as well.

Hopefully the rain will help rather than hinder (in the case of recent burns areas where they’re experiencing mudslides and flooding) in the long run. Of course, lots of spring rain generally leads to lots of underbrush growth that then dries up after 5-6 months of no rain and provides lots of tinder in the fall. Vicious cycle.

I also noticed I’ve been forgetting to put my EXIF info for my photos this year. I’ll try to go back and add them at some point, but in the meantime, you can click on the photo to go to Flickr’s site and click on the … icon and choose EXIF info to see which camera, exposure, aperture, focal length and ISO Speed is used in each shot. It’s something I should pay more attention to in the shots I feel work, but I’m usually much more appreciative of the serendipitous successes than ones that I try to manufacture.

Feb 232014
 

I’ve been rather quiet and off the net more than usual the past three weeks because my mom passed away suddenly on February 2nd and it’s been quite a shock and as you can imagine, posting my weekly photos was the last thing on my mind. This necessitated a trip back to Maryland where I grew up. Of course, it being February, I had to sneak in between the snow storms and also be back home in time for our daughter’s 17th Birthday party this weekend. It’s challenging trying to figure out what you’re going to pack when you haven’t had to deal with winter and temperatures below freezing in about 20 years.

Dawn over Coronado Island 06/52

Dawn over Coronado Island by Kristen Koster on Flickr
This is from the early morning flight out from San Diego. Wave goodbye to the warm weather! This one was actually taken with my iPad.

A Real Winter Storm! 07/52

A Real Winter Storm!
I came to realize that while I like seeing snow and think it’s rather pretty, I don’t like the reality of the slush and the bother that comes after the pretty wears off. I also didn’t much like it every few days or so, especially when my husband and kids were scheduled to fly in on Valentine’s Day.

Pound Cake 08/52

Pound Cake
This is the cake I baked for our daughter’s 17th Birthday party yesterday. The recipe is one my grandmother got from an old German lady who refused to make it again after she tried my grandmother’s version. I suspect the farm fresh eggs and raw milk from the neighbor’s cows put her city-acquired ingredients to shame. My family has always baked pound cakes in a tube pan instead of a loaf pan. Maybe this is a regional thing? I don’t know, but they sure come out pretty this way.

Upcoming Class: Secrets of A Research Ninja

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Sep 262013
 

It’s not to late to sign up for Secrets Of a Research Ninja, Class Starts Monday

You can register with PayPal, don’t know why it chose that text to “call out” as important.

Hope to see you there!

Aug 012013
 

Weekly Photo 28/52 for 2013: Pork Loin with Bacon Weave by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/25 • ƒ/5.0 • ISO 1600 • 35 mm

Not quite a Bacon Explosion, but it’s still pretty tasty. Take one pound of bacon and lay out in a weave pattern. Take one pork loin and coat with dry rub of choice. Wrap and bake… um how long? HOW LONG?! Oh right.. I made it, I should know. I want to say it was 325˚F for about 90 minutes give or take. Fairly easily to do for an impressive presentation.


Weekly Photo 29/52 for 2013: Ella Quinn headed to Beau Monde Soiree by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Apple iPhone 4S • 1/15 • ƒ/2.4 • ISO 500 • 4.3 mm

Two weeks ago I was in Atlanta for the RWA National convention. The Beau Monde chapter’s annual mini-conference and soiree is always held the day before and some of the ladies go all out in getting dressed up in period costumes for the dancing. Here’s the lovely Ella Quinn on her way to the party!


Weekly Photo 30/52 for 2013: Waterfall by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 250 • 300 mm

This waterfall is part of our pool. It runs the same time as the water slide. Love the play of light on running water and the sound is so soothing. Ok, this one roars between the two, but it’s still pretty!


I THINK this catches me up! Thanks for being patient and indulging me! I’ll have an interview up with Georgie Lee tomorrow, talking about the Regency and many other periods of history and her new Regency novella, HERO’S REDEMPTION.

Weekly Photo 26 & 27 / 52 for 2013: Grape Vines & Hummingbird

 Photography  Comments Off on Weekly Photo 26 & 27 / 52 for 2013: Grape Vines & Hummingbird
Jul 092013
 

Weekly Photo 26/52 for 2013: Grape Arbor by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 320 • 300 mm

A consistent water source and some time have worked wonders for the grape vines we planted and trained on our arbor. The red grape vine is as tall, if not taller, then the white vine and they’re both reaching the top of the arbor. The reds are reaching for the nearby tree branches, so we’ll have to watch that. No grapes yet, but maybe we’ll get some next year!

 

Weekly Photo 27/52 for 2013: Hummingbird & Bird of Paradise by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 500 • 300 mm

We get hummingbirds close to year round here. They get a wide variety of flowers to choose from as the landscaping shifts throughout the ‘seasons’, so I haven’t been using the separate feeder this year. This way they get more natural food and we don’t get dive-bombed on the patio. This picture was taken out our kitchen window and I really didn’t do this little guy justice at all. The sun had caught the feathers on his head and throat just right and they gleamed a brilliant ruby, but I wasn’t quick enough and had the camera set too slow to catch it properly. Something to work on. I love their antics!

Jun 242013
 

Weekly Photo 20/52 for 2013: Bunny by Kristen Koster on FlickrToday’s weekly photo post is another entry in the urban wildlife theme. Despite the dog, we still have plenty of rabbits around our yard. There seems to be a burrow underneath the rocks for the water slide by the pool. This little guy (or gal?) was sitting outside my kitchen window, having breakfast the other morning. Usually, I manage to scare them off with the click and whir of the shutter but this bunny wasn’t too disturbed by it.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/400 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 1600 • 300 mm