Good to Know: Copper Shining

Hi, all! So recently, I was made aware that I was chosen to work as a volunteer at the upcoming Connecticut Renaissance Faire. I’m super excited to be participating this year, and I’ll be working the Treasury (box office) selling tickets to all the wonderful faire goers.
I was made aware that for this position one needs to wear a costume and stay “in character” for the day. I’m eager for the challenge, and I even need to go so far as to stay in character whilst eating, which means I’ll be drinking from my mug. Huzzah!

I have two mugs I can pick from: My pretty pewter one, and my equally pretty copper one. However, while the pewter one is easy to clean with dishsoap, the copper one seems to always be a little dingy and I’ve been afraid to drink from it. Since my pewter one would look silly with my bard costume, it’s up to my copper one to get the job done. But how to clean it?

After some research online, I found a really easy recipe for copper shine, which can be made with common household items. I figured I’d pass it alone for anyone out there who could use a good copper shine!

First, you create a paste by mixing equal parts of common kitchen salt, flour, and white vinegar. I used three teaspoons of each to create enough paste to shine my mug.

Using a paper towel, I dabbed it in the paste and began to polish the copper with little circular motions. After doing a portion of the mug, I kept rinsing it in warm water. But I found that it seemed to shine up quicker when I applied it to a dry surface, so I might suggest polishing the whole piece before rinsing it.

I used the paste to polish up the inside and the outside of the mug, gave it a rinse, then dried it off and buffed it up with a dry paper towel. And success! A copper mug that looks as good as a newly minted penny! I can’t wait to combine it with my new Celtic stamped mug strap I bought on Etsy today. ^.^

The mug after giving it its “home remedy” shine. (unfortunately I didn’t take “before” pics showing the dark patina that had built up on it)

Shiny enough to use as a mirror! (you can even tell what color my camera is)


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Holding a Tune

You blow into one of the 13 airways to hear the pitch.

Under the threat of a tornado watch today, I’ve begun to restring my lyre bit-by-bit. The zither pins came in yesterday, and I immediately noticed a difference between them and the lyre’s original, Pakistani pins. The new ones are made from a markedly shinier, tougher metal, and they have finer threads than the old ones (which might has well be screws). That said, it takes a long time to screw the new ones in, but I’m immediately noticing a tighter, more secure fit, and the strings can now hold a tune. I won’t do the final tuning of the lyre until I’ve changed out all of the pins, since the strings need to relax for a day or so before I can do that. I also still need to get a new tuning pipe so I can actually tune this thing. Back when I was in band and had to tune things like timpani drums, I used to have a really handy wheel tuning pipe to find the tune. Of course, I can no longer find that all these years later. I’m thinking of seeing if I can track down a battery operated instrument to help me tune, since it would be easier to use while I use both hands to actually tune the lyre (timpani are tuned with your foot).

Three pins are installed, seven to go! ^.^

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What’s in a Name?: The Naming and Backstory of Melodie

I think that one of the most important parts of creating a new character is coming up with the name: It’s something you have to stand behind, react to, and be able to explain to others. Even if this doesn’t always happen with the last names of my characters, the first names are always important to me.

My first thought for my bard was to call her Juniper. This was more of a quick thing, and I just thought that it sounded very natural and pretty. But when Auerion pointed out that it was the name of the street he lives on, it kind of freaked him out. So her name changed, and I think that Melodie (spelled incorrectly for American English, it actually is Middle English in origin) suits her much better.

Of course, what self-respecting parents are going to name their noble-born child “Melodie”?

Since this was an assumed name, indicative of her musical background, I also had to come up with her legal, noble woman’s name as well. This has also gone through a few changes since I’ve created her (though since I never use her “real” name, it didn’t really matter). Still, it’s nice to be able to tack it down for her backstory, and I finally settled on Aelfwyn, a name I came across in some historical reading I did not too long ago. This name was made even more perfect when I looked up its meaning online:

Aelfwyn (from the Kabalarian Philosophy)

  • The name of Aelfwyn creates a restless, creative nature that takes you into many ventures, but does not allow you to see things through to a satisfactory completion.
  • Yours is a versatile, musical, artistic, but independent nature and you must have the freedom to express your creative ideas and abilities to be happy.
  • An urge for independence causes dissatisfaction and frustration in close relationships and you find the “ties that bind” restricting.
  • Although the name Aelfwyn creates the urge to be reliable and responsible, we emphasize that it causes a restless intensity that defies relaxation.

This tied in very nicely with her backstory, and why she wanders as a bard, even though she could be living a rather cushy life in whatever Pathfinder’s version of the Elven Lands is. Originally, I had it in mind that Melodie was something of a runaway bride who either jilted her husband and left him at the altar or ran away before their wedding night. This would actually be a very serious offense for an Elf, if one refers to Tolkien’s version of Elvish marriage customs. Elves are betrothed for at least a year before marrying, to make sure they are suitable and actually in love. If they realize that they aren’t meant for each other, they break off the betrothal and melt down the silver rings they exchanged in their initial promise. But if they decide to actually marry, they exchange gold rings and are bound together for both life and beyond. In which case, jilting your husband or binding yourself to him then running off would be considered not only in bad taste, but would also go against centuries of tradition. And being noble born, I doubt that Melodie would run off for something as self-serving as being more devoted to her music than her duty.

So, let’s take it one step further and put the blame on both sides. It would certainly explain a few things, and give Melodie a bit more depth:

Aelfwyn Laurelhill was a bright, cheerful, duty-bound noble woman and the jewel of her family. She spread happiness wherever she went and danced through her childhood with song in her wake. When she turned of age, her attentions turned to the darkly handsome Lord of a nearby estate, and after negotiating the particulars they decided to wed. The days leading up to her marriage were blissful and carefree, punctuated only by the underlying current in her household of whispered suspicions. Her father was happy for the alliance between their two great families, so she put all doubts aside and showed up on her wedding day a fresh, energetic young bride. They exchanged vows in the public square, and she enticed her Lord to dance and make merry into the long hours of the night. Understanding of her duty and the importance of the marriage, she turned a blind eye to the knowing stares of her guests, and pretended not to notice the exchange of wealth between her father and new husband. After the party, she fulfilled her duties as wife, though her husband lacked the enthusiasm for the act she would have expected, and fell into contented sleep. Waking the following morn, she found herself alone and went to find her Lord. However, upon discovering him in the arms of a ravishing beauty, Aelfwyn finally came to her senses. She was legally bound and heart-given to a man who had no interest in her, and he was legally entitled to her wealth and heirs. Hurt and lost, the happiness left her and she slipped into the shadows, taking only her wedding band as proof of what should have been. Unable to go home, Aelfwyn fled into the trees and began her life as a wanderer, unwilling to be serve a husband who did not want her. Over the first few years, she heard tales of herself and the Lord as the object of gossip in taverns. She also heard that her husband was frantically trying to find her and bring her back home. Unwilling to give him the satisfaction, she changed her name and left her home country to begin her life as a bard, which suited her well. Melodie traveled the world for over a hundred years, gathering tales and songs and evading capture by her husband. Though lonely and finding the life of a traveling bard harsher than she would have liked, she slipped into the role of her new job effortlessly; finding simple comfort in her song and a warm bed and soup in exchange for her tales. However, as a woman, she was unable to protect herself and often found herself running for her life from unsafe and rowdy situations. In one case, finding herself in what she had thought was a sedate highland tavern, she found herself on the receiving end of bawdy jokes and dangerous intentions. But, just when she thought her luck had run out, a towering highlander stepped out of the crowd to come to her aid. The human, Jhoven, defended her from the Men, and she made a hasty retreat from the tavern, hotly embarrassed. Whether to her luck or misfortune, Jhoven followed her and, upon seeing that she could barely take care of herself, ending up becoming her protector. In the years to come, he taught her to shoot a shortbow, and they lived off the income from her performances. And when she heard tales of the Pathfinder Society and decided to join to have some semblance of “home”, she convinced him to join her. But the rest is a tale for another time…

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Harp Parts

While looking through Google tonight, I came across a really neat online store that specializes in unusual instruments. Not only can you buy these instruments on their site, but you can also order kits and parts and decorations and such so that you can make your own.

Their prices are good and their shipping was reasonable, so I finally placed the order for the parts I need to fix my Journey Harp tonight, as well as a new tuning key. I’m buying parts that fit a zither, so I’m hoping that my measurements are correct and I won’t be regretting getting them for my harp!

There are a lot of really neat decorative elements I could add to my lyre at a later point in time, but first let’s get it functional. Right? If you’re interested in this store, check out Music Makers online!

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Elf and Elf

I don’t think that it was a very big surprise to anyone when I wanted to make my bard an Elf. What can I say? I’m obsessed! But I was really happy when Denya decided that she wanted to make an Elf character, too. She’s our group’s cleric*, and she’s also playing some sort of Middle Eastern-ish Elf who worships some sort of goddess named Saran Wrap…. or something… Actually, Melodie doesn’t really follow any sort of organized religion. But, shhhhh! Don’t tell Nary! I don’t think that she’s quite as forgiving towards people who don’t worship her goddess as Ari is!

Here’s more on our friend Denya’s Cleric character, Nary.

*Well, she’s supposed to be a cleric. Although, at our last game, she failed the, “You come to a haunted well. What do you do?” game with a, “I throw a coin in it!”. Our DM: “It’s a HAUNTED WELL.” Nary: “I throw two coins in it!” (Ok, I’m exaggerating. But I think Ari needs to give a little lesson on holiness to our friend Nary. Though, in truth, friend Nary doesn’t have any points in knowledge of religion, so there is a little speculation that she might have been thrown out of cleric school, thus the reason she’s in our part of the world rather than Pathfinder Middle East….)

No hard feelings, Denya!❤

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More on the Epoch of the Journey Harp

So tonight I did a little research to figure out how I can fix my pretty little lyre (ha, get it?). After making a few calls, I found at least one place on Long Island that would be willing to take a look at it and at least give me an estimate for the replacement of pins. And after more research, I actually took some measurements and found online the parts that I would need to fix it, if I wanted to do so myself.

I also found out that apparently Pakistani tuning pins (as well as Chinese) are notorious for shearing off, which is exactly what seems to have happened with my pins, and which is why the lyre can’t hold a tune–and why two of the pins can’t be turned with my tuner, since the ends have rounded off.

So now I just need to decide if I want to tackle this project myself at a lesser cost, or probably pay a bit more and have a professional do it. I’m not sure if my wallet can accommodate a professional looking at my costume prop right now. But I feel like just buying the parts would be a fairly easy task. Decisions, decisions…

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Rating eBay

After writing last night’s post regarding my harp buying experience, I’ve received some negative feedback from readers of my blog, chastising me for giving this company a positive rating at all. Luckily, I moderate all of my comments. My life is negative enough, thank-you-very-much. So I refuse to allow negative comments to make it onto the board of one of the things that still makes me happy.

In any case, that’s a fair question: How does one rate an eBay transaction? I have my own personal way of doing this out of courtesy, and often I look to the seller and the item itself, rather than my personal experience, to give me the criteria for how I rate.

In the case of the infamous Journey Harp, I did give the seller a positive rating, without regard to the actual sound of the instrument because there actually was no claim in the item description that it could be played at all. I did ask for a sample video of the harp for sound quality previous to purchasing, which they stated they didn’t have. I went ahead and bought the harp anyway, which was on me.

As for starred feedback: The seller WAS very quick in shipping the item (it’s not their fault I couldn’t pick it up quickly), and the seller WAS very easy to communicate with, and often got back to my questions within a day or so. So there was no reason to bump down their feedback score for those things. I did take one star off of the description question, since the item I received did not match the picture in the listing (which was probably just their stock picture). However it wasn’t such a big deal that I would have given them a bad score for that. And as to the overall experience, the seller WAS very patient with me and courteous. So again, there was no reason to lower their score.

In the past, I have given neutral and even negative feedback to a seller. Again, I look to the seller and the item itself to give my feedback. For example, when purchasing Mina, I had given neutral feedback because of the condition she was in upon arrival and the way she was packaged. Her item description was wrong, so I took off points there.

Additionally, I often use a seller’s previous feedback to help me make mine. If a seller is new to eBay and they’re selling lousy items, I let people know through my feedback. If a seller has a 100% positive rating and over 200 sales under their belt, I’m probably going to keep up their good appearances through my feedback. In this case, no one else seems to have had a problem with their harps. My harp came factory sealed and has probably been sitting in its box and bubble wrap for a few months getting damaged. I know from personal experience what kind of havoc sitting around can do for an instrument! So, I’m content to say “You get what you pay for”. I didn’t pay a lot for this instrument, so it would be silly to go after this seller for that reason.

In all, my feedback score is my own. If you’re not ok with it, just don’t buy the instrument personally and keep your opinions to yourself about how I buy on eBay. Thanks.

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My “Journey Harp”

About a month ago, I purchased a lyre harp on eBay to use with my Melodie costume. I was a percussionist in school, so I really have very little experience with stringed instruments. Despite that, I was confident that I would at lest be able to pick out a few simple tunes on a harp, and I took the plunge to purchase one for this outfit.

It’s really been something of an experience. And not a very positive one.

The harp I purchased is beautiful. I found it for a great price and, because of that, I was willing to pay the slightly higher shipping fee to get it here. The harp was being sold and shipped from Pakistan. I have no problem with buying international. In fact, a number of my eBay purchases over the years have been from Asia and Europe, and I’ve always found the vast majority of them to be friendly, helpful, and offer great service. I’ve never bought from the Middle East before, but I think I’m going to think twice about doing so ever again!

First of all, the shipping was a disaster. The seller didn’t offer Paypal as a primary option, but rather instructed the buyer to specially request a Paypal invoice. To do that, they wanted the seller to use this strange online pay site, CCNow, to make the payment. I was hesitant about this, since I had never heard of the site. But I finally gave in to buying through here, giving SPECIFIC instructions in the special instructions note to send it to Griswold’s address in Stratford, CT. When I hit submit, it essentially bounced me over to Paypal (for some reason), so I could finish my transaction there. In doing so, I forgot to change the shipping address in Paypal to reflect Griswold’s new address, and instead put down his old one, in Bridgeport, CT. That didn’t worry me too much, since I had remembered to put in the instructions of sending it to the new one.

Well, lo and behold, after two weeks and tracking it online, the harp made it to the U.S. and found itself stuck in Bridgeport. Obviously, the attempts to “deliver” this item were useless, since there was no one there to get them. And that’s when it got very ridiculous. I tried to contact USPS to get the shipping address changed to the Stratford one. The first time they did this, they said they would change it. Apparently, that didn’t happen. When I called them the next time, they said that it hadn’t forwarded and that they were going to open up a claim number for it. Then, I found out that they should NOT have opened up a claim on an International parcel, and it turned into a whole big to do with USPS basically telling me that I had to contact Connecticut Consumer Affairs to get this resolved. Well, Consumer Affairs apparently never picks up their phone.

In the meantime, Griswold had been getting numerous calls to pick up the package in Stratford. However, when he went to do so (at two different post offices), they had no idea what he was talking about, and apparently he found out that the manager had a “habit” of calling people on parcels they didn’t have.

Finally, I got through to USPS one more time and actually got someone useful on the phone who could not only tell me exactly which post office my harp had ended up at, but also gave me a phone number and business hours I could call.

So after work, I sit in my car and call the Bridgeport post office. First, I get this very nice man on the phone who personally goes in the back to check for it and is very sorry that I’m having such problems. He comes back and is very worried that it might have been sent back to its country of origin: Pakistan. He says he’ll try one more place…

I wait a little longer, and suddenly this very “official” sounding man gets on the phone, and asks me what he can do for me, sounding very annoyed. I give him my tracking number and he confirms that the package is there however:

Man: *nasty* You realize it’s ILLEGAL to import tobacco from other countries, right?
Me: *silence, then indignant* It’s not tobacco!
Man: *clearly not listening* But it’s ILLEGAL to import tobacco. That’s a federal offense.
Me: *getting mad* It is NOT tobacco! It’s a musical instrument! It’s a very DELICATE musical instrument that has been sitting in your post office for the past two weeks and I’m very worried that it’s been crushed or harmed!
Man: I see.
Me: But it’s there? I mean, you’ve actually SEEN it and can verify that it’s there?
Man: Yes.
Me: When will it be sent back?
Man: We should have sent it back already. But we’ll hold it for you in our post office until Saturday ma’am.

Ah, government employees…

So not only was I pretty annoyed at this point about being accused to importing tobacco, but I was also getting a little concerned about WHY they would think that.

Finally, I managed to get up to Connecticut this weekend and go with Griswold to track this package down. After waiting online on a Saturday morning for half an hour, we finally got up to the counter and explained the situation. Scarily enough, the woman knew exactly which package we were talking about (I get this thing’s reputation preceded it). She went in the back, and when she brought it out I was happy to see that at least it was “harp sized”.

The box was wrapped in a muslin sheet, stitched together at the ends, and sealed with wax. I could see why it might be construed as suspicious. Luckily, the woman didn’t give us any trouble, and we were finally able to rescue it from the post office.

Hooray, a happy ending! Right? No. We got it back to Griswold’s apartment and I opened it. I have to admit: It is a lovely harp. However, it looks nothing like the original picture (there is no Celtic knotwork). And, for about an hour’s worth of work, the harp’s strings won’t hold a solid pitch for anything. I have experience in tuning, from working with timpani and such, and I should not have had so many issues with this. Using the tuning key, I started from the lowest note and tried to work my way up. But each time I would tune the next string, the previous one would become out of tune. I tried it from the top down, and the same thing happened. Some of the tuning pegs (there are 10 strings in total) aren’t even able to be turned by the tuning key, so I tried tuning around that note, to no avail.

So now, though the lyre harp is home, I have to take it to a music store and see if it can be salvaged. I may not actually know how to play a harp, but it’s no excuse for not being able to via tuning. That’s rather unacceptable for a brand new instrument. Especially a brand new instrument that retails for between $70 and $120, depending one where you get it. It was rather disappointing.

I was a good sport and gave the seller a “positive” rating on eBay, though the experience was awful. But I think that was rather generous. I’ll be pretty annoyed if it costs more to fix that harp than it cost to buy it. And I’m fairly certain I will never order from the Middle East again.

I won’t post flames in this post specifically, however if you or someone you know is thinking of buying a harp like this on eBay, feel free to message me if you’d like the name of the seller I had so much trouble with. It might not be worth it.

The harp DOES look like this, but the description was inaccurate and there is no knotwork. I was pretty disappointed about that…

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On Second Thought…

I’ve been working on my bard costume for about a month now. It’s been a long process, since I’ve been crafting everything myself and have had to wait for some findings to mail or to actually be able to afford them. So, the entire costume isn’t being made all at once, but rather in stages as I go based on what I think will ultimately work together.

For the past three days, I’ve finally been able to dive into the making of my new square neck peasant blouse for this costume. I was waiting on a certain trim that I had ordered (which was a very beautiful, yet discontinued Celtic knot pattern), so I had made the vest and the capelet first.

At this point, I’ve pretty much finished the shirt, except for deciding on the length. However, the trim has been applied and most of the shirt has been sewed. And that’s where I came up against a problem. The shirt is beautiful. It looks more professional than a lot of things I’ve made, and the trim and fabric color are just so perfect together, then I honestly get proud little goosebumps just by looking at it. And then, I look at my leather bodice, which was the first thing I made.

And they don’t match.

Each piece is lovely by itself, but put together, it unfortunately looks very, well, thrown together. Melodie is supposed to be a little eclectic, but this just looks bad. Maybe if they were made in the same style, or at the same time, this wouldn’t have happened. But it is what it is, and I’m not going to ruin a perfectly good costume by over-accessorizing just because I made it.

That said, I think the bodice needs to go. Not only am I 99% sure it is not going to be worn with this outfit, but I’m also fairly certain that I’ll be putting it up for sale. Again, it really is lovely. But after seeing the shirt and capelet together, the bodice just isn’t the right feel for Melodie. Also, it was fitting a bit tightly (I think I must have gained weight since my original use of the same pattern last year). Luckily, I still haven’t finished the bodice, and the hardware that I had purchased to do so was never affixed. When/if I put it up for sale, at least whoever buys it will be able to finish it off themselves.

So, it’s disappointing. But it happens. I think the important lesson here is KNOWING when it’s time to take a step back and take a piece away from the costume, before it just looks like a cluster of parts that weren’t made for each other.

Oh well. So Melodie won’t have her “armor”. Big deal. She won’t have her bow and arrows* for this go around, either. Live and learn!


* Money and time has prevented this from happening this year. Maybe next season!

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“What Has It Got in Its Pocketses?”: Accessorizing a Bard

Bards are travelers that have wandered the world seeking their livelihood. This was probably done by picking up songs and tales from different cultures and performing them before eager (drunken) crowds for a bit of coin. This in and of itself is going to make the role playing of Melodie a challenge for me, as I often find it difficult to think on my feet in an in-character situation. Auerion tells me I’m a natural, but I really think it’s usually just a lucky bit of fumbling around for the right line and coming out with gold!

One thing that was always a bit lacking with Ari’s costume (and rightfully so) was any amount of “character” in it. I don’t think that paladins would have much of a use for accessorizing, and they probably wouldn’t be carrying around trinkets and curiosities. Their gear needs to look well put together, clean, and authoritative. After all, who is going to listen to a paladin with rusted out armor, mismatched boots, and a haversack full of junk? Yeah, I’m sure that paladin’s really trustworthy…

In fact, insofar as personal affects, myself in Ari costume didn’t really carry anything unique, except for her ocarina (and where else would I have been able to keep it except on my belt?), her little bunny fur bag (I never did get around to making a convincing bag of holding), and her cloak, which was unique yet probably wasn’t too far from what she would have actually worn with her armor, since it matched.

The challenge with Melodie will be to make her look well-traveled and wearing a mixture of costume parts, yet cohesive. Unlike Ari’s armor and clothing, Melodie’s is all different colors and materials and styles, making it a fun lesson in editing to know when to STOP the alterations to a piece before it just won’t match in any way, shape, or form with the others. I enjoy taking existing patterns and adding parts and putting my own spin on them, however there is a point at which the alterations can go a bit far and look more like sideshow freak than a well put together bard.

What’s going to make her special is the ability to add accessories and trinkets and “stuff” to her outfit to add interest, be functional, and be fun. Though again, the challenge is to make it all look like it came from different cultures yet still all work together. Also, the challenge once again lies in the editing process–knowing when you need to STOP accessorizing.

There’s also a good opportunity here to make Melodie’s accessories functional, as well as fun. For example, I plan on making an over-the-shoulder messenger bag of sorts to carry the lyre. I’m not sure if this instrument will be heavy, but I’m sure it will be safer to put it in a bag when I’m not using it, rather than try and wrangle it along with my lunch foods. But since I’m already wearing the bag, why not actually make it double as something that can hold things as well? Maybe I could add an outer pocket, or build in a mug strap to carry my tankard or something?

I’m also using a different belt this time than I usually do, which has brass rings on it and double straps. Maybe I could hang something off those rings, like a collection of sorts? Also, the neck is an underutilized display area here. Would Melodie wear some sort of a necklace? Would she wear anything on her head, beside her cloak’s hood? What about other jewelry? I’m wearing elf ears again. Does she have any piercings? Would she wear any rings on her fingers? She’s a bard, not a pirate! But still…

Anyway, I look forward to exploring all these things (mostly by finding stuff around my house to use, since specifically purchasing trinkets could be an expensive venture). It might also help if I study a map of the Pathfinder world to find out where Melodie has been…

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