Wednesday, March 27, 2013

....Dinner at Gulf Wars XXII

Right so....I'm in this Medieval Recreation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism (see weblink below), and we do events where we camp in glorious fashion and wear the guises of people who could have lived back in the days of antiquity.  The most recent event for me was GulfWars XXII, put on by the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann.  Here, much like at Pennsic there are a growing number of people who are gluten intolerant.  
The meal my team and I cooked was a dinner, Stuffed Cabbage, hand made Pirogi, Fresh Green Salad, with Hungarian Tomato Sauce, Ukrainian Mushroom Sauce, Caramelised Onion, Sour Cream for garnishes and Balsamic Vinaigrette for the dressing.  In the past, my tomato sauce was made the way my Great-Grandmother made it, with breadcrumbs, which put it on the no fly list for gluten intolerant folk.  

Buckwheat to the rescue!  Alright maybe that's a little over dramatic.  But really, buckwheat made it so that the only wheat we used was in the pirogi dough.  I tried to make a buckwheat version of the pirogi dough, but found the texture was rougher than the wheat, it didn't hold up as well to shaping the dumplings and really really needed some salt.  I've reckoned that an egg would help with the texture and the wrapping around the filling, and salt would improve the flavour.  I'll be experimenting with several different grains in later blogs and have pics of how they came out.  

In that moment, buckwheat pirogi failed, but I think I know how to fix it to bring it around to usable.  Everything else that night went beautifully.  The recipes below contain the ingredients and mostly the procedures for making the various sides, garnishes and main dishes.

Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian and Russian style
2 heads of Savoy Cabbage (regular green cabbage can be substituted)
2 pounds of Ground Beef
4 cups pound of Basmati Rice
6 cups water
Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Granulated Garlic
Granulated Onion
Hungarian Paprika
Dried Parsley, ground in the hand

Cook the rice:
1.)  In a large sauce pot, heat some olive oil on medium high heat.
2.)  Add rice to sauce pot, toast gently, stirring frequently, until some of the rice is golden brown.
3.)  Pour the water on top of the rice and bring to a boil.
4.)  Turn down the heat to low and cover, check on the rice frequently, stirring.
5.)  When the rice is cook all the way through the grain and the water has all been absorbed by the rice, take off heat and empty into a bowl in preparation to mix the stuffing.
Soften the Cabbages:
1.)  Cut the core out of the cabbages, place them in a bowl or pan one at a time.
2.)  Boil some water, in a kettle would be the easiest way.
3.)  Pour boiling water over the cabbage to loosen the leaves, cooking them just enough that they're flexible.
4.)  Separate the cabbage leaves carefully, they will be hot.  Allow them to cool before handling further.
Mix the Stuffing:
1.) When the rice is done cooking, empty the pot into a large mixing bowl.
2.)  Add the ground beef, not waiting for the rice to cool at all.
3.)  Add the seasonings.
4.)  Mix with a stiff spoon or spatula until the meat and rice are well distributed. 

Stuff the Cabbage Leaves:
0.)  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
1.)  Take a cool cabbage leaf into your "off hand", use a large table spoon or soup spoon to scoop the stuffing into the cabbage leave in your hand.
2.)  Fold the sides in first, nice and snug on the clump of stuffing.
3.)  Fold down the rib or spine side of the cabbage leaf
4.)  Fold down the top edge of the cabbage leaf, creating a lovely little parcel enveloped in greenery.  The stuffed cabbage will now be upside down in your hand.
5.)  Turn the stuffed cabbage so that the folded edges are down (holding it closed with your fingers) as you put it into a deep baking pan.  (I use 2 ,9"x13" cake pans lined in aluminium foil)
6.)  Repeat until the tray is filled or you run out of ingredients.
7.)  OPTIONAL:  Cover with the tomato sauce below.
8.)  When the pan is filled, cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake at 375 degrees F. for two hours.

Traditionally in Hungarian cooking, this recipe is made with 1 pound of ground Beef, and 1 pound of ground pork.  Because one of my team mates doesn't eat pork, I opted to substitute the pound of pork for a pound of beef.  You could use ground turkey, or very finely chopped mushrooms to substitute for people who don't eat meat, or just don't eat meat with kind of a reddish hue.

Pirogi, Ukrainian style
3 cup all purpose, unbleached flour King Arthur Brand is honestly the best.
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil

1.)  Mix together gently until everything is incorporated, you can use a food processor on low speed. 
It should be firm enough to hold together, elastic enough to stretch, but not as stiff as noodle dough and should not stick to your hand.
2.)  Let rest for a little while before rolling out.  You might need to add more or less water, depending on the mineral content of your water.  At Gulf Wars, we had to add more water to get the dough to be proper texture.  
3.)  Roll out on a floured board or counter.

5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, and boiled 
1 block of Friendship Brand Farmer Cheese grated, 7.5 ounce size (or mexican crumbling cheese)  
Caramelised Onion (1.5 lbs pre-cooked weight, see below)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1.)  Mash the potatoes with a hand masher or potato ricer.  You don't want to use a hand mixer or stand mixer because you don't want to whip air into the potatoes.  You want them to be smooth and not lumpy though.  Don't add any milk or butter to them.
2.)  Mix the mashed potatoes with the cheese, salt, pepper and some of the caramelised onion.
3.)  Taste the mixture, adjusting the salt and pepper and onion as needed.
4.)  Let cool significantly before handling.

Stuffing the Dough:
1.)  Put a large pot on the stove on high heat, add salt and oil to the water and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, you can turn down the temperature to medium to keep the water hot enough to cook the pirogi.
2.Melt a stick of butter and hold it in reserve, keeping it liquid through the rest of the process.
3.)  Roll out the dough until it's about 1/8th of an inch thick.
4.)  Cut out rounds of dough with a cutter or glass that is about 2 inches in diameter.
5.)  Spoon in the filling, remembering that the dough has to pinch closed, so be careful not to add too much filling
6.)  Fold over so that the dumpling is shaped like a half moon and pinch the edges together, making sure that you get a good seal.  If you run into trouble, either run a finger lightly wet around the inside of the seam and pinch, or dust your fingers with flour and pinch harder.
7.)  Lay each dumpling on a floured tray, keeping them separated so that they don't stick together.
8.)  Gently place 6-12 dumplings at a time in the simmering water, when they float to the surface scoop them out with a slotted spoon. 
9.)  Coat the finished Pirogi in melted butter to help them stay separate
They can be served right away, or fried or frozen

Tomato Sauce, Hungarian style
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
24 ounce can of plain tomato sauce
4 ounce can of plain tomato paste
granulated garlic
granulated onion
Hungarian paprika
freshly ground black pepper
dried parsley, ground fine in the palm of the hand

1.)  Melt the butter on medium high heat.
2.)  Add in the buckwheat flour to start a basic roux.
3.)  Add in the vinegar - Be careful not to inhale the vapours, they will knock you over.
4.)  When the roux has thickened, add in the tomato sauce slowly, mixing constantly to incorporate the roux
5.)  Add the tomato paste
6.)  Add the herb and spices 
You'll note that I didn't give amounts for the seasonings.  I honestly don't know how much I put in, it's a pinch here and there until I think it tastes right.  They should be background notes, not even co-stars for the sauce, there to give a little extra flavour without being too noticeable.
My Great Grandmother never served this sauce with the stuffed cabbage, but in other Eastern European countries they do.  You make the cabbage rolls, pour the sauce over the top and cook it all together.  I served some of it sauce on the side, some of it cooked in the sauce so that people could make up their own minds as to how they liked it best.

Mushroom Sauce, Ukrainian style
1/2 small yellow onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped white button mushrooms 
1 tablespoon buckwheat flour
1/4 cup Better than Bullion No-Beef Vegetable bullion made into stock
1/4 cup Better than Bullion Mushroom bullion made into stock
1/2 cup sour cream

1.)  Cook the onion in the butter until tender. 
2.)  Add the mushrooms and cook on medium low heat for about 10-12 minutes. 
3.)  Sprinkle with the flour and mix. 
4.)  Pour in the stock and stir constantly until smooth and thick. 
5.)  Add the sour cream and cook for a few more minutes. 
6.)  Serve hot.

Caramelised Onions
6 tablespoons of Olive Oi
3 lbs yellow onions
4 tablespoons water

1.)  On medium high heat, warm up the oil in a sauce pan
2.)  Peel the paper off the onions, cut in half, slice thinly.
3.)  Add the onions to the pan, stirring frequently. 
4.)  After a few minutes reduce the heat to more of a low end of medium, stir in the water and cover.
5.)  Stir occasionally, when the onions are a golden brown colour they're finished.  You can keep them in a refrigerator for around a week.  When they smell like vinegar, they've gone off.  They can nicely too.
Our Green Salad was beautifully made by TygRomaine lettuce and Spinach were the base and she cut carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, a white onion, and broccoli and provided croutons and sunflower seeds for the salads, which we presented separately so that people could mix and match and build their own salad.  The dressing was one I learned to make when I was an apprentice chef at a French restaurant.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

In a large mixing bowl add:

1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Honey
Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
Onion (to taste)
Garlic (to taste)
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Blend well together.

4 cups Canola Oil

Whisk in the oil VERY SLOWLY pausing the pouring every now and again to make sure as much of the oil is fully incorporated before adding more oil. This can take as much as 20 minutes to get all the oil into your vinegar. If you just can't seem to get all of it incorporated, add a little more mustard to emulsify the mixture. Adjust your seasonings as needed, remembering that once it's in there, it's not coming back out. This is a delicate process, so if you're going to use a stand or hand mixer, use a low setting and wire whisks.

This will make nearly 7 cups of salad dressing. Any vinegar can be used to make a dressing with these proportions, though most people will find white vinegar too astringent. You can also add herbs and peppers to white balsamic vinegar make Italian style dressing, or crushed, fresh berries for a berry vinaigrette.
The Society for Creative Anachronism:  
The Kingdom of Gleann Abhann 
The Great Pennsic War:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


My adventures with Non-Wheat flours continues, today I'm baking.  I've made two things for today's offer, muffins that simulate corn muffins, if you don't look at all at the colour and a version of the classic 'sandy' cookie that substitutes almonds for pecans, and amaranth and millet for wheat flour.  If you have tree nut allergies on top of your issues with wheat or gluten, these are not the recipes you're looking for....

Buckwheat Millet Muffins:
With a dense texture like corn muffins and a slightly sweet, savoury flavour, these muffins could be a decent substitute for corn meal muffins, if you don't have a nut allergy and if the naturally brownish colour of the buckwheat doesn't turn you off. 

1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup walnut oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon honey
Caramalised Onions to taste
Garlic to taste

1.)  In a large bowl, mix the millet, buckwheat, almond flour, baking soda and salt
2.)  Make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the walnut oil, the half and half, eggs and honey. 
3.)  Mix the wet ingredients together before you start incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet. 
4.)  When it's all well and goodly mixed, add in what ever flavouring you like, we like garlic and onions in our corn bread, so it's what I added to this.
5.)  Pour into muffin tin, making sure you don't over fill the cups and try to keep them as even as possible.  I use cupcake papers in mine so they release beautifully from the tin.
6.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
Makes about 12 muffins.

Almond Sandy Cookies:
Crumbly in texture and just sweet enough to satisfy a severe craving, you could use what ever sort of nut flour or meal you can find, almond is just what I happened to have on hand.  The word from the peanut gallery is that they don't care that there's no wheat in them, they're delicious and best fresh out of the oven.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup walnut oil (you could use vegetable oil if want)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups millet flour
2 cups amaranth flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups almond flour
1/4-1/2 cup confectioners sugar, kept separate from the rest for coating the cookies afterwards.

1.)  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.)  Cream together the butter, walnut oil, white sugar, confectioners sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.
3.)  In a separate bowl, mix the millet flour, amaranth flour, salt and almond flour
4.)  Gently fold the flours into the wet ingredients, mixing until the whole mass incorporates into a soft dough.
5.)  Roll into balls about an inch in diameter, then roll into the separated confectioners sugar.
6.)  Place about two inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, or until slightly sandy coloured.
7.)  Allow to cool off the pan, either on a plate or on a cooling rack.
 Makes around 80 cookies.

Today's Web-liography:
The basis for the Buckwheat Millet Muffins:
This is a pretty cool website/blog for people who are eating a Paleo type diet, mass respect on my part to the author.  I don't live a full on Paleo diet lifestyle, but this place is pretty good resource anyway.
I've substituted the coconut milk for half and half because I'm decadent and didn't have any coconut milk, and the coconut oil for walnut oil because I don't have coconut oil and I like the walnut.

The basis for the Almond Sandy Cookies: is a by the people for the people kind of website, where people post their own recipes for things.  If I can't find it on Alton Brown's site, I can often find it on
You'll notice that they have cream of tartar in their recipe and I don't have it in mine.  The main reason for this is that I didn't have any at the time and thinking over the ingredients, I honestly couldn't think of why it was needed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

....Cooking II: Wheat Free Roux

I cook for a growing number of people who are either allergic to wheat or gluten intolerant.  I've found it frustrating at times, because it means that I have 6 versions of things, mapping my way through the minefield of people's allergies.  Since I myself have issues with MSG and latex bearing fruits such as mangoes, peach and kiwi skins, I'm willing to take the time to make sure we don't have to inject anyone with an epipen or nurse them through a rough night bowel issues while camping in the wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania or Southern Mississippi.  And I pride myself on the sometimes egomaniacal idea that I can feed anyone.

There are a number of wheat alternatives, but I've found relatively little practical knowledge about the properties of these alternatives, recipes or anything like that.  So, being an experimental sort of cook, I'm going to try to rectify the situation myself.  I'll be cataloging my failures and successes here.

Roux is such a basic thing, it's flour, oil and water, but it gives body and a little nutrition to otherwise thin sauces.  A good roux makes a gumbo more hearty, and a bad roux can ruin a meal.  It's the base for so many sauces and gravies that don't use corn starch or arrowroot.  The importance of roux is easy to understate.  So not being able to make a good turkey gravy for our Pennsic Thanksgiving meal that everyone can eat is a little heart breaking for me.

Enter the Alternative Grains Division, Buckwheat, Millet, Teff, Amaranth, Quinoia, and Rice.  I've left out the cousins of wheat, Barely and Rye because their gluten protein profile is pretty much identical to European wheats.  Oats and Maize Corn have been left out of that list as well because several of my allergy eaters are also allergic to the oats and the corn.  Rice was also not included in this round of experimentation because I find the gritty texture of rice flour off-putting when thinking about a gravy, where the smooth texture shouldn't distract from the flavour of the sauce.  Mouth feel is very important.

If you are living wheat or gluten free, there will be plenty of posts and recipes, insights and most importantly, information on what grains haven't been good at doing certain jobs and how they tasted in the things I've produced.

For today's roux experiment, I have played with Buckwheat, Millet, Teff and Amaranth.  The photos show the various roux's after they've cooled and congealed. 

The Buckwheat I used is from a naturally dark, organic seed grown in Kansas.  It's naturally nutty, almost mushroomy flavour is good for sauces and gravies that are heavy in flavour, like a mushroom, tomato or beef gravy.  It mixes well with both olive oil and butter for the initial making of the roux.  When I normally make the tomato sauce to go with my stuffed cabbages, I usually use a breadcrumb roux.  I made a small amount to test the buckwheat, and I honestly could tell the difference in flavour from the buckwheat to the breadcrumbs.  I also used it to make a gravy from the juices of a pot roast, and it matched the flavour of the beef beautifully.  From now on at events, buckwheat roux will be by my side.

The other three, I've made but not yet experimented with. 

Millet is yellowish in colour, and the texture of the flour is like the finest corn flour you've ever seen.  It's the grainiest of all the textures listed today, and I imagine that it'll be great for use in place of corn flour for corn bread or corn pudding.  I also suspect that it'd be good in pecan sandy cookies, since the grain is slightly sweet.

My first go with the Teff wasn't the most resounding success I've ever had, I didn't have enough butter to flour and so it went lumpy.  It's fairly smooth, despite my failure and just a little sweeter than the millet.  I get the sense that it will work pretty well for chicken and pork gravies. 

Amaranth was very smooth in texture, but slightly grassy in flavour and not as sweet tasting.  I think it'll be good for turkey gravy, which is stronger in flavour than chicken, and could make an interesting savoury pudding or bechemel sauce.  Duck and goose are also options.  As you can see, even cold it's still creamy and smooth in texture.

I'll add comments as I further explore these four seed/grain flour roux types. 

Twerpy Thought of the Day:
Never be afraid to fail with your food, and you'll never fail at being surprised by your food.  Sometimes surprises are good things.

Monday, February 25, 2013

....Gender, Biological Sex and Transition

When I started this blog, I told myself it wasn't going to be a soap box.  It wasn't going to a place for me to whine about my past or spew out all the mental diarrhea on subjects that tend to be inflammatory, namely my opinions on politics, religion, the state of the Nation and how we can fix it.  Maybe when I get done with this post, I can still say that, though many of the things I'm going to express are opinions, have socio-political undertones and possibly could be considered by some to be inflammatory.  But, at the same time I feel like I both have the duty and the right to say, essentially "Here I am, take me as I am or don't, it's on you," so here's my most public step on that path to date.

I often describe myself as an open book in a private library.  It's because I'm honest about who I am, what it means to me to use the sorts of words I use to define myself to myself, but I don't go shouting it from roof tops with a megaphone hooked up to 20' Marshall amps with fireworks and parades and glitter.  Maybe I should once or twice, cause that just sounds awesome and rock'n'roll, and who doesn't like fireworks? 

Anyway, I reckon that most folks don't honestly have the time to delve the depths of the multi-faceted layers of the simple and complex person I am, so why spend the energy trying to shove it down their throats?  If they want to know, they will ask.  If they don't want to know, fine.  It doesn't hurt me for them not to know every last detail of my life.

Some things about myself I've never been able to hide, like my insatiable need to learn something new in nearly every waking minute of the day.  I was unwilling to dumb down my vocabulary for my first grade teacher, but instead would help her look up the ridiculously advanced words in the dictionary.  I've learned about eight different Georgia accents, but had such a hard time learning how to get along with the kids I kept getting told were my peers. 

I was a gregarious, bossy, opinionated, abolitionist, tomboy, Yankee, Hungarian, Welsh, Catholic with a weird name, who was into carpentry, drama, rocks and geology, history, science, sci-fi, fantasy, movies, action packed TV shows, comedy, comic books, art, music, religion, the occult, the paranormal, aliens, world cultures, role playing, board games, shot put, skateboarding and BMX.  Oh and my Father is a resident alien, so he's only kind of an immigrant and he was a chef before being a chef was remotely cool.  I had a mixed closet of boys and girls clothes and seemed to always be on the wrong side of whichever end of gender expectations other people had for me.  In second grade I carried a Buck Rogers lunch box.  It would have been Empire Strikes Back, but the store sold out of them before we could get back to get one.  I had a fully romantic crush on Wonder Woman, and wanted to be Princess Leia because I thought she was what my mother expected me to see a strong, powerful, intelligent, beautiful woman was like.  In hindsight, I think I had a crush on her too.  But at the same time, I had loads of crushes on men too, and like most girls, I learned how to flirt with men at a disturbingly young age to garner what ever sort of attention I wanted from them at the time.

The first time I heard the term 'gay' used in a derogatory way to describe homosexuals I was in fourth grade, 9 or 10 years old, and I didn't understand that's what the girls who were giggling behind their permed hair and nail-polished hands meant.  They used this word like an accusation, like it wasn't something good.  I thought gay meant happy and light hearted, so being the overly honest person I tend to be I responded "I used to be gay, but ya'll have made me miserable," to which they giggled all the more and ran off to tell everyone the "truth" about me.  Only, it wasn't the truth, because I wasn't then, nor ever have been homosexual.

The experience made me so afraid to see the duality in myself, that I could in fact be attracted to men and women, find beauty and pleasure in both genders for the subtle and the obvious reasons.  I didn't become 'okay' with this idea within myself until I was 22, married and had two children.  It wasn't earth shattering, this revelation, it was more like the proverbial "I coulda had a V8!" moment.  I think I even said to myself, laughing in the mirror "WELL DUH!" with a punctuating eye roll at my own stupidity.

In a bit of a twist, I was never homophobic about other people.  I had loads of gays and lesbians traipse through my life and I never feared or hated them.  I defended them to other people I knew, all the while afraid to let myself be seen as a lesbian.  I had self loathing, sure but it wasn't connected to my sexuality oddly enough.  It was connected to all those other things that I was that people in my supposed peer group just couldn't grasp all of at once.

I've always had boyish or mannish traits.  Until half way through fourth grade, I was either the tallest kid in class, or in the top five.  I loved competitions, tests, pop quizzes, board games, card games, sports (but only if I was playing them or we were at a live game) and played less and less with the girls in my grade on the playground.  I wanted to build tree forts to read my comics in, play with Star Wars figures and argue who would win in a fight, Spidey or Captain America while the girls in my class gossiped about each other and started wearing make up and pairing up with boys.  I was the odd girl out, while the guys and I would talk about the last episode of V or The Master or Voyagers, none of them wanted to pair up with me.  It would be years before I would realise the slight.

By fifth grade, the girls became more vicious, and the guys were starting to treat me differently, I wasn't one of them so much anymore, I was this weird, alien concept they just couldn't get their heads around.  At one point I even had this fantasy that I was actually an extraterrestrial being stuck here on earth, having to study how the humans live to assimilate into their culture so as to not be found out.  I was terrible at blending.  Awful at passing.  I wasn't human, how could I be?  And they all seemed to know it.

By sixth grade I was ostracised and picked on, by seventh it was actual bullying with physical attacks that no one believed were going on, because if I was being attacked, surely my parents would have been called about it.  The problem was that the teacher who's class it happened most often in, let it.  She watched the kid behind me slam his book into the back of my head and send me sprawling across my desk and did nothing.  And because she did nothing, I became afraid to speak up for myself.  I tried to kill myself more than once in middle school because of how the other kids treated me, and how I felt like my parents didn't care that this was happening to me.  Thankfully, I failed at the self-ending.

On darker, more frightening notes, I had daydreams about coming into the school with M-16s and shooting each of them, laying waste to the whole school.  I walked the halls singing the Boomtown Rat's song, "I Don't Like Mondays", imagining blood splatter and righteous slaughter.  It was a revenge fest that would have been fit for a Tarantino film, if I had known he was out there at the time.  Another day dream was standing up in front of the class with a gun to my head and telling them that they were the reason for this, and that I was going to do to them in one minute what they had done to me for years.  In my fantasies, I pulled the trigger and they were traumatised, lamenting how poorly they had treated me for so long and how they never realised how brave I was for just trying to be who I am and how wrong they were for being so vicious to me. 

One day in January of eighth grade, this guy in my class had actually done it, he had actually killed himself.  The whole school mourned him, he was a popular kid, an athlete with a girl friend.  He seemed to have everything going for him, but there was something he just couldn't get himself through.  Selfishly, I replayed the suicide in class fantasy and the ending was different after that.  No one noticed at first.  Until someone, somewhere in the class said "Well it's about time!"  I realised that none of them would care if I did kill myself and that pissed me off.  I decided they weren't worth that, they weren't worth my life.  It was the first time in my life I really decided to get over myself.  I still got picked on and bullied, but I didn't take it the same way anymore.  I cut my hair in artsy, funky ways, I wore crazy clothes, I started lifting weights, I stopped growing, packed on at least thirty pounds of muscle, had my first asthma attacks (which my mother thought I was faking for attention because she was convinced that asthma always gets diagnosed in very early childhood, she didn't know that most women with asthma develop it while their boobs are growing for the first time.) and I FINALLY started going through puberty near the end of the school year. 

Despite my late entry into adolescence, I had always been a hairy child, and got made fun of when I told the other kids that I couldn't help being hirsute, it was just my genetics.  They didn't understand the words hirsute or genetics apparently.  I shaved my legs for the first time at the age of 10, and by the time I was 14, I was sick to death of it.  I hated the razor burn, the stubble that seemed to come back an hour after I scraped my legs free of hair and often skin.  There were ingrown hairs and it seemed to be a skill I was just never going to get the hang of.  But I was deeply embarrassed by it at the same time.  Laser hair removal didn't yet exist, epi-ladys were grossly expensive spa treatments and I was too sensitive to pain to put up with waxing, so it was shave, or try not to pass out and puke at the smell of Nair and then have to explain why my legs looked like burnt bacon in gym class and deal with the finger pointing and the name calling.  None of it ever felt....right.  It felt like trying to pass for Human as a miniature Wookie.

Take the 5 o'clock shadow at 8 am, mix with the late arrival of puberty and add in 30 pounds of muscle I didn't have at the start of eighth grade, and the words lesbo and dyke and gay started to cling to my name.  But I had a crush on a guy in my science class called Kip.  He was tall, athletic, handsome, didn't cheat off my papers because he didn't need to and before he had really gotten the social lay of the land, he defended me. Two guys in our class decided that my attire one day was up for ridicule and Kip, ever so effortlessly gallant, asked them why they cared, why I couldn't just wear what ever I wanted.  I reckoned I was madly in love with him for it. 

My over dramatic mind built up a rich fantasy of martyrdom where I sacrificed my own happiness so that he could retain his social standing as one of the popular kids.  It had to be True Love because I was willing to give up what would make me ever so happy so that he wouldn't have to suffer at the hands of our unworthy peers.  Kip was honestly a pretty nice guy going into High School, he took the time to talk to me on the phone like I was a real person, and I repaid that kindness by never betraying to anyone that he talked to me willingly.  Sometimes if he missed my call, he even called me back, which no one else would have done at that point.  I did eventually get over the crush, but I do still think fondly of Kip for his unexpected kindness to me.

At the same time I was being called a lesbo and a dyke, there were rumors I was dating a guy I had played with since fourth grade, Jason.  They teased him about the supposed relationship almost as relentlessly as they teased me about carpet munching (which I didn't initially understand on any level).  If I weren't so empathic, I might have been smart enough to ask him why it bothered him so greatly to be considered to be my boyfriend.  But instead, I tried to do everything I could to dissuade those who were accusing us of going steady.  It all back fired, and the kids seemed convinced we were going out.  I thought of Jason as my friend, even if he was unwilling to lob himself on the social grenade that was being associated with me at all.  Our mothers were friends, and sometimes I rode his bus over to his house because that's where my Mom was.  We played with his action figures, and played wiffle ball with the neighborhood kids, took trowel and paint brush to a small patch of his back yard like we were archaeologists on a dig in Egypt a la Indiana Jones (though we never found more than rocks, which I always tried to take home with me, but my Mom didn't understand my rock-hound heart, so she made me leave them).  I think our Mom's even took Jason, myself and my little brother to see Space Camp in the theatre together.  We shared experiences, and adventures, built worlds with his Lego's, had epic battles with GI Joe, Insectors, He-Man and Star Wars figures, we argued about what would be found on the surface of Mars.  He never made fun of me for being smart, he never made fun of me to my face at all.  If he joined in on the jibes I didn't hear, I understood.  I didn't want to be in my shoes, I certainly wouldn't have asked for anyone else to be there either.  Better to suffer alone, than drag someone down with me.  I still think fondly of Jason too, he was my first best guy-friend, really.  In many ways, my first real peer, I never minded actually having to be human around him and he always let me pick all three of his Princess Leia action figures, and Scarlet, Lady Jane and the Baroness.

I guess I never expected anyone to defend me, no matter how much I craved it.  It's hard to stand alone, unprotected against a tidal wave of hate and acrimony, but being a person so deeply imbued with empathy, it's harder still to blame other people for not wading into the crushing waves with you.

High School was such a different life for me.  Not only was I in a different school, with all new people, I had decided to start accepting that which made me weird and different from other people, which gave me a sort of confidence.  I was still kind of sensitive and broken from the years of social abuse, but I didn't wear them like a sandwich board announcing to everyone the depths of my despair.  I had boyfriends in High School too, and I think kindly on them.  Well, all the ones I didn't marry.  I learned about life and relationships and how another person cannot save me from myself.  Don't get me wrong, I don't wish ill on my ex-husband.  I don't regret marrying him, or giving birth to our daughters.  Most of the time I don't regret that it took me 10 years to realise our marriage wasn't going to work out.   It took both of us to make our girls, and it took both of us to screw up our marriage.

Anyway, in High School I was still afraid of being considered a lesbian.  I went to my first Sci-fi cons, I learned to play the drums and was in a series of bands that never made it to the gig playing stage.  Writing and art were vastly important to me, and the formation of my gaming group began to take place.  I was in a very fem place through High School, even though I still did all those "butch" things.  But now I wore make up when I was skating, and sometimes skirts when I bought my comic books. 

I met my ex-husband at a sci-fi con.  We started dating, I got pregnant despite the statistical unlikely hood of 3 different methods of birth control all failing.  I call my elder daughter my Miracle Child, because statically speaking, she shouldn't exist.  We got married.  Had a second daughter and I tried a new method of birth control because I wasn't ready for more kids.  This new method caused fibroid cysts to form on my ovaries, and screwed up my hormones.  My doctors tried hormone therapy and for the first time since the January of eighth grade, I became so depressed I was teetering on the edge of suicide.  I stopped the hormone treatments and worked on getting my head right again.

But somewhere in there, I discovered that I am indeed equally attracted to both sexes.  I like dressing like a man, and there are times I really enjoy passing as a man.  I'm sure the term Drag King existed before I uttered it for the first time in 1994, but I'd never heard it used before that.  At that point, for me it was Drag.  It was Theatre and Rocky and drama and "oooooo, I'm sooo naughty in my silly nerdy vanilla way".  I was married to a man, the father of my children and it was fun to express my more masculine side in that way sometimes.

Years later, I leave him, we get divorced, and I go through fluctuations of feminine and masculine modes.  I start dating again, and end up being with my best friend, a guy.  I call  him my HeLP, Hetero Life Partner, a term we stole shamelessly from Kevin Smith because it fits us.  Kind of.  Mostly.  Sometimes.  I call us the strangest gay couple anyone has ever met because he's XY chromosomes and I'm XX.  Throughout all our years together we've built our own family of people we love, and in that family some of the folk start having kids of their own. 

One day, one of these kids having just learned our names calls us Uncle Nock and Uncle Mev (the HeLP and I have first names that are the Irish and Welsh versions of John and Jane, one letter apart so we often go by our SCA names, Loch and Myf to avoid confusion).  The kid was two at the time, and so didn't have all the social ques that I'm a biologically a woman.  He recognised something overtly masculine in me and instantly accepted it.  I've been Uncle Mev ever since.

Another friend's neighbor's son used every masculine pronoun when he first met me, again a young child just accepting a certain truth he's recognised about a person. 

All that being said, I'm not in transition from female to male.  I'm not seeking to change my legal or physical gender status.  It's not that I'm afraid of what the perception of me would be.  For me, transition isn't the right choice.  Though most of the time I would like to go on hormones to change my voice.  I think I often sound like a Southern Fran Drescher, if you can imagine that.  Most of the clothes I wear these days come from the Men's section.  Right now, they fit better because I've put on weight since I stopped being a chef myself.  They fit my personality better too.  Right now, I'm in a masculine phase and that might well change as my hormone levels shift as I finally plunge into menopause.  Or it might not, since I try to avoid estrogen in general.  I've learned that nothing in my life is permanent beyond my love for the people I love.  Hard times and good times both come to their own ends, there have been times I have worn make up and dresses, and other times I've glued on mustaches and taken a piss in the men's room.

I've come to enjoy my duality.  I'm bi-sexual and dual-gendered.  My gender lines might be blurred, crossed, erased or blown up Michael Bay style in some cases, but I'm anything but androgynous.  For me, I'm right where I should be, I don't have that deep need to be a man full time, I'm content and happy being a guy most of the time.  I don't hate my breasts, there's not really all that much there to hate.  I don't dread my nethers, they've given me years of pleasure.

But if you're out there, swimming in a riptide uncertainty, not knowing if you can stay afloat against crashing waves of doubt and social constrains of gender identity, don't despair.  You aren't alone, even if I'm doing the backstroke while you tread water.  If you are profoundly unhappy with who you are, if you can't feel connected to your own body, do something about it.  Your life is too short to spend all of it fearful and miserable and uncomfortable with yourself.  Be who you are, and if other people don't like it, that's their problem, not yours. 

You aren't alone, and neither am I.

Friday, February 15, 2013


I'm fortunate that my Mom taught me not to be afraid of cooking things I've never tried before, and cooking things that have never been invented.  Or trying to reconstruct something that tastes like something you once had somewhere a while ago.  Experimentation was often on the menu at our house when I was kid.

The inaugural Some Adventures In....Cooking is just such an experiment.  I got a new spice mix at the DeKalb International Farmer's Market in Avondale Estates, GA called Masala Tea.  It smelled like Chai tea and Tika Masala had a love child that was just too awesome to pass up.  Ever since I've been chomping at the bit for an excuse to try it out.

Since I live in a house with an Ancient Catholic Matriarch (even though I gave up being Catholic for Lent the year I was 9), I'm required to follow the dietary laws of Lent.  For the most part I don't mind, because it means I can cook fish with great abandon for a proscribed number of Fridays.  The Matriarch doesn't like fish and has taken to refusing to eat it at all in any form, allowing me far more interesting dinner options than fish fingers, but limiting how often I can cook it. 

Tonight we had Salmon Tea Masala with Basmati Rice and Broccoli (recipes to follow, descriptions of where I found my more special ingredients to follow after that).  The spices mixed into the Masala blended beautifully with the sweet richness of the pink salmon, with just enough heat on the back end to warm the spices on the tongue and get them to bloom again.  The broccoli was from one of those steam fresh from the freezer bags, and I didn't do anything at all special with it beyond not overcooking it.

Today's Food History Note:  In the 1500's, the Portuguese introduced tomatoes to India, spawning hundreds of new dishes like the tomato based Masala.

The Rice:

1 cup basmati rice
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 large cap full rice wine vinegar
1 large cap full lemon juice
1 cap full of rose water
1 1/2 cups water

1.)  Put the walnut oil into a medium sized saucepan and warm on a medium high heat.  The oil will be hot enough when it pops if you drop a drop of water into.  Be careful not to drip too much water into the oil, as it can cause injury or fire. 
2.)  When the oil is hot, pour the rice into the saucepan and stir with a spoon or spatula.  You're going to toast the rice just like you were making Rice-A-Roni.  Stir it often, to make sure most of the rice gets to touch the bottom of the pot at least some of the time.
3.)  When much of the rice has turned a golden brown sort of colour, add the water, vinegar, lemon juice and rose water. 
4.)  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cover, stirring occasionally to check on the absorption of the water into the rice. 
5.) When the water has been absorbed, take the pot off the heat and leave covered until you're ready to serve.

The Salmon:

2-3 tablespoons walnut oil 
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and sliced thinly
1/4 medium sized yellow onion, finely diced
1 lb salmon (I used 4 pink salmon fillets, or you can use salmon steaks, whatever your preference)
2 good big pinches of Tea Masala (all four fingers at once)
1 dash Garam Masala (or more if you like it hot)
4 -5 grinds of black pepper
Small pinch of salt 
1 length of dry lemon grass, sliced thin as I could get it.
1 tomato diced
1 carrot, finely grated
1 cap full rice wine vinegar
Splash or two of water
1 generous splash of Original V8 Juice

1.)  While the rice is doing it's dance with the water, heat 2-3 tablespoons of walnut oil in a saute pan/fry pan on medium high heat so that it's hot, just like with the rice.
2.)  Add the sliced onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until golden brown
3.)  Add the two masalas and stir, then add the salt, black pepper and lemongrass.  Let the flavours mingle for a few minutes, stirring gently the whole while.
4.)  Add the tomato, carrot and a splash of water and vinegar and stir again.  If you need more water, add a little more.
5.)  Lay the salmon in the pan, making sure to coat the top and bottom of the fish with the seasonings before shifting them down onto the surface of the pan.  Turn them occasionally, re-coating them in the sauce as needed.
6.)  If the sauce seems a little thin, don't worry it will thicken while it cooks.  If it seems a little thick, add a little water, carefully stirring in so that you don't break the salmon apart. 
7.)  About half way through cooking, add the V8, stir and turn down the heat to just above low and cover, letting the sauce simmer. 

Serve over the rice, with lots of the sauce on top, and garnish with nori or laver seaweed strips.

Since I wasn't raised in an Indian family or really around that culture, I don't know how well this will do on a proper, Indian palate, but for me, it was very tasty.  Not overwhelmingly spicy, the flavour of the fish came through and complimented the seasonings.  It doesn't look very colourful, but the taste was layered and complex without being too much of any one thing.

The Special Ingredients: 

I got the Walnut Oil at the DeKalb International Farmer's Market, but I've seen it for sale at Kroger and I think Publix as well in their gourmet oil sections.  It has a very mild flavour profile, and isn't quite as heat tolerant as olive oil, so you'll want to reserve it for the times when you don't need a high heat to cook your food.  I wouldn't recommend it for pan searing, because it smokes at the higher temperatures. 

I also got the Tea Masala at the DeKalb International Farmer's Market, in their spice section.  I've never seen it anywhere else, and it might be a spice mix used by a particular family who works there.  I wish I could properly describe the way the cinnamon, cardamon, cumin, chili and nutmeg blend into this dull brown toned seasoning, they way they interplay with each other, compliment each other, but I just cannot do it justice.

The rose water and basmati rice both came from the local Indo-Pak Grocery in Douglasville, GA, and it's disturbing how inexpensive they were, and how good too.

Whole Foods sells a brand called Thai Kitchen, they have dried ginger slices, birdseye chilies, and dried lemongrass.  I want to get fresh lemongrass, the dry stuff smells alright and flavours well enough, but it's got the texture of a corn husk dolly, and to me, that was the only detriment to the dish.  It never seemed to soften.  Maybe I need to soak it in water before I use it next time. 

The salmon honestly wasn't the worst cuts in the world, considering they came to me flash frozen, and claim to be wild caught Pacific Pink Salmon.  They weren't mushy and flavourless like some frozen fish can come out like.  Oh and we got them in the 3'x3' area our Carrollton, GA Wal-Mart calls a seafood section.

I think that I've decided the next time I try this, I'll leave out the tomato and try a can of coconut milk in the sauce.  And either add more carrot, or find some kind of Indian veg that would blend well with the overall dish.  Or both, cause I really love carrots.

Have an insight, a tip or trick to share?  Please comment below!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Though I've considered myself a gamer for the vast majority of my life, I've only recently gotten into console gaming.  When I was a kid, my parents bought the Magnovox Odyssey in 1977 or 1978 and Odyssey II in 1981, we played Pong on the first one, and had a vast array of mostly educational cartridges for the second. 

I was total crap at playing them.  Big, stinking piles of crap.  I'd push the button and nothing would happen, so I'd push again, and again and again and again and then I'd be dead or have missed throwing the strike in the one baseball game we had.  Frustration plus ADD and the overwhelming need to do experimental archeology (before I knew it was a "thing") generally meant that I was off in the Wilds of Suburban (insert name of whatever town we were living in Here....) doing what I hoped counted as science as I taught myself about the world around me.  And there were the occasional board and card games to play with my folks.  I recall totally cut throat sessions of Uno! that tempered my insatiable competitve streak into something more manageable and sportsman like. 

Needless to say, I didn't have an auspicious start into video gaming. 

At the age of nine, my then best friend Cindy's two older brothers Beau and Patrick introduced my family to Dungeons and Dragons, which lead to being an RPG/tabletop gamer for pretty much the rest of my life.  It also meant that one of my first DMs was my Mom, who played to see what it was that my brother Phillip and I were chittering about a mile at a minute.  RPGs lead me to meet my ex-husband, and introduce my mother to her domestic partner, bonding with my HeLP and daughters...The family that games together, and all that....

When I was in Sixth grade, we got an Apple IIc home computer, and I did some graphics programmes on it, but in the end for my use of it was as my first word processor, even though we had Oregon Trail, Zork! and the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy text based games.  I wasn't overly interested in it after the new tech smell wore off and I got tired of having to fight for my share of time with it. 

It was the same way with the Odyssey II, if it wasn't a two player game, I almost never played because I couldn't get my hands on a controller, or my brother whined like Luke being told to go see to the new droids.  My folks never invested in an Atari or Nintendo anything.  The only Texas Instruments tech we had was a Speak and Spell and a Speak and Math, no TRS-80's for us.

I grew up, continued to use the Apple IIc as a then out of date word processor, and had better things to do than play computer games.  Things like Star Wars RPG, GURPS, D&D, Paranoia, and going to Conventions.  Then I met my ex-husband, we started a family and I didn't have time for Other Gaming.

I opted out of the Magic: The Gathering craze, but did help beta test the first version of the Whitewolf's Vampire: The Masquerade LARP at Magnum Opus Con-8.  And there were occasional bouts of NERO along with the tabletop, and the SCA, conventions, writing and Child molding.

When the PlayStation 1 came out, my ex got hold of one and played Resident Evil until the girls had nightmares (and beyond, really) and yeah, we all cried when Aeris died in Final Fantasy VII, though he was the only one playing it.  I didn't have time for console games, I had discovered the Internet, and that on the internet there is Forum RPGs, free-form writing, chat-room gaming, MUSHes, MOOs and MUXes. 

Every minute of time I wasn't doing something else, like not being awake, or cooking meals for the family, I was connected to a game and typing.  While it did wonders for my typing and spelling (more than the Speak and Spell ever did), I'm sure it contributed to my crumbling marriage.  The more miserable I became, the more I sought an escape, the more I tried to claw my way away from the escape and deal with the issues at hand.

In any case, I kept up the text based gaming for a number of years after the end of the marriage, and into the relationship with the HeLP.  Since he was a gamer too (not a sometimes gamer like the ex) he for the most part has understood.  I generally don't whine that he's not spending time with me when he's on his console if he doesn't wenge about the fact that I've got one more sentence to write before I can send my pose, go AFK and come to dinner.

WOW and DDO came out, and I balked at paying an initial fee for a game, and then a monthly fee to maintain.  He got hooked on DDO, I kept playing with words.  Then DDO went Free to Play, and suddenly my arguement about the cost was gone.  So, since I had my own computer at that point, I tried it out.  Free can't hurt, right?

I was hooked.  Started playing DDO when I wasn't RPing on one of my MUSHes, then it got to the point where it was going to start costing us in micro-transactions to be able to play the next sets of quests, so I became a subscriber.  Even then, I didn't consider myself a video gamer, it's a computer game, DUH! 

Other friends tried to get me into console gaming with HALO and this game or that, usually First Person Shooters, which I totally suck at.  The same frustration I experienced as a tomboy desperate to compete with her male counterparts resurfaced, I was terrible.  Or was it that the tech had yet to catch up to my reaction time?  I push the button, nothing happens, wash, rinse, repeat, death.

The HeLP and I start watching Tech TV and then G4, so I was aware of the games that were coming out for consoles that I wasn't playing.  One day, Morgan Webb reviewed Borderlands, and I had the urge to play this First Person Shooter/RPG mash-up game.  Someone in our peer-group got it, we all played and I didn't feel that same overwhelming sense of 'I'm just points for the other team' and 'no one likes to be the weak link'.  I had to admit at that point, at nearly 37 years old, I became a Video Gamer. 

Then Portal came out.  Now, you have to understand that I love puzzles and puzzle games.  My Windows Phone shows it, as the vast majority of the games on there are puzzle games.  I'm not that fond of games of chance, I prefer games of skill, always testing myself, keeping my mind occupied with something new and interesting to try.  Slowly, my Xbox gamer score crept up because of the games on my phone.

Then in Portal I hit one of those test rooms that for some unknown reason, though you know what you need to do, you just can't seem to get the controller to do what you want it to do.  Days and days passed with me putting the blue portal here, the orange one there, pressing the button, run between, push the other button and then just about the time I've got the reticle centred on where the next portal goes, the doors close and I've failed this set of tasks yet again.  I put the game down and went back to DDO or DCU or both frustrated and too proud to ask for help.

Before I became interested in (or obsessed with, as some might say) Minecraft, we had two Xboxes in the house, one that served to watch Netflix on in the bedroom, as the disk reader's gone more than a bit barmy.  And the other is the one that the HeLP is on nearly every night, generally playing First Person Shooters.  We went through an Odyssey to get the old, half working barmy Xbox working for me to play Minecraft on.  Eventually, a month of laying blocks gets boring, no matter how cool what your building is.  So he loaded Portal onto my Xbox.

Three years have gone by since I played Borderlands for the first time, and was finally able to say with truth in my voice that I'm a video gamer.  Now I'm nearly 40, stepping through the threshold into Middle Age.  It must seem like three years have crept past since I started this post, to you.  But I felt I had to go through my whole sordid Origin Story so that you understand how cool it is to me that, for the first time ever, despite playing other video games...I finally finished my first console game ever.

Tonight, I destroyed GLaDOS.  I beat the first Portal Game.  I AM a Video Gamer....

(No Bibliography tonight, no pictures, just games.  All kinds of games.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Leather crafting is one of my favourite hobbies, it's one I've done quietly for years, amassing skills and knowledge enough that I would say I'm nearly at end of an Apprenticeship in leather craft.  There's still so much to learn I couldn't call myself a Journeyman and not laugh afterwards.

Today's project is a tobacco wallet to go with my pipes.  Three tobacco wallets to go with my three pipes.  The funnier thing about this is that I haven't yet smoked any of my pipes, I'm a non-smoker where meat isn't involved.  But I have always liked the look, feel and idea of pipes and the smell of pipe tobacco.  For certain costuming purposes, they can be the very prop that makes the outfit.

Anyway, today's project is really straight forward.  I had a plastic, store bought pouch of pipe tobacco stashed away to serve as a basic guide for the size I would make into my pattern.  My goal was to be able to tuck said pouch into my leather exterior to help protect the tobacco and at the same time give a nice looking way to carry it while in costume.  To do this, I traced it unfolded on a brown paper bag I'd cut open.  Then traced around that mark in a bold line with a Sharpie marker so that I gave myself plenty of seam allowance.  On the pattern, I marked where the fold should be, then folded the paper along that line.  Cutting out of the pattern soon followed, with marking on it what it's all about, and that's the pattern done.

(Yes, I know I have one too many B's on my pattern.)

I then picked out my three leathers, today's projects will likely live in some lovely wooden boxes with the pipes they correspond with, so I went to my garment grade leather stash and picked out three supple, soft pieces that are three different, lovely shades.  To trace the pattern, I flipped them over so that the 'wrong' side or the suede side was showing, traced my pattern and cut them out with regular old garden variety scissors.

I love a natural edge on a flap, so where possible I've used them, like on the fawn piece.  What I do there is make sure I've got plenty of room to trace the whole pattern, plus the raw edge.  I trace the two long sides, then the end that I'll cut.  Then I shift the pattern up onto the leather so that it fully covers the natural edge and make sure my template lines up with the lines I've already drawn and extend the lines.

Closing the pouch will be a simple length of the same leather I'm using to make the pouches with, so I cut a strip about a quarter of an inch wide and as long as I could get out of my pieces of leather to be the strap.  I suggest at this point picking out a button or decoration if you're going to put one on for the strap to tie onto, so that when you put the strap through it's little slot (see below) you can sew the button/decoration in at the start, rather than waiting until you have the whole thing finished to realise your lovely new pouch just seems to be missing something....

The strap slot generally goes in the middle, though you could get really fancy and have more than one.  Either way, you want them evenly spaced to neatly and completely hold the pouch closed.  You'll want to make the slot just a little bit bigger than you cut your strap so that you can slot it through, easy-peasy.  You can use the hole punch, putting one hole in the centre and two hole at the long edges of where you want your strap to come through, if there's any leather between you can clean it up with an exacto blade.  Give yourself enough room to then punch holes for stitching the strap down and sew on your decoration all in one go.  Tying in the strap can also work, as can riveting, though I don't need anything so heavy duty as a rivet.

You could also technically use a snap type closure, but before you decide on that, think about if it's appropriate for what you'll be wearing when you use that pouch.  Hobbits, after all are not know for the snap technologies, nor are 17th century Pirates.  Buckles and latches are an option, and on heavier grades of leather can look really smashing, but consider where this pouch will live when you haven't taken it out for a smoke, and if that latch is going to be pressing into you in uncomfortable places or ways.  I'm all about the comfort in my costuming.

Next comes the hole punching and the sewing.  Tandy sells a nifty little tool that puts little indentions into the leather so that you know where to punch your holes.  For something like this I like to use the middle wheel that comes with the kit.  Then I use a rotary punch designed for smaller holes, I think it's called a 'sewing punch', or some such.  It's the one I use the most to be honest.  Only the sides need holes or sewing, so I just use the marking tool and hole punch on the sides.  I punch holes all the way up, so that I can do decorative stitches alone the side edge of the flap.

For sewing this project, I used waxed linen.  It's heavier duty than is really needed, but I didn't have anything thinner that I don't already have set up for sewing in my fabric-only sewing machine.  I think it looks alright, not too big like latigo or other leather laces, and not too thin like my all-cotton thread.  Brown for the brown and fawn, and black for the cordovan leathers.

Now you're at the point where you have to decide if you want your stitches to show or not.  I like mine showing, so I stitch my leather together right sides out.  If you want to seam your pouch so that the stitches are hidden, you'll need to turn it inside out, just like you were sewing clothes.

On the brown, I used a simple double running stitch, the cordovan is done in a Two Loop Spanish Edge Lacing, and the fawn is done in a criss-cross stitch.  To be honest, I should have a thicker thread for the cordovan, just because of the type of stitch I used.  Generally I use a flat sort of latigo for that type of stitch, but right now I haven't got any and a trip to Tandy or Hobby Lobby is not in the cards.

The three came out decently enough that I'm not going to rip them apart and start all over again, which is always a good sign.  It's made the HELP (HEtero Life Partner) jealous cause he doesn't have any to go with his pipes. I told him that he's welcome to make his own.  The pattern is there, he just has to pick out his leather and follow my easy to find instructions....heh.

Before you ask, yes I am available for custom leather work....

Today's biliography:

Leather Braiding, written by Bruce Grant, Cornell Maritime Press - a Division of Schiffer Publishing, LTD.  First edition printed in 1950.

The Hobbit, written by J.R.R Tolkien, loads of publishers, multiple editions, annotations, illustrations, about the's and nearly anything else you can think of that might have been written about a book originally published in 1937.