Last year, I set thirty-three goals for my thirty-third year (you may recall, as I’ve talked about and backlinked to it nigh-endlessly). Unfortunately, I wasn’t 100% successful–I managed a good 2/3rds of the list, but a combination of over-ambitious scheduling, somewhat under-achieving, and a few other factors (weather and the like) prevented me from getting all the way there. At first, I was a little mad at myself–“I couldn’t manage to do thirty-three things in a year? Seriously?” especially given that I’m lucky enough to have much more free time than most: no kids, no job, etc. But on the other hand, it was partially my desire to have a well-rounded list, not just things to see but things to achieve, that was my own undoing. It’s one thing to make a list that says do/make/learn on it with an arbitrary timeline, and another to cast hundreds of resin brigandine armor pieces while learning a language and trying to do art for several different projects and…it was all just too much.
But even when I didn’t achieve my goal, I often made good strides toward it–I didn’t reach my goal weight, but I lost 70 pounds, while changing the fact that I had been slowly disappearing from my own blog for the last few years as my weight ballooned. I didn’t finish my sketchbook but I rediscovered my love of drawing. I didn’t run a 5k, but I learned just how much I actually hate running. And the successes I had changed my life for the better– my new recipes tried per week averaged way higher than one, which meant I tried so many new things, learned new techniques, and didn’t suffer the crushing boredom that usually comes with extended dieting. The peach tree I planted last year has little baby peaches on it now–a few years from now, it should produce enough to bake with as well as eat fresh. Either way, I’ve decided to not up the stakes with 34 things this year: I don’t want to spend the next year rushing from thing to thing just to check it off my list or feel guilty for not having done so. Instead, I’m just going to jot down some things privately and when I’m dinking around on World of Warcraft, maybe it’ll give me a reminder about the longer term goals that I have and how I could better be spending my time.
Speaking of spending my time, around January this year, I decided that I wanted to have a big, fabulous birthday party this year, akin to some of the parties I’ve thrown of old. A magical, wonderful, fantastical, frabjabular party. And since my birthday weekend neatly coincided with the season premiere of Game of Thrones, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to have a grand Westerosi name day celebration. Planning started in earnest almost immediately: this wasn’t the sort of thing I could half-ass and achieve the effect I was going for, which meant that just about everything had to be made from scratch or altered in some way to live up to my standards.
First up were the invitations. I used this template from Inn at the Crossroads and printed it out on some natural colored cardstock, and “gilded” all of the yellow elements on the card with gold tempera powder. Each invitation had a black feather stuffed inside and was finished off with a wax seal with a “hand of the king” impression…and no return address. Mysterious!
I asked guests to send a raven to RSVP, and many of the “ravens” I received in return were very clever, with my two favorites being the Poe poem “The Raven” altered to fit the theme, and the other being a raven finger puppet with a message of regret in Dothraki.
To set the scene, I wanted some large, eye-catching props, so to create the feel of a tourney ground in my backyard, I cut a number of vinyl shower curtains in half and painted house sigils on them. This was a lot more cost and time effective than rendering them in cloth, which is what I did for my Midnight Carnival (eight freaking years ago!). Instead of shelling out $100 for the officially licensed dragon eggs, I made my own from styrofoam ostrich eggs and about a jillion thumb tacks. Instead of shelling out $150 for the officially licensed map markers, I made my own crude ones with some air-cure clay. Instead of shelling out $30,000 (plus shipping) for the officially licensed iron throne replica, I cobbled one together using an adirondack chair, yardsticks, fun foam, a glue gun, and some spray paint. I also bought and polished a number of silver servingware pieces from thrift shops (many for just a couple of bucks while the brand new ones in department stores are going for several hundred!) so that my feast could be appropriately schmancy. The idea was to save where I could so I could splurge elsewhere.
I also made my dress (which was supposed to be heavily embroidered but I ran out of time/ambition beforehand), covered an archery target with burlap and Joffrey’s stupid face, fixed up a foam bow and arrow toy set so it looked a little less plastic-y (there was no way I was going to let a bunch of drunk adults shoot real arrows in my backyard, a decision that was justified the first time an arrow launched over the fence and pegged a car), aged some “lost Nymeria” posters, and in proper Song of Ice and Fire fashion, made (and bought) a fuckton of food:
- Beef brisket
- Chopped pork
- Roasted chickens
- Jalapeno artichoke dip served in hollowed out artichokes (they looked vaguely dragon egg-y to me)
- Candied lemon almonds
- Candied peppered pecans
- Carrots with butter, honey, and lemon
- Spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries, and edible flowers
- Spiced crunchy chickpeas
- Brie with lavender honey and bourbon pecans
- Fresh baked bread & salt
- Lemon cakes topped with candied lemon slices
- Apple pie
- Strawberry pie
- Salted honey rose pie
- Spiced Dornish strongwine
Plus, I had a case of red wine, and a keg of beer from Black Raven Brewing Co, so hopefully no one went hungry or thirsty or sober on my watch. These were all served on plates that looked like silver shields, and drinks were from goblets and silver coffee mugs that looked a bit like flagons, because every last damn detail has to be just so in my world, which might have something to do with me only being able to throw a party of this magnitude every few years or so lest I spend all of my nights waking up in a panic about plates and the weather forecast. I managed to take zero photos of the spread, because pretty much by the time it all comes together, everyone’s at the party and ready to eat. Besides, as I am not a food blogger, I manage to make even the most delicious food look unappetizing in a photograph. I just don’t have those skills.
I got so, so lucky with the weather for this party. We’d been having an unseasonably warm spring, and had three beautiful sunny and warm weekends in a row…so what was the forecast for my outdoor party? Rain. Cold. And every time I looked at the forecast, it got worse. Harder rain. Thunderstorms. Pretty much every screech of despair that happened in the house that week was because I had pulled up the weather forecast, save for a couple when I was trying to sew my dress and fucked it up pretty badly. There were a lot of screeches of despair that week. Luckily, the day of the party was dry and cool, with the rain holding off until past sunset at which point I didn’t care anymore. It would have been really hard to convince everyone to go outside if it was pouring, and while I could have probably fit that many people in my house in a worst-case scenario, I think everyone is much more comfortable if they have the option for fresh air.
So, I mentioned splurging up above. Splurging on what, you ask? On the elements of the party that I was dying to tell people about beforehand. Somehow I managed to keep my trap shut, and in the process, I probably took a couple of years off of my life holding it all in. If I have a secret, I will want to tell it. I will be dying to tell it. You should never, ever tell me a secret. First, I hired the amazing Ashley from Camlann to make fresh flower crowns for anyone who wanted them. Second, I was lucky enough to be able to hire the Seattle Knights to battle in my backyard. About twenty minutes before the knights were due to perform, I hustled everyone out into the backyard for an archery contest, with the prizes being some golden dragon eggs stuffed with small GoT swag–a hand of the king pin, a mockingbird pin, and a coin of the faceless men of Braavos. When the knights strode in, clad in plate and mail, jaws dropped. They did battle for an hour, sang me a birthday dirge, mingled with guests, took photos with anyone who wanted them, and were generally the most freaking awesome people in the world. IN THE WORLD. I may never have another party better than this one.