Thursday, March 31

Five Years and an Outfit

 My coworker Meagan took some pictures themed around athleisure for her blog, Flannel Foxes, and I nabbed some to share here as well. Fact is, I wear a lot of clothes that can be categorized as 'athleisure', because of the comfort they afford, and the fact I'm not dying to change into sweats the moment I get home. I like to mix comfortable joggers that have clean lines and dark, neutral colours, with a nice blouse or jacket. It's a great way to transition from the office to home, going out, or even walking the dog and I love the versatility.

These joggers are from Fabletics, but I also have a pair from Everlane, and more than a few from The GAP.



Did you know the blog turned five on Tuesday? Pretty crazy, huh? You might wonder why I haven't been posting outfits here very often anymore, maybe you've been wondering what's going on in my life, or maybe you're stopping by for the first time (if it's that last one, hello!). In any case, I'm going to take a few paragraphs to get real with you for a sec.

Last spring I went off hormonal birth control for the first time in six or so years, and over the next year I gained thirty pounds. Without mincing words, it was a sucky time. I've always been a very body positive person and I struggled to continue feeling that way whilst gaining weight. I didn't fully understand what was happening with my body and I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I stopped buying clothes, I stopped wearing dresses, and I stopped feeling comfortable in my own skin.

To make things extra fun, I found out last summer that I would be losing my job come spring (June 3rd, in fact is my last day). 

The whole time this was going on I maintained that I ate healthily, and that, since I had weighed the same for years and never changed my life style, the problem wasn't with me so much as my hormones. I didn't want to change how I lived, or give up the things I enjoyed (ie, playing video games and eating whatever I wanted).

Turns out I was quietly deluding myself. This spring I joined Weight Watchers and I've so far lost about thirteen pounds. After the first ten pounds came off I noticed a marked difference in my hormones, including experiencing regular periods for the first time all year (if that grosses you out, sorry, but get real with yourself). I know I need to increase my activity levels, but making a change in my eating habits has been as hard as it has been rewarding, and that's to say -- very hard, but very rewarding.

What does this have to do with athleisure you may ask? Well, not much. Not much except I no longer feel restricted to athleisure looks, because I'm beginning to feel comfortable again no matter what I'm wearing.

It's my goal to get back to my original weight from two years ago, when I got married, and I'm almost half way there.

The next few months are looking a little dicey, I am, after all, about to become unemployed, but I'm taking the same renewed confidence from my home life into my career hunt and I'm out there going for my dream.

All that is to say, I'll probably be posting more here about my personal life and outfits, but I've also started a new website where I'll be posting creative writing, game reviews, and hopefully interviews with gamers on diversity and representation in games -- themes that are incredibly important to me but that I haven't been as vocal in the past as I should be.

If you would like to catch up, check out my new website K. Jewell Writes.


Joggers by Fabletics, blouse from The Bay, shoes from Modcloth



 Photographer for these photos was Meagan from Flannel Foxes.


Wednesday, March 23

Game Review: Firewatch

Light A Candle has always been a place I can blog about what's going on in my life, including my interests and passions, so today I'm back to share a review of a fantastic new video game: Firewatch.

Firwatch is the premier game of studio Campo Santo, who describe themselves as "a small but scrappy game developer in San Francisco, CA." who "set out to make games about interesting people in fascinating places."  (from the Campo Santo website).  

Now, at the outset of my review I wanted to explain a few background things. For myself, player choice and representation have always been an imperative part of story telling in games, and when I started playing them I made tons of ludicrous statements such as "I'll only play games where you can play as a woman." Of course, if you're a gamer you know this kind of stipulation is entirely unrealistic (perhaps woefully so).

Prepare for some very light spoilers below. I promise I won't give away anything that doesn't occur in the first five minutes of game play.



In Firewatch, you don't begin the game with an intricate system of categories and sliders, nor do you name your character or pick bits of backstory from a list. In Firewatch, the year is 1989 and you play as Henry. A middle aged man whose life has been a combination of blissful married years (always in a heterosexual union with a woman named Julia), romping and strolling with your dog (here you get some choice between dogs, mine was a beagle named bucket), and dealing with the emotional toll of what becomes a long distance relationship and later your wife's declining health.

Having spent the bulk of my time gaming with RPG's such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect, it was immediately strange to have the choice of who I was playing dictated. Whilst playing through the introduction (which I've done a few times now) it becomes clear that no matter what choices you make as Henry, nothing will ever turn out as you intend. Campo Santo takes away your ability to create a Henry that is a self insert, or to mold a life for him that reflects what your own choices might have been -- instead, we always begin the game with a sad, sick taste in our mouth of a life derailed. (Check out this great article about player agency in Firewatch over at Polygon, spoilers abound).

Things having gone so poorly, Henry (and you the player), have taken a job you found in a local newspaper. It's a summer job, out in the wilderness of Wyoming where you will be charged with keeping watch over the forest for any sign of fire. Your boss is a charming voice on a radio sending you instructions and engaging you in conversation from her own fire tower some distance away. As a player you do have some choice with how much you engage with your boss, Delilah. You could very well choose to ignore most of her conversation options, but through doing so you would lose out on a lot of the games story, and for a game that clocks in at about eight hours of play, that would be quite a loss indeed.


Delilah is instantly likeable and flirtatious and Henry can respond with detachment or receptiveness. Both characters are written with a myriad of flaws bolstered by an absolutely wonderful sense of humor that makes their repartee -- the only real delivery system for the games story -- feel natural, real and engaging.  


The story itself is not at all what I expected. It's a mystery that rachets up from zero to 100. It's an exercise in paranoia and the effects of isolation. It's romantic, tragic, and left me evaluating my life and character in ways I didn't expect. I don't want to give too much away, but despite some deficiencies in the way the mystery is wrapped up, the story was thoroughly enjoyable.

One really can't discuss this game without acknowledging that Firewatch is completely and unabashedly gorgeous. The animation, the art style and the amazing score contribute towards both the atmosphere of isolation and wonder at the incredible natural surroundings. The only problem I had whilst playing was that I was at times so stressed out by the intensity of events that I failed to take my time and inevitably missed a lot of the small details. Were I to play the game  again, I know I would take more time to explore every corner. Not to mention, there's a wonderful mechanic where you come by a disposable camera and can take pictures of your surroundings in game, but I was often so involved in the story I forgot to use this to document the beautiful sunsets and vistas. Trust me when I say this mechanic has it's place and by the end of the game, not using all my disposable film was my biggest regret.

When everything ended, for me about seven hours in, a rush of emotions and thoughts ricocheted around the inside of my head. I wasn't completely convinced that all of the clues made sense when the mystery wrapped, there were definitely some red herrings and smoking guns involved and it took some rowdy discussions with other players for me to feel they sufficiently made sense of all these details. Despite that, the core story of Henry's emotional journey wrapped perfectly and the catharsis I felt around his character was deeply satisfying. Not to mention, once the credits had finished I found myself in tears and incredibly eager to talk to someone -- anyone -- about what I had just experienced.

I also felt the need to schedule another play through, I didn't want the story to end. I was lucky enough to have some friends interested in the game so they played and I watched. Firewatch is just as beautiful to observe, and because it's a short game it made it doable in two sessions.

The brevity of the game has been a contention point for some. One player left a review on Steam saying they were considering a refund because they didn't believe there was enough game play to justify the cost. I would recommend reading the thoughtful response and respectful exchange with the developer that ensued, as it encapsulates a lot of important points about indy game making in today's industry and the price we put on others creativity.


Personally, I feel Firewatch could have done a bit better with its diversity. Because there are only two speaking characters in the game, both of which are very fixed, a player is locked into a specific narrative that might not reflect their own experience at all and even make it uncomfortable for them to engage. For white, heterosexual players Henry is the every man and his story is quite universal, but for minority groups it might feel slightly forced. I think back to my beagle, Bucket. At the outset of the game this is one choice you can make for Henry that leads to an actual divergence of dialogue. If you choose the Beagle, you cannot also have the German Shepard.  This doesn't affect the story at all, but it gives players the illusion of choice and effectively makes them feel more connected to Henry and his illusive, predetermined past.

One question I might pose to the developers is this -- how much more difficult might it have been to, when Henry meets Julia in a bar in the text based intro slide-- give the players the option to meet Julia or John. The name of your spouse and the specific pronouns associated with them would make only a few divergent changes necessary in the dialogue, Julia is never seen on screen, and although she is voiced in one short dream sequence, Henry's sexual identity would have made very little difference to the story being told. The only thing to change at that point would be the undertones of Henry's conversations with Delilah, and since the player already has the option to engage or not with her flirtations, I maintain that little would be different on the surface. Providing this kind of choice can prevent certain audiences from disengaging with the story and give players more of a sense of participation in what is sometimes a passive narrative. 

Ultimately, I think enjoyment of Firewatch boils down to recognizing what it is, and what it isn't.

What Firewatch is, is a beautifully illustrated, animated, acted and scored interactive short story. The story wouldn't be out of place at all printed on the pages of a prestigious anthology. Instead, the game developers decided to let us take part in the unraveling of the narrative which lends us the ability to not only observe, but absorb and learn as though Henry's experiences were our own.

Friday, October 30

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween friends! This year I'm wearing my Cassandra hoodie and pretending that's a costume. ;) Our Saturday sounds like it will be low key with candy, friends, board games and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to celebrate the holiday. Have a fun, safe weekend wherever you are!

Tuesday, October 13

Inktober 2015

So my new found Tumblr community brought a special event to my attention recently. This year, I'm participating in something called 'Inktober', where you spend some time each day for the month of October inking some art.

I had never heard of this event, but when I was younger a pencil or pen were my original preferred mediums. Granted, that was a long time ago, I know my digital art can only improve through practice with traditional mediums. I'm super rusty. Haha, super rusty. I have been having huge amounts of fun though! Not only have I taken it as a time to practice my drawing fundamentals, but I've been colouring each piece in photoshop which has been an excellent chance to experiment and practice colouring quickly and not worrying about perfection.

I thought I would share a few of my inktober drawings so far. Most of them are commissions through Tumblr of other peoples Dragon Age Inquisitors (nerd alert). It's been great fun to have a lot of different faces to draw and practice on. I am feeling kinda bad for the few portraits first as I feel I've already improved a lot.

If you would like to see more, they're over at my art blog on Tumblr, K Jewell Art.


 Not all Dragon Age characters, this is my friend Meagan who was nice enough to send me a quote and let me draw her face!

 

Friday, September 11

Man Inspired, Woman Perfected

I happen to be working with a lovely lady and fellow blogger, Meagan, who is one half of the team behind the blog "Flannel Foxes". Meagan has been a peach, she even took some outfit photos for me (which I still haven't gotten around to posting! Sheesh!) Her blog is based on taking mens wear looks, and recreating them for women -- tom boy style. It's a super cool venture and I love seeing how the ladies interpret the outfits.

They do a 'follower fridays' feature and Meagan asked if Nick and I would be interested in sharing an outfit. It was surprisingly easy to convince Nick to put on an identical outfit to mine and pose in the rain for these shots, and we even got a rainbow out of it! Consider this our one year wedding anniversary photo shoot. ;)




My outfit: GAP linen T, Winners button down, JCrew skinny jeans, GAP wool slip on shoes
Nick's outfit: Everlane T, American Apparel Jeans, Thrifted button down, Marks Work Warehouse shoes

Tuesday, August 18

Me 2 You

I wore this outfit on a particularly warm day a couple of weeks ago and felt pretty cool. I've owned this cardigan from anthropologie for years and have never really found a way to wear it that I thought looked right. I must be coming into my own as a hippy because since wearing it thrown casually over a T and denim shorts, I've been wearing it with pretty much everything! I had a head cold for a couple weeks (still feeling it actually) and wore it every day as my cozy (but not too warm) sick cardigan, pockets stuffed with tissue. TMI? Probably. Keeping it real. I got lots of compliments at least, which is nice when you're sick. 

I've been in an intensive two week course involving early mornings and -- egad -- homework,  but I think I'm just about at the home stretch. Wish me luck! 
T JCrew, Cardigan Anthropologie, shorts Winners



Monday, August 10

Hobbitses

For our one year wedding anniversary Nick and I took in the adorable Hobbit themed pyramid at the Muttart Conservatory here in Edmonton. We visited the Muttart a couple of times when we were dating, and on one memorable date as we sat down for lunch at the Culina Cafe Nick pulled out my chair and a little old lady at the table next to us leaned over to exclaim that there are few gentlemen left in the world and I was lucky to have nabbed one! It was a special little memory that made returning to the Muttart and Culina's for our anniversary extra special!

Of course, it helps that I've been a giant Tolkien nerd since childhood. The hobbit hole was done by Axis Mundi Artistry (whose work I've admired for years and occasionally had the pleasure of purchasing), and they did a beautiful job!

As for having passed our first marriage milestone of one year, I'll say that I am ever more in love with my husband, and even though we're facing some difficult times personally, our marriage will only be strengthened by facing these challenges together. I've truly lucked out by finding one of the most understanding, affectionate, and loveable men out there!

JCrew dress, Minnetonka moccasins



Wednesday, August 5

Lola at the Cabin

Guess what today is? It's my pup Lola's second birthday. Girl is all grown up! She's such a sweet, well behaved pup. We still haven't managed to train the whole don't jump up on people thing. When she hears my mums voice she goes crazy and has been known to leap from the ground to eye level. She's super good with Tommy, our cat, and even though she would prefer to be out playing fetch, she doesn't mind an afternoon spent curled in bed. Last year she only got to visit my parents cabin once,  we didn't stay over night, and she was tied to a tether, but this year her recall has improved enough that we thought she could enjoy the cabin and the mostly wild terrain off leash. She behaved wonderfully, and really enjoyed it!

That's where these pictures were taken! It was rainy on the first day, but by the time the second day arrived it had cleared up considerably. Of course Lola didn't mind the rain one bit, she loved running the trails and smelling all the wild smells. She took several rain baths and was so tired and damp she even let me wrap her up in a blanket to keep her warm while she snoozed. On the second day she spent most of the time cuddling with Nick. We love our girl!











Thursday, July 30

Nerd Haul - Biowares Greatest Gift

It's hoodies -- Biowares greatest gift is hoodies. I don't know who is responsible for coming up with their merch, but whoever it is, they're geniuses. Whenever they come out with a new design I am falling over myself wanting to buy it. I'm beginning to amass a small collection of Bioware hoodies and Nick was an awesome husband and got me the Cassandra Armor Hoodie for my birthday in June. It's a little bit extra nerdy with it's armor shoulder details, but I'm kinda in love with it. Can't wait for fall when it's cool enough outside to wear it!

I bought Nick and I matching modern Inquisitor hoodies around the same time (THERE WAS A SALE OK) and Nicks been rocking his lately. Here he is giving a model pose:

I think we know where it's at.


Friday, June 19

Polka Dots Are my Jam

I don't know what it is about polka dots.

My mum was always a lover of polka dots, she had several polka dot ensembles so perhaps I inherited my fondness from her. There's something both whimsical and demure about a polka dot print.

I had a jersey, faux wrap polka dot dress in my wardrobe for a very long time -- it was probably the single piece of clothing that I wore for the longest period. It eventually wore itself right out, the polka dots rubbed completely off the back of the dress. I kept it under my bed with my too small clothes for an extra year, but recently went through everything and tossed it. Of course, when I saw this dress at Sears I thought it would be a perfect replacement.

Here's to another ten years of polka dots.

Boots from Modcloth, Dress Sears, bag old, jacket Reitmans, necklace from the muttart conservatory