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Month: March 2017 (page 2 of 2)

Figure Skating Friday: The Best Costumes Part 1

After last week’s tribute to the 1961 World Team, I wanted to do something a bit more cheerful for Figure Skating Friday this week.

Skating is know for its often elegant and sometimes outrageous costumes, which have the power to add — or detract — from a skater’s performance.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite skating costumes.  (Least favorite coming up next week!)

elenabestcostumeElena Ilynik and Nikita Katsalapov, Ice Dance, Russia, Swan Lake, 2014

This dress just SCREAMS Black Swan.  However, it is just a little bit modern and creative while still definitely paying homage to the ballet.  This dress, and the program that went with it, hit every high note with the Russian crowd at the Sochi Olympics, bringing home a medal and bringing down the house, despite a one point deduction when a feather from Elena’s dress fell on the ice.

sasha best costume

Sasha Cohen, Ladies, United States, Romeo and Juliet, 2006

Designing a dress that reminds the audience of a historic time period while still being suitable for skating (in other words, short enough to jump in) is quite the challenge.  Sasha’s favorite dressmaker and designer, Jan Longmire, struck gold with this one (and its gold-colored twin, which Sasha wore earlier that season).  The embroidery and beading definitely has an old fashioned look to it, not out of place for the time of Shakespeare, if not directly historically accurate.  Even the shape of the skirt looks elegant, like a formal gown, just shorter.  The effect is beautiful and definitely something Sasha could skate in. Truly lovely!

chenbestNathan Chen, Men, United States, Prince Igor, 2017

Young Nathan Chen completed five quads in one program to win the US title this year — and he looked great doing it.  While his program used music from an opera that isn’t well known in the skating world, his costume does an excellent job of placing the audience in the 12th century Russian world of the opera’s main character.  Nathan’s costume is embroidered and fancy and befitting a prince — it is also masculine and powerful looking.

Also — I’m starting to realize that I really like red and gold. 😉

gandgbestcostumeEkaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, Pairs, Russia, Moonlight Sonata, 1994

It’s hard to discuss the best of anything in figure skating without mentioning the incomparable G&G, and costumes are no exception.

In the ’90s when everyone else was overdosing on sequins and lace, Gordeeva and Grinkov kept it simple.  In this case, with such a strong, elegant program, having costumes that don’t distract the view was crucial to their success.  This was a pair known for their gorgeous line and stunning positions, and the simplicity of their costumes left the attention right where it belonged — on the masterpiece of their skating, showcasing their mature partnership and talent.

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 4


Reading: Queen Marie of Romania’s autobiography along side A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  I like to pair non-fiction with fiction to be able to switch it up a little.  A Discovery of Witches is very different from other fantasy novels I have read — although the professor heroine reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, this book feels much more modern for the most part (but it does reference history a lot).  So far the start is a tad slow, but I can see why it gets rave reviews.  The voice feels somewhere in between The Historian and Outlander.

Watching:  Other than this week’s The Walking Dead, not much watching going on around here — it’s been much more video game focused at home this week.  Watching my husband play Zelda without armor or the shirt to keep you warm is hysterical, however.

Listening:  Jazz, swing, the Great American Songbook.  No new discoveries this week — but starting to get in the mood to write some more 1930’s Alternate History pretty soon.  🙂

Doing: Playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch.  It’s an addicting game that will keep me busy for a long time.  The open world design is amazing, and it feels like a Zelda game and more.  There are definitely things that remind me of the older games, but it is also very up-to-date in terms of gameplay and graphics and world building. Amiibo seems to provide a way to have Link’s classic clothes.  I’m tempted.

Planning:  A full re-write of The Lion and the Eagle.  Not sure when, but soon.  Time to make maps in the near future, also.

Writing: Still working on the same short story, and getting notes from beta readers about On Thin Ice.  I’ve fixed a lot of little issues, and I’m waiting on a few more opinions before I make big changes.

Obsessing Over: The really pretty glasses Roasting Water has right now!  Paper cranes and gold, oh my!

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna

marieHer Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, the third child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 14 June 1899.  Sometimes, especially in English language publications, she is referred to as “Marie,” the French form of her name, but this is not accurate in terms of Russian naming. (Although she sometimes went by Marie as well as the more traditional Russian nickname “Masha.”  Perhaps this had something to do with the Imperial Russian love of all things French.)

Considered very beautiful, Maria had light brown hair and striking blue eyes.  However, her sisters often called her “fat little bow wow,” especially when she went through what we would call a “chubby” phase during her growth.

Together with her younger sister, Anastasia, Maria was half of the so-called “little pair.”  She and Anastasia shared a room and often wore similar clothing.  However, kind Maria was often overruled by her impish prankster of a sister.


Maria was considered too young to be a nurse during the war, but she did go and visit soldiers and help them write letters home to their loved ones.  She was spared some of the more disturbing sights that her older sisters experienced, but was still able to help the war effort in a way more fitting to her age (only 15 when the war began).

Often a flirt, Maria’s lifelong dream was to be a wife and mother, and she often had crushes on the soliders she visited.  She said that if she were not a member of the imperial family she would have wanted to marry a solider and have lots of children.  While all of the Tsar’s daughters were expected to marry and have children, Maria seems to have daydreamed about this more than her sisters.  At least one man was very taken with her — Louis Mountbatten.  In fact, he kept a picture of her by his bedside as a memento of his childhood crush on her until the day he died.

Some people believed that Maria was a symptomatic carrier of hemophilia, the bleeding disease her younger brother, Alexei, suffered from.  When Maria had her tonsils out in 1914, she hemorrhaged, which could be an indication of hemophilia since some carriers do bleed more readily than the average unaffected person.  After the bodies of the Imperial family were discovered and tested, it was found that one of the girls in the main grave was a hemophilia carrier — but who she was depends on who is right about the identities of the various sisters in the graves, which is a mystery unlikely to ever be fully solved.

maria childNota Bene: This is the third in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.


Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Figure Skating Friday: 1961

1961 world teamWhen you look at a list of medalists at the World Figure Skating Championships, you will notice three gaps, when the event was not held — World War I, World War II, and 1961.

On February 14, 1961, the entire US figure skating team, along with coaches, family members, and officials boarded Sabina Flight 548 bound for Brussels, on their way to Prague for the competition.  They never made it.  The next morning, the plane crashed during an aborted landing attempt near the Brussels airport.  No one survived.

On board were many famous and talented skaters and coaches.  The legendary coach and Olympic medalist, Maribel Vinson-Owen, was accompanying her daughters as their coach.  She had also coached Tenley Albright, the first American to win the Olympics in Ladies figure skating in 1956.  Vinson-Owen is tied with Michelle Kwan for the record number of US National titles (nine) in the Ladies event — but Maribel holds the record for total number of US gold medals when you factor in her four US National wins in Pairs.

Maribel’s daughter, Laurence Owen, age 16, was the champion of the Ladies’ event at Nationals and showed much promise for the 1964 Olympics. She had just been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, morbidly gracing the newsstands at the time of the crash. Her sister, Maribel, age 20, was National Champion in Pairs, with her partner Dudley Richards.  Men’s champion Bradley Lord and Ice Dance champions Diane Sherbloom and Larry Pierce were also lost in the crash, alongside other medalists like Stephanie Westerfield.  A full list can be found here.

The impact on the sport was felt immediately and for years into the future.  Out of respect for the dead (and due to the reality of a lack of judges and other officials), the competition was canceled.  Many foreign coaches, including John Nicks (from England) and Carlo Fassi (from Italy) came to fill in the void left by the victims of the crash.  Even so, the loss was deep and wide.  In the 1980’s, when Maribel Vinson’s former student Frank Carroll was coaching at the Olympic level for the first time, he found himself wishing that he could call Maribel and ask for advice.

In the 1964 Olympics, young skaters tried to bridge the gap, competing ahead of their time.  The US won only one medal in figure skating.  Scott Allen, age 14, brought home bronze in the Men’s event becoming one of the youngest medalists in history (he is still the youngest male and youngest individual medalist in the history of the sport).  Also at that games, a young star emerged in the Ladies event — Peggy Fleming, age 15, placed sixth but showed remarkable talent for the future.  She won the gold medal in 1968, re-establishing the US as a world-class power in figure skating.

The memory of the 1961 World Team has not been forgotten. US Figure Skating created the Memorial Fund, in their honor, to provide financial support to up-and-coming US skaters. In 2011, for the 50th anniversary of the crash, US Figure Skating made a documentary, entitled Rise 1961, about the team, the crash, and the Memorial Fund.  And, in Massachusetts, an elementary school was christened Vinson-Owen after the famous family.


US Figure Skating Memorial Fund

Rise 1961

Frozen in Time by Nikki Nichols

Vinson-Owen Elementary School

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 3


Reading: I just finished The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward.  I got it as a Christmas gift, but I haven’t had time to read it until now.  It is definitely a lighthearted book, and a lot of fun.  I expected it to be set somewhere a bit more medieval, but this fictional land has both social media and potions!  Next up for me is Queen Marie of Romania’s autobiography.  A friend of mine is reading it in Romanian, and I’m joining her with the English edition.

Watching: All the Lucy Worsley documentaries I can find on YouTube.  Highly recommended for any history buff.  With subjects ranging from the Tsars of Russia to the history of romance in Britain (mainly focusing on fiction) to the history of every room in a British house, there is truly something for everyone in her body of work.  I love Empire of the Tsars, but I also love A Very British Romance.  Such a perfect touch to wear a bright pink dress to visit Barbara Cartland’s house.  🙂

Listening: An interview with Stephanie Garber, the author of Caraval, one of my favorite recent reads.  I just love books set in circuses or circus-like settings (since Caraval is a bit more than just a circus — seriously, read it, you’ll see what I mean).  I rarely pre-order a book from an author I’ve never read before, but I made an exception for this one because it sounded SO good — and I was not disappointed.  I read it as a reward for getting my manuscript beta-reader ready, and it was a great treat.  I definitely got a book hangover from this one.

Doing: Playing our new NES Classic Edition.  They are really hard to find, but my husband was able to purchase one, and it is so much fun.  It is loaded with 30 classic Nintendo games.

Planning:  Still compiling a list of agents to submit to — and the critiques are trickling in from the beta readers.  Things are getting real around here!

Writing: A short story to submit to an anthology in April.  More details later.

Obsessing Over: Finally getting the entire Pave furniture set in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  It took a stupidly long time, and I have so many duplicate items (at least they sell for a lot of bells).  Happy Mardi Gras to me!