The Last of the Renaissance Faires

On Saturday I packed myself into the car with one (1) man with better hair than mine, eight (8) bags of miscellaneous costuming garb, accessories, and weapons, and a great deal () of Middle Ages-themed excitement.

We were going to another Renaissance Faire. How many Renaissance Faires I’ve been to this season is not important. It’s a normal number. I’m a normal person.

This was the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire again, because it was the only Renaissance Faire still running this late in the year (near me, anyway). It was, effectively, The Last Renaissance Faire.

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This time with Halloween!

Most of the Renaissance Faires I’ve attended this season I’ve attended alone, because I find that few of my friends share my single-minded determination to experience everything the faire has to offer many times over while dressed appropriately for the occasion. We don’t have time to dither around by the food court, guys! We have three shows to see and we have only five minutes in every booth, and we can’t miss our hour of relaxing people-watching. The hour of relaxing people-watching is very important, guys.

Fortunately, I found a miracle in a friend of a friend named Paul, who has even more costumes than I do and also has long, silken black hair that he can stand around looking medieval with. I’m not jealous.

Paul has done Ren Faires. Paul has done, probably, dozens more Ren Faires than I have. Paul knows how to do Renaissance Faires with me. It was a great relief.

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Paul is also frequently a pirate, and when I stopped to laugh at one of the flags at the faire he informed me he used to have that flag hanging above his computer. Because of course he had.

But today we were in less of a hurry to get things done, because we had each had our fill of Ren Faires for the season (including this one). We wandered around, catching some of the acts, brandishing glorious hair (Paul), trying not to grin like an idiot because Renaissance Faires are still the coolest thing ever (me).

Twice we stopped by the archery booth. The first time, Paul picked up his bow, hit the bullseye something like ten out of eighteen times, and complained that he was “out of practice.” He congratulated me on my three bullseyes.

The second time we stopped by, a few hours later, he hit the bullseye a mere fifteen times, and seemed genuinely thrilled that I had managed five. Curse those talented but kind individuals that you want to dislike but can’t because they’re so nice.

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Archery: Where you go if you want to see me spectacularly fail to hit the center of the target many times in a row!

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We swung by the joust, presided over by King Henry XIII (in his early days, when he hadn’t yet executed a lot of wives or grown old and fat). The area you sit in in the audience determines which knights you’re rooting for, and we ended up supporting the less than honorable ones. The slightly despicable ones. The ones that, when given the option to kick a puppy for 10 gold, would go “Welllll…”

They’re the most fun to root for. Who really need chivalry anyway. They probably lost, but we didn’t stick around for the after-joust duels to find out.

As we wound down for the day, Paul recommended we see a music group call Tartanic, who were as impressive as they were ear-shatteringly loud (very). When your music can be hear all over the Faire, you’re doing something right.

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Tartanic invited anybody who wished to come up and dance on stage if the music moved them.

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The results were approximately eighty-three very enthusiastic children who just wanted to sit on the thrones before an audience.

And then, just like that, we were done. We bought some kettle corn for the road and spent fifteen minutes removing our costumes so that we could stop at a gas station without looking like we were bringing the New Crusades. We shoved our new merchandise on top of our old merchandise, and we headed out.

Sure, the both of us will probably be very medieval for the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not terribly sad to end the season. Renaissance Faires are packed with some of the most interesting individuals you will ever meet, and it’s always a pity to leave that behind.

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Well, except this guy. You’ll see him again in a few months.

The Best Way to Waste Money (It’s Books)

Barnes and Noble recently sent me a small packet of coupons for their store. This is because I am a Barnes and Noble member, which is the very definition of Not Worth It.

This packet contained four coupons, of which two were 20% off any one item, one was some amount of money off a full cheesecake (which I very much do not need to buy), and one was so forgettable that I threw it away and can’t even remember why.

Now, I love Barnes and Noble and any other bookstore, independent or chain. Bookstores are where I go when I’ve had 13 hours of screaming boys in my life and I feel like taking my own internal screaming to somewhere quiet.

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I’m glad to see YA novels are moving past one word titles like “Temptation” and “Bloodmoonangst.” This is probably because the industry has run out of single words.

But as I’m quickly discovering, a Barnes and Noble membership is not worth it because even after the 5% discount on books you get as a member, everything in the store is still an additional 20% cheaper new on Amazon.

Nevertheless, I had a coupon. For BOOKS. What an excellent opportunity to buy something I don’t really need! I thought to myself. After all, this coupon would probably expire someday, and I couldn’t let that happen.

So I went to B&N in search of a new children’s book.

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You can tell you’re approaching the kid’s section when there’s Suddenly Potter.

The three to six boys I take care of aren’t really interested in reading. This is due to all sorts of ordinary factors, and these boys are destined to be just like most other non-readers these days, and that’s all right. But darn if I’m not trying hard on the littlest ones. I read to them whenever I can make them sit still long enough. I try out all sorts of books. As long as I can get some kind of foot in their mental doors, I’m happy.

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I considered Blueberries for Sal, which is an adorable book that I remember my mother reading to me all the time. All the time. Presumably because the book featured canning, blueberries, and bears, which could be the title of my mother’s autobiography. I finally decided against it because I can’t imagine getting any of the boys to sit still long enough to listen to a lengthy book about two girls (ew) picking blueberries.

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A newer Jan Brett book made me pause. I reeaaally love Jan Brett. Her illustrations are stunningly detailed and beautiful, and they feature a lot of trolls which I consider a plus in any circumstance.

Sadly, ‘detailed and beautiful’ is not really what these boys look for in books. And there were no trolls in this one. I passed on it.

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I paused to stare wistfully at the ‘Pinkalicious’ section and wondered what it would be like to read Pink Fairies in Sparkle Princess Unicorn Land instead of Destruction Road Rage Monster Truck Alpha Squad.

In the end, I decided I might as well get a book that I would enjoy reading to my children someday, instead of an instant classic in this house like another Paw Patrol book. I picked The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, because I can never resist books about books. It’s like having a lot of books all at once. It’s Books2.

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It’s not especially lengthy, so I’m relatively confident I can get the youngest to sit through it, and they might even enjoy it because they seem oddly delighted that I like books and libraries so much. This is a somewhat foreign concept to them, but they enjoy reminding me that I like libraries, in case I’d forgotten.

Happy with my choice, I took it to the register and purchased it for 25% off with my membership and coupon combined. The final total was $14.63, which is only $1.29 more expensive than buying it new on Amazon! Quite a bargain.

Whatever. There are worse things to spend money on.

 

 

Like drugs. Drugs are worse.

A Spot of Wild

I was restless this morning. The children have only half days all week in order to make room for parent-teacher conferences, and I had a few short hours before all three to six boys would come rampaging through the house again. I cleaned my room, tried a new orange spice herbal tea that tasted like a fall candle steeped in water, and sat on my bed listening to Mrs. Parent and the maid converse in the kitchen on the other side of the wall.

And then, before I went utterly mad, I grabbed my hiking shoes and my car keys and drove five minutes to the nearest miniature wilderness.

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Which was currently being terrorized by the Rolling Rock Bandit.

I miss the country, you see. I miss being able to walk in a straight line and not getting hit by a car or running into a building. My sort of country is the one where your nearest neighbor could be demented murderous scarecrow-demon, but neither of you like company so you avoid each other and it’s not a big deal.

And I miss the silence. Even in this park, which was good-sized, I could still hear the traffic all around and if I walked more than two miles in a straight line I would be in someone’s back yard.

Nevertheless, it was beautiful.

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Either the rain had driven everyone else out of the park or we were all silently circling it about half a mile from each other.

One of the biggest adjustments of moving to the east coast was how very green it was. In Idaho you had one month of the year in which things were green- May- and then things turned brown and stayed brown until May came around again. Sure, the trees were technically “evergreen,” but they are the unfriendly sort of green because Idaho really doesn’t like having people in it.

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Here, things stay green all summer. And then they turn golden! How cool is that?! It’s like nature here likes you!

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There’s a trade-off, of course. There are ticks here that like to kill you very gradually. There’s venomous snakes. There’s poison ivy. All the dangerous things here are stealthy, unlike Idaho, which has the decency to maul you quickly via large predator.

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“Leaf of three, let it be,” they say, as if every single plant in this forest weren’t three-leafed.

Though I’ve been here only once or twice, my very favorite part of this park is after you follow one of the trails for a mile or so. You spot a little wooden railing in the middle of nowhere…

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…and there in the middle is a single, solitary gravestone. There’s no houses nearby, nor any sort of marker or monument. Nearby are some other stones that may once have been something else, but now are just stones. This place has clearly been maintained, but no attention is drawn to it.

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Gertrude Provost / Wife of Jonathan Provost / Born Jan. 10, 1809 / Died Feb 22, 1839

So here is the memory of Gertrude, who died when she was barely 30. I did some complicated research involving the Google search engine and came up with absolutely nothing in the first three minutes, so I gave up. Perhaps someone else knows something about the pair of them.

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And then you walk some thirty feet, step out of the treeline, and the trail goes full circle. If nothing else, it greatly helps a nanny preparing for the second bout of Thursday to relax a little.

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Though I’m afraid to say that the Rolling Rock Bandit’s sidekick, Dog Poop Person, is on the rise.

Baking Bad(ly)

Before I begin I’d like to thank Spectres and Stardust for nominating me for the Black Cat, Blue Sea award, which I was hugely giddy about for only eight or nine hours yesterday. Because these awards are like chain letters you actually like getting, the rules dictate that in order to accept it I must nominate some other bloggers who fall under the same category… and of the few I know, most have already been nominated.

I think I’ll just put off this whole award thing until I’ve managed to follow more blogs. I’m trying, but general bloggers are hard to find. Stop being so general, darnit.

One of the youngest boys in my care was down with a foot injury the other day, and was forced to stay home from school for a day. I had to come up with some low-key activities that did not involve leaping from high places, climbing dangerous structures, or hitting feet with a rubber mallet, so I suggested that we try baking some bread in my new bread machine from a post ago. He gleefully accepted.

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And I only had to read 18 pages of the manual before we began!

Now, my mother has used one of these since I was born. We never lacked homemade bread in the house. Every few days she would create another loaf. She probably made around 1,800 loaves of bread in my lifetime.

Naturally, I helped her make the bread maybe twice. Probably when I was the same age as the youngest boy here. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with this thing. “It’s like one of those Star Trek replicators, right?” I was thinking to myself. “You just press a button and there’s bread. That’s the most effort I ever had to put into getting bread when I was a kid.”

Bread machines aren’t rocket science, but they do require ingredients such as yeast and frustrated tears, so I had to take the boy to the grocery store to purchase some. When I do this I always hope the other patrons of the store are judging me for being a young mother. It’s funny because I’m not.

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Once back home I told the kid that he could add ingredients after I measured them out. He was fine with this, because it allowed him to do important things in between, like playing Bejeweled on his mother’s iPad.

After we had thrown everything haphazardly into the bread machine bucket, we carried it over on our three good feet and rifled through the manual until we found the settings and buttons to press. Confidently, we pressed them.

Nothing happened.

“Oh, it’s supposed to do this,” I said knowledgably to my charge. “It always does absolutely nothing when you first start it up. Why don’t you go play on the iPad some more?”

And then, when he had run off to play more mind-numbing matching games, I called my mother in a panic. “I don’t think my bread machine is working!” I said, horrified at the idea that I might have wasted $10 on a bread machine from Goodwill.

My mother very patiently started trouble-shooting with me. We eventually tried setting it to a regular cycle rather than the “Whole Wheat” cycle, and it started right up. It was at this point that I realized that the Whole Wheat cycle began with 30 minutes of rest, but too late for that. Who even has time for 30 minutes of rest these days? Not neurotic bread-makers, certainly.

And so, on the wrong cycle, my bread mix was stirred and kneaded and risen and baked.

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Oh look, I’ve baked the surface of the moon.

When it came out, it looked a little underwhelming. As a test run we had only baked a 1lb loaf, and it sat at the bottom of the bucket and looked as though it was a witch we had just thrown water on. The boy was very enthusiastic.

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Like the kid you always pick last for dodge-ball.

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Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad inside. A little less flavorful than my mother’s wheat bread, but better than you might have guessed by looking at it. I toasted some with some butter and it tasted quite like the sort of bread you might have had in the Middle Ages before all the interesting spices were readily available.

All in all, not a failure, but I’ll have to do some experimenting with it. Like, for instance, putting it on the right cycle and actually being patient.

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I buttered some for my little helper and served it with tea. The tea was gone in seconds, because the tea I serve the boys is roughly 80% sugar. He found the bread to be palatable, but he was puzzled by the crust, which was crispy. He only ever eats store-bought white bread, so this was new territory.

He probably never would have eaten it if he hadn’t helped make it, but since he did, he loudly informed his brothers upon their return from school that they had to try the wheat bread, because he had made it and it was awesome.

Middling success, I say.

I’m Not Thrifty

When I lived in Idaho, I lived near dozens of thrift stores full of cheap secondhand clothing of reasonable quality.

(“Near”, of course, meaning “not quite an hour’s drive from”. This is about how close we were to everything in the wilderness.)

Because we were poor as muck, we did almost all of our shopping at thrift stores. Save for a fresh pack of Target underwear now and then, all dresses, jeans, jackets, shoes, and most books were bought at Goodwill, Value Village, and a myriad other smaller thrift stores. Sure, maybe we’d come out of there with clothing baggy enough to make the homeless cringe, but we bought a year’s supply of the terrible clothing for only $20!

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Look at all these colors that I, as a redhead with a redheaded complexion, cannot wear!

But when I moved to the east coast, I was horrified to discover there was only one thrift store near me, and it was filled with the sort of people who looked like they might murder you for your drug store earrings, so I avoided it. With my newly-earned riches I bought my clothes at Walmart and Forever 21, but I was still moderately scandalized every time I had to pay $15 for a shirt. A shirt.

(Of course, “near me” in city terms is “less than half an hour from me.” You can go fifty miles in fifty minutes in the country, but it takes the same to go twenty-five miles around here.)

Fortunately, my board game meetup group came to my rescue again in the form of “Jade,” a snazzily-dressed woman whose intelligence is slightly terrifying. “We should go shopping together!” she exclaimed last Wednesday. “I know you’re on a budget and I know all the thrift stores around here. It’ll be fun!”

So we went thrift-storing.

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Ah, nothing like that thrift store musk!

I’m going on a year on the east coast now and I had forgotten how great the good thrift stores can be. This was only another Goodwill, but we went during the weekly tag sale where half the items were a dollar, and it was practically heaven in a shopping basket.

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Do YOU need a band saw?! Goodwill has you covered!

My idea that I was going to spend only twenty dollars quickly went out the window. Not because of the clothing, mind you, but because as we were going through the household section I looked up and saw a “new” bread machine, still in the box.

Now, I’m living in one room in my employer’s house. I don’t need a bread machine. Basically no one needs a bread machine these days, because you can buy pre-sliced bread for a dollar at the local grocery store. There was no reason at all for me to get this bread machine.

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This is what poor decision-making looks like, kids.

I got the bread machine.

That’s the problem with being raised by a mother who always made her own bread in a bread machine. You start thinking you need one too, even though your bread will be easier if it’s from the store and more aesthetically pleasing if you craft it by hand.

Whatever. I have a bread machine now. And I fully intend to use it at least twice before I give it away to a thrift store myself.

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Also purchased: A small pile of blues, browns, grays, purples, and greens, the only colors I can wear.

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A small Japanese tea set which I washed twice because I’m always afraid the last owner died due to poison.

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Books to add to my children’s book library. The Spiderwick book will be kept in my room, they’re close enough to burning me as a witch as it is. 

The Weekly Report

Though I had the weekend off, Mr. Doctor is away and Mrs. Doctor has just called me from a boy scout meeting to tell me that she needs to take one of the younger boys to the emergency room to have his foot looked at, and could I please put the rest of the boys to bed when she gets back?

This isn’t really a problem. The boys are easy to put to bed; this is probably because I’m on the more terrifying side of the nanny spectrum, and no I won’t sit in your room with you for forty minutes after I read you a book. Your parents do that because they enjoy having no time to themselves. Go to sleep.

(They always go to sleep. They know who they can play and who they can’t.)

Anyway, I’ve already failed miserably at reading a book a week, because The Doomsday Book is surprisingly slow to read. The general premise is that time travel is available for historical scholars, and one such scholar is sent back to the incredibly dangerous Middle Ages to, you know, see what it’s like. Was everyone covered in mud and dying of the plague all the time? Let’s find out!

It’s been an interesting book, except it’s split evenly between her interesting experiences in the Middle Ages and the significantly less interesting bits where the rest of the scholars try to sort out a lot of problems in the modern day. The modern day is right outside my door, let me hear about the Black Death!

This week has been one for disguises. I did another “look like someone else” on Wednesday, but didn’t post about it because it was slightly underwhelming. My eyes are blue, and this Wednesday was going to be brown hair and brown eyes, but sadly the Japanese contacts I purchased are- surprise- made to turn already brown eyes a different shade of brown, not to completely darken lighter eyes.

So instead of rich brown eyes I had watery dull eyes that looked as though I was going blind, which might have been the case if I had left the contacts in.

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I very much liked this wig. It was a cross between “futuristic female from dystopian society” and “toddler funfun music band mascot”.

I also spent an hour before the Halloween party on Friday running some errands in my Ms. Frizzle costume, just to see if anybody recognized me. No one recognized me.

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The Dunkin’ Donuts people wouldn’t stop giving me Looks, though, so at least I managed that “crazy cat lady” look if nothing else.

My friends on The Facebook are getting more and more desperately political as the election time draws near, and this is interesting because my friends from Idaho are largely Conservative and my friends from the east coast are largely Liberal, and everyone’s equally frenzied, but fortunately none of them can see each other’s posts because I never like or comment on any of them.

This is the first presidential election I can vote in, having been sixteen the last time it came around, and I’m wondering if political fervor comes with age. Like a second puberty: One day I’ll wake up and have all these strange urges to debate the merits of various candidates and to slander the opposing party on the World Wide Web.

I’m a late bloomer.

Brunches and Bashes

As the leaves change colors and the cold seeps in, my friends rustle their wings and drive south to eat brunch on the regular.

I was very excited at the idea of brunch, because I had never seriously eaten brunch before. “Gosh,” I was thinking, “what an amazing concept! Instead of eating breakfast or lunch you can eat one big combination in the middle! How revolutionary!”

So myself and seven of my friends planned on going out to eat brunch this morning. 11:00 sharp, they said. I could hardly wait.

As 11:00 neared, a group text was sent out, explaining that even though we had a reservation, a reservation of 20 people had pushed our eating date back to 11:30 to 11:45. All right, that’s fine. We can wait that long, what’s the rush?

So at 11:30, we showed up at the restaurant and were told they could not seat us until all of our party was there. This seemed fair. We were only missing one person, and the restaurant was so crowded that there was a line out the door. While we waited for the last arrival, we wondered why this restaurant in particular, a rather generic looking place, happened to be so woefully crowded. No conclusions were drawn.

At 11:45, our last member collected, we approached the podium again, only to be told that our table wasn’t ready because the previous group of people were still eating. Well, this wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Some prodding on the part of our ringleader made the hostess reluctantly say that it would be another twenty or thirty minutes.

Well, 12:10 wasn’t so bad. We dispersed, walked around the pet store, poked through the sewing shop, chatted a little. When 12:10 came by, we headed back to be seated.

“We’re sorry, but the previous table is still there,” the frazzled hostess announced, pointing at the monitor, which displayed a blurry group of individuals who were apparently part sloth. “It will just be a little while longer.”

The sloths were in an intense “who can eat the slowest” competition, and showed no desire to leave. Because the restaurant was so crowded, my friends and I shivered outside and stared in through the windows at the sloth party, pretending to be starving British paupers dying of Poor Disease.

At 12:45 the sloths decided it was probably time to leave, and only stayed another ten or so minutes. At 12:55, the waiters cleared the table and set it. At 1:05, we were finally called in to be seated, and drink orders were taken. I ordered a tea.

At this point I was seriously considering whether brunch was worthwhile. “This doesn’t seem all that great,” I mused silently. “Brunch time is too crowded to be-”

And then I was presented with a masterpiece.

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Instead of sugar, they gave you a rock candy stick to stir your tea with.

This was the most amazing thing I had seen in my life. I brandished the rock candy stick in everyone’s faces. “Look, guys!” I exclaimed, in pure rapture. “I can stir my tea with a rock candy stick! My tea! Rock candy stick!”

My friends were less than impressed.

All in all, I think the wait was worth it simply for the joy of being able to stir with a rock candy stick. Imagine that, like it was a spoon and everything. Amazing.

This is also the time of year when my friends throw Halloween parties, and despite the cold and the wind and the rain and the mud and the threat of all of this worsening, there’s an outdoor party being held tonight. I tend to put off my costumes until the last minute, but fortunately I had a cosplay costume my sister had made for me leftover in my closet.

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I enjoy being Ms. Frizzle because it’s the only time having frizzy red hair and a large nose really come in handy.