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.

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.

The Joy of Ren Faires

I’m normally a pretty cheerful person, but nothing gets me grinning like the Cheshire Cat for seven hours straight like attending a Renaissance Faire. I’m doing an exercise in frowning now to stretch those muscles in the other direction.

Theoretically, I grew up pretty steeped in Ren Faires. My mother was an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for many years, my father was the site manager for a Renaissance Faire in Oregon for some time, and the home business that kept us happily supplied with things like food and cows required a great deal of vending at Renaissance Faires all over the place.

Unfortunately, we moved away from civilization when I was seven, and it just wasn’t economical or easy to take a few kids along to whatever Ren Faire my father was selling at, so in my active memory I’ve only ever been to the few small Ren Faires that dared attempt a start in the really north part of the Pacific Northwest. Those Ren Faires were like grass growing through cracks in the sidewalk: Pretty, but… well, I don’t know where I’m going with that metaphor. “Pretty but not really feasible”, maybe.

The point being, upon moving to the east coast, I was practically bulldozed by available Renaissance Faires. There were, like, three of them within 200 miles! Amazing!

Which is why I’ve been to the Tuxedo NY Renaissance Faire three times this year, and today I attended the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair. I don’t have a problem, you have a problem.

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My Generic Peasant outfit for Renaissance Faires. Complete with illiteracy and tooth problems!

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The outfit I actually wear out of the house because I don’t want my employers to see how completely crazy I am. Everything gets tucked into the coat like I’m trying to smuggle electronics out of a store.

The Generic Peasant outfit is a relatively new addition to my costume collection. It replaced my old Renaissance Faire outfit that I used since I was around twelve, an outfit I kept for many years because I never grew tall enough to officially outgrow it. The Generic Peasant outfit has a unique quality to it: It makes everyone, guests and staff alike, believe that I work at whatever Renaissance Faire I happen to be attending.

This is a little bit sad, in a way, because it means the actors and performers rarely interact with me anymore, since I’m not part of the general public they are there to entertain. It’s still highly entertaining when they try to place me, though. (“Are you… on break, now?” “I don’t work here.” “Ohhhh.”)

Anyway… the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire!

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I’m still in awe of Renaissance Faires that actually have buildings. The tiny ones are more like county fairs; lots of temporary tents and stalls. This works great for county fairs because county fairs are not meant to be historically accurate to anything. It works less great for Ren Faires- at least, when the tents are clearly made of polyester and plastic.

But these buildings stay up year round! They are, in fact, like actual buildings!

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I find Renaissance Faires to be such beautiful places. They have some genuinely strange people among their ranks, and that’s what makes it so phenomenal. Everyone’s allowed to be slightly crazy. Probably expected to be, even. In ten minutes you will pass three pretend witches, half a dozen actual Wiccans, fourteen pirates, a dozen historically accurate costumes, three furries, hundreds of little fairy princesses, and at least one steampunk Pikachu.

And again, I’m still slightly tripped up by the size of them. In my head, a Renaissance Faire takes place in a flat rented field, with twenty polyester stalls and a dozen actors who can’t quite shake the Redneck from their vocabulary.

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My father used to say, “Look for the crowd pictures. If the Renaissance Faire doesn’t have any pictures of crowds on their website, they’re not pulling enough people.”

I always spend an obscene amount of money at Renaissance Faires. They’re expensive as a rule, but where I’m normally fairly conservative with my money (this is a lie), at Renaissance Faires I’m practically throwing my money at passerby in the hopes that they will hand me some kind of trinket. Unfortunately, as things are expensive, I usually only come back with one or two items.

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There was a tea shop. A SHOP for TEA. Look, I don’t know if you understand me, they had a permanent vending area in which they sold dried leaves for flavoring water!

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Pictured here: The best shot I could get of the chess match from where I was sitting. Renaissance Faires are big on human chess matches. It’s like regular chess, but with people who hit each other with dangerous weapons. As opposed to harmless weapons?

I didn’t take too many pictures of the Renaissance Faire, since I was too busy being head over heels in love with everything and everyone. I’ll be riding this high for days. Renaissance Faires are, truly, a masterpiece of creativity, history, and fantasy. And the men are beautiful because men look a million times more attractive in historically accurate garb.

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Various baubles I’ve picked up at both Renaissance Faires. This is not all of it. I buy a lot of things. It’s not good.

And, I have to say, even if Renaissance Faires aren’t your thing, everyone ought to experience the feeling of walking around in a bodice and snood all day, and then taking them off at the end.

Everyone.

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Ahhh, loose hair. I didn’t spontaneously buy a new Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire (or PRF for short!) cap. I don’t know what you’re talking about.