Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thrifty Is Nifty (National Thrift Shop Day)

August 17 is National Thrift Shop Day! Who knew? This is the kind of thing I learn from listening to the radio in the car. Since thrift shops are my favorite places to spend money, I wanted to celebrate the day by sharing some of my favorite finds; some I bought, and some I photographed to enjoy the memory. I've learned I don't have to buy everything I like; it's simpler that way when it comes time to move.

Vintage typewriters fascinate me. Chuck bought me an old typewriter like this at a resale shop.

"One man's junk is another man's treasure." Nowhere is this more evident than in thrift shops.  Of course, I understand the whole minimalist approach, and eliminating those things from our homes that are not enjoyed or used regularly. Having moved my belongings five times in the last nine years, believe me, I totally get the whole purging concept. Chuck and I have at least one more move coming, so I try to keep my impulse shopping to a minimum. 

Some things are just fun to see, and I try not to buy anything that will end up back at a thrift shop within the next few years.

Thrifting allows me to pick up "nice-to-have" things without breaking the bank. Finding a bargain just makes me so happy. My kids and I love exploring together. We try on the hats, laugh at the odd collectibles, and occasionally score a great find at a bargain price. Chuck and I have even purchased gently used furniture, including an electric reclining love seat we bought for so much less than new! 

When Bridger visits me in Illinois, we always visit the thrift shops. He looks for guitars, sunglasses, and men's clothing.  I look at books, name-brand clothing, and toys for the puppies. Sometimes we just try on hats, and laugh at funny finds, but sometimes we find things we actually want!

One of my favorite Chico tops came from a resale shop.

I'm always on the lookout for brand name clothing I can't bring myself to purchase new. When I retired from teaching, I had hoped to treat myself to an outfit from Chico's. Lucky for me, my favorite resale shop has a whole rack of Chico's clothing, and I am the proud owner of some black embossed slacks and a leopard-print blouse that cost me a fraction of the cost of shopping at a retail store.

Paying full price just never makes sense to me when it comes to certain things like clothing, holiday decor or things for the puppies. Most of the clothes I've bought since moving to Illinois I bought used. Our Christmas tree skirt and some of our tree decorations were thrift shop finds. I buy stuffed toys for Bristol and Sami, knowing I'm not out too much money, even if they destroy their toys quickly which they tend to do. I even bought a child's fleece pullover for Bristol, and made him a little jacket out of it. 

Even when I don't find anything I would buy, I just enjoy browsing through the racks and shelves. I never know what I'm going to find, but I always have fun.

Remembering my childhood Easter hats and patent leather shoes, while wearing one of my
favorite bargain tops.

What are your favorite thrift shop items? Have you found any unbelievable deals buying second-hand?

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Drinking Problem

Saturday, I am embarrassed to say, I found myself stumbling around the Bristol Renaissance faire, feeling woozy, and not at all like myself. I had a serious drinking problem that day, but not the kind you usually associate with the revelry of Ren faires. 

There was a very important lesson I thought I already knew, that I had forgotten to remember: On summer days, even the pleasant, un-hot, un-humid ones, it is imperative to drink plenty of fluids. 

Chug! Chug! Chug!


Every cast member and every season pass holder at the Bristol Renaissance Faire knows this rule. Nearly every "regular" has a wooden or pewter stein strapped to their belts when they are not using them, so they are always ready to grab some water or lemonade. 

Yes, I had a serious drinking problem on Saturday; I did not drink enough H2O, and dehydration sucked all the fun out of my day. Somehow I forgot to drink water until it was too late, and by then, I didn't even care, which was not a good sign.

Saturday was one of the most lovely days, weather-wise. Cooler temps, and delightfully low humidity. Chuck and I arrived just after the gates opened, and I realized I had a headache moving in pretty quickly. We snapped a few photos of the Bristol Buskin Frolic around the maypole, and then we made a beeline for the nearest vendor with Diet Pepsi. 

I jokingly held my Diet Pepsi aloft, and told Chuck, "Nothing says Ren Faire like a Diet Pepsi in a plastic bottle."

Chuck followed up with, "Nothing seems to get rid of my wife's headache like a Diet Pepsi, though." It's true. It's my drug of choice when a headache strikes. 

To my lovely friends who have warned me against the evils of aspartame and diet sodas, I KNOW. I have been trying to give up all things "diet." Anything with artificial sweeteners has been verboten. But I had a terrible headache, and nothing seems to cure it faster than some Tylenol and liquid caffeine. (And it tastes so good. Shhh. I know; I know.) My dear sister-friends who treat me like they are overbearing mamas when I imbibe in my favorite naughty nectar remind me constantly of the dangers of diet soda. (I love you, Susan and Sharen.)

Notice the Renaissance-style "Big Gulp."

The morning's Diet Pepsi gave me a false sense of hydration. Now in my mind, I know caffeinated drinks are diuretics. They tend to DEhydrate, not REhydrate. So from 10 ish to noonish, I only drank that one soda. Usually we drink lots of water, every time we pass by the fountains. Unfortunately, my headache made me content to just park myself in the Guild of Saint Michael's military encampment for a couple of hours, without drinking or eating. By the time the parade was ready to start after noon, I knew I was in trouble, and for the rest of the day, I never felt like myself.

Fetching pails of water, ren faire-style.

When my husband asked me questions, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I knew my thoughts were confused, and my speech delayed. Chuck realized I needed to drink and eat, and encouraged me to get moving toward food and water. As we walked up the hill toward the eating establishments, I began to cry. I felt so childish, but I was so miserable, I couldn't stop the tears. 

Now I cry during sad movies, and when my friends are suffering, and when my children are unhappy, but I don't generally cry because I am uncomfortable or in pain. Chuck was worried. He asked if he should ask security to take me out in a golf cart. I was mortified. NO! How embarrassing. I knew I wasn't feeling well, but I can be stubborn. 

After guzzling water from the nearest fountain, I sat in the shade on a bench while Chuck got me a bottle of water. On our way to find food, we ran into friends. I wanted to talk. I wanted to take pictures. Instead I gave a little hug, took a quick pic, and mumbled about needing to go, and stumbled along behind Chuck who was quite concerned about taking care of me. Again, he had me sit in the shade, and he found me some protein in the form of a bratwurst. I ate it, and started to feel a little better. 

It wasn't long, though, before I started feeling light-headed again. What the heck? Chuck had me drink another bottle of water, and we sat in our air-conditioned car in the parking lot for awhile. 

Even "Big" guys need to drink.

Dehydration is more serious than I realized. It's so much more than being thirsty. It affects our energy and our thinking. 

Dehydration is serious business.

Since my recent first-hand experience, many faire friends have offered survival tips to PREVENT it and MANAGE it. Prevention would have been best, but I have been told, there is no shame in asking for help from the first aid and security personnel; that's why they are there, after all. 

Even cast members deal with the effects of dehydration. I am grateful for their insights and advice.

Here are my friends' tips. (Disclaimer: none of these faire folk are medical professionals, just people who deal with extreme heat and humidity while wearing costumes that weigh as much as a young child.)

1. Drink lots of water. Not soda. Not alcohol. WATER.

2. Eat pickles. There are pickle vendors strategically placed around the faire. Many even recommend drinking the pickle juice.

3. Drink V-8 juice. (A dear friend says, "If V-8 tastes good, you need it." She managed to drink THREE servings without shuddering from the taste when she was suffering from dehydration.)

4. Seek first aid. The staff are prepared to drive patrons and cast members to the first aid station where Gatorade, air-conditioning, and a place to lie down are offered.

Live and learn. I was told by a ren faire veteran that now that I've suffered the ill effects of not being hydrated, I may be more susceptible to it. Knowing that, I will be hyper-vigilant. I really don't want to miss out on any more faire experiences. 

Remember, we need to hydrate with plenty of water throughout the day. No more drinking problems for me. From now on, my biggest problem will be finding privies throughout the day, if you know what I mean. We need to drink up so we can completely enjoy a full day at the Bristol Renaissance Faire!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Let's Celebrate Wheat and Honey!

Lammas is a special festival celebrating wheat and honey, two of my favorite things. It commemorates the first-fruits of the harvest between the first of August and the first of September. The festival of Lammas is celebrated with gusto by the Guild of Saint Michael at the Bristol Renaissance Faire

Hearty loaves of bread were served at lunch from the military encampment's hearth. The perfect companions to the bread were sweet, golden honey, and tankards of ale (which was actually apple juice and honey, described as "addictive as crack" by one young enthusiast). The children's collection of toys includes corn dollies this time of year.

From The White Goddess, we learn "Lammas is a festival celebrating the first fruits of harvest, the fruits of our labours, and seeing the desires that we had at the start of the year unfold so rituals will be centered around this." The festival also recognizes that soon the hot days of summer will end. (Glory be. Hallelujah.)

Just seeing the stalks of wheat tucked into headbands, and made into garlands, made me reflect on the coming of autumn. This morning I began to think about the desires I had at the beginning of the year.

My word for 2017 is CONNECTION, and what a year of connections it has been. From getting to renew our friendships at the Bristol Ren Faire now that the season is well underway, to enjoying the wonderful young families who are our neighbors, to deepening a close friendship with a nearby friend, to getting to know our extended family in Illinois better, to adding to members to our family in the way of two puppies, to maintaining relationships with my children and family members far away, this has already been a remarkable year of connection. 

The Lammas Day at faire was extra-special spending the day with Chuck and Bridger.

Festivals of celebration are fun, and become especially meaningful when we take the time to think about their origins and significance. This morning has been a quiet time for me to ponder my connections that have made this year so special.

What desires did you have at the beginning of the year? Are you happy with where your desires are taking you? Is there anything you'd like to do differently as our year takes us from summer to fall? 

I have loved getting to know the personalities behind these pretty smiles.

These are some of my favorite photographs from the Bristol Renaissance Faire yesterday.

It has been such a pleasure getting to know this amazing woman who happens to be a wonderful photographer.

A moment between friends.

A very special friend I met at the faire.

What a great surprise; running into these beautiful friends of ours from Saint Charles.

The sun sets on another glorious day of Lammas.

Monday, July 31, 2017

And Thus It Begins...

Sleep has been in short supply for me lately, so I kept my to-do list brief today. All I had to do was grab some groceries, and make Bristol some rice for his upset tummy. Anything beyond these basic chores will make me feel like I'm Wonder Woman, for a little while, anyway.

Poor baby Bristol. He hasn't been feeling very well.

When I entered the grocery store, I made a beeline for the fragranced candles. I don't know what it is about this time of year, but I start noticing a shift in the seasons that is all but imperceptible to most. There I was, looking at the selection when I saw what I knew I had come for: PUMPKIN WAFFLE scent. A big, fat, three-wicked candle was mine for the taking (and paying), and then it was time to do what I came to do; get food!

Things were going well; milk, half and half, cottage cheese, yogurt. Wait, what was THAT? Pumpkin Pie flavored yogurt? Already? Get in my cart, you cute little thing. I will indulge in you later today while I'm inhaling the aroma of my new autumn candle. 

I knew this was coming; it always happens at the end of July for me. Last year I was burning MULLED CIDER CANDLES right before August. Just last week, I baked up my first batch of CRUSTLESS PUMPKIN PIE (AKA, Buff Pumpkin Stuff).  Oh, I do love pumpkin spice in all its forms.

Am I jumping the gun? Of course, I am; I always do. I love shopping for autumn things during the summer, and Christmas things in fall. I figure I get to enjoy two seasons at once that way. 

Don't worry, I intend to enjoy every last minute of this summer season, but I'm going to do it surrounded by the flavor and scent of pumpkin spice everything. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some sleeping to catch up on.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Almost Ready to Listen

An English muffin, overflowing with butter and honey was sitting on the cork bed of a Birkenstock sandal. It made perfect sense, until it didn't. I recognized it for what it was. Blessed sleep would be overtaking me since my thoughts were approaching a dream-like state.

Sleep has been so elusive lately, and I just haven't felt like my usual happy self. My insomnia has been getting the better of me. I have wandered through my days, checking things off my lists in a haphazard manner, wandering from task to task. Most mornings saw me heading back to bed before noon, if only for a little cat nap before lunch. And afternoon snoozes were becoming a thing, too.

When we don't get enough sleep, we don't think logically, and we might even act irrationally. Maybe that's just me. I tend to act like a very large toddler when I am overtired. 

When Chuck asked me to go with him to see the work the tree removal company had done in the backyard, I hesitated. I have loved all of the lush foliage in our yard, and the shade it provides. I followed him to the back of the house, but I was not prepared for the sight. Sunlight flooded into our family room and kitchen like bright spotlights. We looked out of our bay window. Where once stood a tall, shady locust tree, there was now a sad, little stump, level with our deck. I began to cry.

Like I said, I'm just not myself.

While talking to my husband on his commute home yesterday, he noticed I was coughing a lot. Was I? I hadn't noticed. I decided to take some cough syrup, and while I was at it, I took my temperature. It was over 99, and for a girl whose temp is usually under 97, I realized I just might be getting sick. Great. We had fun plans tonight, going to the youth theatre to take pictures. The faire is this weekend. I can't get sick.

For nearly two weeks, I have been out of sorts. My mood has been pretty flat. There has been no major disappointment; I just feel so blah.

My blog has been sitting stagnant for a week and a half. No, I haven't been writing. This week I haven't even felt like editing pictures, but I made sure the head shots for the theater were submitted.

With all of the rain, my daily walks with Sami had become sporadic, and there was so much mud to contend with every time the puppies had to go outside. I managed to sweep up the debris a few times, but I only mopped once.

My eating has been non-stop, and very unsatisfying. My clothes feel tighter, and that never helps my mood.

My Cameras and Coffee plans fell through, which is probably just as well. I don't think I would have been very good company for my friend.

I've been trying to read more, and spend less time online. Each morning I have tried to make sure I start the day with a very nutritious breakfast, knowing my eating plan unravels throughout the day when I feel like this. Fresh tomatoes have been featured at lunch. It's just all of the in-between meals eating that has been excessive.

My daughter suggested I listen to some uplifting podcasts, which was a great idea. I chose to listen to Andy Stanley, but I will need to try again. My brain was overloaded, and couldn't comprehend it all in one sitting.

Last night, I went to bed at 7:00 when Chuck went to the theater without me. I finally fell asleep after eight, and managed to stay asleep until 5:30. Then I went back to bed for about four hours before lunch. This afternoon I have gone from recliner to bed to recliner.

For me, I know it's time for some reflection. What am I doing right? What needs to change? Are there things that would make me feel better that I am neglecting to do? There is something to be learned from this discomfort. I think I am almost ready to listen to find out what it is.

A good night's sleep will be most welcome. May there be more English muffins on Birkenstocks in my near future, or whatever my subconscious brain wants to put together to usher me into dreamland.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Is Everyone at Bristol Beautiful?"

"Is everyone at Bristol beautiful?" a friend asked me recently.

People often notice that the pictures we post from the Bristol Renaissance Faire feature gorgeously radiant subjects. Our lenses are drawn to these people, whether they are cast members, staff, or patrons. People from all walks of life are represented in our photographs; every age group, a variety of cultures and races, and all shapes and sizes. 

My photo albums are full of beautiful people. I thought for a moment before I responded to my friend's question. They do seem to have one thing in common.

"The people at Bristol are happy, and when people are happy, they look beautiful."

These are some of my favorite photos that capture the happiness that translates to beauty at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. 

You tell me; is everyone at Bristol beautiful?

Even the witches are beautiful at Bristol. They are usually smiling and laughing too much to be scary.
(Please, Bristol, bring back the witches. We NEED the witches.)