Queen for a Day

Or maybe just a couple of hours. When I woke up this morning I still had quite a bit to do to finish getting my costume ready. I finished my crown last night, but today I finished making the ruffled collar which I needed to conceal the fact that I was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt under the red velvet dress that I made for Lucy many years ago and commandeered for this occasion.  I still had to attach the straps and ties to my sandwich board. And glue the top to my scepter. And make a necklace. And cook a bunch of stuff so I won’t be so pressed for time tomorrow.

By the time I got it all done, it was half an hour later than I’d planned to leave. I drank tea and listened to Christmas music on the way. It only occurred to me yesterday that I can now allow myself to listen to Christmas music in the car!

This time I knew exactly where to go and found the Renaissance Faire float with ease. The first thing I needed to do was get the face for my card. A lady who dresses as a unicorn had made everyone’s card fronts, and she did a fantastic job. It was a bit dicey having to glue that huge poster onto my board in the trunk of my car, but I did eventually manage it.

By the time I walked over to the float again, still clamping the top corners of my poster to the board, it was mostly set up, with the king and queen already installed, which meant there wasn’t much to do except lots of standing around for the next hour and a half.

I am not a fan of standing around as it is hard on my back and knees. But at least there was a lot to look at. So many floats! Many of them were packed with adorable little children. The high school marching band played “Frosty the Snowman.” The flag drill team practiced. The unicorn family (mom & two kids) went around helping everyone. I got my photo taken with the jack of spades.

Since standing for long periods is so hard for me, I began to question my eagerness to volunteer to walk beside the float instead of riding on it. But as things finally began to move, I knew I’d made the right choice. I could see so much MORE when I was on the ground moving around. I got to see all the floats that went ahead of us, from one with a life-sized snow globe to a bucket truck (complete with two parents and three adorable tots on top), to several front-end loaders sporting flags and lights, to the flag team and marching band.

Finally it was our turn to move. There were probably about eight of us walking beside the float and about as many on the float itself. I found that the speed of our progress varied quite a bit. Sometimes we moved at a comfortable walking pace, and sometimes I had to speed walk to keep up! Others were handing out candy but since I had my massive scepter to schlep, I just waved and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

I wish I could tell you that it was all old hat to me this year and that I didn’t cry at all—but I’d be lying. I was just as charmed and touched this year as I was last year—maybe more so, because I was walking so close to everyone. All those bright-eyed young faces, old folks in their lawn chairs and blankets, whole families in the backs of vans and pickup trucks. I loved to see their faces light up when I looked right at them and waved and yelled “Merry Christmas!” Quite a few little kids yelled back, “Merry Christmas, Queen!” I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I resisted the urge to throw out a few comments such as “Off with her head!” After all, I was the queen of diamonds, not of hearts!

To be honest, it was an hour and a half of sheer joy for me. To sneak in for this one event and be part of a tightly-knit community’s annual celebration is such a gift. Hundreds and hundreds of happy faces lined the parade route. So much effort and creativity went into each of the floats. My costume got a lot of compliments and I was glad I put so much work into it. All those little-kid smiles were worth it!

And physically? I was fine. More than fine. Other than being a bit chilly after the sun went down, I enjoyed the walk, which I estimate was maybe about two miles. I thought my scepter might get tiresome to carry and that I’d have to put it on the float, but I didn’t. I thought I might get out of breath when the float speeded up, but I didn’t. Even when going my fastest, I could still easily wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Of course, this modest accomplishment pales next to that of my daughter Mary, who ran a half-marathon in Memphis this morning and set a new personal record. She was running to raise money for St. Jude’s Hospital. Despite a nasty fall her last day here in Texas, she ran like a boss and I am so proud of her!

And Spencer had a rugby game today which of course I couldn’t go to because of the parade. One of these days I am going to go to one of his games!

Walter and Jasper had a long day of yard work cleaning up leaves for their clients.

Meanwhile, after the parade we dismantled the float and then we were all supposed to meet at a nearby restaurant for the after party. However, no one made reservations and of course the entire town eats out after the parade, so all the restaurants are mobbed. At ours it was going to be at least an hour’s wait until we got a table. I still had over an hour to drive and I did not want to wait two hours to get my supper and then still have that drive ahead of me afterward.

So I got back in the car and headed home, stopping for supper in a very uncrowded restaurant in another small town along the way. It would have been nice to hang out with my faire friends, but tomorrow—and all next week—are going to be very busy so I’m glad I came home. I watched part of a movie with Lucy and Tanner to unwind a bit.

Parting Shot:

And finally, here’s a conversation I had with an adorable young unicorn who was on our float.

Him (pointing at my scepter): “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s my scepter.”

Him: “How does it work?”

Me: “Well, it’s just fake, you know.”

Him: “Yeah, but if it was real, what could it do?”


Him: “Like what powers would it have?”

Me: “Well, it’s actually just a symbol of my authority as queen. Because I’m carrying this, everyone knows I’m the queen.”

Him: “Wow!”

A Faire, A Surprising Phone Call, and Chaffles

Today was the opening day of Canterbury Renaissance Festival of Northeast Texas. I was up a little early for me on a Saturday—but most of the faire folk never went to bed! I made tea in a travel mug to take with me and headed out the door about when I wanted to.

I arrived at the faire about half an hour before opening, giving me time to start going from booth to booth and taking photos of everyone’s wares. There are some seriously beautiful things for sale there! It was kind of different going to work instead of just going as a patron. I had to be sure to visit every booth and get at least a couple of photos.

While photographing the gorgeous stuff in the ceramics shop, my phone rang. I looked to see who was calling me and it was a foreign number, so I walked out onto the porch to take the call. It was a man calling from the UK—a man I’ve been trying to get in touch with, but for some reason I haven’t been receiving his emails. He got my phone number from a mutual friend and called me so we can set up a time to meet with him and his wife when I’m in the UK. I went to school with all four of their children. And, as it happened, his daughter was there with him, so I had a lovely chat with her since she won’t be able to be present when I visit her parents.

This is one of the things I love about technology. That I could sit on a porch overlooking a pond in East Texas, and be talking to a lady in England about our shared childhood in Africa! What a great way to start my day.

I spent several hours making my rounds as it got hotter and hotter. A couple of times I took refuge in my friends’ Floyd and Sarah’s booth, as they had air conditioning. I think I got photos of all the performers in addition to the vendor booths.

One of the food vendors made my day. I walked into the building knowing nothing except that they sold some kind of food there. I asked him what he sold and he held up a handwritten sign and I couldn’t believe my eyes. In addition to Scotch eggs (standard faire fare), he offers homemade coxinha (a Brazilian street food), arancini (Sicilian/Italian cheese & rice balls), and samosas with four homemade chutneys. Also baklava and homemade Italian ice cream. This guy is an actual chef and I literally wanted everything on his menu, although alas very few of the items are things I can eat! Everybody should go to the faire just to eat his food. Seriously.

One of my responsibilities was to take a family portrait of the royal family. So here they are:

Some of the nicest people you will ever meet!

I kind of felt I should stay and get some footage of the Highland Games, but when I saw no sign of them happening at the appointed time, I decided I needed to get out of the heat and head home. I stopped at Walmart and got the one food item I needed, then headed to pick up Sammy, who had just returned from an international student retreat.

Once we got back to the house, I decided to try making something that is a keto take on a high-carb food—chaffles (instead of waffles). I changed the recipe I’d seen to make it more something I thought my family would like. Basically, it’s beaten eggs mixed with a little almond flour and two kinds of cheese. And you cook it in a waffle iron to get cheesy waffles that you can use to make sausage or bacon sandwiches with. I was pretty full after eating a turkey leg in the line of duty, but I did try a chaffle and quite liked it! Another thing to add to my list of breakfast/brunch foods.

Unexpected Solitude

Friday is my day “off,” at least from teaching, which means I’m able to go grocery shopping and run errands and other fancy stuff like that. I did the grocery shopping at Aldi a little later than usual and ended up getting home right at lunchtime.

This afternoon I did what I’ve been putting off for over a month—braved the Verizon store and tried to sort out my phone situation for when I’m in the UK. I think we got it figured out, but I’m really glad I went in instead of trying to navigate the website. Even the Verizon lady was stymied a couple of times. It turns out that being able to use your phone overseas to call or text home, and being able to use your phone to call people there, are two different things. But supposedly I will now be able to do both.

Having survived that task, I thought I’d reward myself by going to the bookstore to take in a few books, chat with the owner, and have a nice hot cup of tea. But when I arrived, there were no cars in the parking lot and I wondered if it was even open. As I approached Steve (the owner) came out of his office next door and explained that he was tied up dealing with a family crisis, but that I was welcome to browse and that if I wanted to buy something I should come back outside where he could see me and he’d take care of it. Also, there was free hot coffee in the coffee shop since his daughter was not there to run it.

What to do? I walked into the store and it was utterly deserted. If you know me at all, you know that I normally never touch coffee, but what choice did I have? (And don’t say, “You could have stayed out of the bookstore,” because that’s just crazy talk.)

So I poured myself a small cup of coffee and put some cream in it and realized that having an entire bookstore to myself was not actually a bad thing. I sipped my coffee and didn’t die or even gag. I leafed through several books and scanned the shelves in several rooms. It was relaxing and peaceful to be there, just me and the books. Eventually I picked a couple of books I wanted and then walked out on the sidewalk and stood there looking awkward until Steve emerged, and we went back into the store so I could check out. He apologized for the situation, but honestly, it was fine. I wanted a break and I got a break!

On the way home I stopped at Walmart and they were out of one of the vital things on my list, which means that tomorrow I’ll have to stop at the other Walmart on my way home from the faire, which means I’ll be in garb. *sigh*

So yeah, the faire I’ve been helping to promote is opening tomorrow, and I have to be there taking photos. If you’re local, you should come to Mount Pleasant and check it out! It’ll be hot, of course, but we have a lot more shade this year than in the previous two years. Maybe I’ll see you at the Canterbury Renaissance Festival of Northeast Texas! See website link below.


Two Full Days

This is a rare “bonus” Sunday installment since I wasn’t able to post for the last two days. Don’t worry, hymn lovers—there will still be a hymn too!

The reason I didn’t post on Friday is that it was just a very busy day. I did my grocery shopping at Aldi and the cashier commented that I was a world-class expert at loading groceries onto the belt in the best possible order for being placed in the cart. He’s right. After shopping for a large family for several decades, I’d question my intelligence if I wasn’t an expert by now! But it’s nice when someone notices . . .

Then I had a tutoring student in the afternoon, and another quick shopping trip, this time to Walmart to pick up a few last items. After that it was all sewing, all the time, except for a brief interlude to make some keto chicken curry for the next day. I was trying to finish a tunic to wear to the faire yesterday, because remember, all my garb needs to be replaced. I have a new tiered, ruffled skirt but didn’t have anything to wear with it. I had bought some darker purple fabric and of course I wanted lace on the sleeves, so everything took longer than it would have otherwise.

I finished everything but the sleeve elastic at about 1:00 in the morning, and then got up a few hours later to do that last little task—and of course I mucked it up. I wore the shirt anyway, but the sleeve elastic was so tight I felt like I had tourniquets on my arms for all the hours I spent at the faire! I won’t wear that thing again until I replace the elastic.

I did a bunch of food prep before leaving for the faire, and as a result I didn’t quite make it there in time for opening. I remembered to take my straw hat, and I really needed it on such a spectacular sunny day. And as I walked to the gate, I realized that my new skirt rustles quite audibly, which I found very pleasing. As I swished around the faire in my rustling skirt, I mentally paraphrased Poe: “And the silken, soft, uncertain rustling of each purple ruffle thrilled me—filled me with fantastic visions never dreamed before!”

I made a beeline for the stage where my friends of Triskelion were already performing, joining a young girl who was the only other audience member. I was given the chance to request a song, so I requested one that I hadn’t heard them sing yet this year. Great way to start the day!

From there I trekked across to the falconry show, which I enjoy every year. Such beautiful birds! Shortly after that, I was hanging around the front gate when Lina arrived and called for my help in the parking lot. She needed me to tighten her corset laces for her. We got back into the faire in time to see the end of the glass-blowing demonstration, only to watch the glass blower have to discard the piece he was working on because it got stuck on the side of the furnace and he couldn’t extricate it without damaging and dropping it. In a case like that, it can’t be salvaged.

I got to hear Triskelion again, and also the Green Man Clan, who I enjoy every year. The “clan” only had three members yesterday, but it’s the interaction between husband and wife that I specially enjoy, so it was great. I skipped the “joust,” because I’ve already seen this year’s play. I finished up my visit by watching the glass blower’s next demonstration, and this time the mug survived despite a fall onto the grass at the very end.

I was sorry to have to leave in midafternoon, but I had to rush home and change and work on more food prep—veggie chopping for the salad I was taking to Dallas. My husband and I left a few minutes after 4:00 to drive to our friends’ house in Dallas. The original plan had been to have four couples with Zambia connections there again, but it ended up just being our hosts and us.

We had a lovely evening of salad and curry and keto chocolate mousse and conversation. Entertainment was provided by their adorable four-month-old Golden Retriever puppy. Once again, we left too late and didn’t arrive home until 12:45. Imagine our surprise to find a lively conversation going on in the living room between Lucy and Jasper and a neighbor of ours! They were still talking when I got out of the shower and went to bed at 2:00 a.m.

I made the executive decision to skip Sunday school this morning . . .

Parting Shot:

The glass blower working on a spiked mug.

A Faire & A Birthday

It seems like a lot has happened in the last couple of days. But first things first: today is my son Flynn’s thirtieth birthday! We were so happy to be able to have a video chat with him and Tiffany this evening. We will have some sort of belated celebration when they are here with us for Easter.

Yesterday we had an unusual church service. Another church has been using our church building for the last few months, while looking for a new place of their own. Yesterday we had a joint service with both congregations together. It was good to see the sanctuary so full! I still didn’t know any of the music, though . . .

After the service there was a big barbeque dinner, but we didn’t stay for it because Lina and I planned to go to the Renaissance Faire, which opened this weekend. (The one closest to us.) So we rushed home and I hurried to get supper going in the crockpot and get into some garb. Garb is a bit of a dilemma for me. All my garb is way too big. So I wore a dress that I made for Mary many years ago, which is also too big, but less big than my own stuff.

I also wore a snood over my hair because that would have been period appropriate—married women did not wear their hair down at all. But I struggled with it because I don’t like the way I look in a snood! It was a chilly day and I actually ended up needing my cloak for much of the day.

So anyway, we drove over there and bought a late lunch before separating to browse around the various booths. It is always fun to walk around and see familiar faces. Lina and I met up again to enjoy two of our favorite music acts—Faire to Middlin’ and Triskelion. Triskelion confirmed that I am their biggest fan—I’ve been enjoying their music for 10 years now! So of course we took a photo:


I love little faires like this where you can really get to know people. Later in the afternoon I got to watch a demonstration of marbling on fabric—something I have always wanted to do. Now I want to do it more!

I watched the evening joust as well. They have the same plot but different actors this year. Mordred is still much more fun to cheer for than Galahad. I don’t actually think of it as a joust at all. It is just a play on horseback. But I sure do miss real sport jousting.

Lina had no interest in the theatrical joust, so she followed one of the lane musicians and I joined her after the joust was over. Soon after that, we headed home so we could finish making supper. It was a great afternoon.

Today I had my class to prepare for and teach. We are close to the end of the semester and my students are getting rowdy! Only two more classes to go! So I am putting out the word about my summer classes and soon I should know how busy I’m going to be this summer.

Down the Rabbit Hole

During this gloriously sunny and windy morning, I had a tutoring student and he did very well on his vocabulary quiz even though he forgot about it and didn’t study. I was proud of him.

This afternoon (still sublimely sunlit and breezy) Lina and I ventured forth to our favorite bookstore/coffee shop and spent a pleasant time browsing while sipping our hot drinks. I found a tome about Henry VIII and I knew I had to get it. I am sliding farther and farther into this Tudor rabbit hole.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here (and am too lazy to look it up) but I volunteered to be the “scribe” for one of our local Renaissance festivals. What this means in practical terms is that I try to post twice a week on social media to generate some interest in the faire. One post is faire news, and the other one is a little fact about Tudor England, more specifically the reign of Henry VIII usually. I am currently doing a series about his six wives. I have a whole book about them, and a book about life in Tudor England, and a Tudor cookbook, and now I have a book about the big man himself. I have plenty of fodder for my weekly posts for some time to come!

If you’re interested in following these posts on Facebook, you can find them here:

https://www.facebook.com/CanterburyRenaissanceFestivalNETexas/               (Canterbury Renaissance Festival of Northeast Texas)

So anyway, it was an enjoyable afternoon. When we returned I had some reading to catch up on. With my class and two tutoring students, I have three books that I have to be reading in every week. And before I knew I’d have quite this much reading to do, I committed to a book club so I am frantically trying to read that book too, because the meeting is next week and I sure would hate to show up to my first meeting without having finished the book!

My walk this evening was surprisingly enjoyable. I had to park in a completely different parking lot because there was a big basketball game going on in the arena. I’d much rather walk during a game than when the track itself is crowded. The university team was playing their archrivals, Lina’s alma mater. The boisterous atmosphere made it easier for me to keep my energy up, even though “our” team was losing, and I found myself having constant flashbacks to high school and college. The game was only half over when I left, so they still had time to pull it out . . .

Keeping Busy

Yesterday I skipped church to drive to Mount Pleasant and go to a meeting. It was the first meeting/cast audition of the year for the faire that I’m involved with, and I needed to be there to be able to report on it and take some photos and discuss a few things with the owner.

Most of my new acquaintances from the parade were there, plus a new girl who plays a fascinating stringed instrument, in addition to the more common mountain dulcimer. We had a potluck lunch and my keto egg muffins were a big hit! I also strolled the faire site and got a few pictures.

I had to head home while everyone else was learning a court dance because I had a pretty tight schedule. Our small group was meeting last night and I had to make pizza and dessert. Of course I had to make enough for the kids who would be staying home also. So I made massive batches of sourdough pizza dough and sauce after throwing a peach/mango cobbler in the oven.

I only had time to make the pizza we were taking, but left all the “fixings” for Lucy to make pizza for herself and Jasper. What I didn’t realize is that Lucy’s work schedule now has her working until 8:00 p.m. on Sundays.

So anyway, Walter and I took Lina with us to our small group because we have talked about her a lot and we wanted them to meet her. When we returned a little after 8:00, Lucy was just working on the pizzas for her and a very hungry Jasper. I will have to plan better next time.

Today I had my class in the morning and worked on other projects in the afternoon, including more grocery shopping, cooking and picking a lot of chicken, and doing some of the reading I have to do to keep up with my tutoring students. I can already see it’s going to be a very busy spring semester.