Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm blogging about 2010!

I...I feel so accomplished! My slacking is current! Well, it's about to be current. At last blogging, I'd just kicked off the Christmas season. It ended as it began, full of festive festivities with friends and family. There were many wonderful events in which I either participated or attended. Also, this past year, my stocking contained the holy grail of the directionally challenged, a GPS!

 Thanks Mom and Dad, much love from your no longer constantly lost daughter.

So here we are, JANUARY! (in October!)

New years wasn't much to write home about, but I'm not writing home. I'm writing on the strangers. Usually, I'm at some city event for New Years, like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert, or WorkPlay's New Year's Party, but this year, I and my friends kept it small. We played Cops and Robbers for a good chunk of the night, found out you can fit roughly thirteen people into a standard SUV and watched the ball drop in NY. Nothing spectacular or huge, but good times all the same.

Also, in January, I went to Orlando, well, around Orlando. My sister lives in the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area, and my mother, other sister, and I went to visit her and her family. It was pretty much your basic family visit...except for the fact that it was horrendously cold. We left Alabama under the "threat" of snow, only to arrive in Florida for a sleet storm.

A sleet storm. In Florida.

The trip itself was not one of those "let's go and do everything we can! Agggh!" kind of vacations. For the most part, we just hung out at Rhonda's house, talked, went to the kids various ballgames/activities, and ate too much. Of course, being that my family is hilarious and awesome, you don't have to do much more than be around each other to be having fun. I'd have some pictures, but my sister Kristin is vehemently opposed to being captured on film. I've tried to convince her that I'm not stealing her soul, but, you know those Amish...

(Amish they'll ever read this.)

...And that was pretty much my January. Hey, not every post can be jam packed with excitement...apparently.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ornament Parties with Tacky Themes...These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things!

At last blogging on this backlogged blog, I'd just returned from New Orleans. The Christmas season  was now in full swing and the rest of December was spent doing the usual December things, decorating trees, baking legions of cookies, and attending various pageants, parades, and parties.

One of my favorite parties is Jenny's Annual Ornament Exchange. Basically, a group of us girls that have been friends for many years get together and have a good time eating, playing dirty Santa, and going to the local tree farm. However, a couple of years ago, I suggested that we kick it up a notch by adding a theme to our standard get together.

Bringing sexy back.
Christmas Sweaters! Now, these aren't your mother's Christmas sweaters...well, actually, they might have been...maybe even Grandma's. But really, that's the whole point. Sure, everyone's doing the whole "ugly sweater" party theme nowadays, but that's because it's fun, if not completely retarded. 

"Oh my gosh, I'm baking!"
We each bring some kind of baked good or savory snack. Jenny usually makes the pigs in a blanket and I am under strict orders to bring sugar cookies. By the end of the food, as we're all slipping into diabetic comas, we move on to the ornament exchange.

We can be pretty ruthless in getting the ornament we want. I brought this little gem back from New Orleans and Jen was pretty stoked to get it...until I stole it back. Yeah, my own ornament. I'm that person. 

Still, it's no big deal because everyone brings great ornaments so it's not like you're going to get stuck with a macaroni string covered in glitter and finger paint. (Awesome if you're 7...not so much when you're 27...or up...)

 That's right.

After the food fest and the ornament exchange we head out to Pine Hill Tree Farm to goof around for a bit. They have live reindeer, wagon rides, a Christmas store, and awesome cider.

 Future Macy's product.
Here I am at Pine Hill, in the store. It's wonderfully decorated...much like myself. Speaking of that, I actually made this sweater. It used to live a lonely and boring life at the thrift store, but I rescued it from its sad mediocrity...and let me tell you, ladies of a certain age LOVE. IT.  


I was asked several times if I purchased it at Macy's. Macy's! Holding back my laughter, which took, trust me, a Herculean effort, I explained that I actually made it myself. After much 'ooing' and 'ahhing,' I was told I should go sell them at, again, Macy's. Last time I checked, Macy's didn't buy its stock from some chick with a box of sweaters in the back of her Hyundai, but hey, if I want to sell them 'at' Macy's, that parking lot is fair game baby.

 Upchuck and Klutzo...rejected by Santa.
The tree farm has two reindeer. If you're there at the right time, you can feed them. You'd think they'd be jonesing for something like oats or grains, or some other kind of 'feed,' but no. These guys like overripe bananas. I guess they find them...say it with me...appealing. ha ha! ...apologizes.

Reindeer games.

Sleigh rides.
 We continued to play for a while and disturb the peace and tranquility of the other patrons with our gallivanting (I just used the word gallivanting.) and general ridiculousness. Of course, most likely to the chagrin of the employees, none of us bought a tree, but I like to think we spread a little joy.

I'm ready for my close up, Olan Mills!
Tacky sweaters, the 'look away,' and the 'arm shelf'...that's how you say Christmas.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Big Easy

First of all, let me just say, I'm exhausted. After work, most days, I head to the new casa and paint or clean until around midnight.I usually don't make it to bed until around two in the morning. The weekends, I'm there till three am. This has been going on for weeks now, and honestly, I really need a nap...and I'm not talking about a couple of hours. No, I mean, something of Rip Van Winkle proportions. However, I want to catch up on this stupid blog for my own satisfaction, so, instead of falling asleep on my desk and drooling like a sugar-crashed toddler, I'm going to write about New Orleans...because I went there.

(OH! That bit I wrote in my last post about wanting a little extra money to appear in my life, when I checked my mail, I found a bonus, two rebates, and a check for six hundred bucks. However, the six hundred bucks, as it turns out, is an insurance snafu and has to be let me be a bit more specific: "I really wish a large sum of money that I don't have to return to or share with anyone or give away in any form or fashion would fall into my lap today!")

Anyway, on with the show.

Right, so, at last blogging, I'd left Texas, headed home, and spent a day at the office. I came home after work, repacked my suitcase, and printed out my boarding passes for New Orleans.  I was heading down to NOLA to meet up with Capt. Keith, his wife Florence, and his Marketing Manager at the time. I was going to do a little work, take some pics at the meet and greet, sell shirts, merch, chat it up with fans, but really, for me, it was mostly a pleasure trip to the Big Easy. Can't hate that.

The flight was probably uneventful as, like always, I slept most of the way. After landing, I grabbed my bags, jumped on the shuttle and made my way to my hotel. 

The Pelham Hotel. My room.
Basically, the reason I chose this place was because it was close to the casino, and it was within the required budgeting. Still, it had a certain old N'awlins charm. The ceiling was super tall, the staff was great, and I had an excellent view of the alley dumpster.

Speaking of the casino, that's where the first event was being held, so I headed that way. It was a little early yet and nothing was really happening so I moseyed on over to "A Miracle on Fulton Street."

First it's blue...
Then, it's pink! ...It's a miracle!
Every year, apparently, Fulton Street is decked out in white Christmas trees, sparkling, color-changing lights, shining Fleurs-De-Lis, and a mess of fake snow. I like it. It reminds me of being a child and attending the local 'Festival of Trees,' an event I really wish the city would reinstate. However, I'm not talking about my dysfunctional town right now. Besides, there's still more to Fulton Street...

I'd say this tree is at least thirty feet tall...and each of those ornaments is larger than a basketball.

Be good or Santa will EAT YOU!
Which is the perfect size for GIGANTIC METAL SANTA! Color me crazy, but I bet this is why kids start screaming and crying when Mom puts them on Santa's knee in the mall. Perspective is everything.

Time to head back to Harrah's.

You win again, 'need to blink just as the pic is taken' win again.
Everything was set up in the Casino right between the slots and the buffet. Here's Keith with a couple of people that I don't know. There was a pretty big crowd and many autograph cards were signed, shirts sold, and pictures snapped.

Can I be a deckhand?
If I recall, these folks didn't even know anything was happening but the dude was a big fan of the show so he was pretty pumped to meet Keith and get an autograph. That's pretty much what this first event consisted of, meeting...and greeting. After that, there was business to be done with Cat Marine...which didn't concern me. So, I found a place that served up a good alligator po'boy and called it a night.

I spent the next day wandering around the city while Keith and the gang were off on more business calls.

Went down to the Riverwalk...saw this guy...

and his girlfriend.

Sweet Jambalaya! My retinas! 
I went down to the Steamboat Natchez and thought about taking the river cruise, but really that's something I'd rather do when I'm with someone. I did however try to take a pic of myself with it in the background. However, the eye killing brightness of the searing December sun created the above squinty expression.

The steam on top of the boat is coming from the Calliope...which is really cool, but ear-splittingly loud when it hits a really sharp note. I took a few vids of the guy playing, and planned to upload them, but apparently my camera had a different idea, as they are nowhere to be found.

Cafe du Monde? Cafe de MORTE!
Anyway, I was getting hungry so I ambled on down to the Cafe Du Monde for a plate of beignets. I took one bite and nearly choked to death on the powdered sugar. It's quite hard to act as if you're not strangling to death when you' death. After assuring a wide-eyed server and various staring patrons that I was fine, and leaving my plate and my dignity at the table, I headed off to do some more sightseeing.

So here are some sights I saw:

St. Louis Cathedral.
The ceiling.
A stained glass window.
An obligatory artsy shot of candles.
Some of the statuary on the Riverwalk. 
These guys are immigrants. They look really happy to be here in the US. Really...happy. 
On a more somber note, the park also has a sculpture dedicated to the six million Jews who lost their lives under the terror of the Third Reich. The image changes depending upon the direction which you approach, a technique in 'Kenetic Art.' I believe there are ten images in all. Yaacov Agam is the artist.  
I had lunch at the Court of Two Sisters, a very famous Nola establishment. It was still early, so I think it was actually brunch, but I don't know. A Mimosa in the hand, good food, and a quiet courtyard never hurt anyone.  Then, I did some more wandering...

 The carousel bar at the Hotel Monteleone. The bar itself actually rotates, so if you say, go to the bathroom and come a friend of mine did, you might find that you're sitting in a completely different part of the room. I figure it really messes with the drunks. 
 I ended up at the aquarium, where there are lots of fish...and fish type this eel.

And even a few non fish these Macaws.

"I'm a big, fat, white alligator and I'm awesome!"
And of course, this guy...the albino alligator. He looks extremely content and not just a little smug.  I took a lot of pictures at the aquarium, but I'm not going to post them'd be like finding Nemo without the humor or heartwarming storyline.

At some point that night, after a taxi ride with a cab driver who thought it'd be fun to 'get lost' and charge me extra (how wrong he turned out to be,) I ended up at the function for the night. The Louisiana Shrimpers Association Fundraiser in Belle Chasse. These were just hard working fishermen and women who had been through some tough times thanks to Katrina...and this was before the oil spill that tried to eat the Gulf. Having Capt. Keith there was really encouraging to them, letting them know that their fellow fishermen supported them. There was camaraderie, beer, shrimp, and some money raised for a struggling all in all, a good time for those in attendance. 

By the end of the night, we found ourselves on Bourbon Street.  Karaoke was preformed, Hurricanes were consumed, and Mike Fourtner was there. After a round of shenanigans, I said my goodbyes to the gang, hit the hotel, and attempted to catch a little sleep. Come some unholy hour of the morning, I dragged myself out of bed, stumbled onto a plane, and made for home. Thus ended my first trip to the grand old city of New Orleans. 

This blog is too long and poorly written. I apologize to all none of you who actually read this. I promise to sleep more...eventually.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Texas Renaissance Festival!

At last blogging, I'd just closed out October. So naturally, it's on to November. I suppose when most people (in America) think of November, they think of Thanksgiving. I do too, of course. I mean, I don't think I could count the year as a success without indulging in disturbing amounts of my aunt's corn casserole and homemade mac n' cheese come turkey day. Still, there's more to November than fun with the family and the embracing the sin of gluttony. There's also Black Friday. Now, I'm not a fan because of the sales, no. I'll keep my money and my sanity, thanks. I'm a fan because it's a free day. There's no work, no expectations, you just have a day to do whatever you will.

I will usually travel. A couple of years ago, I was cruisin' around the Bahamas with my sister...and last year,  I was jetting out to Texas to visit my friend Cindi. Cindi's awesome and we always have a lot of fun together, regardless of what we're doing. However, when the doings involve Spooktacular musicals and the Ren Faire, it's extra fun!

Bloods vs. Crip: Holiday Showdown
Me, Cindi, and her mom at the Alley Theater in Houston getting ready to see A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas. Live theater is always fun and this particular production was a little nuttier than your usual Dickensian classic. The costumes, make up, and dance numbers really shook up the familiar tale. After the show, we headed down to the Spaghetti Warehouse for dinner. The building itself is beautiful, filled with expensive antiques, rich woodwork, and supposedly a ghost or two!  Ooo! The food was good, even if I didn't get to see any spaghetti specters.

Cindi and I headed back to her house after the dinner and spent the rest of the night reading, watching movies, and picking out garb for the next day. I was extremely excited to go to the Ren Faire, and I'll take any excuse I can to play dress-up. The theme for the weekend was Celtic Christmas and well, I took it to heart...or maybe I should say head...

^ Is a perpetual child.
Now, the corset, skits, belts, chemise, etc, all of that was provided by Cindi, but the headpiece, I made that myself from some spare antlers and stuff from ye olde Hobby Lobby. Cindi is actually a regular at Faire and is well-known as Mystic. Being as I was a Ren Faire virgin, I had no special name...yet.

The jester is Cindi's friend TMI, he works at the chainmail shop making all kinds of spiffy wears, and is in general a pretty cool guy.
We arrived at the Faire just in time to watch the end of the chainmail bikini contest.

Chainmail. bikini. contest. 

It's really a lot like a regular bikini contest except for the fact there's no beach for miles, the swimsuits are metal, and I'm pretty sure at least one of those chicks was a dude. 

These leather clad fellows are Cindi's friends the Berserkers. They make and sell leather armor. It's really incredible stuff and not the easiest thing in the world to do. I made a very basic leather corset once, and can't imagine all the work that goes into the heavy detailing on the pieces they're wearing.

As I've mentioned, I like horses. I particularly like larger kinds, like this gorgeous Friesian, my favorite breed. I believe this woman was part of the cast and this was her job, to ride her awesome horse and interacting with the crowds of people.  Oh, and speaking of horses...

Now, for  Ren Faire, there's nothing too peculiar about this pic, right? I mean, a shirtless, long-haired guy with a drinking horn, and a lady with antlers isn't that out of the ordinary. However, that's only because you're not seeing this from the proper perspective.

You see, he's not just any bare-chested, long-haired man with a drinking horn, nope. This guy is a bare- chested, long-haired, Centaur with a drinking horn. A full on Centaur! He goes by the name of The Mighty Kiron, and he's pretty dedicated. He's a regular fixture at TRF, several other festivals, and is, I believe, available for events. The costume itself...I never actually saw him walk around, but I assume he's mobile. I do know he's got that thing rigged up so that the tail swishes and swats just like the real deal. I've also come to find out that there are other 'anatomical features' that can be, uh...manipulated...but I'm not blogging about it!

I can't remember this person's name, but it was nice to see someone else with antlers. Though, I do have to admit, I'm jealous of their rack. (a wink, wink, nudge, nudge...) Antlers here was nice person, and told me that thanks to my headgear, I was now a lifelong member of the horned clan. So, I can cross that one off the bucket list.

Looking for Hobbits.
I'll go out on a limb here and say it's not often you see an Ent lumbering through a crowded street. However, Ren Fair, doesn't leaf much to the imagination, and folks feel pretty free to really branch out with their costumes. Cindi and I were pretty much rooted to the spot watching him as he walked past. We just stayed out of his way. I don't know if tree-folk are dangerous, but I'd still assume his bark is worse than his bite. I wood stick with the puns, but well, as far as how to continue, I'm stumped!

In addition to the fantastic variety of garb were the various performers playing throughout the fest. Cindi and I took a couple of seats for Sound and Fury's irreverent telling of Testicles and the Sacking of Rome. 

 There was much innuendo...
 ...In your end-o.

If you're looking for some mean finger cymbals and some hardcore mandolin skills, look no further. I joke, but the music was really enjoyable, if you're into that whole medieval vibe...which I am. The only name I can remember is Tartanic, and they were great, but I don't believe they're pictured. 

The shouting Bishop here had just performed a marriage and was yelling at people to 'make way!' for the bride and groom...whom you can see right behind him and the beefeater. This couple had ditched the traditional white dress and fancy tux for black leather and red velvet. Hey, it's your party, if it's what you want, go for it! I'd love to be a guest at a Ren wedding. I have to think it'd be a lot of fun, and who doesn't love a good offbeat hitchin'?

Food of the gods.
Ye olde potato shoppe. I'm showing you this for two reasons. Firstly, to point out that the structures at the Faire grounds are permanent. People actually live in the upper rooms during the months of the festival. Cindi and I hung out in one such dwelling after the gates closed for the night. Secondly, because that baked potato was possibly the most amazing thing I've ever eaten. My view might be tainted by the fact that it was getting on in the afternoon and I'd not had much beyond a few bottles of cider, but I'm still pretty sure that spud was touched by an angel. 

Avada Kedavra?

Like all good outdoor events, the night ended with a barrage of fireworks and much cheering and clapping from the crowd...and that was that, the patrons were ushered out and the day was at an end. TRF was a great event and I'm really hoping to go back this year, but well, I'll just have to see what next month brings...hopefully a bonus in my paycheck, some lucrative freelance, or maybe just a suitcase full of money on my front porch, because that would be fine by me. 

As far as the rest of the trip, Cindi and I spent our time browsing in bookstores, shopping in Old Town, and just kicking back at her house. Finally, after downing some Tex-Mex at the Seven Horses, it was time for me to hit the skyway and head home...

for a day...

because New Orleans was calling my name...which by the end of Ren Faire, was Frosty.