Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, Chris!

Chris poses with his birthday cake on Sunday night.

On Saturday my son-in-law Chris had his 37th birthday. His mom was out of town and Sarah had to work, so he spent the day with a friend who was visiting from out of town. Then we had his birthday celebration a day later at our weekly Sunday family dinner.

Danielle writes a message on Chris's cake.

Chris bought an un-personalized ice cream cake and some tubes of icing, then turned it over to Danielle. Knowing how much Chris loves Olaf from the Disney film, Frozen, she thought long and hard about a Chris-like message for his cake.

The cake with Danielle's message.

Then she handed the cake on to me so I could draw in Olaf with the gel icing. It all went pretty well until the red icing leaked all over the blue gel and the white frosting! What a mess! But Danielle did a good job scraping off the worst and I did my best to salvage Olaf's face. I guess he's still somewhat recognizable...

After a delicious dinner of tacos prepared by Jacob, Chris shared a spiritual thought and then we opened his gifts. Finally, it was time to sing "Happy Birthday" and blow out the candles!

The candles are lit.

Chris thinks hard on a birthday wish.

It's always such fun to celebrate our special days with family!

Chris with his gifts, including money, gift cards, candy, and Olaf goodies.
(Ignore the girl behind the poster...)

Helping Chris celebrate his big day:
Sarah, Danielle, Jacob, and Dylan.
March 29, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015


21 Mar 2015: Arizona Renaissance Festival.
The King and Queen welcome us and officially open the gates.

I took 128 pictures at the Renaissance Festival on Saturday. That's perhaps a few more than I can comfortably fit into one blog post, so I gave it some thought and decided to focus on family photos here, and then post about 80 pictures on Facebook. Best of both worlds!

Sarah watches Dylan, Danielle, and Jacob slather on sunscreen while
we wait in line for our tickets (due to technical problems ordering online tickets).

It was a long day. We were gone from home from about 6:00 a.m. until about 10:30 p.m., keeping our outing to a one-day trip. We actually drove away from Sarah and Chris's neighborhood at 6:33 a.m. and pulled into the Renaissance Festival parking lot at 9:01, so we made the whole drive in less than 2-and-a-half hours. And that's including a 15-minute rest stop in Globe.

We met a local priest...

There is always entertainment afoot at the festival, even while waiting in the crowd for the gates to open. This kindly old priest paused to gaze at both my sons for a moment, and then he said sweetly, "Oh, look at the cute little baby beards!" (Jacob and Dylan have stubbly hair on their chinny-chin-chins that they optimistically refer to as "beards.")

...and the sheriff of Fairhaven.

Next to amble along was the local sheriff, who took one look at my daughter and gave her this advice: "The next time you escape from prison, you should change your shirt before you come to the Renaissance Festival. As the sheriff, I know about these things!" (Sarah was wearing pink-and-gray horizontal stripes.) Of course, everything said by Renaissance Festival cast members is uttered in lovely English, Irish, or Scottish accents.

Sarah finally comes through the gates...

We weren't even halfway toward the back of the line, but it took us 20 minutes to get inside the gates.

...then Danielle...

...then Jacob with their bag of bottled water...

...and finally Chris! (Dylan and I came through first.)

"It worked! We caught one!"

After we stopped to listen to a medieval choir with medieval-style accompaniment, we met these two ladies who claimed they were hoping to catch a man with a white handkerchief at the end of a rustic fishing line. When Chris picked up the hankie, they got all giggly. "It worked! We caught one!" Then a tartan-clad Scotsman nearby noted in a heavy Scottish brogue that the ladies didn't want that man, "He's wearing his plaid on the wrong half!" Such lighthearted royal hi-jinks take place all over the park. 

Sarah and Chris pose with a fountain outside a pottery shoppe.

Danielle and Jacob pose with a fountain outside a pottery shoppe.

Our favorite bridge, where we all posed 5 years ago!
Danielle, Jacob, Chris, Mary, and Sarah.

All my children: Danielle and Jacob, Dylan, and Sarah and Chris.
March 21, 2015

Dylan and Sarah capture the moment: Danielle and Jacob.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love all things Elvish!

I couldn't pass by the Twisted Sisters tent without getting my hair French-braided again!
Except, this time, I did it during our first hour instead of waiting until the end of the day

Much nicer for the 80-degree heat! 
Our high at home has only been in the 50s and 60s.

View from the back. I think they called this one "braided lace." ($25)
While they waited for me, the kids were watching the "Ded Bob" show.
That's Dylan below to my left. Most of these shows are quite risque!

There are more than 40 shows scattered on various stages (more than a dozen) throughout the festival, so it's impossible to see them all in a day. Especially if you're like me and your favorite thing is browsing the almost-200 shoppes lining the paths. 

The headpiece I purchased back in 2010 even fit perfectly over the braid!

Even my kids, who ordinarily despise shopping with me, love to go through the shoppes because they're filled with so many unusual and creative objects. Even without seeing any shows, there just isn't enough time to visit all the shoppes I want to see. Believe me, I've tried. (Maybe if I also skipped the jousting events... Nah!)

Jacob found his friend! (See the "baby beard"?)

We found the freaky shoulder-sitter critters we so enjoyed back in 2010. They turn their heads and look around just like having a real animal on your shoulder. We were all tempted, but they're pricey like most items for sale in the festival tend to be. The largest critter cost $100! The little sapphire-blue kittenish critter I wanted was a real bargain at $36...

Danielle insisted they had to pose by "Jacob's sign."

Besides shoppes, shows, random skits, and the Joust, there are also the usual theme park rides. Not exactly Six Flags-style, of course, since all rides at the Renaissance Festival are powered by good, old-fashioned human labor. These "rides" include Jacob's Ladder, Swan Song, Steam Pirates Airships, Voyage to the New World, DaVinci's Flying Machine, New World Joust, Piccolo Pony, and Dragon Tail Tower. And they still have elephants, camels, and llamas to ride.

I'll include some of those photos in the Facebook album, but we elected not to try them out since all the rides charge separately from admission. Everything else in the festival is free, except food and any merchandise you purchase, of course. And we each spent $1.50 to walk through the Dungeon Tour, with full-size dioramas of people being tortured by various devilishly ingenious devices developed through the ages. Not for the squeamish. (Danielle's least favorite part of the day.)

Turkey legs for lunch: Danielle, Chris, and Dylan.
Jacob, Sarah, and I were in line for filled bread bowls: chili for Jacob,
Italian meatballs & marinara for Sarah, and broccoli & cheese soup for me.

The Jousting matches consist of three events: the first at noon, the next at two-thirty, and the final at five o'clock. By the time the first event ended at twelve-thirty, we were all ready for lunch so we headed over to find a food booth offering what we were each looking for. Half our group opted for the traditional humongous turkey leg. Huzzah! 

Finishing up lunch at the Renaissance Festival:
Chris, Dylan, Sarah, Jacob, and Danielle.

Dylan is simply too cool. Or is it hot?

Heading to the final Jousting Match.

For the first two Jousting events, we all sat together, cheering for the green knight from Italy. Not the best seating with the sun in our eyes (and I'd left my sunglasses at home), but the arena had filled up far faster than we'd anticipated so that's where we ended up. For the final match, I decided I needed to sit with the sun behind me. That led to us becoming a house divided for the final joust!

A group-selfie: Mary, Sarah, and Dylan sit on the west side.

Two days before the festival, I started coming down with a chest cold. I prayed that it would hold off until after our long-awaited, fun outing together, and I was truly blessed in feeling fine all day long. By four o'clock, though, I was aching all over, so I sent the kids ahead to get seats in the arena while I sat to rest for ten minutes.

Jacob, Danielle, and Chris sit on the east side.
My new camera has a pretty good zoom!

When I finally arrived, I found Sarah and Dylan in the front row on the west side, backs to the sun, as requested. But Jacob, Danielle, and Chris were back on the east side, determined to keep cheering for their knight in green. We were now cheering for the blue knight. So we booed each others' knights for the next half-hour!

Our blue knight was the one Sarah found most attractive.

The Italian green knight was the one to send Danielle's pulses racing.

I left the Joust about 5 minutes early so I could get seats for the one show I did want to see: Tartanic (aka: Men Without Pants). They were funny and quite excellent on their bagpipes and drums. My son-in-law Chris got all choked up with memories of the 2-year mission he served for our church in Scotland about 10 years ago.

As for me, I just love men in kilts with bagpipes! As a graduate of McLane High School in Fresno, California, it brings back fond memories of our mascot (McLane Highlanders) and the pipers and dancers who performed at our assemblies, athletic events, and graduations. Tartanic was awesome! I was very tempted to buy one of their CDs ($15), but I was out of my allotted cash by then. Got to stay on budget!

Nothing better than a chocolate-covered frozen slice of cheesecake!
(I was a bit sunburnt by then, and my cold was starting to show in my eyes.)

On their way to join me for the show, the kids stopped by The Chocolate Maker for our traditional chocolate-covered slice of frozen cheesecake ($6.50 each). There are tons of amazing chocolate confections for sale in that shoppe (I'll post pictures on FB), but every one of us ordered the same thing. It is to die for!

Sunburned Sarah and Danielle with their souvenir scented metal roses
from Argent Rose Studios: purple for Sarah and pink for Danielle!

By the time Tartaric was done, it was a bit after six o'clock and we slowly made our way back through the festival grounds and out to our cars. We still had a two-and-a-half-hour drive home ahead of us, with a 1-hour stop at Carl's Jr. in Globe for dinner. We were exhausted by then, so we ate slowly and talked a lot, reliving the day.

We had a marvelous time and I'm so happy we were all able to do it together. Next year I'll have to take more money! There was that twisty periwinkle wand I liked; and that amazing Gandalf-style walking stick with the crystal orb in the handle; and the Majestic hair flower; and the wire elf earpieces; and those so-cool metal hair twisters; and... *sigh*  I'm going to need a lot more money!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spa Estique

18 Mar 2015 - Pinetop, Arizona

For my 60th birthday last September, my kids got together to purchase a gift card for me, for a massage at Spa Estique. It only took me a little over 6 months to use it!

My first stop was this waiting room to fill out some paperwork
indicating my preferences and desired outcomes.

I'd never been to Spa Estique before. The only reason I'd even heard of it was due to the fact that slides showing Spa Estique's offerings used to be featured at our local theaters in the pre-film slideshows. They don't show slides anymore. We've gone high-tech now. The little videos they play about local business are more like blockbuster movie trailers these days.

I was told this is a painting of "Angel Wings."
It hangs in the waiting area.

I've only had one massage before. I can't even say how long ago it was. Maybe ten years?  The masseuse was a man who worked out of a back room at my old chiropractor's office. It wasn't fancy, but he was awesome. I'd never felt so energized and relaxed at the same time. I remember wishing my health insurance covered massage, because it was clear that my health improved for weeks to come after that visit. Unfortunately, I was never able to afford a second visit.

The "locker room" for those using the spa, sauna, and rain shower.
Older ladies in fluffy, snow-white bathrobes and head towels.

Thankfully, my children made a second massage experience possible. I'm not sure why they chose Spa Estique--maybe they remembered it from the same slideshows--but I'm happy that they did. It was an amazing experience. It doesn't look like much from the outside, just a typical rural area storefront. When you go inside, it's very much like many of the small shops in our resort community, with shelves artfully displaying handmade soaps and essential oils, and a sweet herbal scent in the air.

The dressing area near the spa, sauna, and rain shower.
My hair was pretty funky after having my scalp massaged with oils, so
they even provided me with a clean comb at the end of my experience!

Once they took me into the back, however, I instantly felt pampered. The staff was amazing, soft-spoken and quick to assist. The decor was a harmonious mixture of elegance and ruggedness, and the resulting ambiance was tranquil and soothing. 

The restroom decor was so creative! I'd never seen a counter top like this one.
Although it was some kind of stone, the rough edges were like a piece of driftwood.

The waiting area featured hot tea, water, and snacks that included fresh fruit and a "salad" of dehydrated fruits, including my favorite, banana chips. (I only ate one!) There were also several artsy, inspiring books scattered around. I was almost disappointed that they didn't make me wait longer so I could enjoy them.

Loved this sink in the restroom!

The Swedish massage itself was incredible. My masseuse was a young woman named Brittany, and I highly recommend her. I told her my goal was simply an hour of relaxation, and she delivered. No idle chitchat, just sixty minutes of the pure sensual pleasure of my muscles loosening and my body unknotting. In the end, I once again enjoyed that amazing sensation of being both relaxed and energized. Now, four hours later, I still feel awesome!

The small hall between the sauna/restroom area and the massage rooms.

After I dressed and walked out of the massage room, I found Brittany waiting for me with a cold glass of lemon water. She escorted me back to the waiting area and invited me to sit and relax as long as I liked. I took the opportunity to peruse one of those artsy books and to play with a rain-stick lying on the divan. (I love rain-sticks; I have one of my own at home and I find the sound very soothing.)

The small hall between the sauna/restroom area and the massage rooms.

I also asked if it was okay to take some pictures. She checked for me and then told me I could wander around and photograph anywhere I liked, except any massage rooms with closed doors, of course. And that's exactly what I did!

The corridor outside the massage rooms featured this fountain.
My massage room was the one just left of the fountain.

My time at Spa Estique was a lovely experience, which I recommend, especially for those who are a bundle of stress like me. In fact, I'm thinking I need to find a way to enjoy the benefits of a full-body massage every six months or so. THANKS to my wonderful children for making today possible!