RenTastic! A Lunch Community <![CDATA[ Sounds Great, No Matter The Season]]>
Turning of the Seasons, the band's debut album, was the first album that I ever purchased from the group.  Ironically, I purchased it through the mail and not at one of their performances.  I've since gone on to acquire three more recordings associated with the band:  the excellent What Dreams May Come (given to me as a gift), the wonderful Samsara (purchased at TRF), and the band's lead vocalist, dancer, multi-talented musician, Roxanne Bruscha's solo album, Lost Continents, Sunken Ships (also purchased at TRF).

Turning of the Seasons features classic and contemporary music that spans multiple cultures.  It also features original songs written by members of the band.  You might recognize a few of the tracks, particularly tracks such as Bolero and Habanera.  Some of the songs feature vocals.  Other songs on the album are purely instrumental. 

The instruments on this album are varied and include accordians, Greek Bouzouki, mandolins, Cajon, and multiple other instruments, with and without strings. 

My favorite tracks from this album are Matty Groves, Adir Hu, Turning of the Seasons, the blistering Sota, and both versions of Misirlou.  I'm drawn to Matty Groves for both its sound and its story.  It's the tale of poor Matty Groves who is seduced by Lord Donald's wife and is eventually caught in bed with her by a very angry Lord Donald.  The two fight, and the outcome isn't that pleasant.  Adir Hu and Sota are two wonderful instrumentals, with Sota being quite possibly my favorite song on the entire album.  Turning of the Seasons is an original track by the band and features beautiful vocals and solid string work.

Fans of surf guitar legend Dick Dale will definitley recognize Misirlou, or at least the second version of it on this album.  The first version features Bruscha's seductive vocals and slinks along at a pace that promises pleasure.  It is a wonderful track.  The second version is a wide open Greek Bouzouki string attack.  There's no mistaking that this song means business, and I believe that it can hold its own against Dick Dale's own version of the song.

I highly recommend that fans of faire music and/or Mediterranean, Celtic, or Gypsy-styled music give Turning of the Seasons a listen.  It will not disappoint you in the least.]]> Fri, 11 Jan 2013 20:07:31 +0000
<![CDATA[ Family Fun, Danger Included]]> Every single year that I've visited the Texas Renaissance Festival, I've made sure that the first performance I see is Clan Tynker.  Why?  Because they are funny, charming, extremely talented, appeal to all ages, and always start off my day and/or weekend with a bang.

Santiago, Serendipity, Sam, Rebekah, and Elijah each bring their own set of talents to the show.  The troupe juggles, swallows swords, dances, plays instruments, balances, blows bubbles, eats fire, etc.  The list goes on and on. 

The highlight of their show is always their "Danger Tricks," which have always come in threes.  The crowd "ooooohhhhs" as Santiago announces each "Danger Trick" and watch in awe as the troupe performs them.

For families that have tender ears, it's worth noting that Clan Tynker is extremely family friendly.  I have yet to hear a harsh word come from any member of the group.  There isn't even a tad bit of innuendo in their performance.  For this reason, they usually have large crowds filled with people of all ages.  Most of the people that I've talked with about the show have mentioned that their children pick out individual members of the group as favorites.  In my family, Rebekah is tops with my daughter and my son loves to watch Elijah perform for the crowd.

For those who couple "family friendly" with "boring," you're totally wrong.  This is a great show to check out.  Highly recommended!

]]> Fri, 7 Dec 2012 06:46:24 +0000
<![CDATA[ Putting the "Play" in Swordplay]]>
I enjoyed their performance so much that I decided to check them out again this year during "Highland Fling" weekend.  They were still looking for a husband and fought over him with words and swords.  The duo picked their would-be husband, "Frank," from the audience and began listing their standards for the perfect mate.  Of course, "Frank" met each and every standard, and Gertrude and Gwendolyn sparred with one another hoping to win his heart.

They made jokes about each other and "Frank," pop culture references, a little light (and totally family friendly) innuendo, and a bit of downright silliness as well.  They also performed physical comedy that included wrestling, pratfalls, and, of course, swords.  

The duo put on an excellent show of swordplay, reminding me a lot of fencing competitions I watch during the Olympics.  Not well versed on the different forms of sword fighting, just know that they did an excellent job of it all.

I won't ruin the end of their performance for you, but I will say that they were both extremely friendly ladies and I managed to grab photos with both of them.  They are humorous, well-skilled with a blade, and a must-see act for families attending TRF.

Highly recommended.]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 05:32:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ A Fistful Of Feasting!]]>
I grew up with smoked turkey.  Every Thanksgiving my father would smoke turkey until it was literally falling off of the bone.  It was my favorite meal of the holiday season, and I looked forward to it each year.

When I first started going to Renaissance festivals, I was told to check out the turkey legs.  Surely they wouldn't be as tasty as my father's smoked turkey, right?  I was wrong.  While I still feel that my father's turkey legs are the best, RenFest turkey legs are something quite special as well.

They can be extremely messy, but the good kind of messy.  Bite into one, and wonderful juices will course down your neck.  Every time I eat one, I hold the leg about six inches from my body just so that I can attempt to not get turkey drippings all over me.  It's a wonderful thing.

If you've never had a turkey leg at a Renaissance festival, I highly recommend partaking in one.  You will not regret it!]]> Tue, 6 Nov 2012 03:45:31 +0000
<![CDATA[ Silence Is Golden.....And Hilarious]]>
Arsene's show involves himself, the aforementioned fiddler, and two assistants.  One of the assistants catches his eye, and he attempts to impress her throughout the show.  He also performs magic for the audience, with (intentional) varying degrees of success.  He pulls volunteers (willing and unwilling) from the audience and the results are hilarious.

Without giving away too much about his performances, I'll say that his attempt at making a small furry creature jump through a hoop and a battle with an audience member over a shoe are two of my favorite bits.  I also like how one of his assistants seems to foil his plans throughout the show.

Arsene's show is very family friendly, with only mild innuendo that most children under the age of ten won't catch onto.

For family entertainment that will make you laugh until it hurts, give Arsene a try!

More information can be found at and at the various pages of faires and festivals that he performs at.]]> Tue, 30 Oct 2012 02:28:08 +0000
<![CDATA[ Straight Outta Da Hood!]]>
While looking online for a decent costume, I found myself jumping from page to page of different types of costumes that had varying degrees of comfort, authenticity, and price. The robe, which I bought from Jalic, Inc. here on Amazon, arrived at my house in perfect condition. I immediately tried it on and found that not only was the fabric of a comfortable make, it looked and felt just gritty enough to pass for an authentic monk's robe from the Middle Ages. The hood, which is a separate piece, fit comfortably over my head too.

The fabric is breathable, but I warmed up rather quickly while testing out this costume. Since the Texas Renaissance Festival isn't until October/November, there's a decent chance that a cold front might push through and I'll be very comfortable in this costume. Otherwise, I'll be reasonably comfortable on a warm Texas fall day while wearing this.

Of course, while I'm wearing this costume, I plan on drinking large quantities of mead, so I'll probably be doing a lot of sweating regardless of how hot or cold the weekend will be!

If I have anything bad to say about this costume, it's the fact that there's a massive tag in the top of the hood that might pose a problem. Mind you, it isn't uncomfortable, but if anyone sees it, they'll immediately know that this was a "bought" costume and not handmade. I might end up cutting the tag out just to save face with the hardcore Rennies.

Otherwise, this is an excellent costume that is VERY roomy, even for an XXL guy like myself. The sleeves are very long and I'll probably have them hemmed a bit, and I might end up taking a bit off of the bottom of the costume as it is very long. I highly recommend this costume and Jalic, Inc., who shipped this costume quickly and securely.]]> Fri, 20 Apr 2012 14:44:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Dancing Goes Well With Wine And Alchemy]]> I've been visiting the Texas Renaissance Festival for three years now.  I plan to attend for a fourth time next year.  Despite having been to this festival so many times, one thing that somehow escaped my ears until my visit this year was the wonderful sounds and dances of Wine and Alchemy. 

I stood near the back of the Dove Meadow stage and became entranced by this brilliant band.  They played instruments that ranged from the sitar and accordian to the penny whistle and hurdy gurdy.  They had dancers in Gypsy garb who gyrated to the music.  One member of the band, who I found out was named Roxanne Bruscha, not only danced, but played instruments and sang on most of the songs. 

As I watched the group, composed of Bruscha and, per their website, Mark Varelas, Neil Yamin, and Jake Cooper, I noticed that not only was the audience caught up in their music, but they were as well.  You could see in their eyes that they loved what they were doing.  They weren't just "paying the bills" with each performance.  They played each song because they wanted to!

Describing their music is tough for me, since I'm still fairly new to their style.  All I can really say is that they play an excellent mixture of styles ranging from German and French to Middle Eastern.  I also found out that they like to throw in their own interpretations of surf guitar music and even the Appalachian sound.

I wanted to purchase one of their CDs after their performance, but having already spent most of my funds on mead and food, I didn't have a lot left in the account.  I promised myself that I would seek the group out on the web and order one of their discs if they were available. 

I recently ordered their Turning of the Seasons album and I am now anxiously awaiting its arrival.  On the very same day that I placed that order, I received a rather strange text from my wife.  She wanted to know who would send a package to me addressed as "My Jedi Master."  The whole "Jedi" thing has nothing to do with this review and would take entirely too long to explain, so I'm just going to say that when I read that phrase, I knew immediately that a friend of mine had sent me something.  That something was Wine and Alchemy's CD entitled What Dreams May Come.  I was excited.  I now have one of their CDs and a second one is on its way.

If you enjoy world music that features instruments such as the harmonium and the djembe, give Wine and Alchemy a listen.  They are on the web at  They have samples of their music available to listen to and you'll also see both of the albums I mentioned available for purchase.

I've now decided that each year I visit the Texas Renaissance Festival, Wine and Alchemy will be a part of my schedule.

I highly recommend this group!

]]> Tue, 8 Nov 2011 17:33:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Ye Olde Fashionistas]]>
Most of the people I have seen in costumes at these types of events usually go for the traditional peasant outfit, which means men will usually be wearing a long shirt, doublet, possibly a jerkin, a codpiece, tights or baggy pants, and a pair of soft shoes and women will be dressed in a bodice, a blouse, maybe a corset, and a skirt. These clothes are usually dark in color (excepting the shirts, which are mostly white), and can easily be purchased online, in costume shops, or at festivals and faires.

A few people go all out with their costumes, particularly those hoping to portray royalty or warriors. Royal women usually have on lavish gowns with jewels and fancy crowns. Men usually have on fancier jerkins and doublets and some sort of weapon at their side. Those portraying knights will often wear polished armor and have weapons of varying size and shape. These costumes can be quite expensive.

Of course, there are also those who indulge in wearing a kilt, some sort of pirate costume, or costumes based on fantasy creatures like fairies, leprechauns, and goblins. You'll also find people dressed as gypsies, characters from the Robin Hood stories, or even wearing chain mail bikinis!

I think what it ultimately boils down to is what a person can afford and just how much (or how little) they want to wear. I have a personal friend who handmakes her own gowns (she's a seamstress by trade) and clothing for others as well. She does extremely detailed work, and I have a great deal of respect for her and those like her who make these types of costumes. I have another friend who prefers to keep things simple and wears a simple peasant gown.

Although I have never personally worn a Renaissance costume before, I have started considering either making my own or getting someone to make one for me. It really does add to the overall experience of a person at a festival or faire, and now that I've been attending and enjoying these types of events for three years now, I'm starting to get the Renaissance costuming bug.

If I ever do make or purchase a Renaissance costume, I'll be sure to post a photo or two here. For now, I'll include a few pics I've swiped off of the web.]]> Thu, 3 Nov 2011 17:12:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ Huzzah, Ya'll!!!]]>
Up until just a few weeks before the event, I wasn't sure if we'd be able to make it this year due to the fact that the severe drought in Texas had given way to a number of large wildfires in the area.  At two points in time this year, the festival grounds were threatened by the fires, but were spared on both occasions.

Once we knew for sure that the festival was going to happen, my friend and I made plans.  We decided to stay at the local KOA Kampground near Lake Conroe in Montgomery, TX.  While there is a campground on the festival grounds, there are no facilities.  This fact, coupled with a twenty dollar camping fee, made the KOA look a lot nicer. 

Being my friend's first visit to TRF, I told him that he could decide which shows we saw so long as I did two things:  1) grab a bottle of mead at my favorite spot in the Italian Village and 2) let me trek through the Magic Garden after consuming said bottle of mead. 

We witnessed the opening ceremonies on Saturday morning, and quickly made our way back to the Italian Village by way of Sherwood Forest.  After snagging a bottle of mead (sometime between nine and ten AM), we headed for the Magic Garden, where I planned to empty my bottle of mead and walk it off a bit.  On the way to the garden, though, a fair maiden caught our attention and begged us to buy some of her Italian cuisine.  I told her that we would return later and she said that if we didn't come back, she would cry.  After making a promise to return, she allowed us to go to the garden. 

The garden itself is quite a sight to see.  It is decorated with all sorts of statues and displays ranging from ancient Asian art to ancient Greek statues.  As loud as the festival can be, this has got to be the quietest spot on the grounds.  While we drank the mead, we stopped every so often to take photos.  One of my favorite photo ops is with a topless statue in the garden.  It is included below.  I've taken a photo with that particular statue every time I've gone to TRF.

After making our first pass through the garden, we made our way back to the Italian Village and bought our second bottle of mead (sometime between ten and ten-thirty).  We decided to make one more run through the garden on this second bottle and, once again, the young maiden begged us to buy some of her food.  She asked us if that was our second bottle of mead already and after saying,"Yes," she demanded that we buy some of her food.  Once again, we promised to return and after our second run through the garden, we made good on our promise.

After a little fun back-and-forth banter with the maiden, I bought some lasagna from her.  Then she offered me a kiss for putting up with all of her constant pleading, which I gladly accepted.

From here, my friend and I took in as many of the shows and musical acts that we could.  Highlights of the day included The Sturdy Beggars (a mud pit show), Arsene (a French magician who remains mute through his entire show), Sound And Fury (a bawdy comedy troupe who had everyone laughing), and the Steele Sisters (a swordplay show). 

Having had my lunch for the day in the Italian Village, my friend took in some Greek Cuisine.  I don't remember what it was called, but I do remember that it smelled great.

We walked all over the festival grounds, interacting with employees and fellow visitors alike.  We listened to the Royal Proclamation and watched dance lessons as well.

As our first day came to a close, we headed into Conroe to eat at a Tex-Mex restaurant called Fajita Jack's.  It was delicious!

The next morning we went back to TRF and watched the pirates welcome everyone to the second day of festivities.  Being Pirate Adventure Weekend, there were more than enough pirates running through the festival.

To start off our morning, we headed back to the Magic Garden.  We didn't partake in mead or lasagna, but we did say hello to the young maiden who gave me a kiss the day before.  We watched the Iris & Rose show (a very funny, dirty limerick-ridden show), the Ded Bob Show (a funny, fairly family friendly comedy show), and listened to quite a few wonderful bands, my favorite being Wine & Alchemy.

Later in the day we listened to a poet tell very, very dirty poems but I don't recall his name.  He filled in for another performer and, having seen that performer in the past, was a much better act.  I laughed until I cried on a few of his raunchy poems.

We also checked out the Clan Tynker Family Circus, which is very family friendly and very fun as well.  Their show consisted of juggling, tight rope tricks, a bit of magic, and music and dancing.  This was the second year I got to see them at TRF, and I've become quite a fan.  I got a pic with one of their performers, Serendipity, and then myself and my friend took in the rest of the festival.

I drank a hurricane on my second day of the festival and, to be quite honest, it affected me more than the mead did.  It was very sweet and quite tasty, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd have gone for another bottle of mead.

If you've never been to the Texas Renaissance Festival, I highly recommend you plan to visit it soon.  It happens each weekend of October and November every year in Plantersville.  Each weekend has a specific theme, and I've experienced Pirate Adventure, Roman Bacchanal, and Celtic Christmas.  The shows stay primarily the same, with a few of them "adapting" to the weekend by adding in a few themed jokes or lines in their shows.

The food is excellent.  There's the standard smoked meats, but TRF also has a few offerings from my side of the state line in Louisiana.  In fact, I grabbed some fried alligator on a stick (dragon on a stick) on Sunday.  There is also food from each country represented at the festival and a large amount of drinks, adult and otherwise, to be had as well.

Overall, the Texas Renaissance Festival is an experience that is only as good as you let it be.  If you immerse yourself into the festivities, you'll have one of the best times of your life.  There are events for the entire family and spectacles meant only for adults, all of which are clearly marked for festivalgoers.

Highly recommended.  For more information, check out]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 20:36:22 +0000
<![CDATA[Chaucer's Mead Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 19:33:52 +0000