A Little Renaissance…

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I’ve been talking about wanting to go to the Ohio Renaissance Festival for the past few years, and for some reason, just haven’t ever made a point to actually get there.  We used to go as a family almost every year when I was younger, but as I grew into adulthood, I never had the kind of friends that I thought I’d have a good time with there.  I’ve really come into my own in the last few years and as I’ve come closer to knowing myself I began developing friendships with people who were like minded, fun and diverse.  This year I’ve told myself, no matter how busy I am, I am going to make time for the Renaissance Festival!  And so I did!   (Even though I waited until the day it was closing, lol)

Joining me on my journey to Harveysburg, Ohio were our friends  Jimmy  & Morgan (who are expecting their first baby 🙂 )and of course my adventure partner in crime, Geoff.  Actually, on a technicality, we joined them, because they drove so we could carpool.  Thanks Jimmy and Morgan!!  Harveysburg is a village in Massie Township, Warren County, Ohio. The population was 546 at the 2010 census, so its a huge town lol. It is best known as the home of the Ohio Renaissance Festival.  During the Renaissance Festival I’m pretty sure the population of Harveysburg quadruples. Ha!

We headed out around 12 on Sunday.  It’s a pretty scenic drive once you get outside of Cincinnati, lots of farm land, horses and cows, pretty sky views and of course, CORN, lots and lots of corn.  Actually the Ren. Fest is located smack dab between two corn fields.  When you arrive, its really surprising how many cars are parked there. As soon as you see the front castle gates you can feel the excitement bubbling in you like a little kid.  If you don’t get at least a little pumped, there’s probably something wrong with you. lol.

After a long walk for a quick potty break in a giant truck filled with port-o-potties (the Ren Fest’s only downfall) and a short stop at the Access Thy Money machine (ATM), we were off to explore.  It’s always so neat to see all the people in costumes, people who work there and enthusiastic patrons.  From young to old, most people carry the spirit of the Renaissance, even if its in a small way.  There are so many interesting artisan shops to visit, even if you don’t have a huge budget for sword and corset shopping, they are pretty amazing to browse through.  The artisans themselves are dressed in authentic Renaissance Era costume, and are always a source of interesting conversation, as most of them are in character.  Take for example, the viking we met, who said he’s pillage me later, lol.   He also taught us useful Norse phrases, and graciously posed for a picture with us!   Ren Fest is an excellent place for you people watchers also, and a great place to take pictures.  I personally love taking pictures of people from a distance, capturing them in a moment of enjoyment, interest, focus, etc.  I took plenty of awesome pictures while I was there.  I think when I go somewhere with a group they spend half the time thinking they lost me, due to me wandering around taking pictures.  I always keep my free eye on the most noticeable head in my group (bald, curly hair, unique hat, etc.).

The Ohio Renaissance Festival is home to  11 stages, where performers put on over 100 shows a day.  Seeing the Jousting is a must!  I also am a huge fan of the hilarious Mudde Show, just wouldn’t recommend the front row if you aren’t prepared to get muddy.  If you don’t mind a little mud, or a lot, I highly encourage you to sit in the front!  Makes the show even better.  You can watch dueling swordsmen, fire jugglers, and even listen to the music of strolling minstrels.  You can visit the games section of the festival where you can throw knives at a target, tomatoes at a smack talking man in tights, or try you hand(s and feet) at the jacob’s ladder. And if all that excitement leaves you hungry there are plenty of interesting and tasty things to eat. I wont list them all here, but the thing I look forward to eating most at the Ren Fest whenever I visit are the roast turkey legs!! You can find a complete list of food stops here http://www.renfestival.com/the-event/food.  Food and drink prices are actually pretty reasonable for a festival like this. I think we only spent maybe $25 on food and drinks for two people and it was enough food to fill us up.  Something new that I got to see this year the end of festival Pub Sing which takes place about an hour before the festival closes for the season.  I took a few video clips which I will share below with the gallery, because the music was just too awesome to not share.  I think I could’ve stayed in that pub all day listening to the music, watching all the costumed festival workers and patrons raising their mugs in celebration of another successful and fun year together, but the last section of shops we hadn’t visited was beckoning Morgan, and Jimmy still hadn’t purchased his long dreamed of sword (to add to the collection of uh, a lot of other swords.)  I bought a really interesting hand-made necklace, which I’m totally in love with, but I think the thing I took away from the festival that was most valuable, was the essence of the Renaissance, captured in my camera. 🙂 It makes me smile just thinking of it, and now every time I want to experience that joy again, I can look to my images for help.

If you’ve never visited the Ohio Renaissance Festival, I suggest that next year when it opens in August that you hit up your local Kroger for some discount coupons (tickets are $20 at the gate, $17 online), and make a point to go!  Go in costume or go in your boring modern American clothes (going in costume is probably more fun!) but make sure you GO!!  Choose from any of the themed weekends, including Pirate weekend, Barbarian weekend, Romance weekend, etc.

I’m sad the Renaissance Festival has come to a close for the year, but I’m looking forward to going next year, and who knows I might even go dressed as the gypsy I am!

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Adventuring with Scenic River Canoe!

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This Sunday I had the giddy pleasure of visiting Scenic River Canoe for a 6 mile trip down the Little Miami River.  I’ve always loved boating and being out on the water.  When I was a little girl we had a Ski boat named Colonel Mustard, for its baby poop yellow paint job.  I cried the day my daddy sold that boat and ever since, have been on a quest to make sure that water sports stay a part of my life.  Being on the water brings a sense of peace unlike anything else. There is something uniquely fun about taking a canoe trip down the river.

There are a few canoe liveries in Cincinnati and scattered along the outskirts, but Scenic River Canoe is extra convenient for those on the east side of town and is home to the biggest rapid on the entire Little Miami River (fondly referred to as the boat house rapid). They cover a stretch that has a higher elevation drop than any other part of the river, which is awesome because it means more rapids!  Scenic River’s stretch has a river rating of class one, which makes it fun for experienced boaters, but is also still beginner friendly.

Scenic River offers different trip lengths to fit different experience levels.  The 2.1 Mile trip (45min-1hr) is perfect for families and first timers.  The 6 mile trip (2-3hrs) is most popular for it’s great flow, scenery and beaches, and the 9 mile trip (3.5-5hrs) is home to the boat house rapid (best for my experienced boaters).

Ryan Merkle and Billy Holmes took over Scenic River Canoe on June 30, 2007, 7 boating seasons ago.  Both excellent guys with a wealth of knowledge about their industry,you can tell that Ryan and Billy are passionate about being a positive part of their customers’ experiences.  They know the river well and make sure that each boater, no matter the age has the information they need to have a memorable and safe trip.

We arrived on Sunday and were greeted as friends would be greeted, by a friendly and enthusiastic Mr. Merkle. A genuine smile and a handshake made for a relaxed atmosphere.  We signed waivers, which is standard for canoe or boat rental. Ryan helped us pick out what type of boat we’d like. Scenic River has a variety of boats to choose from including Old Town Canoes and Kayaks, Jackson Kayaks (sit on top), tubes (only available for 2.1mi trip) and some aluminum canoes.  Since I had Mark II (my camera) with me, we agreed the safest bet would be an old town canoe.

For those of you who haven’t ever been canoeing before, once you arrive, check in and pick out a boat, they load your boat, and whoever else’s boat that may be joining you on the river that day, onto a trailer attached to a bus.  You board the bus with other patrons and are driven up the river to an entrance point where it is safe and easy to “put in.”  Our bus ride was comfortable and Ryan (who drove) maintained a relaxed atmosphere with friendly conversation.  During the ride, he shared with us some helpful boating pointers as well as some specific information of the stretch of river we’d be covering on our 6 mile trip.  He informed us about any current dangers on the water and by the time we got off the bus to put in the water, I felt confident in our ability to safely navigate the river, given the useful information Ryan shared.

The trip was great!  The weather was beautiful. Not too hot, not too cool.  There were lots of beaches to explore. We stopped along the way at a neat little beach, where the trees hang over the river, creating a multicolored canopy.  We walked around in the water picking up interesting stones.  I even ended up bringing a few (ok more than a few) home with me.  Along the river we looked for wildlife.  The Little Miami is home to Bald Eagles, Osprey and Great Blue Heron as well as 87 species of fish, and 36 species of mussels (including 5 state endangered species).  Although we didn’t see any bald eagles (which would have been totally cool) we did see several Great Blue Heron and I even got to photograph one mid flight.

The rapids were fast and fun, although some were a little nerve-wracking with Mark II in tow.  The last rapid was the best (most exciting).  What would a gypsy adventure be without a little danger?  Since Geoff (my adventure partner) was steering and doing most of the paddling (I was busy taking pictures), he decided not to heed the advice to stay left on the last fork of the river, and we almost washed quickly into a downed tree.  Thank goodness for quick reaction time, amazing boating skills, and the instinct to protect my camera.  Together, we managed to make it through the rapid unharmed, dry, still in the boat, and camera safe. Although I nearly had a heart attack, I gotta admit, it was fun and exciting.

For others and ordinarily myself), I wouldn’t recommend bringing any expensive equipment, lol, just yourself ready to have some fun.  For first time boaters or beginners, I’d suggest that you wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting a little wet, and not to bring anything valuable or expensive with you on the boat such as cell phones, car keys (Scenic River will be glad to hold them for you), wallets, or cameras.   

We wrapped up our trip on a good note.  All in all, a perfect way to spend a Sunday.

Scenic River Canoe is now closed for the season, but I was so glad that I got the opportunity to come out on behalf of the NomadorWhat Blog and squeeze in a great trip down the river.  For those of you interested in visiting Scenic River Canoe, they operate during the Spring, Summer and Fall.  Summer is peak season.  They ordinarily open during the last week of April for spring paddling (great river levels) and close around mid-October.  Ryan shared a little insider info on future plans for Scenic River Canoe.  While they currently offer a few moonlight trips (6 mile trip the departs just before sunset and is followed by grilling out and a bonfire) and river cleanups, they plan to add more events next season!

If you’re looking for a family activity or a fun local adventure, give Scenic River Canoe a try come next spring or summer.  You wont be disappointed with the friendly service, knowledgeable staff, awesome stretch of river and great rapid action!

You can find Scenic River at 4595 Roundbottom Rd., Cincinnati OH  45244.  You can find them on the interwebs at http://www.scenicrivercanoe.com/   or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ScenicRiverCanoeExcursions

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Dancing in the Dark

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Every once in a while, I just need some time to myself with mother nature. I need to soak her in like rain to my roots to rejuvenate and re-energize, to reconnect. Sunday was one of those days.  I packed my camera, a water bottle and headed out State Route 52 chasing the sunset in my little Honda Civic.  I ended up at Steamboat Bend Picnic Shelter, which sits along the Ohio River and is inside a large grotto of tall trees.  I popped in some headphones, turned on Incubus, Aqueous Transmission and stuck my phone in my back pocket.  Grabbed the camera, and started shooting away.  I walked along the edge of the trees, capturing each beautiful and small detail, leaves silhouetted against the setting sun, golden sun back lighting tiny yellow flowers, vines winding up trees; each little moment that caught my eye.  As the sun began to sink into the horizon, I packed up my camera, and decided to stay a little longer to play.  I’m not gonna lie, I danced around singing at the top of my lungs on a row of picnic tables to Katy Perry, Roar (a little embarassing), I flitted through the field prancing like a ballerina to Muse, Follow Me, and tiptoed and jumped to Naughty Boy, La La La.  I sang and danced and jumped and pranced, ran up a tree like an uncoordinated ninja, hung upside down from its branches watching the sun set for a few minutes.  As I hung there, I thought to myself, my inner child needs more playmates.  Where are all the people my age who are playing in parks instead of getting drunk in the bar?  Where are all the people not afraid of singing at the top of their lungs and dancing like fools, even if someone is looking?  Where are the people who haven’t lost their sense of wonder and the desire to have their toes in the dirt?  I left steam boat bend on a natural high, no alcohol or drugs necessary, and rode that high for the rest of the evening.  I left determined to find the rest of the inner children in hiding, and so I started the Grown-Ups Play Too! group on facebook.  I also put an ad on craigslist and was so excited and filled with hope when I received two responses in the first day the ad was up!  Excited to see where this goes.  Just another part of my journey! Join me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O1_3zBUKM8

Walking to End Alzheimers

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Be Sure to check out the gallery videos below!

Every year, for 4 years in a row, my family has walked the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  We don our elephant t-shirts (because elephants never forget), and we walk together to take a stand against the horrible disease that robbed us of a special person in our lives, Patricia (Rensing) Willenbrink.   My Aunt Patti was 59, when she passed away 4 years ago, shortly before her 60th birthday.  She had been sick for over 10 years with this debilitating disease.  It not only robbed our family of an awesomely bright and beautiful person, it robbed her of first her mind, then her body, and finally her life.  But I don’t want to talk about the years that she was sick, because those are not the years I remember her for.

My aunt Patti was my God Mother.  She was a nurse for many years and was a wife and loving mother to 3 gorgeous red haired girls.  She was a daughter, and older sibling to two sisters (Peggy & my mom, Pam).  She was also an involved grandmother, to a little boy named Brady.  My Christmas presents from Aunt Patti were usually books that I adored, many adorned with a loving message written in her lovely hand writing.   Early onset Alzheimer’s began to take that bright smiling person away from us and so many of my later memories of my Aunt Patti don’t match the early memories I have of her.  So what did this disease take from her besides her life? It robbed her of the ability to continue being a supportive mother to her three daughters who now have lives and children of their own.  She had to miss her middle daughter’s wedding and loses out on the blessing of being involved with her 7 grandchildren.  She missed her oldest grandson’s graduation. She missed the birth of her first granddaughter. She misses out on our family get togethers, birthdays, holidays, etc.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that deserves attention in our communities.  It needs research, and a push for a cure. And so each year we walk, and each year we support each other, and others who’s families are affected by this thief of a disease.  Each year, and every day we remember Patti, and like elephants we will never forget.

If you would like to make a donation to a cause is very near to my heart, or would like more information please visit http://www.alz.org/