March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment
With one final activity left in my year of new things, I figured I should do something that would never cross my radar under any other circumstance. So I gathered up a few friends to celebrate turning thirty at Medieval Times. Day Three Hundred Sixty-Six, baby.
Overall, I was incredibly excited about the adventure. While working earlier in the day I expressed a little joyous anticipation under the guise of snarkiness to a coworker. In sarcastic teenage voice: “Dude, I’m like, going to Medieval Times! Seriously!” He enthralled me with the tale of his trip to the California location. He described each course with the same enthusiasm as a new waiter at a happening suburban franchise. “First, we had bruschetta,” (said with faux Italian accent), “and then a creamy tomato bisque that tasted deliciously spicy.” He licked his lips at the memory.
“Then we-” (he and his mysterious girlfriend) “each got half a chicken. HALF a chicken. Roasted to perfection. And the soda refills were free. We even had a perfectly seasoned potato! For dessert there was melt in your mouth chocolate cake or a tasty Danish.” Maybe Medieval Times had gotten a bad rap. Or maybe the Yelpers who visited the Duluth location were just missing out on the California gourmet version.
We opted to pregame at the tiny Chili’s at Discover Mills after reading reviews about pricey brews inside the Renaissance-themed restaurant. I may have had a shot, but hey, you only turn 30 once, right?
Once we walked through the entrance a tunic-clad photographer took our picture with the “King.” Erin and Tyler ended up gifting the cardboard framed image to me, and it sits proudly displayed in my kitchen. They are the only two in the photo with any semblance of natural ease. The King looks creepy, as though he is about to devour some maidens. I look like I accidentally wandered in from the mall outside and Patrick is so far away that he could have wandered in from another group. Andre threw out a peace sign, or lost a game against the rock.
We stopped by the bar en route to our section and found that the beers weren’t priced too outrageously; they were on par with an MLB game, but draft.
We sat in the yellow section, which meant we wore yellow crowns and cheered for the Yellow Knight with his flowing blond locks. You could pay more to be seated at the equivalent of the fifty-yard line, and presumably one of those knights also won the tournament. Poor Yellow Knight.
While pomp and circumstance ruled the sandy floor, we tucked into our gourmet meal, except it wasn’t gourmet. The spicy tomato bisque turned out to be a bowl of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup and the garlic bread was my childhood favorite Texas Toast. We did get half a small bird (“Fresh Falcon” our serving wench declared as it was plopped onto our pewter plates). Then we had half a baked potato (“Dragon’s Egg”), and one rib (“Dragon’s Claw”). It really wasn’t that bad, considering our surroundings.
At one point during dessert (Hostess-like cakes) the knights rode around flirting with the women sitting in the front rows. The Black and White Knight sauntered over to our section to chat with a young buxom woman so I heckled him. I mean, he was a fifty-yard line knight. If I had paid an extra ten bucks a ticket to see him, I would probably resent the fact that he was flirting with other sections. Mostly, I found offense in the “bored-knight-I-only-do-this-for-the-chicks” look about him. And to the lady on the receiving end of his sneers: He was competing against OUR Yellow Knight. Have some pride.
Then the “battles” began. The knights competed against each other in a staged tournament. We boldly cheered on our beloved Yellow Knight, hollering, “We’ve got Yellow Fever!” into the stadium at Patrick’s suggestion. I found our cheer hilarious. When the Yellow Knight was down a few points, we turned our crowns upside down into rally caps. But it didn’t help. The Red Knight evilly defeated him. I suppose he died heroically.
After that my allegiance moved to anyone fighting the Black and White Knight. He won it all, of course.
March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
I am a naturally pale person. I burn far more easily than I would tan. Instead of bronzing under the sun, I freckle. My only hope for an all over browning is if all my little freckles merge together into a beige coat of armor. On Day Three Hundred Sixty-Five I was originally scheduled to take a trip in a hot air balloon, but due to high winds it had been cancelled (for the fifth time). Instead, I opted to combat my paleness with a visit to a spray tanning booth.
I was excited about the prospect of, for the first time in my life, walking out looking as though I had returned from a real beach vacation (minus the sun damage). I knew the most likely end result of the fake tan would be an orange sheen, but as my year of new things was coming to a close I figured it would at least be an entertaining experience. At least for people who had to look at me.
The super orange attendant led me back to a tiled room. He pointed out the wall-mounted instructions and emphasized pre-lotioning all the body parts I didn’t want sprayed. Toenails, fingernails, knuckles…between my toes and fingers too. And try not to squint. He left and I stripped down to the shower cap provided, entered the tiled room, and pressed the big red “start” button.
There was a count down, then tiny jets of pigmentation began to move up and down my body. I squinted. It was difficult to breathe as I stood with my arms held slightly away from my sides. The jets moved down and up, side to side, over my front.. There was a pause after twenty seconds for me to take a breath. Then I turned so the tan could wash over my back. I moved my arms above my head, positioned like I was going through the airport scanner and held my breath again.
Then it was done. I wiped off my hands, feet, elbows, and knees. I cleaned out my ears while I waited to dry enough to garment myself. I smelled slightly chemically, but it was a sort of warm odor, like cocoa butter crossed with dye.
On the thirty minute drive home I could see the “tan” developing on my arms. If I cropped my vision to just my forearm, I felt pretty good about the experience. Then looking down at my hands I clearly saw the delineation between pre-tanning lotion application and orange. My knuckles and wrists had accrued far more pigmentation than the white space between my fingers. There was no debating the fact that my tan was F-A-K-E.
Most people didn’t notice my increased coloring (it’s what happens when you are forever pale), and the orange wore off in a few days so there weren’t any lasting effects. Well, maybe a faint orange line at all my body’s creases, but those were gone within a week.
I’m glad I tried it out, but there’s no way I will fake tan again. Sorry beachcombers, I will continue to reflect the sunlight off my blue-tinged legs and cause you to shield your eyes.
February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
I had planned to take a horseback riding lesson as one of my new adventures between 29 and 30, but procrastination reared its slightly less than beautiful head and I found myself with too few days to schedule a class. However, my friend Jen, who actually owns a horse and rides regularly, invited me up to Steadfast Farms in Hoschton, GA to fulfill my goal. In fact, by going I would actually be doing the horse owner a favor by taking out their beast for a little exercise during the week. And it was free. I was sold, and on Day Three Hundred Sixty-Four I headed north on I-985 for a great horse trek.
I should disclose now that prior to my Hoschton trip I had in fact “ridden” a horse before. I was twenty-one, traveling solo through Europe and while staying at a pretty Tuscan Hostel had the opportunity to tour the countryside via horseback. Duh, right? I joined up with a pair of Australians who were near horse experts and we jaunted through a nearby woods that trailed next to a vineyard. It was gorgeous, but with my lack of riding knowledge and the leader’s lack of English knowledge, I pretty much just bounced around on the mare for the majority of the journey. Every time my ride would speed into a trot I was pushed up and down and down and up, jiggling all over the place. This prompted uncontrolled bursts of hysterical laughter from yours truly and I never calmed enough to even attempt to stand in the stirrups. So it turned out to be terrific fun, but I could not comfortably say that I had ridden (and controlled) a horse.
Back in Hoschton, Jen lent me a pair of boots and we carved our way through a muddy path to capture her Haley, grazing in a nearby field. I wandered through the small gatherings of the majestic beings just a little scared, but since everybody knows horses can sense fear I squashed the nightmarish visions of stampedes that marched through my mind and instead focused on the beauty of the beasts. They may have been big, but they were certainly pretty. Once Jen had harnessed Haley we headed off to pick up what I hoped was a gentle, friendly pony for me to ride.
I was assigned to Dakota, a male Appaloosa with a shiny brunette coat. Unfortunately, there were two horses that fit the description in the same yard, and neither were responding to us calling out. Jen felt pretty confident she had singled out the right animal, so we gathered him up and headed for the grooming station.
Jen demonstrated how to brush the flank, clean the hooves, and feed my mount carrots throughout the cleaning process. I began brushing the back and belly of Dakota, enjoying the rugged sleekness of his body. He tittered when I made it forward to his head and my heart skipped a few beats when I stared into his eyes as a sort of test. There was certainly judgement on his part, but fortunately I wasn’t found lacking. The carrot I managed to proffer under his nose may have sealed the deal and I was allowed more brushing and petting.
When I moved to the rear of my new friend for hoof cleaning and tail brushing, Dakota showed his sense of humor by farting in my face. Because I now have that experience, I can tell you that horse farts smell like grass and poo. Probably what you’d have imagined, and now no one else in the world needs to get crop dusted by a bronco.
Eventually Dakota was all brushed to a shine and it was time for saddling. Jen took over this part of the dressing while I watched from the side, slipping him chunks of carrot. Jen readied Haley and we were set. Now I just had to get on the horse.
We led our animals to a set of wooden stairs expressly used to aid in horse mounting and Jen held Dakota while I climbed up and rather clumsily positioned myself astride the saddle. Then she did the same with much more grace and experience. We headed to the woodsy trail, with Jen keeping up conversation, giving me pointers, and answering all my horse related questions. I really didn’t have to do much but sway in the saddle, since Dakota seemed to know the way and had acres more experience than me.
We trotted along the path with a grassy field on one side and thin woods on the other. With Jen’s encouragement I even got into the rhythm of the bounce and managed to not burst into a giggle fit. The cadence of our canter became relaxing. Every so often I would rub Dakota’s neck to let him know I was still hanging on and we progressed nicely; I barely had to tug on his reins to keep him on the path. Only when we passed a sweet smelling crop of greenery or crossed over a bubbling brook did Dakota need any steerage.
Toward the end of our jaunt, Jen asked me if I wanted to try galloping. Um, yeah! That would certainly be something I had never experienced. I was giddy at the prospect. We piloted toward an open rolling field and Jen gave me instructions, namely to be confident when I pulled back on the reins at the other end of the grass. She told me Dakota would most likely follow Haley, but in case he didn’t, I could do the whole leg-squeeze-to-make-him go thing.
As soon as Jen and Haley took off across the brush, Dakota was right behind, with me pretty much holding on for dear life. The gallop was much smoother than the trot had been and I felt like an awkward lump on the back of grace itself. I teetered to the right and left a little and caught my breath as I pulled back on the reins when we neared our touring partners. Dakota slowed, sneezed, and stopped.
“Whew,” I exclaimed. “That was awesome.” And it was.
We headed back to the stables and did a shortened reverse of our pre-ride grooming. I was surprised how sweaty Dakota’s back had gotten, where my English saddle had rested. And instead of farting on me this time, the horse let a torrential downpour of urine wash into the gravel. At least he didn’t lift his leg like a dog and aim at me.
I rewarded Dakota with the remaining carrots and a thorough brushing. I think we bonded. When I led him back to his field for chill time, I was comfortable enough to give him a nice head rub before I left. I romantically imagined that Dakota was a new animal friend and he would never forget our afternoon ride. Well, at least until the next rider.
January 22, 2013 § 2 Comments
My thirtieth birthday grew nearer and I decided to reward myself for both aging and finishing the grand project of trying something new everyday. I bought myself a birthday present, something I’ve never done before. On Day Three Hundred Sixty-Three I bought a new DSLR camera: the Canon 60D.
I had been wanting to upgrade from my Rebel Xti for awhile, but couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a new camera body. So I also bought a new lens, a Sigma 17-50mm which fit into my budget once I applied for a no-interest credit card (now paid off).
Although I haven’t used my camera as much as I should (the camera on my phone is so readily available at all times), I’m definitely happy with my splurge. And now my goal for 2013 can be to make an effort for more photography. Maybe on my thirty-first birthday I’ll begin a photo-a-day blog.
If I’ve finished writing this one.
January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Earlier in the Turning Thirty project I purchased a couple of half off deals to a massage parlor near my parents’ house. Since I was in town on Day Three Hundred Sixty-Two my mom joined me in a day of pampering with my first deep tissue massage followed by (gasp) my first ever mani/pedi. I felt like I was going to be a Lady who Lunched.
You may assume I have been depraved to not have experienced the relaxing female ritual of getting a manicure/pedicure combination. I have had one or the other at points in my youth, the former mainly when I had to fill in as a hand model and acrylic talons were glued to my fingers. I snapped them off within hours of finishing work. The last professional pedicure I’ve had was probably close to ten years ago. I have very ticklish feet and the idea of someone scrubbing away at my sensitive insoles makes me cringe.
As for the massage, I’ve also had massages before, a handful of times. Well, three times. And I thought I had experienced a deep tissue version of the rub down. At least, they advertised it as deep tissue. However, after informing my masseuse that she could be brutal, obliterating all the knots in my back, she still just generally massaged my limbs until I was in a mild hypnotic state.
Day 362’s masseuse Amber demonstrated what a real deep tissue rub actually felt like. I gave her the “knots in my back” spiel and she set to work with surprisingly strong fingers. I could hear and feel the nodules of stiff muscle move across my back as she kneaded and rubbed. It was painful, but the kind of pain that you know will become a relief later. Or so I thought. Turns out it may have been a bit too aggressive and I was sore for days afterward.
Post rub, my mom and I headed to the nail salon across the street. We walked in shortly after it was opened by a frazzled looking middle aged Asian woman. She drew foot baths in front of two of the massage chairs lining one wall of the shop and instructed us to sit down. She set to work on my mother’s toes while I let my own feet soak in the bubbles. A few minutes later two young girls dashed in from the back door to a string of chastisement from my mom’s pedicurist. None of it in English. My mom swears the agitated woman was mocking her rough heels, but I lean more towards the idea that she just generally carried a sour disposition.
My own attendant was super young and not very talkative, which was fine for me. I had picked a dark maroon color for my feet and a gray for my fingers. I got through the foot process unscathed apart from one of two moments of ticklish tensing. Then I lost the little bottle of nail polish that was intended for my hands. I picked out another and patiently sat through the fumes of chemicals as my unadorned tips became medium gray.
Once we were all painted the shop had filled so that each massage chair was occupied. Apparently weekend mornings are busy in Nail Town. I shuffled back out the store with my feet encased in those disposable foam flip flops and admired my sultry toes. Too bad it was March and peep toed kicks were a month away.
I fet like I had spent the morning pretending to be an idle lady of leisure. I could get used to that type of time-filling activity, for about a week. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a lady who lunches. Especially since we skipped the lunching out part.
January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
I almost hiked up Crowder’s Mountain just outside Charlotte, NC on Day 111, but opted to smoke a salmon instead. However, when Day Three Hundred Sixty-One came around, my mom and I bundled all our doodles (two labradoodles and a schnoodle) into the car and made the hike fo’ realz.
I couldn’t remember where we had briefly parked to ascend the mountain earlier in this project, so we ended up on a whole new path. There were two ways up the slope: a treacherous woodland path riddled with gnarled tree roots waiting to trip us and the gravel road that seemed gentle enough for a nice stroll. We opted for the gravel path.
The path turned out to be a long uphill march. Apparently I wasn’t as fit as I thought. If the gravel road was tiring, how would we have fared on the narrow twisted slope?
After thirty minutes or so at a good pace, we neared the summit of the mountain. We walked through a twisted path as one of the dogs strained toward a family with their own pup just ahead. We branched off to the edge of a rock and rested while taking in a few spectacular views.
Once the heights became worrisome and the dogs restless, we decided to explore the are a little more and followed a path to the other side of the peak where other hikers lounged along the rocks and clearings. I took more pictures.
We debated making our way back down via the triple black diamond path, but instead opted for the known road of gravel, just in case someone’s knees might go out on the way down. Easier access for the ambulance and all. We made it down without any broken limbs or minor injuries, although my legs were slightly jellied from the bracing against a pulling pooch.
Next visit I may have to try another path up Crowder’s Mountain.