Can’t Wait Till Next Summer

Well, folks! Good things are happening in the Durham household. The husband has a new job, and my immediate family will be going to France and Italy next summer. And I am so excited! For the past six months, I’ve been learning Italian and can’t wait to try out what I’ve learned. My Travel To-Do list includes several items in both of these fine nations, and I plan to check off as many of them as possible.

3. See Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower 

5. Attend a masquerade in Venice while wearing an eighteenth century costume of my own design

6. See an opera at La Scala

7. Ride a train from Paris to Venice. Okay, this one is technically my mother’s but it’s a really good one so I’m stealing it. But I would do this one with my parents!

24. Take a cooking class in Tuscany

32. Walk through the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum 

55. Wear a sundress and large straw hat while on a yacht off the Amalie Coast

68. Buy a French cookbook in Paris

71. Visit the Chateau de Chambord

75. See the Rose Window at Notre Dame

79. Gaze upon the face of Mona Lisa at the Louvre

84. Recreate Audrey Hepburn’s trip through Rome in “Roman Holiday”

87. Spend a night in the Orientale Suite at the Borgo Storico Seghetti Panchini Hotel in Italia

88. Throw a coin into Trevi Fountain

102. Leaning Tower of Pisa

104. Victor Hugo’s house in Paris

110. Ride a Vespa in Italy

114. Take a romantic gondola ride in Venice with my husband

Wish me luck! And money. Lots of money. Or better yet, just head over to Cafepress and buy yourself some French Food Pyramid and Italian Food Pyramid goods.

Another Fine Day in the Renaissance


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DSC_0069Since I retired from working at Scarborough Renaissance Festival last season, I can now go to the Faire to simply play and enjoy myself. And that is precisely what I did on Saturday. Not only did Alan and I spend a fabulous day in the Renaissance, but almost my entire immediate family was also there. I took my new Nikon camera to fully document the occasion. And document it I did! I ran out of room on both of my SD cards and still ended up using my tablet to take photos. My ten year old niece declared that she figured out why I was repeatedly running out of room. “It’s because you’re taking a lot of pictures, Aunt Erika.” Why yes, she was right. Out of the mouths of babes, right?


Of course, one of the greatest parts about going to a Renaissance festival is the dressing up bit. My husband wore his kilt, which always makes me ecstatic! There’s just something about a man in a kilt. Right, ladies? My brother-in-law also kilted. And accidentally apropos for Fantasy Weekend,  I made my niece a Water Fairy and my nephew The Priest from Assassin’s Creed. The reason this was accidentally appropriate was that they didn’t know it was going to be Fantasy Weekend when they decided on their characters. My twin nieces didn’t dress this year but definitely rocked the face paint.



Another fabulous thing at Scarborough is the food. Luckily, the Pasta Palace had one of my favorite dishes, Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. For the first time in about three years, I was actually able to have a glass of mead to go with my meal. I’m not quite sure why but the whole dining experience at a Renaissance festival is enhanced when done out of wooden dishes. Sword Dancer

Gypsy DrummersLeaf FairyFan Dancer Parade EditedScottish Regiment

As everyone who has ever been to Scarborough knows, the one o’clock cannon, yes, cannon, heralds the beginning of the Grand Parade. All of the cast, regiments, and vendors’ flag carriers march a circuitous route around the festival grounds. Kids lined up along the route to enjoy the spectacle might even get to take home small bits of treasure handed out by the participants. Everybody loves a parade!




We ended our day at the joust, where knights on horseback battle each other on the lists. It’s quite a show! As an amateur photographer, I was really looking forward to this event. I’ve always loved shooting horses…with a camera. Every step these beautiful beasts make is magnificent.


And so we finished another great day in the year 1533!DSC_0705


New Kickstarter Campaign


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I finally have bought a new DSLR camera to take photos for my “Dressing” book series. It is my hope that this series will be an irreplaceable resource for costume designers and fashionistas alike. Instead of books full of drawings, which are open to the illustrator’s interpretation, or just one or two drawings of costumes from each country, my books will go in depth to explore each country’s unique clothing styles. Also, they will include full color photographs of what the country’s inhabitants are actually wearing.

Two years ago, I ran an unfortunately unsuccessful “Dressing: Germany” campaign. This time, I will be doing things differently!

Getting the camera outside of the campaign is just the beginning. One of the other things I am doing is to get people more involved with the campaign. Is Germany the country that people want to see in my first book? What about Scotland, or Panama? Do you have another suggestion? Also, what rewards would you all like to see? I’m still going to include a signed copy of the finished book but at what tier would you donate to get the book?

I am interested in your thoughts, so please don’t be shy! Use the comment section to let me know. I will also be posting on my Twitter account at @renplanet.

Thank you!

North Texas Irish Festival


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The husband and I are spending a fabulous day at the North Texas Irish Festival. As it is misting outside (fine Irish weather,) we are inside listening to the sounds of Celtic music. Alan enjoys his favorite dish, corned beef and cabbage while I nibble on one of the loaves of Irish soda bread that I have procured from the House of Douglas Bakery. What better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon if you can’t be in Ireland or Scotland?

Until I can wake up in the Highlands, this will have to do me. Slainte!



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Well, hello, folks! I hope you all had a happy and restful holiday. Personally, I had to eighty-six #86 off my bucket list because Craig Ferguson ended the ten year run of “The Late Late Show.” But not to worry! The husband and I have decided to replace it with a joint bucket list wish. We are going to add “Go to San Diego Comi-Con in costume” as the new #86.

Also, I have made it my goal for 2015 to mark off (by completing) FIVE items off my bucket list. It’s been a little hard these past seven years with my financial issues but I will find a way. Life’s too short to fritter it away worrying about money.

Looking back on this year, we had an amazing vacation in Manhattan. I finally got to see Alan Cumming as the Emcee in “Cabaret” after a fifteen year wait. And as a very special bonus, we even got to meet him after the show and got his autograph! After all, he’s my second favorite Alan.

We are also finally remodeling our 42 year old kitchen. I think you could say it definitely needs it.

Here’s to another great year with my first favorite Alan. Love you, baby!


Well, folks, it looks like I’m going to have to eighty six #86 from my bucket list after all. I’ve had to see a live taping of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on my list for about seven years now. Didn’t think that it would go away in so short a time. I’ve been thinking about what to do to replace that empty spot on my list. Any suggestions? I’ve been through the five stages and I think I’ve finally hit acceptance.

Can’t Go Back to Constantinople


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While you can’t go back to Constantinople, there are ten good reasons to visit Turkey. Here are my top ten things that make me want to visit this ancient land.

10 The Dardanelles

The Dardanelles is a scenic, narrow strait that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea. It also forms part of the divide between Asia and Europe.

9 Ephesus

Ephesus is the site of an ancient Greek city. The Temple of Artemis, better known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, sat here until it was destroyed during an act of arson by Herostratus in 356 B.C.

8. Cappadocia

The ancient land of Cappadocia boasts the Fairy Chimneys, volcanic deposits that were carved by ancient peoples into dwellings.

7. The Food

Okay, not an actual site but who can deny how great Turkish food is to eat? I mean, the baklava and borek alone are enough to get me there. Known for flavorful spices and the widespread use of nuts such as pistachios, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds, Turkish food has been satisfying palates for centuries.

6. Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Begun in 1459, Topkapi Palace was the main residence for the Turkish sultans until 1856. Over the centuries, the palace complex grew as sultans added on to the vast site. Since 1923, the palace has been the site of a museum of Turkish history and civilization.

5. Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul

This palace was built by Sultan Abdülmecid I from 1843 to 1856 to replace Topkapi Palace as the residence of the sultans. The Sultan wanted Turkey to have a palace complete with modern conveniences and luxuries to rival the grand residences in Europe. Dolmabahce is built on land reclaimed from the Bosphorus.

4. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

What woman wouldn’t want to go shopping in one of the world’s oldest and largest shopping centers? Of course, being a costume designer and general textile lover, I will be looking for clothing and textiles. My husband would probably shop the spice and food stalls. The Grand Bazaar hosts over three thousand shops over sixty one streets. It dates back to the mid fifteenth century when the city was still known as Constantinople.

3. The Ancient City of Troy

Troy might be best known as the site of Homer’s Trojan Wars but today it is a valuable site that allows archaeologists to explore centuries of ancient cities, built one on top of another.

2. Gobekli Tepe

Here, animal carvings grace pillars built over nine thousand years ago. A recent archaeological site, Gobekli Tepe was only first surveyed in 1963. Since then, archaeologists have been studying it to learn more about prehistorical humanity.

1. Hagia Sophia

In my opinion, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Built in the sixth century, Hagia Sophia has served as a church, a mosque, and now a museum. Mosaics abound all over the building, some dating back to about AD 800.

There you have it, folks, my top ten reasons for wanting to visit Turkey. Now, to get my husband on board, and oh, enough money to see these wonders in real life and not just pictures.