An Interview With Roisin the Storyteller


One of the premier storytellers at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Roisin (Stories by Roisin) enchants young and old alike with her Irish fairy tales. She has recently released her first CD of stories, The Good Neighbors, and Shire Mom is honored to have the chance to interview her!


  • Q: Roisin is an interesting name! How did you pick it? How do you pronounce it?
    • A: Haha! This question always makes me laugh. I wish it was more of a profound story, but I honestly found a few Gaelic names that I thought were pretty and whose meaning I appreciated, then asked for advice. Roisin (roh-sheen) means “little rose.” Quite a number of people I asked thought it fitting. I personally didn’t see it. As my first season went on, kids at the festival kept bringing me small roses to decorate my hair, or my bodice. I was also the youngest (adult) character at Irish Cottage that year, and I bloomed more there than I ever anticipated. So, in a dozen little unexpected ways, Roisin turned out to be just right.
  • Q: How long have you been telling stories?
    • A: Professionally? My debut season (2014) with Minnesota Renaissance Festival was the first time I pursued storytelling as a craft. Prior to that, stage acting was my forte… However, if you ask my family, I have been st since I learned how to string words together.

  • Q: What story is your favorite?
    • A: Oh, goodness! What a tough question! I have different characters and bits that I love to tell for different reasons. I think my favorite story over all, ends up being “The Two Giants.” It’s my re-telling of the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Scottish giant. I love it because, what begins as a fun, silly story about brawn and bravado becomes a little tale of wit. It was so unexpected to me the first time I heard it. I endeavor to bring that fun discovery to the audience every time I tell it.

  • Q: How do you pick your stories?
    • A: There are a few things I look for, particularly as I groom stories for festival settings. I know that my audiences will span a huge age range. Many times, I find that stories that have persisted the longest, and can be found in the most variations are the strongest. After all, if a story has persisted for years through oral tradition, that story is likely one that naturally appeals to a large audience.

  • Q: Can you talk a little bit about your process for turning the printed word into performance art?
    • A: Absolutely! With a background in theatre and literature, I like to break down stories to fundamental concepts. It starts with finding compelling moments, identifying what the main character has to lose or gain from the story. The next most powerful moments are the transitions, how the character(s) change from beginning to end. The final step is to look for moments to engage the audience (my favorite part!). After that, it all depends on trial and error. If I get it in front of an audience and they don’t love it, I change it – plain and simple. That’s why I cherish my fans and audiences so much. They are an essential part of shaping the stories themselves.

  • Q: What’s the most heartfelt reaction you’ve had from an audience member? The funniest?
    • A: Oh gosh, such a tough question! There have been so many great ones, all so different! One that sticks with me: I had a young lady in the audience last year who came in very reserved, looking a little overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at once. She was with her father and sister. She was very quiet and sad for the first story I told, but as the stories went on she started to light up. When her family tried to nudge her out the door to go see other attractions, she left only on the promise that they come back for more stories later (which they absolutely did!) Those are the moments that get me. When you watch someone’s face come alive, when the stories change them, those are the most rewarding moments as a storyteller.

  • Q: You recently released a CD – The Good Neighbors. How did you pick the album’s title?
    • A: This particular CD focuses on stories of fairies or similar creatures from Irish fairy tales. The Good Neighbors is moniker commonly used for fairies in Irish tales, so it seemed only fitting. I also enjoy the picture it paints – that perhaps these creatures are so much closer to us than we realize.

  • Q: How did you decide which stories were included?
    • A: I decided pretty early on that fairy tales (true fairy tales) would be the focus of the CD, so that helped. Once I nailed that down, it was a matter of finding balance. I looked for a balance between short stories and long, silly and more serious, stories of realization and reward. It was a fun process, but one that I am sure will change some as time goes on.

  • Q: Did you have to adjust your storytelling at all with the change of medium (live performance vs audio-only recording)?
    • A: In fact, it was almost staggering to me once the project got underway, how differently the stories had to be tailored. In live versions of stories I will often have the audience help me with gestures or sound effects. For the CD, I couldn’t do that. The largest challenge I faced was how to keep up the excitement and engagement, while knowing that my audience: 1. would not be able to see my face, expressions, or movements and 2. would not be actively engaging in stories the same way. (It was also very hard not to knock the mic over or jump out of my chair while we were recording!)

  • Q: Can you talk a little bit about the recording process?
    • A: Recording was a whole new experience for me. Thank goodness for the team I had working with me. My producer Annelise made sure I got there with my head on straight and without throwing up (I was so nervous!) Anita, my audio engineer, was the picture of calm and did an excellent job preparing me for the set up, working with my timeline, talking to me about what would read well and what wouldn’t. She was every bit the guidance I needed for my first audio project. And Jay! I knew I wanted music for the CD, but I had no clue where to start. I put together a very rough list of emotions I associated with each song, and went over the gist of the stories with him. When Anita emailed me the music he had come up with, I cried – it was everything I wanted and the perfect final touch for the album.

  • Q: Do you have any forthcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
    • A: Wellllll – a storyteller’s work is never done! I can’t release any project details yet, but I can say that there will be more stories to take home in 2018. Announcements for upcoming projects are put up on social media and on – so stay posted!

Pain-free Preparation for Tax Season

I am not a tax professional. I can’t help you file your taxes.

I can, however, help you set up a system that puts the necessary information at your fingertips when it comes time to either file them yourself or take them to your tax professional. It involves a little effort as the year goes along, but if you do it right, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes here and there to avoid panic, frustration, and overwhelm come tax time.


Step 1: Make folders

  • A physical folder to hold your paperwork (cheap paper thing bought on back-to-school clearance works great.)
  • Electronic folders on your computer (I have a folder marked TEMPLATE, with sub-folders for charitable donation receipts, HCRA receipts, and business receipts; each year I make a copy of the root folder, change the folder name to the year, and have everything set to go with minimum effort.)
  • An envelope for receipts (I realize it’s not technically a folder, but it serves a similar purpose.)


Step 2: Make a recurring list of forms to collect/actions to take

I do this in Toodledo because Toodledo saves my brain. I set each form/action as a task, due January 15th, repeat yearly from completion date, and in the notes section I list the URL I need to visit to get the form (along with instructions if the site is difficult to navigate).

My list looks like this:

  • Taxes – mortgage
  • Taxes – student loan
  • Taxes – W-2 (company name – separate task for each)
  • Taxes – 1109 (company name – separate task for each)
  • Taxes – proof of child residency
  • Taxes – proof of insurance
  • Taxes – calculate business deductions

Yours may or may not look vastly different, but you can look through last year’s forms to figure out what you need.

You could do the same with a sheet of paper in your tax folder or a .txt file in your TEMPLATE folder, if that’s more your style.


Step 4: Stay on top of it

Here’s where the maintenance comes in, but I’ve made all this part of my routine and barely notice the time it takes.

  • When you get a receipt you need to keep, mark it clearly before you leave the store. I have a highlighter/pen combo in my purse for this, and it only takes a few seconds to scribble a category at the top, highlight the relevant bits, and stuff it in the envelope I mentioned above.
  • If you have recurring payments on your credit card (charitable donations, web hosting fees, etc.) make it part of your monthly bill-paying routine to check your statement for these and obtain an electronic receipt. (You could even make a Toodledo task for it!)
  • Start an Excel spreadsheet, and note deductions monthly. List date, amount, store, description, and category (postage, legal fee, etc.)
  • Note any mileage driven for business purposes. My tax specialist wants total miles driven, mileage on December 31, and total business miles driven. I set up a simple formula on my sheet to calculate it for me.
  • If you need proof of child residency, keep an eye out for something useful as the year goes by that has your child’s name and your address. I used an appointment reminder postcard from the dentist.
  • Likewise, anything else relevant to your situation. As soon as you have it, catalog it.
  • BONUS: If you drive somewhere to have your taxes done, keep a copy of the driving directions in your tax folder so you don’t have to look them up every year.


Step 5: Find a tax professional you love

I know many people who file their own taxes with confidence. If that’s you, great! I will admit that while I’m clever with money, tax laws change so often that I am not one of those people. I’ve taken my taxes to Fox Tax for years and have only excellent things to say about them. They put out a brilliant tax organizer .pdf every year that is a breeze to fill in with the data I’ve kept organized. They let me work with them over e-mail (files transferred through a secure online portal), which is awesome because I’m not taking up a time slot someone else needs, it saves on gas, I don’t have to arrange child care, they can work on my stuff when they have an open spot, and I don’t have to get out of my pajamas.


Do you have any tips or tricks you use to make your tax preparations easier? Let me know in the comments!

Always Bring Your Own Salt – a Supernatural Fanfic

Always Bring Your Own Salt

a Supernatural Fanfic by Meghan Brunner

Characters aren’t mine. I’m just borrowing them for fun.

NOTE: Did you know salt has an expiration date? I noticed one on my hand grinder and wondered what’s the point of that? Then I realized the point is probably something like this…

It’s not long. It’s not fancy. But hopefully it’ll make you laugh.


“Was she worth it?” Dean demanded, more than a little annoyed, as he braced his shoulder against the door. It wasn’t going to help for long, but it might buy them a little time.

“Dean, that’s not helping,” Sam snapped. He turned to the idiot tweenager they were trying to protect (this one’s name was Jeff) and tried for a calm voice. Urgent, because there were important issues here, but the kid was already close to losing his shit, and that was the other last thing they needed. “Have you got any salt?”

Jeff glanced around the kitchen, lost, as if he’d been asked to retrieve the Arc of the Covenant. “Salt?” he squeaked, voice breaking. Jesus, the kid hadn’t even sprouted three armpit hairs yet, probably.

“Yes. Salt. Your mom probably cooks with it?”

“Why do you need salt?”

Just get the fucking salt,” Dean yelled as something big thumped into the other side of the door. He winced.

The thing howled.

So did another… from the other side of the house.

Jeff scrambled around the kitchen, opening every cupboard he could find.  Sam was doing the same. Dean abandoned his post at the door and joined them. Thing would be through in minutes whether he was there or not, anyway.

“Here!” the boy cried triumphantly, holding up a cardboard canister.

Dean snatched it from his hand, ripped open the spout, and started pouring… when a row of printing across the top caught his eye. “Son of a bitch! This expired last year!”

The boy stared at him. “Salt expires? It’s just salt.”

“Oh, sure, that’s what everybody says,” Dean mocked, “and then it’s all ‘Help me, quick, they’re after me!’ when there’s a hellhound about to take a big fat bite out of their ass! You have to keep up with this stuff!”

“Like fire extinguishers?”

Yes. Like fucking fire extinguishers.

“Dean! Catch!”

He reached up on instinct at his brother’s call, snagged a hand grinder out of the air. It was one of those fancy-ass pieces of foodie posturing with the pink stuff. “Ain’t nobody got time for that shit!”

“Well, it’s the best we’ve got.”

“Son of a bitch,” Dean muttered, and started to grind as Sam went back to looking.

“My little sister has one of those lamps with the basket of salt rocks in her bedroom! I’ll go -”

“NO!” the Winchesters chorused.

Sam grabbed the kid by the arm and hauled him back from his attempted dash down the hallway. “You just stay in the circle while we figure this out. I’ll go get the lamp. Maybe we can use it as ammo.”

“My sister’s room’s upstairs, at the end of the hall.”

Sam took off.

“Was she worth it? Your little Susan or Jessica or whoever you made your bargain for? I goddamn hope she was worth it.” Dean repeated from between gritted teeth. Fuck his arm was starting to hurt, and all for what?

Sure, he’d invoked his share of decisions that ended badly, including one that ended with hellhounds, but at least his was for good reason. Not that he was going to let this kid get dragged off. He knew what was waiting for Jeff better than anybody, and no stupid-ass teenager mistake deserved that kind of a punishment.

Jeff looked at him for a moment. “Yeah,” he finally said, voice quiet.

Dean stopped grinding and gave him a flat look. “Seriously? Hellhounds were worth -”

“The guy who showed up, he said he could make Dad not drink and beat my mom anymore. He said he could make Dad nice. Could make us a family. And it worked. Even if those things take me… it was worth it.”

Dean just stared.

Son. of. a. bitch.

“We’ll get you out of this,” he said, though fuck if he knew how. They hadn’t had time to hit the Impala for supplies.

“Can’t you hurry it up?” Sam demanded as he dashed back into the room.

“You do it!” Dean snapped. “My arm’s killing me.”

Sam snatched the grinder out of his hand. “That’s it. You’re banned from BustyAsianBeauties dot com for life.”

“Wait!” Jeff said, dashing to the cupboards.

“Dammit, Jeff -”

“But I’ve got an idea!”


Dean had never been happier to see a shitty motel room in his life.

Well, okay, maybe the first shitty motel room he’d been in after hell. But after that…

“I still can’t believe that worked,” Sam said, dropping into the chair. “I didn’t even know hellhounds could explode like that.”

“Well, it wouldn’t have mattered if that demon hadn’t been amused enough to let Jeff out of his contract,” Dean pointed out. “Though I guess we make up a canteen of roast beef flavored ramen broth and add it to the arsenal. Who knew hellhounds had a taste for the stuff?”

Fan Tribute Roundup: Frozen

(c) Walt Disney Studios

Fan fiction and fan art: I’m sure I don’t have to explain the awesomeness of these things to any geek. They have the added benefit of being electronic, so it’s easier to enjoy them without kids immediately sniffing out what you’re doing and interrupting you.

And okay, I’ll admit it: I love Frozen, and not just in some Stockholm Syndrome way because it was the first movie my kid fell in love with and I was allowed to listen to nothing but the soundtrack for months on end. I was really sad when she moved on to other things, declaring she just wasn’t that into it anymore.

So, deprived of my friends from Arendelle, I went searching for new ways to get my fix. Here is the best of what I discovered:



Songs of Ice and Snow by thefireplanet – This is my all-time favorite. The characterization is beautiful, and it does really well with the backstory for Hans. THIS should be the sequel Disney makes.

Just This Heart With Too Much To Share by professorspork – Tangled/Frozen crossover, and while I don’t usually love crossovers, this one at least makes sense. Characterization is good. Tons of smut (I think we’re all adults here, right? Not everything needs to be rated PG) but it’s well-written smut.

Bribery, Force, and Other Nefarious Tactics by yumi michiyo- Kid-Anna and kid-Elsa and that damned closed door. You know Anna would’ve done more than just knock. She would’ve gotten creative.

Breathe by Karis the Fangirl – A sweet little hurt/comfort fic. You know after the events of the movie, Anna must’ve had nightmares. And you know Kristoff wouldn’t have let her endure them alone.

The Ice Palace by Karis the Fangirl – Alternate Universe, which isn’t usually my thing, but this one is short and so beautifully done. Fairy tale feel, set in 1945.

Compromise by Bittersweet and Strange – Kristoff and Anna have a lot of compromising to make their relationship work. Loved the writing style.



Nightliight’s gallery – Homey, happy scenes! Also adorable (but for some reason not in that gallery) is Family – baby Kristoff and his parents!

Lily-fox’s gallery -My favorite is Comfort Food.

Godohelp’s gallery – Love the use of color!


These are my favorites – have you found good fan tributes I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

For the Love of Lists: the Wonders of Toodledo


I’d like to talk about the one thing that makes parenting, household management – and indeed, my very sanity (what remains of it) – possible: lists.

I love lists. Grocery lists, errand lists, project lists, sub-lists of the steps for various projects on various lists. When a day is extra frazzled, lists keep me centered, and there’s no feeling quite like getting to scratch a line through a task. (Hands up if you’ve ever written something on a list just to cross it off. I know I have, and it absolutely counts!)

Maybe you have the same problems I do, though. Lists wander off. They get so many items scratched off (if you’re lucky!) that it’s hard to parse them at a glance. They don’t get finished, so you have to make a new one for tomorrow. It isn’t hard for lists to become a time sink, even if they’re a necessary one.

Enter Toodledo.

I’ve tried a few online list apps, but Toodledo won my heart (and brain). Here’s why:

  1. It’s Free
    Let’s face it, free is the perfect price for most of us. Yes, there’s a paid version that is more robust, and perhaps you’ll find it’s worth it, but for my needs the free version works great.
  2. Notes Section
    Every task you enter has a section for notes. It’s a great place for grocery lists, phone numbers, directions to a party, or any other relevant info.
  3. Scheduling
    You can set due dates on things, even if what you mean by “due” is “I really hope I get to this today.” If you don’t, it’s easy to change the due date to the next most likely opportunity.
  4. Recurring Tasks
    This is the one that really won me. There are so many adult tasks that are important but only happen occasionally: change the furnace filter, schedule the kid’s well child appointment with the pediatrician, dust the ceiling fan, order heartworm medicine for the cats, etc. Every time I do something of that sort, I enter it as a task, set the recurrence frequency, and release it from that cloud of thoughts that ambushes me at one in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. The options go from as simple as daily/monthly/quarterly/etc. to things like “every weekday” or “every Tuesday and Thursday.”
  5. Sorting
    Toodledo lets you create and assign folders. Characters To Level Up, Projects, Responsible Adult Crap… whatever covers it for you. You can also define/sort by context, location, and several other fields. I mostly use folders, but I’m sure others would find the additional fields insanely handy.
  6. Add Multiple Tasks
    If you have several tasks that need to be entered with the same folder, due date, etc., there’s an option to add multiple tasks at once. I’ve found this especially handy when listing component parts of a project.

The really great thing about this, though, is that with a little creativity you can make anything part of it.

For example, I have a folder for birthdays and other important dates (*cough* release date of the next Star Wars movie *cough*). For gift-giving occasions, I have a separate task set a week or two ahead to remind me to shop for a present. I keep a list of gifts given and ideas for the future in the notes section. This is especially handy if you, like I, like giving books but can never recall what you’ve given to whom.

Also, I have a folder for tasks related to performing at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I have several tasks set to weekly (wash garb, pack garb, pack food, etc.), some set to yearly (pack med kit, pack bug spray/sunscreen, condition boots at the end of the run…), and one for the expiration year for my ID badge so I know when I need to send a fresh picture to The Powers That Be. It’s also a great place to note any costume repairs or necessary accessory replacements/additions so there are no rude surprises the night before Opening Day. I haven’t gotten involved in the convention scene, but I imagine something similar might be useful for those.

It does take about a year to get it to auto-pilot status, but that’s more a function of writing tasks down as you encounter them rather than any issue with the software itself. If you have a calendar or planner with tasks that you copy from one year to the next, your setup could be significantly faster than mine was.

So, there you have it: my secret thing that makes all things possible. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me!

Now far ahead the Road has gone / And I must follow, if I can.

(c) Meghan Brunner, 2016

I’m sure there’s a Venn diagram somewhere with a big overlap between nerdy moms and blogger moms, but why not make the overlap just a bit bigger?

Herein, thou shalt find bits and pieces of things that made me laugh, things I found helpful, things I found tremendously unhelpful, and anything else that seems like it might those who happen upon my pages.

A bit about me:

My name is Meghan Brunner.

I’m a homeschooling mama of one five-year-old daughter whom I fondly call Podlet. We work at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival together (she’s been there since a week after her birth; I’ve been there since 1994).  I try to be a fun mom. Sometimes that works better than others. Mostly I want her to grow up to be all those awesome things one would hope to get as gifts from fairy godmothers, except without the actual fairy godmothers.

I’ve also written some books.

If you dig urban fantasy (set at Renaissance Faire, gosh, who would’ve seen that coming?) check out my Faire-Folk(R) fiction.

If you’d like to read my book of parenting humor, honesty, and haiku, check out Flailing in the Right Direction – available in .pdf, but the paperback version is great for any gift-giving occasion you can imagine </shameless plug>.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll return soon!