Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kid Superheroes with Andy Fairhurst

I think I found the new backdrops for my windows desktop at school! These are ADORABLE!

Artist Andy Fairhurst has created silhouette children adoring their superheroes. He also did a series of Geek Kids ones. These are too quite. Too adorable and incredibly evokative from a geeky adult perspetive. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Meet Me at the Table: Guillotine

How did I stumble upon a game about beheading people? Well, it was Bastille Day and I wanted to really French-Out my day. I went through our games and sure, we had Noah, but I felt like we were short on some super French themed or French made games. As I was browsing some lists, I saw a game I recognized. . . Guillotine. We called our local game shops and off I went to purchase the game.

Title:  Guillotine

Geeky Specs
              Designer: Paul Peterson
              Year Published: 1998        Rough Game Time: 30 mins
              Players: 2-5                         Suggested Ages: 10-12+
              Type: Card Game, Hand Management

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
Remember in High School, or maybe even Middle School, and you learned about the French Revolution? Then you became obsessed with Les Miserables and Marie Antoinette and your whole life started spinning out of control into a cake and macaroon mess? Or not, but try to think back to those simpler times of basic World History. The long and short of it. . . Down with the bourgeoisie and power to the people. No more powdered wigs!

This game deals with the nobles and what order they are to be executed in. You’ll get to play cards to help rearrange the line of those who are set to be executed. If you’ve been fortunate enough to get your hands on Comrade Koba (2005), this is a more advanced version of it. Or if you want to be more specific, Comrade Koba is a simpler version of Guillotine. Ah, those French and Russians… I’ll never forget that Literature Seminar.

Vive la révolution!

What’s in the Box?
50 Noble Cards (head in a basket)
60 Action Cards (white background)
Cardboard Guillotine
Rules Booklet

How To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

  1. Set up your guillotine, if it came with a little cardboard one. Or not. We used it to mark the beginning of the guillotine line, since across the table, the start was not always to the right for one of us (the rules say the nobles start on the right).
  2. The lay out 12 nobles, assuming you shuffled them first.
  3. After shuffling the action cards, pass out 5 action cards to each player.
  4. On each turn, a person plays an action card (optional), takes (beheads) a noble, and then draws one action card (unless a card on that turn says differently).
  5. You want to take cards that are going to help you score the most points at the end of three rounds.

The End (of a 3 Day Killing Spree!)
The game ends once you’ve played three rounds. Each round ends when you run out of people to behead.

The goal of the game, as I mentioned above, is the get the most points. So you really want to be looking for the people and the action cards that give you the most play.

Rules Weren’t Meant to Be Broken (Or Were They?)
Pay attention to what is written on the cards. Sometimes a Noble has a special ability or detracts from your cards. Other Nobles or Action cards help you earn extra points for set collecting.

One recommendation was to look for the Palace Guards and collect them. If you get all 4 of them, you get 4 points for each guard. That’s always a nice little bonus to put you over the top.

Best Played Under These Conditions
I actually think 3-4 people would be best for this game. It would allow for enough challenges with the action cards and more would be going on in the game. Playing it with just two people made the game go quickly and was still fun, but I think having the extra addition of people would be the best.

The game is also a nice filler game. It’s not super intense, even though it can become quite cut-throat. ::cough::  You can strategize your action cards, look ahead, and try to guess how the other person might play. There are several cards that allow you to stick it to the man if you’re really wanting that extra edge to your game.

This game it quick. It’s fun for those at your table and you can have a little laugh at your rise out of feudalism.

Spice Up Your Game
I thought it was a great idea to play this on a celebration of France day.  For example, Bastille Day is July 14! So why not celebrate liberty and the storming of the Bastille with a fun France-Themed evening!

Before we even get to the food, one of the neatest ways to seriously spice this up for adults is to actually get a little mini guillotine. I saw some online where people make their own little paper ones or used replicas from models. You could really go all out with this one and use little meeples or figures to go with your cards. The sky is the limit on how to spice up the actual visuals of this game.

The most obvious way to spice up the play is to offer simply fruit, cheese, crackers/bread, and wine. You can go super fancy with this or keep it real simply and buy that block of cheese from the store. Brie is a favorite and can be paired with many food items. Check out your presentation and see if you can make it look more rustic, with a wooden cutting board and floral cheese cutters.

Looking for more ways to spice up a whole night of French gameplay? How about some Chicken Cordon Blue  or an Easy French Dip! Here are two brilliantly tasty recipes for both. The Easy French Dip is low in calories and deliciously filling. We served ours with a simple salad with a Sweet and Spicy Light FRENCH dressing from Wishbone. Seriously, you’ll never go back after that dressing.

I’m terrible at wine recommendations, but please take to your own with that. Maybe you would prefer proper Champagne or maybe you’re just going to have trouble finding some good French Wine at your local store, so you have to buy California wine instead. Boohoo. You have an excuse to have a glass, so don’t complain or your head might roll, too.

Finally, what would a spice up segment be without some goodies. I recommend macaroons if you can find them properly made somewhere or maybe you can make them yourself. We ordered some from this delish little shop and just fell in love!

You could also have almost anything you find on pinterest or yummly for dessert, such as pote de crème or a soufflé (if you dare). We had Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies, which are about as French cookie as our local grocer got.

Here’s a first, by the way: You could make a whole night out of French games. I recommend Dixit (and any Dixit expansion). There is also the a fore  reviewed game, Noah. I thought Ticket to Ride: Europe would be fun as well. So really theme of this night with some good ol’ gamin’ fun. Even try a few French phrases to keep things colorful. If you’re daring, throw in a little Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) or Cheech & Chong’s The Corsican Brothers (1984).  Fou! Oui?

After playing this game with my husband, I was excited to have a new addition to our collection that was pretty fun. I can even see playing this with my kids at school or with our friend Jim. It was quick, painless, fun, and full of strategy. It is a perfectly themed game and the artists, Quinton Hoover and Mike Raabe, created really wonderful and catchy cards. There was even a moment when we thought we were playing a Steve Jackson game. . . That’s how quirky the game is with it’s art. Overall, I give this game a 7.5 out of 10, as I can foresee myself usually being willing to play when it is offered and I will suggest it to friends to play. I might even be the one offering the play it. It’s nice. It’s simple and it was a great way to celebrate a French-themed day. Rendez-vous à la table!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bastille Day

When I first mentioned that today was Bastille Day, my husband was like "why are we celebrating this? We're not French." Well duuuuuuh! But my childhood included the knowledge of Bastille Days in Milwaukee, which was a 4-Day celebration of all things French, including a "Storming of the Bastille." They'd erect this giant Eiffel Tower replica in Cathedral Square. It's such a big too-doo!

Since we missed it this past weekend, I thought it would still be fun to embrace a little French-ness by having some "French food" and just having a good ol' day. Breakfast was kind of a wash, but here are some other fun things that we did.

On his way home from an appointment, my husband stopped at Arby's and got a Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich! Nummmmy!

For dinner, we made a French Dip with a salad using French dressing. Not just any French dressing, but new favorite Wishbone Light Sweet and Spicy French dressing. Oh it's so nummy! Then I had trouble finding a French French wine at my store that would also be one I would drink and enjoy, so I ended up settling on a Barefoot Sweet Summer wine. Oh by was that a delicious treat! Can I just say that the Easy French Dip was a huge success for a dinner? It was easy to make and delicious. Even the calories were decent on it. Woo for the French Dip!

After our daughter went to bed, we broke out Guillotine. I actually had told Ray we should play some fun games that are French in theme or made by French design teams and we started going through our games. We had Noah and Dixit, but then I started to stretch and was like, "Do we have Ticket to Ride: Europe?", "How about that Leader 1 game? It could be like the Tour de France!" and finally I just started looking on BoardGameGeek. Something there sparked my interest and I immediately went to Amazon and saw a game I'd seen before that had been of interest to me. Guillotine.

Let the begging and groveling proceed. I begged Ray to call the local shops to see if they had it. Our go-to shop didn't carry it and said it's between printings. Oh no! My plan for a perfect French-Themed day was going to fail! Then he called our back-up and, omg, they had it! Begged my husband to come with me, a no, but my daughter came. We got the game and she was so proud to pick out and get a box of Learn to Read Batman Books.

Like I said, after our daughter went to bed, we played Guillotine. It was actually quite fun and I was glad I grabbed it. Then Ray pulled out Leader 1 and the directions were really hard to understand. So after further research, we were finally able to play. It was really a great way to end the evening. I was actually up until midnight. That's a rare thing for me. Good times.

I was even able to get a review for Meet Me at the Table out for Guillotine. It trumped the previous review scheduled for that day, but I was so ready to get it posted! It was awesome. So go check it out. Either here or on the International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club.

A seriously great day that made up for our lack of geeking on Embrace Your Geekness Day. Good stuff.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Embrace Your Geekness Day 2014

You would think that on this day I would have gone nuts and gone full-on geek. I think normally I would have, but sometimes the cards don't play out in that way. So it really came down to celebrating in my own way and embracing being a Geek Mom.

We started the day with breakfast and my daughter and I did letters and coloring. She's 3yo, so I'm trying to help her learn to trace letters and color in the lines, since she's only going half days, three days a week to preschool during the summer. Oh to be the daughter of a teacher who is worrying about the summer slide.

After that, I put on my Force Fitness t-shirt and we all went to the playground, where I got to walk three miles while listening to The Lord of the Rings Soundtrack and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  During the walk I was compelled to do some sort of house-organizing project. So after stopping at the store, I went home and started organizing all my geeky shirts! See... I embraced the day. All my geek shirts are sorted and now I'm organizing them into folded shelving that matches different categories for easy access.

While my daughter napped, my husband and I caught up on Falling Skies, because we were a little behind. Then we watched Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes on SyFy.

In the evening, I did some cooking with my daughter. She had an impromptu recipe for carrot and pistachio cake, so I used my base cupcake recipe and we made little cakelettes. They turned out really good.  I also worked on my Survive! article.

Sadly, because we had been so exhausted by my daughter, who literally is a Sonic the Hedgehog. . . we didn't get to game at all, but at least I got the work on my game article.

And that's. . . how I celebrated being a geek. It was a little underwhelming this year, but that's the way to cookie crumbles sometimes when life takes hold. Tomorrow is a new day of geeking!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Meet Me at the Table: Noah


Most of our games have a story behind them and Noah is no different. My husband wanted to buy something special for our 10-year-wedding anniversary. It was our tin anniversary, so he wanted to get something in a tin. We had just done tea for Valentine's Day and he couldn't think of something awesome that was a tin. That was. . . until he looked over at our game collection. He was determined to find an adorable game for our anniversary and he sent out a call for recommendations on Twitter. What came back was the French game Noah. From there it turned into a game that stole our hearts.

Title:  Noah

Geeky Specs
Designers: Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc
Published by: Asmodee
Year Published: 2012                 Rough Game Time: 30 mins
Players: 2-5                                   Suggested Ages: 8+
Type: Family, Card Game
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
A flood is coming and Noah needs to save as many animal as possible before the water gets too high.  Noah, though, is a big ol' softy and his heart is breaking for certain animals more than others. His tears are falling, which are probably making the flood waters rise even faster! So you need to save those animals as fast as possible so that Noah stops crying and the animals won't drown.

What’s in the Box? (err… Tin in this case.)
  • 1 Noah token
  • 1 tiny puzzle game board that is in 4 pieces
  • 5 scoring tokens
  • 55 cards (47 animal cards, 8 ferry boat cards)
  • 1 Rules Booklet

How To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question
  1. First, set up the board and everyone picks a colored piece. Depending on how many people are playing, you may have to take out or add in cards. If you have 4 or 5 people playing, you need to add the cards that have a 4 on them or the cards that have a 5 on them. If you're playing with less, take them out.
  2. Put one ferry card next to each pier and then the remaining three ferries in the middle.
  3. Place Noah on one of the ferries. Then shuffle the animals and place one animal, at random, on each ferry.
  4. Deal 8 cards to each player (even if you have 4 or 5 players.) Place the remaining cards aside (you won't be needing them).
  5. The shortest player begins where Noah has been placed. Play either an animal of the same sex as the animal on the ferry or play an animal of the opposite sex. The ferry will then follow that particular pattern.
  6. If you play an animal that couples the previous animal, go again.
  7. The point is to fill each ferry with 21 tons of animals. You have to look at the weight in the corner of the card. If a boat is over 21, it will capsize and you take all the cards, adding them to your hand. Put one card back on the ferry from your hand if it does capsize.
  8. The ferry has to be exactly 21 and then it can sail. Once it sails, add a new ferry to the spot from the middle. Whoever plays on that card due to Noah placement will start the first animal.
  9. Play until you reach one of the two end scenarios. Play three rounds to determine the final savior of animals!

The End
Each round ends with one of two scenarios:
  • Someone runs out of cards!
  • There are no more ferries to replace an empty ferry slot.
You score the game by looking at the amount of tear drops on the cards left in your hand. Tally up the amount of tears in your hand and move your marker that many on the board. That is why it is important to get rid of the higher tear drop cards and not necessarily heavier animals.

At the end of the third round, the person with the LOWEST tear score wins!  Luckily, if that's not your cup of tea, there is a variant end of game which allows for the group to play until one player reaches 26. Then tally for a winner with the lowest points (clearly not going to be that sad soul that reached 26).

Rules Weren’t Meant to Be Broken (Or Were They?)
The biggest rule that sometimes is easy to forget because of all the cards and thinking ahead is moving Noah. You have to remember to move Noah at the end of your turn. Don't just let his token waste away lost under your played cards.

Don't forget to use your special skills. For better or worse, you have to use the skills. For example, if you have the Donkey, which has the do-not-move-Noah skill, you have to leave Noah where he was on your turn. You don't get to opt out of it.

Also, remember with the hermaphroditic snails, you need to declare your snail's sex before you play it.

Finally, there is that dreaded woodpecker. It's easy to forget to decrease the weight of the boat from 21 to 13, so make sure you keep that card easily displayed on that boat to remind everyone about the change. I love to ask the question, "So why does the woodpecker decrease the weight?" I always get the answer, "'Cause he pokes holes in it." Then I always say, "Stupid woodpecker."

A rule that I like that is often forgotten is that for each boat that departs, a certain number of animals from your hand are given to other players. When the first ferry leaves, the person who sailed it gets to give away one card. When the second ferry leaves, the person who sailed the second ferry gives away two cards to one or two players (and so on). This helps you get rid of your cards faster and gives you that extra edge for saving all those awesome animals.

Best Played Under These Conditions
This game is another great game to play in-between more intensive or competitive games. It plays fast and is easy to play through. I've had rounds that go very quickly and rounds that have lasted a little longer.

I found this game plays at a reasonable speed and with enough exploitation of special skills, can go faster than 30 minutes. I've found that 3 people feels like a great number for the best play quality, but if you play with 4-5, you have to add in the 4-5 additional cards. Two people are still fun, but playing with young people, especially, 3 people is perfect.

Spice Up Your Game
We've been having tons of rainy and nasty, almost flooding, weather where I live. We also have a very anxious daughter who can't stand staying inside. What we do to spice up these rain days is play Noah (or a 3yo altered version). Something my daughter said, once, was that we should wear raincoats so the flood doesn't get us. So if you're playing with a family that enjoys being silly, maybe you wouldn't mind dressing up in rain gear to shield you from all the rain and tears!

If you'd like to get creative with food, I had to tap into the best part of the rain and, if you know it, the Noah story and that's. . . The Rainbow! All the rage on the internet has been rainbow cakes and rainbow cupcakes. One of the coolest ones I found used sour rainbow strips on top to create a rainbow. I would then make the inside cupcakes rainbow cake mix. How adorable and fun!

From a snacking perspective, I had bought these little cookie cutters a while back and it's a little Noah's Ark set. It has all the little mini animals and a little Ark. A cute little snack to serve are cheese and sauce cut using the animals and serve with Ritz cracks or a preferred cracker. The cracker are boats and the cheese and sausage animals are the 2-by-2 animals you need to save on the boat. My daughter LOVES these. Save the leftover cheese for grilled cheese. You can also put out the sausages with the animals cut out of the middle, as an additional snack.

 And finally, I think it would be shameful if I didn't suggestion Animal Crackers (the box is a must)! You can make little Nutella or Peanut Butter sandwiches out of two crackers or serve them with a Nutella dip. You can even check Pinterest or search the net for adorable Animal Cracker fun tasks. If you're a minimalist, just set out a bowl of Animal Crackers! Don't forget to eat them two at a time! Frosted or unfrosted will make someone happy!

To tie it all together, you can provide rainbow colored Twizzlers. They're easy to eat and won't load you down. It's a great little snack to just have out for munching and then surprise your gaming group at the end with the shocker than they've been eating the rainbow! Or not. I mean, it could be funny with the right group of people!

Finally, if you LOVE to do this kind of thing, I found a guy who made this adorable little rainbows with marshmallow cloud treat baggies. Just use rainbow Twizzlers and mini marshmallows!

I hope these help to spice up your next gaming night.

Noah is an adorable game that is wonderful for playing with gamers of all ages. It's simple and lovely and the art (Xavier Collette) is so adorable the women or girl gamers will squeal with delight at the adorable Panda (who Noah feels the saddest for). The game is challenging enough and tapes into some great skill building for younger players, such as adding and subtracting, as well as pattern recognition. It also has enough mechanics in the game to keep it interesting for adults, such as the animal features and trying to beat the other players to fewer cards or the third ferry launched.

I've played this game with all different age groups and I have enjoyed it as a light game for those long game nights or a quick game while enjoying a day out on the patio. I give this game an 8 out of 10, because I will play whenever it is offered and I love recommending it to people. I probably also have a fondness for it, because it was, after all, a 10-year anniversary gift (don't worry… he gave me other stuff, too).


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

Another 4th of July is upon us. Everyone is sending out their wishes. It's become another "honor our servicemen and women" day (have you heard the one about Thanksgiving). 

The people who should be honored on the 4th of July are, well. . . all members of the United States. For better or worse, we are the ones who make the United States what it is. From meter-maids to teachers to soldiers to politicians to celebrities to neighbors to our local gas station attendant. 

So today, instead of ONLY thanking a soldier, thank everyone who makes America what it is. From the jackass who cuts you off in the rush hour traffic (yell out a thank you with the middle finger) to the teenager bagging your groceries at Piggly Wiggly. 

Grill out. Wave to your neighbors. Smile as the kids threaten to burn down the neighborhood with fireworks and thank the universe that we all have the freedom to think the way we do, feel the way we do, and live with way we do. We might always think the grass is greener on the other side, but don't forget how brown it is on the other side as well. 

Happy 4th of July everyone! God Bless the U.S.A. and our freedom to be who we are.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pac-Man Ghost Felt Stuffy

There are things that I am crafty at, because they seem to appeal to a certain aspect of my life. I love perler beads. I love Scrabble letter crafts. I think I might love crocheting, but we'll see how that goes. I like being super hands on and crafty, not having the project require my nerves to be steady.

Things I've struggled with, because they are just TOO tedious for me to focus on are stitching and sewing. . . meticulous little crafts. I can't handle all the measuring and stitching and sewing and thread types and all of that. It just becomes a bit too much and becomes incredibly overwhelming and instead of being calming and focused, it triggers that freak-out over an inability to complete the task in a positive and efficient way. I also am a terrible judge of measuring. Strangely, it is just when it comes to everything BUT cooking. I can estimate with the best of them in cooking, but not in, like... everything else. Like my perfectionism goes out the window.

Either way, the International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club had their June Craft Challenge as doing a challenge in felt. I couldn't pass this up. I'd been wanting to try my hand at some felt projects. So I looked for something basic and straightforward to start with. A Pac-Man ghost! Oh yeah!

  • 1 sheet of felt (I used blue)
  • 4x2 piece of white felt
  • 2x2 piece of primary felt (I used blue)
  • thread that matches the color of the felt, or whatever color you want. Know it will show.
  • Needle
  • Fabric Glue
  • Stuffing
  • Scissors

  1. I folded over the felt, hamburger style.
  2. Trace the outline of the ghost. Use an online image to choose between a 3 or 4 legged ghost.
  3. Cut along your trace. I left the part where it was folded in tact at the top.
  4. Save the extra felt to cut the pupils for the eyes and extra stuffing.
  5. I used an Overcast Stitch around the edges, leaving a leg open flip the ghost.
  6. Flip the ghost inside out. Use your pinky or a pen to help push down the legs.
  7. Stuff with preferred stuffing.
  8. Sew up the bottom leg. Try to fold in the point of the leg so it looks rounded like the others.
  9. Knot it the best you can.
  10. Cut the white pieces into two equal eyes. They should be ovals. Trace or freehand to the best of your ability.
  11. Use fabric glue to glue them onto the front.
  12. Cut out the small pupils and place them facing the same direction.
  13. Use fabric glue to glue the pupils. 
  14. Leave to try.
  15. Enjoy!

Good luck and I hope you can make a better lookin' one than mine. More practice. More perfection.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Homemade Green Tea Iced Latte

When I started working as a teacher, I was riding the Starbucks wagon. Granted, I was riding it prior than that, but really only to grab a salted caramel hot chocolate during the cold weather seasons. I'm not a coffee drinker, which puts me out of some of the social cliques, because. . . well. . . why can't I addict myself to something that tastes so... bleeeeeh. I've tried. . . trust me. . .I've given it a fair go, but I just cannot make coffee work for me. I have to add too much calorie-building junk to it to make it work for me.

I have to admit, I am a tea addict. I mean. . . I love tea. My husband and I always look for new teas and then go whole-hog into tea drinking from the fall through the spring. During the summer it is sweet iced tea for my husband and the Green Tea Iced Latte for me.

But let me go back to the Starbucks train of thought. I always struggle when I go to Starbucks. So I started getting teas. Well, my tea pallet expanded and as I've cut more and more salt and fast foods (and Sugar Free Red Bull) out of my diet, I've developed an even more sensitive pallet that can really pick up on all the subtle flavors in the foods I eat and the drinks I drink.

The problem that this created was that my Earl Grey tea frequently tasted burnt. The right temperature of water was not being applied and the leaves were singeing while they steeped. So I switched to a Green Tea Iced Latte. Green Tea being the healthy, detoxifying tea. And I enjoyed it, but I am somewhat sensitive to dairy. I can tea yogurts and cheese and all that, but if give me a bowl of ice cream or a glass of milk and I really shouldn't eat or drink the whole thing. It's strange. Yet, I had raw milk on a visit to family down south and I could three two glasses with no gastrointestinal upset. Hmmmm....

I'm sure that note put you in the mood for this. Bottom line. . . I was unhappy with the products Starbucks were offering me. They didn't have Light Soy Milk. Their other milk options were not going to agree with me. So I searched the net for a make-at-home recipe which would give me control over the drink to tamper with it as I pleased.

It was over a year ago that I found the recipe and I have since then changed it enough to be what makes me happy. When I did the math and plugged information to MyFitnessPal, my current drink recipe was 75 calories for 16oz. The 16oz Starbucks drink fluctuates between 290 and 210 per 16oz drink! So right there I'm saving on calories with a filling drink. Also, my drink has 1.5g of fat and the Starbucks was between 4.5g and 9g, unless you did the nonfat milk. So I'm also saving on fat intake. Soy has all sorts of health benefits and, if you let the ice melt and drink this over time, you're getting additional water intake. I can't not love this drink!

Pricewise, well. . . you'll have to do your shopping for the most economical formula. I think I was paying something like $4.15 or so for my Starbucks drink. Here I'm spending about $2 per drink. I bought my syrup in bulk off of amazon, as well as the matcha powder. Then all I need is my soy milk, which I buy for about $3.45 at my grocer.

Here is my recipe for my healthier and delicious Green Tea Iced Latte.

1 cup Silk Milk - Light
1/3 cup Torani Sugar Free French Vanilla Syrup
1 teaspoon Matcha Powder (Green Tea Powder)
cubed Ice

1. Pour all ingredients, except the ice, into a blender or a Blender Bottle.
2. Blend or shake until as combined as possible. Some of the matcha powder might still look slightly clumpy.
3. In a preferred glass, fill half with the ice. Then pour the mixture over the ice and enjoy!