Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #24

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

How I Keto at a Con


I've not been mum on the "I'm Way of Eating" my husband and I have been doing for over a year. You also won't find me a rabid-die-hard-soap-boxing-advocate who will crush you if you think I'm crazy. We do our best. We live our life. Isn't it all a crap-shoot anyways? Look at how often opinions flip and a flop. Remember when eggs and broccoli were bad?

So we adopted what they call Keto. Essentially cutting out carbs and sugars and focusing more on proteins and fats to force your body to change it's fuel source. Let me just say.... this makes traveling and snacking very hard. Essentially you're not supposed to be snacking in the first place. Pretty much everything we eat is fresh or cooked in the moment. I also struggle to find food when we travel. That's not to say there aren't a plethora of options out there, but honestly... how many do you want to carry in your bag at a geeky convention?

There are tons of Con lists out there recommending the food to bring so that it doesn't spoil but keeps you going. Examples:

  • Popcorn/healthy "chip" option
  • Beef Jerky
  • Nuts
  • Fruit Pouches (like applesauce)
  • Granola Bars
  • Dried Fruits
  • Hard Candies
  • Sandwiches (uncrustables or homemade)
  • Lunchables/other premade packs
  • Trailmix
  • Coffee (bring your own)
  • Water, Water, Water

When it comes to keto, there are three, maybe four options on that list that someone who eats this way can take.

Premade Lunch Packs 
There are some out there, but they are not lunchables. One that I've fallen in love with is Ready, Set, Egg! The sad part is that they need to be refrigerated. I mean, who wants to carry a smelly hard boiled egg around in the heat!

You still have to be careful with nuts and not eat too many of them, but there are some that really do the trick: Almonds, Pecans, Brazil Nuts, Macadamia Nuts, and Walnuts (just to name a few). These you can easily pack and not worry about keeping them cold. You just have to watch the amount that you eat. Prepackage everything. I really like the Planters NUT-trition Heart Healthy Mix. It has several of the good nuts and the net carbs are only 2 for 30 whole nuts. Definitely a pre-portion snacks.

Water is a must on the Keto diet. My one friend argued that drinking a gallon a day really made all the difference for her. Regardless, water is a must no matter what your way of eating. I found at GenCon that there is nowhere to refill a water bottle unless you use the sink in the bathroom and a filtered water bottle, so you might want to find a way to carry enough water for you for the day or be prepared to drop the big bucks. Drinking as much water as possible is key to Keto. I've heard in some circles a gallon of water a day is recommended.

The Fourth
You can bring your own homemade snacks, as mentioned in the list above, but the ingredient list can be a bit tricky for what will keep with a whole day out and about.

But what else can I take to a convention that will help when I feel the need to eat, because maybe I've been expending more energy than you needed to?  We're not talking meals. That you'll have to figure out on your own, but what can I keep in my bag for those moments when I really need something. Here is what I found:

  • Keto fat bombs that won't melt.
  • Olives (Kalmata or Green for 0 carbs)
  • Quest Bars (not too many, but work for a quick sweet tooth. Only if you need it.)
  • Pork Rinds
  • Keto friendly Peanut Butter and celery
  • Bell peppers
  • Raw Broccoli/Cauliflower
  • Black Coffee (or with your own Keto additives)

If I had the means to pack  a small ice pack for my day out, it would really opens up the options available for me, such as:

  • Hard boiled eggs (still weird to carry around a crowd of people)
  • Cheeses
  • Guacamole with veggies for dipping
  • Cucumbers and Cream Cheese
  • Lunch Meat
  • Pre-Cooked Bacon
  • Keto Broccoli Salad
  • Fat Bombs that require cold temperatures

I'm not an expert and will never claim to be, but as I plan for my own trip to GenCon, I wanted to make sure that I put most temptations aside. Will I indulge a little bit? Absolutely. I don't, though, want to go overboard and will still be trying to stay as true to my Way of Eating as possible.

Good luck!

*If I can swing it, I might get to blog about my GenCon Food Adventures. I always love the diversity of the food, so we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #23

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #22

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Friday, July 6, 2018

5 Fandom Friday - Favorite Things About the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Seems really specific doesn't it? It's summer, though, and many people are traveling to this much-loved destination. After a somewhat sad experience at the Wizarding World last summer when I attended, I wanted to reflect on what I loved about being there.

Note: I wasn't unable to go on any of the rides at the time due to seat size. I was body shamed by an employee who thought they were being helpful, but sent me into a panic attack and embarrassed me. The only good to come out of it was that I was able to walk through the intro to the ride with my daughter and mother. It was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

1. The PINS!
I don't know how open I've been about this anywhere on my blog, but my goodness I have a pin addiction! It's like that old-person addiction to shot glasses or spoon souvenirs. I have to have PINS! Hard Rock Cafe can take my money, just give me the pins! It's my favorite way to identify places and events. And holy crap... there are carts of pins all over the place and the stores all have ones too! I needed an intervention, because it was becoming a bit rough for my pocketbook and where I'm going to, one day, store them. Oh my goodness I was in love! The proclamations were fun and I bought this one for my classroom, because it was silly.

2. The Butterbeer
Yes please! It was a real treat and it was hard not to go back for more and more and more! Sugar, yo... it's dangerous! The recipe that is floating around isn't as good, but I was able to finagle it to our liking. Let the butterbeer flow....

3. The Interactive Wand Adventure
So you can buy a special wand and then walk around to special locations, perform a spell action, and something will happen! No, we didn't do the ceremony of being assigned a wand. The line was a bit too insane for my liking. Everyone got in on the action, though, and I thought it was a really amazing touch to add to the magic.

4. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
It... was just amazing.... for realz. There are all the shops with all their amazing little curios. There are dancers and people to talk to. Everyone is, of course, in character. All the things to see will just melt your heart.

5. Hogwarts Express & King's Crossing
I used to live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I saw so many of Rowling's inspirations there. When I went to London to do some research for my PhD, I couldn't pass up going to King's Crossing. To see it replicated here just made my heart long for my life back in the UK. The express itself was a relaxing little trip between the two Harry Potter locations and I loved the videos and the interactive experiences that occur while riding.

I'm sure if I had been able to do more of the rides it would have been even better. I'd love to go back now that I've lost so much weight. Universal Orlando, overall, is my absolute favorite place and I'd go back there every year if I could. My daughter wasn't fully into Harry Potter and was a bit young to understand the geeky implications of what we were doing, but her interest was peaked. She was more obsessed with the Jurassic Park area. Oh my goodness.... the obsession is bigger than any hardcore Potter fan. No offense, but I'm so serious.

Even if you're not a Harry Potter expert, you'll find something to love and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #21

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Fourth of July

I love theming out game events. I also find it interesting to look at lists of games that involve a holiday or a theme of some sort. When I was looking for games that I think fit the United States' holiday the Fourth of July, it became a little more difficult than I anticipated. My husband even kind of looked at me strange and turned his nose up at me. So I went off on my own and came up with a list I thought celebrated America or had a "patriotic" theme.

The first and most obvious was Hanabi (2010), because of the fireworks celebrations. After than my trail went a bit cold, since many of the games were more suited towards historical war games. Here's my stretch of a list that isn't too heavy on the historical war games.

1. Hanabi (2010)
This is the cliche, but obvious choice. That said, it's still a great little game. I even wrote a column on it many years ago for a Geek Girl PenPals and my Meet Me at the Table reoccurring column.

2. 1775: Rebellion (2013)
I think this one is pretty obvious. I mean... we're fighting for our freedom here people. This is an area control game set literally during the precursor to our Independence Day and utilizes four factions: The American Continental Army and Patriots against The British Army and the Loyalists. As with the real conflict, the armies are able to call on allies, such as the Native Americans and the French. Use cards to move your players into position and dice to quickly battle once you've found your perfect place of attack. There are some thematic elements that dictate the end of the game, but whoever has the most flags wins the game. Even if you're not into historical games, this one is worth a shot. I am not the best at area control, but my dice rolling is pretty sweet.

3. 1960: The Making of the President (2007)
1960 is about one of the most notable presidential elections in our American history. If you are unfamiliar with this election, you can get a crash course on everyone's favorite go-to reference, Wikipedia. The game is set between the beloved John F. Kennedy and the notorious Richard M. Nixon. As with 1775, this game utilizes area control, but also hand management to manipulate the vote and take the election. Who will make history and change the country for better or worse?

4. Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark (2015)
Thomas Jefferson, back in 1803, sent out two explorers to investigate just how far this new land stretched. Discoveries is thematically identical to its heavier card drafting sister, Lewis & Clark: Expedition (2013). Discoveries is a dice placement and set collection game depicting Lewis & Clark's (as well as Sergeants Patrick Gass and John Ordway) expedition to first cross the western portion of the United States. What makes the game particularly interesting is the unique way in which you use the dice. You have your own dice, but can gain neutral dice, as well as your opponents' dice. You have to spend dice to take actions and it's at this point that players can take the dice to add them to their own pool. Essentially, the game is about producing enough movement to claim the various mountain and river cards that represent the game's victory points. Obviously, it is a great fit for your holiday game pool.

5. Freedom: The Underground Railroad (2012)
This part of our history is not one to look upon lightly and, maybe, definitely not during a celebration of our country. Freedom, though, shows us a slice of history where people who wanted to do the moral thing rose up and tried to preserve human life, regardless of their color. It was about what they represented. This is a cooperative game, which I love about it, because of the historical context.  Using cards that depict historical events and actions, you have to raise funds to maintain your network to move escaped slaves from the south to the safety and freedom of Canada. The goal is to end slavery, but just like in the Civil War, there are forces hell bent on stopping you, from slave hunters to politicians. The negative aspects are overwhelming and the final goal is harder to attain than you think. It can be an emotional journey, but really touches the heart of trying to change a horrible part of our history in America.

6. Legendary: Captain America 75th Anniversary (2016)
Would it be patriotic of me to ignore Captain America on this particular holiday? Legendary offers an expansion that focuses on Captain America and his crew to take down whatever evil pops up. It features Agent X-13, Captain America 1941, Captain America (Falcon), Steve Rogers: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Winter Soldier. This cooperative deck building game is always something I love to breakout and play, so this holiday offered that excitement. Build your deck up from some basic S.H.I.E.L.D. cards and use the powers listed on the cards to destroy whoever the mastermind villain is (Arnim Zola and Baron Heinrich Zemo are included in this expansion). The villain is using some pretty intense henchmen and supportive villain groups (included are Zola's Creations and Masters of Evil [WWII]). Watch out for those scheme twists, though, as they will throw a wrench in your efforts to defeat the mastermind.

We typically like to choose our masterminds and his henchmen/villain groups randomly, so we don't always play with those expansion parts. I also made my own little patriotic group, so there's that option as well: Captain America, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Patriot, and Agent X-13.

7. The Pursuit of Happiness (2015)
July 4, 1776 - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Paragraph 2 of the "Declaration of Independence.") Sure it might seem like a stretch, but it's all in good fun. The Pursuit of Happiness is a worker placement game where you have to fulfill life goals. You live your life by finding a job, taking on hobbies, and even finding love. How do you define happiness?

8. Road to the White House (1992)
So I know I said I'd try to keep the war games to a minimum, but um.... this is essentially a war game with a skin of the presidential election. Besides, don't they always compare political races to wars. Intense and time consuming, you are essentially going around the United States literally running a campaign. I'd like to think the publication year says a great deal about the complexity of this game, simply because older area control games have a tendency to be heavier and heavier and almost absurdly complex the farther back they were published. That's not to say there aren't heavy and complex modern games, but I think my assessment stands. In Road to the White House, you select a candidate and go through the entire process of conducting your election, finally ending with a vote in each state to see who the ultimate winner and leader of the free nation will be. Say goodbye to your BBQ plans, because this one is a doozie.

9. Timeline: American History (2014)
Put your knowledge of American history to the test. Place your cards along a timeline and try to guess the correct date. The order of events might not be what you remember from your history classes. As a sidenote, the students I am able to get to play the Timeline games are so dismissive of them, because they don't know the answers and can't get over the fact that it's a learning game and not about being perfect all the time. I love it, though, because I learn things I've never known before. Talk about understanding the acquisition of knowledge.

10. We Come in Peace (2016)
I thought about adding in an alien game for fun (Independence Day (1996)?!?!) and just couldn't help myself. This rather quirky game from Rather Dashing Games, this is one of the games that I use to teach my students about the mechanics of press your luck and take that. You have a planet that you must take care of. Others roll dice to try to take control of your planet. Flying saucers attack your cities and you have to defend them and rebuild. The superior aliens will be those with the least damage at the end of the game. I'm going to assume that was Earth in Independence Day, because we weren't taken by the aliens. ha!

So enjoy and have a happy 4th of July!