Sunday, September 30, 2012

You Can't Lift a Hammer, You Can't Swing an Axe, You Can't Even Throw One of These!

Yesterday we decided to get adventurous with our family outing and go to the local Viking Festival. Why not? we thought. I looked at the website and was pleased to note that a mere seven dollar per person entrance fee would get you a slice of bread made in their brick ovens and into all weapons throwing competitions, including archery and fish-tossing. Even though Ash would be free, all the activities in the kid-zone were free, even the bounce house! So we went. 

Well, the website lied. Everything but the bounce house cost extra. Drek later noted that the festival was merely the Nordic version of Octoberfest, which basically meant the attraction was cheap beer. So we won't be going next year, but that didn't stop us from having fun this year. We watched the warriors show off their skills: 

And a few kids whose parents were willing to shell out three extra dollars for their kids to toss a fish: 

But the best part was near the end: We were watching the weapon throwing competitions and Drek was getting frustrated with the spear throwing competitors  Each one got six tries, and four people in a row missed every single time. I couldn't blame them; keeping a spear steady with one had didn't look very easy, but Drek was sure he could do better. So we paid the money and Drek was handed six spears:

He made all six shots. It was amazing. I had no idea I was married to such a spear throwing champion. Wild Boars, beware. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

They All Look the Same

When we were looking for a home to buy we got similar advice from all the locals, but it wasn't the advice I expected. It mostly consisted of: "Wherever it is, make sure it's not on the same road as an elementary school. You won't be able to get within a mile of your home twice a day." and "Just make sure you are far away from any elementary school. Drop off times are bad, but pick-up times are a nightmare. You don't want to live anywhere near that." I did get a few "Avoid houses near elementary schools. Something about picking up kids from school turns parents into monsters. Seriously, avoid." Usually this advice was followed by a few personal horror story experiences. Some about living next to an elementary school, others just about picking their kids up from school.

Yesterday the woman I visit teach called and said she was stuck in a job interview and would I please pick up her son from elementary school? How could I say no?  I was apprehensive, not only did the stories scare me, but I was also nervous because I've only met her son a few times. I knew he was short, had black hair and tan skin, but I wasn't confident I could pick him out of a crowd.

Still, I packed Ash in the car and drove to the local elementary school. Once I got close, I balked. There were cars EVERYWHERE. The traffic was moving at a snails pace. And that was two blocks away form the school. Once I actually got into the parking lot, that's when I panicked. People were parked haphazardly all over the place; up on cubs, in red zones, behind other parked cars... After three narrow misses and what seemed like hours, I finally emerged from the parking lot. I parked the car in the nearest spot I could find, which happened to be next to a red curb. Looking up and down the red curb I saw a dozen other parked cars, so I figured I could risk it. I got Ash out, and we walked back to the school. We made it to the gate just as the school bell rang and all the kids came running out.

My heart sank. ALL the kids were short with black hair and tan skin. I could rule out a few kids, mostly because they were female, but all the boys looked like they might be the kid I was looking for. I looked around, discouraged. Finally, I saw the teacher the mom had described. I walked over to her. She was surrounded by a bunch of children. A few of them might be him. I called his name, hoping one of them would turn. None of them did. But the teacher looked up, and I explained I was there to pick him up. She gave me a weird look, then pointed to the kid right in front of me. He turned and looked at me and I looked at him: Sure. That could be him.

So I took him back to the car (relieved to find it still there with no ticket), strapped him in, and fought traffic for the next ten minutes, trying to travel the three blocks to his house. When we finally got there, his mom was waiting for us. The boy jumped out and hugged her, so I assume it was the right kid.

So, success! And wow, I am glad we don't live on the same street as an elementary school...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

There's a Box of Twinkies in that Grocery Store. Not Just Any Box of Twinkies, the Last Box of Twinkies that Anyone Will Enjoy in the Whole Universe. Believe It or Not, Twinkies Have an Expiration Date. Some Day Very Soon, Life's Little Twinkie Gauge is Gonna Go... Empty.

Several months ago Rissy announced she would be coming to visit Sunland around Halloween. Of course, we started thinking of doing a Halloween Saboteur here in Sunland, then one thing lead to another and suddenly we had a great idea for ZOMBIE SABOTEUR. 

Enthusiasim was less-than-stellar with my grown-up-friends here in Sunland who have children, and suddenly Drek and I planned a trip to Hometown (for other reasons) and the enthusiasm among Rissy's grown-up-friends without children was quite steller. So we did it there. 

It was awesome. Not our most flawless game, not as seamless as ULTIMATE SABOTEUR, not as scary as the last Halloween Saboteur, but still awesome. 

Players are called “survivors”. The point is to survive until the end. All Survivors wear a pedometer on their waist. During every game, survivors are at risk to turn into zombies. Once contaminated, the pedometer is activated. Once the pedometer reaches two-thousand, that survivor becomes a zombie and joins the zombie team. If the contaminated survivor takes “meds” before the pedometer reaches two-thousand , the pedometer is turned off and that player remains a survivor. At the end of the game all survivors win. Only one zombie has a chance of winning.

The players showed up, ready to start. Most of them had done our Saboteur games in the past, but there were a few newbies. We chatted while waiting for everyone to show up. O called to let us know she would be very late, and it was decided that if she didn't show up before a certain time, she would start as a zombie.

Finally, we were ready for the first game:
Game Each Survivor is assigned a number on a ten-sided die. They wear that number on their front for this game. As a group, Survivors are asked trivia questions about survival (i.e. A 27 year old male has been hiking out in 80 degree weather all day. He complains of nausea and dizziness. His skin is hot and dry, he can't walk without staggering around and he no longer responds to questions. What is the diagnosis? A) Dehydration B) Heat Stroke C) He's turning into a Zombie) For every correct answer, Survivors avoid zombie contamination. For every wrong answer, the die is rolled. The corresponding survivor is now “contaminated.” Survivors won’t have access to meds until next game, so the more survivors contaminated, the more likely it is that all of them will not get meds in time. If a survivor is contaminated more than once, his pedometer threshold is halved.

Rissy and I had secretly worked out that we needed half the players to be contaminated at the end of this game in order for the game to run smoothly and the teams to be fair. To control that, we came up with twenty-five questions, and agreed we would stop asking questions whenever the half the players were contaminated. If we asked all twenty-five question and half were still not contaminated, well, the survivors deserved to move on as some of the questions were pretty hard.

Too hard, as it turns out. We only asked about seven questions. One survivor had his number rolled three times in a row, making his pedometer threshold five-hundred, that was actually really funny.

O showed up right as the game ended, and she became our first zombie! She was told this:
TOP SECRET Zombie information:
Congratulations! You are now a zombie! Please trade in your pedometer for a chain to tie for feet together. This will help you to walk with the famous “zombie shuffle”. If you break your chain, you must come back to zombie base to get a new one, and you will lose a link. Make sure you have your bag of red paint. If you get close enough to a survivor (you call them entrees) try to get the red paint onto them in the form of a hand print, they are contaminated. You must then leave that particular entree alone for a minimum of five minutes. After 5 minutes, feel free to contaminate them again.
How to win: Just because you can’t run very fast and crave brains doesn’t mean you aren’t clever! You can still win the game by becoming the fastest, smartest zombie. You do this by earning more links in your chain. You can do this by: #1 Contaminating an entree and #2 Spawn a zombie (this is done by having an entree you contaminated become a zombie. In the event that the entree was contaminated more than once, you need to be the initial contaminate) There will be additional ways to earn links throughout the game. Good luck!

With one zombie, one almost-zombie, and three survivors contaminated, we were off to game number two:
Survivors go out scavenging for food, clues, meds, and ammo, but the Zombie horde is approaching! Survivors must find all the supplies they can while keeping the zombies at bay! During this game, the survivors who were contaminated in Game 1 will need meds so it is crucial that meds are found and administered! Survivors are given clues about the location of supplies. Survivors can split up to cover more ground, or stay together for safety Survivors may also use cell phones to relay information faster. Survivors are given a laptop. On the laptop is a countdown timer, counting down the time to the zombie attack. The game ends when the timer hits zero.
 Supplies: Food = actual dinner items: Spam, Twinkies, Energy Bars, Can of Green Beans...
Ammo = codes used to enter into countdown timer, if a correct code is entered, more time is added to the countdown clock. If an incorrect code is added, time is subtracted.
Meds = essential to stop contaminated survivors from turning into zombies. Must take within a certain amount of time.
The clue to the location of these items is on an iphone that has survived the zombie Apocalypse (we used Drek's old cracked iphone). There are several pictures. one item is hidden in each of the pictures. Survivors will need to find the real-life location of the places pictured to find the items.

It seemed to me the survivors were still learning how to work together. They scattered, and though they found several ammo items, only two made it back to the laptop to enter in the codes. The survivors did have enough time to find the can of Spam, and a can of green beans, but not a single med was found in the short time they had to work with. This proved fatal to the player who only had a threshold of five-hundred. He was turned into a zombie. One survivor did find a geo-cache, and that was cool, but had no effect on the game. A few more survivors were getting dangerously close to their thresholds. Meds needed to be found quickly! It was time for game three!

After the zombie outbreak scientists desperately searched for a cure. Miraculously, they found one that could easily be mass produced. The meds just finished the production stage when the entire economy and commercial infrastructure collapsed. The world was in chaos: due to riots, lootings, panic, war profiteering and, of course, zombies, it became impossible make, buy, or ship anything. If someone was lucky enough to get their hands on a container of med they would carry it around with them at all times in case they were contaminated. However, other survivors were so desperate for meds for themselves or their loved ones that they began to kill anyone suspected of carrying meds. That lead to people taking great efforts to hide the meds they were carrying, but in some cases, it still wasn’t enough to save their lives. That was before people stopped burying bodies. In fact, that was right around the time they started special “possible zombie graveyard” where they buried dead before they knew they were contaminated or not. You have access to one of those “possible zombie graveyards” and you have access to information that tells you certain people were carrying meds when they died. If you can find the grave and dig it up, you might be able to save some of your contaminated friends. The catch? If you dig up a wrong grave more people could become contaminated. And, of course, any time spent trying to collect meds is time the zombies use to try and eat you. So decide now: Will you go to the graveyard to try and dig up some more meds?

It was supposed to be optional, but after Rissy and I set up the game, we decided it was not optional. They HAD to play this game. It just looked so cool!

Survivors split into three teams teams: Say no evil, hear no evil and see no evil. They can decide how many on each team. See no evil move to the graveyard and are given shovels. Say no evil are each given 6 movies in which someone has died. They then play a game of charades, trying to get the hear no evil to say the movie title. One they do, Hear no evil radio’s / calls the see no evil and tells them the movie title. The see no evil work together to search the graveyard for the actor’s headstone of the character that dies in that movie. They must dig up the grave. If they are correct, they find a med. If they are incorrect, the survivor opening the grave is contaminated. Zombies can chase the see no evils and turn them into zombies.

To prep for this game, we had sent the players sureys to fill out weeks before the game. On the survey each player had to name their three favorite movies. I used those movies for this game in hopes that the players would now the actors in their favorite movies. Some did, some didn't. If I did this game again, I would skip the actors and stick with the characters.  Even so, This game was so fun to watch. So much fun.

The two players doing charades did an awesome job. They worked together so well, and the two guessers had almost no problems guessing the movie titles. Almost no problems, except that they had to keep running from the two zombies who were constantly chasing them. Charades on the move is not an easy game to play. At one point, the actors mimicked a jedi-duel, and the gussors yelled Star Wars! New Hope! The actors desperetly tried to silently tell them that no, it was Return of the Jedi, but the guessors were too busy trying to relay that information back to the survivors in the graveyard. And also they were being chased by zombies. The two actors in the graveyard from Star Wars were Frank Oz (Yoda) and Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan). The survivor knew Obi-Wan died in A New Hope, and quickly dug up the grave before the guessers realized their mistake. By the time they corrected it, it was too late. Since that survivor had already been contaminated, he was instantly a zombie!

One other survivor was contaminated during the game, but meds were found! And another survivor was cured. One other survivor reacher their threshold and was turned into a zombie. This was getting serois! So it was time for a break.

Dinner! The survivors had their scavenged food (they sure wished they had found the Twinkies!) and C downed the entire can of Spam by himself. The zombies had a dinner of spaghetti in the shape of a brain. They chose to eat it zombie style.

Zombies secretly pick one survivor to be their hostage. During dinner, the other survivors are distracted and the zombies blindfold the hostage and takes them to a pre-chosen location. The hostage is then given a cell phone and calls the other survivors. The phone call may only last thirty seconds. The hostage must describe where he is. Survivors have a time limit to find the hostage. If they find the hostage within the time limit, the hostage remains a survivor. If not, the hostage is automatically a zombie. No meds will change this. Zombies may either stay with the hostage, or go out in search of survivors to contaminate. The hostage finds that he is locked in a lab where the meds were made. The hostage can attempt to make one dose of meds. If successful, they can use it. If unsuccessful, the hostage will be contaminated. (In the event that the hostage is unsuccessful, and the survivors do not reach the hostage in time, the survivors will arrive to find the hostage already a zombie and what looks like a dose of meds. They can chose to use it (infecting the survivor it is given to) or ignore it (nothing happens)).

The survivors rocked this game. K was chosen as the hostage, and she knew right where she was when the blindfold was removed. She relayed the information to her fellow survivors, who knew right where to find her. Instead of going straight there, R went back in search for Meds from the second game. She found some, and the contaminated survivor was cured. The other survivors used R as a decoy, and rescued the hostage with two minutes to spare. R was a fantastic decoy, and also very good at avoiding the zombies. She avoided contamination. K, the hostage, also did a great job. She decoded the notebook (the notebook was awesome. I wish I had pictures) and made a med, which she kept for herself in fear she might be contaminated in the future.

Survivors find kidnapped survivor, hooray! If they found them in time, the hostage is still a survivor. If not, that survivor is now a zombie (meds will not change this). Regardless, the whole thing is a trap! Zombies ambush players and lock them up (they DO NOT contaminate them, because the zombies don’t want to make more zombies, they want fresh brains). Survivors must work together to unlock each other. Zombies, at the same time, must compete against each other to earn a fresh brain.
Zombie Game:
 Zombies align themselves into factions with two-to-three zombies each. Each faction has two minutes to privately debate amongst themselves. They must all decide to chose one leader from their faction. They must all agree. At the end of the two minutes, all factions who could not agree are eliminated from that round and can meld back into one big zombie group. If the faction could decide, that leader is put with all the other leaders, and the other two zombies can meld back into the group. The leaders create their own faction and the timer is set again. The leader faction has two minutes to decide on their leader. Everyone must agree. At the end of two minutes, if they cannot agree, they meld back into the group. If they agree, that one zombie may go and claim a still-chained entree to feast upon. That entree becomes a zombie (not because it makes sense, but because it would be sad if they were out of the game.) The zombie who won can count it as a completed #2 task and gets another link in their chain. The game is restarted. Game continues until time runs out or all entrees are unchained.
Survivor game:
Each survivor has one hand locked to a chain-link fence with a ziptie and a combination lock. Next to each survivor is a box locked with either a combination lock or a lock with a missing key. In the boxes are the keys to other boxes or a clue with a combination on it. Survivors start off with two clues. If a survivor frees themselves, they can help the other survivors but cannot be eaten by a zombie. When the time runs out, all survivors still chained are contaminated.

The clues looked like this:
Ryan was born on the __ of the month times the first digit of Shana was born on the ___       of the month

Roz and Cav were married on the ___ of the month plus Shana and Curt’s  wedding month plus the last digit of Rachel was born on the ___ of the month.
Nick was born on the ___of the month minus Ryan’s favorite number plus the first digit of Kim was born on the ___ of the month

Yeah, it was a hard game. The zombies worked together flawlessly, making it extra-hard on the survivors. The survivors figured out the codes, unlocked boxes, found keys and figured out more clues, but just not fast enough! Only one survivor was able to unlock themselves in time, though two others were SECONDS away from freeing themsleves when the zombies ate them. At the end of the game, only two survivors were left, and one of them was contaminated. Lucky for her, the contaminated survivor was K, and she had med on her! She took and was cured!

The survivors have met a wandering doctor who has discovered a cure to the zombie virus that works on contact. Unfortunately, the zombies have evolved into spitters and runners, and can now infect from longer distances. Several ropes are twirled/knotted together so that you can’t tell which rope ends up where (the rope will also be partially obscured to prevent cheating). Everyone (players and zombies) takes an end. When the game starts, everyone tried to detangle themselves and discover to whom they are tied:
 Zombie to a zombie- Hooray! Zombies are safe! Work as a team - two red
Survivor to survivor- Hooray! Survivors are safe! Work as a team - two blue
Survivor to zombie- Oh no! You are not a team! Compete against each other! Survivor gets one blue, zombie gets one red.
Everyone is given either one or two a plastic balls dipped in paint. If you are a zombie and you hit a player with a red ball, they are now a zombie and make their way over to the zombie “maturing” ground. After reaching that area, they are a zombie and act as such, getting a ball dipped in red paint.  If a zombie is hit with a blue balloon, they must go to the “medical center” and become human. If they are then hit with the opposing color (so if a player has both red and blue on their shirt), they die (the toxin and the medicine don’t mix well) and stay dead.

The game was a giant paint fight with some tree-climbing, and K and S hiding in the bathroom to avoid getting paint on their clothes. They called a truce with Zombie C, and that made S and K the winners of the game.  Congratulations! They were reward with zombie truffles; chocolates in the shape of brains, with marshmallow or raspberry filling that Rissy and I had made the night before.

Ah, good game. It was so much fun to plan and so much more fun to watch. I'm already planning the next Saboteur game, to be played the next time I visit Homeland...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yeah, We Should Start Dealing in Those Black Market Beagles

There is a world shortage of purple balloons.

There is also a growing shortage of  purple crepe paper. This, combined with the shortage of purple balloons, make decoration difficult.

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but it's reaching the crisis level. There simply aren't any purple balloons to be found. I'm sure the ones that are left can only be bought on the black market. Which isn't the best market for purple balloons, because the people in need of purple balloons are the mothers of little two-turning-three-year-old girls whose favorite color is purple (the daughters, not the mom) and in order to have a proper birthday celebration, need purple balloons. And these mothers rarely have any knowledge of black market affairs.

I admit, I am such a person. Last week I went to four different stores on my quest. Two of those stores were Super Wal-Marts in two different states. Having no idea where to find a black market, I had to resort to paying extra for three star-shaped purple Mylar balloons. Purple ribbon was the substitute for purple crepe paper. The decorations were unconventional and nothing like what I pictured,. Thankfully, my two-turning-three year old doesn't seemed to have developed a taste for critiquing party decorations. Or maybe she knew of the purple balloon crisis and was just too polite to mention anything.

In any case, if you happen across purple balloons, you might want to buy them and save them in your food storage. In a few years, those things will be worth their weight in gold.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fung-Shui Up the Ying Yang

Phew! What a week!

Last week we visited Homeland. Sunday we drove home. I checked my email that same day and found an email written the night before saying the women I visit teach was thrown from a car and in the hospital. She wasn't in a car accident; Thrown from a car, as in, by another human being.

It's times like that when you think to yourself: Man! What do I ever complain about!?

So this week was dealing with that, catching up on the massive amount of work I missed (I'm all caught up! Hooray!), and doing some major projects around the house.

The front room was painted. After debating for several months, I finally picked colors. I have three accent walls and they look delicious! That might be because they were painted a chocolate milk brown and I get hungry every time I look at them, which is frequently, because they look so much better!

Then the kitchen cupboards were cleaned and re-stained. I had nothing to do with that project, my mother-in-law did it all. I tried to help but she said it was her project, so I got to take a nap while she improved my kitchen. I love my mother-in-law.

I dug up my garden, which was a disappointing this year, added new soil, tilled it, laid out new walkways and planted it with new seeds. This will be my first attempt at a winter garden and I am very hopeful.

We have a few more house projects planned, but it's already 11pm on Saturday, so they'll just have to wait till next week. Or maybe two, I might need a rest from so much improvement.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Look At Me Still Talking When There's Science To Do

After three attempts I finally got it right! 

Once again it is my dad's birthday and once again I attempted to make his favorite cake, a Tunnel of Fudge cake. 

This year we were a little pressed for time (I didn't remember the cake needed so long to cool!) but other than that there were no problems. 

This year I made sure to include the flour (the problem the first year) and double checked all ingredients and amounts. I oiled and floured the pan TO DEATH, since the problem last year was that the cake wouldn't come out of the pan. 

The cake was then cooked, cooled and then came the moment of truth. I held my breath and turned the pan over; Out fell a perfect, PERFECT Tunnel of Fudge cake:

 We lit the candles:

and cut into it: 

A perfect tunnel of fudge. It was so tasty! 

So, not that I've made a perfect Tunnel of Fudge cake, my next goal is to make a healthier perfect Tunnel of Fudge cake (there is a reason I only attempt to make this cake once a year).  I'll let you know how it goes. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

One Can Begin to Reshape the Landscape With a Single Flower

As promised: What Drek Did to the Front Walk!

I don't have before pictures, because Drek started the project so quickly I didn't have time to grab my camera. But picture the place between the sidewalk and the house filled with little ugly gray pebbles, lots of dead weeds, a few live weeds, and one very ugly bush. I'm not sure what kind of flora it was, it was just ugly. And there was only one, and it wasn't even in the middle. 

That bush it what started the project. Drek went and chopped it down. He then started scooping out the dirt/weeds/pebbles and discovered the area had sprinklers. He then stopped the project for almost two weeks to call a sprinkler repair guy to come fix the sprinklers of our entire front yard. As you can tell from the pictures, we don't have a lawn, but Drek reasoned that he wasn't going to spend the time making the front walkway look nice, and then when we did get a lawn have to dig it all up again to fix the sprinklers to keep the lawn alive. No time like the present to tackle a giant project! 

They guy came, gave the estimate, and a week later came out and fixed the sprinklers. The guy was amazing. Our sprinklers now work beautifully. One day we will give them a lawn to water. One day. 

But anyway, I told Drek he could now get back to the front walk project, but he said he didn't want to until I got plants. The next day while Ash and I were out and about I impulsively stopped by a store and bought $200 worth of plants, dirt, planter boxes and flowers. I couldn't help it! It was Arabian Jasmine! Do you have any idea how good that plant smells?! One sniff and all my reason vanished.

But it turned out to be a good thing, because Drek loved the small almost as much as I did. Early Labor Day morning he and his sister were out there digging holes (which was quite amazing of his sister because she was  visiting for the weekend and on vacation). Drek made another trip to the store to get mulch, trellises, and the glue to hold the red brick border together and finished up the project that night:

Doesn't it look amazing?! Well, you would think so if you had seen a before picture. This is a hundred and ten percent improvement. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I Caused Pain and Mayhem, Certainly. But I Put in a Full Day's Work Doing It, and I Got Compensated Appropriately. Welcome to Today's Episode of 'Go Money Go!' I Hear it Daily

I got my first paycheck today! I guess before I announce that I should announce this: I got a job!

It's a work-from-home job, switching my title from a Stay at Home Mom to a Work from Home Mom. I can do the work while Ash is playing by herself (hah!) during the day or at midnight when she is fast asleep. A few times she's crawled up on my lap and helped me type, although that usually doesn't last long because I get too overloaded from all the "helping".

 I'm still in that phase where you are new to everything and aren't good at anything and have to look at the instructions or ask questions every five minutes, but I am improving. And I love my boss. Overall it's going really well.  I can do it on my own time (or more accurately; my daughter's time) and I don't feel it's taking away any time from being a mom. I'm getting that self validation that you get from a job that is so hard to get when you're a mom. And also, a paycheck. So all around it seems to be a good thing.

Monday, September 03, 2012

It's a Loop... like the Mummy Hand! I'm doomed to replace these windows for all eternity. You Know, Maybe We Should Just Board These Things Up Until Things are Less Hellmouthy

Once again it's time to play Let's Make Our House Look Less Abandoned! 





Mostly before. I forgot to take a picture before I started taping.






 Next time: See what Drek did to the front walk!