“How To Train Your Dragon” Kids Bedroom Inspiration

Since we couldn’t have a birthday party this year (thanks again, Covid), we decided to take the money we would normally spend on renting a venue, and food, and all of that stuff, and put it towards redecorating our daughter’s bedroom.

We told her she could do it however she wanted! Since she was turning 7, she was getting away from the “baby” looking stuff, and wanted a room that reflected her new “big girl” persona.

After very little deliberation, she knew exactly what she wanted. A “Toothless” bedroom.

Toothless is the main dragon from the show. He is all black, very cute, and is basically a mix between a hyper puppy and a silly kitty. And he can fly and shoot energy out of his mouth.

Basically the perfect animal to a 7 year old.

So we went about finding ways to transform her room into the town of Burk, and her d├ęcor into an homage to dragons.

I found it challenging to find enough “How To Train Your Dragon” merch, so we had to get creative. If you are reading this, maybe you are having the same problem!

First, we let her pick the paint color. She wanted “Toothless eye green”. So, we packed up our stuffed Toothless and headed to the paint store.

We ended up getting a Valspar paint called “Parakeet Green”. It is a nice, warm, avacado green color that really brought the space to life!

We then went on Amazon to get some merchandise. Here are some of my favorite pieces we picked out.

I really love a tapestry. Its a great way to make an accent wall without the time and commitment!

This Viking helmet light was my favorite find. It was the most expensive piece we bought, but man, was it worth it! The light is metal and very sturdy. Be warned, though, the light the bulbs can get very hot. To avoid future injuries, I’d recommend replacing them with LED lights.

Since we love a good LARP, my daughter was all about picking out a foam axe to add to the room! We hung it with a leather strap so that she can take it down and play with it when she wants to! A toy and cute decor, win/win!

For curtains we went a little more abstract. Our Toothless is a “Night Fury” so we did a starry sky. I love these because they are also black out curtains. They work pretty well at helping kids sleep in on Sunday Morning!

Details matter! This lightswitch cover featuring a Viking longboat was a small purchase, but it ties in so nicely with the curtains and gives the room a little something extra!

This toothless nightlight pillow was a gift for her birthday from her grandma, and she absolutely loves it. The batteries run out pretty quick, but thankfully you can set it to turn off on its own after an hour or so.

We interspersed these purchases with some of our own personal items. The dragon pop up book above her piano was my brother’s when he was a kid. The dragon origami was a Love Pop card my husband got me for our anniversary! And the How To Train Your Dragon box set was a birthday present.

The electric ball that she bought with her chore money ages ago looks just like the energy blast toothless shoots out of his mouth!

Finally, a couple unique gifts and purchases from Etsy, or another small vendor, really make the room feel special, and not just store bought.

We found a Toothless piggy bank on Etsy, and friends of ours purchased this hand made picture of Toothless and the Light Fury.

A kid’s room is their sanctuary. A place that they can call their own in a world that can be so confusing, and loud, and challenging. Their bedroom is their safe space.

They can read, they can color, they can watch their favorite shows, they can even just take time to breathe.

So, I hope that you and your kids now feel inspired to go out and create the perfect space that reflects the amazing person they are!

Fabulous Fallout Clam Chowder (Gulper Slurry) Review

This month, we are featuring a few recipes from the Vault Dweller’s Official Cookbook from the Fallout franchise. If you don’t have one yet, you can pick it up here:

Previously, we baked up a Perfectly Preserved Pie that was just as pretty as it was delicious!

This week, I recreated the Gulper Slurry, a thick and creamy clam chowder that was the perfect way to warm our souls while watching the falling snow this past weekend.

The recipe is rated Difficulty Level: Medium

I would say the hardest part about this recipe is oven control! You need to heat it without boiling it, which can be a little tricky if you don’t have a good idea how your particular oven functions. However, if you keep a close eye on things (make sure to pop a few points in perception), the rest is a simple dump it and go recipe!

The recipe calls for a dutch oven, which I don’t have unfortunately. So, in my recreation, I used a cast iron skillet for the bacon, and a large soup pot for the rest. If you have a dutch oven though, you can do everything in one place, which means less clean up at the end! (Yay!)

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices of thick cut bacon (I made 6 because I love bacon!)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • Two 10-oz cans whole clams
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed (you want them to be bite sized)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Chop, Chop, Chop the potatoes, onion, and celery
  • In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, lay the bacon strips flat across the bottom. Cook the bacon until crispy.
Mmm… bacon
  • Remove the strips and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Once cooled, crumble the bacon and set aside.
  • Transfer the bacon grease from the cast iron skillet to the cooking pot. Bring up to medium heat.
  • Add the onion, garlic, and celery to the pot and cook in the bacon fat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Drain the juice from the cans of clams into the pot, and set the clam meat aside.
  • Add the vegetable broth, bay leaves, thyme, and potatoes and turn heat up to medium-high to bring to a simmer.
It’s starting to look like soup!
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
  • Stir in the clams, heavy cream, half-and-half, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Remove the bay leaves.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat on medium until the soup is warm, but do not boil.
  • In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and the water together to make a slurry.
  • Add the slurry to the soup and stir until the soup has thickened.

To serve, add the soup to a bowl (or a bread bowl) and top with bacon crumbles. We served ours in a regular bowl with a side of sourdough bread to sop up the broth.

It was the perfect Valentines dinner in because it reminded us of our honeymoon in San Francisco, where we would stroll along the wharf and pick up large bread bowls of clam chowder for lunch.

If you guys like this soup recipe, you should also check out Dice Mom’s take on Traveler’s Stew from the Dungeons and Dragons Official Cookbook.

I’ve never been so happy for soup season!

This soup was really good, but it was even better the next day as leftovers!

In the Vault Dweller’s Official Cookbook, there is a note under the recipe. It says, “In order to make the necessary space for the clams in Vault Warehouses, the amount of medical and operational resources for each vault has been reduced accordingly.”

After tasting this soup, I’m not even mad about it!

Fallout’s Perfectly Preserved Pie Recipe

This month, I decided to crack open The Vault Dweller’s Official Cookbook by Victoria Rosenthal.

My husband is a huge fan of the entire Fallout franchise. So, in celebration of Valentines Day, I wanted to make him some special dishes based on the video games!

This is one of my favorite nerdy cookbooks for one big reason. Every single recipe is accompanied by at least one picture. The book is chalk full of gorgeous photography.

If you don’t already own this one, I would highly recommend it!

In Fallout, Perfectly Preserved Pie can be found in any Port-a-Diner and will imbue you with a +4 luck bonus for four hours.

Who couldn’t use a little of that?

This recipe is listed as “difficulty: hard”. I think this is because there are a couple of preparation techniques that are uncommon, meaning they may be things you haven’t done before. But have no fear! We’ve got this!

Also, this recipe takes a decent amount of prep time. You are going to need to do the bulk of the work the day before you plan on serving it. I have broken the recipe down into the 3 main parts:

  1. The pie
  2. The strawberry topping
  3. The icing

The Pie

The pie is listed as “cheesecake” in the recipe, but it has a much more fluffy, light consistency than most cheesecakes I have had. The other two parts are very rich, so it was actually a welcome surprise, as the pie and toppings complimented each other nicely!

You are going to need a springform pan for this recipe. This is a cake pan that has a removable “wall”, allowing you to remove the cake once it is set.

This is what you want:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (see instructions below)
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Take the cream cheese out of the fridge and put on the counter until it reaches room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 275
  • Scrape the vanilla bean. In order to do this, you are going to take the bean and split it down the middle length wise with a sharp knife. Then, with the tip of the knife, carefully scrape out all of the brown “gunk” out of the bean.
  • Combine the heavy cream and the scraped vanilla bean in a small bowl and set aside. You will start to see small flakes of black in your cream, similar to French Vanilla icecream!
  • In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese until smooth. You will need to scrape down the sides throughout to make sure all of the cream cheese is completely smooth.
  • Add the sugar and mix well.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time.
  • Remove the vanilla bean from the heavy cream.
  • Pour the heavy cream, sour cream, salt, cornstarch, and vanilla extract into the cream cheese mixture. Mix well.
Adding (premeasured) ingredients is a great job for the kids!
  • Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan in aluminum foil. This will prevent any water from entering the pan. Make sure the foil comes up the sides at least half way all the way around.
  • Butter the inside of the pan. My daughter did this by taking a stick of butter and holding it while wearing a plastic bag as a glove. She thought it was very fun!
  • Carefully line the pan with parchment paper. This started to feel like overkill, but all of these steps are to keep the cake from sticking, making removing it later much easier. It did seem to work!
  • Pour the batter into the pan and rap the pan against the counter several times to remove air bubbles.
  • Place the cake pan in a large, deep baking tray (I used my lasagna pan).
  • Pour hot water into the baking tray until it is about halfway up the cake pan. This is done to avoid harshly cooking the cake, and to prevent cracks from forming on the top.
Its like armor for your cake!

If you have made cheesecake before, you know that these are the two main headaches about them. Either the top cooks too quickly and becomes “chewy”, or you end up with a large crack in the top. By following these instructions, I was able to avoid both of those issues!

  • Bake for 1 hour, until set.
  • Turn off the heat and keep the cheesecake in the oven for another hour. This is another trick to avoid the dreaded crack in the top!
  • Remove from the oven and the deep baking pan and cool to room temperature on the counter.
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (but overnight is best).

Yay! Cake is done!!

The Topping

The strawberry topping is what really makes this dessert look like the “Perfectly Preserved Pie” that you find in the video game!

It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, just the ability to take your time.

You will need a fine strainer like this one if you don’t have one already:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled (see instructions below)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water

Instructions:

  • Hull the strawberries. I find it easiest to use a plastic straw if you have an extra one lying around. Remove the leafy green top, then stick the straw through the bottom of the strawberry and out the top. Remove the white “hulled” section from your straw and move on to the next! Its so easy, a 6 year old can do it!
STAB IT WITH A STRAW!
  • Place the strawberries in a blender and puree until smooth. My food processor has a “puree” setting and that seemed to work well.
  • Pour the pureed strawberries through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds. This part takes the most patience. I used a spoon to help move the seeds out of the way and stir the mixture to help it go down. I ended up with a strawberry seed paste in my strainer, and a gorgeous strawberry sauce in my pan!
  • Place a large cinnamon stick into the pan with the strawberries.
  • Bring to a boil (this smells amazing!)
Yum!
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water. This dissolves the cornstarch so that you don’t end up with chunks of it in your topping.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick from the strawberries and add the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan
  • Whisk until it has slightly thickened.
  • Allow to cool and then cover and place in the refrigerator.
  • The sauce will fully thicken as it cools, so allow it to refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best)

My strawberry topping came out slightly thicker than what is seen in the cookbook’s photograph, but it was delicious! It would also be amazing on icecream!

You’re almost there!

Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Its tomorrow now!

Okay, so if you are feeling totally done with cooking, you could probably just use store bought buttercream icing. However, I think this stuff is worth the extra 15 minutes or so of work. It is amazing!

Also, I was making this for Valentines Day, so why not go all out?!

The recipe calls for a pastry bag to make the dollop of icing look extra cute, but I didn’t have the right size attachment. So, just a spoon will get the job done too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar (I used 3, but I would recommend closer to 4)

Instructions:

  • In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter until smooth.
  • Add the salt and caramel and whisk until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time.
  • Continue to add confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. I did 3 cups, but I think 4 would have given it more of the consistency you see in the book. Mine was very thick, creamy, and rich!

To serve, you will slice a piece of cake and drizzle with the strawberry sauce. Finally, add a small dollop of caramel buttercream icing on top!

Voila!

This fluffy, crust free pie with strawberry sauce is as delicious as it is beautiful! I look forward to using it this summer when these lighter desserts are especially nice!

Impress the Vault Dweller in your life, and have a great Valentines Day!

10 Life Lessons From My Neighbor Totoro

Fellow, parents, if you haven’t watched the movie My Neighbor Totoro from Studio Ghibli with your kids yet, its time to pop some popcorn, snuggle under a warm blanket, and give this one a go!

My Neighbor Totoro is an anime style movie about a small family in rural Japan. The main characters are sisters. Two little girls named Satsuki and Mei.

While coping with their mother being in the hospital, and moving to a new place, the girls befriend a forest spirit they call Totoro.

What Studio Ghibli does well, in all their movies, is to make a film that children will genuinely enjoy. A film that will make them both belly laugh and feel invested in the story. And, at the very same time, create something that is so serene and so beautiful that parents can enjoy watching it too.

Totoro is more than a story, it is overflowing with allegory that highlights some of life’s most important lessons.

Here are my favorite:

  1. When you’re scared, being silly sometimes helps! Whether its yelling at bedbugs or laughing at a storm, Satsuki, Mei, and their father, find ways to lighten the mood when things get dark.
  2. Have an adventure-go play outside. One of the most beautiful parts of this movie are the scenes of rural Japan: rolling meadows, lush forests. The girls play outside a lot, exploring their new surroundings. They show just how fun it can be to get in the dirt and crawl around!
  3. Its okay to ask for help. The family’s neighbors create a warm sense of community, where everyone is there for each other. Wouldn’t it be great if every place was like that?
  4. Its also okay to cry. Satsuki, as the older sister, is so brave throughout the film, helping her family and keeping a positive attitude about her mother’s illness. But after a scare at the hospital, she breaks down and sobs in the arms of her neighbor Nanny. You can feel the dam break as all the pent up emotion comes flooding out. Its a beautiful display of strength.
  5. Let your imagination run wild! When the girls claim to see Totoro, their dad plays right along. He gives them space to create and imagine. Even joining in the exploration! Whether Totoro is real or not, their dad is there to be a part of their world with them.
  6. Kindness is always the answer. Umbrellas=little random acts of kindness. The characters all sharing their umbrellas show kids that kindness is a great way to make new friends!
  7. Be curious. If Mei hadn’t followed the small Totoro, they would have never had their amazing adventure! To be clear, wondering into the woods alone should be discouraged. However, the curious nature of a child should always be nurtured!
  8. Family are the people who are there for you. The character of Nanny, an older woman who helps take care of the girls, starts off as a little scary to young Mei. But over time, this woman becomes a part of their family. Someone they could go to for help and support and who genuinely cared when they really needed that motherly figure in their life. If you have friends like this, you are very blessed!
  9. Love is in the little things. Making breakfast for your family… waiting at a bus stop… an ear of corn. Its the little things that add up that make people feel loved.
  10. When someone is sad, and you don’t know what to say, just being present in the moment is enough. Totoro has no lines. Yet, he was a source of comfort and strength to the sisters while going through a tough time. He was a good friend, without even saying a word. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a friend is sit down beside them and share a branch.

Before you go looking for a dubbed version, we watched Totoro for the first time with our 6 year old with subtitles. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but we generally prefer subtitles when watching foreign films, so we thought we’d give it a shot.

My husband did the dad’s voice, I did Satsuki and Nanny, and my daughter did Mei. It was actually really fun, we laughed a lot, and it was great reading practice too!

Enjoy your next family movie night!

“Everybody, try laughing. Then whatever scares you will go away!”-My Neighbor Totoro

Co-Op PC Games for Couples: Start a LAN Party with the One you Love

Its true that couples who have hobbies and interests in common tend to be pretty happy.

You enjoy spending time together, bonding over your shared passion.

And, what better time to talk about “lighting the fire of passion” than right before Valentines Day!

If you are here, its probably because, like me and my significant other, you are passionate gamers!

Whether you’re looking to play video games together for the first time, or you are a seasoned gamer couple looking for a new purchase to shake things up, I’m here to help.

This list is going to focus exclusively on Co-Op games.

These are games where the players are working together towards a common goal. As Dungeons and Dragons players, we are huge fans of Co-Op games. I find that they work as sort of a team building exercise, allowing you to practice problem solving skills and relish in victory together!

I have broken this list down into several categories because there are a lot of different styles of games that fall under the umbrella of “Co-Op”. Some games can fall under more than one category, of course, but I tried to keep true to the general feel of each game.

Whatever your combined gaming style, I guarantee there is a game out there for every couple!

So lets get started!

MMO

An MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game is… well basically that! It is played online in an open world format. Thousands of people can be on the server at any given time, and you can group up to do quests or raids or just run around and explore. There are small story lines, as well as a general, over-arching theme in the world, but you have a lot of freedom to do what you would like.

Recommendations:

DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online)

This is a Dungeons and Dragons themed MMO that has been around for a very long time. Because of this, you don’t need the latest and best graphics card to play it, which makes it a great option for beginners. And they are still coming out with new content!

The story lines are fantastic and the classes/races and builds are all based on the pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons game. If you are looking to scratch that itch because you can’t get together for a regular DnD session with friends, this game is the perfect opportunity to explore the worlds of Ebberon and Forgotten Realms with the one you love.

Star Wars the Old Republic

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1286830/STAR_WARS_The_Old_Republic/

While this game has also been around for a while, the return of Star Wars to mainstream media with The Mandalorian may mean its time to give this one a go!

While I’m not a fan of some of their new content (why would you put so much single player content into an MMO?? Just make a separate single player game!), their original story lines from levels 1-50 are absolutely classic.

You can play dark side or light side and you can be one of 4 unique classes in each! Each class has its own story line that takes them around the galaxy. The story lines are so good, its worth playing through each one!

Every world also has its own story arch that you and your partner can do together.

It is strongly story driven in that the decisions you make as a character effect what happens next, which I really love.

Survival

If you are looking for something a little more “intimate”, a survival game may be just the thing!

In a survival game, you and your partner are working to build, gather resources, and fend off attackers as you fight to survive under extraordinary circumstances.

These games work well because there is usually an allocation of responsibilities as you play, which means you can just focus on the part of the game you like, and your partner can focus on the part they like, but you are both still working towards the same goal.

Recommendations:

Raft

https://store.steampowered.com/app/648800/Raft/

In this survival game you guys are… you guessed it… on a raft. You must travel around a world almost completely covered by ocean and inhabited by carnivorous animals, to find resources to eat, drink, and build onto your raft. As you explore and find islands, you begin to find clues about why the world is in its current state and hints of a secret place of safety.

I love that this game has just enough story to make you want to learn more.

You are also, literally, stuck together, so no one can go and wonder off on their own. You have to work together, for better or worse!

Also, watch out for sharks.

Conan Exiles

https://store.steampowered.com/app/440900/Conan_Exiles/

The only negative thing I can say about Conan Exiles is that I wish there was more of it.

The developers are coming out with new content all the time, so it is a game that just keeps getting better.

It is based on Conan the Barbarian (and yes, you get to actually meet him).

You start off the game with absolutely nothing. Like, for real, you are butt naked in a desert. So, it is a very… interesting… way to start.

Building bases and exploring the different biomes are both equally fun. The drastic change from biome to biome keeps the game fresh and engaging. And there are some really fun Boss Battles to be had.

The recent addition of pets has made the game increasingly interesting, but I look forward to playing again with more magic options as well as mounts for faster transportation.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed many hours of entertainment and I feel we got our moneys worth.

Turn-Based

Turn-based games are games where combat is slowed down and each player and enemy take turns, one action at a time, until combat is resolved.

It is a more relaxing option for those couples who are looking to take things slow or for gamers who are easily overwhelmed and find themselves spamming keys hoping for the best!

Divinity Original Sin 2

https://store.steampowered.com/app/435150/Divinity_Original_Sin_2__Definitive_Edition/

The story line is interesting, and the characters are twisted and funny in an almost horrifying way at times. Your choices matter, making you feel like you are part of the story. It is wickedly entertaining. And the recent addition of voice acting to the dialog really bring the game to life.

As long as you save your game regularly (do NOT forget to do this), the combats are pretty low stress. Because while many are challenging, you can always go back to your last save point and try again.

One thing to watch out for: this game has area of effect spells that react off of each other and the environment. This means that, if you don’t notice your partner is standing in grease and you decide to cast a fire spell at the enemy next to them, you may be pulling out a resurrection scroll on your next turn.

While sometimes infuriating, the dynamic nature of the combats make them much more interesting!

Shadowrun Chronicals: Boston Lockdown

https://store.steampowered.com/app/267750/Shadowrun_Chronicles__Boston_Lockdown/

A game of covert ops and combat, Boston Lockdown is by far my favorite game in the Shadowrun series. It is a world where magic and Sci-Fi collide, so there is something for everyone!

Each mission is like a puzzle you have to solve. If you don’t enter the map from the right place, or fail to move at just the right moment, you might get caught by security and have to fight your way out!

The puzzle like nature of this game makes for interesting debate, and since combat is turn based, you can really get tactical.

Otherwise you better have a pretty big gun.

First Person Shooters

Speaking of guns, maybe you and your partner can take a chance on a first person shooter.

These games are fast paced yet cathartic in a “punching your pillow” kind of way.

You will usually be carrying a gun, or wielding a large melee weapon as you make your way through a dangerous world full of story and adventure.

Recommendations:

Borderlands 2

https://store.steampowered.com/app/49520/Borderlands_2/

Borderlands 2 is by far my favorite game in the Borderland series. The villain “Handsome Jack” and your trusty sidekick robot, Claptrap, both bring a sense of humor to the game that is uniquely Borderlands. I mean… there’s a unicorn named Buttstallion for heaven’s sake.

The DLC that you can purchase after you have finished the main story line is just as good. I especially love the one where Tiny Tina runs a Dungeons and Dragons game called “Badass and Bunkers”.

Warframe

https://store.steampowered.com/app/230410/Warframe/

Parkouring ninja robots in space with guns and gorgeous customizable armor.

There is literally nothing not to love about that.

Dungeon Crawls

This final category encompasses those games that have a very simple, straight forward premise: beat the bad guy.

And, sometimes, you just don’t need more than that. These games are easy on the eyes and the psyche.

Relax. Kill bad guys. Get cool stuff.

Recommendations:

For the King

https://store.steampowered.com/app/527230/For_The_King/

Set off on your journey with your classic adventuring party, clearing the map of wicked creatures, finding secret dungeons, and saving the world.

The turn based combats are sometimes brutal, but the new armor and weapons you can get are worth the risk!

Just don’t stay out at night!

Lost Castle

https://store.steampowered.com/app/434650/Lost_Castle/

In Lost Castle, you fight through level after level of dungeons, picking up loot with fresh new abilities as you go. Defeating the dungeon boss will unlock more loot options for your next run.

Your next run, you ask?

Yes. You will die. A lot.

That’s the point. Every time you die, you level up your characters abilities and you start again. Maybe you get a little farther the next time, but every run is a step closer to the end.

This one is wildly addicting, and it is worth it to make it to the finale!

All of the games listed here can be found on Steam for easy downloading!

I hope you found something that sounds fun for you and your partner to play together.

Enjoy sharing the adventure!

Valentines Wishlist: A Nerdy Take on Traditional Favorites

Happy February! The month of heart shaped boxes of chocolates and giant stuffed teddy bears is upon us! But before you run out and buy your significant other a traditional Valentines gift, take a look at Dice Mom’s approved list of geeky alternatives! Feel free to click on the handy links below.

The nerd you love will thank you!

Valentines Day Card

The card isle in every retail store is now stocked to the brim with valentines cards of every shape and size. While it is fun to receive a card from someone you love, it quickly becomes a game of “okay… now what do I do with this?”. If I’m being honest, most of my cards either end up in a random drawer somewhere or in the recycling bin.

What I love about these pop up oragami cards are that they are both a card and a tiny work of art! They can be proudly displayed on a shelf and enjoyed long after the holiday is over.

And there are so many to chose from! This snitch is so dainty and pretty. It would look beautiful on your bookshelf next to your Harry Potter book collection.

Stuffed Animal

Why get a plain old bear holding a boring old heart, when you could get something unique!

This anatomical heart stuffy is so cheeky and nerdy, and it’s adorable too!

Or why not find something from their favorite fandom? I ask you, what DnD player wouldn’t want a giant stuffed D20?

Cheers!

Sharing a bottle of Champaign is a classic Valentines tradition. Make it extra special with these beautiful Star Wars inspired Champaign flutes!

Cuddling Favorites

Since we are still taking COVID precautions, make your time together special, even if its just at home!

For the coffee or tea lover:

For keeping his feet warm on a cold February evening in Valentine red:

For snuggling together while watching your favorite movie:

Activities!

Other than… you know… the obvious… here are some fun ideas for gamer couples!

I am so excited to play this DnD module crafted for couples to play together! It comes in 3.5 Edition or Pathfinder. You and your partner take turns being a player or the DM. Dice willing, your characters can even fall in love and end up together in the end. Cheesy? Absolutely. But I love cheesy!

This little card game is called Medium and it is so much fun. You and your partner each put down a card. After counting down from 3, you each say the first word that comes to mind at the same time. For example, I put down “Rose” and he puts down “Heart”. We count down and shout out our answers. Are your minds in sync? Or does he say “Valentines Day” while you say “Titanic”? Hilarity will most definitely ensue! I was in tears!! This game can also be played with big groups, so it is a great one to have around!

Jewelry

I love this dainty little dinosaur necklace. The heart screams Valentines gift, but I would rock this all year long.

For the fella who likes jewelry too, this Legend of Zelda ring is the definition of geek chic. I love that you also get a free custom engraving with it, so you can personalize it to make the piece extra special for your Valentine!

Candy

You can’t have a proper Valentines Day celebration without something sweet to eat!

I’ll be sharing some nerdy baking recipes this month, so stay tuned!!

But, if you’re not the baking type, this Harry Potter candy giftbox is a gift right out of Diagon Alley and will make your special witch or wizard swoon!

Flowers

Okay, I’m not going to have the “are real flowers a waste of money” debate. Because, if your partner likes them, then you should go for it.

But if you are looking for a fun nerdy alternative, These lego flowers are absolutely gorgeous. They last forever and will be a favorite piece of decor for years to come.

What’s the best part? You have to put them together for your partner ahead of time, so it is something you took the time to make for them. Which, in my opinion, makes them infinitely more special.

At a Harry Potter Event last Valentines Day

I hope you feel inspired to really dig deep this year and find something truly meaningful for the special person in your life. We’ve all been through a lot this year, and its so important to take a moment to see and appreciate those around us!

Or, maybe, you found something that you can treat yourself with! Because self care is just as important as caring for a partner.

Either way, I wish you lots of love for your Valentines Day!

Ring Fit Adventure: Game Your Way to Fitness

Welcome back to our January theme “Respawn Point”. We are starting fresh in 2021 and finding geeky ways to start healthy new routines. If you haven’t seen our other posts this month, feel free to check them out. We have been talking about improving our health, both mental and physical.

As we wrap up the month, I am excited to tell you guys about a new game I bought for our Nintendo Switch.

The game is entitled “Ring Fit Adventure”. My favorite thing about this video game is how entertaining it is for kids. My school age daughter finds it really fun, giving her a very positive view of health and fitness. This also works out well for me. Normally, if I want to get through an entire workout without interruption, I have to exercise early in the morning, or late at night. This game makes working out a family activity!

So, how does it work?

The game comes with two pieces of equipment: A ring and a leg strap. The game walks you through how to wear and use these pieces appropriately using a model named “Tipp”. I found the instructions very easy to follow.

The Adventure Mode of the game opens on your anime-esque character finding a magical ring in a field. After freeing the ring (with a ring pull) you accidentally release a large (muscular) purple dragon who is obviously very into body building.

The ring tells you that the dragon, Dragaux, wants to take over the world with his dark influence. “Ring” asks for your help. He or she will work with you to get stronger so you can defeat Dragaux and save the universe!

Pretty simple right? It’s not the most complicated story line, but its honestly just enough to make it interesting to play and watch. Also, it makes the game work well for kids!

I appreciate the humor in Ring Fit. Dragaux is a steriotypical gym-bro who does things like 10,000 squats calling it a “warm-up”. And when he loses a turn in battle, it says he’s “working out while planning his next workout”. I mean… I never thought I would find a dragon in a tank top intimidating, but this dude is seriously tough.

Each level has you physically “run” the course by running in place. The landscape is easy on the eyes, very colorful and bright. And if you run fast enough your character’s hair turns to fire!

There are resistance arm exercises (ring pushes and pulls) to pick up coins, break boxes and jump along the way.

As you run, you come upon Dragaux’s minions which you have to beat in exercise battles. You start out with a handful of exercises to chose from that do different types of attacks. These include leg raises, squats and arm presses. Tipp walks you through the exercise, coaching you on form and speed. The better you do, the more damage you do! As you level up, you will unlock more exercises/attacks to use.

To defend against your attacker, you must engage your core while pressing the ring against your abs.

You will go through three levels in each world before having to face Dragaux head on in his stadium. These boss battles are a slightly more intense workout. You may need to spend “smoothies” (aka. health potions) to get through some of them! Each one is more complicated than the last, meaning you will have to use some strategy to defeat him. It makes the whole experience more surprising and engaging.

The game will keep track of all of your stats for you, so you can watch your progress. You can also set the difficulty level if things start becoming too easy or you are just having an off day.

Since we each have our own profile, we can see what level each family member is at in the game and motivate (aka. relentlessly tease) one another!

The mini games are a kid favorite as well. She especially likes the one where you work out with the resistance ring to the beat of the music cirqua Dance, Dance, Revolution or Guitar Hero.

That is a devil tail from her Halloween costume…

To play together, one of us will wear the equipment and we will either take turns cheering each other, or the other person will work out, doing the same moves, next to the player.

Ring Fit is a great addition to your at home exercise routine. The workouts include simple resistance training with full body exercises and cardio. You don’t have to own a bunch of bulky exercise equipment. This makes, the set up/clean up quick and easy! You don’t need a ton of floor space to work with. We play in our living room and don’t even bother moving furniture around.

I would absolutely recommend picking this one up. It works for people of every age and fitness level. We even got my mom to play! Here is are the links to get everything you need!

And if you have a really little one who wants to join in:

Over the next few months when its super cold and hard to work out outside, and you may be avoiding a crowded gym due to Covid, this is the perfect way for you and your family to stay active and motivated from the comfort of home!

Happy gaming!

Quith-Pa: The Perfect Vegan Snack!

Following up on our review of Heroes’ Feast: The Official DnD Cookbook I wanted to find us a healthy recipe to fit in with our Respawn Point theme for January. If you remember, we are taking the month of January to talk about geeky ways to introduce healthy habits for the new year!

Here is a link to the cookbook if you haven’t picked up your copy yet!

You can also see my full review here!

We actually have many healthy options to choose from thanks to the Elven cuisine section of our book! You know how Elves can be-I have a fan theory that High Elves are on a continuous juice cleanse and that’s why they’re so cranky all the time.

The recipe I whipped up this weekend is called Quith-Pa (aka. Elven Rations). If you have an Elf adventurer in your DnD campaign, this is probably the snack they carry around and eat during long adventures.

There are several things I love about this recipe. It is very simple to make (my 6 year old helped me with it). It is also a convenient “grab and go” sweet snack that can replace more unhealthy options like candy or cookies.

And, most exciting, it is Dice Mom’s first Vegan Recipe!

Before you get started, make sure to dust off your food processor. This little gadget will make your work so much easier! If you don’t already have one, you can easily pick one like this up on Amazon. I have had my Cuisinart food processor for years and it still works great!

Okay, now that you’re kitchen is set up for success, here are the ingredients you are going to need:

1 orange (I already had a bag of Cuties so I just used 3 of these smaller oranges and it worked out well)

6 oz. (1 cup) dried apricots, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (since I was making this recipe with a food sensitive kid in mind, I decided to use sweetened coconut instead as I knew she wasn’t a fan of the unsweetened kind. I also did not toast the shredded coconut to avoid any “it has a brown spot” issues!)

3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Kosher salt

One more note on apricots: color. My Quith-pa is bright orange compared to the more brownish color you see featured in our cookbook. I had to go down a Google rabbit hole to figure out what was going on. Apparently, there are three ways that apricots can be dried. The orange ones have been dried using sulfur, giving it a longer shelf life. The brown ones are dried in sunlight. There is a opinion based consensus online that these brown ones are sweeter.

So, you can try both and see what you like better! I found mine to be plenty sweet, and arguably more visually appealing. However, I am interested to try it with apricots that have been dried in a more natural process.

Once you have your ingredients, here’s what you need to do!

  • Grate orange peel to yield 1 1/2 tsp. of finely grated zest. Then squeeze the orange to yield 1 1/2 tablespoons of juice.
  • Coarsely chop apricots.
  • In your food processor, combine the apricots, 1/4 cup of the coconut, the orange zest and juice, vanilla, and a tiny pinch of salt.
  • Process until the mixture is very finely chopped, uniform and cohesive. You will have to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times as the coconut loves to stick to the side of your processor.
  • Put your mixture into a bowl. It should stick together and be moldable, though this mixture will be stickier than regular dough.
  • Put the remaining 1/2 cup coconut in a wide, shallow bowl.
  • Roll mixture into 1 inch balls. I did mine smaller, about 1/2 in balls, because I wanted a smaller, single bite, snack.
  • Roll the balls in the coconut, pressing them gently to get the coconut to adhear.
  • Place the balls on a plate and let them sit out and “rest” for 45 minutes. This will allow them to firm up and dry out a bit.

Enjoy!

The balls will keep, according to the recipe, around 3 days in an airtight container. I put mine in a covered cake server that I keep on my table, and they make a bright and cheery centerpiece!

Reading the description found in Heroes’ Feast, it says that while this trail food is made up primarily of dried fruits, regional variations can include seeds, nuts, legumes, and beyond.

Everyone in the family enjoyed the basic recipe, but I think adding something like finely chopped pecans would give it a nicer texture, a little crunch! The earthy, salty pecans would be a fabulous compliment to the sweet, citrusy base. Not only that, but adding a protein source to this recipe makes it healthier, and keeps you full longer!

As you can see, this is a basic recipe with simple ingredients that is super fun to play with. Figure out what you and your family like and make it your own! I hope you enjoy experimenting in your own kitchen and I look forward to hearing what you come up with!

Kamala Harris: Shattering The Glass Ceiling

Its inauguration day.

Thank you, Kamala Harris.

You may not agree with her politics. Sure, there are many policy debates to be had. A multitude of issues to address and vote on.

But today, this day, my daughter watched a woman become the Vice-President of the United States.

That glass ceiling has finally been shattered.

Today we watch the glass rain down in sparkling brilliance. Women cheer together with pride.

Not just for her.

But for those women who were cut, and bled, and fought for every small crack in that glass.

Women who never gave up.

Who looked around their world and saw no female scientists, no female doctors, no female politicians and thought-“Why the hell not?”

Because of them, that burden, that ceiling, has been lifted off of the heads of my daughter and her generation.

They will grow up learning about the woman who works in the White House.

It will be so incredibly ordinary for them. So stunningly normal. So amazingly commonplace.

I can’t help but tear up as she practices giving political speeches on her karaoke machine.

These little girls will have their own work to do. Their generation will pick up the fight.

Because the fight goes on.

But today… this day, we stand with Vice President Kamala Harris, and we climb through that broken glass together.

We rise above it and close our eyes, breathing in the fresh air.

The sun shines on womankind.

A blue sky of limitless possibilities.

The Heroes’ Journal

For “Respawn Point” January, we are talking about positive changes, habits, and routines that you can start right now to make yourself happier and healthier!

I want to talk to you about Journaling.

There are many ways to journal. And it doesn’t take a lot of time, energy, or money to get started!

So grab a notebook that you have laying around, and your favorite pen, and let me tell you about my new Journal. It is called The Heroes’ Journal and brandishes the tagline:

“Give your goal a quest”.

Let me tell you why I love this little Journal! You may decide to pick one up yourself (see the link below). Or, you might just be inspired to use part or all of the format of the journal to help yourself get started.

https://shop.theherosjournal.co/collections/all

Each day of the year has its own two-page spread, thoughtfully and artistically laid out for you with 7 writing prompts to get those mental juices flowing!

So, lets go through each of the features, one by one!

“Today I’m grateful for”

In this section, you are given 3 lines to write what you are most thankful for on that day.

Because this journal doubles as a day planner, I like to fill mine out first thing in the morning while I drink my coffee. It has improved my mood tremendously as I find myself focusing more on those positive things as I go through my day.

Day Planner

Here you will find an hour by hour schedule where you can plan out your day!

If you work from home, like me, it helps you to organize the things you need to do to keep you on track.

As a stay at home mom, it is so easy to sit down at the end of the day and feel like you didn’t really accomplish anything. By writing down all of the things you do, believe me, you will feel like a super hero!

If you do have sections of your day blocked out for work or school or other things, just having that visual will help you see where in your day you have time to do things for yourself!

No matter what your life looks like, by holding yourself to the standard you set in the morning, you are going to not only improve productivity, but you are going to feel happier!

“Today’s Allies”

No adventurer can accomplish their quest on their own! This section is similar to the “Today I am grateful for” section because it again asks you to look around for the positives in your life!

Maybe your ally is your partner, your kid’s teacher, one of your collegues, etc.

Whoever you have in your life helping you accomplish your goals for the day, it is nice to take this moment to acknowledge them in writing. After doing so, you may find yourself remembering to thank them in person too!

“My Quest”

This is your overarching goal for the day.

When you go to bed this evening, what do you need to do or feel in order for your brain to tell you “mission accomplished”?

It could be something very specific. For example, today my quest was to finish this blog post. It was something I had been trying to finish for a few days, and I knew that I would feel so much better if I could get it done today.

It could also be something more vague, a feeling you hope to achieve. Maybe you want to “feel healthy” or “Be a great mom” for example.

That brings us to the next section directly under your quest.

“To Seize the Day”

This section is a check-box style list that gives you a spot to write the 3 things you can do to accomplish your quest as featured above.

In the example of “Feel Healthy” you could say

  1. Work Out
  2. Take my vitamins
  3. Cook and eat a healthy meal

I love check lists because of the satisfying feeling you get when you check off the items one by one.

My favorite part of this little section is the famous quotes from nerdy books or media. There is a different inspirational quote every day from places such as the Harry Potter series, Tolkien, the Cheshire Cat, C.S Lewis, and many many more. I look forward to reading them every morning!

Dot Grid

This simple dot grid takes up a third of one of the pages.

It is a great place to draw, create, and be artistic! You can always use your phone as a day planner (and I do that too) but there is something inspiring about writing and doodling in a real, physical journal.

Just the act of writing gets the creative juices flowing and make you feel connected to your thoughts and feelings.

“Today’s Threats”

Every adventurer must face enemies or traps along the way.

This final section is a chance for self reflection and a quick dose of reality.

Maybe the enemy is within yourself. I personally suffer with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and find myself paralyzed by anxiety or just exhausted by it some days.

The enemy could be outside of yourself, a difficult co-worker, or even the weather!

Every day, there will be roadblocks in the way of you reaching the goal that you set. By writing them down, you call those enemies out of the shadows.

Because to defeat your enemies, you have to see them.

To sum it all up, I am really happy with this little journal. It is well laid out, well made, and visually appealing. My days have improved since using it, and I hope that reading this has inspired you to start a journal of your own!

Remember that your mental health is important and requires time and attention, just like your physical health.

So, take the time to be with yourself, talk to yourself, and encourage yourself. You deserve it!