The kids are home for a long Thanksgiving weekend, so I thought it was the perfect time to talk about BOARD GAMES!!
We are a board gaming family. We go to board game conventions. We have board gaming marathons, and our board game collection has gotten a little out of hand.
If you are new to the genre, and are interested in instituting a family board game night, you might be wondering where to start.
Why start gaming with your kids?
What age is a good age to start board gaming? The answer might surprise you!
The entire board game business has become a really inclusive place. You can find games for kids as young as preschoolers, to games advanced enough for adults and teenagers to play together. When searching for games, the creators make it super easy by posting the recommended ages and number of players on the top of the box!
So, why should you start board gaming with your kids at a young age? The benefits are many and far reaching!
Practice basic mathematics (Counting the pips on a die, reading the numbers on a spinner, counting the spaces that their character moves on the board, adding up points)
Practice basic reading skills: Reading cards, reading directions.
Problem solving skills
Team-work and communication
… and the greatest benefit? Its a fun way to spend time together as a family!
How do I get my kids to sit and play with me?
This is a tough one, because all kids are so different. This means that the answer to this question might be different from one family to another.
So, when you want to start board game night with your kids, ask yourself: “What do they like?”
What kinds of things are your kids interested in? Dinosaurs? Dragons? Mermaids? Kitties? Unicorns? Trucks? I guarantee you, whatever your kids current obsession, you can find a board game that will pique their interest.
What kinds of things do they like to do? Are they the kind of kid who likes to build with legos? Play make believe? Run around on the playground? Whatever their preferred play style, you will be able to find a board game that scratches that itch.
If you start with a game that they can get excited about, getting them to sit and play it will be that much easier!
For example, my daughter is a big fan of cats. We have a dozen or so cat themed card games and board games from Cat Crimes to Sparkle Kitty. She is always excited to play them!
She is also a very active kid. Because of this, we are big fans of games that have a physical element to them. Haba games are really great for this. (They are the ones in the yellow boxes). We have Dragon’s Breath, where you have to pick up rings without dropping a pile of gems. In another one, Valley of the Vikings, you have to hit a ball to knock over barrels. These games are great for practicing body control as well!
Watch your kid as you play. If you see interest waning, that’s the time to reel them back in!
Snacks! What is a good board game night without yummy snacks??? Call a time-out and go make something yummy to eat while you play!
Get active! If you see your little one wiggling in their chair, add your own physical element to the game. It could be as simple as “when you roll a 6 you do a happy dance” or banging on the table with your fists and chanting as loud as you can when you need the spinner to land on a certain spot.
Be silly! Make them laugh. Be overly dramatic when your character is sent back to start. Make up funny names for things. (In Carcassone, we call the tiles with the two city spots on them “double nubbins”. It cracks my kid up every time!) Remember, you’re supposed to be having fun!
Teach Gaming Ettiquette
Okay, this is one that everyone has different opinions on. I will share my thoughts on the subject, but you can tweak this to match your own family.
From the age of 2 or 3 when we started introducing board games, we learned quickly that we had to have some ground rules. The reason being is that it is easier to introduce these rules earlier than later, and it was necessary to preserve my sanity! When they are really little, the rules can be more broad. As they age, you can get more firm on other things.
For preschool age kids, its important that they know a couple of ground rules:
When you start a game, you need to finish it. (No rage quitting!)
It’s okay to lose. The point is to play and have fun.
Whether you win or lose, you end every game by saying “good game” and giving a handshake to the other players.
These simple rules will not only save you a lot of headache. It also teaches your kids sportsmanship, good manners, and the ability to lose gracefully. These skills will serve them well their entire lives.
Should we change the rules of the game?
This is a tricky one that many people I know personally disagree on. My daughter loves to try and change the rules of a game. For example, when we were playing Carcassonne, she wanted to work together to make one big city instead of working against each other.
Some people are in the “never change the rules” camp. They feel like letting kids change the rules of a game is a slippery slope that leads to spoiled kids that don’t think they should be required to follow directions.
Others don’t care about the rules at all. The “It’s just a game” crowd.
I find myself somewhere in the middle. This is something that I look at on a case by case basis. I don’t have anything against “house rules” for games to make them more manageable for younger kids to play. Or my daughter using her creativity to make a new game from an existing one. My criteria for rule changing include:
Will it completely break the game? Does the game stop being a board game and become just a game of “lets play with all the pieces”. Does it lose all structure? In that case, the change would not be acceptable.
The rule change must happen BEFORE the game starts. This prevents the “I’m currently losing, so now I’m going to change the rules so I can win.” trick. When this is attempted, we explain that this would be cheating.
The rule change has to apply to everyone. If it only applies to a single person, the game is no longer balanced and fair. Other kids will not be amused if my kid thinks the rules don’t apply to her!
Is this a game you have played before? If it is a brand new game, you should play it at least once with the rules as written. Only then will you be able to determine if a rule change would be appropriate.
In the case of Carcassonne, we did play a co-op game where we tried to make a giant city. It was actually pretty fun! We kept the rest of the rules, and continued to build other things separately, adding up our scores from those things.
The most important thing is that she had fun. Which means, she will want to play again.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
At the end of the day, you want your family board game nights to be a memory that your child takes with them and shapes them. You want it to be a memory that makes them smile. A time when they felt the most connected to you. A time when everyone joked and belly laughed til they cried. Something that they will treasure, and a tradition they will want to continue with their own kids someday.
What better time to start than now?? Christmas shopping season is upon us. And it looks like we are going to be spending a lot of time at home this winter (whether we like it or not!) So, add a couple of board games to their Christmas list. Start the tradition. You won’t regret it!
Like many of you, we are Remote Learning this school year, which means coming up with lots of supplemental learning materials to fill the school day. In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I prepared an afternoon around the iconic Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia.
You might not know this, but the Cornucopia actually comes from Greek Mythology! It is one of the stories of Hercules, which is a character most kids are already familiar with because of the Disney adaptation.
I took the time to rewrite the story in language my first grader could easily comprehend. This is my “version” of the tale.
The Horn of Plenty
Once upon a time, there was a king who had a daughter named Deianira. Her beauty was world famous. The princess was so beautiful in fact, that princes traveled from all over the world to try to woo her and make her their bride.
Among these princes were two men, who drove out all the other princes and were the last two remaining suitors.
One was the hero Hercules, the son of the god Zeus. He was tall and strong, wearing animal furs and carrying a large club. His tangled hair fell onto his thick neck, and his fierce eyes gleamed behind his shaggy brow. He was in love with Deinaria.
The other was named Achelous, and he was the god of the River. He was thin and graceful, wearing flowing green robes. He carried a staff made out of reeds, and on his head was a crown of water lilies. His voice was soft, like the sound of a babbling brook. He was not in love with the princess, but wanted to win her as a beautiful prize.
“Oh King!” said Achelous, standing before the throne, “I am also a king and I will make the beautiful Princess Deianira queen of my river kingdom.”
“King!” said the mighty Hercules, stepping forward, “The princess is mine, I love her, and I will not give her to this river-god.”
“You rude stranger!” cried Achelous, turning towards the hero. His voice rose til it sounded like thunder and his green robes changed to the blackness of night. “How dare you claim this maiden. You are half mortal! I am the powerful King of the Waters! I am a god and I claim this maiden!”
But with angry eyes and rising rage Hercules answered. “You fight with words, while I fight with my strength. If you want the princess, then you must first beat me in combat.”
The two prepared for battle, took their places, and attacked. They bravely wrestled and fought for a very long time. Until, finally, Hercules with his strength, pinned Achelous to the ground and held him there.
Then, the crafty Achelous cast a magic spell transforming himself into a snake to escape the hero’s grasp. He twisted his body and darted out his forked tongue with a frightful hiss.
Hercules laughed and mocked Achelous saying “While I was just a baby in a cradle, I strangled two snakes! I have fought countless, horrible monsters. You think that I’m scared of a pretend serpant?”
He grabbed the snake by the neck.
Achelous struggled to escape, but it was no use. Again using his magic, the snake transformed into a raging bull, and renewed the fight. But Hercules, the mighty hero, threw his huge arms over the large neck of the bull and dragged him about. Then, seizing hold of his horns, he bent the bull’s head to one side, and held it to the ground. The bull struggled but Hercules didn’t give up, and he broke one of the horns off of Achelous’s head.
The river god returned to his own shape. He roared loudly with rage and pain, ran out of the king’s hall, and plunged back into the swirling waters of the river.
After the river god was defeated, the Goddess of Plenty, and all the wood fairies and water fairies came forward to meet the winner Hercules with song and dance. They took the huge horn of Achelous and filled it with the rich and glowing fruits and flowers of autumn. They lifted it high and gave it as a wedding gift to Hercules and his new bride, Deianira.
Ever since that day, the Horn of Plenty has been presented at tables all around the world as a symbol of the celebration of Harvest. We continue this tradition at our very own harvest festival here in our country, which we call Thanksgiving.
After reading and discussing the story, we looked at pieces of art that were inspired by this tale.
Finally, after all that sitting, it was time to get up and have some fun! You will need a cornucopia, as well as some soft things to fill it. I already had one in my Thanksgiving decorations, and I had some soft pumpkins and other fall themed filler that I normally put in a large bowl as a table centerpiece, so I was able to put this together without having to buy anything. If you don’t already own a horn of plenty, you can easily find one online!
In this game my daughter got to play the part of the fairy who fills the Horn of Plenty to give to Hercules. I held the horn of plenty as she tossed the “fruits of the autumn harvest” into it from different distances. She had a blast, and we even wore fairy wings while we did it!
Hopefully these activities get your creative juices flowing, and lead you and your kids on further adventures of wonder and discovery. For example, my daughter was curious as to why the statue of Hercules is naked, so we may be doing a study on Renaissance art soon!
Wherever your adventure takes you next, remember to have some fun! I wish you and your family a safe and EPIC Thanksgiving!
If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been working on a series for you entitled “Don’t make it normal, make it EPIC” where we talk about ways to make the holidays special during the pandemic.
I was going to work on one of those posts for you today. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I got up, drank some coffee, took a shower, scrolled through Facebook and Instagram, drank some more coffee… and I just felt… “off”. (And, don’t worry, we will be back to our regularly scheduled awesomeness momentarily). But the fact is… I don’t feel like “making the best of it” today. Trying to force myself to be inspiring didn’t work, so I’ve decided to just lean in to the experience.
Some news outlets are calling it “quarantine fatigue”. Maybe its “cabin fever”. Whatever you call it, the fact is, a lot of us are feeling it.
Cases are up. Hospitalizations are up. Deaths are up. In my state we are in a “stay at home advisory” for the next 3 weeks. All of this culminates in… well, not feeling so “cheery and bright”.
And why should it?
Why do we latch on to this need to act like nothing is wrong, to look on the bright side when it feels like the world is crashing down around us?
Maybe its just human nature. The way that we cope with horrible circumstances outside of our individual control.
Especially as parents.
We constantly feel an intense obligation to put on the brave face. We have made it our collective mission to turn the pandemic into a fun memory instead of a traumatic experience. All while ensuring that our children’s education and daily routines don’t fall completely apart in the process.
At the same time, we are dealing with our very own, completely valid, stresses and frustrations and emotions surrounding living through a real life plague.
Now, on top of everything else, the holidays are upon us. And parents of young children can’t just order a pizza, put on a Lord of the Rings marathon or a Lifetime movie (depending on your preference) put our feet up and skip the holidays this year.
Whether we feel like it or not, we will still be celebrating. And we will be doing it mostly alone, without the usual support of extended family that makes the holidays so special. There will be no play time with cousins, no bear hugs from their favorite uncles, or cookie baking with grandma.
And it sucks.
And its okay to say that it sucks.
When it comes to negative feelings, you have to feel it to heal it.
So, between Pinterest scrolling for your next holiday themed craft, cracking out the family cookbook for holiday recipes, and shopping for the perfect wrapping paper, remember to let yourself feel.
Feel however you need to feel. Give yourself permission to cry, to be angry, to sulk, to rest.
Then we can heal.
Its easy to “grin and bear it” through the holiday season. But, if we really want to make this year special (or EPIC), we have to make the holidays a joyous time, not just for our kids, but for ourselves too.
Treat yourself the way that you treat your kids. Find ways to make the pandemic holidays unique and fun in ways that make you happy.
Because if you are happy, truly happy, your kids will see it. They will feel it.
November is “National Novel Writing Month”. Here at Dice Mom, we are celebrating by writing our first Dungeons and Dragons adventure! (COMING SOON) If you are a novice writer, the thought of writing an entire novel can easily feel daunting and intimidating. I feel you! But have no fear!
If you are reading this, you might have caught the writing bug for the first time. Or maybe its something you always wanted to try but never got around to for one reason or another. Or possibly you used to write years ago, but have gotten out of the habit. This month is the time to pick up that pen, or dust off that key board, and give it a go!
You might be interested in writing short stories, poetry, letters, or blogs. Or maybe you are thinking about starting a diary or a gratitude journal. No matter what your goal, this article can help.
To get those creative juices flowing, we’re going to talk about some of the steps that I have found helpful when starting a new writing project!
This is the first, and probably the most important step in picking a writing project. If you do not feel inspired, it will show in your writing. And that’s if you finish the project at all! So, what inspires you?
Think about these questions:
What kind of media do you consume? TV shows? Movies?
What do you like to read about?
Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy?
What has been on your mind lately? Current events? Life events?
What do you like to talk about with your friends or family members?
When I see or hear something that sparks an idea, I make sure to write it down right away so I don’t lose it! You can keep a small pen and notepad with you, or just start a google doc on your phone as your “inspiration wall”. My blog has a white board in my office where I write down all of my ideas. Those ideas can then go on to inspire other ideas, and then you can really get going!
Conquer Your Fear
This step is the least labor-intensive one, but it can be the biggest mental hurtle to cross when writing. Don’t be afraid of bad ideas. That fear will do nothing to help you reach your goal. It will only serve to lead you down the infuriating and frustrating road to writers-block.
If you find yourself going down that path, grab a pen and a notebook and write down a list of terrible ideas. Just jot down everything that pops into your head. No one else is going to see it, so don’t worry about if it sounds dumb, or silly, or weird. Write it down. Set a number, make at least 25 terrible ideas. Once you get going, it will start getting easier and, believe it or not, you will end up jogging something loose in your brain. Its like unclogging a drain by pushing through the muck with a roto rooter.
After you find something you want to write about, you might second guess yourself. While this is normal, it is important to conquer that insecurity. Know that every writer, even the professionals, wrestle with these feelings. The biggest difference between you and them is that they kept working anyway. So don’t give up!
Make an Outline
Some writers can just start with a blank document, begin typing their project from start to finish, and end up with a cohesive product that they are happy with. I think most of us, however, need to step back for a moment and take the initial step of making an outline.
An outline doesn’t have to be complex. The one I made for this article is only a single page of lined paper. It is just a way to organize all of your thoughts on the subject before you start writing about it.
How do you organize the points you want to make sure and cover? There are several ways you can do so, and the way you chose depends on the subject you are covering. Some examples are:
Importance. You will want to list from least to most important so that you end your project on the point that is the most impactful and the one you want your audience to remember the most.
Chronologically. When writing about a recipe, or any step by step process (like this article for instance) you will want to list the process in order from first to last.
Cause/Effect. This is important when trying to explain or argue a point of view. You will be writing in the style of: “this” happened and, as a result, “that” happened.
Once you have your main ideas organized, you can start putting everything else you want to say under those categories.
No matter what your writing project is, even if its just a letter to a friend, you will want to make it easy to read and your ideas easy to follow! An outline will allow you to put your thoughts on paper in a way that others can understand.
Make a Schedule
Whether you have decided to become a full-time writer, or are doing this as a part-time hobby, it is important to make yourself a schedule. Life gets in the way! If you don’t hold yourself accountable by making a schedule, you will always be able to find excuses to put it off or let it fall by the wayside. What a disservice that would be to yourself and your passion!
No matter your personal circumstances, it is possible to make a writing schedule. Whether its a gratitude journal you write in 15 minutes every evening before you go to sleep, or a short story you work on for an hour every Sunday, the key to your schedule is consistency.
The next, and admittedly, hardest part is holding yourself to that schedule. But just like exercise, or studying, or anything else that you have to make room for in your schedule, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Not only because you get into the habit of doing it, but because as you write, you get better at it!
Once you have finished writing and re-read the project yourself, fine tuning the wording and perfecting the introduction and conclusion, it is time to share!
If you are starting a blog, or writing a short story, this could mean sharing your work online. You can start by simply using social media accounts that you already have set up. The fact is, the internet is a place of sharing, you don’t have to consider yourself a “professional writer” to contribute!
The thought of strangers reading your work might be too overwhelming. Believe me, I get that! Or maybe your work is just too personal to share on the world wide web. That’s okay! Pick a few trusted family members or friends to share your project with. Make sure it is someone who will give you positive and honest feedback. By sharing your work with those who will encourage your passion, it will give you the confidence to keep going!
Writing can be such a cathartic experience. It exercises your intellect and inspires your creative side. Putting our thoughts and emotions on paper can even act as a kind of therapy . Whether you think you can write well or not, you will never know until you try! And in the end, if it makes YOU feel good, and acts as a positive force in your life, that is the most important thing!
In March of 2020, we all rolled initiative versus an enemy we could not see, but has caused immesurable suffering. I, like so many of you, have given all I have to keep my little adventuring party safe. The battle continues 8 months later, and every day is another round of combat against Covid-19.
First, a quick disclaimer…I’m not here to give advice on masks, social distancing, or politics. If that is what you are looking for, that content pours from the internet in a constant stream of anger, fear, and desperation. It isn’t hard to find.
I’m here because I’m a mom. Im scared. Maybe you are too. I’m also a geek. That means I believe in beating the odds, making the hard journey, and being the hero of my own story. So lets talk about how we might try to balance those things in this new, challenging chapter of our adventure.
First, talk about the science. Intelligence should never be a real life dump stat! Knowledge is power, and talking to our kids in an age appropriate way about their world gives them the best odds of success. Talk about germs and the ways that they can defeat them! Read about it. Do science experiments. Let them ask questions and explore the answers together!
Try this super fun science experiment today!
Second, play cooperative games. Think of them as little team-building exercises for your pandemic survival team!
If board games are your jam, one of our favorite cooperative games is Stuffed Fables. I will do a full review on it later, but its basically a group of stuffed animals trying to save a little girl from the monster under the bed. Super cute and fun! Click the link below to see more details!
If video games are more your style, a simple game of Minecraft can give your kids the chance to go out and explore the world, even when they are stuck at home!
Third, read your favorite stories together. Now is the time to show our kids stories with unlikely heroes facing insurmountable odds. Stories where love and friendship bring light and hope to dark places. Read The Hobbit. Read The Princess Bride. Read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Let these stories become a part of them, and a part of their memory of you.
This is a link to my favorite Illustrated version of The Hobbit. The pictures are fantastic!
Lastly, give yourself permission to be a beautiful, hot mess. Let Ms. Fizzle be their teacher for an hour (or two), order out dinner so you guys can finish that last boss battle your kiddo is so excited about. Take time to do the things YOU love. Cook, craft, create, play DnD or other games with your adult friends (even if its just online).
For me, the hardest part of the pandemic has been losing a large portion of my identity. Parenting just takes more time and mental energy than it did before. I’ve heard so many other moms say the same. You are all heros. Taking on a monumental task, with no players guide, no rule book, and several levels of exhaustion. I sit here typing this with the messiest mom bun you can imagine, and I am here with you.
“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”
–Gandalf J.R.R. Tolkien, The Shadow of the Past, The Fellowship of the Ring
The DnD Cookbook with the Power to Enchant Any Kitchen
With the change of season and the upcoming holidays, so many of us are looking at new and delicious recipes to bring to the dinner table.
I am extremely excited about this cookbook, “Heroes’ Feast”. What makes it special is that its not just a fun gift for a DnD player (though it does have a special appeal for that crowd). It is also, at it’s core, a very well written and beautifully illustrated little book. Let me walk you through some of the features that I found the most magical!
What makes a DnD cookbook? Inside Heroes’ Feast, you will find 80 fabulous recipes that are taken directly from the lore of the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse.
Has your character ever eaten Dwarven Stew, Elven Bread, or Iron Rations? Now you can too!
I am obsessed with the idea of making the rations for our next DnD game. How much more interesting and fun it would be instead of the same old chips and pizza rolls!
The rations are a visually appealing mix of cheese, salami, dried fruit, nuts, and crackers. These can be served separately (a great option for party members with food allergies), or combined into individual servings, or “rations”. Small wooden bowls for serving will add to the visual appeal of this filling little snack!
Where is your current campaign located?
Look for recipes inspired by the many diverse locations found in the DnD multiverse. If you are playing Curse of Straud, why not serve up Barovian Butterscotch Pudding during your next vampire filled adventure? Treasure Hunting outside Waterdeep? Why not serve Sword Coast Seafood Bouillabaisse for dinner?
You can actually search recipes by location in the Index at the back of the book, making themed meal planning a breeze!
How is it organized? The bulk of Heroes’ Feast is divided by Player Character Races, as each race in DnD has its own unique culture and cuisine!
It is fun to flip through the pages and see a cookbook laid out in a similar fashion to the Players Manual. There are sections for:
Uncommon(including such humanoid creatures as Drow and Orc)
The Uncommon section is uniquely entertaining as it has such monstrous concoctions as Fire Spiced Abyssal Chicken Kabobs and Fried Fingers!
The last section of the Book is entitled “Elixers and Brews”.
It is a fun little drinks section that includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. If you’re not in the mood for cooking, you could just whip up a quick batch of Evermead, or create potions such as Delayed Blast Fireball and Potion of Restoration as a special game night treat! It is an easy way to bring a little something special to your evening!
What kind of special features will I find? Lore! Lore Everywhere!!
The front of the book includes beautiful descriptions of the Core Campaign worlds that inspired many of the recipes you will read about. Because of the nature of the multiverse, the recipes you will learn are as diverse and unique as the lands that they come from.
One of the really fun themes throughout Heroes’ Feast is the Legendary Establisments feature. This segment is sprinkled throughout the book, and lays out full menus from famous taverns and banquet halls that your characters may have actually visited!
Recipes like the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuits are not only sound delicious, but the recipe page includes a description of the Yawning Portal and the lore around the recipe, as well as a quote from the DnD novel Streams of Silverthat inspired it.
These fascinating morsels of lore are found on every single page, making this tome a fun read as well as an instructional cookbook!
But I don’t play DnD. Why should I give it a try?
As the weather gets colder, I always turn my attention to those rich, “comfort food”, kind of recipes that give me that warm-all-over, cozy sort of feeling.
Heroes’ Feast is the perfect book for this season.
The recipes vary in difficulty, so there is something for chefs of every skill level. The varying difficulty also means that there are both recipes for throwing together a Tuesday night dinner, and crafting a Thanksgiving feast.
This gem of a cookbook is a carefully crafted work of art. The photography is vibrant and rich. The art is full of fancy and magic with many large, two page spreads. Imagine it sitting open on a cookbook stand in your kitchen. It is a piece of art as well as a great conversation starter!
Finally, the price is so reasonable, it would make a fantastic Christmas gift for the Dungeons and Dragons players in your life!
Want to see more? I look forward to trying some of these recipes for you! Stay with us!
You can also get your own copy of Heroes’ Feast by clicking the link below!
“Heroes’ Feast” is actually the name of a DnD Cleric or Druid spell. The description of the spell in the DnD Players’ Handbook says “You bring forth a great feast, including magnificent food and drink…”
So, lets bring a little Divine Magic to our dinner tables this season! What a way to make your holidays EPIC!
With the state of things in the world today, many people (myself included) missed out on going to our local Renaissance Festival Celebrations. It was a real bummer to be sure! The smell of turkey legs, the taste of sweet mead on my lips, the roar of the crowd at the end of a joust… so many memories of laughter and merriment.
This unconventional year also means that our Thanksgiving celebrations may look a little different than pre-covid. Many families are planning smaller, more intimate parties to help with social distancing. Some are even taking advantage of FaceTime or Zoom to connect with others.
In line with our “Don’t make the holidays ‘normal’, make them epic” series here at Dice Mom, lets look at one HUGE advantage of having a smaller gathering.
In Thanksgivings past, I have cleaned my house top to bottom. I’ve had to make gallons of mashed potatoes, multiple pans of stove top stuffing, and towers of rolls to feed a small army of extended family members. I’m so focused on having enough food for everyone, that there isn’t much time to worry about anything else. I’m a sweaty mess, my hair smells like turkey grease, and the clean up… oh Lord the cleanup…
This year is different.
This year, I’m only cooking for a few people, which means I can really plan something memorable, something special, and something unique!
The wheels started turning, and that is where Ren Faire came into the picture. It is one of our favorite fall activities… and, best of all, there is already turkey! Ren Faire and Thanksgiving are a match made in heaven!
So, without further ado, here are 5 ways to bring Ren Faire home this holiday season for an Epic Thanksgiving that no one will soon forget!
1. The Feast
I mean, when you boil it all down, the feast is the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving festivities. If you want a celebration to remember, you have to have amazing food.
For truly unique dishes, I recommend HEROES’ FEAST: The Official Dungeons and Dragons Cookbook. There are so many Medieval/Renaissance era inspired dishes to chose from. Need a turkey recipe to “Wow” the crowd? Heroes’ Feast even features a Roasted Turkey recipe with Sausage Stuffing and Drippings. Why not make biscuits from scratch this year using the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuits recipe? Why not a Wood Elf Forest Salad? My stomach is growling already!
For anyone interested in Alchoholic Beverages that will really impress your guests, check out the EverMead or the Dwarven Mulled wine!
Not only are the recipes mouth watering, but the art inside is absolutely stunning! Check it out by clicking the link below!
2. The Decor
If the meal is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving celebration, then the table setting and decor are the flair that lets everyone know that THIS is a special occasion. Check out the links below for some of my favorites!
If you don’t want to go out and buy fancy china, and you hate doing the dishes as much as I do, check out these beautiful white and gold plastic plates and cutlery sets. Everything is disposable/recyclable, making clean up a breeze!
What is a medieval feast without a ridiculous amount of candles?? As a mom, I love these flameless options. They still give you that beautiful candle lit ambiance without the fire hazard. I especially like the different heights to give the table a sense of dimension and randomness which I think adds to the overall look.
Finally, and most importantly, the proper drink ware is essential to really get into the Ren Faire spirit! Goblets are always a great choice if your party is more into mead and mulled wine.
There are simple options:
Or you could chose something more ornate:
If you are part of the dark ale or apple cider sort of crowd, a set of beautiful steins can make that Thanksgiving toast really special!
3. The Music
Music is one of the most overlooked elements of a dinner party, but it is one of the most important things to think about when setting the “mood” or “theme” of your event. Music relaxes your guests, and acts as a filler for lulls in conversation. It is an element of party planning you never want to skimp on.
If you don’t already, make sure you have some way of playing music in your dining space. An easy and affordable option is an Echo Dot, like this one on Amazon:
Once you are set up for sound, I would like to humbly introduce you to a genre of music called Bard Core. There are plenty of Bard Core options on YouTube so it is easy to set up a channel to play throughout the night.
If you haven’t heard of it before, Bard Core is basically modern music reimagined by a Medieval minstrel. Not only is it calming and relaxing music for a dinner party, but it is one heck of a conversation starter!
One Hour of Medieval Hip Hop Classics by Beedle the Bardcore:
I especially like this second one because it’s all instrumental, which is perfect background music for when you are enjoying your meal.
4. The Costumes
This one might be a reach for some of you, and that’s okay! But, if you have that Ren Faire outfit in storage, why not dust it off for a night of merriment? Or if dressing up for the first time sounds like fun, there are plenty of fun options to chose from! Check out these links below!
For the Maidens…
and the Squires.
Even young Knights and Princesses.
Remember, it’s 2020. There are no rules. Maybe this is the year to let go and do something really fun!
5. The Games
Everyone knows that Ren Faire is all about entertainment! From jousting matches, to fire jugglers, there is something interesting going on around every corner.
Obviously, if you and your guests are into Dungeons and Dragons, now is a great time for that special One Shot you’ve been wanting to try. Just make sure to have premade characters and maps ready to go ahead of time.
If DnD isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for something a little less mentally taxing when that turkey drowsiness sets in, there are some great Medieval themed board games you can try!
One of our favorites is called Kingsburg. It is a game of bribery and strategy where you are trying to win the favor of members of the royal court to build your town and your army.
If you are looking for something a little simpler, something to play with older kids perhaps, a rousing game of Carcassonne is always a winner. My 6 year old can play this game, so it is easy to get the whole family involved!
And if the kids eat way too much sugar and need to get some energy out, a foam sword fight is always a great way to have some wild fun!
Thanksgiving is about being grateful. I’m wrestling with that concept this year more than I have in recent memory. So much of what we have had to endure has not made me feel very thankful. However, when I stop looking at the macro (the big things going on in the world) and start looking at the micro (the little things around me), I find so many small things every day that I can feel thankful for. I am thankful for my family, my friends, my home, my work and, more than ever, my health.
So lets lace up our corsets, sharpen our swords, and head out on our Epic Holiday Season Adventure!
Ability Scores are the foundation of the character creation process in an RPG. Most everything your character is, and will ever become, is based on these 6 scores. If you are new to Dungeons and Dragons, this step in the process can be the most overwhelming and confusing. What do these scores actually mean in real game play? Well, I’ll show you!
A situation that we are all way too familiar with is the Coronavirus Pandemic. It’s a complicated problem requiring all our physical and mental faculties. Which means there is no room for dump stats! Every Ability Score is important in it’s own way.
I lumped these two Attributes together because these “physical stats” have similar but slightly different functions. Strength allows your character to do things like lift heavy objects or do more damage with a great sword. Dexterity, on the other hand allows you to move and dodge with ease.
In a pandemic, these stats take the form of daily exercise. Whether stuck inside the house or hitting the gym, it is important to get your body moving at least 30 minutes a day. Why? Unlike the zombie apocalypse, this disaster doesn’t require fight or flight. (Unfortunate, I know. Zombies would be WAY cooler). What it does require, however, is a strong immune system. Studies have shown that an active lifestyle can boost your immune system and make you healthier. Think of it like this: Strength is weight training and Dexterity is cardio. A good balance of both will keep you healthy and strong!
Your character’s final “physical stat” is Constitution. This translates into your character’s Hit Points. The higher your character’s constitution, the longer they will be able to stand and keep taking the punches. It is also the way your character fights off pesky little conditions like Poisoned and Diseased.
This one is kind of obvious, right? We need a high constitution to fight off disease. So how do you give yourself a bonus to your Constitution Score in real life? Make sure you take your vitamins and eat healthy! Eat a “rainbow” of vegetables and get lots of protein to get the most nutrients out of your food. Invest in vitamin supplements proven to boost your immune system like vitamins C and D. Take care of your body so that it can fight the good fight if the time ever comes!
Here is where we get into the ever elusive “mental stats”. Intelligence is a versatile attribute that represents how much knowledge your character possesses about the world around them. Wizards are the only class in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition that cast their spells using their intelligence. This is because Wizards learn magic through reading… lots and lots of reading.
You can probably see where we are going with this. And it is a divisive topic to be sure! In a world of “fake news” and an ever flowing stream of propaganda and social media noise, it is imperative that we understand how to sift through it all. After all, knowledge is power! If you don’t know how to identify reputable sources of information on the internet, take the time to teach yourself. Your brain, and your sanity, will thank you. Knowledge of science, even just a couple of skill points worth, will help you to make the best decisions for you and your adventuring party, and help you to avoid pitfalls and traps along the way. This leads us to our next Attribute.
As the old adage goes, Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad. Wisdom is the stat your character uses to interpret and act upon the world. It is the attribute that helps with their perception skill, which is the one you will probably use the most, as well as skills like survival and medicine. Clerics, Druids, and Rangers all use Wisdom as their Spell Casting Modifier. Wisdom is knowing that during battle, its probably a good idea to spread out to avoid the entire party being taken down with a single spell. You don’t want to be caught in “fireball formation” when the enemy casts it.
So, in the world of Covid-19 how do you take the knowledge you receive and apply your wisdom modifier? Do you wear a mask in public? Do you practice social distancing with extended family and friends? Do you go to the grocery store or have your food delivered? Do you send your kids to school, or teach them from home? We are absolutely bombarded with decisions like these on a daily basis. Some answers are more universal, while others are more complex. Therefore, wisdom is also the ability to realize that the best decision for you might not be the best decision for someone else. As a parent, the school question has been a main topic of conversation in our home. What if you are a single parent who cannot afford to stop working to keep your kids home? That parent may make a very different decision than the stay at home mom in an affluent neighborhood. Even with the same information, these two adventuring parties come to different conclusions on how to proceed. Wisdom is looking at a complex problem and a series of information, and making the best decision possible for you in that single moment. It is both the most elusive and the most important attribute during a pandemic.
We have reached our final Ability Score, Charisma. It is often called the “Social Stat” because it represents how well your character interacts with others. Persuasion, Deception, and Intimidation are all effected by your charisma, so if you are a “face” character, meaning you plan on talking a lot to the NPCs (Non Player Characters) in your adventure, this is one attribute you do not want to skip out on. Charisma is the spell casting modifier for Bards, Paladins, Sorcerers, and Warlocks. Each of these classes typically uses their charisma in a different way. Bards, for example, are iconic performers where as a Paladin’s charisma usually takes the form of protector and savior. Sorcerers, as instantaneous casters, are masters of improv, while Warlocks have a deep connection with a patron.
Charisma is important during the COVID-19 Pandemic because it is more important than ever to find safe and unconventional ways to connect with our friends and families. Maybe you are planning your Thanksgiving feast over Zoom this year. Or maybe you have moved your DnD campaign onto an online platform like Roll20. Maybe you bought a firepit, or a space heater, so you can still see each other face to face as the temperatures plummet. Whatever you are doing, it is important. Humans are social creatures, and these connections will not only ward off depression and anxiety during this time, but it will remind you that you are not alone.
Any DnD player can tell you that it doesn’t matter how strong, how dexterous, how hearty, how intelligent, or wise their character is. Not one class in this game is made to be played alone. They all have incredible strengths and unavoidable weaknesses. Only as an Adventuring Party can they overcome the challenges they will face. It is the same with us friends. Roll for initiative. Be brave. Stay together.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. And why shouldn’t it be? It is the cosplaying holiday after all! So, you can imagine my utter disappointment when we decided we wouldn’t be trick or treating this year. However, any soul with a truly black heart, a chest cavity of cobwebs and a taste for all that is spooky and pumpkin flavored can tell you that the true spirit of Halloween isn’t the parties or the knocking on doors… it’s the candy!
With that in mind, my brother and I set out on a mission to create the most epic Halloween Scavenger Hunt of all time!
We started with clue card design. The inspiration for our clue cards came from old Puritan headstones. I mean… look at these things. They’re both gorgeous and terrifying!
Once we had our idea cemented, we used a free Image Manipulation Program called Gimp to create our own little work of art!
Are you a fan of our design? I hope so! If you would like to use it to make a spooky scavenger hunt of your very own, just click the link below!
Now for some clues! Here are the ones that we used for the house scavenger hunt.
“When you’re feeling hungry, and want something that you crave, to cook it in a hurry, you’ll use the ______________.” (Answer: Microwave)
“Some say I start off as a bean, and then I have to be ground. I only need a little brewing, then inside mom’s mug I’m found.” (Answer: Coffee by the Keurig)
“This place is in your house. It’s where your coats you might deposit. It’s good for storing boots and things, and we call this place a __________.” (Answer: Closet)
“I’m a three letter word, that takes your dad pretty far. I have four rubber wheels, and he calls me his favorite _____.” (Answer: Car)
“If there is a show you love, and candy hunting is your mission, grab your remote and look behind a big screen called a ___________.” (Answer: Television)
“I look just like a mannequin, but I’m a small plastic affair. I come with clothes and accessories, so you can choose what I should wear. Sometimes I have a sword, for bad guys that do hassle. There is one thing I know for sure! There’s candy behind this ___________.” (Answer: Barbie Castle)
“In a place you keep what’s written, be it fairy tale, myth, or song. I can house a short story, or many novels that are long.” (Answer: Bookshelf)
“When your mom and dad are tired, and off to bed they go, the place they lay their head is their lovely, soft, __________.” (Answer: Bed)
“A house has one front and back. A car usually has four. If it’s candy you are seeking, check outside the back _________.” (Answer: Door)
“This might get filled with water, so that you can have a drink. We can use it to wash the dishes. We call this thing a ________.” (Answer: Sink)
“When all your clothes are dirty, you need to get them clean. You fill this with detergent. Its called a washing _____________.” (Answer: Machine)
“You’ll need to ask a grown up to look inside this space. If you want to make s’mores at home, then you need a _________________.” (Answer: Fireplace)
“Look for a piece of furniture, on which you might choose to slouch. You can find it in your living room. This seat is called a ___________.” (Answer: Couch)
“The answer to this riddle, is where you lay your head. But the answer isn’t a pillow. Instead it’s under your __________.” (Answer: Bed)
“There is a part of your house, where something can be flushed. Check the place you wash yourself, and where your teeth get brushed.” (Answer: Bathroom)
“I am something in your kitchen, there’s lots of food I hold. The reason you keep them inside me is because I can help keep them cold! What am I?” (Answer: Refrigerator)
“I am a household item, which is used to sweep inside. I’m also a mode of transport when witches need a ride!” (Answer: Broom Closet)
You can use your free Google Doc above to customize your headstone cards for any location!
I look forward to posting pictures of our big scavenger hunt this year. We have added a few extra surprises to ours, including black light ink clues, a puzzle, and a Wizard’s horde for the grand finale! The wizard’s horde consists of things like: Crystal Rock Candy, Chocolate Coins, Candy Bracelets, and Ring Pops and will be hidden inside a box that looks like a stack of books.
I hope everyone has a safe and spooky Halloween. Things may be unconventional this year, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Let this be the year your kids talk about with excitement when they are grown-ups reminiscing about the holidays of their childhood. If we can’t make Halloween “normal” this year, lets make it EPIC!