Sembian Honey-Glazed Rothe Ribs

Here is another decadent recipe from this month’s featured cookbook Heroes’ Feast: The Official Dungeons and Dragons Cookbook. If you haven’t picked up your copy already, follow the link below so you can get more amazing recipes like this one!

When I think of ribs, I normally think of hot summer days, and ice cold beer. However, this sweet, sticky, recipe is just rich and savory enough to make the perfect winter dish.

The meat does have to cook in the oven for around 2 hours, so it is best done on a day that you are going to be home. However, the actual prep time is very minimal. The recipe says it serves 4 and we found that to be pretty accurate. My husband and I got two meals out of it.

I already had most of the ingredients for the sauce in my kitchen, which is a big thumbs-up from me with any recipe.

So, here is what you are going to need:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 Yellow onion, finely grated (I just chopped it finely)
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 4 1/2 to 5 pounds baby back ribs, membranes removed if desired. (there are instructions in the cookbook on how to do this if you choose to). I used St. Louis style ribs because that is what my grocer had available. It worked just fine!
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced for garnish

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven
  • Line a large cookie sheet with foil and set a wire rack in it. (I really appreciated the foil during clean up as there was quite a mess on it at the end)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together ketchup, honey, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and mustard until well blended. Set aside.
  • In non-stick skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and about 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring, until the onion appears “drier”, about 4 minutes. The onions will look more clear when they are ready.
  • Add the garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the ketchup mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring consistantly. Continue to simmer, stirring, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the flavors have blended, about 5 minutes.
  • Set aside off the heat to cool briefly, the mixture will thicken as it cools.
  • Sprinkle both sides of the ribs generously with salt and pepper.
  • Brush about 1/3 cup of the sauce on the bone side. Turn the ribs bone-side down, and brush the meaty side with about 2/3 cup of the remaining sauce. Put the rest of the sauce in the fridge.
  • Keeping the ribs bone-side down, roast until meat is extremely tender and the meat between the bones in the middle of the racks registers about 205 degrees. Roasting takes between 2.5-3 hours. Mine was ready at around 2.5 hours.
  • Check after 2 hours and cover with foil if the top is getting too dark.
  • When roasting is completed, adjust the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Brush the remaining 1/4 cup sauce on the exposed (meaty) side of the rack and continue to roast until the sauce heats through but remains sticky. Usually 8-10 minutes.
  • Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut as desired.
  • Sprinkle with scallions and serve hot!

I served my ribs with mashed potatoes and a leafy green salad with red wine vinaigrette. The starchy and salty sides really complimented the sweet sauce quite nicely!

If you are looking for other dinner options, check out this Traveler’s Stew Recipe also from Heroes’ Feast!

Enjoy your holiday season!

Hero Forge Minis: Creating the Characters You Love

My Dice Mom custom Hero Forge mini came in a perfect little cube shaped box on my front porch, and I couldn’t wait to lay eyes on her. I had chosen everything. Her clothes, her face, her hair, her accessories. She was beautiful. And she was me. Unique. One of a kind. Badass.

If you play DnD, or any other RPG, and have never visited heroforge.com to checked out their custom mini building software, you are in for such a treat!

Dice Mom is not my first mini from them. My first was actually a gift from my brother/Dungeon Master. We were running Curse of Straud (a DnD 5th Edition campaign) when he purchased each of us a Hero Forge mini of our then 5th level characters. Each of us had picked up unique, and sometimes quirky, items and baubles along the way, and each of our minis reflected those things.

It wasn’t just a mini. It was the story of where we had been together.

Whether you are playing in a classic DnD setting like Forgotten Realms, or a modern or post modern setting like Shadowrun, or even the Old West or Victorian England, the outfit choices and combinations are virtually endless!

I cannot stress this enough: there are so many character options! You have 44 races to chose from including all the player races and many monster races as well. You can also make most human-like races with slight modifications like horns or vampire fangs.

These minis also come with a variety of poses and facial expressions to really bring out your character’s personality!

If you are like me, you have spent hours online or in your local game store perusing for the perfect mini to match your new character. However, the choices available will never be exactly what you had envisioned. This program is the absolute best way to make those characters who are so unique that finding a premade mini just won’t cut it.

When I went to create Dice Mom, Hero Forge had added the new color option to their site, allowing you to create and purchase your mini in full color.

As much as I enjoy painting my own minis in real life, I wanted to try this new feature out myself. Because, lets face it, the thought of trying to paint, and then messing up on, a $40 mini is absolutely terrifying!

The color turned out really nice. The fill is even and the color doesn’t bleed over into areas its not supposed to (like so many sloppy pre-painted minis you get from the store). There isn’t much in the way of detail work. The face doesn’t have painted eyes, and shading is minimal. However, for a “pull out of the box” painted mini, it is very well done.

These special little minis make great Christmas or Birthday gifts for your friends! You can make a mini of their character in your campaign, like my brother. Or, you can make a mini of THEM, like I did with Dice Mom. Either way, the DnD player in your life will absolutely adore it.

One day soon, we will dust off those minis and dice bags. We will all be able to gather and play in person again, whether in our homes or in our favorite little Main Street game store. Until then, as always, safe adventuring, my friends. And be well.

Apple Cinnamon Baby Yoda Ornaments

Its time to make some ornaments! We decided to make these because:

1. We are obsessed with baby Yoda. (I mean… who isn’t??)

2. They smell AMAZING!

and

3. It was super easy and fun for our 6 year old to make for her teachers and family members.

We made apple cinnamon ornaments last year in my daughter’s kindergarten class, and they were so simple. In that batch we mixed in glitter and used star cookie cutters.

This time I wanted to do something a little geekier for my dice rolling fam, so we settled on baby yoda!

Here is what you will need:

1 cup of apple sauce

1.5 cups of cinnamon

A small amount of flour

Large bowl, rolling pin, cookie sheet, wooden skewer, and parchment paper

Angel shaped cookie-cutter

Acrylic paint in Baby-Yoda-Green, white and black (or a black sharpie) and brushes

Yarn or string for hanging

That’s it! You may not even need to buy anything to make these ornaments. If you are a mini painter like me, you can raid your mini painting station for the paints you need!

Directions (This is the way):

  • Preheat the oven to 200F
  • In a large bowl, mix together cinnamon and apple sauce. It will need to be a ratio of approximately 1 cup apple sauce to 1.5 cups cinnamon. This is something that you will have to tweak depending on how many ornaments you want to make and how the dough feels. You and your kiddo will really need to get in there with your hands and mix. It should be the consistency of playdough. If it is too wet, add more cinnamon. If it is too dry, add more applesauce.
The cat was very excited to help as well.

Willow really liked this part, even though she is usually averse to getting her hands messy. I think it helped that it smelled soooo good. She kept commenting on how nice it smelled.

  • After you have your dough ready, sprinkle the flour onto your work surface so that the dough doesn’t stick to the table when you roll it out. You will also want to add some flour to your rolling pin, as we found that the dough tended to stick to it also.
  • Roll out your dough. You want it approximately 1/4 inch thick.
  • Once your dough is rolled out evenly, use the angel cookie cutters to cut out your shapes.
  • Using a butter knife, carefully remove the angel’s heads (we pretended they were Weeping Angels from Doctor Who so we could feel less bad about it). The angels wings will now be Baby Yoda’s ears, and the torso will now be his cute little face!
  • Roll out the leftover dough and repeat the process until you have all the ornaments you want.
  • Take a wooden skewer (or even just the handle side of one of your small paint brushes) and make a small hole at the top of Baby Yoda’s head for the ornament hanger.
  • When the ornaments are ready, carefully place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 1.5 hours.

The house will smell amazing. You’re welcome!

  • Remove the cookie sheet and allow the ornaments to cool completely. They should be rock hard now.
  • Paint the head of the Baby Yodas green. Allow the paint to dry.
  • Using black paint, make his big adorable eyes. Since Willow wanted to do the eyes, we used a permanent marker instead for extra control.
  • Taking a small paintbrush, carefully add a small white dot to each eye to really make them pop!
  • Finally, thread the yarn or string through the hole at the top of your ornament.

And voila! You’re done!

I was really impressed how much a 6 year old could actually do themselves on this project. I really had to do very little after giving some basic directions. She was very proud and excited to give them out!

Have fun making your ornaments, and don’t forget to follow dicemom.com to see more from our “Make the Holidays EPIC” series!

Traveler’s Stew

Here we are a little over a week post Thanksgiving cooking marathon, and we can’t live on the leftovers anymore. Some of you may find this disappointing. Or, if you’re more like me, you are super over turkey… at least til next year.

So, the question looms, what are you going to make this weekend? I tried out this delicious stew recipe that can be found in the “Heroes’ Feast” official Dungeons and Dragons cookbook. Its currently on sale on Amazon, so its the perfect time to click the link below and pick it up!

You can find my full review of this cookbook here: https://dicemom.com/2020/11/06/heroes-feast/

Super simple directions, quick to throw together, and easy to find ingredients make this recipe the perfect dish for a lazy weekend. Just put it in the pot, let it simmer, and make your house smell AMAZING.

And this recipe has a fun twist-BEER!!

Here is what you are going to need:

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive oil because, as an Italian American, this is what I use in almost everything)
  • 1 cup dark beer (I used Guinness Draught Stout)
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth (I used regular beef broth because I already had some in my pantry. I just made sure to use less Kosher salt)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt (I used garlic salt because I love garlic), and several grinds of pepper. Add the beef and toss to coat well.
  • Warm the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, turning to brown all sides evenly. The recipe says to do a little of the meat at a time in batches, to be sure not to overcrowd the pot, but I was impatient and just did it all at once. I kept a close eye on it and it turned out fine. Just had to stir more often.
  • Take all the meat out of the pot. It was at this point that I put a little meat to the side for my super picky eater so that she could have “plain” meat to eat if she didn’t like the stew.
  • Pour the beer into the empty pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Most stew recipes use wine, but the beer in this recipe gives it a nice earthy, malty flavor.
  • Return the browned beef to the pot and add the broth and paprika.
  • Adjust the heat to low, cover, and cook at a simmer until the meat is very tender. 1.5-2 hours.
  • Add the onions, carrots, and potatoes to the pot, and continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Serve hot!

Traveler’s Stew was a huge hit at our house. Hearty, warm, and thick, it was the best way to warm our souls on a chilly winter’s day. The leftovers were just as delicious! We had enough to make 2 or 3 meals out of it, so that was a really nice treat later in the week.

We served our stew with buttered bread, or you could make warm rolls to sop up the dark beer-infused broth.

For the DnD nerds among us, the “Heroes’ Feast” book has a wonderful little description of the inspiration for the dish:

“Nothing is more welcoming to the battered, trail weary adventurer than the unmistakable scent of beef and ale wafting from a bubbling, flame-licked cauldron. Find a seat near the inn’s blackened hearth and take a load off-warmth and safety are finally at hand.”

If you are on the hunt for more great dinner recipes, check out my take on Sembian Honey Glazed Rothe Ribs also brought to you by Heroes’ Feast!

Enjoy your time bundled up with the ones you love, and stay safe my friends.

Must-Have Stocking Stuffers for the Nerds You Love

I don’t know about you guys, but I really enjoyed transforming my house this weekend into my own little Christmas wonderland. Pulling out all my daughter’s ornaments she has made, seeing my Doctor Who Christmas stocking, shaking my Star Wars snow globe… the whole thing just brightened the house right up! And after being stuck in for weeks now… boy did we need it!

Like many of you, we also sat down to write our Christmas shopping list. Then we got online to try and get as much done from home as possible!

So, if you have a special nerdy friend or family member in your life and need some fresh ideas for holiday shopping for this year, I’m here to get you started!

With Cyber Monday upon us, snuggle into your favorite Christmas sweater, make a piping hot cup of hot coco, and settle in! Here are my top 20 favorite geeky stocking stuffers from Amazon!

The Dungeons and Dragons Player

This gorgeous piece of jewelry is perfect for the Gamer Girl in your life! I have one of these, and it’s so fun to switch out the d20 to coordinate with different outfits!

Does anyone NEED a d100 die? No. No, they don’t. But who wouldn’t love to have this baby in their stocking??? It’s just so cool.

I love this classy looking dice bag. It also doubles as a dice tray, to save your table from all that rolling!

And for that special Dungeon Master in your life that already owns every DnD thing imaginable, these funny little coasters will be a fun addition to their gaming space.

The Star Wars Enthusiast

If you know someone who can’t stop talking about the new show The Mandalorian on Disney Plus, (and we all do), these little guys are the perfect desk accessory.

And what is a perfectly stuffed stocking without a pair of adorable socks? These guys are unisex, so you can grab them for anyone!

This salt and pepper shaker set is so vaguely nerdy, that you might not even notice they come together to form the Death Star! So chic!

The Marvel Fan

What is cooler than Deadpool wielding candy cane daggers. Nothing. The answer is nothing.

You can never have too many refrigerator magnets. And look at these little guys! Look at tiny Nick Fury! They’re so cute!

The Hobbit

This beautifully engraved bookmark is the perfect gift for the bookworm in your life.

The tree of Gondor is one of the most elegant symbols of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit universe. This stopper is a very classy gift for your wine drinking friends!

And for that special lady elf in your life, Arwen’s necklace will absolutely enchant her.

The Gamer

These metal Legend of Zelda coaster are so gorgeous, most guests won’t even realize they’re from a video game!

This adorable Minecraft Redstone Ore statue is just tiny enough to fit in a stocking and it glows… just like in the game!

If they own a Nintendo Switch, I guarantee you there is a game out there that they want to buy. A gift card may not seem personal enough to give as a full on gift, but it makes a perfect stocking stuffer!

For a more practical gift, consider a pair of Blue Light Filter Glasses. They’re the perfect accessory for anyone who stares at screens for any length of time!

The Sci Fi Nerd

We are huge fans of tiny notebooks in our house, so when I saw this Star Trek Captain’s log tiny notebook, I knew it would be a big hit!

It’s everyone’s favorite character from Adventure Time, BMO! This cute mousepad will roll up nicely to stuff inside a stocking!

I have a good feeling that masks will be the “go to” stocking stuffer this year. Let’s face it, the ones we have been using are getting a little worn out. So why let their geek flag fly! This Doctor Who mask is not only nerdy, but it’s actually really pretty too!

For my X-Files fans (I know you’re out there), this classic little cuff bracelet is just a touch of nerdy and a whole lot of chic!

I hope this list gets you excited to shop for those amazing, nerdy people in your life! Don’t forget to head back to dicemom.com for all of your geeky Christmas inspiration needs!

A Thanksgiving “Simon Says” Game!

Looking for a way to get out that pent up energy while everyone is home this weekend?

Check out Dice Mom’s FREE DOWNLOAD of “Turkey Says”. It is a Thanksgiving themed Simon Says game that will have everyone moving and giggling!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EjB_a6ai7PkG2Kxbm4ywkfLIL02DjU2g/view?usp=sharing

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving from the Dice Mom family to yours!

Preschoolers and Board Games: Getting Started

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
  • Hand-eye coordination

… 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!

Get Creative!

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:

  1. When you start a game, you need to finish it. (No rage quitting!)
  2. No cheating.
  3. It’s okay to lose. The point is to play and have fun.
  4. 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!

Origins of the Horn of Plenty: A Learning Activity for Kids

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. 

The End

After reading and discussing the story, we looked at pieces of art that were inspired by this tale.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules

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!

Surviving the Pandemic: Holiday Edition

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.

And that is the best gift you can give them.

Start Your First Writing Project Today

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!

Inspiration

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!

Share with Others

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!

So, when should you get started? Why not today!