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Gen Con 2019 games wrap-up part 3 August 17, 2019

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2019-gencon-3

And now, two weeks later, we come to the end. It was a memorable Gen Con as always, and I ended the weekend with some more new (to me) games. Read on for Saturday.

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Gen Con 2019 games wrap-up part 2 August 14, 2019

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Who continues to be a lousy blogger? *holds hand up*

I did not, in fact, only play games on the Wednesday evening before the convention began, but throughout the convention as well! Thursday and Friday games below, Saturday to follow (hopefully not a week from now, though).

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Gen Con 2019 games wrap-up part 1 August 7, 2019

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2019-08-07 19.35.59

Ah, Gen Con. Where friends are made, games are played, and lack of sleep is inevitable. And after five days, my cat is actually happy to see me.

After two successful years of scheduling my evenings full prior to the con, I’m starting to get the hang of it, and found more games I wanted to play than I had time for this year. What did I play? Click the tag and let’s go back to last Wednesday.

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Gen Con haul 2019 August 6, 2019

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Books:20190806_182553.jpg

Games:

Pins and buttons:

  • Genevieve the dragon and “Game on!” from Gen Con
  • Sheep from Catan
  • Crowned fox from the Crowned Rabbit
  • Dragon from Lindsey Burcar
  • Boss Monster
  • Here, Kitty, Kitty!
  • Gold dragon from Geek Chic
  • Longpack Games
  • 10th anniversary Foam Brain Games
  • Barbarian from Too Many Bones
  • Pathfinder button
  • The Fool from the Arcana series by H. T. Brady
  • Winner from Formal Ferret Games
  • Little Bestiary

Miscellaneous:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time water temple T-shirt
  • Catan “We built this city on rock and wheat” T-shirt
  • Doge sleep mask courtesy of Aspis Net game Trap
  • Two replica pirate coins

Not pictured: Tin of White Cherry tea from Tea & Absinthe

Mid-year pulse check June 12, 2019

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, life, writing.
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Obviously, my attempts to blog more early in the year didn’t last very long. As usual, the greatest hindrance to it is myself. I’m sure I will always have something to write about, after all. I’m still sitting on photos from the winter to share, not to mention those from a trip to Banff a few weeks ago.

So what have I been up to while not blogging? The big news is that I have two new books that pretty much only need cover art to release, including Sisters of Chaos book 2. There may still be some final tweaking to that one, so I can’t give a release date yet. I’m also currently working on a short story which is a bit different from my usual fare, though that one’s not going to see print until next year (if it goes well).green light audiobook cover-small

Also, because I clearly can’t stand the thought of having a manageable workload, I’ve begun narrating audiobooks for Brain Lag. I’ve recorded two so far; the first, J. R. Dwornik’s Green Light to Paradise, came out last fall, and the newest, Innocent Earth by Dale E. McClenning, has been submitted for distribution and is making its way into catalogues.

It’s a lot of work; Innocent Earth took 100 hours total. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot in the context of 40-hour work weeks, but with my rather reduced work days and other projects going on at the same time, it took me about six months to finish it. However, voice acting has turned out to be a lot of fun. (I particularly enjoyed voicing a flamboyant preacher from Kentucky in Innocent Earth.) I also get a chuckle while editing now and then, say, when my cat decided to chip in. While I’ve decided to take a little break from it for the moment, I look forward to recording my next audiobook.

As for my 2019 goals, according to Goodreads, I’m three books ahead of schedule for beating my best year of reading. So a few of them are graphic novels; I didn’t specify that for my goal! Regrettably, I haven’t been doing as well with playing guitar in the past couple months. I think I was doing better than the last time I ‘seriously’ tried to learn before my practice time dried up, so I would like to find time for it again. I enjoyed playing.

However, I am happy to report that I have continued an over 150-day streak on Duolingo learning Japanese. I’m far from holding a real conversation, of course, but I’ve learned a few hundred words so far, am beginning to understand the idiosyncrasies of the language, and continue practicing reading hiragana and katakana whenever I see it. It’s been fun and maintaining an unbroken streak for so long (okay, so I’ve had two cheat days) certainly motivates me to keep learning every day.

I also just finished refreshing the design of the Brain Lag website, which involved learning how to make a responsive web design, or one that will change depending on the size of the device viewing it. Aside from that, I’ve managed to uphold some other personal goals, so it has been a productive year for me so far.

Now let’s see if I’ll actually fit blogging in to the rest of that.

May the frosting be with you February 3, 2019

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This weekend was my husband’s birthday, and since he’s a big Star Wars fan (and I wanted to try out my new candy melting pot), I decided to make Star Wars cupcakes!

I used the new X-Wing and Millennium Falcon silicone mold I got for Christmas to make the cupcake toppers.

I melted bright white candy melts in my electric candy pot, together with a few leftover Halloween chocolates…

… and poured it into the molds, then put them in the fridge for half an hour to harden. (With thanks to my daughter for photography credit.)

Presto! Delicious candy starships. Now on to the cupcakes. (Chocolate, of course.)

For the frosting, I started with a basic butter cream frosting. Homemade, I don’t do store bought in this house.

I wanted to do a bit of a galaxy style for the frosting, so I split it in half, made half into chocolate and split the other half to colour blue and purple.

Filled up a piping bag, gave it a quick swirl, and it was ready to go.

Used a big star tip and started frosting.

I also added some edible silver glitter dust to complete the galaxy look. It’s not super obvious, but it does add a little pop.

Once that was done, it was time for the ships.

And voila! The colours didn’t turn out quite as I was hoping they would, but I’m pretty pleased with the results. They’re also very tasty.

On pride January 17, 2019

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Pride. One of the Seven Deadly Sins.

It is not so much taught as it is ingrained into our society that pride is the worst form of narcissism.

But is it really so evil? Is it so wrong to feel proud of our accomplishments? Who does it harm for someone to take joy in being smart, or pretty, or strong, or creative? Why is it such a grave insult for one to respond to a compliment by agreeing with it?

No, I think the true evil is egotism. Putting oneself before everyone else. This, in my opinion, is far more rampant and far more insidious than pride.

After all, when one takes it as an affront if someone agrees with a compliment, whose ego is so paramount that it becomes challenged? A compliment should be given selflessly; to turn it around and say that the compliment is somehow lessened because the receiver did not bestow the proper praise upon the giver changes the intention entirely.

It’s why people are so quick to argue about the things they enjoy, or don’t. It always baffles me, even frustrates me, that so many people can’t seem to let others like what they like. Their opinions become so important that it becomes a personal threat when others don’t feel the same way. The perceived challenge to their worldview overrides any understanding that another’s enjoyment (or non-enjoyment) of something has no bearing on one’s own opinions.

This egotism seems the source of so many problems in today’s society. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, other forms of bigotry—it all derives from this need to be better than others. Denial of white privilege—belief that a systemic issue is instead a personal condemnation. Judging others over everything from how they look to how they live—reinforcing the idea that one’s own being is better than others’.

All of these problems hide the fact that none of these perceived issues have any bearing or judgment upon the viewer’s life. Does that person who looks funny diminish one’s own self-worth? Does accepting that being born white means one has an easier time in life affect one’s value? Does the fact that gay people exist really have any impact over one’s life at all?

No. It’s all a result of inflating one’s ego above others.

I don’t mean to say that all of this is done maliciously. In fact, I think a lot of such problems are related to the fact that we are taught not to feel pride. Because we’re not allowed to take joy in our accomplishments or positive traits, we seek that validation of self-worth in destructive ways. And for those who are more attuned to those destructive habits, it results in rampant imposter syndrome, feelings of worthlessness, and depression.

I think it’s time to admit that pride isn’t the enemy. Of course, one can take it too far, but then it goes back to the problem of egotism. So be proud of your accomplishments. Take joy in whatever part of yourself makes you happy. And more importantly, allow others to feel pride when they’ve earned it. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if you find yourself feeling insulted by someone else’s views or appearance or being, maybe stop and ask yourself if it really has any impact on your own life before saying something.

On resolutions January 11, 2019

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newyears2019When I was younger, I wasn’t crazy about New Year’s. (Admittedly, I didn’t get invited to many parties.) These days, however, I like the spirit of renewal. A blank slate. Casting off the wearied remnants of the old year and looking toward the bright potential of the future.

Yes, it’s an arbitrary date and people shouldn’t need an excuse to improve themselves. But it’s a landmark. A reminder, when we’re so often swept up in the chaos of our daily lives, that we should constantly be trying to better ourselves.

And now, in the Information Age, it’s easier than ever to do. Free apps can teach you a new language, how to play an instrument, how to draw and meditate and all sorts of things. YouTube videos can show you how to make or do almost anything. There’s a mountain of free ebooks and online courses out there that can help you master a new skill or subject. Most of these options are even broken down into chunks that only require a few minutes a day. There’s no excuse not to attempt any pursuit one might desire.

I don’t tend to make resolutions. I made an exception with my Goodreads reading challenge for 2019, and I’ll admit I like the push it gives me. Otherwise, however, I don’t want to pressure myself. I prefer goals. Google Fit keeps trying to get me to lower my fitness goals, make them more consistently attainable for me. But I’m not out to check boxes off every day. I want to strive for those goals. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make them, but I’ll allow myself to feel good if I do.

I don’t have a lot of goals for 2019. I already started trying to exercise regularly a few months ago, and last year I made some changes to my health that significantly improved my overall quality of life. I want to read more, of course. I do want to try to get the second Sisters of Chaos book out this year. Editing continues to be a slog, but I’m using the spirit of improvement the new year provides to try to push myself to at least continue working on it.

Of course, with all these options for personal improvement out there, it’s hard not to get swept up in the different things one can learn or do. I look at the guitar(s) in my bedroom and think about the apps I’ve looked at to try to start playing again. I watch my daughter using new art supplies and think about breaking out some of my own that I haven’t touched for years. I even downloaded one of those language learning apps on a whim last night.

Is it too much? Maybe. Do I have too little time to explore all these interests? Maybe not, at least based on the apps I’ve seen. Will I lose interest before the month’s out? Possibly. But these options are better than just sitting around playing a silly mobile game or watching cat videos on YouTube, which I tend to do more often in my free time because it’s easier than doing anything that can be judged. Maybe my true resolution should be to stop being intimidated by starting anything.

The key to a good new year is not merely hoping or wishing that it will be better. Now’s the time to start making things happen.

Here’s to a great 2019.

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The year of trying more? Oil pastels, 2.5″ x 3.5″

Books / time: the story January 6, 2019

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open-book.jpg

I love reading (as is probably obvious). Even my 7-year-old daughter now says, “you can’t have too many books”, gets excited when we go to the bookstore, and says “booooks” hungrily when confronted with a stack of them.

But I’ll admit I’m not the most prolific reader. The main excuses for that are that I spend free time engaged with other pastimes (writing) and a silly fear of commitment over starting new books. I also don’t consider myself a very fast reader, so I don’t get through books as quickly as perhaps I could.

2017 was my best year yet for reading since I started tracking my books read on Goodreads, at 26. However, I followed that up in 2018 with a paltry 10. Well, 11 when you count one book that wasn’t on Goodreads.

Granted, that’s only the measure of the books I read for enjoyment. That doesn’t count the thirty or forty books I read as part of my freelance work, or the handful of books I read (or reread) for Brain Lag. But it does seem a little sad after such a good 2017. And considering the number of new books I picked up last year, it does make me want to read more.

I’ve started the year on the right foot, at least. Whereas last year, I had a gap through to the end of March without any books read for pleasure, I finished my first book of 2019 tonight. It was even one I’ve been meaning to read for a few years. Progress!

I managed to whittle down my TBR shelf (we’ll pretend that row of books hidden behind them aren’t there) to six or seven before I started buying more new books last year. Maybe if I keep at it, I can finally get through those books I bought and haven’t read yet. (Again, we’re not mentioning all the books behind them on the shelf, or the dozens of ebooks I have on Kindle and Google Play.) Maybe if I do that, I can get back to some series I’ve partially read, or start reading other books I’ve been wanting to check out for years, read some authors and titles I’ve heard such good things about.

Or maybe I’ll continue getting lost in whatever ebook I happen to open in a moment of boredom or picking up whatever shiny title catches my eye at the library.

Some people may lament the idea of there being so many books that one cannot possibly hope to read all the ones they desire in a lifetime, but to me, I find reassurance in the knowledge that I’ll always have something to read.

I’d like 2019 to be a better year for books for me. I’ll make it a better year. I’ve never set myself reading goals on Goodreads, but maybe I’ll do that this year. I spend too much time goofing around on mobile games because of this weird anxiety over starting new books, when I’ve plenty of minutes throughout the day that I can find to get some reading in. It’s not hard to start a new book, and I know that.

It’s a new year. Time for new stories.

Pumpkinpalooza October 15, 2018

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For all my love of books, board and video games, miniature painting, and science fiction and fantasy, sometimes I take great joy in being domestic. In no way is this more apparent than with baking. And at this time of year, that means pumpkins.

I’ve become one of those people who is crazy about pumpkin goodies. I started out a few years ago, the first time I cooked a fresh pumpkin for muffins, and since then, I’ve made a lot of pumpkin recipes. Breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and more. Not all of them have worked spectacularly, but I’ve made enough that have turned out very nice that I thought I would share some today.

A couple of notes before I begin: first, I only use fresh pumpkin for my recipes. I tried canned pumpkin once and it was not nearly as tasty, so bear that in mind. Cooking a pie pumpkin is easy, anyway. Chop it in half, scoop out the pulp, cook for an hour, and puree the innards. It takes time, but not a lot of work.

Second, I feel that a lot of pumpkin recipes are a little heavy on the spice and light on the pumpkin flavour. So, my cardinal rule for pumpkin recipes is 50% more pumpkin, 50% less spice. This usually doesn’t affect the texture with fresh pumpkin, which is thicker than canned. I also tend to cut back on sugar, but I do that with all my baking. Of course, this is my preference.

Without further ado, my favourite pumpkin recipes:

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Pumpkin biscotti – recipe

This was one of my earliest pumpkin recipes, found after being randomly inspired to try searching for one, and has been my most popular. Aside from my cardinal rules, I follow the recipe precisely. Perfect for dunking in coffee or tea. (If you prefer a softer biscotti, however, you can cut the second baking time in half.)

Pumpkin scones

I’ve made the popular Starbucks copycat pumpkin scone recipe a few times, and while tasty, I found myself wanting a more authentic scone. After extensive research on the topic, it seemed to me that British scones are much like North American biscuits. So, I searched instead for a pumpkin biscuit recipe and was very pleased with the results. I did take a cue from the Starbucks knockoff and added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg and 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger, which peps it up nicely and makes it the perfect accompaniment to a nice cuppa tea and a grey day.

Pumpkin sugar cookies

This was entirely an experiment on my part last year that worked out better than I anticipated. I took a standard sugar cookie recipe, replaced half the butter with pumpkin, and added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. They are better when iced properly, but I wanted to show the colour for this post.

Ravioli with pumpkin alfredo sauce – recipe

After all these treats, I found this while searching for savoury pumpkin recipes. I made it for the first time a few weeks ago and it was an instant hit. I did not include the nuts in the recipe and added zucchini and mushrooms to the sauce, but otherwise followed the recipe closely, and it came out delicious. I also used ravioli stuffed with roasted cauliflower, which complemented the flavours nicely, but I imagine the sauce works just as well on regular pasta.

Finally, if I have just a little pumpkin left over, I recently discovered a very nice homemade pumpkin spice latte recipe, or my go-to is to use the rest in pumpkin pancakes. I eyeball this one more than measure, but I add about half a cup of pumpkin to a standard pancake batter and add a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of nutmeg.