Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Must Have Video Game: Tales of Monkey Island

Now, I am not the avid gamer that my husband is... I wouldn't even try to compare us on this subject. He has quite a long history with games going all the way back to the age of 5 when he sat down at his parents' TI99/4a (aka old freaking computer) to play Alpiner. Since, he has tried out so many console systems and computer games, that I can't even begin to list them here. However, I will state for the record that there are no fewer than 7 consoles in our apt. at the moment in addition to our computers.

That being said, I want you to know that I too was exposed to video game-age at a relatively young age. While I never had consoles growing up, I instead fulfilled my healthy need for entertainment via computer based video games. While, there were many over the years, one of the most memorable games that I played growing up was The Secret of Monkey Island which came out in 1990 when I was about 12. The story begins with the main character, Guybrush Threepwood, and his desire to become a "mighty pirate." This game was great and while some would consider it being on easy-mode, you had to solve problems interestingly and use your head rather than your sword (as it were). I won't wax poetic about this first game anymore, but if you know me at all, you will understand the allure of the plot and the game design.

The first game was followed by multiple sequels such as Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, The Curse of Money Island, and Escape from Monkey Island. Back in college, before we were even officially dating, my husband ordered a copy of Curse for us to play together. Awww.... his first gift was a game. Are you shocked? Cause I'm not. And I loved it!

So, now to the point of my lengthy blog post. Back on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Telltale games had a special promotion to download the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island for free. I jumped at the chance and got episode 1, knowing it would be awesome. Until the past few days I hadn't had much time to get into the episode, but now that I have it all wrapped up I feel the need to stand on my soapbox and shout of its excellence!

Check out the trailer below to get a sense of the Tales series:

If you've played any of the previous games, Tales offers the same bumbling Guybrush, the same type of insane solutions to problems (rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle of it), and the same great character voices (since there were characters voices anyway). If you haven't played them, then check them out. I believe you can still purchase them all, although it might take a little digging.

As for Tales, you can purchase the episodes for your computer individually (for $10) or as a complete season here. Three of the five episodes are ready for download and if you buy a season pass for $29.95 (promo at the moment, reg is $34.95) you get a free dvd when the series is complete. They also offer the game for the Wii (clicky for more info on how to download for the Wii). If you want to try it out first click here and select a download option under download the FREE demo.

So, go over to the Telltale games website, download an episode and GAME LIKE A PIRATE!

Edit: As an added note for all you iPhone addicts out there, you can also get the special addition of The Secret of Monkey Island for your iPhone for just $7.99 off of iTunes or App Store. Three guesses as to who downloaded that this evening...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

If you are a fan of watersports.... beware!

Darth Coco called me up on Saturday morning with a clear plan in mind. We would meet behind the Concord Visitor Center at 1pm, rent a canoe and paddle our way from the south bridge to the north bridge about 1.5 miles down the river. After that, we would head to Cambridge for a late lunch at a trattoria named Gran Gusto (which has phenomenal food by the way). The plan had merit and it was good, so we set off with high hopes for our perfectly planned day.

After the slathering on sun screen, bathroom break and asking the local patriot in the visitor's center for directions, we walked down Main St. to the South Bridge Boat House. They rent canoes, kayaks (both single and double) and even off river cruises. However, traveling by canoe was not meant to be. All the canoes were taken by a group of boy scouts who arrived just before us (grrr). Rather than admit defeat, we decided to wait for one...

That didn't last long. We caved after about 15 minutes and rented two single kayaks instead. Patience is not exactly one of our best traits when we're together. We started down the river, trying to get used to the rhythm of paddling which neither of us had done probably in years. I believe we started off on the Sudbury river although I'm sure it turned into the Concord River at some point and maybe even the Assabet depending on how far we went. I know we went under several bridges, both for traffic and foot only.

The river, while busy with other small watercraft, was serene and we both felt we could have easily settled in and taken a nap. The other great thing was that despite how much we paddled and how far we went from the boathouse, we set the pace and I honestly could have continued on for quite a bit before feeling I needed to turn around. talk about a nice way to enjoy a beautiful day and get some good exercise!

So, Darth Coco and I have decided that we really enjoy kayaking. I probably drove her insane by constantly saying how awesome the trip was and how we so need to go again and SOON! So, consider yourselves warned! We will be on the waterways of Concord again. Will you be prepared if you happen to meet us there?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Project Designer? Me?

This is a shoebox project I made for the A Muse Addicts get together at Ink about It back on Sunday Sept. 20th. A rather large group of us came from around the state and even further to spend some time together and celebrate our love of all things A Muse.

For 10 Treat-Filled Halloween Matchbooks you need:

mono adhesive
foam tape
paper distresser
Black Dye Ink pad - I used Memento
Black Pigment Ink pad
- I used Colorbox Chalk

Stamps (all from the A Muse 2009 Halloween/Fall release)-
Open if you dare
Pumpkin basket
Happy Halloween

Paper & Embellishments-
1 pack of 10 A Muse 4-bar Slate solid note cards
1 pack of 10 A Muse 4-Bar Palm Green Solid note cards (cut one card into 10 1" x 2" rectangles)
2 sheets A Muse 8.5 x 11 in Vintage Orange (cut into 10 3.5" x 3.25" rectangles)
1 sheet A Muse 8.5 x 11 in Natural White (or whatever works well with Copic Markers)
3.5 yards of A Muse Orange polka dot ribbon (cut into 12" lengths, I was very generous with the amount)
Copic Marker # YR07 - Cadmium Orange

  1. Take a slate note card and put it color side up on the scor-pal so that the long side is against the ruler edge.
  2. Score your card at 1" and 6", repeat this for all 9 remaining cards.
  3. Fold the cards on your score marks so the fold at 1" is the flap to catch the matchbook lid and the one at 6" helps form the wide edge of the matchbook.
  4. Distress all edges of the slate cards with the paper distresser so that you can see the white of the card stock beneath it.
  5. Using the black pigment ink pad, distress (or flip according to Jenn :P) the edges of all 10 pieces of the vintage orange. You can do this as lightly or heavily as you prefer.
  6. Using mono adhesive, attach a distressed vintage orange piece to each card so that the left, top and right sides have an even amount of space between it and the card.
  7. Using the black dye ink pad, stamp the pumpkin basket on the vintage orange pieces.
  8. Stamp 10 images of the pumpkin basket on your piece of Natural White and color in with the Copic marker.
  9. Cut out each pumpkin basket you just colored (ignoring the handle part) and attach one to each of your cards with foam tape directly over the one on the vintage orange.
  10. Using the Black dye in pad, stamp Open if you dare on the 1" x 2" Palm green rectangles.
  11. Use the paper distresser on all sides of the green rectangles. Then, bend each of them so that they look crumbled.
  12. Attach the green rectangles to each card using foam tape.
  13. Flip open the matchbooks use mono adhesive to secure your favorite candy inside (I personally prefer Gummy Body Parts). Make sure to leave room at the top to stamp Happy Halloween above the candy.
  14. Finally, tie the orange polka dot ribbon around the bottom of the matchbook to secure the bottom flap and keep the matchbook from opening.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my first attempt at designing a little project. I had lots of fun working on it and getting it ready for the A Muse Addicts for last weekend. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send me an email.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Apples, apples everywhere....

...and not a bite to eat! Well, ok, I lied. There was tons to eat, including this amazing apple cider donut (my favorite of all time).

This past Saturday a group of our friends including 6 adults (in physical age only), a three year old and a very cute Redbone Coonhound met at Shelburne Farm in Acton, MA for our Annual Apple Day. Unfortunately, a few of our friends weren't able to be there with us due to things like living in other states and illness, but the spirit of Apple Day was present nonetheless. We just hope they can make it next year.

The day was one of those that seems like it's going to be freezing, yet somehow you end up warm. After looking at the llama, sheep and goats and grabbing a donut, we began our trek into the orchard.

It actually took us a little while to find some good apples because many of the trees were picked clean on the portion that we could reach without a ladder. The main reason for this was that the farm was keeping certain areas of the orchard closed off so other pickers would be able to find fruit later on in the season.

We were looking primarily for Macs and Cortlands, which have turned out to be great choices for both pie baking and applesauce making over the years. After a little bit of hunting, however we did find some nice examples of appley goodness within reach and even discovered that our mini-person (blame Brian for that name) could fit under all the trees and get to all the apples we couldn't reach without breaking the branches. Luke, you definitely earned your keep on Saturday! I swear he personally filled the last 1/2 a bag himself while the rest of us just watched.

Katie the Coonhound also helped out by keeping us apprised of all the other people around us, not to mention the other dogs who came out with their respective family members. Isn't she beautiful? I always get such great pictures of her when she finds her way into my viewfinder.

After returning to the farm stand for our well earned cider and ice cream we headed back to Erin & Joel's to begin phase II of Apple Day: The Apple Peeling/Coring/Dicing Extravaganza. This process used to take ages, especially back in the day when we first started the tradition. For many years grossly overestimated how many apples we needed to make pies for each of the households and applesauce as well. So, the prep process seemed endless... especially since we did all the work by hand, but over time we gradually got better and then this year we were spot on.

We ended up getting only one bushel, which turned out to be the perfect amount to provide for all the folks present this year. We also have made the process less tedious by investing in a few apple peeler, corer/slicers. Of the two we used, mine (of course) was made of failure. Tara's, however, worked like a charm and the three of us girls had all the apples set to go in an hour or two. Edit: Correction! Mine is no longer full of fail. The cutting blade was just was set out far enough. Now that the adjustment has been made, mine works perfectly! Ha! Ok, well, except for the handle that keeps falling off...

We still have to cut the peeled apples after they go through the machine, but really this is so easy, its almost not like work at all.

At the end of the day, we would up with four pies (thanks go to Heather's mom for the recipe), a nice sized cauldron full of yummy tart applesauce we split up and 9 cups of apple butter (a newcomer to our usual recipe list). Mmmmmm... apple butter... It turns out that apple butter is really just applesauce that has been pureed and made thicker by boiling it down. You can find the recipe we used here at Cooking Light.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Avast, me hearties! An' hoist the sails ye scurvy dogs!!!

Today be the International Talk Like a Pirate Day and for those of ye who are unaware of this most excellent holiday (since 1995) I feel ye must be enlightened and given the tools ye need to appreciate it. Ye can find out more at The Official Talk Like a Pirate Day Website which has all ye need to know about the piratey holiday and more.

Firstly, ye need to talk like a pirate all day long! This means throwin' in words like Avast, grog, bilge rat, and any sailin' like terms you know such as referrin' to right and left as starboard and port. Nothing quite beats givin' directions to a matey like "turn to your port side after ye spot the ancient scottish restaurant from the crow's nest." If ye need a primer to teach ye proper pirate jargon ye can learn some here at the official how to talk like a pirate page. They even include pirate pickup lines for that special someone ye want work yer magic on.

Now, there are many different ways ye can celebrate on Talk Like a Pirate Day to go above and beyond yer scurvy ridden duty. If ye need help developin' yer pirate persona, go to find out your pirate name. An' instead of just talkin' like a pirate, ye can also Post like a Pirate! and make all yer emails, tweets, and status changes filled with pirate pride.
Original Tweet- Going to pick apples with my friends. We're making enough pies and applesauce to feed us for years.

Pirate-ized Tweet- Goin' to pick apples wit' me buckos. We're makin' that be all I can take pies 'n applesauce to feed us fer years.
Ye can also catch up on yer pirate related movies. Some of me favorites and suggestions are listed here:

The Princess Bride - small amount of piratey goodness, but tha best movie ever! Ye can see the best sword fighting seen from tha movie here:

The Pirates of the Caribbean - all three be good, but I prefer the first.
Cutthroat Island - some people hate it, others love it, I liked it.
Muppet Treasure Island - for those who enjoy plushy, less gritty pirates. Shiver me Timbers song below:

The Pirates of Penzance (1983) - for those matey's who enjoy a good musical.
The Seahawk (1940) - this pirate has not seen this film, however, Errol Flynn is the star so it must be good.

For those of ye that are of a creative nature and love fiber, here are some examples of pirate knits:

Arrgyle Socks Chart
Felted Eye Patch
Knitted Tricorn Hat Pattern

Knitted Gunner's Cap Pattern

So, enjoy yer day as ye see fit. After all, it is yer life... even if you're Jack Sparrow! Pardon, Capn' Jack Sparrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lessons from She Shoots Sheep Shots

Recently, I was scouring through my Ravelry groups, looking for updates and new projects people have shared. While looking through a knitting and photography group called Project Photography, I stumbled upon a Photography for Knitters Workshop that "surprise" was in Carver, MA! (only about 1.5 hours away). The workshop description said it was "about having more control over your photos, and wanting them to look great online." SWEET!!!

So, I emailed my photo/knit buddy Tara and in the next few days we were excited, signed up and ready to shoot! The workshop was put on by Gale Zucker, aka SheShootsSheep on Ravelry. Gale is a professional photographer and accomplished knitter who rarely gets to combine those two portions of her life. She started off our workshop by showing us some of her fiber and knitting related photography in her book, Shear Spirit (more info below), and some of the techniques we should use to make our fiber projects really show their texture and come to life.

Next we talked about lighting your projects and how to BEND LIGHT TO YOUR WILL!!! Erm.... pardon, I mean.... use lighting to your advantage by reflecting light onto the subject or using a light box. For the third part of the workshop, we took our projects outside and practiced using the techniques Gale demonstrated earlier. I purposely brought to the workshop a very cool silver cowl that I had recently finished for a friend. I had a distinct feeling that this cowl would be a nightmare to photograph since it has three distinct fiber textures throughout. I am very proud of how the cowl came out, so I really wanted to capture it well. Luckily, my friend was a willing victim to my plan to shoot it on someone (thanks Tara :P).

Tara took a great pic of my Jayne Cob hat (on my own head).

Gale demonstrating that you need to get into some pretty interesting poses to get just the right shot....

For the last part of the class we went back inside, ate cookies (we need our energy you know) and focused on how to optimize the photos we took for uploading to blogs, etc. I came out of the workshop with lots of new ideas and the rejuvenation of my desire to use my camera. So, needless to say I had a great time at Gale's workshop and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in sprucing up their fiber photos for their blog or just documenting projects on ravelry.

If you want to see Gale's work check out the following:

Gale Zucker Photography - Gale's day job and professional portfolio.

She Shoots Sheep Shots
- Gale's blog: combining her love of fiber, knitting, and photography (yes, and sheep too).

Edit: Gale posted some pics she took at the workshop, links to some of the other attendees' blogs, and a nice writeup of the day on her blog. You can check out the hijinks at her post Sighted in Carver.

Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, 20 Patterns & Miles of Yarn - a link to Amazon for a book Gale collaborated on with Joan Tapper. This is filled with gorgeous shots Gale took of fiber animals, yarn, and farm life.... it's just beautiful! I highly recommend it and it makes a great coffee table book in addition to the lovely patterns. Gale was very thoughtful and personalized my copy.... complete with a WoW reference!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm Alive! I swear....

I've just had lots going on lately, so there hasn't been much time to post or take any pictures. Buuuuut, I am working on some new projects as you can see in my current projects list on the side of the blog. So, I should have some finished object posts soon for you.

Also, I've got some neat things I'm doing in the next couple of weeks that will be really great subjects for photography. One of them is a Photography for Knitters workshop I'm going to with my friend Tara this weekend. The workshop is being put on by Gale Zucker who is a professional photographer and produces a blog called She Shoots Sheep Shots. I'm very excited about the workshop because I have a hard time taking nice final pictures of my completed projects before I send them off to whomever they are for. So, lots on neat images should come from that especially since she asked us to bring our own finished projects or works in progress to shoot!

Then, next weekend I have Annual Apple Day with a bunch of my friends. This is always a great time to break out the camera and enjoy the fall together. We gather at a local orchard, pick a bunch of apples, then head to one of our places to make pies, make applesauce and make dinner. We basically spend the whole day together and it is one of those traditions that I think is really hard to beat. I'm guessing we've been having Apple Day for at least 5 years now, although it could be more (feel free to chime in guys).

Then on Sunday I'm going to an A*Muse Addicts get together at Ink About It, the stamping store my mom and I frequent for classes and supplies. A*Muse is an awesome company that makes the cutest stamps eva! Check their stuff out at their website. So, a group of about 20 of us are getting together and each bringing a shoebox project with enough supplies for everyone to make the project. So, when I'm all done, I'll have 20 little projects to photograph. Neat huh?

So anyway, more to come and thanks for being patient through my lack of posting.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Season 3: Episode 1 of the Guild comes out - SWEET!

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&from=sp&vid=6f31eb66-4360-439a-ad62-f2bdf28f550e" target="_new" title="Season 3 - Episode 1: Expansion Time">Video: Season 3 - Episode 1: Expansion Time</a>

Ah.... happiness for all. I'm so glad there is another season of The Guild. It makes playing World of Warcraft all the more fun because of all the in game references.