We followed up with Matt's pick of Settlers. This is a game that you can pick up on what's going on your first game, since there are so many rounds and the cards and actions fall into just a few categories, and you'll pick up what's going on as you go. It's not a text-heavy game, and is a classic for a reason. Laura and I competed for the longest road, while Matt charged forward, making good use of the robber early to steal resources, but karma caught him in the mid-game when the best place for the robber was always Matt's hexes. It was a squeaker, but Matt was victorious in the end, although feeling a little guilty about his Machavellian methods.
While the guys were out with the car in the cold, Mom and I put the Christmas tree up in the livingroom and started on a classic dinner of country fried steak and mashed potatoes. The key with making the crust stick to the steak is to squish all of the air out from between the chopped steak and crust. With a little pan gravy we have one of my most favorite meals!
Today Mom and I made treats of almond bark with pretzles, chocolate with pretzles (the almond bark-chocolate mix was the best), pecan clusters and peanut clusters. The clusters were a new experience and turned out very well. Afterwards we got the oil changed in the little Toyota- unfortunately we went to the Car Care Clinic- which we will never go to again due to incompetent service- but then we hopped over to Mieneke on the West side to replace the muffler and pipe- they were very professional and busy- and we will happily go there for all of our car issues from now on.
This evening we had an early birthday from Mom with pizza, spaghetti with Mushroom and Parmesean Prego, and Lemon Merengue pie, with French Silk Custard (from Michael's frozen custard). All stuffed we watched a wonderful French foreign film with subtitles called Bon Voyage, set in WWII. While I normally dislike subtitled films because reading tends to pull me away from the plot and the visuals, this is a must see film!
Saturday, we woke up to a covering of snow- the first we have seen since Wisconsin has been quite snow free so far. After oodles of small muffins from the hotels continental breakfast we headed out to the Red Wing pottery show room. There we saw many varieties of pottery from Red Wing and other potters. After eating brunch at an old fashioned family restaurant next door we went to the Pottery Place to visit the red wing museum and antiuqe stores. It was very impressive to see some of the larger crocks (a person could fit inside)- in our fast society today, it is hard to imagine why those crocks would be useful- but they are all worth a pretty penny. A little further down the road and we came to the Red Wing factory where we got to watch a potter throw beatiful large bowls in a matter of minutes. The lady in the shop was very sweet and answered all of our questions.
On the way home, Laura drove back a more direct route through western Wisconsin. After a nice sit down dinner at the Country Kitchen we ended up home a few hours later where we all slept well.
Next I worked on the cherry pie with a lattice top- a fiesty by fun experience. There was also a pumpkin pie and fresh cranberries cooling in the fridge. We also made my favorite deviled eggs and some punch for the festive occasion. Mom put a twist on her usual yams and mashed them with toasted marshmallows for a combination even I ate happily! My favorite- baked beans made Mom's way were added tool. Instead of mashed potatoes we diced and boiled Idaho and Yukon gold spuds for a colorful combination and added butter and sour cream when they were done- it was really yummy! With some more veggies- green beans, lima beans, and a wonderful brocolli casserolle from Matt and we were all set to eat- need to ask him to add that to the ORC too. It was our first meal on our fancy china that has been in Mark's family for generations, so it took a little bit of looking at the etiquette book to decide how all the place-settings should go. Dad added some french and rye bread to the table and Mark pulled out a nice red wine to top off the meal and we all ate to our hearts content.
Afterwards, while the parents were sleeping :) the kids (Mark, Matt and I) played a game of Citadels, one of Matt's favorites - I don't know what it was about that game- but I won which rather surprised me- must have been the spirit of Thanksgiving! What a wonderful day spent with family and friends!
Yesterday night was also game night. Mom, Mark and I started with a nice game of Yahtzee- one of my Mom's favorite games. Matt and Kathleen joined us for Queen's Necklace and Torres. While Mark and I played Torres once before with just the two of us- it was definitely more complicated with four players. Our "quick" last game for the night ended up taking almost two hours and we were all mentally fatigued by the end.
Dad arrived today, so we spent the morning decorating the apartment with streamers and creating a festive vanilla birthday cake with apricot and strawberry filling topped with a nice whipped frosting. For dinner we all enjoyed baked potatoes, steak, and lots of varieties of mushrooms (purchased in a Whole Foods extravaganza they included chanterelles, shitake, and crimini). To go with the cake we had some homemade strawberry ice cream. With very full stomachs we all sat down to watch The Terminal.
That night, while the soap started its three month curing process, we cracked out the ingredients to make potstickers. For a similar recipe to what we made, you can look at Yee's dumpling recipe. The only major changes to the listed recipe were the use of 1 pound ground shrimp and pork and leeks instead of chives. Yee also had a great solution for cooking the dumplings well. Just steam them until the wonton wrapper getts nice and moist, then pan fry them in a bit of sesame oil. It worked amazingly well!
Mom and I then updated my plant stands to make it a bit more fire safe (no ropes holding up the lights) and plant friendly. To fix the lights we drilled two appropriately spaced holes into the bottom of each shelf and added appropriate screws to match the holes in the florescent light fixtures. We also added a new shelf to one of the more flexible wooden bookcases using culled lumber from Home Depot. Fortunately it only took two rips from the Home Depot employee to get the shelf to the appropriate size. Wrapping the shelf with imitation walnut shelving paper made the shelf fit in perfectly with the others. As a last tweak we covered up some of the lights with the contact paper to make a nice glow by the TV. Can't wait to see how the plants react!
Next we headed over to Target where Mom got to see hundreds of mallards in the run-off pond. We found an 18 quart roaster in Bed Bath and Beyond to cook the Thanksgiving turkey in on sale- and then I had a 20% off coupon! Tuckered out after the morning jaunt, we headed into town to have Big Mikeís with Mark. After Mom checked her e-mail in the CS lab and I went to a meeting we headed to do a little early thanksgiving shopping and picked Mark up for dinner at Noodles. Mom got the best pad thai dish- I have to remember to order it next time.
Today we did some more shopping for thanksgiving and early Christmas shopping. We hit the local card shop, the discount bookstore above the UW books store, Yue-Wah for potsticker ingredients and edamame (and some of the delicious coconut gel I had at Kuangís open house), Penzeys for pie and poultry spices and Leeís Oriental for some delicious candies I canít pronounce. Needless to say we were ready to watch OC and relax when we got home!
After all of our tummies were sufficiently full, we headed home to watch the new episode of LOST. Produced by the creators of Alias (our all time favorite show), LOST is a suspenseful mystery/thriller about the survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island with scary secrets. We canít wait for the next episode!
After a quick tour, we pulled out a classic from Kathleen's collection, Rack-O. Your have 10 cards, and you want to get all your cards in order, but the only way to change the order is to replace them with cards from the deck. Very simple mechanics, too simple for us these days, but I can see how it worked well as a kids and family game. There are some 10 Days in ... games based on the Rack-O system that also teach geography, which I'll have to remember to pick up when we have kids someday.
Matt showed up just as we finished, so we moved on to the party game 25 Words or Less. It combines Name that Tune and Password, where you bid against the other team as to how many words you need to have your teammates guess all six keywords on the card. This game was inordinately hard, but we got better as it went along, eventually all merging into one team near the end when it was obvious Laura and I were not going to pull things off. The most fun was the bidding, not knowing whether to give in or try to push the other team lower. I think this game would work well with many more people instead of the five we had.
Our big game of the night was Trias, the Triassic dinosaur game. It's always fun to see the board divide into continents, and the competition for majorities on these continents can get fierce. Dinos were dunked in the water and rescued until the meteor hit, making for a great final game.
Burr and Natalie then joined us, bringing over the next game, Mad Gab. It's a game of mispronunciation, where you're given cards with phrases like "ASK RUDE ARRIVE HER" and you need to say it outloud to discover the real phrase (a screwdriver). This game had us laughing at almost every clue, while the "game" element left some things to be desired, it's more of an activity than a game. Next, as none of us wanted to play a large group game of Trivial Pursuit or Cranium, we split into two groups, one played Lord of the Fries, a game with zombies running a crazy restaurant where you try to fulfill orders for food with your cards, while the others played the classic Carcassonne, which went fairly quickly with four experienced players. Every week seems to be a varied mix of game types, sometimes party games, sometime deep thinkers, but I really enjoy them all and we are glad to have such indulgent friends willing to learn new games each week.
Sunday I had Ina, Irene and Lorene over to make soap and candles. We made soap the quick way using melt and pour glycerin soap. Just a quick nuke in the microwave and the soap is ready for any additives. This time I tried adding some rosemary powder and leaves to get a very beautiful looking horse soap. Ina really got the pattern down and made some beautiful combination soaps- I remember one where a dark blue starfish rested inside of a light oval. She also used some blueberry tea to make a lovely blue hewed soap. Lorene brought some beautiful gel candle shapes of flowers and polygons making a lovely votive with blue flowers inside clear gel and the wonderful mold which I used to make my horse soap. Irene brought some great books on salt dough- it is amazing what one can make with flour, salt and water. She made a cute orange and a snowman.
While I was being crafty with my friends, Mark played some games at Pegasus: the Egyptian bidding game Amun Re, a Zoo management game called ZooSim and a quick, cute Flea Circus game. Since I donít like Zoos, we thought I probably wouldnít like ZooSim unless I treated it like an animal reserve game, which is very easy to do since the tiles don't have cages on them. Overall, they were games we probably wonít get but Mark had a great time!