Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Hummus #2

Since moving to California, I've become a bit obsessed with hummus. If given the chance, I will eat nothing but hummus for every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Hummus time!

For Christmas this year my mom got me a food processor so I can make my own hummus. I tried it out for the first time a couple of weeks ago, with some margin of success. It wasn't anything to write home about. This week, however, I made a batch of hummus that was rather tasty. So tasty, in fact, I decided to record the recipe here.

Homemade Hummus #2: Garlic Hummus
This hummus is a basic recipe with a splash of garlic to give it that little bit of yum.

Ingredients:
- 1 can garbonzo beans, drained (drain the water into a measuring cup!)
- 1/2 cup water from garbonzo bean can
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 hearty tbsps Tahini
- 1 heaping tsp crushed garlic (or 2-3 minced cloves)
- 1 generous tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt (then to taste)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together the beans, oil, Tahini, garlic and lemon juice in your shiny new food processor. Add the water as needed to get the right consistency (note: you'll probably only use half the water, that's okay!). Once the beans are mostly pureed, add the rest of the spices and blend well. Add more salt, Tahini or garlic as needed according to taste.

Eat with pita, carrots, chips, or a spoon.

Nom nom nom.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Holy Boardgames, Folks!

So, um, yeah. I'm not sure how many "regular" followers I have on this blog (you lot are awfully quiet in the comments, if you do exist), but maybe you were expecting a post about boardgames today. I say maybe because I've been posting something boardgame related on Tuesdays for a few weeks now (I'm starting to stick to a schedule).

Well, this week that isn't going to happen. Not really. I WAS going to write a post about this awesome farming game (yeah, you read that right), but instead I'm going to tell you about something more awesome.

Gamesareevil.com is giving me a column on their site to write about boardgames. That's right, folks, I'm going to be a columnist. For a real gaming website.

Games are evil is a gaming review/news website that covers, up until recently, only video games. When they posted an advert for more columnists to join their team, I pitched a tabletop games focused column.  Imagine my surprise and excitement when Pete, the site's editor, accepted.

Things are still in the processing stage and I'm not sure exactly when my column will go live, but never fear, I'll be sure to post links about it here. In the mean time, have an awesome week and checkout this awesome teaser photo!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Survive Working Alone in Tahoe for a Week

My friends and I rented a cabin in Tahoe for the winter and I had the bright idea to work from there, alone, for a week. What do you do when you're alone in a cabin for a week with 4 feet of snow burying you in? 

Well! Here are some ideas.

Wake up early and take gorgeous pictures of the lake.


Make coffee.


Go get first tracks at your favorite mountain.


Try to work some. Explain to your dog why you have to work some.



Make a fire.


Take your dog for a walk.


Have your dog guilt trip you.


Try to work. Play tower defense game instead.


Realize you're not working anyway, take dog to boutique dog store. Buy her a new harness.



Make more coffee. Try to work some more. Give up. Play more tower defense.


Realize you need more firewood. Dig out woodpile.


Discover your dog loves to try and catch snow you throw with the shovel. Try to make a crappy cellphone video. Post it to the internet.



Make a blog post about what you did this week. Yeah, there's no picture for that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Boardgame Review: Seasons

Sometimes I buy a game because it just looks pretty. Seasons was one such purchase.



In Seasons you play as a powerful wizard, engaged in a 3 year battle against your fellow sorcerers.  You use the resources available to you in nature to craft items and summon familiars to earn the most crystals and win the game. Your power is dependent on what is readily available during each season of the year, determined by a simple die roll.



Each season has it's set of dice that you roll to determine what resources are available for that round. The person that starts the round rolls n + 1 dice, where n is the number of players. That player then selects which dice they want, passing the other dice for the next player to choose from. The dice that isn't picked at the end of the round determines how many months the counter moves forward.


The die you choose tells you what you gain that turn. A player can gain elemental power tokens, cards, summoning power, or the ability to transmute their elemental tokens into crystals. 


The thing that really drew me to this game is the art. It's gorgeous, colorful, cute and fun. There are several cards that I just wish I could order large prints of. Seriously, this game is pretty!


The thing that keeps me wanting to play this game, though, is that it's more than just nice to look at (ha!). It's fun to play, too. The items are interesting and the possible combinations limitless. There's also a very interesting mechanic: You decide what your hands are going to be before the game even starts.


In the beginner version of the game, each player is given a pre-made deck to build their 3 hands from. In the full version, the players draft their decks and then build their hands. 

Before the first turn is played, you've got to figure out what your strategy is going to be on each year and hope that you put the right cards in the right place. Once the game starts, you can't look at your future hands again, not until you go to draw them.


I can't recommend this game enough for the gamer's collection. It's beautiful and well executed, with lots of possibilities for expansions built in. Might not be the best thing to throw at your beginners, but any hardcore boardgamer will definitely be coming back for more Seasons.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dearest Natalie

As I write this, you are only 19 months old. You are a calm, intelligent, kind little girl (well, at least you were when I last saw you). I don't know what age you'll be when you read this, but I hope that you'll humor your aunt for a bit. Your aunt, who is 25 and missing your hugs.

How old am I as you read this? Am I still someone who you could imagine writing the things like I've written in this blog? Have I given you a summer in San Francisco, like I've always threatened your father with? If I haven't, you're due for one.

For Christmas this year your parents got you a massive play kitchen. I'm not sure if you'll remember it, but I'm sure your mother has lots of pictures to remind you. It has a little burner that when you place pots or pans on it, makes a sizzling and bubbling noise. You were extremely cautious of that little toy burner. When it first sizzled, your eyes grew to the size of saucers and you said "hot" as you withdrew from your kitchen. Your mother showed you that it was okay, but still you were wary of that little burner for all of Christmas day. I'm sure by now you are no longer afraid of that little toy burner, having been assured of it's safe nature, but I will not forget how cautious you were those first few days.

Now, as you read this, I hope that you are brave in facing your fears. I hope that you have not grown to be crash and reckless with them, but that you respect and try to understand them. That you learn that being afraid is not the same as being weak, and that those two words cannot be interchanged lightly. You can still be afraid and be brave at the same time. It is because being brave means understanding that there is something to be afraid of, and still facing it anyway.

This isn't to say that you weren't brave when you were young. This isn't to say that you haven't been brave in your past, my future. This is to say that I hope you continue to be brave, regardless and because of everything that you have grown to become.

Love,
Aunt Ni

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Boardgame Review: Ticket to Ride


When I first got into gaming, I brought every game I thought my family would enjoy out to Colorado. I became an expert at packing various sized games inside my carry-ons. I've made them play Fluxx, Settlers of Catan, King of Tokyo, Carcassonne, and a slew of small box games that they merely tolerated.

When my mom was recovering from her knee surgery and trapped on the couch, I made her play Ticket to Ride with me. After three games she had me downloading a digital copy of the game onto her iPad. On my next trip out we introduced it to my brother and sister-in-law and they both loved it.

Ticket to Ride is an instant hit with almost every person I introduce it to. It takes 5 minutes to teach and one turn to completely understand. It's not uncommon for beginners to win their first or second games. I know my sister-in-law took to it like water. I have to keep buying expansions just to try and beat her.

The game is colorful and the pieces are cute. The little plastic trains have wheels and embellishments molded into them that make the game feel real. As soon as the pieces are passed out people immediately start lining up their trains. It's not part of the game, people just want to do it. When just playing with the pieces is fun, you know it's going to be a good game.

The Rules

In Ticket to Ride the goal is to collect the most points before the game ends. You collect points by laying tracks and completing tickets. When you lay tracks during the game you earn points immediately. At the end of the game, you earn points for all the tickets you've completed from your hand. Any uncompleted tickets  in your hand are worth negative points. The value of a ticket depends on which cities it routes to. You complete tickets by laying track that connects the two cities mentioned, by whichever route you desire.

The final round of the game starts when one player has 2 of fewer trains left in their supply pile to play with. After that round the game is over and the player that has the most points due to either laying track or completing tickets is the winner.

Every turn you have the option to do one of three things:

Laying Track
To lay track, you have to play the number of correctly colored train cards that match the piece of track you're trying to complete. You have to play the right amount of cards all at once, all of the right color.  If the section of track you're aiming for is grey in color, you can use any color train cards you want, as long as you have the exact amount in all one color. Rainbow Locomotive cards can be used as Wild Cards, if needed, for however many cards you need to complete a section of track.

Draw Train Cards
When you draw cards you get to draw up to two from either the deck or the five face-up cards beside the deck. You can draw both from face-up cards, both from the deck, or one from each the face-up cards and the deck. The only exception to this rule is if you draw a Rainbow Locomotive from the face-up cards. If you draw a Rainbow Locomotive from the face-up cards, it is the only card you can take that turn. If you draw one from the deck, that is fine and you may still take a second card.

Draw Tickets
At any point in the game you can decide to draw more tickets. You might want to do this if you complete your starting tickets early. To draw more tickets, you take the top three cards from the ticket deck and pick at least one to keep. You may keep all three if you want, but you have to keep at least one. Drawing more tickets can be a gamble that can either hurt or help a lot.

That's it, that's how you play Ticket to Ride. Simple, right? Yeah, until you're racing your mom to Seattle through the midwest and your brother decides to build the last section of track through Denver, completely blocking you, just to mess with you.

Brothers are stupid.

If you'd like to see this game in action, or just watch Wil Wheton's wife "rage quit" at the end, check out this video from TableTop.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Knit, Ski, Knit, Ski, Snit Kki?

For Christmas this year my adorable niece gave me a sinus infection. Me, being the crafty aunt I am, turned it into an ear infection. Oh joy. Needless to say I was pretty miserable for a couple of weeks there.

I had big knitting hopes for the start of the year that just didn't happen. I wanted to finish one last gift and start making myself something awesome. Instead I ended up casting on that "one last gift" last week while I tried to ignore that I was sick.


How do you ignore being sick, you ask? That's simple.. go to Tahoe!


Northstar: January 1st, 2013 9AM.

I wanted to ring in the New Year bright and early doing something I love.


It was a gorgeous day. 

I worked the rest of the week from Tahoe and got in one last day before driving back south. The snow conditions weren't the best ever, but that's okay. It was a fun day and a great trip.

Here's to a New Year of doing awesome things with awesome people.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Recipe: Sausage Biscuits

I might be sharing too many family secrets with this blog. First our chili and now our Sausage Biscuits. It's alright though. I'll just use the excuse it's so I have it written down someplace easy for me to reference later. Yeah, that's it.

These biscuits are a Christmas tradition in my family. Every Christmas Eve my mom and I prep these biscuits. Every Christmas morning they're baked and served before presents are opened. They're delicious all day and a constant snack, even after dinner, if any survive that long.

This recipe is simple. It's so simple I'm not sure I can call it a recipe. When I mentioned it to a friend it was decided I should make them that night to be baked for breakfast in the morning. A quick trip in 7°F weather to retrieve the required supplies and 20 minutes of prep later, they were rolled and waiting for the morning.

First steps first, ingredients.
  • 2 1/4 cup Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 roll of sausage (normal, sage, maple, turkey, it's up to you)
Next, mix your Bisquick and milk to form a good biscuit dough. You may need to add either more milk or Bisquick to get the consistency needed. The dough should be elastic and not sticky to handled. Roll it out on some wax paper.

You want it to be more long than wide. About 1/8th to 1/4th thick.

Next, open your sausage and spread it evenly on the dough. Use your fingers for this, trust me. There's really no other option.

Then, cut the sheet in half. Doesn't need to be exact, as long as the two sides have about as much to them. Then, roll each half up, towards the cut edge.

When both halves are rolled they should be able the same weight/size. If not, don't worry about it.

Wrap the two rolls in wax paper and chill overnight. Or just for an hour or so. You just want the dough to harden a bit so it's easier to slice.

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Slice your rolls into 1/3 inch biscuits and lay them on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the biscuits start to turn golden in color.

Remove from cookie sheet, let cool.

Enjoy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pattern Mod: Waving Noro Scarf

This year for Christmas I decided I wanted to make another Noro Scarf for my wonderful Sister-in-Law, but wanted something a little more interesting than just a straight scarf. LeethalKnits Waving Chevron Scarf seemed to fit the bill. However, after looking at the projects on Ravelry I decided that self-striping wouldn't work as well in garter stitch.

Enter my mods for the Waving Noro Scarf. I combined the basic k1, p1 pattern of the Noro Scarf with the eye catching wave of the Waving Chevron Scarf to create a fully reversible, wavy, chevron-looking Noro scarf.

Yarn: Cascade Casablanca
Gauge: Didn't bother
Needle: US 6 (4mm)

Okay, so I didn't use Noro to make this scarf. I'm glad I didn't, actually, as Cascade's Casablanca is so much better. The colors are just as vibrant and there's no twigs or knots in the skein. Also, one skein has more than twice the yardage of a Noro Garden Silk ball! That's a bargin.

To make this scarf I alternated two colorways of Cascade Casablanca every other row while basically following Lee's Meredith's pattern for her Waving Chevron Scarf   The only big mods I did was that I followed a pattern of k1, p1 for each row as well, making sure to substitute purl front backs (pfb) as needed for knit front back increases to maintain the k1, p1 pattern.

I made sure to maintain the k1, p1 as best I could at all times. Because every other row changes whether a knit or purl stitch is the first stitch, I had to be mindful of what increases I did every time.


I cast on 34 stitches and knit a starter row of just straight k1, p1 across. Then I worked the pattern row that added the wave. When the wave moved to the right, the row with the sk2p in it was always the 2nd row of a color. When the wave moved to the left, the first row of a color had the sk2p in it.

I worked 5 wave sections, so that when the scarf is folded in half the edges line up. It's a pretty good length, allowing for multiple ways to wear it.

Everyone loves this scarf, including me. I used just over half of each of the two skeins, so a second one is likely to follow with maybe 30 stitches instead of 34.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Knitting Pattern: Little Giraffe Hat

What noise does a Giraffe make?


"RAWR!"

It's been almost a year since I made Bug Bug her first Giraffe Hat and she's most assuredly out grown it. Our spunky little Giraffe needed a new hat, one that could grow with her for a few years. I typically find knit hats to be a bit more stretchy, so I decided to knit her a new Giraffe hat, one to match her Christmas present.


Techniques You'll Need:
- Magic Loop (or DPNs)
- Knit & Purl
- Knit 2 together (k2tog)
- Slip, slip, knit (ssk)

Extra Things You'll Need:
- Darning Needle

As always, I present this pattern to you for free with the understanding that it's mine. Mine, I tell you! Do not copy or sell this pattern, or the hats you make with it, without my permission. This pattern is for  personal and charity use only. Kthx.

Little Giraffe Hat

This hat is knit from the bottom up, starting with a simple k1, p1 rib for the brim and stockinette for the body. It's a basic hat pattern for a toddler, with the added cuteness of some ears, horns and spots. It's very stretchy and will easily fit toddlers to young children.

For the Crochet version of this hat, see my Baby Giraffe Hat pattern.

Yarn
:  Cascade 220 Superwash Daffodil (main color) & Orange (secondary color)
Gauge: 16 rows x 20 stitches for a 4" square (in Cascade 220)
Needle: US 6 (4.00m)

Body:
The hat itself is made up of two parts, the brim and the body. The brim is a stretchy rib knit with the secondary color and the body is just plain knitting with the main color.

Brim:
Cast on 72 stitches with Orange. (Or more, or less, so long as it's a multiple of 8.)

Join for knitting in the round, being mindful not to twist your stitches. Place marker where your rounds end.

Work k1, p1 around for each round until you have a brim that measures 1 inch.

Body:
The mindless part! Knit like the wind!!

Switch to Daffodil. Knit in the round until the hat measures 5.5" from the cast on edge. Adjust this measurement as needed if making a larger or smaller hat.

Crown Decreases: 
Note: After a round of two of decreases, you might have to switch to DPNs or Magic Loop technique.

*K6, k2tog, repeat from * around
K around
*K5, k2tog, repeat from * around
K around
*K4, k2tog, repeat from * around
K around
*K3, k2tog, repeat from * around
K around
*K2, k2tog, repeat from * around
K around
*k2tog, repeat from * around

Cut your yarn leaving a 8" tail and pull it though all your remaining stitches. Remove them from the needles and tighten the tail so that the hole closes. Weave in your tail and trim the extra.

Horns (Make 2):
The rounds are worked in the round on DPNS or using the Magic Loop technique.

Cast on 8 stitches with 3 on two DPNs and 2 on one DPN.

Knit around for 13 rounds.

k2tog around so you have four stitches. Cut your yarn leaving a 4" tail and pull through the remaining stitches. Close the hole, weave in your ends and trim your excess yarn.

Make a 1.5" Pom Pom and attach to the end of the horn. Lightly stuff the horn so it'll stand up and attach to the top of the hat using main color yarn. You might want to wait until you have completed both horns before attaching, so you can pin them into position and make sure they're evenly spaced. Use the pictures throughout this pattern to help you position.

Ears (Make 2):
The ears are worked flat and have a lining knit with the secondary color for a pop of color. They could be easily modified to be more or less floppy by adding or removing stitches and stockinette rows.

Outer Ear:
Cast on 10.
R1:  Purl all.
R2:  Knit all.
R3:  Purl all.
R4:  Knit all.
R5:  Purl all.
R6:  Knit all.
R7:  Purl all.
R8:  Kfb, k8, kfb.
R9:  Purl all.
R10: Kfb, K10, kfb.
R11: Purl all.
R12: Knit all.
R13: Purl all.
R14: Knit all.
R15: Purl all.
R16: k1, ssk, k8, k2tog, k1 (12 stitches)
R17: Purl all.
R18: k1, ssk, k6, k2tog, k1 (10 stitches)
R19: p1, p2tog, p4, p2tog, p1 (8 stitches)
R20: k1, ssk, k2, k2tog, k1 (6 stitches)
R21: p1, p2tog twice, p1 (4 stitches)
R22: ssk, k2tog (2 stitches)
R23: p2tog

Cut yarn leaving a 10" tail and bind off. You'll use the tail to sew the liner to this outside piece.

Ear Lining:
Cast on 8 with secondary color.
R1:  Purl all.
R2:  Knit all.
R3:  Purl all.
R4:  Knit all.
R5:  Purl all.
R6:  Kfb, k6, kfb (10 stitches)
R7:  Purl all.
R8: Kfb, K8, kfb (12 stitches)
R9: Purl all.
R10: Knit all.
R11: Purl all.
R12: Knit all.
R13: Purl all.
R14: k1, ssk, k6, k2tog, k1 (10 stitches)
R15: Purl all.
R16: k1, ssk, k4, k2tog, k1 (8 stitches)
R17: p1, p2tog, p2, p2tog, p1 (6 stitches)
R18: k1, ssk, k2tog, k1 (4 stitches)
R19: p1, p2tog, p1 (2 stitches)
R20: k2tog

Cut yarn leaving a 3" tail and bind off. Weave in the end to the back of the lining and cut it short so it'll be hidden when you sew the ear together.

Position a lining and outer ear piece so their backs (purl sides) are together. Using the tail from the outer ear, whip stitch along the edges around the ear. When you get to the bottom of the ear, pinch the sides together and sew it so it's folded, then continue up the other edge. Once you're sure the lining is securely attached, weave in your ends and trim.

Attach the ear to the hat using main color yarn. I'd wait until you have both ears completed before attaching them, so you can pin them into position first and make sure they're evenly spaced. Use the pictures throughout this pattern to help you position.

Spots (Make 6-7):
The spots are, as always, optional. I got a lot of pictures of Bug wearing her hat without spots and then later decided the hat needed them. I originally made only 6 spots but when I was attaching them, I decided I needed one more. Feel free to make more or less of the spots and attach them as desired around the hat.

Cast on 3.
R1:  k1, m1 left, k1, m1 right, k1 (5 stitches)
R2:  Purl all.
R3:  k1, m1 left, k3, m1 right, k1 (7 stitches)
R4:  Purl all.
R5:  k1, m1 left, k5, m1 right, k1 (9 stitches)
R6:  Purl all.
R7:  Knit all.
R8:  Purl all.
R9:  ssk, k5, k2tog (7 stitches)
R10: p2tog, p3, p2tog (5 stitches)
R11: ssk, k1, k2tog (3 stitches)

Bind off purlwise. Cut a 8" tail and use that to whipstitch the spot to the hat.

Place your Giraffe hat on your little Giraffe and enjoy the show!


Where's the Giraffe?


Say Hi to the Giraffe!


"Hi!"