Children’s Books

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David and I are book people.  We read books, collect books, hoard books… and we have for pretty much all our lives.  Books play a big part of our baby registry (and no, that’s not just an excuse).  I’ll admit, it’s a lot of fun going through the Amazon Recommends and reminiscing about reading those books when I was little.

So I thought to myself, “Self?  The people who read your blog like books, several of them like children’s books specifically.  Why don’t you ping them to see if they can add suggestions?”

I have awesome ideas.  So, I beg you:  What books do you recommend for reading to/learning to read with small children?  What books do you remember loving?  What makes them awesome?

(Gonna put our current list behind a fold…)

Read the rest of this entry

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So, yeah… Now with added tangents…

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So the elephant in the room is out of the proverbial bag (and yes, I can mix metaphors with the best of ’em) and I’m left totally out of habit with the keeping up of this thing.

It’s not that nothing has been happening (it has, oh lordy it has), it’s just that the things happening were either 1) related to the BIG THING I couldn’t talk about or 2) completely overshadowed by the BIG THING I couldn’t talk about.  (Speaking of, tangentally, I remember reading a book way-back-when about someone who lost the ability to speak because the words got stuck behind some BIG IMPORTANT WORDS in their throat, and the magic healer kinda waved her wand and said “nothing wrong, they’re just blocked” but the main character couldn’t remember what the BIG IMPORTANT WORDS were to say them and be able to talk again.  I also remember liking the book, but I have no idea what it is or when I read it now..  Familiar to anyone?  It’s how I’ve felt for the past few months…)

But with the coming of Christmas, I could talk about it, but didn’t because Christmas Eve through New Years Day is super busy for us and I barely sat down and READ anything most days.

But yeah, as we announced on twitter (easy to do with smartphones from David’s Parent’s House (the one place we spent time where we WEREN’T actually busy during that weekish) we’re having a baby.  Yes, yes, you can now insert all your “OH GOD JOV’S BREEDING” jokes here.

Cause I am.

And you’re not supposed to say anything for the first 3 months, cause that’s when things are most iffy and likely to go toe-up, and then you’re stuck not only super depressed because you lost the baby, but super depressed because you lost the baby and having to explain it to everyone you told who’s excited that you’re having a baby.

So I can totally understand.

But we’re out of the worst of the danger zone.  I mean there’s risk up until the end, but I’m out of the biggest risk time.

Going to the doctor makes me feel I’m having a lolcat instead of a baby, however.  Camera shy.  Good at hiding from the ultrasound.

Dr:  Now, let’s see if we can get the heartbeat…

Baby:  YOU NO CAN HAS HARTBEET.  HAS MY FEET INSTEAD.

Dr: *moving the thingie*  Let’s try from another angle…

Baby:  HAHA I CAN MOVES TOO!  I HAS FEET!  YOU CAN HAS FEET!

(Just in case David’s wondering why I’m giggling like a loon through the ultrasound to where the dr wants to smack me, that’s what’s going on in my head.)

But yeah, 2011 is going to be a stupid busy year.

Late March :  Moving.  Ugh, moving.  Moving at 5-6 mos pregnant = double-ugh.

Mid-July : Baby.  My Dr says first pregnancies always run long, so she’s not actually expecting it to be born until August, but I’m due two days before my birthday, 3 before David’s.  Murphy’s Law dictates I’m not gonna run long if I can hit one of our birthdays instead…

 

And hilight (or lowlight, depending on your perspective) of the trip to visit the inlaws for Christmas…  We’d told David’s parents, but neither of his two sisters.  David’s the eldest, Julie the middle, and Sarah the baby.  Julie is at Harvard finishing her PHD in South Asian Studies, and Sarah just started her 2nd year of med school, going into pediatrics.  We were at a *very* nice restaurant for Christmas Eve Dinner, which was where David decided to break the news to them.  So he holds up his wine glass, and says something along the lines of “And I’d like to congratulate Julie and Sarah..  you’re going to be Aunts.”

And there’s silence for a few seconds as it processes, Julie gets a “huh, that’s nice” expression on her face (she’s super reserved) and Sarah starts screaming, bouncing in her chair and clapping, then *LAUNCHES HERSELF OVER THE TABLE AT US,* knocking shit over on the way.  (Sarah is the opposite of reserved.)  (She’s also going into Pediatrics.)  (She’s also volunteered for free babysitting.)  (I’m totally gonna take her up on that, btw.)

It was great that she was so excited (though she yelled at her parents for keeping it a secret since before Thanksgiving) but like I told David after dinner… had I known she would be *that* excited (and destructive with it) I would have probably voted to tell her before dinner.  >.>

Earthdawn is Awesome

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So here is my complete and un-biased review of one of the lesser-known tabletop RP systems: Earthdawn.  I say it’s complete, though it only references the original FASA 1st ed and the LRG 2nd ed.  I know 3rd ed and the “redbox” also exist, but I’m a cheap gamer and suffer (willingly) from “this game works just fine the way it is, I don’t need a new version” syndrome.  Also, I say it’s unbiased because it’s me and my biases don’t count, do they?  Besides, they should be obvious from the title.

So, to reiterate for the masses….  I’m a tabletop gamer.  D&D, Vampire, you’ll-pry-my-dice-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands type.  I’m not the most knowledgeable gamer out there…  my “have played” pile is much shorter than my haven’t.  But the big ones, and a couple of the more minor ones, I’ve poked my way through well enough to figure out a character sheet.  All that being said, Earthdawn really is one of the best.

First off, it’s a Fantasy game.  If Scifi/Cyberpunk/wargames are your thing, you’re going to disagree with me.  That’s fine.  I’m just more unbiased than you.

Okay, as for how it’s awesome:

  1. Customization
  2. Party Balance
  3. XP Explained!
  4. You Don’t Suck
  5. Bucket of (Exploding) Dice

Okay, customization.  How is it NOT customizable?  First off, it uses a hybrid level/non-level system.  Which doesn’t make sense saying it like that, so lemme explain.  There are levels in Earthdawn.  They’re called circles, are tied to your class, and each circle gives you new class abilities to play with.  That being said, you don’t need to go up in circle EVER.  You get the option to go up in circle when you’ve accumulated enough XP to progress your class abilities to a certain set point.  You get the option.  So you can be the fighter who is 5th circle with a few points in a half-dozen different abilites to throw into a combat situation….  or you could be the fighter with the same XP total, 1st circle, and just a massive amount of melee weapon skill.  You’re just as effective, you’re just DIFFERENTLY effective.  1st circle Fighter is better at swords, maces, axes, etc. than 5th circle fighter, 5th circle just has more tricks (like “I go first” or “I take less damage”)

Secondly, you’ve a lot of freedom with the type of game you play with Earthdawn.  Sky Pirates?  Easy.  Survival Horror?  Built in.  Buckling swashes?  Done.  Good guys?  Of course.  Bad guys?  Simple.  Pick your class, pick your setting, pick your focus, you’ve got a game.

Related, party balance is a non-issue.  No, no, hear me out.  Everyone’s familiar with the holy trinity in gaming.  It applies to RPGs of both the tabletop and console/computer variety.  You’ve got the one who tanks it with face, the healer, and the one who does damage but is kinda squishy.  Earthdawn doesn’t have that.  There is no healing, or more specifically, everyone heals themselves.  If everyone in the party wants to play a fighter, or a spellcaster, or an archer…  you’re not screwed!

Most interestingly, is the legend system.  Most games don’t ever actually explain why killing a few dozen rats at lv 1 makes you better at…  picking locks.  You kill shit, get your XP, and level.  With Earthdawn, XP, Magic, and your character are all tied to one thing: word of mouth, aka Legend.  You’re not just some schmuck who killed some rats, you’re So-and-so The Rat Killer  The more you do, the more you’re talked about, the wider your fame grows.  The more you’re talked about, the more the fabric of the world takes notice, and the more important you get.  The more important you get to reality (the higher your XP total), the more powerful you become.  Want to level more quickly?  Get a Troubador into the party, or spend some of your loots on a freelancer to make certain a good tale is told.

Not that you’d expect to kill rats in Earthdawn…  Starting characters in Earthdawn are special, because they’re someone already a bit more closely tied to Legend…  a prodigy if you will.  You don’t face the D&D lv 1 wizard conundrum…  You know, “Why am I adventuring when I can cast 1 spell a day, and if an acorn falls on my head, it’ll kill me?”  You’re adventuring because you’re GOOD at something.  You’re the kid who can hit the target as often as people who’ve been using a bow for as long as you’ve been alive.  You’re quicker with a sword than people with double your experience.  You can do magic.  You’re a hero, and you’re off to save the world (or bend it to your will…)

Finally, dice.  Gamers love their dice, and Earthdawn uses all of them.  And they’re smart about it too, because every gamer loves the feeling of rolling more dice than they can comfortably  hold in their hand…  and rolling max means explosions…  Each gets to roll again.  D4s have a 25% chance to explode, which is why those little caltrops are known as the gift that keeps on giving.  You roll, count, reroll any die that’s on it’s max number, reroll again and again and again…  It appeals to the big numbers junkie we all have inside us.

 

If none of that is enough to tempt you, I can quickly mention that Earthdawn, being originally a FASA game, is a prehistory of Shadow Run, one of the big boys in the market.  Not that it really matters; very little was done to tie the two together, but you’ll find most of the races/racial bonuses familiar.  Earthdawn just has a few extra.  Also, armor makes sense… it reduces the amount of damage you take from being hit, it doesn’t make you harder to hit.  I dunno about you, bit it’s pretty easy to hit that guy wearing full plate, he moves slow!  But it’s hard to actually make him feel it.  Screw you, D&D.

Repetitiveness

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I don’t have much I feel I can say at this point other than “I’m alive” (again– still?)  Stuff is happening, some expected, some un-.  Nothing bad, just not really anything I feel like I can discuss right now.

I’m alive, I’m well, I’m reading, and I promise I’ll not be so secretive forever.  It’s really not my intention.

Just most of what I can talk about is more repetitive (househousehouse) or mean-spirited (can’t wait to be rid of the roommie) or boring (I had a broccoli and cheese baked potato for lunchy).

My life is an exciting place, just the way I like it.

Lissandra Millay D’Orien

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This is NOT good writing.  It’s kinda stream-of consiousnessy and bulletpointy in parts.  It also assumes a working knowledge of D&D’s Eberron campaign setting.  If you don’t have any of the above, feel free to skip (but check out David’s write-up, for his characters’ list of titles if nothing else— He cracks me up.)

Lissandra Millay D’Orien
Emeric Millay — Father = Member of House — Dragonmarked
Gisella Renard — Mother = Magesmith — not dragonmarked

Raised by Grandparents, member of the Patriarch’s Council — Transportation Guild
Bayard Millay– Grandfather — Dragonmark Heir.  Authoritarian type
Amelinna Millay — Grandmother.  current primary mother figure.

Trained by Wizard– Unmarked member of House.  Roland Millay — Trained all magic-using cousins

Cousin Rosamond — best friend

Helena — Rival.

——————–

Result of father’s sowing of “wild oats” – affair with a pretty magesmith who works the Lightning Rail in Passage.  He was ~17.  Acknowledged by fathers’ family, though not claimed until Dragonmark manifested.  Father has since married, she has several half-siblings.  Father spends most of his time away, remains a bit wild and chaotic; family thinks it best if he directs his excess energy to work and not at home causing trouble (like using his good looks to father more surprises).  Mother still works as a magesmith, stubbornly independent.

Dragonmark manifested 6-8ish.  Almost run over by a cart in the market.  Also about the time she started exhibiting magic.  Was brought quickly into the household and training in use of dragonmark, magic, and house business/etiquette/politics.  Raised by her grandparents (views Grandfather as a father-figure; whereas she views her father as more a distant uncle) amidst her cousins.  Has grown somewhat distant from her mother.

Did not react well to suddenly being moved to Grandfather’s house.  Transition smoothed by Rosamond, she was the same age as Liss and took it upon herself to comfort and help her.  Have remained very close since, exchanging frequent letters when apart, or spending quiet time together when both are home in Passage.

Liss doesn’t view her abilities with magic as anything particularly special.  In much the same way some people are left-handed, or short, or have brown eyes, magic is just something that happens.  She thinks she has magic ability due to blood, as her mother is a magesmith, and her father’s family is Dragonmarked, closely tied with the Council.  While she doesn’t find her abilities with magic particularly noteworthy, she feels magic in general is, and will often spend free time with her nose buried in a book on the nature of magic, or magical theory.

As for personality and beliefs, Liss considers herself to be religious (she follows the Sovereign Host — pantheon not specific) and has been trained by her grandfather to view her responsibilities to the House as the most important thing.  She is, at heart, a people pleaser, striving to actively do good and seek responsibilities, and one of the first things she learned living with her grandparents was the way to gain approval was to follow directions, and strive for excellence in anything which will bring honor/respect/profit to the house.  As such, it has never really occurred to her that she has any options other than hard work and following the rules.

Liss knows that politics are a fact of life, and as such, there are many (potential) rivals to her family’s purposes within the house.  She does not view any of them as being really personal with a single exception.  Helena was originally a rival purely on a familial basis.  Her uncle is also a member of the Patriarch’s Council and is often in disagreement with Liss’ grandfather.  However, years of (external) comparison between the two (both being of roughly the same age, rank, and both being magic users of equal power), as well as a general difference in personality, have led to both feeling a strong sense of personal dislike toward the other.

Lissandra is currently adventuring as a means of improving herself.  She has traveled to {wherever the game is starting} as part of a one-way caravan.  She has found she prefers this sort of travel as it allows her to gain a bit of distance from the largest portion of her grandfathers’ influence.  (She wants to be treated equally, with equal responsibility, which she always second guesses on jobs gained through her family’s influence.)

Appearance and details:
Liss is 17 years old, and just on the small side of average in size.  She shares her mothers’ general appearance: blue eyes, black hair, fair skin.  Her time with her grandparents has left her keenly aware of the importance of appearance, and as such she pays careful attention to her fashion and dress, appearing in whatever is most appropriate.  Left to her own devices, however, she prefers comfort and simplicity, gravitating to loose dresses and robes in neutral colors.
At present, she wears a set of excruciatingly well-made, though otherwise simple and unadorned, travelers gear.  She keeps her hair bound back, either in a low ponytail, or with several long hairsticks.
Liss’ dragonmark spreads across the back of her neck and shoulder, mostly hidden beneath her clothes and hair.

Alive

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But not much to say.  Reactivated the WoW subscription, but spending 99.999% of my time playing with long-forgotten lowbies (Oh baby shammy, how I love you) and being a hermit.

Which doesn’t leave much to write about.

So I’m not gonna write about that.  I’m gonna write about gaming.

As my longtime readers know, I’m what could probably be considered an active gamer.  Pen and paper, specifically.  Our weekend Planescape game is still going strong (one year, 17 levels, finally approaching The End Of The Story; the only question is will we finish before some of our group dings epic levels) and we have an additional Wednesday night game that works on a bit of a different basis.

See, Sunday is full of epic.  David is the GM, he’s all about the epic story arcs, filled with interesting characters and more plot hooks than you can shake a stick at.  He’s also very experienced, and prefers games in long formats.  Long-running, both in the “this game takes a year to tell the story” and in the “we sit down and play for 6-10 hours at a stretch.”  Needless to say, this also takes quite a bit of work and planning on his part, as well as effectively cutting him off from actually PLAYING in anything.  That’s why there’s Wednesday.

If Sunday is the epic movie trilogy (like LotR), Wednesday is Who’s Line is it Anyway.  It’s short (2 hours; 3 tops if we don’t do much chatting), experimental (try out new systems, new GMs, new characters), and small in scope  (games run 2-3 weeks on the short end, 6 on the long).  It’s a risk with all those factors, but it’s also a good exercise, at least for me.  I’m a creature of habit, I want to settle into a system, or a character, and explore the heck out of it over a long period of time.  Wednesday is way outside of my comfort zone.  For all that I whined about it (“But I was JUST GETTING INTO my last character!”) I’m looking forward to the game starting tonight.  I’ll probably follow this post up with backstory, just to fluff my post count.  >.>

Breakfast Tacos

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I’ll admit, I was skeptical.  Lori and I had…  discussions on this topic for about a year before David and I finally visited in Austin.  And, while I didn’t really get what the big deal was, then or now, we made them for *cough*breakfast*cough* today.

Breakfast Tacos (serves 3-4)

  • 12 Corn Tortillas (3-4 per)
  • 3 Eggs (4 – 5)
  • 5 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch bits  (6 – 8 )
  • 3 small russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (2)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded  (1 1/2)
  • salsa, guac, tomato, onion, bell pepper, olives, sour cream, anything else you like to taste

Directions

In a medium or large skillet, fry the bacon pieces until they are your preferred level of done-ness.  Once that is done, remove them to a plate and drain on a paper towel.

Add chopped potato to skillet and fry in bacon grease.  Toss them to get them well-coated.  Cover and cook ~15 minutes, stirring every 5, or until done.  Season as needed and toss before removing them to a bowl.

Before starting the eggs, wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for ~15-30 seconds, just to soften them up.

Scramble the eggs in the remaining bacon grease in the skillet.  Go for a dry scramble.

Notes

In the actual recipe above, I made some notes that we’ll use in the future.  Number of tacos should depend entirely on how hungry people are and how large the tortillas are.  I ate 3, and prefer my tacos kinda skinny as far as filling amount goes.  David ate 3 full ones, Judy ate 4 full ones.  Bear that in mind with my notes and amounts 😉

Most importantly: we ran out of egg before anything else. This was in part due to the fact we only had 3 eggs in the fridge.  There was just barely enough for everyone, and only then because only 10 tacos were made.  Basically, everyone got 1-2 tacos with enough egg, then 1-2 tacos with barely any.

Second most important, we had probably 1 or 1/2 potato worth of leftovers there.  If you like home fries, and don’t mind potato on the side, you’re in good shape with the amount quoted above.

We were okay for amounts on both bacon and cheese, but really… everyone loves bacon and cheese, so more would have been better.  Another couple slices of bacon, another few gratings of cheese, everyone would have been pleased and they still would have disappeared.

Finally, I really wish we’d had some more stuff.  An onion to chop fine and fry with the potato would have been great.  I’m not a specific fan of sour cream, but that would have gone really well also.  Veg would have cut down a bit on the “gut bomb” aspects of this meal.

However, it was tasty, and the food went fast.

Madeline just wanted to know why we didn’t save her any…