Things I liked this weekend

TANGLED: I rented Tangled on Friday night. Oh my goodness, it was so good! I loved the characters, loved the humor, loved that “Chuck” is the voice behind Flynn and that it’s even his singing voice! LOVED the beautiful floating lantern scene. Loved the chameleon and his hilarious color-changing and expressions (pointing at his hand? Killed me!), loved the horse and the way he gives this “duh” expression about the secret passage. Oh man, so good. I’m not saying the movie is perfect–we’re meant to root for a thief?–but it’s very entertaining. Skip renting it and just buy it. If you don’t like it, give me your copy.

WII FRISBEE GOLF: I hadn’t played in quite awhile, but turned it on this weekend and didn’t do too badly, considering. I so appreciate my Wii, especially when the weather is less-than-awesome.

SPRING BLOSSOMS: I didn’t think I’d go see the cherry trees in full bloom at the capitol this year, mostly because I’ve gone every year since I moved here and have taken the exact same photos. But I was driving and couldn’t resist! Especially if it meant putting off grocery shopping. I didn’t take many pictures (I wasn’t feeling it, plus it was cold and windy), but it was nice to get out and see some flowers.

And this just in….

FINALLY! EMAILED UPDATES: Blogger finally got with the program and made it easy to subscribe to blogs through email! See the box at the top of the right panel where you can enter your email address and get my posts sent to you each time I update.

What were your weekend highlights?

December

Happy December! It’s not my favorite month, but I have some happy plans, so I feel okay about it. 🙂

I know it’s been awhile since I blogged. It’s partly because life has been busy with friends and obligations, but the other factor is that you might remember I am missing my camera’s battery charger. I haven’t found it, but my dad so generously sent me an Amazon gift certificate so I could order a new one, and it just arrived today! My sister–not realizing what my dad had done–was also planning to send me a new charger. Isn’t my family the best? I realize that now I’ll probably find the old charger since I have a new one, but it seems like having a second one is a fine idea if that happens.

Anyway, here are a few updates:

I had a good Thanksgiving spent with friends. I made Eggnog Pie (my first pie ever!) and was worried about how it might turn out, but I liked it. Here’s a shadowy and ungreat photo from my point-and-shoot:

Yes, I messed up on the whipped cream application! I used this recipe. I wish it had been a little more specific on timing and what to expect, but I guess it assumes the cook is Amish or experienced with this sort of pie-making. My pie turned out a bit lumpy due in part to the gelatin being overly solid by the time it was added to the mix, so keep that in mind.

I’m not sure why, but I only finished one book in November. I guess I’ve been busy and distracted, plus too lazy to get to the library.

The Ivy Tree – Mary Stewart (Audio – 12.5 hours)
Mary Grey is approached by a man named Connor who mistakes her for his cousin, Annabel, who disappeared 8 years before. The striking resemblance prompts Connor to devise a plan to which Mary eventually agrees due to her desperate financial circumstances. Mary is to impersonate Annabel and help manipulate Con’s dying, rich uncle to leave Con what he feels he deserves. This story has mystery, interesting characters, light romance and lots of pretty English scenery. I liked it! (Books read in 2010 so far: 30)

While I’m talking about books, I feel like complaining about something. Some of my friends know that I HATE spoilers and I can barely even read the back of a book since so many of them reveal too much about the plot. There have been times when the back of the book revealed scenes that happen in the last few pages! It’s ridiculous. But the worst place to go if you don’t want any spoilers is to the Amazon reviews of said book. People spoil books all the time without warning. There was an Ivy Tree review that gave away a big part of the mystery that isn’t revealed until the last third of the book. For that reason, I tend to put off reading them until I’ve finished a book. I mean, Amazon reviews shouldn’t even include a plot summary in the first place (another pet peeve) because the summary is already provided on the product page. The last thing I need is to read through 100 more summaries. Okay, rant over, even though I could go on and on about that and even provide examples. Criticism is my forte, after all.

Well, now my camera is freshly charged and I’m hoping to get some good wintry photos this year. It’s always difficult since winter = rain and cameras don’t seem to like rain, for some reason.

Fall + Games

Happy equinox to you and you and you! To me, it’s now fall. To poemy people, it’s now autumn. To people in the southern hemisphere, it’s been spring for awhile now. They don’t start their seasons on equinoxes and solstices, I don’t think. That’s a fun fact for you (plus free alliteration!).

I know I just posted today, but I had written that post a couple of days ago, so it feels like I haven’t posted in awhile. Not that I’ve had anything important to say, but since when does that stop me?

First, here’s a photo I took today:

Not very fally, huh? It does actually feel kind of spring-like around here, lately. Okay, the photography portion of my entry is now complete.

Here are the games I’ve been playing lately. No, not Bubble Spinner (spin spin spin). By the way, I stole these little images from places on the web. It was just easier.


Vector TD
Why do I like this game? It’s ridiculous. I’m ridiculous. There’s actually a newer version out, but I prefer this first one.


Cribbage
For some reason I’ve been in love with this card game since shortly after I learned how to play. I didn’t pick it up right away, but then it suddenly clicked and now it’s one of my favorite card games. I’m a total Cribbage Patch Kid. I like it in real life, too, but it’s handy to have the computer tally my score for me. 🙂


Cassino
Another great card game, but you can’t exactly play it online anywhere (that I know of). This is a game you can purchase and then connect to others who have the same game installed, or just play the computer. I hate the name, because it makes it impossible to look it up online (it’s often spelled with just one s) and it sounds like I’m playing slots.

Have you played any of these games? Do you have any game recommendations? I apparently need to waste more time.

Rainbow Crystal Mud

At the fair, there were booths selling Crystal Mud–tiny beads that absorb water and can be used for plants and flowers. N had been describing them and, after buying one set as a trial, felt they might be the answer to her cat-getting-into-the-water problems. So we headed to one of the booths and I ended up buying one packet of black ones. They were only $3.333333333333333 since P and I went in together on the 3-for-$10 deal.

And now, because I am so generous, I have recorded the process so you may witness the coolness of these little beads. I think they were worth the cost just for observing them! Will my flowers die tomorrow from lack of water? I don’t know, but it’s obviously a risk I was willing to take.

Behold:


This is like in cooking shows where they have all their ingredients cut up and in separate dishes (minus the quarter), ready to pour into the pan. I’m gourmet.


It says to put them in a gallon of water.


Okay, let the absorbing commence. (Sorry, P, this pitcher isn’t Tupperware.)


Within half an hour they are taking on a blackberry-like appearance. I enjoyed some with ice cream.


Three hours later they have rounded out a bit more, but still have an uneven surface.


They are supposed to stay in the water for 8-12 hours. By the next morning, they had grown to this size.


They’re like marbles!

I made the mistake of leaving them in the water all day, not really considering that it might damage them. When I got home, some were bursting from their little seams, and I threw a few out.


I strained them to stop the growing process.


You can’t help but touch these.. they have a wet surface even after sitting out for days. I guess the water keeps leaking out of them, or something. Anyway, they feel a little like wet grapes or olives, only more slippery. They’d make a great sub when you’re playing that Halloween game of blindfolding people and convincing them they are touching eyeballs. (That game creeped me out when I was a kid, even though I knew I was touching normal household items.)

They are squishable and can break if you’re too rough with them. In fact, I think I broke several when I was putting the flowers in them (which means I should’ve put them in over the flowers instead of vise versa).


The package says these are for fresh flowers, plants or light/candle arrangements, but for some reason I’m skeptical of the flowers getting enough water. Maybe I’ll have to report back with how long these lasted. Or I could do an experiment where I put some flowers in water and some in the Crystal Mud beads. But I don’t feel like it.


And now for a little sunflower love, since they’re being such great sports.

Supposedly the beads dry up over the course of about a month, and you can start again and plump them right back up. N used some clear ones for a plant and says you can see the roots growing, which I think would be really fun. But when the clear ones are under water, you can’t even really see them, which makes me think of lots of “fun” practical jokes one could play with a sack full. But I don’t recommend playing any of those jokes unless you hate having friends.

Review: Walk It Out!

Walk It Out! is my current game addiction. To play, you just step in place to the beat of the music. When you stay on the beat, you earn credits to spend on Rhythm Island, the game’s walking environment. The credits can either buy more things to dress up the island, like trees, flowers, buildings, etc., or you can buy new routes to take which open to new scenery. For instance, you can walk along the beach, on a mountain lookout, into a fountain plaza, etc.

You can also buy constellations (for the night sky), Magic Clock times, or more music. You begin with about 15 or 20 songs, so you have to buy the rest with your credits. This is a great motivator since obviously it can get boring to listen to the same songs. Each song must be purchased in pieces, so you have to buy all pieces (2 or more) before you can unlock the whole song and add it to your play list.

Depending on what time you’re playing, the game will reflect the hour (somewhat) in the scenery with a sunset, night sky, full daylight, etc. I haven’t been up to see the sunrise on it, yet, nor do I know in what time slot that happens (the sunset is between 4 and 5pm). But you can also purchase different time slots with your credits so that you can jump to them whenever you want (that’s the Magic Clock I mentioned before). This is important since many of the song, constellation and time pieces are in different time slots, so you have to go there to get them.

There’s a lot to say about this game but it would take forever. It takes quite awhile to unlock the thousands of things they have available, which makes it a nice long-term game. So far I’ve only unlocked a total of about 50 songs out of 121 available, and I have yet to purchase an entire constellation to see what that looks like.

CONS:

  • It’s not a high-impact workout, unless maybe you want to jog in place (which you can’t do on the balance board).
  • Many of the songs are way too slow and I had to take them out of the play list.
  • You have the option to not use the balance board and instead just put the nunchuck in your pocket like a pedometer, but I have found this doesn’t work very well without exaggerating my steps too much. Maybe if I wasn’t worried about bugging the downstairs neighbors I’d try it a little more.
  • The “walking” you do for it can be a little weird on the feet at first.
  • The personal trainer gets kind of annoying.
  • You can’t make your character wave at the others on the island, even though they wave at your character. There are constantly people stopping and waving at me while I totally blow them off. It’s sad!

PROS:

  • Pretty scenery, with the ability to move the “camera” to see all around you as you walk.
  • Plenty of new stuff to motivate you to keep playing the game over a long period of time.
  • Even if not an awesome workout, it’s definitely more tiresome than sitting, and I have found I am way sleepier at night lately. Exercise is exercise!
  • Affordable compared to many Wii games, especially if you buy it used.

Have any of you tried this game? Does it interest you at all? I think I want to play some more right now!  

NOTE: Walk It Out! screencaps were taken from this site. I hope that’s okay.

Review: Wii Fit


I’ve been waiting to talk about my Wii Fit until I had it for a little while. It’s easy to get excited about something on the first day or two, but now I’ve had it for two-and-a-half weeks. I’ve used it every day, even though a few days were just for the body test (and the stamp on the calendar!).

I bought the current Wii Fit package which comes with the balance board and the Wii Fit Plus software (that includes both regular Wii Fit and the additional games and features with Plus on the one CD). I have a cover over my balance board (pictured), which I’m really glad I bought.

So far, I really like it! When you first turn it on, it has you set up a profile where you enter information manually as well as let the balance board get information from you. I am the type that loves tracking and records, so this appeals to me. The program suggests that you do a “Body Test” each day. This includes taking your weight, calculating BMI and optionally checking your balance and some other things like reaction times, memory, peripheral vision, etc.. Whether the tests are good judges of such things is debatable, but I have found the balance portion the most insightful. It shows if you’re putting more weight on one foot than another, for instance. After the few tests, it gives you a “Wii Fit Age” based on your age and your scores on the quick tests. That part is pretty silly, but whatever. My “age” has fluctuated from early 20s to late 40s depending on the tests.

Then there are many games and exercises that are supposed to help in a variety of ways. First I’ll talk about the yoga/strength exercises. Here you get to choose between a male or female trainer and then pick whatever exercises you want to do. He will show you how to do them and keep giving instruction each time. I think the best part about these is that the balance board is used to judge your weight distribution and steadiness throughout each move, which is insight you wouldn’t get otherwise. It rates you after each exercise based on those factors. I’ve found some of these exercises to be overly easy (or too few reps), some are right at my level, and some are pretty impossible. An experienced yoga-er (or yogi, as Scrabble taught me) would probably be kind of frustrated with the slow pace and lack of difficulty, but I am pretty satisfied.

You can set up routines where you pick all the exercises you want to do (and you can pick them in multiples to increase reps), and then it strings them together with fewer pauses (it doesn’t give you a “grade”). This is nice, though I wish it would put together a longer routine for me where I can just delete the exercises I don’t like. (There are pre-made routines but they are not quite what I’m looking for.)

The other activities with Wii Fit (Plus) are games to help balance (juggling, tight rope, ski jump, skateboarding), coordination/rhythm (Rhythm Kung Fu, step, boxing), or just get your heart rate up (jogging, cycling). Many games serve several purposes. Most don’t give you an incredible cardio workout, but it depends on how much you put into them. The important thing is that they are better than just sitting down, which is what you’d do with most video games and other indoor entertainment.

I’ve purchased a few other Wii exercise games to help keep things new and fun for me, since I find I grow bored quickly in certain areas (visually, for instance). I’ll review those later on.

Some complaints: the scale isn’t all that accurate, there’s too much transition time between exercises in a routine, the trainer sometimes says nonsensical words of encouragement or criticism about your exercises, there doesn’t seem to be a way to skip a yoga/strength exercise in a routine without stopping the whole routine.

Overall opinion of Wii Fit: I’m really glad to have it, especially in Oregon where soon it’ll be dark and rainy most of the time when I’m at home. More and more exercise games are being created to use the balance board, so even when I get sick of the Wii Fit games, I can still make good use of the balance board.

Favorite games on Wii Fit (Plus): Ski Jump, Hula Hoop, Rhythm Kung-Fu, Rhythm Parade, Basic Run Plus.

I have some favorite yoga and strength exercises, but I can’t remember their names. I rock at Warrior, though!

I know Wii Fit has been out for awhile now, but before I got mine I hadn’t really talked to anyone about theirs. Do you have one? How do you like it?

Bottled Water Reviews

Market Pantry (from Target)
This is delicious water! It’s like the ice cream of waters, hold the cream. They sell it for a reasonable price, too, and my only complaint is that the label is boring. Even the name isn’t all that enticing. Market Pantry doesn’t make me think of cold, refreshing water, it makes me think of room temperature snacks.

Nestlé
I know, how weird is it that Nestlé makes water and doesn’t even disguise the brand? It’s like if Hershey’s made water. Or Cadbury. I don’t want chocolate water (chocolate soda taught me that there is an evil side to our dark friend), but it’s often on sale so I have been able to get past the name and enjoy the water. It’s good enough. Recently they changed their bottle design to something more curvy and it actually makes me like the water more. It’s funner to hold. It really is – pick one up and tell me I’m wrong.

Evian
This is the brand of water I associate with all rich or perfect people. The few times I’ve had it I haven’t been that impressed. Plus, it’s hard to say – is it like Ev-ee-un or Ev-ee-on?

Aquafina
Something is wrong with this water. I’ll drink it if it’s the only thing available, but it seems to have an aftertaste to me. I shouldn’t have to experience an aftertaste with a beverage that has no taste to begin with. That’s not fair.

Oregon Rain
This is disappointing, because the label and concept seem really tempting. It says it’s “virgin water,” never touched by the earth but gathered in rain farms. To be honest, it tastes like it’s gone farther than first base with the earth, maybe even several times. Plus it’s super expensive unless you can find it in 99 cent bottles at a grocery store (when sold separately). I guess it’s kind of a fun Oregon souvenir, though.