Mama T’s Game Closet – Sleeping Queens

game-on

 

Now that school is about over for the year, some of you may be looking for games that can be played with your kids and grandkids. Sleeping Queens is a fun card game for kids. I think it’s good especially for girls – which is a plus in my book, because so many games seem to be oriented toward boys.

sleepingqueens

Sleeping Queens was developed by a young girl and her family (and I hope it is funding her college education!). It has super cute art and it’s easy enough to play that my grandgirls (6 and almost 5) are close to being able to play themselves. Well, they would be if Miri could pick up her cards without showing them to everyone at the table! We team up with them to help with the addition. But it won’t be long before they are playing on their own.

Here’s a look at those all-important queen cards.

queens

 

Rules are simple. There are twelve queen cards and they are placed in four rows, face down, on the table. Each player (any number 2-4) gets a hand of 5 cards. All the rest of the cards are put in the draw pile in the center of the table. There are 8 king cards. Playing a king card lets you “wake up” a sleeping queen and put her in front of you. Each queen has a numerical value, and the first person to reach 40 point or get 4 queens wins the game! Some of the queens have special powers. For example, you can’t have both the Dog Queen and the Cat Queen in your hand or in front of you, because they fight like cats and dogs. But there aren’t many of these special queens and their powers aren’t hard to remember.

The deck is also full of other number cards – which aren’t really good for anything, so you discard them and draw from the deck. You can discard one card, a pair of matching cards, or any group of cards that represent a valid addition equation (for example: you can discard a one, a one and a two card because 1+1=2) and draw to bring your hand back to five cards. You’re hoping for that king card that will let you wake up a queen!

But there are also “power” cards – cards that let you do something else, or prevent what someone else is trying to do to you. If you have a sleeping potion card, you can put one of your opponents’ queens back to sleep and move her back to the middle of the board. That is, unless the queen’s owner has a magic wand card to play to fend you off. And if you have a knight card, you can steal a queen from another player. Unless, of course, they have a dragon card to defend their queen! And yes, I know that seems backwards, but the queens have pet dragons, so there.

The game plays quickly, has just enough “I’m taking yours”/”Oh no you’re not!” to be fun and without tears. Each game takes about 10 minutes, maybe 15 to play. Just right for a shorter attention span. A lot of kid games are murder for adults to play. This one isn’t. No one groans when the girls ask for Sleeping Queens.

There is a new Deluxe 10th anniversary edition out that adds 4 new queens and 2 new kings. That also increases the number that can play up to 5.

When it is 104 degrees outside, you’re going to need something to do. Mama T recommends a few games of Sleeping Queens to pass the time!

The Three Month Experiment – Recipes

In attempting this 3ME, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall into the rut of doing the same thing over and over. That makes us bored. And boredom makes us want to “just go get something” so we don’t have to think about it.

I realize that this is a luxury. If I were feeding an army of people (which, by the way, I would love to do) it would be necessary to focus more on getting food into lots of mouths instead of worrying about getting bored with what you’re fixing and eating. But life situations are different and mine right now lets me worry about NOT fixing the same thing repeatedly.

So I sat down with the family cookbook (you have one of those, right? If you don’t you should!) and picked out some tried and true favorites. And then I went to my recipe sites (love the internet!) and picked out some things that I had marked to try. And I made a master list. I’m not silly enough to think that this is exactly how it will work. But it is a workable plan: enough meals for when we serve a crowd, enough easy ones for the days I am running in circles, enough comfort, enough variety of ethnic flavors. As I use the recipes, I want to mark them off. Just to see where we are at the end of 60 days or so.

So, here they are. Quit reading now if you don’t like list after list!

Hamburger Meals:

  • Meatballs and gravy
  • Meatloaf
  • Spaghetti and meat sauce
  • Easy Shepherd’s Pie
  • Korean beef
  • Chili with jalapeno pintos
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Bubble pizza

Chicken Meals:

  • Crunchy oven bbq chicken
  • Rotel chicken spaghetti
  • Chinese takeout lemon chicken
  • Chicken enchilada casserole (Zack’s favorite!)
  • Grilled chicken
  • Quick chicken and broccoli soup
  • Crockpot orange chicken
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Salsa chicken
  • Baked garlic parmesan chicken
  • Chicken tikka masala
  • Chicken fried rice

Fish Meals:

  • Fish and chips
  • Baked fish with lemon and dill
  • Heavenly halibut (using a fish other than halibut!)

Pork Meals:

  • Grilled pork chops
  • French onion pork chops
  • Black bean pork chops
  • Asian pork chops (crockpot meal)
  • Adobo style chili
  • Slow cooker carnitas
  • Italian breaded pork chops
  • Baked soy lemon pork chops
  • Apricot pork chops
  • Pork stroganoff
  • Crockpot BBQ Coke pulled pork

Kielbasa Meals:

  • Nine bean soup
  • Zatarains and sausage (we LOVE this stuff)
  • Easy red beans and rice

Pepperoni Meals:

  • Pepperoni tortellini soup
  • Pasta with roasted cauliflower and pepperoni
  • French bread pizza
  • Grilled pizza sandwiches with warm marinara

Ham Meals:

  • Ham and bell pepper quiche
  • Pretty penne pasta
  • Ham and potato frittata
  • Breakfast casserole
  • Oven Denver omelet
  • Ham and potato soup
  • Chef salad

Tuna Meals:

  • Tuna cakes
  • Tuna salad sandwiches
  • Not Your Mother’s Tuna Casserole

Meatless Meals:

  • Gnocchi with white beans
  • Really easy mixed bean chili
  • South of the border pie
  • Nacho potato soup
  • Baked ravioli

“Fast Food” Meals:

  • Turkey burgers & chips
  • Hot dogs and chips
  • Frito pie
  • Stuffed baked potatoes
  • Aldi pizza
  • Pancakes and eggs

 

That last category has meals that may be repeated several times. Leftover chili makes GREAT stuffed baked potatoes. And we love us some hot dogs (so sue me – but at least they are Hebrew National!) on a busy night. And if the weekly food budget allows, we really do like Aldi pizza.

The menu plan I wrote for this week came directly from this list. About 1/3 or slightly more of the recipes listed are new. It was time for some new recipes. As I was going through the family cookbook I kept thinking, “No, I’m tired of THAT” or “No, I’m not even sure I LIKE that anymore.” Sigh. It was a real sign of my cooking burnout. Maybe by the end of 3ME, I’ll get my cooking mojo back. I think it’s possible.

Happy Tuesday, ya’ll!

 

 

 

The Three Month Experiment

You know, when I was a little girl, we only rarely went out to eat. My dad died when I was 11 and before that he had had 3 heart attacks. Back in the day that meant limited work schedules and tight budgets. My mom went to work, but she still had to watch, watch, watch the budget. And that continued into my senior year in high school, when my mom remarried and the budget eased up.

Taco Bueno started in my home town and the entire menu (maybe except for drinks, but then we never bought drinks at a fast food place) was 19 cents an item. We would go and stand in lines that were out the door for 19 cent tacos, burritos, and tacoburgers. (Did you know that some Taco Buenos will still make you a tacoburger if you ask?) That and a trip to McDonald’s once in a blue moon were about it for the eating out at my house. Oh, we might eat at the cafeteria after church in San Angelo when we went to visit my grandparents. But usually my grandmother cooked.

And I don’t think we were very unusual.

Compare that to today. Some studies show that in the good old USA, more money is spent on restaurants than on groceries. Since the cost of restaurants is markedly more than the cost of groceries, I wouldn’t say that we eat out more than we eat at home. YET. But the tide is running that way, certainly.

And whenever our budget gets out of control, I only have to look at the debits in our checking account; they become a litany of fast food/fast casual restaurant payments. We delude ourselves by thinking that we don’t ever eat anywhere EXPENSIVE, but the fact is that we end up spending more than we ought to just to feed ourselves. And aren’t there other things we would rather or should rather spend that money on?

So, it became obvious that it was time for a little self-discipline in this area. And I wanted to see if we could discipline ourselves longer than a week or two. So I prayed about it (yes, I pray about my budget – don’t you?) and I came to see that we were so pampered and petted that there was always a reason to go out and spend money on food. Yes, we are busy people. But when did cooking a meal become something that I couldn’t re-learn to enjoy doing? Even if it was an easy meal. I felt like I had lost something in some indefinable way – giving over the feeding of myself and my family (whichever number of people shows up!) to someone else.

So the Three Month Eat at Home Challenge (hereinafter referred to as 3ME) was born. Could I commit to eating at home (or making picnic food to take to the park or to Levitt Pavilion) for three whole months? And I think, yes. Yes, I can.

We had been eating out of the freezer for a couple of weeks to clear it out. While I think I have a small freezer, it will hold a deceptively large amount of stuff. And we had been squirreling away money for a couple of months to fund the next Fill the Freezer Shopping Trip. So this past Saturday was the day – and after spending our bucks, we bought a bunch of stuff, came home and bagged it 1 lb portions and stuffed our freezer full again.

And I sat down with the list of what we had in the freezer and came up with a plan to use all that stuff up – never duplicating the recipes. Then I thought of the tuna meals we enjoy (ya’ll, I make killer tuna salad), the meatless meals we like, the breakfast for dinner meals, and the meals we call “miscellaneous meat meals” – the ones with chopped ham or pepperoni.

Then I tried to think of the things that we like to go out and get – and figure out a way for those things to happen at home. I’m calling them Fast Food Meals.

Adding all those things up, I have more than 60 main meals planned. At the end of two months it should be time to make the meat run again – because if we work the plan, it will all be used up.

I’m excited about this. I’m pumped for the challenge. I think we can succeed. And I think we will eat better, and for less, than we were doing before. I want to recapture the satisfaction that I get when I put a meal on the table. And I want to let my husband learn to like that part, too.

And I want to be thankful while I’m doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Just Finished: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Recommended to me by Kat Laurange. What a good book this was. Mostly character study/character driven, but with a character I really, really liked. Maia is the fourth son, and 1/2 goblin at that!, of the Elvish emperor. When the emperor and the other sons are killed in an airship crash, the throne belongs to the one who was most despised and least trained for the job. But Maia’s hole card is that he had a mother who loved him – deeply and thoroughly, even though she died when he was young. That laid a base down that allowed him to act justly and kindly in a situation where others would focus only on revenge. The novel has its problems, but the story is so winning and the main character just *shines*. Recommended.

Currently reading: The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters. Cadfael #13. Love me some Brother Cadfael – always enjoyable. I’ve not figured out the killer in this one at the halfway point.

In the on-deck circle: I’m not sure about this yet. I want to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles because one of the Goodreads groups I am in is discussing it beginning May 15th. But, alas, all the copies are checked out of the library and the wait list is 6 people ahead of me. Small chance I’ll get it before the discussions begin.

Since that probably won’t be an option, I think the next choice may be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s been on my Kindle for a long time. The folks on Goodreads seem to mostly like it, but those who hate it really, really hate it. We’ll see what camp I fall into.

Happy reading, ya’ll!

 

Looking back at my 2016 reading list….

I like to take a moment or two at the beginning of each year and look back at the books I read during the past year and think about what I would recommend (and maybe what I wouldn’t). I felt like 2016 was a little bit better year than 2015 had been, but I am not concretely sure of that. But the MamaT awards for 2016 are:

1. Book I would recommend to my book club:

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood. I was completely sucked into this story about a 104 year old woman, an odd little boy who becomes her friend, and his mother and father. It’s death, it’s life. Joy and sorrow. This book would be such a hit with my book club girlies.

2. Book I recommended to Micki, who loves horror and suspense:

The Bird Box by Josh Malerman. This book grabbed me by the front of my shirt and forced me to read it as fast as I could. Stayed up late one night, finished at lunch the next day. This book has energy to spare. It’s not perfect, but Lordy it’s creepy and frightening and claustrophobic and creepy (again!). If you don’t like dystopian/end of the world stuff, this is not for you. But it really was one of the surprises of the year.

3. Best author I had never read any of before and am now ready to read everything:

Michael Perry. This year I read his Population 485, Truck, Visiting Tom, and From the Top. Yes, I’d say I like his style.

4. Best non-fiction not written by Michael Perry:

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. Frost and Steketee have done major work on hoarders and hoarding. Interesting look at how we invest our feelings in our things and how that can make it difficult to deal with them. Really, really good. And no, I’m not a hoarder. It’s just interesting. I read it while I was doing my Lenten purge/organization project.

Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby. A collection of the essays he wrote over a ten year period for The Believer magazine, all about books, both purchased and read, and a million other things. Completely enjoyable and sometimes laugh out loud funny.

5. Best books that I normally wouldn’t read:

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry (yes, that Dave Barry) and Ridley Pearson. A clever origin story for the Disney type Peter Pan. A kid’s book, I was reading to see if it would be a good thing to add to the kids’ bookshelves. I thoroughly enjoyed it – taking into consideration its target audience. Held my attention. Special shout out to the illustrator, Greg Call, who did a fantastic series of black and white drawings for the book.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. My granddaughter (who is 14) and I share a love for dystopian future type novels. I read this because she recommended it and one of my challenges this year was to read a book someone else had recommended. This is another one of those novels with great narrative drive – a trait I find lacking in many modern novels. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good character study. But sometimes you want a book where things start happening and just keep on happening. This is one of those books. Oddly pro-life, to my way of thinking. Doesn’t tie up completely at the end of the book – but I assume that the author knew he was writing a series, so it wasn’t necessary. I liked this a LOT better than I anticipated.

6. Other recommendations for book club:

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – my favorite kind of narrator – unreliable.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell – both frustrating and memorable. About half way through I was ready to throw the book against the wall, but the characters made me keep on reading. Those poor, damaged, vulnerable, grieving, sad people. It would make for some good discussions, I think.

7. Most disappointing book of the year:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. I wanted to like this so much. It’s a book about books, for heaven’s sake! But it was simply too predictable and pat. I love a happy ending, but you could see this one coming from page 1.

Here’s hoping for good reading in 2017!

 

 

 

 

The Immediate Book Meme

Mrs Darwin over at Darwin Catholic is doing her Immediate Book Meme again, and I want to do it, too. So here are my answers:

1. What book are you reading right now?

I am reading Liane Moriarty’s The Last Anniversary. Not quite halfway through. I think this was one of her first novels, maybe the second? It skips around in time and viewpoint – which is a favorite style of mine. I am ready for something to happen, though. We’ve been skipping around and around and around and I don’t see where this is going. I am reading the book because this author is a favorite of women’s book clubs, and I’m kind of looking for something to recommend for my club.

2. What book did you just finish?

Just finished Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael mystery The Sanctuary Sparrow. Got this book on my Kindle for $1.99 and it had been there for awhile. I like the Cadfael series – though I haven’t read as many as I have seen, via the marvelous BBC adaptations starring Derek Jacobi. I think that those are actually a wonderful evocation of the character from the book. The mystery this time revolved around the women, which was interesting. I almost figured the whole thing out – closer than I normally come to solving the mystery.

3. What do you plan to read next?

Not sure. I have several in my challenge list over on Goodreads. Trollope’s The Small House at Allington is one. Twain’s The Innocents Abroad is another. And then there is Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward to think about.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is staring at me from my bedside table. As it has been for the past 6 months. I’ve read some, but it keeps getting pushed to the end of the line. Make it stop staring at me!!!!

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Everyone tells me it is a must read. Bought at the friends of the library sale for a song. There it still sits. Sigh.

6. What is your current reading trend?

Reading the books that are already on my shelves or in my Kindle. No point in having them if I’m not going to ever read them. And I’m serious about that. 2017 is the year of reading my shelves. I also want to read some history this year. I don’t know exactly how to approach that, but I’m trying to figure it out.

One thing about it. I’ll never run out of interesting stuff to read. And that makes me happy.

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

stack-of-books

 

This week I finished up Throne of the World by Louis deWohl. Though I am a fan of his, this was not my favorite. Largely about Atilla the Hun, only tangentially about Pope Leo. I wanted more of the second. It did interest me enough to want to read more history.

Currently reading? The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It’s a fictionalized account of the romance and marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway and their years in 1920’s Paris. I got this out of the Little Free Library in our park, without knowing anything about it really. But I am interested in the setting, and while I am not a fan of Ernest Hemingway, he was (and is) a towering figure in American literature. About 20% in, it is certainly holding my attention .

In the on deck circle? Visiting Tom by Michael Perry. We have met the Tom of the title briefly in other Perry books, but this one revolves around him – an 80 year old farmer – and his way of life.

Thinking a lot about reading plans for next year. Does anyone else ever think about reading plans? Does anyone ever stick to them? In the past I have used Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual reading plan, just for grins. Some years with success, other years with none. 2016 was one of the “no success” years. Her plan for next year just came out – but it doesn’t tickle my fancy.

What does tickle my fancy for next year is reading the books on my shelves that I have collected but not yet read. I just went and counted. Not including the ones I am sure are in the bedroom stacked up on the nightstand and on the floor by the chair, I have 105 books unread in this house. And those are the ones I kept after my big Lenten purge – meaning they are all books that I am truly interested in reading. So my goal for this year is to get between 20 and 30 of those books off my “to read” shelves and into my “read” shelves  or into the bag going to the Little Free Library or the public library friends sale. I also have a sneaking suspicion that a few more of these will migrate out of here unread – that I will find that I didn’t want to read them so much after all. It happens.

The other thing that I’m feeling called toward is reading history. I feel so woefully uneducated in that area and would like to know so much more. The problem is the vastness of the subject. How do you “read history” when there is so darn much of it? How do you know what’s good? There is a part of me, that organized, rational part, that wants a timeline, an overview, a general history, followed by deeper readings in smaller areas. But then that sounds like school and I can’t even face that.

The other part of me thinks I ought to jump in just anywhere and start – and then branch out and branch out and eventually things will start kind of coming together. I think this is a plan that could work, or at least be more enjoyable. So, we’ll see. I’m still mulling it over.

So, how about you?