Archive | October, 2010

Game Night – Fun & Free, what more could you want?

29 Oct

It is Friday.  And that means the next few days should be filled with freedom and relaxation (unless you work weekends, in that case, I am sorry).  For all you ‘Budget Conscious’ people out there, the weekend is also a time of conflict.  You want to hang out with people, but the usual ‘dinner and movie’ plan will (in all likelihood) annihilate your budget.  $50 bucks down the road all you have to show for your ‘good time’ is a full (or in my case aching) stomach and a tattered movie stub.  Do you want more from your weekend?  If you answered, ‘yes’ then read on!  (Am I starting to sound like an infomercial, yet?  If so, mission accomplished!)

Why not break the monotony and host a Game Night at your place?  The rules are simple and the cost is perfect (cheap to ZERO).   Just follow the 3 simple rules below and Game Night fun can be yours.

Rule #1:  Pick a game (or two) appropriate to the size of the gathering.

For 4 – 6 players you can go ahead and pick something with more complex rules or involved thinking.

Suggestions:  In a Pickle, Last Word, Scattergories Apples to Apples, The Game of Things, or even go ‘Old Fashioned’ and play a card game (Nertz is a great choice among good friends) or dominoes.

I‘ve played all of these in a Game Night setting with varying degrees of success.  WARNING:  When tried with more than 10 people these games will become trying and boring to most.  So make sure you follow my advice OR ELSE.  Also games that require knowledge about the other players (Imaginiff I’m talking to you) aren’t very fun if you are playing with a new group.  Again consider your audience and you will be fine.

(Note:  Never buy a game based on the smiling family on the box – this game is fun, but only with limited players and an established group)

For 6 or more players Catch Phrase is my favorite way to fly.   But I’ve also played Buzz Word or Taboo with a larger group and had a great time.  Bottom line, the game needs to be easy to understand.  Bonus points for one that involves shouting out answers – that way you can maximize participation.

Rule#2:  Decide that winning is far less important than getting to know people.

Please don’t be ultra competitive at Game Night!  Nobody wants to be or play with ‘that guy.’  Friendly banter:  yes.  Battle of the sexes:  perfect.  Making everyone uncomfortable as you punch your best friend and shout:  You’re going down, you idiot – not allowed.  Get the picture?

The idea is to have fun.  You can keep score for bragging rights, but just make sure that no one is getting emotionally vested in the results or else MAYHEM will ensue.

Rule#3:  Provide great snacks

This is where a small cost may come into play.  However, you can still go cheap.  Most people will be impressed with baked goods and an assortment of drinks.  A Game Night at my house would most likely include brownies or cookies (or both if I’m feeling generous).  And I might even throw in some chips and salsa/cheese dip/guacamole for those (weirdos) who enjoy salty snacks more.  Play to your talents.  In my experience even slice and bake cookies will kill.  To upgrade to dinner thing, you could ask people to bring stuff and create a mini-potluck.  The sky is the limit, my friend.  Remember, no food won’t ruin game night, but cookies will make it that much more fun (and people will be more likely to come to your next gathering).

I hope I’ve inspired you to try your hand at hosting a game night.  It is a great way to spend time with people without spending your future kids’ college funds.  And you avoid the risk of paying 10 bucks for a sucky movie.  I’d say, all signs point to call your friends and schedule a Game Night ASAP.  Who knows?  It may become a recurring thing.

The Beautiful, the Enjoyable, and the one Ugly experience – My first week in LR

28 Oct

Tomorrow morning at around 1:30 am, I will officially complete my first week as a Little Rock resident.  So (being the reflective person that I am), it is time for a thought provoking list on what I have encountered so far.   Enjoy my initial impressions of the Natural State!

The Beautiful Pinnacle State Park: On Sunday, my husband, Buster and I took the opportunity to explore Pinnacle Mountain.  I wouldn’t call myself a nature girl, but I do enjoy a good hike now and then.  However, I have to admit I’m out of practice and I kept picturing myself falling off a cliff into oblivion, dashed on the rocks and never to be seen or heard from again (morbid, I know).   Yet the sudden appearance of a 5 year old child skipping down the path past me gave just the right reminder – if he can do it, I can do it (or I will look really weak).  So I escaped my tumbling fear and began to enjoy the fantastic views and the crisp air.  Ike and I have decided to make Pinnacle our weekend place to walk Buster.   So thanks AR, you are beautiful and you give people excellent backdrops to be active and happy.

The enjoyable existence of Fall: This may be an obvious observation, but  – fall exists in AR!!  Lest a disgruntled Houstonian complain, I will admit that before I left the Lone Star state, we did have some convincingly cool days.  But a few cool days doesn’t seem that fallish when compared to Arkansas’s changing trees, perfectly cool breezes, and gentle hills that proudly display the orange, yellow, and red in every direction.  Maybe this year, I won’t get bitten by mosquitoes when I put up Christmas decorations!  Only time will tell, but so far the weather and the fall scenery has been an enjoyable component of my AR days.

Ugly experience with a SCARY LADY: On the whole I have been extremely impressed with the open kindness of the Arkansans I have encountered.  I really hate to bring this instance up, as it is much more the exception than the rule.  But I can’t help myself because it is a good story.  So again, I like Arkansas and the people, but I think I may have encountered the meanest lady in Little Rock during my very first week.

I am currently an active job searcher, and what else does an active job searcher need than the internet?  We don’t have internet at our apartment yet, and all our neighbors password protect their wireless (lame).   So I’ve had to venture out of my apartment (in foreign terrain) in search of free Wi-Fi.  After 2 days at the closest Starbucks, I decided to change gears and go for some library time.  With only my Garmin to guide me, I picked the closest library on the list and went for it.  I’m not a bad driver really, but when I don’t know where I’m going, I sure you wouldn’t want to be behind me.  Anyway, when I finally arrived at the library of choice I realized that I had mistakenly chosen one that was on a school campus.  Unsure of what to do next I went ahead and turned into the parking lot so I could regroup and find another Wi-Fi location on the Garmin.  An unpleasant and extended honk from one of my fellow travelers punctuated my entry into the parking lot.

As I was about to back out of my space, a lady (apparently the honker) stubbornly parked behind my car.  I started freaking out, but I knew for sure that I didn’t hit her because she had been behind me.  So instead of being confident (or whatever), I decided to wait her out.  She seriously stayed parked behind my car thus blocking my ability to leave for 10 – 15 minutes.  Let me tell you, it was an unnerving experience.  I have no idea what I did to her, but I’m guessing she wanted to give me a piece of her mind.   She didn’t have the chance as she finally gave up and drove away with her silver car and disgruntled expression.

So that’s my first week in a nutshell, and I’m looking forward to many more. Bring it on Arkansas.  But I’d rather more of the beautiful and enjoyable.  You can keep the ugly parking lot conflicts to yourself.

Budget Tip #1 – Skipping Cable Bills without losing (too much) culture savvy

27 Oct

Here’s a quick tip for those of you who are (I won’t say poor, but…) ‘Budget Conscious’ like me.  I think you should sell all worldly possessions and live off the earth ummmmm, wait a minute.  While that might actually be cool, today I’m suggesting the step before selling all possessions (sort of).  Here’s the challenge:  evaluate your monthly cable bill to see if you are really getting your money’s worth.   You might be surprised…or maybe not, whatever.

I’d like to think that my husband and I are pretty ‘culture’ savvy.  We love reading, movies, and TV and then discussing said media with our educated friends.  But to be caught up on TV (and thus TV discussions with other culture savvy people) most think you need to pay 100+ bucks a month to the likes of AT&T or Comcast.  I say ‘Oh no, you don’t!’  ‘How?’  You ask. ‘Read more!’  I say.

Here’s the answer:  Internet + Hulu and Netflix!!!

MORE (saved)

I admit to take my advice you do have to pay AT&T or Comcast (or the internet provider of your choice) about $35/month.  But then you will have instant culture savvy potential!

With our strategy you can save over 50 bucks/month and not really feel deprived.  With Hulu, you can still laugh at Liz Lemon’s junk food habits and giggle at Manny’s cute grown up tendencies without paying ‘the big bucks’.  On Hulu you can even watch shows whenever you want, kind of like ‘other people’ with their fancy DVR recordings.  **A word of caution, Hulu does take episodes down within a week or 2 so you do have to stay on your toes.**   With the internet you can also get your movie and older series fix with Netflix watch instantly (ok, that’s another $9.73/month). But with their power combined…I’m Captain Saves…ok, I’m not even going to try to finish that sentence.

Here’s the technical part in case you were wondering.  In the Peters house, we use an S-video cord (about 10 or so bucks at most stores) to switch the screen display from our laptop to our TV.  Then we hook up some computer speakers to the laptop to enhance our hearing experience.  However, Ike tells me that there’s a cord that will transfer sound too.  I’m not sure of all those details, but it is important that you make your own choices on this journey anyway (I say that kind of stuff when I’m avoiding responsibility…).  Oh, wait, I found a ‘How to’ article on the subject if you are interested in the nitty gritty.

I will admit if your house lives and breathes sports, reality TV, or fancy channels then this awesome saving technique may not work for you.  Live things aren’t really available via internet.  In this case, you will have to choose if saving money is worth it.  It may not be.  But it’s worth a thought, no?  I’ll admit, and just because we’re good friends…I had to give up American Idol watching/mocking sometimes.  If you are concerned about such things, you can get antennae, and you may be able to pick up some of those things live.  BUT (gasp!) you will have to be home and planted in front of the tube when the action is really happening (or you can go really old school and pull out your VCR…).  Also you will not be able to watch HGTV, TLC, Nat Geo, BBC or any other fancy channels.  But once your addiction to shows like the Dog Whisperer or What Not to Wear ease, you won’t miss them (that much).

I hope that this has given you some food for thought.  This is coming from an expert (e.g. a person who has ordered and then cancelled cable twice in the last two years).  I like the thought of cable, but in the end the cost just doesn’t work for me.  And even if you drop the bill and don’t use all these fancy cords and internet, a little less TV in life never hurt anybody.  Right?

Bonus Pix:  Me and Buster!  Don’t we look happy without cable?

It’s ALIIIIIIVE Part II (and Part II’s are usually the BEST)

26 Oct

Here are the promised (and much awaited, I’m sure) greatest hits of Horror Nights ’09.  Catchy, huh?   I’ve rated them out of 5 screams for freaky factor and out of 5 elixirs for quality – deal with the  silly rating system or else mu-ha-ha-ha!    And don’t say I didn’t warn you, some of these films may cause panic attacks, paranoia, and random screaming fits.  Again it is all in good clean fun.  But I’m not ashamed to close my eyes if a movie gets intense, so you shouldn’t be either.

Best of 2009 7NoH

    The Descent

    • 3 Screams – This movie is perfectly claustrophobic and ‘different’(as in it takes place in a cave and features a predominately female cast) than the average creepy movie.   Even without the super scary ‘Gollum-like’ creatures the movie slowly ratchets the tension as it gets darker, crazier, and yes, scarier.
    • 3.5 Elixirs – I could always do without compound fracture scenes, but other than that I don’t have any complaints.  The movie explores who people become without the normal constraints of society.  Don’t feel like reading ‘Heart of Darkness’?  Just watch The Descent!  That’s a great selling point, huh?

    Drag Me to Hell

    • 2 Screams – This movie is kind of freaky until you realize it is an unsettling comedy and not a pure horror film.  After I made this discovery, I actually laughed at the Looney Tune-ish fight scenes.  This is not to say though, that the movie doesn’t end with slightly terrifying horror movie gusto.
    • 3 Elixirs – I don’t think everyone will agree this is a great horror movie.  But in my opinion this movie mixes humor and horror standards, resulting in a fun to watch movie.  Let me tell you, if you are going to watch hard hitting horror movies during your 7 Nights of Horror, you are going to need a fun and dare I say ‘campy’ movie to get you through.  I liked it.  That is all.

    Carrie

      • 1 Scream for most of the movie BUT 4 Screams for the final 15 minutes – Sure, most of the movie deals with Carrie’s sad life, her insane mother, and her interactions with mean high school kids.  But show me one person who isn’t haunted by the final confrontation between Carrie and her mother and I’ll give you a dollar. Or maybe I’m the only one with the imagery forever burned into my brain?  Not to mention Carrie’s hand suddenly…wait I can’t talk about it…Que shivers up spine.
      • 3 Elixirs – This movie is a classic so you should probably put it on your ‘I’ve seen it list’ if it isn’t already there.  But it isn’t a classic just because John Travolta was really young in it. No, it is a classic because it proves you should never pick on people because they may have telekinetic powers to destroy you and the whole town.  But really, this movie has some great acting and somehow makes Carrie an object of sympathy and horror.  Nice work film makers, nice work.  Also – read the book if you haven’t, it is pretty good.

      The Exorcist

        • 5 + Screams – In my ‘extensive’ horror movie experience, those that deal with demon possession scare me the most (times ten).  Give me vampires, zombies, aliens, or even sea monsters any day…but I cannot handle demons.  So this is the scariest movie I have ever seen.  I woke up every night after I saw it (for at least 3 days) in a cold sweat too scared to look at the clock in fear it would be 3:00 am.  I know I am mixing demon movies here, but in the middle of the night ‘logic’ doesn’t matter.  I’m not even going to try to describe the movie because I would have to close my eyes, and then I might put typos into my blog.
        • 3.5 Elixirs – This movie was scary.  I don’t even know if I recommend it.  But it is good because that little girl gets really scary without hokey special effects (which would have been a relief, hokey special effects make me laugh).  It even demonstrates the power of faith and good versus evil but not without throwing in some borderline blasphemy as well.  So if you want to watch the scariest movie on the list, go for it.  You will certainly be scared.  BUT don’t call me at 3:00 am when you can’t sleep.

        On that note, I wish you the best this week before Halloween.  I’ll change gears tomorrow, I promise…  Stay tuned!!

        Here’s your bonus pic of the day!  Buster after our rainy walk this morning.

        IT’S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!

        25 Oct

        I think I’m finally ready to admit it.  I let my blog die.

        How-ev-er, I can’t think of a better time to raise it from the depths of neglect than in October.  I can finally shout ‘IT’S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!’ with purpose during the month dedicated to Frankenstein, mummies and a variety of other ‘undead’ creatures.   And I’ve always wanted to do that.

        Now, on to the official blog topic…

        For the last 2 years during the week leading up to Halloween, my husband and I have held ‘7 Nights of Horror’.  For the sake of full disclosure, by night 5 or so I’m…

        1)      begging my husband to leave the lights on during the movie (which is strictly against the rules).

        AND

        2)      waking up in cold sweats at 3:00 am.

        But for some reason it seems worth it at the time.  Now I can say ‘I warned you’ if you suffer the same adverse affects.

        For  your reading pleasure here are some of our featured movies from the ’08 season (it was a good year – trust me).  I’ve rated them out of 5 screams for freaky factor and out of 5 elixirs for quality (you think that’s corny –well whatever, you’re corny!). 7 Nights of Horror will be a lot of fun and will likely **full disclosure moment** make you lose sleep and/or raise your blood pressure.  I hope the list inspires you to start your own Nights of Horror tradition.

        Best of 2008 7NoH

        Rosemary’s Baby

        • 3.5 Screams – This movie is more tense than scary.  But it may haunt you later, especially if you are a woman who hasn’t had kids yet (like me, gulp).  But I’d wager you will be able to sleep after watching.
        • 4.5 Elixirs – Although Roman Polanski is apparently a horn dog, this in no way affects his ability to craft an exceptional tension ridden horror flick.  Don’t watch this with your friend who likes ‘Real bloody movies’ for he is sure to be disappointed.  But the lack of gore and the building horror is exactly why I loved this movie.  This is probably one of the best on the list – if you haven’t seen it and you like ‘smart movies’ go for it!! (Ok, I admit, I was using some sort of psychological technique to get you to watch this movie – but I’m not a psychologist so ummm…just do it!

        The Wicker Man (the original NOT the Nickolas Cage version)

        • 1 Scream – This movie isn’t scary.  Until you consider that maybe people do have the capacity to lure a stranger in for… this community’s dark tradition.  I feel it is better categorized as a strange and bewildering movie than a horror flick.  However, if you were actually in the place of the main character you would be horrified.  But, in the safety of your darkened living room you are unlikely to break out into a sweat, sit on the edge of your seat, or gasp in horror.  Unless you are like me and a 3 minute song sung by a naked Scottish lady scares you – I suggest the fast forward button for that part.
        • 3 Elixirs – I read an article that labeled this flick ‘The Citizen Cane of horror films’.  I wouldn’t go that far.  But I would say if you want to be ‘with it’ in the refined horror world (and who doesn’t?) then you should probably either watch this movie or read the Wikipedia article.

        Scream

        • 3 Screams – This movie is supposed to be a play on slasher movie clichés.  But I’d be lying if I said “I totally wasn’t scared, and I think it would be hilarious if I kept getting prank calls while I was staying alone in my out of the way home.”
        • 3.5 Elixirs – Again, this movie is funny and smart and scary.  And genre hybrids are risky.  I usually hate movies that don’t seem to know what they want to be e.g. the comedy/drama.  But Wes Craven pulls out laughs and shocks in one package.  I salute you.

        The Blair Witch Project

        • 2 Screams – I’ll admit it, I fell asleep during this movie.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t chilled by the final shaky images of the film.  Again, it would be tremendously scary to be lost in those woods, but I wasn’t too worried as I ate candy and dozed peacefully that great 2008 Halloween.
        • 3 Elixirs  – I think we have this movie to thank for all the hand held point of view horror movies that have come out recently (Cloverfield, District 9, Paranormal Activity).  And it is the innovative (yet gut churning) POV that does add tension to the film.  Maybe one day, I will watch it through while fully awake.  And I would not say that about all the films I fell asleep during…Sorry 2001.

        Are you scared to try these movies?  Or are you simply shocked by how wordy my reviews are?  Either way, if you were planning on getting in the Halloween spirit I hope that these critical and precise ratings help you along your spooky road.  If you’ve already seen all of these, have no fear – tomorrow I’ll post the best of 2009 – hope you can sleep till then!

        And on a totally unrelated note…here’s where my dog was while I wrote this post. 

         

        images.jpg Wicker Man_no.jpg