Books & Brews Review: The Devil Crept In

I came up with the idea of pairing two of the things I enjoy most in this world, books & beer, for my Instagram account to have more pictures to post during the week. I’ve decided to begin a Books & Brews series in addition to my monthly hobby as well. Every book I read I’ll feature a beer and post a review of both once I’ve finished reading the book. The first review will be of Ania Ahlborn’s latest novel, The Devil Crept In & the featured brew is Roak Brewing Company’s Devil Dog Oatmeal Stout.

20170313_163447.jpg
Books & Brews are consumed on separate occasions

I received a copy of this book in The Nocturnal Readers box, which is a really awesome monthly book subscription box for lovers of horror, sci-fi & fantasy novels.  This was the first box I received & it is worth the $30 a month. Evil Husband said I could try out 1 month &  to cancel if it sucked, but it doesn’t. So I’m keeping it until Evil Husband cuts me off.

I hadn’t heard of the author, Ania Ahlborn, before getting her book in my subscription box. The Devil Crept In is her most recent novel, and she has several other horror novels to her name that all have decent ratings & reviews on Goodreads. I’ve added a few of her other novels to my “to read” list as I was equally entertained and creeped out by The Devil Crept In.

The novel is set in Deer Valley, Oregon, a small town filled with mangy stray cats, and oddly, no one town seems to own a dog. Stevie Clark is a 10-year-old boy with a speech impediment,  and has no friends other than his cousin and “best friend” Jude. Stevie calls Jude his best friend, but it doesn’t seem like Jude is all that nice to Stevie. Neither is Stevie’s abusive step-dad or older brother. The two boys hang out in the Oregon woods in their fort, but after Stevie returns home, he later learns that Jude has gone missing. Police believe Jude ran away, but Stevie knows better. He begs to help out with the search party & is rebuffed. Stevie’s mom makes him stay inside for fear he could go missing too. Stevie does what any other 10-year-old boy would do: he sneaks out and investigates on his own. He learns of the strange things that have happened in Deer Valley over the years and the other boy who also went missing a few years back.

As the novel progresses through Stevie’s eyes, we also are privy to a sort of flash-back, side story that fills in the gaps of Stevie’s “story.” There are times when I thought the story could have picked up the pace a bit, but the times when I thought I had figured out what was going on, she throws in twist that kept me entertained from beginning to end. Any horror fan should definitely add this to their “to read” list.

Devil Dog Oatmeal Stout is from a local brewery, Roak Brewing Company in Royal Oak, Michigan. This is actually the first beer I’ve had from this particular brewery, & it was decent. If you’re a fan of dark beers, oatmeal stouts are fantastic. This brew in particular has hints of chocolate, coffee & toasted oats, but I didn’t realize the ABV on this bad boy when I bought it. At 8.5%, it was definitely a one and done beer. I realized this half way through number 2.

I am a big fan of supporting local businesses and craft beer. Some of the brews I feature will be local to me, but I will also mix it up with more widespread national brews as well. If you’re interested in finding a great oatmeal stout near you, here’s a list of the top rated oatmeal stouts by Beer Advocate.

A Game I Love: Elder Sign

One of my favorite types of tabletop games to play are cooperative games. Co-op games are designed for players to play against the game itself and team up to beat the game. As Evil Husband and I focus on two player games, co-op games help break up the monotony of always playing against each other.  I had two choices from our collection for the “game I love,” Pandemic and Elder Sign.  Pandemic is a co-op game where you try to stop the spread of disease across a world map. It is a decent two player game, but I find it is more fun the more people you have and more roles to fill.  Elder Sign is a cooperative card and dice game that is good for 1-8 players. The theme of the game is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories and players take on the roles of investigators trying to prevent the return of an “Ancient One.” It may seem a bit complicated at first as there are a lot of components to the game, but it isn’t a difficult game to learn to play.

wp-1489365537553.jpg
All of the pieces and parts for the game.

The game begins by picking out your investigator roles and the Ancient One you will be trying to prevent from awakening & entering our world. Each investigator role has different abilities that will help you as you try to collect Elder Signs, investigate and battle monsters. In a two player game, each player takes on two investigator roles.

Each player takes a turn with one of their characters completing adventures by rolling several die and attempting to complete the tasks on each card. Each card has different rewards ranging from weapons cards to Elder Signs, and sometimes even bad things will happen, like a monster appearing. Failing to complete and adventure may result in loss of health & stamina, character death or a doom token added to the Ancient One’s card, resulting in the Ancient One being one step closer to awakening.

wp-1489367111164.jpg
Tonight we battled Glaaki.
20170312_202008.jpg
Close up of one of the Adventure cards with Elder Signs as a reward

If a player wins an Adventure, the role that completed the tasks gets the card as a reward that can be turned in for weapons or to heal. As each investigator completes a turn, the game clock moves 3 hours forward. Every time the clock strikes midnight, a card is drawn from the Mythos deck, which results in all sorts of fun (not really) things that happen.

20170312_202223.jpg
A midnight Mythos card. Basically we lost the ability to use any allies. Awesome.
20170312_202130.jpg
Midway through game play

The game ends when you collect all the required Elder Signs for the Ancient One or the doom tokens awaken the Ancient One and you have to beat it.  Each Ancient One takes a different number of Elder Signs to beat. In our case, it was 12.

20170312_202307.jpg
Game Over.

The game comes with 48 Adventure cards, so there is a very good replayability value as the “museum” will be different every time you play. We played with the first expansion, UnSeen Forces which adds more Adventure cards and Ancient Ones. Most games we play average about 90 minutes, sometimes longer if cocktails are involved.

One of the best sources we have used for our board gaming research is Wil Wheaton’s show, TableTop. If you’re interested in watching live game play of Elder Sign, check out the TableTop video.

Save

Save

Save

Not Your Average Board Game

I mentioned in my previous post that I was cheating a little with my hobby for this month, as board games is a hobby of both mine & Evil Husband. A few years ago, Evil Husband and I would retreat to our nightly gaming, T.V., or sleeping ritual, separately. The toll of working, parenting and generally being an adult had forced us into a routine of dinner, chores, an hour or so of quiet time after the kid went to bed, then sleep.  I remembered the days of when Evil Husband and I were dating and the nights spent playing random card games, or Euchre with friends and how much fun we had. I was looking for something we could enjoy together and stumbled across some postings about “modern” board games. I was honestly surprised at what board games are out there now.

For most people, the board games they think of are games like Monopoly, Risk, or Clue. But, there is such a vast world of board games out there nowadays, that there is literally a game out there for everyone. I will focus primarily on two player games, as that is what the majority of our collection consists of.

games
Our Board Game Collection

We decided the games we pick to feature this month will be one of the following:

  • Quick & easy 2 player games
  • A game I love
  • A game I hate (But Evil Husband likes)
  • A game I haven’t played in a while

For the “quick & easy 2 player games,” I picked Jaipur. Jaipur is a card game where you are a trader and the goal is to become richer than your opponent each round.

20170305_205040

Each player is dealt seven cards & the goal is to sell 1 card for the lower colors: brown, green & purple. A minimum of 2 cards are required for silver, gold and ruby. For every card you sell, you get the same number of tokens. The colored tokens are highest to lowest. If you are the first player to sell your cards of any color, you get the highest valued tokens. However, the more you have of any one color, you receive a bonus token & the value is only revealed at the end.

20170305_225645
Midway through first round of game play

Camels are kind of the “free” cards of the game. You can take them and hoard them until the end for bonus points, or swap them during a round for better cards. There are several different strategies you can play out to earn points. But, it can really just come down to the bonus tokens at the end.

20170305_213119
This may not seem like a lot of points…

20170305_230441.jpg
Until sorted by 10s. Total of 69 points. And I got the winner’s token.

Jaipur is one of my favorite quick and easy games to play.  Each round ends fairly quickly depending on quickly tokens or draw pile is depleted. The game is over after 3 rounds, unless a player wins two rounds in a row. I didn’t take pictures of the second round we played because we were  in cut throat mode. But the final total went something like this:

20170305_230602
Recreational Hobbyist: 2  Evil Husband: 0

Here’s a great You Tube video  if you want to check out live game play of Jaipur. Also, this past week I have posted some really awesome lists of beginner board games to check out my Facebook & Twitter. A good majority of these games I own, have played or are on my list to buy. Next week, we will feature one of my favorite 2 player games and a party game I recommend.

 

The Last Stitch…?

My first cross stitching post, I told you all how badly I messed up. Last week, I didn’t have a real update post as I had been working on fixing all my mistakes. Basically, I had begun the frame of the owl and ended up with it being all funky looking. As I followed the pattern, I came to the very bottom to connect & I should have had five stitches across. But I only had room for two stitches.

20170205_001548
The right side bottom row was off by 3 stitches.

I began unstitching the entire right side of the owl up to the  eyes. I fixed where I thought I had messed up, then began working my way back down. And something was still off.  My error was actually at the very bottom where I first started. I ended up deconstructing the entire bottom part and re-stitching. And it still wasn’t right. At this point, I had made two errors I found & fixed, and I had to get a second set of eyes. Evil Husband pointed out that I had stitched in an extra row on the left side of the pattern. And so the third deconstruction began. To top it all off, in the process of fixing it all, the damn thread fell apart. The kit only has a limited supply of each color, so I had to take thread from the kit I bought for my daughter.

deconstructedowl2.png
Deconstructed 3 times now?
fixed.png
Salvaged!

Once I was able to salvage everything and realized that this needs way more concentrating than I had given, I was moving along quite quickly. I even was able to manage different colors. I stitched in the other colors because I apparently have a problem counting empty spaces. This may not be the correct way, but it works for me. According to those I know personally that cross stitch, Evil Husband included, you’re supposed to stitch all of one color at a time. However, as I was clearly unable to figure out just the outside frame, and inside includes three different colors, I decided to do it my way.

colors
Multiple colors happening!

I had committed  to 4 weeks per hobby when starting this blog. I think I bit off a little more then I could chew with cross stitching. I really didn’t anticipate the mistakes that I had made would set me back this far.  By this time, I should have completed, at the minimum, the “practice kit” I bought. As of last night, I’ve made it this far…

almostdone
Almost done?

I am at a crossroads right now. I should begin my next hobby this week, but I haven’t finished cross stitching. I have decided I am going to continue on with my next scheduled hobby.  I will continue this project and update my progress until I have finished. As for the frog kit I picked up, I will work on it as time allows. As frustrated as I got, I really enjoyed cross stitching. I found it very relaxing, well, until I screwed up. It is a hobby I really recommend to someone who is looking for a crafty type hobby, but you should be decent at crafty kind of hobbies.  It isn’t hard, but requires time, patience & attentiveness.

So, what’s in store for the Recreational Hobbyist in March? Well, next month I’ll be covering a hobby that both Evil Husband and I discovered together and really enjoy. We’ve already established a pretty good library over the past few years, and we have a little bit of everything. Next month: Board Games.

games.jpg

 

Cross-Stitching Tutorials & Free Patterns

I had a great update post planned for this week. While recovering from the seemingly endless “unstitching” that it will take to fix my epic failure, I decided I would spare you all from what would otherwise be a rant of frustration. (Also, I’d like to keep my posts safe for work and family friendly.) So for the time being, I’ve had to step away from the needle and thread. In the meantime, I thought I might post the best tutorial posts I’ve come across & some free patterns as well.

A few of these tutorials I mentioned in my post from last week, and are some the most helpful I found in beginning.

  • Storypiece is becoming one of my favorite cross stitch sites. The basic tutorial is incredibly helpful for beginners & she offers some very cute patterns for free.
  • The Crafty Mummy also offers an in depth post on how to stitch & some great tips for beginners that I never would have thought of. Like how to end a row that makes it easier to continue onto the next row.
  •  DMC has a bunch of posts that are helpful for beginners and for more advanced stitching. They also have a very in depth post on reading patterns.
  • These embroidery posts & handstitching posts look like beyond simple cross-stitching patterns.  I can’t finish a My 1st Stitch Kit, so those patterns are beyond my level of expertise.

Now when I first entertained the idea of cross-stitching, I was on Etsy and looking for Stephen King stuff for my office. I had came across an IT pattern and decided I wanted to make this for our collection. I also found out how many cross-stitching patterns are available on Etsy and searched for free patterns that I may one day want to try out, should I continue along with this hobby.

  • I just so happened to find a cross-stitching blog by Tiny Modernist and she has some adorable patterns for free.
  • Country Living has several free patterns available. They aren’t all to my taste, but there are a few cute patterns I would stitch.
  • Deviant Art is a very cool site and user Syra1974 has a Lisa Simpson pattern, and several other really awesome Disney patterns, like Bambi.
  • DMC offers a bunch of free patterns, as does Crossstitching.com. I also came across this site that has albums full of free patterns ranging from Aliens to Zodiac signs.

Of course, if you’re looking for popular culture patterns, you may have to pay for a pattern. If you don’t mind paying a few bucks:

  • For those who like a little sass and risque patterns, stephXstitch has some very “cheeky” patterns available. Naughty word warning.
  • Cuddle Up Creations has some very intricate and beautiful patterns available. I had stumbled upon a dragon pattern that I would love to be able to do some day to represent my love for Skyrim.

I have been curating tutorials & patterns on Pinterest on my cross-stitching board. Feel free to check it out for even more! Next week, I will have an update on my own stitching progress and a sneak peek of my next hobby!!

The Struggle is Real: Cross Stitching 101

One day I delved into a rabbit hole on Etsy and came across a bunch of really cool shops that had cross stitching patterns for sale & I thought to myself, “I can totally cross stitch.” So I mentioned to Evil Husband (husband requested a moniker for my blog & was of his own volition,) my desire to learn to cross stitch & of course was met with side eye. However, once my blog idea came to  fruition and I decided my first monthly hobby would be the very catalyst for this blog. Evil Husband was even on board.

We made a trip to JoAnne Fabric,  and headed to the cross stitch aisle. I grabbed a Thomas Kinkade Disney’s Little Mermaid kit.  Evil Husband gives me a raised eyebrow. He suggests I may want to start small. (Surprisingly, he actually knows how to cross stitch, so I should probably listen to him.) He grabs a “My First Stitch” kit hanging separately from the “real” cross stitching patterns. I clearly notice the theme of theses kits, “Girls Rule” are amongst the patterns and I realize these are essentially for kids. Evil Husband might have a point, after all, it’s just a practice kit. I grabbed the most “adult” looking kit I could find.

cross-stitch-dreams-fs8
Left: What I thought I could do. Right: What I can do.

I began my kit about a week or so ago & have been pinning up a storm on my Pinterest in preparation, so I thought i had it all figured out already. When I opened up this kit, the directions weren’t super clear. I didn’t realize until I visited this post on Storypiece that each strand were 6 pieces in one,  and I’m only supposed to use only two strands. Even Evil Husband had forgotten that the floss needs to be pulled apart. I thought I just be able to easily pull it apart in sections. Nope, it likes to knot up about half away. All said,  it took me about 20 minutes to pull apart, unknown repeatedly to separate into 3 strands. 

Evil Husband helped out with the first few stitches because I had no freaking clue where to start the first stitch. The kit wasn’t super helpful aside from showing the stitching & pattern. I also found this post from Imagine Gnats quite helpful. After the first few stitches were started, I got into the groove.

20170212_235908.jpg
Made some progress after two nights

I spent some time about two evenings in a row and made the above progress. It probably totaled maybe 2-3 hours. The shape is starting to take form, and seems pretty easy. I started watching iZombie on Netflix while stitching, thinking I’ve got the hang of it.  Then I realized that I screwed up.

screwup
I messed up bigly somewhere.

So, I took out all the stitches on the right side. Then, I noticed I also screwed up the bottom part. I un-stitched it all and fixed it. Only to realize that I had messed up entirely in the beginning on the left part. And so about two hours ago, I gave up on My 1st Stitch.

Cross stitching isn’t hard. You just have to pay attention. My advice…don’t cross stitch and watch Netflix. My next few posts will be my attempt to fix my screw ups and hopefully start the “real” cross stitch pattern I picked up.

20170213_004527.jpg
This is supposed to be my real attempt at cross stitching.

The bottom line is that I thought this would be easy to do.  It is, as long as you pay attention to what you are doing and don’t watch Netflix.

 

Gamer Mom

The only other hobby that I have actually stuck with, ever since my dad brought home the original Nintendo back in the 80s, is video games. Since then, I’ve enjoyed games on all sorts of platforms from PC to consoles.

As a kid, I loved platform style games. Super Mario Brothers, Mega Man, Sonic, all were some of my favorites as a kid. I quit playing for most of high school, because, well, I was a teenage girl. I picked it up again in my early 20s, but kept it on the down low as not very many girls I knew played video games.  My gaming experience by then had evolved into racing games & NHL games, mixed with a little Halo & some Grand Theft Auto along the way. I even dabbled in World of Warcraft for a while. I’ve got a level 58 Night Elf out there somewhere named Staranna.

My gaming tastes have had to evolve over the years as I don’t have the time I once did, because well, I’m a grownup and I have grownup things to do. I also have come to the realization that I have the same level of commitment with video games as I do other hobbies. I hardly finish games anymore. A few years ago, my New Year’s Resolution was to finish all the games I had started, but never finished. Dead Space,  L.A Noire, Dead Island, Bioshock 2, The Last of Us are all started, but sadly never beaten.

I’ve since discovered the solution to my “I never finish games” & “I’m a grown up with limited time to play.” I can play RPGs like Skyrim, Fallout, Dragon Quest, etc. I’m not entirely stuck to a single linear quest line. I can make whatever kind of character I want & I am able to spend my time how I want. I can do main quests, side quests, craft, build or simply explore. And I don’t have to go online or raid at specific times to get the good gear.

Out of all the games I’ve ever played and fully meets my criteria, Skyrim, is my favorite game of all time. I can play for 30 minutes or a few hours after the munchkin goes to bed. It is a game that I have played 100s of hours over several characters. I started playing when the game come out  in 2011 & I have never “beaten” the game. There is so much to do that there isn’t really an ending to it. There’s times where I’ve spent more time taking screen shots in the game then actually playing. Below are some screen shots I’ve taken in the game (the main photo is my current character, Caelia.)

skyrimriften
View outside the Honeyside home in Riften

skyrimnight
A beautiful night sky in Skyrim

 

 

skyrimforest
Another picturesque landscape in Skyrim

Another genre I love is simulation games, which are similar to RPGs. These are also games where you can play whenever you have time. Games like The Sims 4 or Sim City are fun to play on a whim because you have full control, no quests to do and well, you’re kinda playing God. Plus, things like this happen:

sims-4
Yes, he is eating dinner with a Llama.

For me, playing video games is an awesome stress reliever. Sometimes, it takes finding that perfect kind of video game to suck you in. But once you’re there, you’re hooked. 

“I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.” ~Regina George’s mom, Mean Girls.

 

 

For the Love of Books

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. My earliest memories of childhood reading hundreds upon hundreds of BabySitters Club, Nancy Drew & Fear Street books. At 10 or 11, I began sneaking my mom’s Stephen King books. IT & Skeleton Crew among my first. I became a life long King fan from that moment on.

Over the years, however, my love for books and reading has occasionally been pushed to the back burner. There were years I maybe read only one or two books throughout the year. But it is the one hobby I never gave up on. And it’s because I found ways to challenge myself and make reading a little more interesting. For me, my passion for reading was reignited because of a Goodreads account.

If you don’t have a Goodreads account, make one. Every year they have an annual reading challenge where you can set the amount of books you want to read in a year. I found that setting a goal helped push me on those days I really didn’t want to read. I also joined reading challenge groups on the site that had silly “challenges,” like the “Alphabet Challenge,” where you read a book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. I also find lists from Goodreads or BookBub Blog helpful. My next reading challenge will to be to work through some of my saved lists on Pinterest.

My current reading challenge is to read through Stephen King’s entire bibliography in order of publication. I’m about 11 novels down and around 50ish to go. It’s been an interesting journey seeing King’s writing style develop over the course of time. It’s something I probably would have never noticed had I not gone back and started from the beginning. Several of his earlier books I had not read, and I’m beginning to see his characters & worlds intertwining. Reading through your favorite author’s bibliography is something I highly recommend.  I do break it up every few novels by reading something else, so I’m not entirely overwhelmed.

Another fun way to kind get back into the reading habit is book hoarding, hunting, at used book sales at local libraries. I discovered this obsession hobby of mine as we decided to begin collecting all of Stephen King’s novels, which was my inspiration for my reading challenge.

Book Sale Finder is an awesome site for finding local used book sales put on by local organizations or local libraries. Most sell hardcovers between $1-2 and paperbacks are even cheaper. We tend to hit up two of our local libraries on the weekends, and usually get in trouble by the husband for the amount of books I bring home. $10 usually goes a long way at these sales. My local library has a “red dot sale” that is $2 a bag full. I crammed 9 hardcover & paperbacks into a plastic grocery bag & even my husband was impressed. He thinks I won’t ever get around to reading them all, but he underestimates my passion.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

What is a Recreational Hobbyist?

About two months ago I decided I wanted to start writing a blog. But I know myself. I am the queen of starting a new hobby & moving on to something new within a few months. For two months, I mulled over what the hell I would write a blog about. I’m really not interesting or do anything special to warrant any type of “lifestyle blog.” I work full-time, I’m a mom, and the only hobbies I really have stuck with is reading and playing video games.

Then it hit me. I hobby recreationally. Every so often, when the motivation hits me, I decide I want to try something new. Spice up my life a little bit. For example, I told everyone I wanted those adult coloring books for Christmas last year. I ended up getting some pretty awesome coloring books, like the Game of Thrones coloring book. I got the highly recommended Prismacolor colored pencils set too. I posted a pic of the coloring books & pencils to Instagram, informing everyone through hashtags of how excited I was to start my new hobby. I colored a couple of pictures and a month later, my new hobby was abandoned. A year later, those coloring books are still in the same spot I left them in my office.

So I decided to take my recreational hobbying to a new level. I’ve decided to try out a new hobby every month & blog about my experience. And maybe find something along the way I can stick with (hopefully that something will be this blog!) Nothing will be off-limits. I will try everything from magic tricks to quilting and maybe even whittling.

The first hobby for my blog will be cross stitching. I should have started with something a little easier, but this particular hobby was the catalyst behind my blog idea. When I first mentioned to my family I wanted to learn to cross stitch, I was met with laughs and rolling eyes. They know the routine.

I will post updates throughout my recreational hobbying as to how well or not well I’m doing, whether or not I enjoy it and helpful blogs or sites I used to assist me along the way. As I am learning the ropes of a beginner cross stitcher, my first couple posts will be my two hobbies I have never faltered from, reading & gaming.