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Gaming Together When You Can’t Be Together

 

I remember when Yahoo games used to be the way that me and friends would game together. I used to play scrabble and other board games online for hours at a time. There was a chat room and tournaments that I never paid attention to and most of the games were private, but we had a lot of fun.

When my husband went off to depot I installed Tabletop Simulator and sent him with the ancient laptop we have. We played it together when we were both at home and I was on baby duty, and I knew it would be a great way for us to be able to game together with our very limited amount of time. One of my favourite games to play which I’ve discussed before, is Pass the Pigs, so last week we set up a game and tested out his wifi connection.

The lag on his end was pretty bad but thankfully these types of games don’t require a whole lot of deftness. We used the chat room to talk and had a good time throwing the two little plastic pigs around. I won, but it didn’t really matter.

I downloaded other games like Cards against Humanity, and some favourite board games like the game of life, chess, and a handful of card games. Being able to game together a bit even with the distance gave me a little piece of normal for the evening, and reestablished our connection when most days are so busy we don’t get to say more than 15 words to one another.

I love the changes in tech and gaming that have happened over the years, and this is just one reason why.

How Streaming Helped my Mental Health

I haven’t been streaming for that long, but honestly it couldn’t have started at a better time in my life. Sure, I have a brand new baby boy, my husband is away at depot for 6 months, and I can barely form a single complete thought let alone carry on an adult conversation – but streaming has been one of the best things I could have done.

Why? Because it’s something I’m doing for me.

Four times a week, for an hour each time, I stream video games. I’m on a RimWorld stint lately because it’s pretty easy to play with a toddler in my lap or if I have to randomly AFK. I try my best to stick with a schedule which is currently 14:30-15:30 mon-tue-thur-fri. My streams are not long, and I’m not incredibly popular but I do have an absolute blast every time and I am incredibly thankful to those people who stop in, even just to say hello. At the end of my streams I have the biggest smile on my face and it’s because of each and every single person who has made an effort to be there for me. I really can’t express just how much this has helped me.

When I first started streaming I was in a pretty dark place. I was suffering from Postpartum, and I was very lonely with my husband gone. I tried streaming at night when logically I had more “free” time, but it didn’t work out because I’m on duty 24/7. I wanted to remind myself that I was MORE than just a mother. That I was an actual human being, with interests, friends, and passions. One of those passions is video games and even more than that one of those passions is other people and interacting with them to the best of my introverted capabilities. So I stream.

I feel really good when I stream. I love sharing what’s going on in my small home, I am proud that I’m able to remain calm and collected when something happens either in game or out. I feel like I’m able to transition between watching my llama bean and interact with my stream audience at the same time. I love having discussions with them, I love sharing my enjoying of whatever game I happen to be playing. I love that my little guy babbles into the microphone and shares his thoughts, too.

For that one hour I am something more than just a milk supplying caregiver. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my son, I love my family and I am incredibly blessed to have all of this in my life and I realize that, but you can get yourself caught up in a particular headspace where you’re not feeling very appreciated – and streaming makes me feel appreciated.

So even though I don’t have a lot of spare time, the streams are hectic, and some days I wonder why I’m bothering, I’m really glad to be streaming.

If you haven’t checked out one of my streams yet, please do! You can find me as Stargrace over on twitch and I upload my videos to YouTube after each one. If you happen to be a streamer let me know, I try my best to grow our community and catch other streamers when I can. I realize we should all be supportive of one another, and it really is a lovely community.

A Little Anime

Sometimes at the end of the day when I have two hours to myself I don’t actually feel like doing any gaming, or I just can’t narrow down what it is I want to do, so I’ll settle into my comfortable rocking chair with my knitting and watch some anime. I’m not a fan of the really heavy stuff or anything that’s too violent, or horror – but there’s so many other shows out there that I never lack for things to watch.

My most recent anime has been Fruits Basket. This is probably going to quickly become one of my top 5 anime, it’s adorable and there are so many quirky moments. It’s also got a lot of sadness within the show, and it’s pretty easy to relate to parts of it. It was recommended to me by a good friend, so it’s not really a surprise that I’m enjoying it this much. I highly suggest checking it out if you’ve never heard of it before.

Have an anime suggestion? What are you watching lately? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know below.

Sunday Meal Prep

I know it’s Monday now but yesterday was one of those crazy Sunday’s where you just don’t have enough time to get everything you want done. I did complete all the meal prep stuff I wanted to though (sort of) so that was nice. This week I’m having deconstructed chicken gyro with brown rice and homemade tzatziki sauce for lunch, and I’m having homemade chili with dinner rolls for supper. I also made apple crisp and put it at the bottom of some mason jars then filled the jars with homemade yogurt for breakfast. Unfortunately the instant pot was taken up making yogurt for most of the day, so my chili never finished cooking (I use dehydrated beans, they’re cheaper and just as tasty) so that will be on the block for today.

I don’t really have recipes to share because these are all comfort foods that I tend to just wing, but the dinner rolls pictured above are delicious and super easy to make, so I’ll share what I do.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 package of quick acting yeast
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • pinch of salt

Take 3/4 a cup of flour, mix in the sugar and yeast. In a separate bowl,  combine the warm water, milk, butter, and salt. Add the flour mixture that has the yeast, combine (it will be REALLY wet). Add the remaining flour until it’s not so wet, knead for about 10 minutes, add more flour if it’s still wet. Put it in a covered bowl in a draft free place until it has doubled in size (about an hour). Spray or grease a muffin tin. Divide the ball of dough into 12 portions, put each ball in the muffin tin. Cover loosely with a dish towel and let sit until those double in size (another 30 minutes). Put in the oven at 365F for 20 minutes. They should be a golden brown and when you tap the bottom they should sound hollow.

Not too exciting, but they taste delicious and go well with chili.

Meal prep has been the biggest reason I’ve lost 53lbs this year. I’ve got healthy home cooked meals already portioned out for the entire week, and while Sunday might be a long day because that’s when I do all my cooking, come Monday I’m very grateful. There’s no binge eating, there’s no eating poorly because I don’t feel like cooking, it’s all right there. If I want a little treat I don’t deny myself, but my meals are typically filling enough that I don’t spend much time eating anything else. I also ensure that whatever I do eat is something I have made myself (not processed or fast food). I haven’t started doing a lot of exercising yet (aside from taking care of my son, going for walks, that sort of stuff) but I hope to start doing that once I have a bit more free time. For now I’m happy with my progress.

Finding Scarecrow Pepe

I had a really hard time finding Pepe for some reason. On my priest that used to be horde but transferred to Alliance he was no where to be found – so I relogged to an alt and there he was, on top of a grave. Cutest little fluff ball (as always). I had not gotten the achievement for finding him before, so it was nice to tick that off.

Plus how cute does he look perched up there!

I’ve been slowly going through the Halloween events in WoW. I’ve done them before, but it’s fun and there’s a few things I haven’t collected yet (pets, mostly). I already have the headless horseman mount from a few years back, one of the few mounts I’ve ever actually been able to collect. There are lots that I’ve been trying to get for years now. Aside from that, gaming has been nice and quiet – and relaxing, exactly what I’ve needed.

Happy gaming, no matter where you find yourself!

The Result Of Squirt Day

I have been neglecting my pet collection this expansion pretty severely, I haven’t even collected all of the overworld ones yet let alone any of the special ones. That being said, I did want to take advantage of “squirt day” because it fell on pet battle week. Squirt is an NPC you can find in your garrison, and leveling against her is really easy once you have a set team. I used the Enchanted Broom and a second pet, along with a carry pet. I managed to get about 25 pets from level 1 to 25 with just the handful of games I played. I would have done more, but, well, life interrupted (as it always does). Still, I’m happy with the progress. My collection isn’t that great, but I do have three pets that comes from the WoW card game, and I know if I just keep chipping away at leveling and collecting I’ll do even better.

Did you level up any pets during pet battle week? How’s your own collection doing? Let me know in comments!

 

What To Do With Left Over Pickle Juice

I love things pickled. One of my favourite things to eat pickled (besides, you know, pickles) is pickled eggs but they’re quite pricey. A small jar will typically run about $15 (Canadian). Turns out they’re really easy to make. I had an empty jar of extra garlic pickles (kept the brine) and some eggs and some vinegar.

That’s pretty much all you need, or you can make your own brine from scratch. I boiled the brine along with the extra vinegar, and added some extra spices for a bit of heat. I cooked the eggs in my instant pot (no fuss and they’re done in 5 minutes) peeled them, and put them into the pickle jar. I sealed the jar, let it sit out until it cooled down, and popped it into the fridge for a few days.

Yesterday was the first day I opened it up to see how they came out.

Fantastic.

The flavour is decidedly tart – but not so tart that it makes your mouth pucker, and not in an uncomfortable way. Sometimes you get such a heavy vinegar taste that it makes the food obnoxious to eat, but not in this case. All it cost was the $2.99 carton of eggs, and they’ll last in the fridge for a very long time.

So before you go tossing out that pickle juice – try some pickled eggs (or carrots). Yum.

We’re All Friends Here

People die and it sucks.

I’m 36 at the time of this post, and that’s quite young, but I’m no stranger to friends my own age passing away. 2 year ago my best friend from high school died in the middle of the night unexpectedly. I’ve written here about Jean, a friend from EQ2 who died from suicide.  Over the years people I’ve known, people I’ve loved, have passed on. It doesn’t get any easier to deal with and it doesn’t get any less awkward to talk about but I wanted to talk about it today anyway because it’s one of those things that’s important to me.

It’s important that my friends know how much they mean to me. Even those I have never met in person. On twitter, on facebook, on discord, on G+, any place we may have interacted, I truly do care. I may not always get a lot of time to show it, and you may not even think I know who you are, but if we’ve interacted, chances are I do. I do know who you are. I spent a lot of time quietly observing the happenings from a distance. If you need something I’ll be there to the best of my abilities.

This post is spurred on by learning that Zach Best passed away a few days ago. I didn’t know him personally. I only knew him through his writing as Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats.

Sypster over at BioBreak has a post about it too and how he met Zach back in 2011 at a blogger breakfast, something I have always wanted to do but as of yet have not.

It reminds me again that life is fragile. That we need to embrace the happiness we have. That we need to show people every single day that we care, that they’re important, that their life matters to us.

Just some thoughts this morning.

Duolingo ?

Duolingo is a language learning app that turns learning into a game, which is not anything new, but it has become incredibly popular lately. I see a lot of friends taking on new languages, and I think that’s amazing. I’m typically a fan of anything that promotes learning new skills, I think becoming stagnant with our skill sets is a bad thing, and we need these challenges.

I decided to install it on my phone and see what it was about, refreshing myself in French. I was in French immersion when I first started school, my mother’s family is French, and over the years I have seen almost zero use of it so I’m nice and rusty. I can read it and speak it pretty well, spelling is a whole other can of worms. You do a placement test to see what level you rank at, and then lessons start from there.

It’s an interesting app, but I have one major issue with it.

There are some words that have multiple meanings, or words you can use instead of, or words that have evolved over time, and none of this is taken into account when duolingo grades you. For example, the French word “manteau” is commonly used for jacket, coat, and various other objects. Duolingo wouldn’t accept anything but “overcoat”. As I mentioned to friends, getting silly stuff wrong isn’t fun, and it takes away from the program.

You earn points daily for completing the program, can see your progress, earn badges, add friends and all that good stuff. The app is also free with ads that are blended in fairly well (they have their own screens that you can skip or click but the actual interface blends in well with the basic app interface). You can choose to unlock everything and pay monthly, there’s three tiers of payment plan offered depending on how often you want to pay.

Is this the most amazing language learning app out there? I’m not convinced. I do think it works well as a beginner stepping stone, and I can easily see why it’s so popular, but it’s a lot of memorization, no lessons or explanation what so ever on anything. I think it’s a good tool for beginners to learning a new language or refreshing one you may be rusty in but I’d combine it with other language tools out there, including actual classes and of course the best learning tool which is hands on experience where you’re actually speaking the language with someone else and having discussions.

I’ve personally always been of the opinion that languages are something you can learn that will never go “out of style” and the more you can learn the better. I regret not doing it more as I grew up, but really, it’s never too late.

Have you tried duolingo? What are your thoughts? If you decide to give it a try, which language are you going with? Let me know in comments!

Where Do You Call Home?

It’s 2017 and we’ve seen a lot of changes in video games over the years – one of the biggest video game annoyances I have always had is the idea of servers. The traditional idea, where you’re locked to it, playing happily with all your friends until a year passes and suddenly no one is playing with you and the grass is greener on the other side. You know the servers I’m talking about.

What have games done to combat the idea that people tend to play everywhere and they want to play with their friends (along with a large population)? Well, there have been server transfers, allowing players to pay a fee (or sometimes no cost) to swap to a server of their choice. There have been server merges, where two (typically) underpopulated servers would get merged together to create one large server, there have been megaservers, where ALL smaller servers were combined into one gigantic server (a-la WildStar), there have been shards, where people can join up across servers to play in instances with their friends and even raid. There have been server teams, where you’re on a team with a bunch of other servers and you share some of the same zones but you’re not technically on the same server together.

Like I said, many different ways of attempting to solve the technical issue of having a ‘server’ and the players desires to be where all the action is – with their friends. Or with that new raid guild they’ve been eyeballing. Or whatever XYZ reason a player has to want to play some place new with their old character.

Then there are the games that don’t have servers. EVE Online is a great one that comes to mind. Because each area is its own zone there’s no real need to have people playing on different servers. Of course it could also be due to a population thing, while there are usually anywhere from 17-28,000 people online when I am, it’s not hundreds of thousands or even millions of people all gathered together.

The reason this comes up is because I have a lot of different World of Warcraft servers that I consider “home” – and that list has only grown and changed over the past 10 years as friends have come and gone and new friends have joined up. There’s Argent Dawn which is where I have both a horde and an alliance guild that I run. My husband and I have our established characters there. Then he stopped playing. It’s not much fun playing alone.

So I moved to Area 52 with a few characters. Set up a guild there. Had a few friends who played. The server population is enormous. Then those friends stopped playing, and I was playing alone again.

I moved a hunter over to Dalaran with a few members from Combat Wombat where we had an ultra casual guild that completely fell apart.

So I moved to Lightbringer with Stargrace, my priest where I joined Crimson Cross, and I have a tiny little warrior that I just started. An established guild that isn’t going anywhere, and while I may only “know” one or two members, at least it’s a place I can call ‘home’ and they haven’t kicked me out yet no matter how inactive I become.

All of these servers are still “home” for one reason or another. They all have characters that I’ve played, that I enjoy playing, and that I would love to play again – and I wish it were easier to move them around, or at least a little less expensive. I wish I could keep all of my characters together, but WoW is not a game that lets you do this very easily. At least not without shelling out a fair bit of cash. I wish I had all of my crafters on the same server. I miss them. Playing with friends or at least having them around in chat is a nice aspect to my gaming, and while we CAN group up and even raid cross server, I find it’s just not enough.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in comments and as always, happy gaming, no matter where you find yourself!

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