Virtual Game Night

With our stay at home orders due to COVID-19 obviously social lives have been completely upended. Thank god this is happening in a time when we have plenty of options for staying connected even when we can’t see each other in person. In order to give myself some sort of social interaction with people I have been hosting a virtual game night every Saturday night via Google Hangouts. It’s worked out well. It’s kind of funny to me that I am now spending every Saturday night with a lot of friends who I usually only see a handful of times per year due to our normal busy lives. Now that we’re all stuck at home we have time to get together online every weekend.

So far we’ve played a different game every week. I’m sure we’ll cycle back through some of these eventually if this goes on long enough. But here’s a list of things we’ve played in case you’re trying to come up with ideas for your own game nights.

Trivial Pursuit

We did this with an actual Trivial Pursuit game board. We set it up so that my iPad camera pointed down at the board. Every team had a die they could roll for themselves in their houses. I just moved the game pieces around the board on everyone’s behalf and also read all the questions. I promise I didn’t cheat and read the answers when it was my team’s turn to play. The version I had on hand that we played was made in 1994 so the questions were really old at this point. After starting by playing by the actual rules we soon pivoted to the quick method of you get a pie piece every time you get a question correct if you don’t already have that color otherwise we would have been there all night.

Code Names

One of my friends knows some people who programmed their own online version of Code Names, which is what we used to play. I think you could very easily play this with the actual physical version of the game as well if you again had a camera pointing at the words and then texted photos of the key card to the two clue givers for each round.

Scattergories

This was a fairly easy one to play. I just took photos of all the category cards and sent them out ahead of time. Then during the game I controlled rolling the letter die and setting the timer. I talked to another friend who tried playing with friends who all had copies of the game, but they discovered that having bought them at different times sometimes the category cards were not exactly the same. So fair warning if you go that route. My sister also found some online generator that will provide you a random set of categories along with a letter that we used to play with my nieces.

Family Feud

We used this online version of Family Feud that I found to play. We divided everyone up into two teams and then made my husband the emcee since he doesn’t care that much about playing games. You could also switch the emcee every round if you don’t have someone who wants to do it for the entire time you’re playing.

Drawful 2

Drawful 2 is one of the Jackbox Games. They are a set of games you can buy online and then play with friends over the internet. I actually managed to snag this particular one for free. Only one person needs to own the game in order for up to 8 devices to also be logged into the game. To play via Google Hangouts or Zoom you just share your screen to the game. Everyone does need a second device to actually draw and answer the questions. In this particular game everyone gets their own weird clue that they have to draw. Then everyone is shown the same drawing one by one and they have to provide a title for what they think the drawing is of. Then you get a list of all the titles people came up with plus the real title and people have to choose which one they think is the actual title. You get points for every time someone selects one of the titles you created instead of the actual title and if it’s your drawing you get points for every person that selects the actual title rather than one of the made up ones.

Other Future Options

We haven’t played any of these games yet, but they are possibly on tap for future virtual game night.

Additional Jackbox games

Someone else offered to buy some of the additional Jackbox games, so I think we’re going to do another one of those this coming weekend. There are a number of those we could cycle through if we want to pay for them.

The Game of Things

I think this game should also translate fairly easily to an online interface with answers being texted or emailed to the reader rather than submitted on a piece of paper.

Five Second Rule

This is a game I’ve never played in real life before, but I saw it when I was buying myself The Game of Things and thought it sounded like it would also be able to be easily played online with only one person owning the game. I bought a copy so we can try and attempt it. We’ll see how it goes.

Heads Up

Again I think this should work out okay as long as people can have a camera pointing at the phone on their heads so people can read the clues that they need to be getting the person that is it to guess. Thus I think this will probably be a better game to try when we have a night where it’s only couples and no single players so that one of them can train a camera on the other. The the single person could obviously set up something stationary as well.

Pictionary

I think if we ever do actual Pictionary we will need to do a modified version of it because I don’t think the all draw plays will translate well to an online format. It would be hard to see both people drawing at the same time and the potential internet lag time might disadvantage one team over the other. Otherwise I think it should work to have a phone or tablet camera propped up so that it’s pointing down on the piece of paper someone is drawing on.

Charades

I’ve been a little reluctant to try this one since I’m not sure how clear it will be to see what people are doing, but it might be worth trying at some point. I’ve seen some online charades clue generators that people could use to get their clues.

I will also say that depending on your set up for playing it may or may not be helpful to have a couple of options in your back pocket and to test things out ahead of time if possible. For instance the first night we tried to play Drawful 2 we ran into some technical issues that I hadn’t foreseen because it was difficult to test the game fully on my own. Luckily I anticipated there might be problems and already had Family Feud in my back pocket, which we were quickly able to pivot to. Also at least the way I’m running my game night is that whoever expressed interest in joining has been getting the weekly invite. Not everyone shows up every week so there may be instances where we need to switch things up depending on who comes on a particular night. For instance the Jackbox games can only have 8 logins at a time. Sometimes we’ve had more people than that. The virtual game night has definitely been a great way for me to keep some semblance of a social life though and gives a little bit of structure to what we’re doing online rather than just awkwardly staring at each other through little online boxes.

Magic Containers

I’ve been in awe of these Rubbermaid Freshworks produce containers for years and had previously thought about writing about them here as something that makes me happy but never did. Now in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis I feel like it would be remiss of me not to share my knowledge of them with you. I’ve always been skeptical of any specialized stuff like this claiming to keep stuff fresher longer. In my experience they never work. So when my husband bought some of these containers a couple of years ago I kind of scoffed at him and was like whatever. Those were probably a waste of money.

Boy was I wrong! These things are amazing! They totally do make our produce last longer without getting wilty and sad. With our new reality of trying to go to the grocery store only once every two weeks we bought even more of these to try and extend the life of the fresh produce we’re buying. I highly recommend getting some for yourself. Now if only someone could figure out a way to make it so bananas didn’t get ripe so fast. There’s no way I can buy two weeks of bananas at a time.

“Live” Music Getting Me Through Isolation

I missed out on my normal New Music Friday post yesterday. I’ve been really busy with work this week, and it’s also just been an emotional and draining week so I honestly just didn’t feel like writing it. I still have plenty of new music to write about. I just didn’t feel like it. Since I didn’t write about anything yesterday I thought I would share some of the musical things that are bringing me a little bit of joy right now.

Obviously if you know me or have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know how much I love music and how much I love to go to concerts. Obviously that’s not possible right now. It’s been sad to continue to delete more and more shows off of my calendar. I’m also trying to come to terms with the fact that even after this initial self-isolation period is over and concerts resume I’m probably going to have to refrain for the next year or so until there’s a vaccine or we’ve reached a high enough transmission rate for there to be a decent amount of herd immunity due to my multiple underlying conditions and immunocompromised status. It breaks my heart because live music is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life. Even if the show goes on I’ve already committed to abandoning my trip to Washington State the first week of June to see Brandi Carlile in a fan club only show in Seattle followed by seeing her at The Gorge, one of the venues on my bucket list. I haven’t completely come to terms with it yet, but I’m starting to think through the fact that the Newport Folk Festival is also probably going to be out for me this year as well.

Meanwhile I’m consoling myself with some of the many musical things that artists are doing from their houses. There are way too many of them to even think about keeping up with, especially the ones that are being done only on Instragram and have to be viewed within 24 hours. I’ve watched a few of those things, but obviously I can’t share those with you now so I’m going to concentrate on the ones you can still watch. Also, I was feeling overwhelmed with feeling like I was missing out on something I would love so committing to some of these and just watching other stuff when and if I can has made me feel less bad about missing out on things.

I So Lounging with Amanda Shires (and Jason Isbell)

It is no secret around here how much I love Jason Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires who has her own band, plays in his band when she can, and is the founding member of The Highwomen. Every day at 5 pm Central Amanda performs for about a half an hour from a barn on their property outside Nashville. Sometimes it’s just her. Sometimes members of her band who are quarantining with them show up. Sometimes her mom shows up. And in most of the later episodes Jason Isbell shows up. The format they’ve seemed to settle into is one or two of Amanda’s songs, one of Jason’s songs, or sometimes some covers. Kelly Bueno, so is married to one of Amanda’s bandmates and who works for but does not play in the band, is producing the daily shows and keeps an eye on the chat and passes them questions that people are asking that they then answer. They obviously have a plan for the songs they’re going to play, but otherwise things are pretty loose and can get a little silly. It’s very much a bright spot in my day. You can catch them live on Youtube each or go back and watch the previously recorded episodes.

The Kat & Dave Show

The Kat & Dave show is Katharine McPhee Foster and David Foster doing performances and being silly together. It started out a little loose and they have since gotten much more planned with themed episodes. They even say that they’re rehearsing for these for a couple hours, so they’re obviously putting a decent amount of work into them even though they still seem a little off the cuff, which I find fun and really enjoy. They’ve done 10 episodes so far and are now on a little hiatus to supposedly plan more shows. Hopefully they do return and soon because I really love them. You can go back and watch the already recorded episodes on YouTube. They go live from both of their accounts so that both of their fans can follow along, so there are two versions of every episode listed. You can just pick whose phone you want to watch it from.

Choir! Choir! Choir! Distan-Sing-Alongs

If you are unfamiliar with Choir! Choir! Choir! is a weekly drop-in sing-a-long in Toronto hosted by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman. They also tour now so you can potentially sing with them wherever you live. I saw them perform at the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago. What they’re doing online is different from the live shows where you only sing a couple of songs and they walk through teaching the songs to everyone with half the room doing the melody and half singing harmony. In these obviously you aren’t singing with a whole room of people. You can only hear them and yourself and whoever else might be in the room singing with you. They are still a lot of fun and just seeing the people participating in the chat from all over the world while you know we’re all singing together makes me feel way less alone through all of this. We’re literally all going through it together. They’ve done two so far the Choir!intine: Epic Social Distan-Sing-Along! and the Epic Love Song Social Distan-Sing-Along. They’re doing a third one tomorrow at 3 pm Eastern where we’ll be singing songs about spring. You can watch either on Facebook Live or Youtube Live. I highly recommend. It will definitely brighten up your day I promise.

Christopher Paul Stelling

Christopher Paul Stelling has played a couple of times in the past week just sitting down with his guitar and playing for a good long time. The first one was an hour and half and the second was two hours. He’s just an amazing guitar player and I find his music so calming. His song “Scarecrow” with its chorus of “So breathe, breathe it out, lay your burdens down, to rest. Breath, through the doubts, never let them get the best, the best of you.” has long been one of my go to songs when I’m having a bad day and is moreso now than ever. I was really happy that he played it during the second show and was highly amused that it has obviously been awhile since he had to stop, figure out what the lyrics were, and then start again. If you just want some music that give you a little peace in these troubled times I recommend some Christopher Paul Stelling.

 

20 Things in 2020

I’ve always been a little bit of a homebody and someone who is averse to going into situations that I am unfamiliar with. As I’ve gotten older and more tired and my neighborhood has gotten more and more things to do I have gotten worse and worse about getting out and about in Baltimore. So in 2020 I decided that I want to try and do 20 things in and around the Baltimore area that I’ve never done before. It could be as simple as trying a restaurant I’ve never been to or going to some event.

My neighborhood does a New Year’s Eve ball drop and the guy who organizes it always dresses up as Baby New Year. I’ve never gotten my picture taken with him until last night because my friends said that could be my first thing. I did do it and probably wouldn’t have otherwise because my instinct is never to push further into a crowd so that I can take a picture with a mostly naked man. It kind of goes a little bit against the idea of this though in that I did not have to leave my neighborhood to do it. Maybe I’ll count it as half a thing and if I do something else new in my neighborhood over the course of the year I can count that as a half thing as well.

I have a few ideas in mind, but am open to suggestions of things I should do. I keep wanting to go to the concerts they’ve been doing at the Peabody Library that they’ve been hosting, but come that weeknight I can never muster up the motivation. Going to the BMA earlier this week and seeing a video art installation that featured the Great Black in Wax museum I was reminded that it was something I had on my list of things to do a long time ago. I’ve always wanted to go to the Great Halloween Lantern Parade in Patterson Park but have never gone.

I of course will be blogging about whatever adventures I have so you can all follow along.

11th Anniversary Celebration

My husband and I always buy each other gifts based on the traditional or modern gifts for each anniversary year. Usually they aren’t anything big, but we try to be creative and get something the other one will like. Sometimes more successfully than others. The traditional gift for the 11th anniversary is steel. It is also apparently the year where we almost wound up giving each other the same thing. The only reason we didn’t is because I was waiting closer to our anniversary to order my gift and when we got home from some trip and were going through the mail I saw the return address on the package. I immediately opened up my computer, spun it around, showed my husband the tab that had been sitting open my browser for weeks, and said I guess I know what I’m getting for our anniversary. Sorry for the terrible pic, but I couldn’t find a way to take it without the shadow in it. It’s a map of Baltimore cut out of steel. He also threw in an ornament of Maryland.

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Since I didn’t think we needed two steel cutout maps of Baltimore I had to come up with something else. I wound up getting him an engraved spatula. I couldn’t resist using one of the silly puns I had seen on keychains replacing the word still with steel.

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To celebrate our anniversary we went out to dinner at The Black Olive. Somehow even though I’ve lived in Baltimore for over 19 years this was the first time I’ve been to The Black Olive. I mean when I first moved here and I was a poor twenty-something grad student it made sense, but now I go to plenty of restaurants at this price point. I guess there’s always been something newier and flashier that I wanted to try, but I finally decided it was time we made our way to The Black Olive.

It’s a Greek restaurant known for it’s fresh fish. They prepare whole fish that you can see in their fish case beforehand if you want. They then filet it at your table for you. I kind of wanted to try the lamb chops, but I figured on my first visit I should get some sort of fish since that’s their thing. I went with the bronzini, which is a Mediterranean sea bass. I suspect it was prepared in a way that I was supposed to eat the skin as well, but that creeps me out so I didn’t. It left the fish kind of bland even with the added sauce they poured on for me. If we go back again I’ll definitely try the lamb chops next time.

My husband had the veggie combo. I’m actually not entirely sure everything that was on it. There were definitely some mushrooms and a piece of village pie along with some other veggies and something neither of us could identify but almost seemed like a slice of baked stuffing. He really liked it. We started with saganaki plate which contained pan seared, paper-thin zucchini, tzatziki, two Greek cheeses Kefalograviera and Haloumi. It was all delicious. I would go back just to eat that again. For dessert we had baklava and a tarte tatin. They were both delicious as well. It was a nice meal, well paced with good service. I would definitely go back again at some point.

Happy 11th Anniversary to My Husband

Today my husband and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary. It’s been 11 wonderful years since we got married and 15 years since we started dating. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. Time has flown by. Neither of us are super gushy romantic people. We don’t generally do the types of things that the culture at large would necessarily consider romantic, but I think the life we live together and the way we take care of each other is the best romance of all.

Me being me of course can think of no better way to express my love than through a song. If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know I mentioned that I was bummed that Ray LaMontagne didn’t play my favorite song of his when I saw him on Wednesday night. That was partly because I already knew I was going to be using it in this anniversary post. If I had gotten married any later this song would have been the song I chose for our first dance. However, the album it’s on didn’t come out until four days before our wedding and somehow in that four days while I was in the midst of last minute wedding prep I did not find this song, fall in love with it, and then decide to make it our first dance song. (Our actual first dance song was Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” in case you were wondering.) I love this song and think it perfectly encapsulates our marriage because my husband is the best thing that ever happened to me. He makes my life better every day. I look forward to many more years together.

Summer Clothing Staples

I’m trying to get a little bit better about posting non-music stuff around here. Let’s face it, it’s probably still going to be like 90% music related content, but since no one who reads this blog cares that much I’m trying to mix it up every once in awhile. I used to try and write about stuff that makes me happy no matter how small. With summer starting to wind down (not that you’d know it based on this heat wave), I thought I would share a couple of my favorite summer clothing items.

I few years ago Target started making these tank tops. They were originally under one of the house clothing brands that Target retired. When I saw that they were getting rid of that brand I was super sad because I thought it meant these tank tops were going away, but they just started making them under the A New Day brand (which whenever I see the tags I always think says And Away). I own this tank top in approximately one million colors. Since white tanks get dirty so easy and the tanks are so cheap, when I need something to fill out an online Target order to get the free shipping I will toss one in my cart.

The other thing I absolutely love are these Abeo Kadie flip flips from The Walking Company. I posted here once before about a pair of flip flips that I loved, but bit the dust because they were so old and I wore them so much. Those flip flips having nothing on these. It took me literally years and so many wasted flip flop purchases to finally find a pair that I really loved and I felt like I could wear without tearing my feet apart. These are great. They are super comfortable. They have great arch support and most importantly the straps don’t rub at all. From the very first second I put them on I could wear them with no issues. I’ve owned far too many flip flips that I just hoped the straps would eventually soften up or my feet would get used to. Not so with these. I can wear them for long periods of time with no problems. They have never cut my feet or caused blisters. They are just plain comfortable. They are definitely more money than I ever wanted to pay for a pair of flip flops, but they’re really worth every penny. I wish that I had managed to snag another pair on summer clearance as backup before they sold out of my size. Now I just have to hope they bring them back again next summer.