Earlier this year I recommended two games for iOS that I hadn’t actually played on iOS and I’m here now to un-recommend. But both of the games are amazing and you should play them, just on different systems.
Aquaria was released for PC in 2007 and won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at IGF that year. I played it around 2009 and fell deeply in love with the game. It was adapted and became available for iOS a few years ago and after recommending it I finally bought it for my iPad mini. Everything about it was the same but just as soon as I got into the areas where combat is required I died. Over and over again. You respawn at points very close to where you die but it was still frustrating. Why did I like the game so much upon the first play through? A little bit of memory jogging and I remembered why – with the PC version you can gently hack the settings so that your character takes damage less quickly. You’re not invincible but needing to regain energy comes at a much more reasonable pace for me. The other reason that playing on a computer has a bit of an edge is simply that there are keyboard shortcuts for triggering common things in the game that come in very handy. (One tip: If you are playing on iOS make sure you pick up your first pet before you head out to Open Waters to explore beyond the initial area of the game. Not having that was part of the reason I was expiring so quickly and why I was frustrated to the point of not continuing.)
General review: In Aquaria you play as an creature who lives in underwater caves and has no memory. You set out to make discoveries and during the course of play you uncover the history of yourself as well as a set of long lost civilizations all wrapping up in the story of the creation and downfall of a god. The game is vast and takes a long time to play. You are in an open world, meaning you can venture into almost any area of the game at any time. There are a few features that block your way until you gain new abilities but those abilities also unlock some fast travel systems later on which is great because you will be revisiting areas. There is a map and a note system so you can mark areas to return to. The game can be at times delightful and spooky and just when you think you cannot possibly find anything new everything changes completely, and then it changes again. I adore the feeling of exploration in this game, there is an amazing amount of space to search and most every area has a secret to reveal to those who look closely. If you get stuck or want hints the forums at Bit Blot are very thorough. The character development, soundtrack and story all lead to most people, including myself, having an emotional attachment. It’s one of those games to dive into in the depth of winter or if you break a bone and are immobile for a while.
Bonus points for the main character and most of the secondary characters being well developed and powerful females. Game includes impressively vast open world exploration, puzzle solving, combat, resource gathering and crafting and an amazing story and soundtrack. For game nerds I’ll point out that one of the developers went on to create a game called Spelunky, you might know it?
Available for PC, Mac and Linux (DRM free). Also on Steam.
Aquaria was made by two developers, check out their other stuff: Alec Holowka’s projects can be found at Infinite Ammo and see Derek Yu‘s site.
The Cave is a game by my beloved Double Fine that I hadn’t played yet but was on my radar. I bought it for my iPad and got stuck almost right away because the tablet controls are terrible. I was so frustrated I pulled up a bunch of reviews and the majority of them echoed my later conclusion – the game is great but the tablet controls are unsatisfactory and it’s worth playing the game in a different form.
So next I bought the game for my OUYA and loved it. The game is funny and sarcastic. In the game you choose three characters (out of an available seven) to go in and explore the cave, or rather, The Cave. Each character has a different set of abilities and can reach different parts of the cave. As you progress you learn the stories of each character, and they aren’t always what they seem. The playthrough isn’t terribly long and you can replay choosing different characters to reach different parts of the cave, though there are a few areas you will play through during each pass, which can be a little repetitive the third time you play (if you want to play all the characters). My favorites were the Twins, the Scientist and the Explorer.
Bonus points to the developer for making half the playable characters female. Game includes plot driven exploration, puzzle solving and humor. Available on Steam and OUYA.
Double Fine has been up to some interesting stuff lately, I cannot wait for the second half of Broken Age and their older games are well worth playing, there is a special spot in my heart for Psychonauts which I didn’t play until a few years ago.
Let’s talk games. I have a PS3, a PC, an OUYA and an iPad. In wintertime I want games to play in my living room so the PS3 and the OUYA are my focus, otherwise I am often looking for something to pass the time on a flight so I look for games for my iPad. My PC gaming has fallen away with the exception of a few extended story lines or games bought through Steam or Kickstarter (Dreamfall Chapters and Broken Age part 2 are what I’m currently anticipating). With all these platforms I’m only slightly aware of all the games out there that I know I’d like. (Even doing some link gathering for this post has led me to some gems that have been around for a while but are new to me.) Lately I’ve been depending on the podcast The Indoor Kids for game recommendations, and they do an amazing job but their focus as been on Xbox lately. I’m looking for a website or news source that is curated enough to not be overwhelming, my usual sources – Jay Is Games, Ars Technica, Touch Arcade – are often more information than I can parse.
So, I’m curious! Where do you find yourself looking for new games? What platform do you prefer? What news source do you trust?
· comments  · 05-14-2014 · categories:iphone · technology ·
This is a sponsored post brought to you by the upcoming Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return 3D animated film.
I remember reading about China Country for the first time in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book and I was utterly charmed by the description of a land and people entirely made of porcelain. Rereading it just now I find that a startled china cow has it’s leg broken off! Happily the cow could be mended but, still, eeek. In the book Dorothy and her companions pass through the land of China Country and then there isn’t any more mention, but for some reason I’ve always remembered it. Happily we will see a lot more of China Country (called China County in the film) and the China Princess in the upcoming Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return film, which opens this weekend. (Quick note: sound plays when you load that website. It’s lovely music but, just in case, I wanted you to know.)
To celebrate the film I decided to make tea cakes themed around places in Oz including China County and Candy County. The icing I used here doesn’t require any heat or electric mixers to make, it’s stirred together by hand, so young children can be responsible for icing and decorating these cakes.
I wanted to keep things fairly simple and shopped for candies that could represent the various places in Oz. I found rainbow sour ribbon candy, green rock candy for the Emerald City, orange nonpareils for the field of poppies, yellow cake sprinkles for the Yellow Brick Road, chocolate cones and mushrooms that would work as forest trees, sugar roses and gold dragees for China County and gingersnaps and peppermint candies to represent Candy County.
I wanted to create small cakes but instead of buying a baking pan specifically for them (they are out there if you’d like) I used jumbo sized cupcake pans and put a smaller amount of batter in each cup making for small and charmingly domed cakes. Since my cakes are little landscapes I used chocolate cake to represent earth but any flavor of cake, or even a brownie, would work out great here. This is a good time for your favorite one-bowl chocolate cake recipe.
Spray a jumbo muffin tin with a baking spray such as Baker’s Joy. Put 3 tablespoons of cake batter in each section and bake at 300 degrees until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool, remove from the tin and place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
The icing is simply confectioners sugar and milk mixed together by hand. I made white icing for the porcelain of China Country and the snow of Candy Country, and the rest of the icing is colored green to represent grass. I used clear vanilla flavoring so the white icing would stay as white as could be. The great things about this icing are that it’s as simple to make and it sets up into a beautiful shiny finish, like porcelain. The downside is that it doesn’t keep overnight very well so it’s best to make these the same day. (Or keep in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.)
The trick for the icing is to make sure it’s as thick as can be while still being a little bit flowy. Add the ingredients listed below and if it’s thick like a paste add 1/4th of a teaspoon of milk at a time until the icing feels thick when you stir it but it relaxes and becomes shiny about 10 seconds after you stop stirring. 1/4th of a teaspoon seems like a tiny little amount but you’ll be surprised at how quickly that amount will change the texture of the icing.
- 9 ounces confectioners sugar (or two cups of of confectioners sugar that you’ve fluffed up by running a whisk through it before scooping)
- 2 tablespoons milk (plus more)
- 1 teaspoon clear vanilla flavoring
- green food coloring
Mix the ingredients above together in a bowl. If the icing is thick like a paste or not all the sugar will dissolve in the milk add 1/4th of a teaspoon of milk at a time just until the mixture is still matte when you stir but relaxes and becomes shiny a few seconds after you stop mixing. Either separate it and make 1/2 of the mixture green or make a second batch. One batch will cover twelve cakes.
Drop a heaping soup spoon of icing on top of each cake.
Be a little patient and let it settle and spread. Now quick! Before the top dries it’s time to decorate!
A little bit of sour rainbow ribbon candy works for our rainbow. I used a butter knife to poke into the cake and hold the rainbow in place
Simple sugar roses and gold dragées echo China County.
Green rock candy represents our Emerald City and tiny orange nonpareils for our field of poppies.
Candy County is full of gingerbread house delights, here I used half of a ginger snap and some peppermint candy.
Small chocolate cookies from a Japanese import store work as trees in the forest. These are supposed to be cones and mushrooms but clustered together I think they look like a foreboding forest.
You might think I’m looking forward to this movie because of the actors behind the voices (Kelsey Grammer! Bernadette Peters! Oliver Platt! Hugh Dancy! Patrick Stewart! Lea Michele!) but I think I’m most excited to see what the animators have done with Candy County. It’s like a gingerbread house but instead it’s an entire land, be still my gingerbread loving heart!
Have a look at the movie trailer for more peeks at the new lands:
As a kid did you read the further stories of Dorothy or the land of Oz?
· comments  · 05-7-2014 · categories:food ·
· comments  · 05-1-2014 · categories:food · links ·
How To Clean Tarnished Silver Jewelry — Jewelry Making Journal. Getting rid of the tarnish on silver jewelry using stuff you have in the house already and without (much) polishing, nice.
Back Of The House: The Life of a Cook’s Illustrated Test Cook | Serious Eats.
NPR’s April Fool’s Day Prank Was An Absolute Masterpiece, at Filmdrunk. Very clever!
Cool Tools – Kitebuilder. A site all about building kites, with tips and plans.
A Goose That Lays Golden Eggs by Geraint Krumpe of Y Line Product Design — Kickstarter. This product scrambles eggs inside the shell without piercing the shell at all. Nicely thought out and I kindasorta want one, but I also really like an egg with a runny yolk.
Campfire Boyfriend Sweater | Mighty Girl. Need-want all of these things. We are without fire in my house and I miss it.
· comments  · 04-22-2014 · categories:links · misc ·
If you need to do some last moment Easter Egg dying these instructions will help you create simple, vibrant eggs using supplies from the grocery store.
A few years back I spent some time using good old fashioned food color to dye very saturated and vibrant eggs for my Easter Surprise Eggs project. I wasn’t quite happy with a few of the colors made back then so this week I set out to refine the process and what went from an easy and cheerful activity quickly turned into obsessive madness as my kitchen and dining room were turned into an egg dying laboratory. Timers were used, results were carefully examined and tweaked, charts were made, home production assembly lines were perfected. (A whole lot of my manic energy came from the fact that most of my week was spent with various crews of workers fixing our ceiling. I’m glad to report that the room is very nearly back to normal.)
The most fun part? I had an excuse to buy eggs in those large flats of 30. I never get to do that!
[Read more →]
· comments  · 04-18-2014 · categories:holidays ·
My Easter treat for this year is a couple of giant Kinder Surprise eggs. Look at how big they are! It’s shown here with a regular sized Kinder Surprise Egg for scale and a Mini Kinder Egg which I added because I happened to find them in a local shop.
The Mini Kinder Eggs are filed with hazelnut paste and bits of hazelnut. They are delicious and I recommend you grab some if you see them.
If you’d like to see what was in my giant Kinder Surprise eggs click through for all the details. (If not I’ll be back later with a spectrum of vibrant eggs dyed using food coloring!)
[Read more →]
· comments  · 04-16-2014 · categories:holidays · kindereggaday ·
PSA: How To Take Good Care Of Your PC | Best Of MetaFilter. I still primarily use PCs.
Solidoodle 4: Testing the home 3-D printer. At Slate, via The Morning News. “Consider: Once upon a time, people purchased sewing patterns (like a program from Thingiverse) and yards of fabric (like filament) and they made their own clothes. I wasn’t alive back then, but I’m pretty sure the process sucked. It took lots of time and effort and the clothes were often amateurishly constructed. … Most people would much rather just get their clothes from a store—already assembled by people employing industrial-level efficiency and a wide variety of materials.”
THREES – The Rip-offs & Making Our Original Game. Some in depth exploration and conflicted feelings on the clones. Via Waxy.
· comments  · 04-11-2014 · categories:links · technology ·
I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about artisinal toast in San Francisco and lately news has been talking about the toast trend hitting Seattle, but I remember fancy toast being here years ago. There was a cafe called Nervous Nellie’s (now closed) that offered coffee and interesting toast. There was cheese, and jam, and jam and cheese, and cheese and a red pepper relish. I tried the relish because I’d never heard of it and, quite shockingly honestly, I really liked it. A whole lot. It was savory and tangy and a nice change from the usual sweet breakfast offerings.
Nervous Nellies is closed now but I tracked down the ingredients to make the same style of toast. A bit of snooping around archived web pages and my old notes leave me believing that the ingredients I remember are Lappi cheese (a very mild cheese, havariti will work just as well), and Ajvar, a red pepper spread.
Add butter and a sprinkling of good salt to the toast, then slices of cheese and spread the Ajvar on top. The toppings are cold and creamy and a little spicy and tangy. I don’t think everybody will like Ajvar but I highly recommend giving it a try should you come across it.
Nervous Nellie’s listed their red pepper relish as “Lutenica” on the menu but after doing a tasting of a few relishes I’m convinced that they were using something closer to Ajvar. At an imports store I found both hot and mild Ajvar as well as Pepptizer and Lutenica. They all looked similar with the exception of a few different ingredients. Clearly there had to be a taste test.
Mild Ajvar: This is what I remember, it’s got a very mild heat. Mostly tangy and a little sweet, very fresh tasting. (Top left.)
Hot Ajvar: There is a extra zing of spiciness but no acid (no tomatoes). It’s a still a relatively gentle heat. (Top right.)
Lutenica: This one is more blended and looks more like a sauce than a relish. This is definitely not what I remember from the Nervous Nellie’s toast. It’s got more garlic and the taste of cooked tomatoes, and it doesn’t taste fresh. (Bottom left.)
Peppetizer: Too much onion and something tastes off, like stewed vegetables. Not what I’d want on toast. (Bottom right.)
If you’re in Seattle and interested in sources: I tracked down Ajvar at Big John’s Pacific Foods Imports in SODO and the Lappi cheese at Scandinavian Specialties in Ballard. This winter Trader Joe’s had a red pepper relish that I suspect is the Zergut brand with a TJs label and last time I was in the store they still had a number of jars available. (I had the opportunity to ask a TJs employee and he said it was almost certainly one of those seasonal items that they won’t be stocking again after the run is sold out.) Update: mims mentioned in the comments below that the red pepper spread carried by Trader Joe’s is actually a year round product, and sure enough it’s been there on the shelves every time I’ve checked for it. It’s stocked down near the floor and easy to overlook, look for it and give it a try!
· comments  · 04-9-2014 · categories:food ·
· comments  · 04-2-2014 · categories:food · links ·
Spring is technically here but we still have some cold nights ahead before things warm up so I’m going to tell you about one of my very favorite things in our house: the heated rug. Our living room has this cotton chenille shag rug for a few reasons: it wasn’t terribly expensive, it’s easy to clean (I’ve only spilled wine on it twice but both times the splatter was spectacular and far reaching) and it’s very comfortable to sprawl out on with laptops or game controllers. And most importantly it nicely covers a rug heater, which is glorious on cold nights.
When we were looking for houses to buy our realtor seemed to have heated flooring on the brain because she suggested putting in heated floors in every other place we toured. When we moved in I looked into installing heated floors and, whoa, it’s expensive. So I did the next best thing and got an under rug heater. There are a few options out there and we went with the SpeedHeat Rugbuddy which we got from Amazon (affiliate link). It has made the last three winters much more cozy. We have an open plan area around the living room so I can’t tell if it heats the room up but I can say that after a while I’m warm enough to take off a sweater, especially if we’re camped out binge watching something or if we’re sitting on the floor playing a video game. I love it and have found myself recommending rug heaters to a lot of people this year.
Some details: We have the 3’x5′ and it’s large enough for the area in front of a couch but I do wish we’d gone for a larger version. The mat will shift around under the rug as you scoot an ottoman or coffee table back and forth so do use rug tape the way the instructions recommend. I put a heatproof fabric between the heater and the room’s carpet (not needed, but I’m paranoid), I use the fabric that is sold to insulate ironing boards which I found at a local fabric store. The rug heater plugs into the wall (our cord is hidden under the couch) and has an on/off button. I cannot say with any certainty that it’s saved on heating bills, but I can say that we are much less likely to turn up the heat in the house if the area around the couch is warm. They come in in several sizes (up to 8’x11’!) and I’m considering getting this 3’x2′ mat for under my desk.
I’m really, really glad we bought this. It’s seems silly but it makes me very happy.
· comments  · 03-28-2014 · categories:the home ·
secret-ish art adventures | Ask MetaFilter.
The Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio and new book! – Boing Boing. I loved the Exploratorium when we lived in San Francisco and am looking forward to seeing it’s new space next time I go back. Which will be any day now. Promise.
2 Lanes, 1 Life: The America Far From the Freeway – Pacific Standard. Her description of driving through the Palouse makes me want to take another Washington road trip.
What’s the best credit card for saving for a trip to France? | Ask MetaFilter. The advice given here applies to travel in general and there are lots of great suggestions for which cards are worth signing up for.
the UGC: Austin, Keeping it Gluten-Free. A tour of all the gf spots in Austin which makes me want to go there very very soon.
Portland Streets That Inspired the Names of Simpsons’ Characters | The Everywhereist. I had no idea!
· comments  · 03-26-2014 · categories:links · travel ·
I love brown rice but I’m too impatient to make it for dinner so I borrowed an idea from Trader Joe’s and cook it in advance and keep it in the freezer so it’s just a microwave away from being ready to eat. It’s also great to have around for a fast breakfast of an over easy egg on rice, which I default to a lot when I’m feeling lazy.
I’m terrible at cooking rice in a pot (burned rice, melted pots, other tragic results) so instead I bake it using instructions from Alton Brown and Good Eats and no pots have been ruined since.
To make: Put 1.5 cups brown rice and a teaspoon of salt in an 8×8 baking dish. Pour 2.5 cups boiling water over the top, stir and cover tightly with tin foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour. Allow to cool, divide into portions and freeze.
I do two or three batches at the same time and I’ve used larger baking dishes and even pie plates with good results, no need to have multiple 8×8 baking dishes hanging around. If you’re a rice texture snob this cooking method probably won’t make you happy, but hey, convenience.
· comments  · 03-24-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
I’ve mentioned before that I have a knack for finding four-leaf clovers but I didn’t talk about how that skill was a huge part of my identity growing up. It was. Any time when I was a kid bored at a community picnic in a park? Instant treasure hunt. When I went to summer camp and my cabin was sent on a scavenger hunt that included a four-leaf clover? I had that covered. I was the Irish girl with an Irish name who could find four-leaf clovers. My fixation even got me a boyfriend in college. (He wrote a poem about it! It was true love except for the fact that it really, really wasn’t.)
Before Go Mighty and the Life List I never really considered what things I wanted to do before I died except for this: as a kid I decided that one day I wanted to find a four-leaf clover in Ireland. And last November I did!
Last year Scott and I took a work/travel trip to the UK and Ireland. We only spent six days total in Ireland and on the second to last day I, ecstatically, found my four-leaf clover. It turns out that the urban parks, national monuments and historical locations in Ireland are very well tended — which means that patches of weeds (like clover) are not allowed to take over. So I felt that much more lucky to spy a four-leaf clover outside the Kilmalkeder Christian Site in Kerry, Ireland. According to the Rick Steves guide book it was a Norman center of worship that became a 12th-century church where the old graveyard is rising spookily above the soil line while on the other side there are new gravestones being inscribed. We visited as the sun was setting on our second to last day in Ireland and I was beginning to fear I’d be leaving cloverless.
I found a few four-leaf clovers in that precious patch and have them pressed inside a book. They aren’t the prettiest of clovers but they are my favorite because every time I see them middle school aged me is giddy.
· comments  · 03-19-2014 · categories:travel ·
DIY Travel Size Toiletries in Drinking Straws | Mighty Girl. So smart.
Hot Male Cellists’ ‘Thunderstruck’ Cover Will Blow You Away (VIDEO) | The Stir. I had never heard of these two who do covers of modern songs. For this one in particular they really get into it near the middle of the video.
So You Think You Want to Open a Brewery… | Serious Eats. From my summer spent with Spinnaker Bay Brewing I can tell you everything he says here is spot on.
defective yeti — Board Games via Skype.
Lammily, a doll based on the average size of actual human girls. From what started as an idea to find out what the Barbie doll might look like if it were scaled to an average human comes this doll ready to be produced. The arms and legs articulate so she can were flats or heels, play sports and sit. It’s already 400% funded with 23 days to go. I might buy one for my office to remind myself that people are good.
Tagalongs vs. Peanut Butter Patties: The Great Girl Scout Cookie Regional Naming Rift | The Hairpin. See also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Girl Scout Cookies at Baking Bites. “One of the two bakeries, ABC Bakers, produces four completely vegan cookie varieties: Lemonades, Thanks-A-Lot, Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties. These same cookie varieties are not vegan when they come from Little Brownie Bakers.”
· comments  · 03-12-2014 · categories:links · misc ·
· comments  · 03-5-2014 · categories:craft · links ·