Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Railroad Rivals by Forbidden Games (Review)


We are constantly looking for board games to add to our ever growing game shelf. I especially like maintaining a wide range of game styles to appeal to any crowd. I love a rowdy evening of Cards against Humanity or Taboo, but when playing with my husband, our preferred style leans more to complex strategic play such as Cosmic Encounter or Pandemic.

Railroad Rivals, by Forbidden Games leans toward what we like, with the added bonus of not being too complicated or for those who aren't avid gamers. The game held a campaign on Kickstarter, earning over 40k more than their goal in 2018, and I was very please to receive a copy of the game for review.

Set up
I will say, and maybe it was just user error, we found the rules a bit confusing before actually playing for the first time.

For example, I read through 2.5 pages of set up rules, placing the pieces as I read, only to come to a “see 2 player rules” on a separate page. Which had us starting over and redoing the necessary sorting and separating for a two player game. 

I can hear my 7th grade English teacher telling me to read all the instructions first - but I still would have liked clear indication up front that a two player game was going to have a different set up.

Game Play and Scoring
The game is inspired by the railroad tycoon era of the late 1800s and revolves around laying tiles to create railroad links, connecting them like Carcassonne or Dominos, as well as acquiring stocks for the various railroad systems you or other players may travel through.

Each turn every player will get a new city tile to lay down, as well as a new stock tile. Rounds begin with bidding existing points to be first player, getting first pick of the tiles (the game even begins with each player having a few points to start)

You can own multiple stocks for each railroad system, and will gain points in the end of the game depending on how often that railroad was used during play, by you or otherwise.

You will also gain points by being the first to move a certain 'good', such as grain, wood, coal or steel, determined by different color cubes. Furthermore, you will gain 2 points each time another player travels a link that you established.

How we liked it
After starting, game-play went smoothly and was simple to follow. The two player version was a bit dull, as you earn points for being the first to move certain goods, however you only work with ONE good with two players so it was no mystery who was scoring higher each round.

Later we played the game with four as well as with three players and it was much more enjoyable. There was a lot more strategy and planning involved with more players, which is an aspect we really enjoy.

Age Range
The box suggests that it can be played with players age 8+. We decided to give it a go with my 9 year old, as we're always looking for games to involve her to hopefully one day have her playing on our level.

While she played fine, she had a bit of trouble understanding and eventually got bored and we had to deal her out of the game. I wouldn’t say that is a knock against the game, just her attention span at that moment. I think the game is perfectly suited for children her age with maybe a bit of educating on how stocks work so they understand why that element is important to the game.

In fact, this game could be a great addition to a history lesson about the era and some basic economics instruction.

Expansion Packs and Alternative Rules
The copy I received has an insert that excitedly declared a previous expansion is now included in the base game, filled with hotels and tower additions.

We have not yet played with that add on, mainly because the insert with the incorporating rules, cuts off before telling you what they do!

I was able to find them online and look forward to giving that version a try.

The game also has an extensive set of rules for playing a solitary game. While I'm not big of solo play games, I feel happy knowing I have them if I am in the mood and no one else is.

Forbidden Games has announced that on February 26th, there will be a new Kickstarter for the next expansion pack entitled Robber Baron expansion, that promises to add even more strategy opportunities!

The artwork is subdued compared to many other games we play, and reminiscent of steampunk and old sepia photos.  The figures look like cartoon drawings. Knowing that the city images are/were real landmarks in the cities mentioned as they were in the early 20th century makes it super cool. The logos for the railway stocks are also authentic to that time period.

The version of the game I own is the standard one retailing for $49.99, which is about average for most quality games. There is a also a premium version that costs $79.99. While that seems like a lot, it includes wooden tiles instead of cardboard tiles, which will have the game lasting possibly decades longer and give it an even more authentic old-time feel! I'd say that's worth it for sure.

Overall Impression
Once you're familiar with the gameplay this game is fun to play and provides strategy without being so complex that new players are lost.  I can see us turning to this many times in the future with both our family and with friends. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Party in Your PJs #243


Happy Tuesday!  Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on three different blogs each week.

I'm so glad to be back! We took a couple weeks off for the holidays and then (briefly) tried the updated inLinkz. It did not go well at all. There are many things I do not love about that version, either as a back end user or as a front end user linking up to my favorite parties!  Thank goodness, we went back to the older version and will stay with it at least until they sort out their beta testing.

  Meet the Co-Hosts

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Lynda's Features!

 Make sure you head over to the other members of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiration to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

WIPocalypse January Stitchy Check-in


This is my January WIPocolypse post to track my progress on cross stitch  Works-in-Progress (WIPs).  WIPocolypse is an ongoing monthly link up, as well as a Facebook community, and is open for all sorts of crafty WIPs.

Each month, there is a question. This month's question is:

What SALs are you participating in this year?
I enjoy keeping track of Stitch-a-longs of all sorts, even though I only participate in a few, and even more rarely do I keep up enough to do at the same pace everyone else is.

The one and only one I always try to go for is Steotchalong.  I love the snarky pop culture fun of this one, and especially love the the final pattern includes several options so you can customize to your own interests and sense of humor.

I also participate in the Facebook group Stitch Maynia, which treats SALs as themed events you can share your work in.  I love the variety there and how low-pressure it is.

One of those events is the annual Temperature SAL.  This is my progress on this year's, up to Jan. 26:

This year, I've gotten involved in another Facebook group, School of Mystery & Literature, devoted to stitching and reading, with an overall Harry Potter theme.   The way they're handling it has been so much fun!  When you join, you get sorted into one of the Houses (I'm Slytherin) and each week, the Houses get points for completing various stitching and reading challenges. It's all in fun, and I've really loved the way it's spurred on both my stitching and my reading for the year.

Finished this year/since last check in:

Spattered Paw Print / Climbing Goat Designs

7 Swans a Swimming / Satsuma Street

I got stuck on this for so long - something about  that yellow on white put me off, and it languished in the bottom of my WIP bag for months. So glad to finally get it done so I can move onto the next one!

New Starts This Month:

Mermaid Skeleton / Pixlstitch
Isn't this great?? PixlStitch does a whole collection of fantastical creatures as skeletons!

Bouquet de Fleurs / Jardin Prive

If the Broom Fits / Lizzie*Kate (restart)
another procrastination project - I hated everything about it. My stitches were sloppy, the colors weren't working with the fabric, and the linen was so floppy that every stitch was an ordeal. So I gave up and am starting over.

Also worked on so far since last check in:

Astrology / Peacock & Fig
This makes me laugh everytime I see it - almost done!

Leia Hope / Stitchbucket
The last part of this will be the word HOPE at the bottom.

Mermaid of Atlantis / Mirabilia
Upper right corner finished, beading and all!

Coffee Quaker / Heartstring Samplery

M is For Mermaid / Prairie Schooler

Purchased Stash Since Last Check In:
a few necessary flosses

Intend to start before next WIPocolypse Check In:
8 Maids a'Milking / Satsuma Street
Country French Witch / JBW Designs
Witches Wizards All Welcome / Fiddlesticksau

Intend to finish before next WIPocolypse Check In:
Mermaid Skeleton 
If the Broom Fits / Lizzie*Kate
Astrology / Peacock & Fig

My current full WIP list (22):
2019 Temperature SAL / Apricot Polkadot
All My Scattering Moments / Stitcherhood
Alphabet Acorn / Cross-Eyed Cricket
Astrology / Peacock & Fig
Bouquet de Fleurs / Jardin Prive
Bride's Tree Orn - Home / Brooke's Books
Coffee Quaker / Heartstring Samplery
Hocus Pocus / Prairie Schooler
If the Broom Fits / Lizzie*Kate
Leia Hope / Stitchbucket
M is For Mermaid / Prairie Schooler
Mermaid Fraktur / Plum Street Samplers
Mermaid of Atlantis / Mirabilia
Mermaid Skeleton
Mermaid Tales SAL / Peacock & Fig
Polly Wolly Doodle / La-D-Da
Pretty Little DC / Satsuma Street
Primitive Ouija Board / Cloud Factory
Springtime SAL (Warm) / Satsuma Street
Summer Ornament / Prairie Schooler
TARDIS Biscornu / Cloud Factory
Yellow Submarine / Blackbird Designs

Next check in: Feb 24
Next Topic: What do you listen to while stitching?

See you then!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Instant Pot Chicken Corn Chowder with Bacon


I am going to be honest here - I have had an Instant Pot for two years now, and it still freaks me out.  I have given up trying to sort out exactly why.

To be sure, I find the instructions incomprehensible (although easy once I manage to figure out what I'm being told to do) and the inability to know exactly how long something is going to take really messes with my decades of practice at timing multiple elements of meal. 

There is also a little bit of really lingering ancient fear that came from my mother's hushed assurances that using a pressure cooker would BLOW UP THE HOUSE! (she never crossed paths with an Instant Pot - but her voice still lives in my head.)

My daughter and son in law are geniuses with the thing - so when they were visiting with us, I used the opportunity to make something in it so that if it went tragically wrong, I could blame them get their help fixing it.

I'd had my eye on this recipe for Instant Pot Bacon, Corn, & Potato Chowder from FoodFunFamily for awhile and decided to add some cooked shredded chicken I had on hand, and modified it a bit to our taste.

The result was delicious, filling, and as easy as could be!

I can't say I've defeated my fear of the Instant Pot - but I certainly have found at least one thing I know will come out just right.

I used bacon reserved from breakfast - but you can certainly cook it up in the Instant Pot as your first step, using the saute feature.

Instant Pot Chicken Corn Chowder with Bacon
Serves 4-6

1 lb cooked, shredded chicken
2 Tblsp. bacon grease or 1 Tblsp. coconut oil + 1 Tblsp. butter
1 onion, minced
2 celery stalks, thin sliced
4-5 Yukon Gold Potatoes, diced (peeling optional)
2 bay leaves
16 oz frozen corn kernels
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Cholula or Tapatio hot sauce
1/2 pack bacon, cooked crisp and diced
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar (optional)

Melt bacon fat or coconut oil in the Instant Pot on Saute.  Cook the onion and celery, stirring occasionally, until soft; about 5 minutes.  

Turn off the Saute feature, add potatoes and bay leaves and let rest a couple of minutes. (This allows a bit of cooling so you don't create a lot of steam when you add the broth.

Add the broth.  Close and lock the lid and seal the valve.  Press MANUAL and and cook 1 minute on HIGH.

Release valve pressure and remove lid once the steam stops.

Discard bay leaves and add chicken, corn, seasonings, milk and cream, and hot sauce.  Press CANCEL, then SAUTE and cook, stirring frequently, until hot - about 5-10 minutes.  Stir in half the diced bacon.

To serve, top with diced bacon and, if desired, shredded sharp cheddar.

This is excellent with biscuits or crusty rolls, but just fine on its own!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

New Year's & Game Day Treats from Gramma in a Box (Review)


Being a working mom with two young kids is never easy. I still want to do fun projects and make treats with them, but often find myself with very little time to actually do so. Thankfully, I was able to get another Gramma in a Box treat decorating set this month and it was just as fun as last month's!

Gramma in a Box is a monthly subscription service that sends nearly everything you need for three yummy treats!

The only things I've needed to provide on my own have been a spoon and bowl, a paper plate, and scissors. Everything else, from the cookies to the sprinkles to the melting chocolate and pretzels, is in this little box!

The theme of this month's box was New Years and Football.

While my little family isn't really into football, it didn't stop us one bit from enjoying both the making and the eating of these treats!

The first of these treats was the New Year Sparklers, which was pretzels with a white chocolate coating and sprinkles.

My kids and I found a great way to make sure everyone got to participate in this in a way that nobody got burned.

My son would hold the pretzel over the chocolate bowl, where I would cover the end in the melted white chocolate (once again, I needed to use a double boiler to melt it), then he would turn so that his sister could sprinkle the pastel dots over it.

The kids had so much fun, they were a little sad when the sixth pretzel was finished!

The second treat was the Game Day Crunch, which didn't lend itself to being much of a group project, as it was mostly mixing hot, melted chocolate into the add ins, but that didn't stop us from enjoying it once it was set!

The third project, cookie decorating, was easily the kid's favorites. The 8 cookies were plenty for us to decorate, without being too many as to be overwhelming.

As last month, everything was tasty, and my son and I definitely enjoyed the eating part!

Unfortunately, my daughter has a very restricted diet, and couldn't partake in that, but she had so much fun with the making, I don't think she minds too much.

I still think that Gramma in a Box is a great subscription, especially for those who may be a little time crunched, as making all three treats took just under and hour, and that was with a distractable four year old and using the stovetop instead of a microwave to melt the chocolate.

The monthly box subscription has plans starting at $20 for a single box.

To me, not having to worry about going to the store, getting all the supplies, baking the cookies, measuring out the other ingredients, is well worth it!

Just knowing that each month will bring a fun family activity and treats makes the kids and I very happy! 

Gramma in a Box is Kid Tested and Jess-Approved!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Party in Your PJs #242 - Warming Winter Soups


Happy Tuesday!  Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on three different blogs each week.

I'm so glad to be back! We took a couple weeks off for the holidays and then (briefly) tried the updated inLinkz. It did not go well at all. There are many things I do not love about that version, either as a back end user or as a front end user linking up to my favorite parties!  Thank goodness, we went back to the older version and will stay with it at least until they sort out their beta testing.

  Meet the Co-Hosts

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Lynda's Features!

I don't know if there is anything on a cold winter's day that warms you up as well as a thick, rich soup or stew! It has been bitter, bitter cold and windy the last few days, but these steaming hot meals are sure to take out the sting.

 Make sure you head over to the other members of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiration to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Simply Earth Subscription Box (Giveaway/Review)


Do you enjoy using essential oils in simple DIY projects to create homemade natural alternatives to commercial products?  I do, and I have a modest collection of oils and books of ideas to work with, but often I never get around to doing half of what I'd like, due to missing one vital item or another.

Simply Earth is a monthly subscription box that is delivered to you for $39.00 a month that makes it easy to build your oil collection and provides six projects a month with necessary tools and four essential oils.

Simply Earth Bonus Box
Each month tends toward a seasonal theme, making the whole thing a lovely way to learn a few techniques with the help of just a few pieces of equipment you are sure to have on hand.  Many of the projects are quick and simple enough to do with children.

When you first sign up for the subscription, along with the current month's Recipe Box, you will receive their Bonus Box that contains six amber vials, six roller ball bottles, a small jar, solid coconut oil, liquid coconut oil, almond oil, and beeswax pellets.

These supplies are used often in each month's recipe collections, and a new Bonus Box is delivered every six months as long as you have a subscription.

I received the January Box along with the Bonus Box for review and I was intrigued as I explored the contents after opening it.

The January theme was body and skin care - perfect for these winter months that can make us so dry!

The monthly recipe box came neatly packaged with four essential oils, a packet of multicolor pastel tapioca beads, a silicon square mold, two lip balm tubes, six recipe cards and a sheet of stickers for labeling the completed projects.

The four essential oils for January are Bergamot, Myrrh, Ravensara, and a blend called Farewell Scars made up of Lemon, Lavender, Rosemary, Myrrh, and Helichrysum.

I was most curious about the Ravensara as I had no previous experience with it.   It is touted as an oil that helps with seasonal illnesses and has a calming effect that increases confidence.  The scent was highly reminiscent of anise, so it was no surprise to discover its botanical name is Ravensara anisata. I find the scent to be very pleasant and was pleased to find that it is often used during cold season much the way eucalyptus would, to clear stuffy heads.

The first and simplest project was a confidence diffuser blend that used bergamot and ravensara.  I added it to a tea candle style infuser and set about to work through the other projects.

Both the Skin Healing Booster Roll On for minor injuries and scar care, and the delightful Skin Renewal Sugar Scrub were quick to make and would be easy for children to make as gifts with adult supervision.

The Calming and Uplifting Body Butter required a mixer to whip the ingredients together, but otherwise was also very simple to put together, and the result was sublime - I have so enjoyed using this and will definitely be making up another batch when it's gone.

The last two projects - the Lip Rejuvenating Lip Balm and Relaxing Textured Massage Bar  (which is where the tapioca beads come in) both required melting wax and coconut oil over a double boiler or similar alternative.   I used a glass measuring cup so I'd have an easy way to pour the contents into the lip balm tubes and square mold - I found that hooking the handle over the edge of the pot and suspending it in boiling water was the easiest way to keep the handle available to pick up with a potholder when it was time.

As a tip - remember not to use hot water to remelt the remains of wax on your tools with hot running water and let it go down the sink!  It'll reharden in your pipes.  Instead, wait until it is nearly cool but still soft and wipe out thoroughly with a paper towel before washing.

Both of these projects worked out just as described - of the two, I like the massage bar best. The lip balm is not quite creamy enough for my winter-dry lips to use without pulling at them.

All in all, I found this subscription box to be a lot of fun, and a great value - the four oils included go for a total of $64.96 on the website - that, along with several projects and supplies to get familiar with using them make the $39 a month cost a real bargain.  Add to that the free $40 Bonus Box that arrives the first month of your subscription and you will be all set for several months of fun and a collection of homemade natural products to enjoy.

If you've ever wanted to try out a few DIY techniques using essential oils or to grow your essential oil pantry, Simply Earth may be the perfect subscription box for you.

The February Box will be all about making your own cosmetics!

If you subscribe following using the code RCHFREE you will receive a free $20 gift card with your first subscription box and bonus box! You can use the gift card for individual purchases on Simply Earth or the next box.

Simply Earth is also allowing us to host a giveaway for the February Box plus Bonus Box - read on to see how you can enter to win!

UPDATE:  This giveaway was originally for the January Recipe Box plus Bonus as described above - however January has now sold out and the winner of our Giveaway will receive the FEBRUARY Recipe Box plus Bonus Box.   Check here for a sneak peek, and if you want to subscribe, don't delay - these things do sell out before the end of the month!

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One winner in the US will win a February Simply Earth Subscription Box plus Bonus Box (value $79.00).

This Giveaway ends at just before midnight ET February 4, 2019.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Giveaway Tools Entry Form below. This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning. (If you don't leave a comment, any additional entries will be void.)

The winner will be notified by email 24 to 48 hours after the end of the giveaway by email. In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.
 Good luck!