Thursday, December 4, 2014

See a need; fill it. Meet Molly.

During the Christmas season, I often make a mental note to "do something good" for others, something that will be helpful or bring joy.  What that usually translates to is plates of home baked goodies delivered to friends and neighbors.  Last year, we delivered the sweets ding-dong-ditch style, and my kids got a real kick out of it.  If I have to introduce them to charitable giving by coating it in mischief, so be it.
Anyway, I want to tell you about someone who took her desire to help others and turned it into something big and awesome.  This is my friend Molly:
She and her husband Tom have put on a board game convention the last two years, with all the proceeds going to Safe Place here in Austin.  I'm going to let her tell you more about it.

Sarah: Please tell us about Game for the Cause and how you came up with this idea.
Molly: Game for the Cause is a charity board game convention. All of the proceeds go to SafePlace which strives to end sexual and domestic violence. This year, you paid $20 at the door and then played board games all weekend. There were raffles and a silent auction which, all totaled, helped us raise just over $4,300 dollars.
I was inspired to help out women's issues after reading "Half the Sky" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book discusses the various issues that plague women worldwide. I told my husband that I wanted to do something since I have experienced almost none of these issues first hand. He suggested I start local because there are plenty of things that can be fixed here in Austin, TX. 
Around the same time, we were debating on going to a game convention ourselves in Dallas and calculated the cost. My husband suggested that we throw our own game convention instead, with the money we would have spent and just give all the money to SafePlace. So we did that and had our first convention in October of 2013 and had our second one in October of this year.

Sarah: Tell me about the community involvement (donations of the space, games, prizes).
Molly: So many people have been very generous to our cause. We contacted local game stores, who were more than willing to donate. Tribe Comics and games, Whose Turn is it? Games are two of our recurring game store donors from here in town. We also contacted a lot of national game publishers who sent a game or two each, plus we got donations from Steve Jackson Games and Fireside Games, both local game publishers. 
These games made up the bulk of our silent auction, which brought in over $2,000 itself. This year, we actually had quite a few people donate used games, which we had a dutch auction for where the price decreased every couple hours. Individual people also donated a variety of crafts to be paired with the games that increased the value of the bundle.
I have been continually amazed at the generosity of these publishers, game store owners and individual people who help us make a successful event. The Parker Lane United Methodist church was one of the only churches in town to donate their space to us free of charge so that 100% of the money went to SafePlace. They donated their space two years in a row.

Sarah: Who attended?  What's the atmosphere like?
Molly: Around 100 members of the board game community attended. Most attendees were from Austin, with a few from out of town but close by. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun. You came in, found a group or a game and played. Game groups were being made and broken the entire weekend, so it was easy to find a game to jump in on and have fun. There were some Play-to-win events that happened, where you played a certain game and then had the opportunity to win the game at the end of the convention in a raffle.

Sarah: Do you have any plans to expand or change next year?
Molly: I would love to get more people to come out and since we have already had it for two years, word is getting out. It grew by at least 20 people from last year to this year and we raised just over $600 more. We are excited about the possibilities and are excited that our first two years have already been huge successes!

Sarah: Give us some general info about Safe Place.
Molly: SafePlace offers a variety of relief for those affected by sexual or domestic violence.  http://safeplace.org/about/programs-and-services/ that website in particular highlights some resources provided by SafePlace. A lot of the relief is available because of volunteer work. SafePlace strives to educate the community about these issues knowing that is the only way this type of violence will end.

Thanks for letting me interview you, Molly!  I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling inspired after reading about the work you are doing.
Ok, people, if you like games and want to support this worthy cause, 1.) consider making a donation to SafePlace, and 2.) mark your calendars for next October.  I'm going to see if we can get a table set up with the Cones of Dunshire.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kid contests

Theo and I were at Whole Earth a few days ago, and I let him wander around in the toy section.  He quickly found the kid-sized shopping cart and filled it to overflowing.
When I looked at this picture, I was reminded of the Toys R Us shopping spree contests I used to hear about when I was a kid.  I dreamed of running through the store, filling my cart with My Little Ponies for sixty seconds.  I also thought it would be awesome to run through the Double Dare obstacle course or the Fun House, grabbing flags and tokens for prizes.

I used to think that it was terribly unfair that the rabbit in the commercials never got to eat Trix cereal, so in 1980 when they did a write-in campaign where you could vote on the issue, you better believe I sent in a box top checked 'yes'.

And finally, at the height of my New Kids on the Block mania, I got permission to set up a table in my junior high lunch room in order to get people to sign cards which I had hand written, saying they wanted the New Kids to come to our school.  Whichever school sent in the most cards won a special concert.  Or something like that.  We didn't win.

If you want to waste a few minutes watching 1980s commercials, check this out.  You can see a Toys R Us/Cap'n Crunch toy giveaway around 5:00 and I'm pretty sure my little sister had the popcorn Nosy Bear pictured at 8:25.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Meet my new BFF, Jessica

When Jill and I went to the Goodwill outlet, I was digging through a bin full of books when I came across something amazing:
Somebody's old sticker books from the '80s!
Her name is Jessica, according to the teddy bears on the cover.  Based on the page below, her name might also have been Jennifer, or else they didn't have Jessica in the shiny rectangle ones, and Jennifer was the next closest thing.
I have so many of the exact same stickers; it's crazy.
Jessica displayed her stickers the same way I did, with themed groups on each page.  Here you have food on the left and holidays on the right:
 Chocolate (and, yes, there are a bunch of scratch & sniff stickers here):
 Hearts and bears:
 Cats/braces and birds:
 Adorable animals:
 Angels and butterflies:
Garfield:
Inky, oil slick stickers (including a snork.  A snork!):
Strange stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else, including mimes, currency, and fuzzy pink aliens:
Remember when we talked about Lisa Frank, and how there were some weird stickers marketed to girls in the '80s?  I like "knockoff Wonder Woman teddy bear, wearing a blue bikini and thigh high boots over a full yellow body suit, plus boxing gloves".
Also, "I'm sexy"?  Ok, pink blob thingie with long eyelashes, I guess so...
Jessica and I were both so in love with stickers that we would add things to our collection that didn't really fit with the theme.  As long as it had adhesive on the back, it counted.  See the blue sticker that's kitty corner from "I'm sexy?"  It's for display in a window to show that you are a Police Athletic League booster.  Into the book it goes!

"Beware of owner" sticker, courtesy of Downham & Sons Shooters Supply store?  Into the book it goes, right between the smiling apple and the hippo begging for chocolate!
No sticker book is complete without a unicorn collection, and Jessica's does not disappoint.
 I have SO MANY of these.
The gun sticker says it's from Logansport, Indiana.  We might have grown up a couple hours away from each other.  Jessica, if you are out there, I think we should be friends.  Seriously.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Craft project fails

Back in the spring, we tried to dye some eggs using the cabbage method featured on Design Mom.  Hers turned out great, a stunning array of blue shades.  Mine turned out slightly moldy looking.
 The ones in the middle were dyed with cabbage.  Blech.
Last year we tried Martha Stewart's bubble paint project, and all we ended up with was bubbles on top of colorful water.  I probably didn't use enough paint or detergent or both.

When we replaced our old fence, I took a look at the pile of old wood and started dreaming of all the reclaimed pallet projects I've seen over the years on Pinterest: shelves, coffee tables, benches, play houses.  But then I remembered my dismal track record with hoarding supplies for projects in the "some day" category.  I don't even know how to operate a saw yet, so I sadly allowed the workers to haul away this beautiful pile of potential.
I'll have that colorful bench some day!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lots of sequins, lots of cards

Edited to add a photo of the playing cards shirt.  You're welcome!

My sister Jill came for a whirlwind visit a week ago.  It was way too short, but we managed to pack in a lot of great stuff.  We made pizza, played with makeup, ate tex-mex and pad thai, and purged my closet (part of it, anyway.  Not the sequin section).  We visited several thrift shops, including the Goodwill outlet, which is an experience unto itself.  We tried on pretty much anything sparkly that caught our eye.  My dress below was covered in beaded fringe and weighed several pounds.
In this shot, I'm trying to show you just how many giant, dangling sequins are packed onto this top, so please excuse the weird arms.  But also, I am terrible at posing.  I look like Liz Lemon when she was shooting the promo to her ill-fated talk show.  "Wave to a friend...Wave like a human being...You remember waving?"
But Jill knows how to pose.  And she's gorgeous, so that helps.

By the way, both the items she's wearing here are things that I already owned.  I wasn't kidding about having a sequin section in my closet.  So you can see that it's really a miracle that I managed to walk away from the black fringe dress and the shiny, sweetly rustling top.

We played Moon every night, which is a version of Euchre in which everyone plays solo, rather than in pairs.  If you don't know what Euchre is, then you probably didn't have a Michigan native as a college roommate (Hi, Kelli!).  For the occasion, Jill brought out her best card-themed mock turtleneck.

We had a Halloween party at church, and Jill did the makeup for my Cleopatra costume.  My eyes looked incredible, and we did take a close-up, but it's just way too much information about my pores and wrinkles.  Another awkwardly posed shot will have to do.
Yep, lookin' regal and powerful there, just like the real Cleopatra.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scenes from Houston

Matt had a conference in Houston recently, and we turned it into a family road trip.  The boys love staying in a hotel, especially one that has both a pool and a continental breakfast with waffle maker.

We stopped at a Chili's for dinner, and they had these tabletop tablets.  The boys were thrilled; I was offended.  I huffed to Matt, "Nice.  They put screens in front of every kid.  Why on earth would you want to sit at a table with your FAMILY and enjoy actual CONVERSATION during your meal?"  We got rid of them when the food came.

Then we got the bill, and it turns out Chili's is not conducting an assault on family conversation; they are just trying to squeeze a little more money out of you.  The receipt had a $.99 charge for "table entertainment" or some such nonsense.  When I asked the waitress about it, she said, "Oh, you didn't know about the charge?  No problem; I can waive it."  I think that's kind of a dirty trick anyway.
When we checked out the hotel pool, Alec looked at this sign and said, "Diving?  That should really say 'no belly flops'".
We were staying in the Galleria area of Houston, and one day when we drove down the road a bit to get lunch, we passed this school that reminded us of Rushmore.  Turns out, it was Rushmore, or St. John's School as it's known in real life.

Then on the very next block, we saw a public school that had to be Grover Cleveland High School.  It's really called Lamar High School, and you can see it in the scene where Mr. Blume steals Max's bike, runs it over, and returns it to the bike rack.
It's really one of the best scenes in one of my favorite movies of all time.

Pete Townshend: You are forgiiiii--

Mr. Blume: ...about five foot three, 112 pounds, black hair, glasses, oval face.

Pete Townshend: --VVVEEEEEEEEEENNNNN!

Max: Thanks for bailing me out, Dad.  Can you drop me off at Rushmore?  I've gotta go get a teacher fired.

Back at our hotel, CNN was wondering if they were talking about ebola too much.  Well, CNN, in the twenty-five minutes that I've been here feeding my kids some breakfast, you've talked of nothing else.  Why don't you squeeze in another four or five panels of experts before I finish this waffle, and then I'll decide if I think you are showing excessive coverage.
After the conference ended, we stayed one night with some friends who used to live in Austin.  When we passed a splash pad during a walk around the neighborhood, the boys couldn't resist and jumped in with their clothes on.  That's October in Texas, y'all.
Victor and Natalie had someone in their neighborhood who went all out with their Halloween decor.  Do you see the people wrapped up in spider webs, hanging from the trees?
This is from the drive back, that moment when we were still about an hour away from home and getting kind of crabby, and I was like, "Hey, look at that beautiful sunset!  Isn't it wonderful?  Doesn't it make you feel peaceful and calm, and---never mind.  Here's another sleeve of Ritz crackers.  Please don't kill each other back there."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dumb bunny pumpkin

Do your kids like to read the works of Dav Pilkey?  He's the author of the Captain Underpants series, among many others.  I have a serious love/hate with that guy.  I'd say a solid 40-50% of what my big boys read right now is his work, so hooray for getting kids to read!  However, his subject matter is usually the lowest common denominator of grade school toilet humor, and I find his books so stupid and irritating.  We are currently enjoying a gem from the Super Diaper Baby collection in which an evil liquid villain named Rip Van Tinkle sends a drop of pee down each chimney in order to steal all the toilets in town.  That's right, it's a sentient puddle of urine in a parody of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Mason was given an assignment to do a book report that included a pumpkin decorated as a main character.  He chose one of Pilkey's Dumb Bunnies books, and yes, we did know about it three weeks ago, and yes, it was due this morning, and yes, we did the whole thing last night.  I'm so glad that I can pass along my rich legacy of procrastination to my children.  At 9:00 P.M., he practiced the oral presentation one more time, looked at the completed pumpkin, and beamed with pride.

Mason: Wow, I didn't think I could do the whole book report in one night.


Sarah: Just don't mention that part to your teacher.



I had never heard of a pumpkin book report before, so when we first got the assignment, I went to Pinterest to get some ideas.  As we were driving to school this morning, we talked about how great his report was going to be.

Mason: Did you pin it?

Sarah: What?

Mason: Did you pin it?  On Pinterest.  You have an account, right?  You should put it on there.

Sheesh.  Even my eight-year-old knows that nothing is real unless it's splashed all over social media.