Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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Happy Friday everyone!! Don't forget to check out this week's awesome on Cherish This Day!


* I'm part of a great new collaborative photography project called Five Hours 'Til Bedtime, click here to check us out!

* A free Smithsonian coloring book.

* The best Superbowl snack ever for board game geeks. If that's not enough food for you, try these 10 Inspired Superbowl recipes. I want to eat everything now!

* I REALLY want to read this (I loved Life of Pi).

* 7 problems I'm not going to solve for my kid.

* I love these surreal photos of different international cities.

* 21 Small Towns You Should Visit on Your Next American Road Trip. Has anyone ever visited Lititz, PA? I'm contemplating a weekend there.

* 10 best backpacking trips in U.S. National Parks (Can you tell I'm full of wanderlust lately?)


Things to Read - The Neopolitian Series (i.e. My Favorite Books Ever!!!)

After the original excitement of the snow disappeared and the kids started playdate rotations with neighborhood friends, I probably should have used the time to work (and, really, I did try to work, but it's hard to get much done with a house full of noisy children). So, instead, I decided to curl up with a blanket and read Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series.

I read the first novel, My Brilliant Friend, in December and loved it, so I planned on savoring the rest of the books over a period of months. But then the blizzard arrived and each book was so good that I couldn't stop, thus plowing through over 1300 pages in under two weeks. And now that I've finished all four, I'm rereading the first one.

The series, which has received a lot of amazing press, centers on the lifelong friendship of two women who grow up together in the slums of Naples, Italy. The parents of Elana, the narrator, agree to pay for her to attend middle school (she goes on to become the first member of her family to graduate from college), whereas her intelligent best friend, Lila, is forced to quit school after fifth grade.

The centuries long friendship between the girls/women is complex, full of days where they spend every moment together and years where they don't talk at all. But the writing is wonderful - every page is gripping, even though the stories themselves are those of ordinary life. One reviewer referred to the author as an angry Jane Austen, and while this is too cliched to be true, the books do make you feel as if something extraordinary has just been done - Ferrante has managed to tell a story of women without apologizing for them or making them comedic. She makes things like motherhood and school and marriage complex and hard, esp. the need to strive in a world dominated by men.

It would also be overly simplistic to call the works merely feminist (though they most certainly are), but at the same time reading them makes you question, as Ferrante questions, the way in which literature (even literature written by women) often portrays females - their wants, desires, insecurities, and (most importantly) their friendships.

These novels become so sad in many ways, but also true. Or at least they were for me. And right now I'm completely obsessed with them. I'm also somewhat obsessed with Ferrante herself, a reclusive figure who gives very few interviews (and the ones she does give must be in writing) and refuses to divulge almost any personal information about herself.

So are Lila and Elana "real"? Reading the books, it's almost impossible to believe that they aren't. But now, as I go back and re-read the first novel, I'm realizing how carefully everything was planned, how almost every moment in childhood foretells of later moments. So maybe they aren't real. Either way, does it matter? Isn't this Ferrante's whole reclusive point? That the book should stand on it's own, that "real" however one perceives such a term is irrelevant?

Anyways, please someone, READ THESE BOOKS!! And let me know what you think.


Things to Do - Board Game Reviews!! (YAY for Board Games!)


Due to the blizzard, the kids had almost two extra weeks off school (12 days including weekends); basically a second Christmas break (as if we needed another). I love my kids, but I missed my own routine (oh, how I've missed it). Anyways, it seems that all the energy we previously invested in craft projects (remember those days?) we now use on board games.

And I have to say, I'm SO EXCITED that the kids are old enough to play real games (no more Sorry! or Chutes and Ladders!). I went a little crazy this winter and purchased quite a few new games - here are our reviews (and to read about last year's favorites, click here).


"EASIER GAMES" (i.e. T, age 6, can play)

1. Monopoly Here & Now Game - When I purchased this, I assumed it would be almost identical to "real" Monopoly, but with an updated board. Yet it's actually quite different - game play moves much faster (games only last about 30 minutes) and you can't trade properties. Still, the kids love it and it's perfect for before bedtime.

2. Lost Cities - The Board Game - We played this almost obsessively during the blizzard and for a few days F proclaimed this her favorite board game ever. Dan and I really like it too, so it seemed like Lost Cities was here to stay. But then the following problem emerged - although gameplay itself is relatively simple (so all three kids caught on easily), the strategy needed to win as a little bit more complex, so the kids never beat the adults and after awhile they became sick of losing all the time.

3. Tokaido Board Game - This is one of those games that seems complicated, but once you begin you realize that game play is relatively simple. I love it because the game centers around a journey, so you receive extra points for stopping at scenic vistas, buying souvenirs, meeting new people, etc. Thus, even if you lose you still have an interesting "gamer" vacation (plus the board and cards are gorgeous to look at). Although after awhile the game seems a little overly simple. Luckily, there's an expansion pack that is supposed to make it more complex (we haven't bought it yet).

4. Lanterns The Harvest Festival Board Game - This was probably the least successful of our new board game purchases. It's a pretty game and the play is simple, yet requires some degree of strategy (you place various lantern tiles in order to receive color cards, which you can then trade in for point tiles). But something about it never really "clicked" with the kids.

"OLDER" GAMES (i.e. best for kids 8 and over)

5. Coup (The Dystopian Universe) - This game is a little tricky (even for an adult) to learn at first. There are five different types of "characters" all of who serve different functions and it's important to know exactly what each character can do and how the characters interact. Each player draws two characters and then competes to kill off his/her opponents. Games last 10 minutes at most (so you can play multiple rounds).

Once the kids and their friends got the hang of Coup, they played CONSTANTLY. For a few weeks, it seemed like that's all they ever did. So on the upside, Coup is addictive and fun (and, unlike most games, up to 8 people can play). On the downside, it's a cruel game - you need to kill your friends, gameplay often involves lying about the cards you have, and it's easy for two players to gang up on another player. All that being said, my kids love it because, "wouldn't you rather us fight through a board game then fight in real life?"

6. Splendor Board Game - This by far is my favorite of our new games. You use coins to buy cards and then the cards act like money to help you buys more expensive cards. Whoever gets to 15 points first wins and most games only take about 30 minutes to play. While all three of my kids understand the basic strategy, T has a hard time with the "ultimate" strategy of buying the right cards to win; the girls, however, often beat Dan and me.


Things to Do - Random Links & Cherish This Day

darcytroutman (1 of 1)

UGH, THESE SNOW DAYS KEEP GOING! No school til Tuesday. I'm running out of steam everyone.

Have a great weekend everyone! And don't forget to check out this week's awesome on Cherish This Day.


* 59 National parks in 52 weeks.JEALOUS!!!

* Miss Moss's best songs of 2015.

* Would you ditch the coffin for a pod?

* A huge list of January detox and cleanses.

* Into the fold. I can't even begin to say how much I love these photos.

* What do you think of the new Barbies? Does this mean you have to buy three separate Barbie wardrobes?

* For photoshop dorks like me, I've always wondered how they do this.

* The interpretive value of a chair: a personal reflection. Yes to all of this!!

* Have you ever used an Instant Pot? I'm intrigued.

* I think we're going to make this over the weekend. Because dessert is yummy.


Things to Do - The Blizzard of 2016, A Diary of Sorts


There was a blizzard last weekend. It looked like the photo above. But before we get into that, let's start from the beginning . . .



(Debating whether to make this our 2016 Xmas card photo, it perfectly embodies the relationship between my three kids)


(Sometimes they get along, if only for a few moments)


(These books may be the most boring things I've ever read. EVER!)

10:00 am - The snow wasn't predicted to start until mid-afternoon, but Arlington county decided to cancel school anyways. Thus leaving me with three kids asking every ten minutes, "did it start yet? did it start yet?" In order to keep everyone occupied, we walked to the library (which was crazy crowded by the way). And then we settled in for the big wait.



Sometime around 1 pm
- The snow finally begins. But there's not enough to play in yet, so we just watch if fall.


4:30 pm - Finally, there's snow and it keeps coming down. We walk to happy hour at a neighbors' house, marveling over the lack of cars (though our faces are somewhat frozen by the time we arrive).


10 pm - Leaving happy hour. I took these photos after half the party had already departed, the poor dining room looked like it had been attacked.



(T decides to chillax in the middle of the road)


Noon - Okay, so that's A LOT of snow. Crazy amounts everywhere. It was like a playground. And pretty fun. And still coming down.


Between 2 pm and 4 pm - The snow becomes kind of crazy, with lots of strong winds that had everyone worried about losing electricity. But, somewhat miraculously, our power lines didn't falter.








5 pm - Walk to another happy hour. I love this neighborhood.




11 pm - Dance party. Of course.




noon - Somewhere in the night, the snow finally stopped. Leaving us with a bright sunny day and hamster-like tunnels to walk through. We're all starting to tire of the blizzard. And I want my living room back.








5:30 pm - Walk to another happy hour. The sunset was incredible.



2:00 pm - Do you want to build a snowman? And, yes, it HAS TO BE A SNOWMAN! P actually did this all on her own, while I hid in the house.






3:30 pm - I'm officially sick of snow. And we're all sick of each other. In order to leave the house, I took the kids sledding.

And so it continues, school is canceled through Wednesday (today). And I'm losing steam (plus, where have all the happy hours gone?). The county plowed our street late Monday night, but the car is still buried. Luckily, there are playdates. And boardgames. And more snowmen have been built. But I could use some quiet for awhile.



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