New Year's Resolutions - February Update

Another month of 2018 is over so I'm back with an update on my New Year's Resolutions. After doing well in two of the three last month, this month I was hoping to find a better balance. The month didn't start off well for number three...again...but by mid month I finally found my groove. Let's see how things went across all three:

1) Bake more bread from scratch
I mentioned in the last update that I wanted to make pretzel bites this months and had a recipe from Bon Appetit. I didn't end up using that recipe because it called for beer and since we don't drink, the left over would never get used in all likelihood. So I found a different recipe from King Arthur Flour and went to work. I think they came out great, a little flat on the bottom but they tasted just like the ones you get at the mall.
Christine thought they were a little bitter and it took me a few to see what she was saying, I believe it was the amount of baking soda in the soaking solution, which the raw dough sat in briefly, that caused that flavor. Either less baking soda or less soaking time might help next time. And I say next time because I will definitely be making these again. I still can't get over how nicely they browned.

I love the "On This Day" feature on Facebook that shows you your posts from that day in years previous. Christine had one about eating pizza fritte a.k.a. fried dough and banana bread for breakfast a few years ago. It's been quite some time since I made pizza fritte, except the time a few months ago where I used a non yeast recipe that was more like elephant ears than fried dough. Anyway, the thought of warm, chewy dough dusted with sugar sounded wonderful so I made a batch of regular bread dough the day before and put it in the fridge.
Looking at that picture makes me want more right this second. Not a lot to say other than it was very tasty. Once you've made pizza fritte once or twice, it's stupid easy to do. Grace gave it another shot, since it's been a few years since she tried it last, and she said she loved it. She eats like a bird but put down three small pieces, probably totaling one of the pieces in the picture above. If you want to make some, here is a great step by step tutorial with pictures, again it's stupid easy.

With the left over dough I shaped it quickly, put it in a bread pan, and stuck it in the oven. I really should have taken my time like I normally do but I was in the middle of frying so I didn't put much effort into it. When it came out of the oven, the top had split away but had a decent color on the outside. The inside once again was yeasty smelling like the sesame loaf from last month that I had to mostly throw away. It was cooked all of the way through but the crumb was still a bit spongy. I toasted a few slices and they tasted just fine. More time in the oven and more time shaping were definitely needed.
I have some dough in the fridge right now that I was hoping to do something with before the end of the month but just ran out of time. The good thing about that is now I'm set up for the beginning of this month. Maybe I'll make bagels.

2) Have no unplayed games when 2018 ends
Like the bread resolution, it was another great month for this resolution. A quick update on the numbers:
  • After buying two games and playing five, I came into this month with 13 unplayed games.
  • I played 4 more games bringing my new unplayed total down to 9. But then I received two in trade that I haven't played bringing my total back up to 11. BUT THEN I traded away an unplayed game bringing my actual total down to 10.
  • So this was another net -3 month. If I keep this pace up then I'll have no unplayed games by June, so it'll just be maintenance from then on. I'm really looking forward to revisiting some of the titles I've only played once or twice and play some of my favorites more often.
Some notes on what I played this month:

I've had Torres sitting on my shelf for probably a year or so but recently I've been really dying to play it. I've been doing this thing on Twitter where I change my profile picture to a selfie of me with most of my face covered up by a game. I do this to publicly shame myself into playing that game. I don't think many people notice but I did have somebody say "FINALLY" after Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu was up there for a few months. It's just another way to make myself more accountable. The point of that story is that Torres was up there for the entire month of January until it got played during the first weekend of this month.
I LOVE this game. While it has a very, very loosely tied on theme, this is an abstract game through and through. There are action cards that keep the game from being a pure abstract but they add so much. Shawn, Christine, and I battled it out and it was I who came out victorious and by a pretty good margin. I want to play this at player counts of two and four, also I want to try the more strategic variant that's listed in the game rules. There are also additional cards and rules for an even deeper game that I can't wait to explore. 

This is one of the two games I bought in January but I wanted to get it to the table as soon as possible because it's by the designer of another great little game called Coloretto. In fact, Smile borrows from that game while also being combined with mechanics from another great card game, No Thanks!. A game that combines features of two of my favorite card games, plus really beautiful art, AND a smart wrinkle that makes you lose cards if you draft two of the same color just had to be good.
Smile certainly didn't disappoint, even though I got destroyed by both Christine and Shawn. I knew it was a keeper when Christine said that she really liked it later on that night when we were talking about the games we had played that day. It's easy enough for anyone to play but it's got some meat on it for people who are looking for a little bit more from a quick card game. I look forward to getting this one to the table often.

When we saw a copy of this sitting on a friend's shelf months back, Christine made a comment about it so I had been on the hunt since to acquire a copy. I trade for this back in December, so while it certainly isn't the oldest unplayed game on my shelf, the theme is one of the most interesting. I watched the play-through video from Radho before trying it out for the first time and I came to the realization that this is the best way for me to learn new games. Reading through rule books causes me to miss things but watching a play through allows me to retain more and be able to teach better. 
I thought I was going to crush Christine because I finished six actors' costumes which gave me great bonuses during the two dress rehearsal rounds. I had also done a "better" job of building my stage. But there's a funny thing about going all out and using all possible actions each turn, you're going to give a point away each round. I let Christine collect one point each round for being the first player so I could take more actions, this ultimately led to my demise because those six points, plus everything else she had accomplished during the game, gave her the win by 3 points. Playing this at higher player counts should be interesting and the expansion sounds like it could add some clever wrinkles.

I got a great deal on Amazon for this about a year ago. I think it sat so long because I wasn't actively looking to acquire it. I wish I had looked at it closer because it's a fairly light game that can be played very quickly once all players have played once or twice. I chose this to start our game day with Shawn and Kelly this past weekend and it went over really well.
The rules are very simple so even older children could do well I believe. On a players turn they can: move to a city and take a card that matches it's name (if on the board), move to a city and dig (which you do by pulling tokens from the bags, some are blank and others have treasures, move to a city and hold an exhibition (if you have the proper treasures, or move to Warsaw and draw four new cards for the board. The thing that makes the game is that everything you do costs different amounts of time and you only have two years, in a four player game, to do it all. Getting the knowledge cards (books in the picture) will cost you one time for each space you need to move to get to the listed city PLUS the cost on the card. So six time here and four time there add up really quickly. I missed a couple rules but it didn't really affect the gameplay at all. I look forward to playing this one again soon.

3) Meditate on a regular basis
I started getting back to this at the end of January, as the thought of doing the update post came but shortly after I lapsed again. Alone time, that is also quite time, is hard to come by in a house with three children under five. But that's an excuse and not a solution. So around the middle of the month when I realized it had been a week or so since I last found time to sit, I decided to take time during my lunch at work everyday. It's not the perfect amount of quiet but an empty office with a door that shuts works a lot better than the cubicle I work in daily. Weekends are still tough but once I figure that out, I hope to be able to string some weeks and even months together of consecutive days.


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