Monday, June 30, 2014

A Brief, Personal History of Settlers of Catan

My first exposure to a game that now ranks in my top two games* of all time came on a visit to South Bend circa 2010.  I say "exposure" as I can't properly say I played.  I arrived late.  The game was already in play among these friends of the North countries who journeyed from Milwaukee and Chicago for a Catan-meet-up.  An extremely modified version of Settlers of Catan, involving an absolutely giant board, anchored the room.

I became John Paul's teammate, leaving all decisions regarding play to someone much better versed in the game.  Someone who actually knew things like the rules.  And the goal.

But, as usual, I was no less invested in clenching the win.

College friends!

(We didn't.)

Fast forward to the fall of 2012.  My new husband and I had just moved to Oklahoma City, where we quickly became friends with a young family who love Catan.  It took me one game, played in their charming but small garage apartment while their baby slept ten feet away, to get hooked.

The game, like all the best games, takes skill, strategy, and luck.  It takes skill to pick the correct territories, to negotiate beneficial trades, to know when and where to build and when to save resources, and to know when to go for the longest road or largest army.  All of these skills are intertwined with strategy: planning for the future.

Luck keeps the game interesting.

And, sometimes more importantly coughbackgammontournamentscough keeps the peace when one person seems to win more than all the others.

Settlers topped my Christmas list.  My very kind and generous mother-in-law thought the game was along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons and bought it for me anyway.

By the end of the week, she had bought it for herself, too.

Klaus Teuber is now a household name.  In our household, anyway.

My greatest achievement in Catan and other geniuses of Hans came a few weeks ago.  Since January, Catan equalled embarrassment for me; never did I just lose.  I never even got going.

But all that changed when my brother-and-sister-in-law came into town for a Thunder game.  They arrived early, in time to play with the baby, eat cupcakes, drink beer, and, most importantly, to play Catan.

Victory was mine.

That same evening, my original instructors came for curry and Catan.

Again, victory.

The following day, nap time found us at my brother and sister-in-law's house for our inaugural game of Settlers of America.  I remain the only victor of this brilliant creation of Hans Kluber, board game genius.

Settling America, honeymoon style.
Well, its the West.
The one thing I learned in that game: westward expansion is advantageous
I mean, we were manifestly destined to settle the continent, right?

*Maybe three.  Why don't we play Spades anymore??

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Construction Considerations

For road builders, there are many considerations: water ways, mountains, hills, rocky soil, and many other things I remain blissfully unaware of as someone who only drives on roads.

But in Iceland, there is another consideration: elves.

As you may have heard, road construction in Iceland was stopped when many were concerned that it would upset the elves living in the area.

Spoiler alert: it was resumed when the elves agreed to have their chapel moved to another location.

(h/t Conor McWay)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pardon Me While I Pretend I'm a Food Blogger

At least with the pictures.

If you want recipes, it will have to be by request.

I guess I just want to show off the beautiful food I make.*

Maybe this is why people have Instagram.  

Do people Instagram food pics, bragging about their pretty (and delicious) food?  Or is it only their children and adventures they brag about?  

Or maybe it's funny things.  I could get into that.

Other people's food pics, though: not for me.

So I'll understand if my food pics aren't for you.

Without further ado:

Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches!  Oh, we need to have those again, stat.
Polenta with White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Ragout
Dutch baby cake (topped it with fresh fruit and powdered sugar, shared it with my love; well, the one that can eat, not the baby love)

Red, White, and Blue Sheet Cake; yes, that's fruit in there, so it's super healthy
*Lest I fill you with jealousy, not everything we eat looks like its from a magazine.  Nope.  Wednesday night, I realized my husband would need to take dinner with him to work in the morning, so I threw chicken breasts, chicken broth, whole potatoes, rice, celery, carrots, and chickpeas in the crockpot.  

True story.  

And it would have been good, too, if I just omitted the chickpeas.  They just made it weird.

Except, according to my husband as I write this post, even though he has no idea what I'm doing on the computer (for all he knows, I'm looking at clothes we can't afford), I could have put in more chickpeas.  

Well, you live and you learn.

What, exactly, I learned regarding the presence of chickpeas in thrown-together, made-up crockpot meals is still up for debate.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clueless, Consumerism, and Catan

Okay, so no Catan.
Catan: Seafarers!

I just like alliteration.

(Though, I DID win three Settlers games in a row a few weeks ago.)

But!  Clueless.  And consumerism.  Well,  last summer my friend Christina wrote a blog post about quitting the whole consumeristic culture of buying lots of clothes, inspired by Papa Francisco and, well, Jesus.  It involved lots of personal insight and pictures of Cher with clothes strewn about the floor.

And after thinking, "Good for her," I thought --- well, actually I thought about how funny Clueless is.*

But after that I patted myself on the back and thought, "Consumerism.  Beneath me."

Then I went to the mall.

No, no, not with the intention of shopping.  I'm not that hypocritical.  I went because last summer I became a secret mall-walker, like those little old ladies who do laps, walking from Dillard's to Macy's to Penny's, making sure I round each column.  Yes, that's me, except my hair is only 40% gray. And I usually have a baby with me.

But, of course, I'd peer at the shop windows, glancing at Gap's almost-but-not-quite-affordable long dresses, the ethereal lace tops from Loft, the fabulous red suit-dresses from JCrew, and, of course, Williams-Sonoma’s five-ply stainless steel pots and pans.  And I’d want them. 

Darn you, Loft, and your 50% off shorts.

Even though, I, you know, don’t go to work.** 

And even though I already own the All-Clad ten piece set, complete with the free lasagna pan and The Essentials of Italian Cooking^. 

So, yes: my own desire for the Infinite and for Beauty is also very easily twisted into a vain, vapid consumerism.  


Thank you, red dress maker Zara, for being too cool and European for my middle-America city.  Absent temptation doesn't = virtue, but it sure helps.

GK Chesteron on consumerism here (don't be fooled by the title, that's what he comes around to, like when he says he's writing about cheese and ends up writing about big business.)

*My opportunity to watch it again came when my Jane Austen book club had its very first movie night after reading Emma.  Watching the Gwyneth version was considered a betrayal of the original intent.  Too many liberties in interpretation appeared.  So the Silverstone adaptation was quickly agreed upon.

** Yes, yes, every once in awhile I interview the Attorney General or something, but one business dress and one black pencil skirt with appropriate tops is more than enough for these rare occasions.

^All of which—not to fuel your desire to buy, buy, buy—is as fabulous as you might imagine, if you frequently imagine and sometimes enact elaborate cooking scenarios (like me).

Sunday, June 22, 2014


This past Saturday I spent some time flipping through my old magazines, ripping out recipes and other pages I want to keep.  You know, Southern Living’s “How to Turn this China Pattern Into an Outfit.”  Stuff like that.

Well, SL’s napkin interview was with Bill Paxton.  I looked at it and thought, “Oh, the jazz musician.  Travis will be interested in this!”  I ripped out the page, put it on his desk and moved on.

Hours later, he came home, and asked if I still wanted the interview with this guy he’s never heard of.

Me: No, I don’t want it, but don’t you? I thought you’d want to see the interview with the jazz musician.

Travis: He’s a jazz musican?  Says here he’s an actor.

Me: Let me see that. Oh, sure enough, actor. Huh.  I'm not sure what I was thinking.

minutes pass

Travis: Were you thinking of Del Paxton who may or may not be real from That Thing You Do?

Me: Yes.

Here’s to you, probably fictional jazz drummer Del Paxton.  And here’s to you, Tom Hanks, for making such a brilliant movie.

Southern Living's Paper Napkin Interview, with everyone's favorite (fictional?) jazz musician

My Tio y su Papa (my Abba)

Or, life and work.

My uncle Tio* has spent most of his life teaching middle and high school Spanish.  He has led kids, helped them flourish and grow, in the way that only very special teachers are able to.

His job is clearly his vocation.  I’m sure anyone who knows him will agree.

So I was very surprised last month when we were talking to the priest about my grandfather’s life, and Tio said, “He taught me that you are not your job.”

Tio explained how after they were exiled from Cuba, Abba always did whatever work was available to him in order to support his family; no work was beneath him.

Coming from Tio, who’s work is clearly his vocation, the simple truth that we are not our jobs, carried even more weight.  You are not your job.

This is not in conflict with your vocational path, but, perhaps, a helpful truth in obtaining it.

*little Spanglish joke.  We call him Tio.  Tio=uncle.  Jokes aren’t funny when you explain them, but I just said “uncle uncle.”  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband, who is the best father I could ask for to my little babe.

Wednesday Morning at the Park!
Happy Father's Day to my brother, who has become more himself in his fatherhood.
Pool Party!

Happy Father's Day to my dad, who has always encouraged and inspired me.
Two beautiful granddaughters

Happy Father's Day to my sweet father-in-law, who has shown my husband how to father and delights in my daughter more than I could hope.
Early morning visit.  Still in her PJs.

Happy Father's Day to my Papa, who displays a beautiful contentedness in life.  (My love is no less that I don't have a photo on my phone.)

Happy Father's Day to Sofia's godfather, Peter.
First Meeting
Happy Father's Day to my Tío, who has spent his life in fatherhood to many many people, including me.  And who introduces us to the best BBC shows.
With her Bis-Tio!

And Happy Father's Day to my Abba.  Your presence is missed by us especially today.

Aquarina Springs
Christmas with his namessake

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


A favorite gift item in my household is periodical subscriptions.  Their arrival in the mail is always a bright point in my day*, providing me with a dose of beauty, an insight into humanity, a new perspective on a topic, or new information.

This Christmas, I started receiving the Oxford American.  The first issue, the music issue, arrived with armed with a compact disc featuring Tennesse music.  The pages contained little known stories of the Memphis blues and Nashville country stars and important figures.

Excellent Periodicals

Dappled Things, which has featured the work of my favorite Oklahoma poet, never fails to offer images of beauty, in words and pictures.

My very favorite periodical, however, is one that elevates the everyday tasks of cooking, cleaning and gardening to new heights.  It introduced my husband and I to the brilliant brunch of the OKC Museum of Art Café, which we assumed was out of our price range, like its dinner (its not: ricotta pancakes for $8!), and created the end of summer birthday brisket tradition.  It appreciates the time spent sitting on porches and the simple beauty of a dinner party.

Here's to Southern Living.

I flipped this right-side up in iPhoto, I promise.

*The arrival of anything in the mail that is not bills is a bright point in my day.  That's why people get addicted to online shopping.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Grand Lake O' the Cherokees

So, I haven’t given up blogging so soon after I began.

No, no, no.  I’m still here, throwing up random thoughts and sightings on this self-publishing site. 

My little fam went up to the Biddick lake house in Northeast Oklahoma for the week.  We left post-morning nap on Tuesday, just after the Memorial Day kick off of summer/overly crowded, boat-filled cove and returned early afternoon on Sunday.

I wasn’t really looking forward to the trip.* But as we drove up, I thought, “Wow.  I forgot how tall the trees are.”

I kept thinking it the whole time we were there: while I looked over the still waters from the stone front porch, as we took the baby for long walks under the canopy of trees, and even as I glanced out the window as we watched the Thunder lose ( 😢). 

I forgot how tall the trees are.

Something expands in my soul when I remember, something that’s inarticuable (yes, not a word, but is there a word for there not being words?).

And that’s just the trees!  What good do the bright reds of robins, blues of blue birds, and quick-flapping wings of humming birds do?  What does it mean to visit with a fox everyday, to watch a baby squirrel while carrying my own baby, to see a wild-growing berry patch? 

It’s times like these that I wish I was a poet, that I could capture the rustle of the trees and distant chirping birds—or, at least, respond to it in such a way that I participate in the beauty that’s there.
Instead, here’s some more Richard Wilbur (who is, after all, my favorite poet; except maybe Wendell Berry is?).

The Beautiful Changes
One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water, it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameloen’s tuning his skin to it;
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows

Your hands hold roses in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

*I wasn’t dreading it, either.  I just kept thinking: we have to move to the front of our duplex when we get back!  I have to pack up all these books, and the insane amount of kitchen stuff we own… and all the other stuff, too.

(Confession: I typed this up while still at the lake on the ol’ Microsoft word as humming birds buzzed and the world was so still I could hear someone across the cove mowing the lawn.)