Elder Sign | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

The descent into madness can be a short fall for some of us – as easy as the toss of dice.

Enter the world (and Otherworlds) inspired by H. P. Lovecraft in this cooperative dice game. Each player is an investigator with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s a race against time to keep one of the ancient elder gods asleep and at bay.

The elder gods of Lovecrafts universe are ancient powerful beings whose very presence causes madness. They are evil agents of chaos bent on consuming existence. Defeating them is so herculean that it’s better to keep them in their slumber. Crazed cultist forces want to watch the world burn, and the investigators in this game work to defeat monsters and gather the elder signs that will save the world.

Continue reading “Elder Sign | The Tabletop Letters”

The King of Ash & Bone Review

Legends sometimes have roots in reality, a grain of salt that’s too much to bear but too chilling to be forgotten. As society crumbles around Mackenzie, she trusts a stranger. The fellow survivor is a means to the end of reuniting with her brother. As tensions run high, she’s plunged into a nightmare beyond her imagining. She has information about the invading species, but can she get it to the army in time?

Continue reading “The King of Ash & Bone Review”

Brevity & Inevitability: “Remember You Will Die”

In The Austere Academy volume of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Latin phrase “Momento Mori” is inscribed over the gates of Prufrock Preparatory School.

The phrase means, “remember you will die”. It seems morbid for a children’s school. I know, it’s a downer especially for a Monday, but it felt important to bring up because of something that happened recently to me. Continue reading “Brevity & Inevitability: “Remember You Will Die””

The Cat Game | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to play a game that I have seen over and over again in stores: The Cat Game.

As a cat person and someone whose drawing ability can only be called “abstract” and “kindergartener-esque”, this game was perfect for me!

Here’s the breakdown of this adorable feline drawing game:

Players: 3+

Play time: 30 minutes

Age: 16+

By: Spin Master

Now I’ll rank it on accessibility, mechanics, and engagement.


Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Like Pictionary, you draw a card with a concept to sketch. Unlike Pictionary there are base images of cats to incorporate in the activity in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, poses, and expressions.

This was “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”.
  • There were a few cards that perhaps not everyone may have been families with the references (for people in particular with a younger group), but each card has three options for Purr-sons & Purr-fessions, Cat-tivities and Cat-egories.
  • There’s very little text and the images are a collage of dry erase around/over cats, so this game probably is comfortable without reading or EnChroma glasses.

    It’s playable with children under the suggested age of x, but there were a few more adult themed options that were ignored.

    Since the cat images are on the small side (think a child’s sticker from the greeting card section), this wouldn’t be as scaleable for larger groups as some other drawing games.

    To accommodate someone with less use of their hands, I suggest taking a photo with a smartphone or tablet of the cat image on the dry erase portion and then drawing on the photo. I don’t think they have this as an app, but it could be a lot of fun. The next best thing (minus cats but hosted by a hilarious personality) is Jackbox’s Drawful.

    Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    The Cat Game works very well and is a format that is easy to pick up or familiar for many game players – the artist draws an image and everyone else tries to guess the subject before the timer runs out.

    It also can accommodate large groups well using teams.

    This was “choir”.

    Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Since no one is kicked out, and everyone is clambering to have the correct guess, this game is engaging. The cat pictures add a unique, adorably hilarious element to this game.

    After we played it was suggested to make it more difficult that the next round through we might remove a cat image from the pool once used. We didn’t try this, but it could be a lot of fun.

    This was “Rapunzel”.

    In Conclusion: This is a fresh take on the old drawing guessing idea. The use of cats eliminates the stick figures of my fellow gamers whose art is also lacking and adds comical moments to the game. With topics supervised, the age can be adjusted.

    I don’t always enjoy drawing games. Drawing is not my forte. This game was a blast, though.

    The Cat Game is available on Amazon. This post is #NotSponsored.

    Click here to see it played by TTPM.

    Error: Insufficient Resources

    Minimalism and mindfulness have their own places on the shelf of life. Sometimes we need to put them back in their places. Maybe your experiences are different but I’m going to share mine.

    Minimalism. The oft praised design concept that conjures up fresh tiny houses, Scandinavian designs, Japanese zen gardens, and futuristic serenity come to mind. Jane Cumberbatch’s Pure Style Living has maintained a treasured spot on my bookshelf for over a decade with its praise of white, sterile, industrial inspired function. #goals

    In contrast I have a maximalist house. It’s overly large (we’re planning on expanding our family). It’s overly cluttered (I’m working on that). My life is anything but sterile. It’s functionally chaotic.

    An article I read talked about the mental stress that clutter causes. I had a hard time explaining it to my husband before reading the article, but this really helped. Clutter causes anxiety for me because it represents endless to-do lists and embarrassment. I want the house to look like a magazine cover, but it’s a mess. I don’t think I could ever have someone help me clean up either – I’m too particular, and it would make me very uncomfortable. When I first brought the baby home, a few close friends or family offered to help, but I had to turn them down. Having anyone else clean up my mess would rack me with guilt.

    In the spirit of reducing and destressing, I tackled the closets, the bookcases, and some keepsakes. The Marie Kondo method really has helped me trim down my closet to clothes I enjoy wearing.

    Why own clothes that don’t make me feel good? Why keep books or keepsakes that are just collecting dust? If I don’t treasure them, then why not give them a happier home with someone else?

    Like The Decemberist’s song, “[A]nd if you don’t love me, let me go”.

    Marie Kondo’s method of folding socks and t-shirts has transformed my drawers. The idea of treating my belongings with respect has truly increased value for objects I otherwise disregarded.

    I have not read her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s in my To Be Read list, as is Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.

    Someone who has read Kondo’s book was telling me that there’s an idea expressed that if your house is cluttered it’s because you’re choosing chaos, and that if you’re choosing chaos in your most intimate of physical environments it’s to distract you from the disarray in your own mind. Again, I have yet to read it, so I can’t speak to the quote and tone.

    That idea, however, been bothering me for a few days. Am I choosing chaos in my home to avoid chaos in my mind?

    I’ve been trying to get as much done as I can, but I seem to consistently fail. I definitely relate to having chaos within, and I’m doing my best to tame the chaos around me.

    Someone else told me that they choose to view chaos in their physical environment instead of as the result a choice (blaming oneself) as merely a case of insufficient resources. They view it not as a personal failing but as a symptom of too little time/energy.

    This brings me back to mindfulness.

    Mindfulness.

    Studies upon studies tout the line that mindfulness meditation has health benefits, improves mental health, etc.

    What if you can’t get into it, though?

    I’ve had to deal with some intense physical pain during my life. Sitting and focusing on what I’m experiencing in the moment isn’t always good for my mental health personally.

    Mindfulness sometimes employs labeling: naming experiences, condensing actions into an idea to limit internal monologue to allow more time to focus on the present.

    An example of labeling might go something like this:

    Inhale. Thinking. Exhale. Itching. Inhale. Shoulders heavier. Exhale. Tummy relaxing.

    It brings acute awareness to physical sensations. For me that sensation tended to be pain.

    My mindfulness labeling went something like this:

    Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Hurting. Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Still Hurting.

    It sucked. I don’t want to just sit and think about how much pain I’m in. I can’t negate that being the most poignant part of my experience in those moments. Mindfulness that focused on labeling the present was not for me.

    Does it help others? Yes. More power to them.

    For me meditation that focuses on controlling thoughts is more helpful: mantras, focused breathing (especially square breathing).

    Shelve It.

    Sometimes this sad vending machine is a pretty accurate depiction of me.

    Minimalism, for all its beauty, isn’t working for me. I’m trying to tackle the clutter one type at a time and trying to become better organized. That’s one tool that I’ll have to shelve for now.

    There are cleaning guides I’ve looked at as well. They seem to over-simplify cleaning. Focusing on a single room a day sounds like a great approach, but it hasn’t worked for me. I can’t do just one load of laundry a day or one load of dishes either. I mentioned this to a friend who said they think this only works if your house is clean to begin with and you’re just doing maintenance cleaning instead of nitty gritty cleaning and you live by yourself. With a baby and pets, laundry and cleaning are constant. I also have to decide – do I want to treasure this moment with my child (who will only be this size right now), or do I want a perfectly clean house? Cleaning can wait.

    The same goes for meditation: mindfulness isn’t my cup of tea. With so many types of meditation, I’m lucky I’ve found other ways of quieting my mind.

    My go-to meditations besides square breathing are simply counting one on the inhale and two on the exhale and trying to free my mind of any thoughts; and a singing meditation:

    When I breathe out, I breathe out peace. When I breathe in, I breathe in love.

    https://youtu.be/kijYkPIvR6g

    My goal right now is to shelve those thoughts deriding myself for perceived failures in organizing my physical and headspace and to just accept that sometimes I have insufficient resources. I don’t think the Serenity Prayer was meant to be applied this way, but I definitely need “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.


    What are your favorite ways of creating order in your headspace and/or physical space?

    #TuesdayMotivation Finding Solidarity 

    This week I’ve struggled with some weltschmerz. Today I’m going to talk about the origins of my pain and the two things that alleviated it. 


    Fear, The Unknown 

    It’s been difficult for me to find not only a sense of hope but of solidarity in these past few days especially with the #MuslimBan. These people around me and in our country have such a sense of hatred and fear towards the unknown, towards Islam. 

    There is so much irony in the fact that right after International Holocaust Remembrance Day we are challenged with a zeitgeist of exclusion and the demonization of an entire people group. Are there evil Muslims? Yes. There are also Christians who bomb abortion clinics and perpetrate gun violence and terrorism


    A few years ago I saw a fearmongering book at a relative’s house about Islam. Curious, I read the back cover copy. It was in that instant that I knew what I must do: arm myself with knowledge about Islam so I could be set free by the truth and escape fear. 

    Over the next few months I read several books that changed the way I view Islam:

    Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in an Age of Globalization 

    Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time 

    Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace In A Time of Terror

    No god but God:  The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

    Am I thinking of converting? Not a chance. Do I feel like an expert now? Not at all. These books, however, took away my fear of the unknown, of Islam. It is a complex, nuanced religion built around community. There are also Muslims who protect Christians and in fact this is a (somewhat) forgotten tenet of Islam

    Being a Unitarian Universalist, the religious freedom of others is very near and dear to my heart. 

    This is one of my favorite quotes:


    We are not enemies, but friends. 

    One of my cousins is so often a source of inspiration to me. He is truly an incredible person. He shared this powerful video and it brought calm to my heart. 

    We Will Make Our Voices Heard All Around the World 

    Growing up in a conservative household I often saw on Fox News claims that the liberal media was attacking the truth. I believed them. Now I know that the media is not truly as liberal as they claimed and that liberals are just as attacked as conservatives. The truth is out there but it’s more difficult to find than turning on MSNBC. I recommend looking for an objective opinion — the BBC — as they have no horse in this race. Vice News is also dedicated to pure journalism without entertainment/opinion. 

    I went to college for Political Science and wanted to become a journalist and promote the truth. It was there that the chaff burnt away and I began my transformation into my purist self: a liberal. 


    Knowing how to think for myself, I quickly realized that I was a liberal at heart. It was hard for me to find a spiritual home in the mountains of Western North Carolina. One day my husband and I took the Belief-O-Matic quiz and both discovered Unitarian Universalism. In a matter of moments we found our spiritual home: the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Franklin

    Seeing Facebook posts from one of the most politically active members has given me a sense of community. What really put me over the top, though, was this video of Elizabeth Warren:

    https://youtu.be/XmWKlH2O3vM

    I hope you found that as unifying as I did. This country was founded on religious freedom. With that we have the responsibility to let all people seek the truth for themselves. Your truth and mine may not be the same but I will fight for your freedom. 

    From an Upworthy post :

    Get ready. Your active citizen hat is going to be on for awhile.

    Frey

    Frey felt life was unfair as an elf who has no magic until one day she finds herself accidentally practicing dark magic. Things get worse from there. A dark and handsome stranger appears and her world is soon thrown off kilter. Will her mother’s diary hold the answer to her fractured memories? Will she find any magic that is not dark? 


    This story was appealing because it focuses on a strong female lead who fights against the odds. We can probably all identify with feeling out of place from time to time.  

    In this world the genders feel pretty equal, though two of the male characters are hypersexualised. Although one of the elves, Steed, is quite comical with his forwardness. His personality reminds me of a married man that used to hit on me. I didn’t think it was so funny at the time. 

    The story seems to follow more of a Freytag model than a traditional three act structure.  That’s okay; my book, Threads of Fate, follows this model and is based off Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  

    Ruby was one of my favorite characters. She is strong and mischievous, so a little unpredictable. She definitely has agency. This book passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. 

    There were a few moments that felt unrealistic. Chevelle is particularly brooding and in one spot does not speak to Frey for an entire day. I can’t imagine traveling with someone for a full 24 hours and not breaking the silence. 

    I wish there was a little more description about things like the colors of the horses. I can’t recall what color her horse was and those kinds of details draw me in being a visual person. 

    The book was an easy read and I’ve already read the next one, Pieces of Eight