Board Games

Confession time.

I don’t really like board games.

Or card games either, for that matter. Or really, “games” in general. Not even Charades. Or Dominos.

I didn’t much like them as a kid, and I still don’t much like them as an adult. I’m not entirely sure why, considering how much fun people seem to have while playing them, but I just… don’t really have that much fun. It’s not that I don’t learn quickly (I do, and there are plenty of games with minimal rules) or that I don’t like losing. Admittedly, as a kid I was super competitive, and so is my family, and there were a few major fights about my not wanting to play and being called a party pooper as a teenager and otherwise being badgered/guilted into playing (ostensibly because I was “fun” and people “liked playing with me” but that’s neither here nor there).

I just don’t really like board games.

This is complicated because I play D&D, as any nights that we don’t actually play our campaign end up as board game nights – which I totally understand. Really what else are people to do as a get together? Watch movies? I have the Locke Lamora problem with movies too (made worse when I’m with my D&D group because D&D can often tread VERY close to triggery situations), so I’m kind of a downer when it comes to movie nights.

Which basically means I’m a big ol’ boring stick-in-the-mud.

There are a few games that I will tolerate, and some that I’ve even enjoyed playing. They’re usually light hearted, rules-light games that don’t require much effort, or they’re cooperative games where you’re playing as a group instead of against each other.

Games I Will Occasionally Play (Usually Half Heartedly):

  • Munchkin (in any of its incarnations)
  • Fluxx (in any of ITS incarnations)
  • Ninja Burger (if I can put up with the rules)
  • Shadows over Camelot (hopefully without the traitor, but I’ll deal)

I’ve played Arkham Horror, but to be honest, I’m not much of a candidate for the horror genre in general, and even that stupid board game gave me weird dreams. Yes, I’m a carebear.

I also don’t like those games where you have to guess embarrassing things about other people. I’ll put up with a few of them (usually the kind where your friends come up with answers and you pick between them), but generally mind-reader games kind of wig me out.

I feel mostly the same way about playing group/competitive video games, like rock band or any of the –cart games for consoles. Love being around, but have absolutely NO interest whatsoever in playing.

That said, I have NO problem being around while OTHER people play board games. In fact, I usually have a very good time on board game nights, happily not playing, knitting, and drinking a glass of wine. I can get up and do other things whenever I need to, if people get too intense, I can step away without slowing up the game because it’s my turn, and I still get to enjoy the social-group-ness of getting together with people I like who are also geeky/nerdy.

But I still don’t like actually playing. Thankfully most of our group is willing to put up with that particular quirk (and all the other ones…) because they seem to like my company.

Though I still feel a odd as fish.

Hooooo’s your favorite?

I have two favorite animals. They are, oddly enough, a predator/prey pair – owls and rabbits.

I’ve loved bunnies since I was very small, when I had an enormous collection of rabbit plushies, as well as a lop-eared rabbit named Buttercup.

Buttercup was half a house-rabbit, and she was pretty awesome. One of her favorite hobbies was stealing pencils from my desk and then running next to the railing with it, going THUMPATHUMPATHUMPATHUMPA up and down the hallway.

I’ve not had another rabbit since then, mostly because I have cats and I can’t really afford another pet, but someday I’d like to get another house rabbit.

The wiggly nose and the giant ears and the big furry feets just melt my heart.

Sometime around when I was five or six years old, though, I had two encounters with owls that secured them in my heart forever. First we had a Great Horned Owl in the woods behind my house. My dad and I used to sit outside at night and listen for him/her, and s/he hung around for quite awhile before moving on.

Because I’d showed interest, dad took me to a place nearby called the Raptor Trust, a local bird-of-prey rehabilitation center. Along with all the hawks and a bald eagle, the Trust had a large number of owls, several of whom were permanent residents due to injury. The Great Grey Owl took my interest first, because he was just so HUGE.

His look of perpetual surprise didn’t hurt anything either. These guys can get to be almost three feet tall (yes, three feet), and they’re one of, if not the, largest owls on the planet. The Great Grey at the Raptor Trust wasn’t very personable, but he’d been wild until he got hit by a car, so one of his wings didn’t work. Nobody blamed him for being a little depressed.

He was my first favorite, but then we met the Barn Owl.

The little Barn Owl at the Trust had been raised in captivity, a baby who had been raised improperly and wouldn’t be able to live around humans. However, her incredible curiosity and familiarity with humans made her pretty endearing, and she’d play a little owl version of “Simon Says” with visitors.

Those two owls remained my favorite for a long time, long after I’d moved to Texas (and stopped seeing and hearing owls, but contenting myself with identifying the various hawks in the Dallas area) and grown up and was no longer able to visit or donate to the Raptor Trust.

But one of the things about living in the swamp down here is that I live very close to several large nature preserves. These areas exist to protect the coastal and bayou landscapes and hopefully slow the loss of coastal wetlands.

And here in the swamp, I heard and fell in love with a new owl.

The Barred Owl.

I haven’t ever seen one in the wild, and I’ve only heard the one here a few times, but after listening to their call, I couldn’t help but be quite fond of them.

Why?

Well, different owls have different calls. The Great Horned Owl is the one with the typical “Hoo hoohoohoo” call that people associate with owls. The Barred Owl is similar, but the way you remember the barred owl call is to say, in a hooty voice, “HOO cooks for YOU? HOO cooks for YOOOOOOooooo?” and it’s AWESOME. (Great YouTube of a Barred Owl call)

Obviously I will never keep an owl myself – they are wild critters and don’t do well in captivity unless they can’t survive in the wild. They’re also notoriously hard to train (as are most raptors), making the Harry Potter series all that much more impressive.

And yes, I do audibly squee with each Harry Potter scene that involves the Owl Post, especially the ones with LOTS of owls. OWLS! (While the three pictured are my “favorites”, I love pretty much all owls. They’re so awesome!)

So those are my two favorite animals. I have them as pictures and figurines in my house wherever possible, and I’m hard to get out of the owl house at the zoo.

What are your favorite critters?

*For extra cute, have a look at this little owl, practicing his pouncing skills.

The Art of Neatification

*crossposted from Seven Deadly Divas*

Neatifying* is a valuable skill, especially for a homeowner or apartment dweller with the occasional unexpected guest.

Neatifying is NOT cleaning. Cleaning is what you do on a regular basis (hopefully) with some kind of systematic process. When you’re cleaning the bathroom, you’ll scrub the sinks, commode, and tub, wipe down the mirrors, and sweep the floor. It might take you half an hour (or longer, if you have a ginormous shower/tub), and it’s something most people do once every week or so. Same with cleaning your kitchen or whatnot.

Neatifying is what you do when your mom/friend/mother in law/business associate calls unexpectedly, letting you know they’re in the area and might they stop by in half an hour or so?

At that point? Cleaning is out the window. It is time to NEATIFY.

As an aside, nobody really ever talks about neatification. They talk about how important it is to keep your house clean, that clutter in your workspace increases your stress levels and that your home should “rise up to meet you” and be all nice inside. While I think that’s all well and good, it’s not always realistic, especially if you’re living totally by yourself (who will see the mess?) or in a dual income household (who has time for all that?) or have kids (have you SEEN the mess?). Besides, even if you DO keep your house generally clean, if you do that cleaning on Saturdays and your unexpected guest phones you on Friday afternoon? You’ll have to do some picking up.

So don’t let anyone tell you that this kind of neatification doesn’t count. It’s a valuable skill!

ONWARD

The first step of neatification is to stop for about one minute and think – you might make a list, but don’t let it become Listfinity. Think about the areas in your dwelling that said visitor can be expected to see. In my house, that’s the entryway, kitchen/bar, living room, and guest bathroom. If you only have one bathroom and it passes through a bedroom, that bedroom might be on the list as well. Notice that “master bedroom closet” is not on the list – anyone snooping in your closet needs to get a life.

Think priorities here – if making a list is too likely to get you distracted, just move through your home and look around.

Step two is to break down those areas into chunks, grab a trash bag for any loose garbage you find, and, if you’re me, set a timer for five minutes in each area. (Setting a timer makes it a game of beat the clock.)

Five minutes in the entryway might look something like this:

  • Put mail in the office (don’t sort, just move)
  • Shake out the rug
  • Move any stray shoes/backpacks into a neat arrangement (or into their proper rooms)
  • Sweep the exterior and interior
  • Turn on the porch and entry lights

You can easily do all of those things in five minutes, and now – presto! the entryway looks presentable.

Remember always that the goal here is a version of the ten foot rule. If it looks fine from ten feet, leave it alone.

Moving on to the (guest) bathroom, grab a rag and a bottle of spray cleaner (I like vinegar and water):

  • Move major clutter into drawers or under the cabinet.
  • Start at the top and move down: spot clean the mirror of any obvious toothpaste goo, wipe the counters, wipe out the sink
  • Spray the inside of the toilet bowl and give it a quick brush, flush.
  • Using the same rag, wipe down the toilet seat and close it.
  • Close the shower curtain.

Presentable bathroom in five minutes flat. Nobody cares what’s behind your shower curtain. If they do, that’s THEIR problem.

In the kitchen, neatification means dishes go into the dishwasher if there’s room, neatly stacked into one side of the sink if not. You don’t have TIME to do the dishes all properly, you just want things to look presentable. Wiping down the counters is more important than not having any coffee mugs in the sink. Large pots can get shoved into the dishwasher too, so long as you remember to remove them before you run it later on! Stack things in neat piles if you have to – the goal is the ten foot rule: clear off the counters and the stovetop, but don’t worry too much about cleaning all the pots RIGHT NOW.

You might also take a paper towel and the spray cleaner and spot clean any large sticky spots on the floor or pick up stray bits of dry catfood.

Another trick – light a good smelling candle on your stove or counter. It looks pretty, smells good, and adds ambiance that will distract from any other issues around. It says “I lit a pretty candle so the room would be nice for my guest” – which is always pleasant, even if there’s a pot in the sink.

In my living room, my five minutes is devoted as follows:

  • Tidy the coffee table – magazines in a stack, trash in the trash, TV remotes dug out of couch cushions.
  • Plump the couch up nicely, fold the throw blanket, straighten chair cushions
  • Run a clean rag over the TV to remove dust

If you’re cleaning a bedroom as well, make the bed and put the laundry in the hamper, but don’t change the sheets. Consider tidying the nightstands, or at least moving any empty glasses to the kitchen, but again – ten foot rule applies.

At this point I’ve spent 20 minutes (or less) and the house probably looks vaguely presentable. The clutter is still there (if you have no clutter, you can bite me.) but it’s straightened up and the general atmosphere is … well … neatified. The last 10 minutes are for me to make a cup of tea (or a pitcher of iced tea) and relax. This way not only has the house been neatified, but I don’t look like I’ve just spent 20 whirlwind minutes cleaning either.

I’m sneaky like that.

Obviously, the more warning you get the more you can get done, but even 10 minutes is a long time if you prioritize what will actually be seen versus what “needs” to be done. This isn’t for long term cleaning. It’s not how to keep your house neat and tidy, though there are many systems for doing such a thing. It’s OH GOD THEY’LL BE HERE IN FIVE MINUTES AND THIS PLACE IS A MESS.

It’s neatification.

*Neatification is a word made up by my third grade teacher, Mrs. Fisher. It is, of course, the noun form of the verb “to neatify”. While we’d have monthly desk clean out sessions, she would give us about 5 minutes every Monday morning to neatify our desks for the week.