Stella May I ask how you store yet to be finished puzzles?

9:30 AM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may! This is our puzzle mat. Now I didn't know this until recently, but did you know you can safely store away your yet to be finished puzzles by rolling it away? If I had an unfinished puzzle before, I would have probably covered it up or have started on a board so I can tuck it under the bed/sofa when we gave up. Today's Tutorial Tuesday is all about how to make this puzzle mat roll for under $5!
 What you'll need: a roll of foam and a couple of rubber bands. This piece of foam is from Michael's and can make about two puzzle mat rolls. (for 1000 piece puzzles, you can make more for smaller puzzles.) The PVC tube is totally optional and you'll see why later.
This is the label from the foam roll at Michael's. Remember they always have a 40% off coupon that can totally be applied to this!
 Now just simply roll out the foam and cut to size! This is me marking the halfway point between the roll. Can you spot little Popcorn's bedroom? We try placing him right my our bedside for the month!
When thinking about what type of material to use, me and Mister ended up with foam because they sold it in such a size we needed. The puzzle mats that I have seen on the market usually use felt. Felt is nice to hold the puzzle pieces in place and rolls very nicely, but the problem with felt is that it's a little too soft. That's why the other puzzle mats have a core in the middle to stabilize the roll. That's what ultimately made me want to make my own puzzle mat. The core that was used was made of a blow up balloon or cardboard and I thought for the price, I could probably make my own.
What I didn't realize about foam was that it makes for a really nice playing surface! The little cushion provides just enough give to piece together each of the puzzle pieces. I have the border to a 1000 piece puzzle and you can see how there is still a little border around.
 Now since this puzzle was deceivingly hard, it's time to put away the puzzle!
 The first time we tried this we took the pipe and used it guide the foam and roll up the puzzle.
As you roll, you will undoubtedly hear some cracking noises and that's okay! It doesn't mean the puzzle is breaking, it's really just the pieces separating to allow the pieces to be rolled.
Towards the end of the roll you can see that the long edges has pushed out more.
 Then just snap on some rubber bands and your are done! Tip: use different colored rubber bands to distinguish which side it the top!
 Time to unroll!
 And look all the pieces are where I left them! (Between rolling and unrolling the puzzle roll mat, I shook and flipped the mat just to check no pieces came out)
Do you see how much space is used by the pipe?
 This time we tried rolling without the pipe. & while it is a little more challenging to get it going, the foam is stiff enough to hold the pieces up.
 Look how nicely it rolls!
 Then again just rubber band it and you are all set. Now you probably won't be shaking the puzzle mat roll but rest assured that pieces won't be coming out.
And that's it! It's not really a DIY as all I did was make one cut in a foam roll and secure it all with some rubber bands, but the whole thing was just so convenient! I can now just store away a puzzle and know that I won't lose any pieces. Now this puzzle it safely in the closet and ready to come back to whenever.
Where do I get such sturdy, thick rubber bands? Check out yesterday's post. 

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Stella May I know where you get your rubber bands?

9:30 AM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may. As you can see, I get my thick, sturdy rubber bands from the napa cabbage. Now what use do I have for these? Well with the bigger rubber bands I can use them to store beans and grains (thinkL beans, rice, pasta) if I don't plan on debagging them into a jar or separate container. But come back tomorrow for a special Tutorial Tuesday. These are the rubber bands I use in that tutorial. (I've noticed that napa cabbage is almost always rubber banded at the store, so it doesn't matter which market I get my napa at. You can bet I have a store of these rubber bands at the ready.

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Stella May I what just warms you up every time you eat it? Red Oil Wontons

9:30 AM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may. This is a little different than the traditional wonton soup in that it's packed with way more flavor! It's not as oily or spicy as you would think (well that's what I thought the first time). Today I want to share how to prepare Red Oil Wontons. Come back next week for how I make the just the wontons!
 What you'll need: Spicy Chili Crispy Oil (This brand is Lao Gan Ma), Soy Sauce, Chinkiang Vinegar (it''ll bring a sweetness to the dish and cut down that oiliness), sesame oil, and plain ol' sugar.
Mix together: 4 tablespoons of the chili oil, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let it sit and marry while you prepare the wontons.
 How cute are these little wontons!
 I like to fold/pinch them in a little spoon shape to better scoop the sauce. See all those little nooks and pockets? Perfect for sauce!
All lined up and ready to be cooked.
 Gently boil until they float and then cook on a simmer for another 3 minutes.
Almost there.. Now just strain the wontons out and spoon on the sauce.
 Finally top it off with some green onions or scallions and you are ready to eat.
Can you just imagine how warm you will be? I end up wanting more sauce to really dunk the wontons in. I find Red Oil Wontons (also called Sichuan-style Wontons) more of a snack or a appetizer to a main meal. Enjoy and show me pictures if you try out the recipe!

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Stella May I ask what new board game you have been playing?

9:30 AM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may. This is Five Tribes and it was a very nice Christmas gift! This (and another game coming later this month) has been on constant replay. In this game, you are competing to gain the points by controlling the (you guessed it..) Five Tribes.
First off there components and instructions. The whole game is just so nice to look at. From the artwork to all the different pieces, it's all just so pretty.
Also included are individual cards that explain the different Djinns (basically genie cards that you buy to give you an advantage) and punch outs for the tiles and currency. You already know how I feel about these punch-outs. My perfectionist side of me just wants them to be perfect, but no matter how I punch them out it never is.
The backs of the Djinns card is a game turn list. As you can see there is quite a lot to do with each turn, but as you get the game going it moves pretty quickly.
 One of the unique features of Five Tribes is that you actually bid for your turn order. So for example if you really want to go first then you can pay 18 coins. Keeping in mind that each coin is a whole point, bidding to go first can become very expensive very quickly.
 The other components in the game. I was so happy to see the little trays for each of the components. I have noticed that none of the games we have have labels to let me know what goes where..
Five Tribes of Merchants, Elders, Assassins, Viziers, and Builders.
Lastly included is a drawstring bag, a scorepad, the Djinns, merchant cards, and turn markers.

Five Tribes is one of those classic Eurogame with a lot of strategy and a little bit of luck involved. I think I will go over the game play in another post soon as I don't have pictures of us playing. (It's just so easy to set up and clean up!)

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Stella May I know what your first board game expansion is?

9:30 AM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may and as you can see it's for Pandemic! This is (well, was, but more on that later) Mister's favorite board game. We played this game almost every other day and each time we play we never just stop at one game. So when this popped up during Amazon's Black Friday lightning deals I just had to pick it up.
Now this box as been sitting on our shelf since we received it back in November! And today I thought why not open it and see what's inside.
First off this is an "An Expansion by Matt Leacock and Tom Lehmann." I am trying to make a better effort to learn and follow game designers. Is that a little silly?
 A little bit of information: the expansion adds an extra person to the game! It's actually a person that would be playing against the rest of the group. One of the reasons we like this game so much is that this is a co-operative game. I mentioned this before but if you are used to playing board games that end up being very competitive then try out co-operative games. Everyone works together and everyone wins! With this expansion, adds a enemy within your group and that one person is working against everyone else.
Also in this expansion are new character roles and a new virus.
 So first off, under the directions for the game is some stickers!
And a very hefty and large pad. This is used for that extra enemy character.
The most exciting part of this expansion: these individual petri dishes! In the original, base game there is just two sections: one section for all the pieces and another section for the cards.
So as you can imagine the all the pieces or disease cubes would be jumbled up together and you spend the first few minutes of the game just sorting it out.

 The new pawns for the new roles.
The new disease cubes. There are less of these than the normal disease cubes since they play differently than the base game ones.
 These cards go with that new disease cubes. The far most left card is for your to place on the board with the other vials.
There are also extra event cards and another Epidemic card to play the Legendary level. Me and Mister haven't tried it out yet. The manual suggests playing just the new roles and event cards first before moving on to the new purple disease cubes and epidemic cards.
 What's nice is that even with all the new additions, everything fits inside one box. The boxes are also the same size so you can also switch between the lids.
It kinda makes me really happy to see that everything has it's own place.

links to other board games: Carcassonne Cribbage Ticket to Ride 

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