With Christmas ’round the corner, we’re finally at that point where influencers show you the hottest toys and what you should spend your money on this Christmas. You’ll see posts full of affiliate links galore as we sell our pound of flesh… but I don’t want to take that route.
Christmas is a strange time for my Christian family.
While we don’t want our kids to feel like outcasts in school when we choose Christ over Claus this December, we find it essential to make Christmas a time to spend with family, friends and our church community as we get ready for another year of challenges and celebrations ahead.
But you’d better believe we’re still going to get them some toys.
This Christmas marks the first year we can start moving from toddlers’ toys to ones I might want to play with, and I plan to take full advantage of it!
Despite Sarah’s qualms over the space in our home versus how much I review, I’ve been blessed to check out many of this season’s new toys up close and personal these past few months. From tech to STEM to collectables and more, I’ve hand-picked some toys that I think you’ll find dope for the little people in your life.
So let’s get to it!
(And don’t you worry—for those of us in a rush, I’ve created links to all the product below for easy access!)
Unless my life sees some major changes this year, 2017 may mark the last list of 100!
It’s January 13th—I’ve spent nearly two weeks of my new year agonising over 100 items that matter enough to hit a list of goals and aspirations for the year ahead. And that’s a key difference from the lists that came before it.
Before it was a task list—I’d look around at everything that needed doing and jot it down, because my life would obviously be better with them out of the way.
But task lists aren’t inspiring. They’re not motivational. As a creative, that’s like dropping a pile of 100 things I dread on my lap and nagging myself to get ’em done by the year’s end.
Once I realised what I was doing to myself, so much so that I just went through my least successful year yet for my list, I knew I needed to make a change for 2017.
I’m particularly proud of the list I’ve put together for The 2017 100. I didn’t take any shortcuts—I wrote out 100 things that’d help me live the life I’d like to lead and prove instrumental along the path there. Rather than hurriedly scrawl out a list I’d likely ignore ’til December, I wrote one that I’d happily check off, knowing that each accomplishment would take me a step closer to a far better 2018. I feel like I’m finally getting it right this time, and I hope that shines through as you give it a look for yourself!
But that’s enough of my chatter—I’ve already made you wait long enough. Here for your consideration is The 2017 100—because it’s not what you do… it’s how you do it!
Honesty is an important trait — especially when you’re blogging. And to be honest, there hasn’t been much as of late that I’ve cared to blog about!
Sure, I’ve been up to stuff, but summer tends to be a season where I try to spend more time relaxing and less fussing and fretting over my list of “shoulds”. The things I should be doing. The places I should be. Some would argue that at any given time, we’re right where we’re supposed to be.
With that said, here’re 5 of the things that’re helping bring me to peace these days:
One of the things that’ve been missing in the last few years that Sarah’s owned this place is a good grill to char some meat over. Now that the wedding and renovations are out of the way, this past weekend we finally got around to putting our first barbecue together, cooking up some delicious food!
I hate cooking in the kitchen, but by the end of the summer, I’m definitely interested in attaining a “Lord of the Grill” status! (If I actually know you in person, I’ll probably have to have you over sometime for some good eatin’!)
2) Words with Friends
While it’s hard to find friends that’ll play with me after a game or two, I always relish games of Words With Friends. Thought Scrabble’s always the game of choice, it hasn’t become as universally accessible as Words With Friends has 🙂 Too bad they never bothered to incorporate stats into this damn game, though. One day, maybe I’ll move on to Draw Something and find some friends to torment there, too!
I’m not exactly sure how reading wormed its way back into my life — I probably have a little trip to Africa to blame! Over the past few weeks, I’ve devoured both the Hunger Games and Millennium Trilogies, and am now working my way through George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books (which I’m told progressively worsen over time, but I may as well).
It’s weird — after being a gamer for so many years, I barely give most games or TV any notice, preferring to keep striding to catch up with the end of Season 1, which is where I last left Game of Thrones.
(Note: I probably wouldn’t read nearly as much without an iPad, but that’s neither here nor there.)
4) Cleaning My Music Collection
Despite studies telling me that it’s likely to kill my career, I listen to music at work in order to help me get things done. But I found that more and more often, I’d be skipping songs on my iPod rather than bother to hear anything through. Some investigation showed me that my iTunes was filled with 16,500 songs! 45½ days’ worth of listening!
No wonder I couldn’t ever find anything to listen to!
So I decided to do something about it — I organized my music alphabetically by artist and started culling. No moving songs to other folders, no rating things on multiple levels to come back to them later — if I liked it, it stayed. If not — poof! It had to go!
I’m on the Cs now, listening to a Camp Lo mistake I once got, and I’m down to 15,500 songs. Definitely looking promising!
(Other simultaneous activities: using TuneUp to clean wayward tracks; replacing damaged tracks with new versions wherever applicable.)
5) Clearing Up Clutter
If you followed my blog posts from last year, you’ll likely know that one of my big to-dos was to get rid of a lot of the clutter that I’d accumulated over time. Slowly but surely, I’m winning the race by reading many of the old articles I’ve had laying about and trying to make use of everything around me. While we’re trying to have the office cleared out by the end of June, I’m happy to just be learning new things as often as possible.
So despite long hours at work and a nagging sensation that perhaps there’re things that I should be doing more often, these are some of the things that’re helping to keep my head attached to my shoulders.
May I find many tales to tell over the course of the summer!
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
Some games aren’t games at all. I don’t really know how it happened, but many of my Christian friends have adopted Settlers of Catan as their unofficial after-church board game.
Though Sarah and I didn’t play our first game with anyone from church, we were instantly hooked. It’s a game where you’re trying to be the first to get to 10 Victory Points by building settlements and cities, racking up whatever bonuses you can along the way.
But Settlers — as the game is affectionately called — has a far more sinister side. I’ve always said that if there were any game that could ruin friendships and tear families apart, Settlers would be it!
Unlike your typical North American board game where everyone’s racing to a final square on the board, Settlers is far more interactive! With your moves based on the roll of dice and your opportunities for growth based on where your opponents allow you to play, many a fight has broken out over a Settlers game! You can block your opponents. You can steal from your opponents. You can change someone’s game from a near-win to a crushing defeat in a matter of moves.
Which is precisely why after playing a couple of games of the Cities & Knights expansion in Boston, we needed to take a break from playing the game since we were all getting so grumpy at the moves being played and taking things a little too personally!
Sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re not. This is the lesson that games teach us.
You win some, you lose some. We can’t be good at everything, but we definitely try! A little while ago, Sarah and I joined some friends to throw down on some board game action, and while I won at a game focused on patterns and strategy with tile placement, when it came to having to convince others or figure out who said what, my performance ranged anywhere from a little less stellar to abysmal. Board games are like an allegory for our skill sets and our standing in life — they’re scarily reflective of who we are and who we can be. We won’t be good at all of them; some of them will really strike a nerve and frustrate us to no end; while with others, they’ll come to us naturally and we’ll find ourselves wondering why others don’t find it as easy as we do.
Some of the games out there are based on systems that’re breakable if one thinks hard enough. In games where you need to get the most points to win, you do whatever you can to score the most points each turn and prevent anyone else from doing the same. If you need to crack a code, you use each turn to eliminate as many possibilities as you can to tip the game in your favour. Much of life is similar to games of chance, which are harder to predict but still have a clearly defined objective — but we can still learn from the games of structure and strategy.
Games prepare us for the world, though the allegories that they give us are often hard to interpret.
Monopoly? Wealth often means cheating those close to you out of their hard-earned money by giving them crappy deals; and even if there’re only two of you left, you still win.
Scrabble? Even with questionable words, as long as you can count, you can go a long way in life.
Clue? If you’re going to do something bad, don’t leave evidence behind.
Next time you find yourself fighting for another win under your belt, try and learn something from it. You never know when knowing the odds of getting out of jail might save your butt sometime in the future!
–Casey E. Palmer
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
Scrabble is a hell of a game — horribly underestimated, though. Often I hear it lumped together with other family games such as The Game of Life and Monopoly, but Scrabble is far more than trying to place a bunch of tiles to win. It RELIES of you making the right moves to survive. It’s a great game for increasing mental acuity, being fast on the draw when problems need solving, and of course — expanding one’s vocabulary.
But Scrabble is a vicious game. It can show you people’s bad sides very, VERY quickly. It can make or break FRIENDSHIPS. Past the strategy, vocabulary and sharpness that’s involved in a good game of Scrabble, there’s one thing it’s taught me above all else — HUMILITY.
Playing board games can really flex your mind. ESPECIALLY if it’s a German-style board game (or Eurogame) — the Mecca of board gaming culture. We’ve gotten a ton of games over the years: Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Carcassone — the kind of games that Monopoly and The Game of Life just can’t measure up to.