Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lembas Land.

My kids have been OBSESSED with Candy Land lately.

I had no idea I could hate a game this much.

We play it about eighteen times a day.  And, inevitably, at least once a day, someone will draw one of those stupid candy cards when they're on literally THE LAST SPACE before winning, and we'll have to reshuffle the whole deck because we ran out of cards AGAIN which means that ALL THE CANDY CARDS are back up for grabs and it's the candy-filled hell that never ends.  Oh, and if my three-year-old wins, my five-year-old insists on continuing to play until we've ALL reached the stupid candy castle, so the three-year-old sobs until we're done because he has nothing left to do and he has to wait until we start a new game for him to play again.  AND I'm trying NOT to eat all the junk food right now, so I can actually fit into my Dragon Con cosplays in less than two months, and this game makes me want ALL THE CANDY.

It's the worst. game. ever.  (It almost makes me long for Monopoly.)

So, I had an idea the other day.  If I have to play this horrible game over and over and over again, maybe I should create a version that has SOMETHING that I like about it...

And Lembas Land was born.

Lembas Land: A LOTR-themed Candy Land game (free printable).

It's not perfect.  I'm pretty amateur at this, and I threw this together in the space of a few hours while my kids were taking naps and while I was supposed to be making dinner (...we ate leftovers).

This was the first version; I've since moved the shortcuts.

I tried to follow the approximate path of most of the Fellowship, but I did add some loops and swing out further than the actual locations, as I was shooting for the length of the game to be comparable to the original, and I wanted to fill out the board a little more than it would have been if I'd stuck religiously to the actual path of any of the characters.

Shortcuts: This was the first version.  I've since modified the shortcuts to better fit the context of the story.

I adapted elements from the original, like these shortcuts.  I tried to keep the shortcuts in this version logical within the context of the Lord of the Rings theme: the first shortcut is the name of a chapter before the Hobbits escape to Bree; the second references the mountain pass that the Fellowship tries to take before Saruman sends storms to force them to go through the Mines of Moria instead; and the third refers to Merry and Pippin's kidnapping by Uruk-Hai, allowing you to bypass Edoras and Helm's Deep, which Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli traveled to before reuniting with the Hobbits at Isengard.

I did make some minor changes to the board after printing it the first time--you'll notice that I moved two of the shortcuts (it makes more sense for the pass at Caradhras to allow you to bypass the Mines of Moria, and for the last one to come out between Helm's Deep and Fangorn Forest) and added arrows on all three shortcuts to make it clearer which direction they move you.

I added an alternate route that can only be accessed by a single location card.

I also made some minor changes, like adding this section.  If you draw the "Shelob's Lair" location card, you get to travel on this alternate route, which is much closer to the end (Minas Tirith) than any of the other location cards take you.  Unless you draw another location card before you reach the end, of course--which seems to happen more often than it should in the home stretch in the normal game!

I added "lose a turn" cards to the deck.

In addition to the single and double squares cards, and the special location cards, I also added a few "lose a turn" cards...because I realized after printing the board that I'd forgotten to add spaces equivalent to the "stuck in licorice" spaces on the original.  Oops.  (When I reworked the board later, I decided to stick with the cards instead of trying to fit tiny writing on spaces.  I may update this later with a third version...if I do, I'll post it here.)

The board is sized for Lego minifigs.  Lord of the Rings characters are not necessary, but are more fun.

I tried to size the spaces on the board for using Lego minifigs as placeholders, since I have numerous "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" Lego sets (I have all nine minifigs for the Fellowship...and a lot of others).  The spaces are a little on the small side, printed off onto four sheets, but it's pretty close for a shot in the dark....I was too lazy to figure out a reliable way to accurately measure and size it while I was making it, so I just eyeballed it. :-P

All right, so you came here looking for the free printable I promised, right?  Well, here it is:

Lembas Land: Game Board Printable PDF

I tiled the PDF to print off onto four sheets (which I duct-taped together on the back), which maxed out at 193% for me.  I am horrible with computers, though, so if you have trouble figuring out how to blow it up to print onto multiple sheets...Google it. :-P  Sorry.  I'm not going to be much help.

Also, I suggest using card stock for durability.  If you're actually playing with kids, definitely play on a hard surface, or put something under it (I put our board on top of a cutting mat that happens to be the perfect size).  If you're NOT playing with kids...well, I won't judge. ;-)

For the cards,you have two options.  First is what I did: I used these printable business cards.  After downloading the template, I added the squares and text in Word.  Here are the files:

Lembas Land: Playing Cards - Singles (Word)
Lembas Land: Playing Cards - Doubles (Word)
Lembas Land: Playing Cards - Locations (Word)

It appears that uploading these did away with the font I was using--it's called Ringbearer and can be downloaded here.  You'll have to download the font and manually change it in the Word doc before printing.  Sorry!

However, if you want to go the cheap-but-time-consuming route, you can print off the cards on normal cardstock, and cut them yourself.  But you'll need to use these PDFs (since the lines won't print from the Word docs showing where to cut--it's a template specifically for those business I made PDFs with lines showing where to cut):

LembasLand: Playing Cards - Singles (PDF)
LembasLand: Playing Cards - Doubles (PDF)
LembasLand: Playing Cards - Locations (PDF)

Please keep in mind that the PDFs are NOT formatted for the business cards; they are slightly smaller, and will not print correctly on them.

I printed off one sheet of the location cards, two sheets of the doubles, and three sheets of the singles.

It's still not what I'd call a "fun" game...but at least now I can spew Tolkien trivia at my kids while we play! ;-)

Lembas Land: Because I'd rather be stuck in Middle-Earth for an hour.

If you print and use this game board, I'd love to see it!  Comment here, or tag it with #LembasLand on social media, and I'll find it. :-)  After putting the work into this for my own sake, I'd love to see other geeky parents sharing their Lord of the Rings love with their own little geeklings! :-)

Friday, March 25, 2016

5 Fandom Friday: Favorite Places to Buy Geeky Gear

Confession: I submitted this 5 Fandom Friday prompt in the hopes of finding new places to I'm really looking forward to picking up a few new sources this week! :-)  Here are a few of my own favorite places to pick up geeky gear:

1. ThinkGeek

One of my favorite sites to shop, has it all: wide selection across numerous fandoms, regular sales and deals, and decent customer service.  If you shop there often, it's worth starting an account, so you can accumulate rewards ("GeekPoints", which can often be redeemed for double value) and start wishlists to keep track of all the stuff you haven't bought yet.  Being something of a cheapskate, I only shop their sales, but I've picked up some awesome stuff for great prices over the past few years.

Some ThinkGeek favorites: Boba Fett hoodie, Jayne hat, and sonic screwdriver (actually a pen with invisible ink and blacklight!)

My favorite recent purchase, though, was definitely upgrading from my old diaper bag (which was falling apart, but my youngest should be out of diapers soon, so I was reluctant to spend money on a new diaper bag) to this awesome Kaylee-inspired bag:

My new "diaper" bag--Firefly's Kaylee-themed messenger bag. Shiny!

It's only slightly smaller than my old bag, but with the same number of pockets, so it's perfect for a diaper bag (I'm kicking myself for not comparing measurements and realizing this sooner!), but it's a bag I'll still want to use for myself once I can finally ditch the diapers, too!

2. Deal-of-the-Day Tee Sites

I seldom wear anything that isn't a geeky tee with jeans, but with how many geeky tees I buy (I try not to get carried away, but I keep finding awesome designs!), I definitely save money by sticking with deal-of-the-day sites, which usually offer one or two designs that are available for a discounted price that day only, since it's cheaper for them to print in bulk (you can often shop their previous designs for a higher price).  Most shirts come in at under $16 including shipping.

The collection has grown since I first featured it here, but I was too lazy to take another picture....

At this point, I don't go out of my way to shop for new tees (I think I have enough...), so I've stopped checking my favorite sites daily, but I still get emails from a few of them and make occasional purchases.  My favorites are (daily designs) and (weekly design collections), but I've also ordered from,,, and

3. Walmart

With geekiness in general becoming so mainstream over the past few years, I've also had a lot of luck finding some awesome stuff at major retailers like Target, Kohl's, and Old Navy, but my best luck has actually been at Walmart.

All Walmart finds: Harry Potter, Jurassic World, Star Wars, Power Rangers, & Hunger Games.

I mean, it's Walmart quality, so you have to spot-check for crooked printing and holes at too-narrow seams, but for $7.50, I don't mind screening what I buy first.

4. Etsy

For geeky jewelry, I often turn to Etsy.  You can find just about anything there!  Here are a few of my favorites:

Some favorite Etsy finds.

The only's usually not going to be licensed.  As an Etsy shop owner who makes geek-themed items without a license myself, I've done a fair bit of research into copyright law, and most jewelry falls into the illegal "reproduction" category (my own items, which aren't jewelry, are legal "redistribution" under first sale doctrine).  Unfortunately, it can be so hard to find affordable pretty jewelry in fandoms that aren't "in" at a given time, that I've bought jewelry that probably wasn't licensed just because I hadn't found anything else I liked as much from any known retailer. :-/

5. DIY

Okay, so this isn't a place to shop...but I'm a big fan of making my own stuff!  I've dabbled in jewelry-making, so I have quite a stash of stuff I've made myself rather than buying unlicensed (personal use without monetary gain is an exception from copyright law).  And while I do a lot of sewing, I haven't made my own geeky clothes yet (though I did make a black dress to wear with my store-bought Star Wars leggings--and then, of course, there's cosplay...I'd like to start making some everyday cosplay pieces myself), but I have a friend who doesn't wear tees but buys geeky ones anyway and alters them into dresses or cuts out the design to add to something else.  When you can't find exactly what you want, there are often ways to make what you want instead, if you have the skill for it!

So where do you like to shop for geeky gear?

Friday, March 11, 2016

5 Fandom Friday: Favorite Fictional Foods.

I'm back for another 5 Fandom Friday!  This week's prompt is favorite fictional foods, which is an interesting one for a picky eater like myself--sometimes I daydream about liking ordinary things like hamburgers, so in my world, "a tasty hamburger" is sort of like a fictional food. :-P

But there are a few foods I've come across in books (and film) that I'd really like to try, and hope I'd love, so let's get to those ones, shall we?

1. Lembas - Elvish waybread ("The Lord of the Rings")

One small bite can fill the stomach of a grown man!


I've wanted to try lembas since I first read the books in high school.  Bread is one of the few foods I do really like, and lembas sounds awesome.

There are a lot of recipes online to try it, but I haven't yet.  I stumbled on this one (pictured below) just today, though, and it's so simple that I think I'll need to try it soon!

Pic from this recipe--check it out! :-)

I'll still always daydream about trying the real thing, though. ;-)

2. Butterbeer ("Harry Potter")

Doesn't every Potterhead want to head to The Three Broomsticks for a hot mug of butterbeer?


I finally went to Universal Studios in Orlando a few months ago (or "Harry Potter World", as I call it), and got to try the closest thing to the real deal that we muggles will ever get.  Hot was good, but the frozen version was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life.

3. Turkish Delight ("The Chronicles of Narnia")

I know this one's not actually fictitious, but it makes my list because I thought for years that it was a made-up thing from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe".

Turkish Delight. (THIS was the movie version that I grew up on.  Love the new one, but this right here is my childhood!)

It seemed like such a magical thing.  And if it was enough to get Edmund to betray his siblings to the White Witch, it had to be good, right?

Turkish Delight.

So then I found out it was a real thing, and then I FOUND SOME in a store, and bought it, and I was SO EXCITED!  Turns out, it's absolutely disgusting.  Or at least the rose- and lemon-flavored ones are.  I've heard there are other flavors, so maybe some of those are better, but I'm not sure I'll have the courage to try it again if I ever find another kind.

So to me, this one's still kind of fictitious: delicious Turkish Delight.

4. District Bread ("The Hunger Games")

As I mentioned above, bread is one of my favorite foods, so any time a book makes a big deal about some sort of bread, I start drooling.  And bread is central to "The Hunger Games".  I wanted to try all the districts' breads!

District Bread (post series here).

...So I did!  Last year, I tackled a project I'd been wanting to try since I first read the books: I researched each district, and used what Suzanne Collins wrote about the few breads she described along with what we knew of the districts, and came up with a bread recipe to represent each one.  While some are a bit of a stretch, I strove for accuracy for the ones that Collins did describe--I'm especially proud of my District 11 bread, and I think District 4 turned out pretty well, too. :-)  So while I'd still love to know what Collins would consider "the real thing" for each district, I think I did all right! ;-) (You can find the master list, with links to each individual recipe post, here.)

5. Mudder's Milk ("Firefly")

As Jayne explains it, "All the protein, vitamins, and carbs of your grandma's best turkey dinner, plus fifteen percent alcohol!"

Mudder's milk.

Although Simon goes on to explain that it's basically "liquid bread", like what was fed to the ancient Egyptians' slaves, I'm fairly certain this is one "bread" that I'd actually hate.  But I'd still want to try it!  Besides, "A Man They Called Jayne" is really a great drinking song, right?  Seemed to go over well in Jaynestown, anyway. :-)

Might just need to wash it down with some butterbeer. ;-)

So what are some fictional foods you wish you could try?

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Hunger Games: District Bread Series.

Bread plays an important role in "The Hunger Games" trilogy.  The country's name "Panem" comes from the Latin phrase "panem et circenses"--"bread and circuses", referring to a strategy of keeping the masses distractedly content with an abundance of food and entertainment--and while the Games serve as the circuses, bread itself becomes symbolic of the oppression of the districts.  Amidst the starvation of the districts, bread is crucial for survival.

Suzanne Collins, author of "The Hunger Games" trilogy, makes a point of noting (several times throughout the series) that each district has their own unique traditional bread.  While she only describes five of the twelve (Districts 2, 3, 4, 11, and 12), it's clear that these breads reflect the people and lifestyle of each district.  So I thought it would be an interesting experiment to explore what we know of each district and try to create a bread to represent each one.  Now that I've finally finished the series, I've put together a master list for your convenience--follow the links below to each full recipe.  (Also: I've hidden Easter eggs--references to other fandoms outside of Panem--in each main photo, just for fun!  There are twenty total, from fifteen fandoms.)

If you try any of these, or throw any epic "Hunger Games" parties, I'd love to hear about it!  May the odds be ever in your favor--and let the Games begin! :-)

District 1: Chocoloate Brioche Rolls.
Primary industry: Luxury items for Capitol.

District 2: Cinnamon Oatmeal Scones.
Primary industry: Masonry.  Also supplies Peacekeepers and weaponry.

District 3: Plain Beignets.
Primary industry: Technology, such as general electronics, firearms, and automobiles.

District 4: Seaweed Soft Pretzels.
Primary industry: Fishing.

District 5: Pizza Bread.
Primary industry: Power (electric, solar, wind, etc.).

District 6: Lemon, Rosemary, and Thyme Focaccia.
Primary industry: Transportation (trains and hovercrafts).

District 7: Garlic Herb Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread.
Primary industry: Lumber.

District 8: Garlic Naan.
Primary industry: Textiles.

District 9: Whole Grain Cornbread.
Primary industry: Grain.

District 10: Bacon Cheddar Biscuits.
Primary industry: Livestock.

District 11: Whole Wheat Crescent Rolls.
Primary industry: Agriculture (orchards, grain, cotton, etc.).

District 12: Tessera Drop Biscuits.
Primary industry: Coal mining.

While I've thoroughly enjoyed working on this entire series, there are a few breads that I enjoyed more than others, so here's a quick run-down of what stood out to me:

Favorite: Pizza Bread (District 5).  Soooo. Goooood.  I made it twice that week.  Will definitely make it again.  And again.  And again.

Least favorite:  Lemon, Rosemary, and Thyme Focaccia (District 6).  The bread itself was probably quite good, but I actually hate rosemary, so to me it just tasted like I was eating a Christmas tree.  Blech.

Weirdest: Seaweed Soft Pretzels (District 4).  It was my first time cooking with seaweed, and I'm not sure I'll ever try it again.  But the pretzels turned out surprisingly edible, and even tasted good!

Easiest: Tessera Drop Biscuits (District 12).  Only a few ingredients, thrown together in a single bowl, and baked right away without needing dough to rise.

Hardest: Garlic Naan (District 8).  Though it required two different rising periods (which is a pain to schedule around when you have a narrow window to photograph the finished product--I had to time it just right to be done during my kids' naptime!), it actually wasn't the hardest to prepare...but the logistics of grilling it (outside during naptime) was a pain--and then I got chased off by a bee! *Shudder*. I. Hate. Bees.

Most accurate: Whole Wheat Crescent Rolls (District 11).  Of the five breads that Collins described in the books, I think this was the one that came out exactly how the vast majority of readers would have pictured it.  It was important to me to get this one right, too, since it was Rue's bread.

Thanks for checking out my District Bread series!  I'd love to hear how your own geeky baking adventures go--let me know in the comments! :-)

District 12: Tessera Drop Biscuits.

(Want to start with District 1?)

The final district under the Capitol's rule, District 12's primary industry is coal mining.  As the home of Katniss, it's the district we get to know best in the books.  Extremely impoverished, most of the district's residents claim "tesserae", a year's worth of grain and oil per person in exchange for additional entries into the annual reaping for the Games.  Katniss describes the District 12 bread as "ugly drop biscuits" made from the tessera ration grain.

District 12: Tessera Drop Biscuits.

I made changes to this recipe.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) + 2 Tbsp butter, melted (separately)
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt

Preheat your oven to 400*F.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and stick of melted butter:

Mix until thoroughly moistened:

Grease a baking sheet with butter (or with cooking spray):

With a spoon, "drop" mounds of dough onto the baking sheet:

(I used a second spoon to scrape each spoonful off more easily.)

Bake at 400*F for ten minutes:

While the biscuits bake, melt the other 2 Tbsp of butter, and add the oregano and garlic salt:

Mix well:

Remove the biscuits from the oven...

...and brush them with the oregano mixture:

Bake the biscuits for another 8-10 minutes:

Remove when edges turn golden brown:

Serve warm:

I think these drop biscuits were a great bread to end this series on--not only were they gloriously easy to make (I didn't have to set aside an entire day to schedule waiting for dough to rise to perfectly coincide with being able to photograph the finished bread during my kids' naptime!!), but they were quite yummy, too (I haven't always liked the others).  They might have been more book-accurate if I'd kept them plain instead of adding the oregano topping, or if I'd used darker whole grain flour, but I wanted to end with something I'd actually want to eat myself, yet without contradicting Suzanne Collins' description in the books.  I think I did all right. :-)

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Drop Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) + 2 Tbsp butter, melted (separately)
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and stick of butter; mix well.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake 10 minutes.
  5. Combine 2 Tbsp melted butter, oregano, and garlic salt.  Brush onto biscuits.
  6. Bake an additional 8-10 minutes.

Easter Eggs

This final post contains one last Easter egg in the main photo.  Find it yet?

District 12: Tessera Drop Biscuits.  Can you spot the Easter egg?

Hint: It's not the Mockingjay pin--like the rest, it's from a different fandom!  If you want to spot it yourself, don't scroll too far...since this is the last post in the series, I'm including the District 12 reveal at the end of the post (after the District 11 reveal, below)!

Were you able to "detect" the District 11 Easter egg?  Here's the reveal:

District 11: Easter egg reveal.

The "I O U" carved/bitten into the apple is a reference to Moriarty's apple in BBC's "Sherlock".  I know at least one reader caught it, and commented! :-)

And, since this is the final post in my "Hunger Games" district bread series, it'd hardly be fair to keep you waiting for the District 12 reveal--so here it is:

District 12: Easter egg reveal.

That's the One Ring (Lord of the Rings) tucked between the plate and the coal.

Thanks for tagging along with me through this district bread series--I've had so much fun finding and baking new breads to represent each district, and it's been a blast staging photographs that both reflect the districts and, through the Easter eggs, pay homage to some of the other fantastic fandoms that so many of us share beyond Panem.  If you try any of the district breads for yourself, or throw any epic "Hunger Games" parties, I'd love to hear about it!  And, as always: May the odds be ever in your favor! :-)