What Is Your Essential Kitchen Tool?

All too often have I experienced the following: renting a cottage for a weekend, arriving with all the ingredients to cook some meals, opening the drawers and cupboards, and staring in disbelief, pondering: “Is this really what they have? I should have at least brought a few things from my kitchen”.

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I am someone who cooks two to three meals a day, therefore a decent amount of time is spent in the kitchen, chopping, mincing, tasting, mixing, cooking, dancing, and, obviously, eating.

Throughout the process of preparing a dish, from start to finish, many different tools are needed: knife—sometimes knives—, cutting board, pot, pan, mortar and pestle, pepper grinder, garlic press, citrus press, measuring cups, measuring spoons, colander, strainer, and the list goes on.

Presently, the question I pose is: which of these countless tools is the most important to have in great quality?

This decision boils down to a matter of opinion, and I will offer mine, seeing as this is my blog.

That it is. Glad you remember.

Deciding on a single tool is difficult; therefore, I will list my two most important kitchen tools to have in high-quality—in order of importance nonetheless:

  1. Knife: I cannot fathom cooking without a knife that slices and chops with ease, as if I was cleaving through butter with every downward motion. I own a Kasumi knife—courtesy of my superlative mother, who gifted it to me when I moved—as well as a Global G-56 —gifted to me by my awesome brother on my name day, two years past. Anytime I have been in a situation—as mentioned in the introductory paragraph—where I must use a dull blade to chop, slight annoyance ensues, gradually and swiftly evolving to frustration.
  2. Pan: What I look for in a pan is good heat conduction, spaciousness, and non-stick features. I have a 32 cm Biotan, which is my pride and joy in the kitchen; it keeps heat, has a tremendous amount of space, and nothing sticks to it. I have grown in love, and never have I been a perfidious lover, not once, since I have become its father.

Besides these, my next most important tool is a large cutting board—that does not move and swivel as I cut on it.

How about you: what is your most important kitchen tool?

Foot-note: I do not recommend using a Global Kasumi to cut a Biotan, nor using a Biotan to cook a Global Kasumi.

Codenames – The Board Game

Hello again all.

Hey there!

Being the avid board game player that I am, I felt like writing about one this week.

Can you guess which game that is?

Well, we did read the title.

Smart (alec), as always.

The game is Codenames.

Codenames is a word deduction game, for 2 to 8 players (best with 4, 6 or 8 players in my opinion), created by Vlaada Chvatil.

The players are divided into two teams. Both teams square off against one another, trying to find their own team’s hidden words before the other team does.

In each team, one player is assigned the “Master Spy” title, and all other players in that team are assigned the “Spy” title. The master spy sits across the table from his teammates (the spies in his team); both master spies sit on the same side of the table, whereas both team’s spies sit on the opposite side of the table.

25 words are placed in the center of table, in a 5×5 grid. The master spies have a plastic stand in which they place one of the many “Word Assigning” cards, facing them. This card must only be visible to them; the spies must have the backside of the card facing them, so that they cannot see where the words have been assigning.

This card assigns the 25 words on the table as follows: 9 words are assigned to one team (let’s say blue), 8 words are assigned to the other team (let’s say red), 7 words are assigned to no team (neutral words), and 1 word is assigned as the assassin (your team loses if you pick this word at any point during the game).

Below is the grid of 25 words, the assigning card standing up (bottom left, directly in front of the hourglass), and the coloured rectangle markers (bottom right)—which I will explain shortly—:

CodenamesSetUp.jpg

The team with 9 words begins the game (they have one more word than the other team to guess seeing as they have the advantage of playing first).

So, how does the master spy give hints to his spies to help them guess the words?

Great question:

On his/her turn, the master spy is allowed to say only 1 word, followed by one number. The word is meant to orient his/her teammates to some of their words on the table; the number is meant to indicate how many cards on the table relate to the previously said word.

For example, if your team has the words TENNIS, BASKETBALL, and SOCCER, your hint could be as follows:

SPORT – 3.

This tells your teammates that there are 3 words of the 25 words on the table that you must guess that are related to SPORTS.

The spies discuss openly, deducting which words they think are the 3 that the master spy is alluding to. Once they have decided, one player touches the first card they would like to guess—normally the one your team is the most certain of. The master spy then puts a corresponding coloured rectangle marker (blue if it’s a blue team’s word, red if it’s a red team’s word, white if it is a neutral word, black if it is the assassin) over the chosen word. If the team guessed correctly, they now attempt to guess the second word; however, if the team guesses incorrectly, at any point, their turn is over, and they cannot guess any more words this turn. The turn then passes to the other team’s master spy, who must give one word and one number, hinting in the same fashion as described above.

Play continues like this until one team has covered all of their team’s words on the table, in which case they win, or if one team guesses the assassin, in which case they lose.

You mentioned an hourglass?

You don’t miss anything, do you?

Explain!

The 1-minute hourglass is turned over whenever a player feels that a decision is taking too long to be made. The team/player targeted by the hourglass must make his decision before the sand runs out.

Happy?

Grand.

Codenames is one of my favourite, easy-going—yet challenging—social games, and I got to play 7 times last night during the weekly game night that I host at my house. We had a blast, laughed like crazy, and I got beat in almost every time—but it was still a highly enjoyable experience.

If you like games such as Scrabble, Bananagrams, or any other word game, I strongly suggest you get this game; it is loads of fun, for families or friends, of all ages.

Have you ever played Codenames? If so, what did you think of it? If not, what is your favourite word game?

Foot-side: Codename hint for you : SUBSCRIBE – 1.

Binge Watching: Marvel – The Defenders

**No spoilers**

So considerate of you.

Binge watching. Ahhh, such a fun thing to do.

Definitely better than binge reading some blog I know of.

Now now…

Sunday night I had a board game night with a few friends and my little brother. After the games were over—Tokaido and Betrayal at House on the Hill—, everyone left, minus my brother.

It was 10:00 PM, and he was staying over for the night. I was tired, yet he still had a good amount of gas in the tank. So we decided a good compromise would be to watch something on Netflix—me being too tired to game, and him being too energized to hit the sack.

We turned on the Xbox, opened the Netflix application, and started browsing the plethora of selections. We browsed for at least 10 minutes, and we realized we could get lost in browsing the countless shows and movies available.

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We decided to watch the first episode of Marvel – The Defenders. He is a fan of superhero shows and movies, and I enjoy most of them as well.

We found the first episode rather meek and slow, but we decided to watch the second episode nonetheless.

Ahh, we get it: stubborn. Sticking with the initial plan no matter what.

We enjoyed the second episode more than the first, but still, we found it was taking too much time to kick things off, especially seeing as there are only eight episodes in the series.

The next morning, we watched the third episode while having an omelette: that is when I got hooked. I am an easy crowd to please, and with four different superheroes clashing in one show, I was bound to become addicted sooner or later.

I drove Christian to work after the third episode, and told him: “I wouldn’t be surprised if I watch some more when I get home”.

Fast-forward 11 hours: I had done my laundry, recorded my podcast, gone to my swing class, and watched all five remaining episodes of The Defenders.

Overall, I enjoyed the show—obviously seeing how I acted—, except the slow beginning. I don’t want to get into the details of the story line as to not cause any spoilers.

Considerate, once again.

When was the last time you binge-watched a show? How do you feel when you binge-watch?

Binge-note: binge-ing is just so, utterly, binge.

How Does Camping Make You Feel?

Hello again.

Hello, Mr. Naylor. Writing on time I see. Congratulations.

Now, let’s talk about camping!

Or rather write and read about it?

Yes yes…

Camping is one of my favorite summer activities. I try to get away from the city life at least 1-2 weekends each summer, and take in the fresh air, cellphone-less days, and the beauty of nature.

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I just came back from a two day fishing trip where I got to do just that—minus the camping with a tent. We spent the whole time on the boat fishing—and caught zero fish, great—, playing horseshoes, throwing frisbees, playing board games in the chalet, and relaxing in the sun. I always find days such as those very enjoyable, and I feel like I return home with a new outlook.

I have the luxury of going—camping this time—again this upcoming weekend, for three nights, and over 72 hours of non stop music—I will obviously sleep at some times, or else a collapse will occur inevitably. It is less relaxing on the body having to dance for all that time, but my mind will still manage to relax; nature has its ways of soothing me.

The festival this weekend is Eclipse, where there are four stages with music for 4-5 days. It is my first time going to this festival, and I look forward to hearing a lot of psychedelic-trance—fast paced electronic trippy music!

I know I will also take some time to just sit back, read, and stare in awe at the wonders of the trees, those emerald pillars staring down at us.

How does camping make you feel? It is a routine to go every summer, or even winter?

Side-note: it would rock if an Eclipse was set to occur during the Eclipse festival; sometimes, I tend to ask for too much.

Board Game Review: Hero Realms

Board game aficionado Jonathan here.

Two weeks ago, I went to the Randolph boutique to use my gift certificate to acquire a new board game. I received this 25$ gift card because I volunteered this past March at the annual Montreal Joue gaming pic3236535.pngfestival, in Montreal.

Really? I would have never guessed that Montreal Joue was in Montreal.

I was contacted in March a few days after Montreal Joue and was told that a 25$ gift certificate was waiting for me at the boutique to thank me for my volunteer work. I already have many games that I haven’t tried, so I didn’t rush out to get something new—to say the least, I didn’t have a clue as to what game I wanted.

I finally decided to go two weeks ago.

I leisurely walked around the store in athleisure, and couldn’t seem to find a game in the 25$ range. I decided to take one last walk around the store, in case a game decided to call me out or something—and one did.

Low and behold: Hero Realms stood before me.

The box was glaring at me from the shelf, calling my name.

I had heard about this game in the past, and I wanted to try it. To my luck, it was priced at 23,99$, which was exactly what I had to spend. So I decided to pick it up—and wow, am I happy I did.

I opened the game a few days after getting it, and played it many times in the first day—wait, can you guess how many times?

Hmmm, 5?

A little more.

Intense much? 10? 11? 100? 9000?

Exactly: 11 times.

What is Hero Realms?

Hero Realms is a 2 to 4 player deck-builder game in which each player has 50 hit points. Your goal is to be the last one with hit points remaining. To eliminate other players, you buy cards to strengthen your deck which will allow you do bigger combos as the game progresses.

Each turn, you draw 5 cards, and you can play them in any order you wish. Your possible actions are mainly:

  • Playing cards from your hand to get various bonuses;
  • Buying new cards using gold;
  • Attacking by adding up all your combat strength.

Once your turn is over, the next player takes his 5 cards, takes his turn, and so forth.

The game ends, as mentioned, when there is only one player left standing.

My Thoughts of Hero Realms

I think I already know the answer to this one.

Yup: I love it.

The game lasts about 15-30 minutes when playing with 2 players, and I enjoy starting off with a crummy deck and trying to build it into something epic. Each game feels different, even though there are only 80 or so different purchasable cards that come with game.

I tried the 4-player variant where each team of 2 players has a total of 75 hit points, and it was also a lot of fun. However, the 3-player variant wasn’t to my liking; I really prefer this game as a symmetrical 1 on 1 or 2 on 2.

Have you ever played Hero Realms? Or any other game 11 times in a day?

Hero-note: I wish I was playing right now, and that I could play 11 times.

My Five Year Testimonial

Straight to the point today.

Go for it.

Here I go.

Go!

I have been a Big Brother with the Big Brothers Big Sisters association for just over 5 years now. I was asked to write a testimonial of this experience. After shedding many tears yesterday while writing, I felt like sharing this with you all.

Here is the result of what will be read tomorrow night at the annual meeting:

Good evening to you all (from a distance, since someone will be reading this in my place),

I started my adventure as a Big Brother just over 5 years ago. Let me take you back to that time, since it is the starting point of a wonderful journey that has allowed me to evolve tremendously.

My mother told me about the Big Brother Big Sister association one day while driving in the car. Just to situate you all, I was 19 at the time, and I have one brother who is four years younger than me. Only a few weeks after hearing about the association from my mom, I was already sitting in front my computer screen, all excited, writing an email to the association to express my interest in becoming a Big Brother.

After a short amount time, my first meeting was setup with Christian, my soon-to-be little brother. I was explained that Christian was a 9 year old boy who liked sports and video games. This was perfect seeing as I am a video game, board game and sport aficionado.

I met Christian and his family with the caseworker on a nice sunny afternoon, and I will admit I was a little shy, and so was he! It was a good thing someone from the association was there to help break the ice (even the sun that day wasn’t enough to melt the ice away!). The meeting went well; we played some frisbee, chatted a little bit, and once finished, we setup our next meeting. We decided we’d play some board games next time. Christian didn’t know much about board games, but he seemed very interested in delving into something new.

During our next meetup, we played board games for a few hours. With this, and the next few meetups, we quickly discovered our activity which we still do every time we see each other until this day: play board games! Within a month or two, Christian became much more comfortable and we started discussing about our lives, video games, his family, my family, and every thing that came to mind!

Fast-forward one year.

I was contacted by the association saying that I had fulfilled my minimum 1 year mandate. My reaction was “Really? It definitely doesn’t feel like a year has already passed!”. They asked if I planned to stop or continue with Christian and the association. I sat there, perplexed. To me, there was only one legitimate answer. Just the thought of not getting to see Christian anymore squeezed my heart. I felt like I now had a second brother, and I could not fathom cutting this deep bond that had been created between him and I. I answered saying I planned on continuing for the years to come. But throughout the following years I was even more surprised with what happened and how I felt: the bond deepened, and we started talking even more, had a few sleepovers where we played a lot of games, and our relationship evolved into something I never even imagined.

The tipping point was the day of our 3rd yearly meetup with the caseworker. Every year, Christian, his family, the caseworker, and myself meetup to keep tabs on how every thing is going. There was one of Christian’s answers during the meetup which touched me profoundly (even now, as I write about this moment, shivers are creeping down my arms and a tear is dripping from my eye).

Each year, Christian was asked “What is it that you enjoy the most of spending time with Jonathan?”. The first two years, his answer was the same. He answered: “I get to play a lot of board games!”. An answer which I was happy to hear, because it reinforced the fact that the activities we were doing were chosen in duality, and that I wasn’t forcing my hobby upon him. But during the 3rd year’s meeting, he gave a different answer. His answer was:

“I just like spending time with Jonathan. I feel like I now have an older brother.”

Such a simple answer, yet it revealed so much to me. A wave of emotions swept over me, and in that instant I realized how grateful I was of having decided to become a Big Brother. It has been one of the decisions that has impacted my life the most in an indescribable way.

To this day, I still see Christian every two to three weeks, and yes, we still always only ever play board games. And we love it!

The 5 years have passed so fast. And just thinking about spending another 5 years with Christian brings a smile to my face.

Foot-note: want to play a board game? I sure do.

How Does A Board Game Co-Op Sound?

Hosting board game sessions has been a frequent activity of mine for several years. My friends and I will get together, play some games, munch on some chips, and everyone always has a great time.

Being an active board game player, I often want to acquire new games to be able to play them at game nights, but spending anywhere from 50$ (for games such as Dixit) to 100$ (for games such as Scythe) for each game quickly adds up (and this is the case for anyone who host’s game nights seeing as they often buy a good amount of the games played). Is there a simple solution that can lead to new games being brought to the table frequently without having one person spending all—or most of—the money?

Board game #1

There must be many solutions that exist, and I came up with one last week after spending a full weekend of playing board games at the board game convention in Montreal. My concept is the following: create a small co-op for each new game I’d like bring to the table to reduce the costs and still allow everyone to get to play it. Exciting, no? Yes!

Actually, I am sure you’re thinking “I have no idea what he means“.

Allow me to explain.

I would begin by finding a game I would like try which none of my friends has (it is important that I say that a majority of my friends who enjoy gaming don’t own many games of their own). Let’s take Terraforming Mars as an example. I would think of which of my board-gaming friends might be interested in playing this game and then I would send them all a message along these lines:

“Is anyone interested in trying Terraforming Mars?

It is a complex strategy game that lasts approximately two hours in which the goal is to terraform Mars. I will be planning several sessions of this game soon, but to able to do this, I—or rather we—must first get the game!

If you are interested, it will cost 10$ per person, and all remaining fees of the game will be covered by me. If we have enough willing players (anywhere from 3-7), I’ll buy the game and create a Facebook chat for those who pitched in. Through the Facebook group, I’ll organize Terraforming Mars sessions with those who participated in purchasing the game.

It will function similarly to a co-op—and of course, anyone wanting to borrow the game is more than welcome to!

Doesn’t this sound like a fun concept? I am certainly excited while writing about it!

It could allow to get new games to the table without the burdening one-man costs of frequently buying new games. Obviously I would still buy some games myself to have on my shelves at all times to be able to play it whenever I want, but at least this way new games could more frequently be brought to the table, and we all know what that means: more fun for everyone!

Question for you:

What do you think of this concept? Would you be willing to pitch in 5-10-15$ depending on the grandeur of the game to be able to get the occasion to play it? I am curious to know what you think!