Transparency: 5 Questions Answered by a Modern Woman

It has been awhile since I've done a post about beauty. I thought it would be fun and interesting to get a different take on beauty other than my own. So I asked my friend Jade if she would be so kind enough to answer some questions about beauty today. She obliged and answered the questions I sent her, unfortunately due to time I wasn't able to ask a lot of follow up questions, but I did get some good recommendations from her about some of the makeup products she uses. Maybe she will be so nice as to answer more questions in the future :). 

1.) What are some particular challenges to picking out make up?

As a transwoman, one of the biggest struggles you face is a constant need to be “passable”… meaning that you strive to look in such a way as to not draw suspicion from other people that you are anything other than a natural born woman. There is a lot of pressure to achieve the look of a stereotypical woman, without being too eccentric. An unfortunate side effect of being born male is that my facial hair is still present, even with a close shave. With that in mind, the thing I find most challenging is finding a good foundation. I have to make sure that it provides adequate coverage without looking like it has been caked on. I have found liquid foundations are the best for full coverage and I apply it with a large beauty blender.

 The foundation is $20.

The foundation is $20.

2.) What is your favorite makeup product you use right now?

I am in LOVE with my MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Otherearthly Highlighter (Brown Pink Silver)!  I think highlighters add that extra pop and look so good in photos.  My friend who works at Nordstrom recommended it and I could not be happier about it. 

 This MAC highlighter is $33

This MAC highlighter is $33

 Jade on NYE rocking the highlighter look! 

Jade on NYE rocking the highlighter look! 

3.) How do you feel about men being included in major makeup companies and as their spokespeople?

It’s about damn time! I know there are many young men who want to experiment with makeup and often feel that they cannot do so without being ridiculed. These young men are a part of a much bigger picture that will normalize the art of makeup and pave the way for future generations of inquisitive men. 

4.) Do you have any favorite youtubers who do makeup tutorials? What is your favorite look they do?

I have followed and loved the journey of Gigi Gorgeous.  Although she does very little with makeup tutorials now, obviously her transition was a huge part of why I followed her. I also love Carli Bybel.  She is very informative about the products she uses and the production value is definitely well primed :). I recently started watching Stephanie Nicole. She typically does more alternative makeup and does NOT hold back when it comes to reviewing products, which I love. She prides herself in not being paid to boost products she doesn’t actually believe in so it’s easy to trust what she’s saying about the products.

My favorite look is always a good night out look.  I am a huge fan of dramatic eyes, dark lips and of course, a great highlight!

 Showing off her awesome smoky eye skills. I'm definitely still working on mine. 

Showing off her awesome smoky eye skills. I'm definitely still working on mine. 

5.) Do you think makeup companies do a good job supporting trans women? How could they do better?

To be completely honest, I haven’t seen any commercials or advertisements that have been specifically targeted at transwomen.  However, that does not mean they do not exist.  I know that Gigi has done work for various makeup companies, including endorsing a lip gloss line. One of the things that transwomen work hard towards is being accepted in society as just women. Even though we have many unique challenges that are specific to being trans, I think that as long as companies are open to their clients whether they be men or women, they’re doing the right thing.  As with any minority, visibility is huge.  It would be great to see a prominent transwoman be the representative of a makeup company.

Bonus Question: Do you have any geeky hobbies outside of makeup? 

I like the Lord of the Rings.  Like I probably watch it once a month.  And I am unashamed.

 I like to imagine even hobbits love a good pumpkin patch :) 

I like to imagine even hobbits love a good pumpkin patch :) 

You can find Jade snapping photos on Insta and kicking it in the Cap Hill neighborhood. 

 

RPG Update

It’s been awhile since I wrote about the various RPG campaigns I’m in.  I thought I would give a quick update about my games and characters.

The 2nd edition 7th Sea game I was very excited to start, has gotten underway and even though we have only had a couple of sessions, it has been a lot of fun, and I’m really enjoying my character. Her name is Natasha and she is the eldest daughter of a noble Usseran (think Russian) family who has come upon some hard times. Natasha went to finishing school and University in Vodacce (think Italy). Here I learned the art of Ambrosia style dueling (one of the few dueling styles founded by a woman) and how to sail. If you are asking yourself, “sounds like a pirate?” Yes, yes she doesJ.  The cool thing about the Ambrosia dueling school is that it is a two handed fight school. Natasha favors a cutlass in her left hand and then she can fight with pretty much anything like a dagger or whip in her right hand. I’m especially looking forward to fights where I can smash a vase over someone’s head mid fight.  

 Switch out the axes for a cutlass and dagger and that's pretty much Natasha.

Switch out the axes for a cutlass and dagger and that's pretty much Natasha.

Star Wars Imperial Assault. Okay this is a new game to me, and it is kind of like RPG lite. It’s mostly about combat and there are pre generated characters that everyone gets and a board game aspect to it. It is a ton of fun. You play characters that are a part of the rebel alliance and you get missions you have to complete. When you get to the missions, you are fighting against the imperials (the GM controls them) and you have to complete your objective. You can also do cool missions that allow you to recruit heavy hitting characters from the movies, like Han Solo or General Leia. My character is basically a soldier but she has a cool ability that when an opponent around her goes down she can pick up their gun and fire with it. Which ends up giving me a lot of extra attacks if I am around people.

 My Imperial Assault character.

My Imperial Assault character.

Those are the only two non D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) games at the moment. I am currently in 3 D&D games. That sounds like a lot but we rotate GM’s on our Monday games so two of these games get rotated with each other.

The Eberron Game, in this D&D game we play a group of University professors +1 student who go and recover artifacts from all over the land. Sound familiar? It is definitely reminiscent of Indiana Jones. My character, Aurora, is a Human Rogue and even has a whip and a hat. It is a lot of fun, and the setting is really interesting. We live in a floating city and there are all sorts of cool magical artifacts around. Also Airships are definitely a thing.

 I don't know why her shirt has to be so low cut hmmm.

I don't know why her shirt has to be so low cut hmmm.

The Thule Game, this is like a primeval version of the world. Giant monsters and dragons still roam the world. While civilizations spring up around them. In this game I play a Ranger, her name is Rey and she is pretty badass with a bow (yes I’m basically playing Legolas). Rangers might be the least exciting class in all of D&D, but this was only my second D&D character I created and was still a bit confused on the rules. I probably wouldn’t play this type of ranger again, but the game is still a lot of fun, and one of the bigger games as far as how many people are in it.

 My favorite Elven Ranger. She shoots with a Dwarven Steel Crossbow.

My favorite Elven Ranger. She shoots with a Dwarven Steel Crossbow.

The newest D&D currently running instead of the Eberron game is the classic D&D setting. Our DM did create our own little corner of the world, and we’ve only played one session so far, but it is a lot of fun. It is very Magnificent Seven in Nature. We got recruited to help this village out with a problem they are having. I’m playing a bard named Miguel, and he is a self-centered, attention seeking musician, who finds a way to make all the heroic songs he sings about him. In Miguel’s world everyone is just playing a supporting actor to his leading man. He reminds me a bit of Jason Statham’s character in Spy. It’s my first time playing a bard and a character who deals a lot in magic, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. The magic stuff can be a bit overwhelming honestly, and there is so much you have to know and try to remember, but so far I’m having fun.

 I get the impression Miguel is already annoying my fellow players, I might need to reign him in. ORRRRRR I can find mandolin sound effects to make it even better.

I get the impression Miguel is already annoying my fellow players, I might need to reign him in. ORRRRRR I can find mandolin sound effects to make it even better.

I’m trying new things, and trying break out of my comfort zone of playing Rogues, because they are fun. Maybe next time I will try a barbarian character or a fighter.

Have anyone of you joined any new games or have a particular character you love?

Podcasts: Part 2

If you haven’t checked out my first post about podcasts I recommend you check it out now. Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to pass time. Whenever I have some mindless task like cleaning the house or data entry it keeps my mind busy.  They can also be a great tool to learn new information and have a deep dive into certain topics. It seems as if I have a never ending list of podcasts that I would recommend to people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken my no phone rule on dates to open my favorite podcast player app (Overcast) and list off all of my favorites :).

In no particular order here are my next 5 recommendations for podcasts to check out:

Spontaneanation- It is no mystery that I love Paul F. Tompkins. This podcast, without fail always makes me laugh. The top of the show is a random rant by PFT, which to be fair is not everyone’s cup of tea. I really enjoy it because I think we have the same sense of humor, but you can always fast forward through that part. Then there is a free form interview with a special guest interviewed by PFT (He is one of my favorite interviewers ever). They round out the show with one continuous improve story with PFT and three other improve comedians, with a location provided by the special guest.  This is just an all-around fun podcast and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good improv podcast. This podcast is released once a week on Mondays.

The Rachel Maddow Show- This is an audio recording of the actual show on MSNBC, but if you don’t have cable it is a good way to stay informed. I don’t like watching the news I find it to be incredibly depressing and sensationalist. I usually read New York Times articles, but sometimes when life gets busy it is hard to keep up and I end up drowning in articles. I decided in the new political climate that it is my civic duty to stay up to date on the latest information. I like the way Rachel presents topics clearly and concisely while giving some historical context for the events. She asks tough questions of both sides. It definitely has a liberal slant, but she does present all the information in the most truthful way she can, which is something I appreciate. They release a new episode every day and it’s about 45 minutes long. For me this has been an easy way to keep up with the never ending onslaught of horrifying events happening in America.

Judge John Hodgman- This podcast is about a fake internet judge settling disputes for people. John Hodgman is another hilarious comedian/writer/actor/all around entertainer. The disputes are usually trivial, but he makes them hilarious. He has no problem calling the litigants dumb, which I appreciate. The judge also has a way of bringing out the best in people, and doesn’t let people buzz market big brand names on the show. Opting instead for local shops and products from wherever the litigants are from. It is pretty silly, but definitely deserves a spot on your podcast playlist. It is released weekly on Thursdays.

Ask Me Another-  Ophira Eisenberg hosts this hilarious quiz show put on by NPR. She has on some amazing guests like Leslie Odom Jr (the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton) and Tim Gunn. They have pun related quizzes about mostly pop culture things. They always have a song quiz, where the resident musician Jonathan Colton plays along to music they have changed the words to create a fun puzzle. I always enjoy listening to Ask Me Another because I can usually answer the questions which makes me feel very smart :).  Ask Me Another is another weekly podcast that comes out on Fridays.

TED Radio Hour- This is an NPR produced podcast based on the wildly phenomenal TED Talks. Full disclosure I usually pick and choose the ones that sound the most interesting to me. They have a very wide range of topics and I always learn something new. If you are looking to expand your horizons and gain a deeper understanding of your favorite topics, I highly recommend this podcast.

I have also found that podcasts have some of the best interviews. I mean President Barack Obama even did a podcast interview. If you have a favorite entertainer, you should do a quick google search to see if they have been interviewed on any podcasts. It is a fun way to learn more about your favorite entertainers and possible even find another favorite podcasts. I always try to listen to any interviews the PFT and Lin Manuel Miranda do.

I hope you enjoy these podcasts as much as I do, and please share your favorites in the comments below!

Harry Potter Gift Giving Guide

The Holidays are upon us. It seems that every year goes by faster and faster, even though each Monday feels like three years by itself. Such is life, I suppose. Every year around this time gift giving guides crop up like ma and pa Christmas tree stands. When I was younger I would flip through women magazines to see the holiday gift guides. They were usually broken down by types ofpeople-  get the girly girl in your life get XYZ, or for the Bohemian lady in your life get these chic grass earrings. While these were entertaining to read one thing that struck me (even as a bratty teenager with barely any knowledge of personal finance and budgeting) was how expensive everything was. Don’t get me wrong, the people in my life deserve the world, but advocating spending $10,000 on a personal computer seems absurd. Even small stuff like jewelry had diamonds in it that would run easily up to $1000. Meanwhile last year I colored pictures and gave my parents homemade candles (Love you Mom and Dad!). 

So I wanted to take a departure from the traditional gift giving guide by sharing a Harry Potter themed one. I broke it down by house. If you don’t know what house you belong in (or your friend doesn’t either), get thee over to Pottermore and get sorted! I am apparently a Gryffindor, not a Slytherin as I had previously thought. (Let me know what house you’re sorted into in the comments!) I’ve tried to include things from all price ranges, including homemade items or experiences, or offering help in some way.

 The Hogwarts Crest

The Hogwarts Crest

Here is a list of famous people and their Houses if you need inspiration: 
Slytherin- Lin Manual Miranda, Emma Roberts
Hufflepuff- The Rock, Kristen Bell
Gryffindor- Idris Elba, Maisie Williams
Ravenclaw- Kendrick Lamar, Daisey Ridley

Gryffindors are known for being brave hearted. They are also loyal, courageous, and adventurous. Gryffindors motto is “do what is right.” 

1.) A bottle of Macallan 12yr a classic Gryffindor scotch, it is bold and will be a scotch you will always reach for even in uncertain times. - Prices Vary $50-70 depending on where you live. 

2.) A collectors edition of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien -$30

3.) A Gryffindor house snuggie (I am currently wearing mine and it is wonderful)-$26

4.) A classic hat, every good adventurer needs one, I’ve chose and Indiana Jones style hat for Gryffindors. -Prices can vary from $15-$60

5.) A Coupon for grabbing pints with your mate. Make sure you go somewhere you can actually talk. -Probably around $10, you can make it cheaper buy buying a six-pack and drinking at your house too. 

Slytherins are known for being cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherins crave power and love being leaders. Their motto is “do what is necessary.” 

1.) The Ardbeg 10yr Scotch, a nice expression for the cunning Slytherin, it is peaty and slightly smoky but with a smooth finish, perfect for those nights when you are discussing clever plans with your fellow Slytherins. - $40-$60

2.) The Art of War by Sun Tzu. A must read for every Slytherin- $4

3.) Slytherin Robes- $23

4.) A trapper hat to keep their ears warm in the winter months or when they are visiting Durmstrang- $20

5.) A homemade coupon to pet sit their owl or snake while they are away. 

Ravenclaws are known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Ravenclaws value brains over brawn and are often quite quirky (a la Luna Lovegood). Their motto is “do what is wisest.” 

1.) Talisker 10yr is definitely the Ravenclaw of scotches. This scotch comes from the Isle of Skye and is as slightly salty with a nice medium finish. Perfect for playing a game of wizards chess with a fellow Ravenclaw. - $80-$90

2.) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. A classic for the Ravenclaw in your life- $9

3.) Ravenclaw Robes- $31

4.) A Porkpie Hat for when their studies take them all across the globe- $20-$70

5.) A coupon for board gaming and beer. 

Hufflepuffs are known for their hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuffs are sought for being just and true. Their motto is “do what is nicest.” 

1.) Highland park 12yr sure to delight any Hufflepuff. Highland Park is slightly grassy with a sweetness to it, that is always nice to drink. - $50-$70. 

2.) Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin is a perfect read for Hufflepuffs just graduating- $13

3.) Hufflepuff snuggie- $65

4.) A slouchy beanie is ideal for fitting in with just about anyone- $15

5.) A coupon to make them a home cooked meal of their favorite dish. 

Don't forget to tell me what house you are sorted in below! 

Signature Drinks*

James Bond has Martinis, Carrie Bradshaw has Cosmopolitans, and Ron Swanson has Scotch.  Drumroll please… I also have Scotch. I haven’t always loved Scotch, this is a recent hobby/drink that I picked up over the last couple of years. Why did I decide to settle on what could possibly be the most pretentious drink in the world (I’m sure you’re asking yourself)? It started as a desire to find a signature drink. I had recently entered the “adult” world and I thought that having a go to signature drink was something that “real” adults do. First of all not every adult has a signature drink, so don’t feel like you need to find one. It’s all a matter of personal opinion. I didn’t know all this quite yet so I embarked on a not so epic quest to find my drink.

 One of the many Scotches I have tried and loved on my journey.

One of the many Scotches I have tried and loved on my journey.

So I did what any good millennial does and took to the internet. I read a lot of articles about cocktails, drinking, and did some research on various types of alcohol. Before I considered Scotch my go to drink, I used to drink whiskey and ginger ales with a lime (I still enjoy this drink very much). So how did I end up on this particular alcohol? Well it was a couple of things really:

1.)    I really like Ron Swanson. Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows and Ron Swanson is everything I want to be, and he almost always has a glass of Lagavulin 16 with him (Lagavulin 16 was the first Scotch I tried, and one of my favorites to this day).

2.)    The more I read about scotch and this article in particular, the more I fell in love with the craftsmanship and dedication to detail. Before I had even had my first taste I was already in love. There was this romantic picture that my online Scotch research painted in my head. There is a heritage that the craftsmen who are involved in the Scotch process are very proud of (as well they should be!) and I enjoy honoring their craftsmanship with every sip.

 Another one of my favorite Scotches!

Another one of my favorite Scotches!

3.)    It is a little painful/embarrassing to admit that part of me wanted to be “the cool girl.” I found article after article talking about how awesome it is when girls drink whiskey or scotch, and thought what an easy way to be awesome, all you have to do is drink! While I think I am pretty awesome (I can say that here, right?) I would think the fact that I drink Scotch is only a tiny little part about what makes me awesome.

 Spoiler alert: drinking whiskey doesn't make you cool.

Spoiler alert: drinking whiskey doesn't make you cool.

Then because I’m a geek and have zero chill, I got super into Scotch. I started reading everything I could about it and fell in love with it. I have another good friend who was already into scotch and loves Ron Swanson too, and she invited me over to drink Scotch and make waffles one night. That was the first night I tried Lagavulin 16. It took my breathe away… mostly because I was trying to swallow without coughing it back up. It is a pretty intense Scotch. I probably should’ve told Ellen that I’d never had scotch before I jumped into the deep end, but my desire to be “the cool girl” drove me to pretend like everything was fine. It was because I got to try something new that I did come to enjoy and appreciate, it just took a little bit to find my stride with the tasting.

 This is a blind taste test Ellen and i did at my place, which was hella fun! (I encourage you to try a blind tasting with your spirit of choice!)

This is a blind taste test Ellen and i did at my place, which was hella fun! (I encourage you to try a blind tasting with your spirit of choice!)

My Scotch journey eventually ended up with a podcast. The Scotchy Scotch Scotchcast to be specific. I wanted to take all this Scotch knowledge I had learned and share it with the other ladies who might be interested, but are put off by the air of pretentiousness that Scotch invokes. You can find the podcast on iTunes and here. Stay tuned for another post about the podcast!

 This is the podcast logo!

This is the podcast logo!

While I’ve learned that you certainly don’t need a signature drink of your own, sometimes it is nice to have one anyway. There’s something comforting about knowing you have a drink you can always order no matter what mood you’re in that you’ll always love. This doesn’t preclude you from trying other drinks (I also love a good craft cocktail, doesn’t matter what alcohol as long as it is interesting), but it is fun to feel like James Bond every once in a while.

Go explore what is out there and find something you enjoy, craft distilleries are popping up all over the place. I know in Seattle there are some cool local Gin, Vodka, and Whiskey places to check out.  Once you find your drink you can start your collection (be careful because alcohol can very easily be a budget buster). The most important thing is to make sure you really enjoy it, because if you are going to be spending $10-$20 on a drink you really want to love it.  If you can find a friend who is into the same drink, you will be able to double the amount of drinks you try :).

If you already have a signature drink please let me know in the comments!

*Please Drink Responsibly.

 

 

Book Club

My mom has been in a book club for as long I can remember, I think her book club has actually been together almost 25 years. It hasn’t been the same group of people for the last 25 years, mind you, but that is still pretty damn impressive in my book (no pun intended, ha). I remember seeing books on her night stand that rotated monthly (I also remember not being that interested in those books because they weren’t Harry Potter). Once a month she would meet with her book club members and discuss different books. As a teenager I didn’t really appreciate this because the only books I was really interested in wasHarry Potter and other YA series, and all my friends were reading those books too. That meant that I already had people to discuss them with, but then life gets busy and people’s tastes change and you no longer have a built-in book club.  

 The dream <3

The dream <3

I’ve always been an avid reader because I adore getting lost in the world of a book. I enjoy spending an afternoon that turns into an evening that turns into the wee hours of the night finishing a book. Reading a book is its own vacation in a sense, I get to take a break from my world and enjoy the more fantastical world of someone else. The problem with my reading style is that if left to my own devices I would read Science Fiction and Fantasy books all the time, and wouldn’t bother with anything else (I like what I like). After graduating college and entering the real world, I realized there might be excellent books from different genres that I was missing out on. Despite this being an absolute fact, I continued to read my SF and Fantasy books as usual. Then I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and everything changed. This book was so amazing that I wanted to talk about it with someone else, but it seemed as if none of my friends had read it. That’s when I decided I needed to join a book club. 

I knew I wanted a book club that met in person and that read a variety of books. After looking through meetups and just googling “Book Club Seattle” I wasn’t having much luck finding something that I thought was a good fit for me. So I decided to start my own book club. This proved to be tricky because it turns out people have busy lives and don’t always have time to read. Even at once a month it can be hard to pick a day that everyone can meet (being an adult sucks, am I right?).  I finally found 5 other ladies who were interested in being in a book club. I chose our first book Wild by Cheryl Strayed (also a book you should check out) and found a day and time for everyone to meet and thusly the Read or Die Book Club was formed. 

 Our official unofficial logo. We joke that new members have to get this tattooed on them ;)&nbsp;

Our official unofficial logo. We joke that new members have to get this tattooed on them ;) 

I would love to say it was smooth sailing from there, but that would be a lie. The first meeting went great, there was a lot of good discussion. It was so much fun to discuss the differing viewpoints of the book and ask questions about stuff I didn’t understand, and really just to hear other people’s opinions of the book.  After that first meeting I was feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of Book Club. The next meeting there was only three of us…  Even though only three of us showed up it was still a ton of fun and we had some really insightful discussions. It was still everything I thought book club would be, just smaller. It stayed just the three of us for about a year and a half. We rotated who picks the book every month and then met up, had some awesome food and drinks, and chatted about all sorts of books. Even though it wasn’t exactly how I imagined it would be, it was better because it was real. I get so much personal fulfillment out of book club, and reading the wide of a variety of books we have over the years has allowed me to expand my interests and grow as a person. Right now Book club is back up to 5 people. It’s nice to have more people with differing viewpoints.. Even if you can only find one other person to read books with, I say it’s worth it though.

Another delightful thing that’s happened with our book club is that one of the founding three members started a food blog! This means that she does the cooking and cocktailing for our book clubs, and it’s typically on theme with the books we’ve read. Rachel is so talented and it’s so much fun to have themed meals to enjoy while we talk about our books. You can find all of Rachel’s book club posts and recipes here. I highly recommend you try the German’s Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from the Tin Drum post, they are the most delicious cookies I have ever had.  I would never be able to assemble even a quarter of the stuff Rachel provides for our book club on a monthly basis. I think I put out cheese and cracker and store-bought macaroons for our first meeting…lol. 

 photo courtesy of www.rachelpounds.com

photo courtesy of www.rachelpounds.com

Even if you don’t have a food blogger to provide personal themed dishes, I highly recommend you join or start a book club. It forces you out of your comfort zone with your reading choices and it’s fun to talk about a shared experience with people, even when you disagree! I’ve had so many laughs and good times with our Book Club, and it’s been fun watching our book club grow. 

Rachel and I have a joint Pinterest board for all of the books we have already read, I encourage you to check it out. It also has reviews from her blog and will soon have some from here. Some of my favorite books have been The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and Better by Atul Gawande (three books I never would have chosen on my own). Last month we read Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and if you would like to follow along we are reading “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami . I will share my post from our next book club, after we discuss. 

 I make these bookmarks as an end of year gift for the book club members, and so we can all remember what we read that year. (we didn't name the book club until last year :) )

I make these bookmarks as an end of year gift for the book club members, and so we can all remember what we read that year. (we didn't name the book club until last year :) )

Are any of you in a bookclub? What’s your favorite book? Let me know in the comments. 

Board Games: A Love Story, Past and Present

I’ve LOVED board games ever since I was a kid. It started with playing War  and other card games with my friends and eventually evolved into poker with my Dad, and a long running contentious game of Michigan Rummy. We had two teams for Michigan Rummy: team Animal Kingdom (my bestie Nora and I) and team Squirrel (my dad). The teams were named after the receptacles we placed our pennies for betting in. Michigan Rummy is a card based game, with a rollout mat and semi-elaborate betting system. It’s a lot of fun and brought all of us a tremendous amount of joy. These games played during summer evenings when we didn’t have bonfires are some of my favorite memories growing up. This love of gamesmanship followed me to board games.

 Here is the old school mat for Michigan Rummy, we had to replace the original tray that Michigan Rummy normally has.

Here is the old school mat for Michigan Rummy, we had to replace the original tray that Michigan Rummy normally has.

When I was a kid I thought there were just the standard board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Electronic Dream phone. At this point I should tell you that I am very competitive. I’ve been able to reign in my competitive spirit a lot over the years, but when I was in high school I was pretty intense (Imagine Abbi from Broad City at the Soul Fitness competitor days). I’ve definitely mellowed out and channel my competitiveness into healthy things and no longer get mad at my friends over board games. In college I no longer had a built in board gaming group, which meant I wasn’t able to play very often and that was a total bummer. Not only are college students broke so it’s hard to justify buying a board game, but there are usually other activities like drinking and drinking games that college kids would prefer.

 This game was bonkers, unfortunately none of my soulmates from this game panned out.

This game was bonkers, unfortunately none of my soulmates from this game panned out.

When I graduated from college I moved across the country. I realized I didn’t really have any friends besides my family (who are amazing), but they also have their own busy lives. No one really tells you how hard it is to make friends as an adult when you don’t have something as unifying as school. Luckily I convinced my other best friend to move with me so at least we had each other. Then I met two people who changed everything.

I met Rachel and Derek at a wedding and they were so cool, friendly, fun, and took pity on me because the only person I really knew at the wedding was my ex-boyfriend, who was also in the wedding party. My ex introduced me to Rachel and Derek (who he went to high school with). As luck would have it Derek and Rachel both love board games and happen to host a weekly board game night at their house.  They invited me to join and I gleefully accepted. Rachel is an amazing cook/baker. She runs the blog By the Pounds which is a fantastic food blog featuring cocktail recipes, desserts, and other assortments of delicious foods. Every week Rachel makes a dessert for everyone who comes to board game night. We stuff our faces with delicious treats and marvel at Rachel’s infinite talent. Rachel also tries out desserts she is inventing so we can taste test them for the blog (she invents some seriously delicious stuff).  Go check out her blog right now, just do it, I’ll wait.

 Photos courtesy of www.rachelpounds.com

Photos courtesy of www.rachelpounds.com

So I started going to game night most Thursdays. As you might expect people who are awesome like Rachel and Derek attract other awesome people. Over the past few years I’ve met a ton of their amazing friends whom I am now lucky enough to call my friends. Now I have friends! Yay!

Through Rachel and Derek’s generosity I have been introduced to a whole new world of board games. There are sooooooooooooo many more board games out there than just Monopoly (and better too!). Those Thursday nights have allowed me to try more board games than I ever thought existed and find some new favorites.  Board games are fun because they allow you to strategize, build, connect, and scheme with very low stakes. It’s basically practice for world domination. It’s also a great way to socialize and have fun with friends. On some weeks Board game night is the only thing that I have to look forward to. I know that the people who will be there are friendly, the games are fun, and the food is always delicious. It also astounds me that Rachel and Derek are able to do this every week. Serious props to those two.

 Dominion in action.

Dominion in action.

I’m going to start reviewing new games that we play at board game night. I want to give people who aren’t as lucky as am I to have friends who host a board game night a chance to explore games they might want to buy.

Here are some of my favorite games to get you started:

Dominion- Every time you play Dominion it is a different game, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s also the first deck building game I’ve played that I’ve truly loved, its fun to try and think out a strategy and watch your strategy fall apart when things don’t work out as you planned. Plus there are like 10 or so expansions for Dominion so the game will keep feeling fresh long after you’ve bought it.

Seven Wonders- Aaaaaah, Seven Wonders, I can’t quite pin down what I love so much about this game. I truly think that as with Dominion I like strategy games that I can play out that don’t necessarily go my way, because I feel like strategically thinking is an opportunity for me. It’s always good to try things you aren’t great at so you can be better. At its core, it is a fun game about building different wonders and screwing over the people next to you. Win-win.

Concepts- Concepts is the charades of board games. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but trust me it is. There is no discernible scoring system, but that is freeing in a way because it is just you and your friends using rudimentary symbols to get each other to guess the concept you are trying to get across. It is simultaneously frustrating and hilarious. It also reveals a lot about how people think and how they draw connections between things and drawing on shared experiences and knowledge.

Bring Your Own Book- This game is a pure delight. Everyone brings their own book and there are prompt cards like Apples to Apples or Cards against Humanity and you have to find a good answer in your book. It’s absolutely hysterical and really funny to see what books and passages people choose.

The Sheriff of Notthingham- you get to lie and sneak products across enemy lines and you also get a shot at being the sheriff and catch your friends in their lies. Definitely fun to play with people you know really well and see how good you are at lying to each other and convincing the sheriff of others treachery.

Do you have any favorite board games you and your friends love to play? Do you have a board game group you get together with? Let me know in the comments.