Thursday

Lord of the realm 


Do you want to hook me? Refer to me as M’Lord when I walk over to the will call window. Ok, Medieval Times: Dinner and Tournament you've already won. That was how we were greeted when we arrived at the Castle in Lyndhurst NJ recently. From the instant you walk inside you are no longer ten miles outside of New York City, or a mile and a half away from the New York Giants playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in a preseason game, but you are in medieval Spain at the castle of King Don Carlos. 



The kids were blown away by the enormity of the main hall, with its shops, bar and staging area for King Don Carlos to perform a knighting ceremony. We had been to Medieval Times years ago and didn't remember it being this elaborate. But then again seeing it through the eyes of children makes the experience very different. 

We checked out the dungeon, which was a museum of torture devices. There were so pretty terrible ways to punish people back then. Soon they started seating people, we were sitting in the red section. The royal box was just to our left and infront of us was the indoor track where soon knights would battle as we feasted. 

The show was so entertaining and everyone let their inhibitions go as adult and child alike screamed and cheered for our champion the Red Knight and booed and hissed at his rival the Green Knight. It was so much fun. What was great was there was always something different to see, from the knights playing knightly games (basically trying to grab things with their lances at full speed), showing off of horse maneuvers, a live falcon flew over the crowd and lots of pageantry. 


They wove the story of the tournament to cue the servers when to feed the assembled lords and ladies. The food was terrific, tomato soup, garlic bread, roasted chicken, corn and potato. I had mentioned that there were no utensils here my kids looked at me side eyed. And low and behold no utensils. But surprisingly it ended up not being very messy. 


As the tournament went on the knights threw flowers to the ladies and little girls in their sections. My daughter nearly had a heart attack when a pink carnation ended up right in front of her. There was action, and comedy. It is a perfect evening for the entire family. It was never scary and not as crude as the renaissance faire can be. 


As the evening went on the Red Knight ended up victorious and led the charge to defeat some Northern invaders. The assembled crowd gave aloud and boisterous round of shouting HUZZAH! 

We left the show super happy. The kids talked about it all the way home. It was a really great experience. 

The staff at Medieval Times are first class, they stay in character and make everyone feel like they are the ruler of the realm. Huzzah to them as well! 

Click here to get a great discount for your visit to the Castle. 

Disclaimer: Medieval Times provided passes to me and my family, but as always all opinions in this review are all my own. 

Monday

A hero's journey playlist


Every hero goes on a similar journey. At least according The Hero with a Thousand Faces the 1949 Joseph Campbell book that talks about his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies. 

In Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, which is now available on Digital HD and coming to blu ray/DVD on August 22nd, Starlord and his band of misfit cohorts try to defend the galaxy from the evil overlord Thanos and other much more spoilery villains. Starlord, is inspired by his ever present mix tapes. Who doesn't like a good mix tape? But me without ideal tape deck, I'm forced to make digital playlists like this killer GOG - Hero's Journey playlist. 

What makes a good hero's journey playlist? Well it starts with an epic battle. The bad guys are seemingly coming out of everywhere and in a whirlwind of chaos. I chose BABYMETAL’s Gimmie Chocolate to represent this moment. The chosen messengers of the Fox God were seemingly destined for this moment. Swirling metal and and flashing lights fill the land until a lone hero emerges. With bravado and bombast and LL Cool J’s 1990 hit Mama Said Knock You Out. While the villains thought our hero was gone. He has been here and ready to restore the balance. 



Don’t call it a comeback I've been here for years!


That was pretty easy defeating those minions. Almost too easy. That's when our big bad arrives. Loud, angry, in your face and totally in charge. Truly The King Of Rock, of whichever rock he happens to be from. RUN DMC’s classic perfectly epitomizes the modern badass villain. Our hero is now pushed back he's on his heels. There is seemingly nowhere for him to turn. He's in his own hell, which brings us to the Meat Puppets Lake of Fire. This song which was popularized as a cover during Nirvana Unplugged in New York perfectly epitomizes the feeling of helplessness the hero has until he can come up with a plan. 

The hero needs a squad if he's going to defeat the forces of evil. So one by one he brings the gang back together all to the funky tune of The Magnificent Seven by the Clash. With the team all back together they are ready to take on the bad guys. Together. They race towards the battle and listen to Nirvana’s In Bloom, an amazing driving song if there ever was one. It doesn't matter if it's a car, a tank or space ship driven by a being who looks like but is most certainly not a raccoon. But rest assured our hero does have a gun. So does the raccoon guy. 

Everything seems to be going great when the hero and his friends are betrayed by one of their own. Our hero is devastated. The mission can't go on not like this. Weezer’s The Sweater Song (Undone) takes the hero into places he just doesn't want to go, dark places. Is what he's been fighting for all these years even worth it. 

But there is work to be done. And nothing gets a hero ready for a redemptive battle than a training montage. And if the hero is like me, and in this case he is. He’s listening to the same thing I'm putting on when I need a pick me up doing cardio at the gym House of Pain’s Jump Around. He’s all pumped up the team is ready and they are now ready for the final battle. The one for all the marbles and you hear the pounding beat rolling towards you. 

 

BOOM-BOOM-CRASH


BOOM-BOOM-CRASH

The villain has no chance now. Queen’s epic We Will Rock You is cocksure and bold. There is no doubt on how this ends. With the hero slightly battered but standing tall with his friends victorious as We Are The Champions plays. The remaining villains skulk away for the sequel. 

After the dust settles, the hero bids his companions good bye. Because his destiny lies in his own hands. He’s going down the only road he’s ever known. Just like the Whitesnake's stadium filling anthem Here I Go Again. 


What songs would you add to a hero's journey playlist? Comment below with your song choice between now and August 22nd when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is released on Blu Ray/DVD for a chance to win an epic Guardians of the Galaxy prize pack. 

Disclaimer: I was compensated by the brand for this post and playlist creation. But all opinions are my own. 


Tuesday

My lords and ladies ...

We are really please to announce this great offer from our friends at Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersry. The show and food are amazing it's a deal you aren't going to beat. HUZZAH!


Kids Free* All Summer + Jr. Knight Training at Medieval Times – Lyndhurst, NJ

*One free child admission with each full priced adult admission. Must mention or enter code KFB17 at time of purchase. Not valid with other discounts, offers or group rates. Restrictions may apply. Valid thru 8/31/17. Make your reservations by call 1-888-935-6878 or visit medievaltimes.com

Tabletop Tuesday - Math Fluxx

In an effort to alleviate screen time, my kids and I are playing tabletop games. Some are full games with boards some are simple card games. All are fun!


Fluxx Math

Looney Labs 

Ages 8+

Players 2-6

When I was in college, I was having pizza at Sal’s Pizzeria with a bunch of guys who I played in various D&D and Shadowrun games with. When a college classmate of my brother’s takes out this stack of odd black and white cards. 

He explained the basic rules to the game and then mentioned that the rules changed as the game goes on. What? We spent the next hour or so playing while eating what used to be Ridgewood’s worst pizza (it is vastly improved). I was hooked. The next day I head into the city and head to The Compleat Strategist and bought what would be my first (of many) sets of Fluxx. I just loved the game. 

I brought it on camping trips and played it by small gas lights against groups of Scouts and other adult leaders. It became part of the fabric of our troop camping trips. Inevitably I would leave my deck in a pocket of my pants, and when I washed them after I returned there would be a huge mess in the washer or dryer with dozens of ruined cards. So I’d be back to the store for another set. To this day I keep a set in my camping bag. 

I eagerly waited for the day when my kids would be old enough the play. You need to have just enough patience to follow the rules and just enough reading ability to understand your cards. Obviously an adult can comprehend the game way faster, but the kids (9&7) were able to catch on pretty quick. 

Math Fluxx, like most of the other themed versions of the game has the same basic rules. Take one. Play one. But their is a twist. The goals, which are all numbers, can be achieved in many different ways. You can add you keepers, multiply them, or compile them, so it works on many different levels of math learning. 

So are you saying that Math Fluxx is like a math lesson? Not really but it does reinforce and introduce math concepts for young children. 

Fluxx is one of my favorite games, and Andrew Looney of Looney Labs who handed me this game is an absolute genius. He designed a game that is both exceptionally simple and overly complicated at the same time. 

Disclosure: I was given a copy of Fluxx Math to help facilitate this review. Though as always all opinions are my own. 


Saturday

Surviving Back To School shopping 

Across the country kids are heading back to school in the next few weeks and parents are clamoring to get ready. Getting ready usually means a trip to your favorite big box store to buy supplies, use this handy guide to make it stress free. 

Come prepared - Your children's school may have provided you with a list of supplies specifically for their upcoming grade. If not most stores have generic ones available or you can find one online. 


Divide and conquer- if you are like me and have multiple children, separate their supplies while in store. I use two shopping carts and large reusable bags. I put all of the kids things in their own bags at the store and on the first day of school they have their giant bag of supplies to bring in. 

Buy now and save - Never during the year are crayons, pencils, folders or glue sticks as inexpensive. Usually I will double up on some supplies so in January when we are out of sharp crayons, I can grab some from the closet instead of buying more. 

Help out the class - When we can we buy extra of the class specific items (paper towels, wipes, glue sticks) because if we don't the teacher will have to buy those things for their classroom. 


Be flexible  - I try to do the bulk of my shopping at one store. If I were doing my shopping at an office store I'm buying the wipes, tissues and other non-school specific items at a big box store or supermarket. So if you can't find some special item, or something seems way over priced. Then check out other stores, but all of your staples are going to be basically the same price everywhere. 

Rogue One Trailer speculations ...revisited 

Last November I wrote a preview of Star Wars Rogue One based on the trailer. And then life happened and I never got around to seeing the movie. Thankfully it came out on Netflix a few weeks ago and I was able to scrape together a few forty minute chunks to watch the movie, I don't have the attention span to watch anything longer than an episode of Game of Thrones in one sitting.

Now that I know what happens I look back on what I thought the movie was going to be. And if you haven't seen it yet this post is super spoilery. But guess what the movie came out in the theater nine months ago, it came out on DVD/Bluray three months ago, its been streaming on Netflix for almost a month, so if you haven't seen it at this point its your own fault.

When does this movie happen? Rogue one takes place somewhere between the time of Episode 3 (Revenge of the Sith) and Episode 4 (A New Hope). How do I know this? They are building the first Death Star, and probably working on the second one as well, which became fully operational in A New Hope. Don't think it was fully operational, ask you friends on Alderaan. Too soon? And Darth Vader is in it.
I was right, it takes place right before the original Star Wars begins. But the Death Star was fully operational. Alderaan was just the first test of the FULL power of the space station.

Is that Rey?No.
So who is that woman who looks like Rey? That character is Jyn Erso. And yes it's confusing to have back to back Star Wars movies with a dark haired, feisty and seemingly independent woman as the protagonist. But they are not the same person.
And Jyn, like Rey (who she is not related to) she speaks with a British accent. But she is not related to her, or Pricness Leia, or Han Solo, or Obi Wan, or any other character you have ever seen in Star Wars. Like Jyn herself, everyone the Star Wars universe she is related is killed during this movie.


Oh my god they cast Mon Mothma awesomely. (Your kids will never ask this but your nerd friends will) That is very true. Genevieve O'Reilly played the same character in Episode 3. Oddly enough both O'Reilly and Caroline Blakiston, who played the older Mon Mothma in the Star Wars saga, are blonde in real life.
And if you thought that was amazing, please take a look at Princess Leia and Governor Tarkin before Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing's faces were superimposed on them.



So where is Rey?Rey was born somewhere in the 30 years between Return of the Jedi and  The Force Awakens. This movie takes place somewhere in the 20 years before A New Hope. So if that character was Rey, she would have been in her 80s during the Force Awakens.
What about Finn?See "So Where is Rey?" And every African American actor that you will see on screen isn't Finn's dad. Finn may have no relation to anyone we have ever met in the Star Wars universe.
Unless Rey is a time traveler, she nor Finn are in this movie. Wait is Saw Gerrera Finn's grandfather? No he's not.

Are Luke and Leia going to be in it? My guess would be no. Since Darth Vader is there, it takes place after Luke and Leia were born. So they exist. You would assume that there won't be any reason to go to Tatooine, so there won't be a young Luke cameo. But Jimmy Smits as Bale Organa is in the movie so there may be a young Princess Leia cameo.
Darth is in the movie but he looks off. I am not sure what it was. But he was having out in the same kind of water rehab tank that Luke goes into in Empire Strikes Back. Jimmy Smits was there, but its unclear if he dies when the Empire attacks the rebel fleet, or when he gets back to Alderaan. And Leia is in the movie since it take place right before A New Hope. Luke is buying power converters at Tosche Station off screen.


The movie was great, it was a great spy thriller set in the Star Wars universe. I'm glad there were not Jedi's coming out of every corner. When A New Hope happens all of the Jedi were either dead or in deep exile, and there were only two Sith (master and apprentice). Though knowing that all the characters have to die in the end, I never got very attached to any of them. 

Tuesday

Tabletop Tuesday- Build or Boom



We could hear the snow being whipped around tapping on our windows and skylight. The wind howled like a wolf. Looking outside the snow was piling up faster than it could be shoveled. Well, at least faster than I could shovel it. There was no use to shovel at this point anyway, as meteorologists forecasted for several more hours of heavy snow. 

With homework and studying done, and not wanting the kids to be little vegetables in front of the TV or iPad for what would turn out to be a four day weekend, we needed a plan. I had an ace up my sleeve. I brought the kids to the dining room table and took out a copy of Proto.Toys new game Build or Boom. From the get go the kids were very much on board. 

Build or Boom, is a building game where two players race against each other to build increasingly more complicated structures. And whomever finishes there building first can slam on a dynamite shaped plunger which blows up their opponent’s structure. I separated the game pieces into two identical piles and placed the first card on the holder and my kids went at it. At first it was difficult to place the pieces, a combination of adrenaline, anticipation and very smooth plastic makes it tough for anyone other than nerves of steel. But after a few moments everyone got the hang of it. My eight year old daughter, a whiz at building things, easily completed her structure and before she was able to blow up her 6 year old brother’s building he blew hers up. Was he finished? No. Did and argument ensue. Yes. Did a timeout happen? Yes.


So after I shoveled our stairs and walk way and the kids played in the snow for a while, we tried Build or Boom round two. This time it was a bit more civilized. The kids went through a lot of the stack of cards, some were very tricky and I couldn't even get them to stay in place. Throughout the weekend the kids would play a bunch more times, and there isn't a better sound than hearing some silence, followed by the sound of plastic pieces hitting a table and joyous giggles and coming from the other room.

The game is beautifully designed from the packaging to the play pieces themselves. It is for kids 4 and up, but I don’t think that a four year old would be able to build some of the structures that are on the cards. But I am sure they would like the BOOM portion of the game. 

Build or Boom is available from Proto.Toys’ website and costs $29.95. If the 30 cards it comes with are not enough there is now a 25 card expansion set also available. 


NOTE: Proto.Toys supplied us with a copy of the game to facilitate the review but all opinions are my own.

BSA National Jamboree - Trump Edition

I had been seeing a lot about the Boy Scout’s National Jamboree this week on Facebook and thinking about how great it would be for my son to be able to go to one when he's old enough. A scout needs to be 12 and First Class, so not the next Jamboree, but the one after that.

As a somewhat underwhelming Boy Scout myself, I never got the chance to go, so hopefully he’ll want to go. But when I woke up this morning, my Facebook feed was filled with comments and posts about President Trump’s speech at the Jamboree.

I wish I were surprised at what he said. But I wasn't. He turned an opportunity to talk about service and the great opportunities that the 45,000 plus boys (and girls) in attendance have to change their world for the better. Instead, he took the chance to take a shot at the media (who he predicted would under report the attendance of the Jamboree), take shots at President Obama who didn't make it to the Jamborees during his tenure (no mention about Reagan’s absence) and threaten one of his cabinet members that he would be fired if he didn't help tens of millions lose health insurance.

Those are not the values that exist in the Scout Law. Those are not the values that I teach to a small group of six year olds, nor the ones I have been saying in the beginning and end of scout meetings for the past 30 something years. 

The Jamboree is about scouts being together and enjoying an amazing Scout camp. Not about feeding the ego of a politician.


Disclosure: I was a Boy Scout and Cub Scout as a youth and have spent most of my adult life as an adult Scout leader. Currently I am a Troop Committee Chairman and a Cub Scout Den Leader.