Category: holiday gift guides

Holiday Shopping Guide: Video Game Edition

Every year, it’s the same thing: what to get the techno geeks (or growing techno geeks) in your life. (Well, assuming you have techno geeks in your life. If you don’t, why don’t you find one, and give him or her something this holiday season? Because tech stuff is expensive, man.) Some of you have kids who are in to the whole video game thing. Others of you who have spouses in the same boat. And there you stand in the video game store, looking at hundreds of boxes that all look sort of similar, wondering what to buy.

Wonder no more. I’m here to help you out with that. All you need to know is what video game system your techie of choice loves, and you’ll be off and running. (And for you video game geeks out there, remember–this list isn’t really for you. It’s for people who have no idea where to begin with video games. Sort of like me in a yarn shop.) Ready? Here we go.

3DS Games
Many of you have no doubt heard of the trouble the 3DS has been having. Slow sales, bad games–all that jazz. And so you might be feeling skittish about committing to the system. Let me allay those fears. TRC has one of them, and he adores it. Flat out worships the thing. Interestingly, he doesn’t care for the 3D all that much. And that seems to be a thing many people echo. But the thing is, the 3DS is a whole lot more than just being about 3D. It’s a much stronger DS game system, and it plays all the DS games. I highly recommend the thing. If your loved one has a 3DS, your life just got a whole lot simpler, because they have a rash of new games coming out, all of which look or are awesome:

This one’s a no-brainer. Mario Kart. Comes out December 7. Your loved one will thank you.

The second best reviewed game for the 3DS out there. If your loved one has a 3DS, they like Nintendo games. It’s one of the main reasons to have the system. Play to the system’s strengths. Buy Nintendo.

 The best reviewed game. A remake of one of the best games of all time. Sure to scratch that portable Zelda itch.

Cheaper than the other ones. TRC has this game and can’t get enough of it. I’ve played it, and I can see why. Good times.

Nintendo DS
Maybe your loved one hasn’t branched out into the next Nintendo system yet. Not to worry–there’s some love for the DS out there, as well.

The latest iteration of Pokemon. There’s a reason this game has lasted as long as it has. Another one that TRC owns and plays often.

A great one if your loved one loves puzzles. The Professor Layton games are well produced, engrossing, and fun to solve. Speaking as a puzzle lover, myself.

Nintendo Wii
No longer the huge Must Have item of the video game world, the Wii still has some solid games coming out for it. That said, the choice is pretty straightforward. The one game you should be getting for a Wii lover in your life this year has got to be:

It’s getting fantastic reviews across the board. It comes out on November 20, so you know they don’t have it yet. It’s Zelda. What more do you need?

This one came out about a year ago, so they might already have it. But it’s a great game, and it would be cheaper by now, too. Or get it used–cheaper still. Or–if they don’t have the first one–get that one, instead:

$20 new. You can’t go wrong. Fun for the whole family.

But perhaps you’re not in to the whole Nintendo thing. You’ve got a PS3 or a 360, and you want to use it for something more than Netflix and Blurays (if you’ve got a PS3). I haven’t played any of these systems in a while, so I can’t vouch for any of these personally, but definitely look into the following: (all fairly recent releases, all solid games–though not all for kids)

And finally, maybe one of the games I personally am most interest in:

It’s like Guitar Hero, except you play it with a real guitar. Not a fake one. And at the end of the day, you’re learning how to play the guitar, except you’re playing a game. This is a game I might have to buy. We shall see. You can get it as a standalone game, or get it bundled with a real electric guitar. Note that it will work with any electric guitar–not just the one the bundle comes with. Intriguing . . .

Or maybe your loved one still plays games on an actual computer (gasp!). If that’s the case, allow me to suggest one in particular:

A MMO game for Star Wars fans. Note that this is like World of Warcraft–you’ll have to pay $15/month to have access to the content, and it’s likely going to be wicked addicting. But maybe you’re sick of talking to your tech geek, and you’d like some peace and quiet. This’ll buy you some for a while. It doesn’t come out until December 20th, though–so you might have to wrap it at the last minute.

Got any questions about specific games, or games I haven’t mentioned? Ask away. I’m happy to help.

I’ll try and do more posts for other topics–whether it’s gadgets or movies or board games. We’ll see how much time I have.

Holiday Gift Guide: Basic Board Games

The Settlers of CatanIt’s November, folks. Do you realize what that means? It means you really ought to be doing your holiday shopping right now instead of reading my blog. Wait! Don’t go just yet. Because as a gift to you, I’m going to let you do your holiday shopping from within my blog. Talk about multitasking! You can be entertained and shop all at the same time. Isn’t I nice?

I is.

So here’s how these columns will work (yes, I’ll be doing more than one in the days leading up to when the fat jolly elf arrives): I’m going to post a mess o’ reviews for different items, all of them linked to Amazon. Should you click any of those links and happen to end up purchasing that item, then I get a cut for commission. Not interested in what I’m promoting? Don’t forget that the Amazon search bar to the right of my page does the same thing for any Amazon product. If you’re going to buy something from Amazon this holiday season, why not stop by my blog to search for it? It goes to a good cause. ūüôā¬†¬†

Anyway, on with the guide. I’m starting off simple. Do you have someone you’re buying for this year who likes board games, but they’re ready for something a bit meatier than Monopoly or Scrabble? Nothing with a rule book heavy enough to break your arm, but something that incorporates more strategy than roll-die-move-token. There are some great games out there these days that are fun to play, and which I heartily endorse for just about any adult. I’ll do a post for kids later, as well as one all about more advanced board games, but for now, here are the basics:

The Settlers of CatanSettlers of Catan–3-4 players–This one’s actually one of the most complex on the list, and I debated putting it on a different list, but it’s also one of the better known “new” games, so I kept it on this one. You and your competitors are all exploring an island, trying to settle it the fastest. Whoever settles the most, wins. It’s fantastic for its replay value–the board is a bunch of hexagonal tiles that are put down at random, so it’s different each time you play. Can take some learning to get it down, but once you do, it’s lots of fun. One game takes about 90 minutes to play.

Ticket to Ride EuropeTicket to Ride–2-5 players–There are several different flavors of this one (Europe, USA, Switzerland, etc.) I like the European one, just because it happens to be the one I own. Your goal is to build railway lines between major cities, but you compete for the tracks with your opponents. Not as hard to learn as Settlers, and easier to just play it and relax. One game takes about 60 minutes to play.

Blokus Classics GameBlokus–1-4 players–Talk about your easy to learn games. You get a set of tetris-like tiles, and your goal is to put as many of them on the board as you can. The tricks? Only the corners of your tiles can touch, and your opponents are trying to find space for theirs, too. A fun, fast paced game that even little kids can play. One game takes 20 minutes.

¬†Mr. JackMr. Jack–2 players–One of you plays as a group of detectives trying to find a killer. The other? You’re the killer, and you’re disguised as one of the detectives. Not too hard to learn, and fun for two players. Each detective has different abilities for moving and snooping around. One game takes about 30 minutes.

¬†SORRY! SlidersSorry Sliders–1-4 players–Take sorry and add shuffle board and a bit of curling, and you’ve got this one. No smart thinking involved here–just eye-hand coordination. You slide your little rolling Sorry tokens down a path, trying to hit the bullseye and knock other people’s tiles off their mark. Even little kids like this one. One game takes less than 30 minutes, depending on how long you want it to go.

Sequence Game

Sequence–2-12 players–Connect Four + Playing Cards = Sequence. Your goal is to get five markers in a row, which you place depending on what cards you draw. A good game for groups, open to conversation and not too much thought. One game takes about 10 minutes, but you usually play lots of games in a row.

Lost Cities
Lost Cities–2 players–You each are the leader of an archaeological team set on exploring ruins and making wonderful discoveries. The problem is there’s only so many sites to go around, so you compete to see who finds what. Really a great game for 2 players. Good strategy, but not hard to master. Denisa likes to come back to this one quite a bit. One game takes about a half hour.


Carcassonne–2-5 players–You take turns flipping tiles and placing them on the board, creating a countryside and cities as you go. At the same time, you place people in those places, trying to control as much of it as you can. Not super complex, but a lot of fun, and there are plenty of expansions to buy to spice things up later, if the basic rules get too straightforward. One game takes about an hour.

Leatherman Surge

I’m a Leatherman junkie. I freely admit it. Since high school (maybe even before–I can’t remember), I’ve always had a Leatherman attached to my belt. Why?¬†Well, why not?¬†You never know when one of these little puppies is gonna come in handy. Like the time I was in Germany and wanted to use the phone, but I¬†couldn’t because the phone card slot already had a card stuck in it. I¬†whipped out my Leatherman, got out the pliers, and took out the card. Problem solved. That sort of thing happens all the time to me–not being stuck in a German phone booth, but rather seeing a need for a Leatherman and being able to fill that need right away. Certainly at my current job, it comes in handy. Yes, even as a Librarian. Anyway–I¬†use it all the time.

My first Leatherman was the Super Tool.This beast accompanied me through high school, then went off to Germany with me. It introduced me to the wonders of a Leatherman. Pliers, knives, files, screwdrivers, wire cutters–it had everything I¬†could think of, and for years, we were happy. But then, something changed. New Leathermen started coming out. Leathermen that had scissors. Leathermen with blades you could open up without having to unfold everything else. Leathermen with easily locking and unlocking blades. I admit, I¬†added a second tool to the fold:¬†the Wave. I didn’t completely abandon the Super Tool (I still use it sometimes, since its sheath is more discreet), but the Wave became my go to tool. I¬†built lawn furniture, dismantled closets, fixed sound systems and more. Its knives were so easy to get to, and those scissors–while not ergonomically ideal–were great for snipping loose ends. I¬†didn’t think I’d ever give up my Wave.

Until tragedy struck, in the form of the security line at the Philadelphia International Airport.

As you all know, I¬†hate flying. (Can I¬†trademark that phrase yet?)¬†When I know a flight’s coming up, my insides clench, my stomach roils, and a sheen of sweat covers my palms for days in advance. I¬†stop thinking rationally. I’m no fun to be around. This last vacation down to Florida was no different. In my flight-induced panic, I¬†made an error I’d only made once before in my life:¬†I¬†left my Leatherman on my belt. In fact, I¬†didn’t even realize my mistake until I’d gone through the metal detector the third time, and it kept beeping. Do I¬†have a metal plate in my head? I wondered. Did the government install a tracking beacon? And then it hit me:¬†I still had my Wave. Once, when I¬†flew from Cairo down to Luxor in Egypt, I’d made this same mistake. They apprehended my deadly Wave, and I thought it was gone forever. But on my return to Cairo, I¬†was reunited with it in joyful bliss.

Philadelphia doesn’t roll like that.

My Wave was taken from me, and I shall never see it again. Let us all have a moment of silence for my Leatherman Wave, no doubt gracing the belt of some greedy little aviation security worker these days.


Thank you.

Time moves on, as time is known to do. I¬†still had my Super Tool, but it wasn’t enough for me. I¬†needed that easily accessible blade. And those scissors! So what did I do?¬†I got a third Leatherman:¬†the Surge. And we loves it, yes we do. My precious. The scissors are better. It has interchangeable screwdriver bits. Replaceable saw blades. Bigger knives! A ruler on the edge! Easy to lock and unlock everythings! A compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time! I’ve already taken a door out of a frame, worked on a sick computer, sliced open numerous bags, and more.

I look forward to many happy years. Thank you, Leatherman!


Ever since Christmas, when I bought DKC a book on how to declutter a home, I’ve been a decluttering fiend. Up until reading that book (yes, I read it first despite the fact that I gave it to my wife. She wasn’t reading it. So I did.) I’d never been able to really get on top of clutter. Stuff just seemed to congregate in various areas of the house on its own accord. I blamed it on SPR (Spontaneous Paper Reproduction). My kitchen was usually a disaster, the area by my bed was heaped with clothes, books, and other detritus . . . it wasn’t pretty. Do I really have to give you the nitty gritty details? Suffice it to say that the only time the house got sort of cleaned was when we knew company was coming. This isn’t to say the house was dirty–it was cleaned. Just not tidy. Maybe that is a better word for it.


Enter this book. The author, Peter Walsh, breaks it down quite simply: picture your ideal room (bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, etc.) What is its purpose? How is it used. Now, go through that room, and remove anything that doesn’t serve that purpose. Viola! Clutter is gone. The trick lies in taking a good candid look at each item you have and deciding how/if you’re using it. If you have an extensive collection of something, and you claim it’s important to you, but you keep it stuffed in a box and never look at it, is it really that important? (Case in point: I’ve collected ticket stubs for years, but I never organized them. Now, I took the stubs that were post important to me (first date with DKC, for example), and put them in an album. The ones that weren’t that important (random movie I saw in the theaters that I didn’t like anyway) I tossed.))

The next key that I’ve been following is the 10 minutes a day approach. Walsh promised that if you set aside 10 minutes each day to declutter, and stuck with it, you’d conquer the problem. I was skeptical, but I’ve been trying it–and it’s working. My kitchen is decluttered, as is my living room, my bedroom, and most of my home office now. Better yet, the areas I’ve decluttered are actually staying that way.

It’s very encouraging.

Anyway–just thought I’d share with you, the Peoples of the Internet. If you’re having trouble conquering the clutter, too . . . maybe this book would help. (No, I’m unfortunately not receiving money for this endorsement.) ūüôā

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