Archive for September, 2011

Game Design


Pretty much since he was able to hold a crayon, Dillon has drawn complicated mazes, maps, racetracks, and what-have-you.  These pictures were always more about the process than the result, and always part of a complex narrative that was happening in D’s head (and often out loud with lots of sound effects).

Lately, his artwork has become “video game designs.” (His phraseology.  Also his teacher’s when we were discussing what he had to do less of in school, in service of actually getting some work done.)

This afternoon after we took Rose to gymnastics, D asked me to play through a game he’d been working on.   And I was surprised at how well-developed his ideas were, and how well he followed the typical game structure and format.  Also how he was able to replicate the ideas with a pencil and paper.

If you’ve ever played Dungeons & Dragons (I know, my geek is showing), this was sort of along those lines, a one-on-one with your ten-year-old DM.  He had drawn a series of elaborate maps/mazes over several pages, as well as status bars for tallying hit points, inventory tallies, money tallies, and a ‘store’ of things that you can purchase with your dimes and quarters won for defeating evil creatures.

He was just so smart about everything that it sort of threw me.  I mean, he’s a really smart kid – he and

One of my favorite villains from D's game

his buddy stayed up late at a sleepover pretending to be amoebas in their sleeping bags – I wouldn’t say he’s totally typical.  But he was organized around this game to a level I haven’t really appreciated before.

Also, there is the delivery, which is lovely.  He isn’t a cynical tweener yet.  He’s got his moments of snottiness, but he can be so earnest and unreserved about things he enjoys, and he was completely involved with this idea.  He would say stuff like, “Now we have to battle this ghost, and I really don’t generally like to fight things my punches won’t connect with, but our enchanted bows and arrows should do the trick!”

He would draw villains in rooms as we walked into them, and each had a little hit counter bar underneath that he would shade in, and then after the bad guy was defeated his bar would be erased back to zero or the character would be erased entirely.  You got loot for defeating bad guys (I earned a bow, single-bladed axe, double-bladed axe, sword, and was almost to the magic lightning weapon when I had to leave to go to a meeting).  In general, it was pretty fun.  I might just have a little Gary Gygax on my hands.  I could certainly do worse.

Halloween Princess


I finished Rose’s dress for Halloween on Sunday.  She’s going to be Tiana (the princess of The Princess & the Frog).  Princess Tiana DressI adapted a pattern a little bit – mostly because I didn’t like some frippery that they had attached, and I decided to sew everything on instead of gluing stuff.  Really, who would want to spend $50 on fabric just to then glue everything together?  It may not wind up being an heirloom, but most of the costumes I’ve made for my kids over the years have been worn by a younger cousin or friend a second time, holding up through at least a couple of Trick-or-Treats.  There is a question about whether D’s first costume, a lion, is intact enough after three babies wearing it to support lending it to Rocco (the chenille mane I made was looking a little the worse for wear when we put it away last, I think).  But I’ll have Charles bring it down from the attic and maybe it would still work.  Or I could always remake the head… Though with Nicole’s costume to finish (stalled on some buttons that I just can’t quite bring myself to try because I am terrified I will screw the whole thing up at this point), and my own that I haven’t started yet, I may have my hands full enough of projects.  I want to make Rose a crinoline and a bag to collect treats in as well.

What about D, you ask?  He’s going to be the Green Lantern again this year, we bought the costume at Target for $20.  Ah well, you can’t win them all.



Did my first stab at sambusas for Ethiopian New Year.  If you know me, you know that I have a theory about the pocket foods of every culture (think: empanada, pierogi, ravioli, jiaozi, wonton, samosa, etc.).  My theory is simple.  Those foods are delicious and I generally adore them.   Sambusa is the Ethiopian version of those foods.  And while we have two very good Ethiopian restaurants in Milwaukee, neither does sambusas.  I decided to go to the all-knowing Google and see what I could do about this absence in my life, and by all accounts, these worked out pretty well.  The 40 I made certainly disappeared very quickly at the potluck.  Here’s the recipe (adapted from the first five Google results, which I probably should look up and cite and thank more specifically and will flag this to look back at later).

Sambusas frying on the stove

Sambusas frying on the stove



Two kinds of vegetarian sambusas


Lentil filling:

1 1/2 cup brown lentils
1 tsp cayenne
1 cup water
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup onions finely chopped
salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves minced
4 Tbsp spiced butter (you can substitute any kind of oil or butter)
1 Tbsp paprika
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbl water
1 tsp coriander seed ground
oil for deep-frying
wonton/egg roll wrappers

Rinse the lentils and bring them to a boil in the water. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the spices and simmer, covered, for three minutes, stirring often.

Remove the pan from the heat. When the lentils are tender, combine them with the sauteed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.


Boca crumble filling:

1 bag boca burger crumble or whatever fake meat product you want to use
¼ cup spiced butter
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbsp berbere
lentil filling from above

Saute the boca crumbles in the spiced butter on the stovetop until fully cooked and dryish, but not burned.  Add the garlic and berbere and sautee another two minutes.  Then take a third of the lentil filling you made above and mix it into this.  Now you should have two bowls of filling, and can get to putting them into wrappers.
Cut the wonton wrappers in half to form rectangles. Place a wrapper vertically on a flat surface and brush it with the beaten egg mixture. Put a rounded tablespoon of the filling on the lower end of one of the rectangles. Fold the left bottom corner up and over the filling until it meets the right edge of the wrapper and forms a triangle. Next, flip the filled triangle up and over, folding along its upper edge. Then fold it over to the left on the diagonal. Continue folding until you reach the end of the wrapper and have formed a neat triangular package. Repeat this process with the other wonton wrapper rectangles.  This took a couple of trys to get right, though as long as they are sealed and won’t pop open in the pan you can do pretty much whatever.  With the two fillings, I made one package of egg roll wrappers (20 sheets) into 40 sambusas, and probably could have done another 40.  Instead, I took the extra fillings, mixed them together, and the family ate it on rice the next day for dinner and it was awesome.  Anyway, I digress…

Deep-fry each pastry until golden in 2 or 3 inches of oil at a medium heat. You can keep the fried sambusas in a warm oven until they are all prepared and ready to be served. Sambusas are best eaten hot.  You may want to serve with a bit of green salsa on the side.

Books, books, books


This was going to be my year of reading for pleasure, since I finished my master’s degree (and three long years of pretty much only reading textbooks and long dry articles), and I have been pretty successful with that so far.  I am over 100 books in since January 1 (you can check my goodreads if you want to verify…) and I have read a lot of great books this year.  Unfortunately, my other goal for this year was to catch up on some TV shows that everyone has told me I needed to watch for the past few/five years, and so I was going to watch Lost on Netflix, but am stalled mid-season 2.  I really like it, but it turns out all this reading has taken up a lot of my otherwise free time, and I generally pick a book over vegging out or whatever.  Anyway, the other day I was talking to someone about a book (it might have been The Golden Compass, which I love) and I said, “don’t judge a book by its movie.”  I thought I made this up, but then I Googled it and it is a thing.

But so is this: Hank Green‘s project called Read it First.  Gotta love it.  Thought I’d share: