Ghosthunters!

3D gameIf you like pop-up books, games, and mildly spook-y stuff, I think you’re going to like Ghosthunters!, the 3D pop-up game by Brian Lee.

Closed, the game looks like an ordinary large book.

Open the covers, and an enormous pop-up somehow emerges. Players have game pieces and a spinner, which guides them up stairs, through rooms, and sometimes back down other stairs.

Hm. Sounds like a spiffy version of Chutes and Ladders, which is a game that really needs to be 3D, I say.

Perhaps I should have saved this post for closer to October, but I saw a mother playing this game with her son on a train in December, so I’m thinking this is an anytime game.

I noticed that even with the smooth train ride, some pieces would fall off the steps. Some little ones might not like that. This little boy certainly didn’t. (We were on a Shinkansen, that ridiculously fast train that doesn’t have time to go choo-choo.) (Not one of these oh royal yeeps.)

The game just looks so cool!

Okay, giggle and sing along.

Cleaning Up (Some Of) The Clutter

Some writings, scribbles and other random ideas I couldn’t turn into coherent posts.

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1) Nippon Telesoft, a Japanese company practically right around the corner from where I live, developed a Braille karaoke machine, which Stevie Wonder tested and liked.

2) If you’re in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo in August, check out the Jazz for Kids program, scheduled for 16-17 August. Information (Japanese only) is here. Tickets are on sale now.

3) TinySong is my new go-to online music place to listen to a whole song, not just a 30-second sample. Type in the song you want, and, if it’s in the database, you get a short-form url. Click on that to play the whole song, and you can use that url to share the song with someone else. You can also skip straight to grooveshark. The database depends on what others have uploaded, so you might not (yet) find everything you’re looking for. You can create an account and buy songs, but I’m not clear on the legal stuff, so you’re on your own for that.

4) Can a Word Nerd who is less old-fashioned than I am kindly explain the excitement behind Visuwords, the online visual dictionary? Now that we’re addicted to the ease and speed of online dictionaries, do we still teach dictionary skills to kids these days?

5) Speaking of online dictionaries, a visual version of Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary is here at Visual Dictionary Online (yeah, catchy title, huh?). 6,000 images with labels and brief descriptions.

Red Velvet Cake

Jill celebrated her birthday!

And she made this most delectable-looking red velvet cake on her birthday eve (I love that phrase)!

A what cake?

A red velvet cake!

No, seriously, that’s what they’re called.

I’ve been waiting for a chance to make a red velvet cake, and then I was going to write about it.

Jill just did all that, so I’m sending you over to her post instead. See what this cake looks like and read about the beautiful red velvet cake tradition her family has.

I have no idea how there was any cake left to share with others the next day.

If you snuffle around for recipes, you’ll notice many ask for loads of red food coloring, which will produce that bright red color. Try to find one that uses beets instead.

No, seriously, beets.

Historically, beets, zucchini and other vegetables were used in baking cakes to keep them moist, particularly when ingredients such as eggs may have been scarce.

Wish Jill a happy birthday while you’re snuffling around her blog! Her birthday was the 22nd (yay! another 22nd-er!), but she continues the celebrations during her birthday week.

Happy stuff indeed.

Have Map, Will Find Vegetables

Oh now this is useful!

If you’re in the Fifty Nifty United States, you can click on this map, and it will indicate vegetables and fruits in season for that particular month.

Descriptions are included, and, if you can’t remember what you’re supposed to do with kohlrabi, links to recipes are there, too.

You do need the latest version of Flash player installed on your computer to enjoy all the fun (link available on that page).

If you have neither Flash nor computer nor inclination to see what you’re missing in other states, the old-fashioned approach to discovering seasonal foods still works perfectly well: simply trot over to your favorite local farmer’s market and see what they’re selling.

And I say it’s oh so much more fun to ask a person standing right there for a good recipe.

(Heeey, broccoli grows in Alaska?)

Cream Cheese Berry Croissant Thingies

I tend to not miss much from the US until I go back for a visit.

Right now, though, I’m furiously missing those croissants in a can. You know, the can where you peel off a strip, whack the can on the edge of your countertop, and then the whole thing opens with a most satisfying pop.

Yes, I miss those.

Yes, I’m ignoring my French friends, who laugh uproariously at these croissant-wannabes. Look, I’ll eat the real things when I’m in France, but I’m not going to be in France any time soon.

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I’m sure these thingies have a name, but I can’t remember what they’re called. Nor can I remember which cookbook I got these from. I used to make them for friends all the time, so maybe if I go back to the time I made them, I’ll find the actual recipe, too.

You need: 1 can frozen croissants, about ½ cup cream cheese, brown sugar, about ¾ cup blueberries or chopped strawberries (fresh or thawed and drained)

1) Soften the cream cheese, add a tablespoon or so of sugar, and mix together. Stir in the berries.

2) Open the croissants and carefully unroll them.

3) Carefully place a small scoop of the cream cheese berry mixture in the middle of one of the triangles. Reroll the croissant or simply pinch the edges together. I think you usually get 8 croissants to a can, so you can either make 8 small ones or 4 bigger ones.

4) Repeat with the remaining mixture and the remaining triangles.

5) Put foil on your cookie sheet. Bake at… um…guessing here…let’s say 375 °F/190 °C for about 15 minutes.

6) Let cool for a few minutes.

7) Curl yourself up on a comfy chair and eat as quietly as you can.

Bye-bye!!

I was just telling my junior high school students that people say, “bye-bye!” and “see you!” only when we’re here in Japan.

And only in a high-pitched squeal accompanied by frantic handflapping.

Nobody else says bye-bye. 

Wrong.

As you may know, bye-bye is a shortened form of good-bye, which came from Godbwye, or God be with ye. What I didn’t know was that way back in the 1640s, bye-bye was already in use in England, and by the 1700s, somebody brought bye-bye over to the colonies.

Not until after World War I did people start using the shorter bye and bye now.

Americans started using I’ll be seeing you and see you later in the 1870s. See you around appeared in the early 1940s, and the shortened form see you popped up in the late 1940s.

I leave it to you to find The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell” clip. If I link to it, I’ll be singing it all night long and for the next two weeks, and I don’t want that.

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Big big thanks to my beloved copy of Stuart Berg Flexner’s I Hear America Talking: An illustrated history of American words and phrases (1976) for this information. Say, you may have to hug your favorite librarian to see a copy of this book. I’m not finding many options available online.

 

 

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