Map Wall Art

We’ve decided that we should do at least one home improvement project each month. Last month we painted stars for our curio. This month we decided to transform a giant 28″ x 20″ world map poster into something that would take up less space on our walls.

Map Wall Art materials

For this project, we only needed scissors, a pen, packing tape, two wooden wall hangings, and our oversize map poster.

Amanda found the wall hangings on clearance at Hobby Lobby for under $2 each. Originally, they said “Boom Baby” over stylized watercolor fireworks, but that doesn’t match any part of our decor. She bought them with the intent to cover them with something else that would match because they are incredibly solid for as cheap as they are. We’ve been trying to think of a good motif to transform them into for a while, and finally looked at that map poster that was taking up way too much of our wall. We love maps as decor, as I mentioned for our Legend of Zelda Puzzle, but this particular map is bright silver and clashes with all of the decor around it. We agreed that it would look better as the covering for those wall hangings.

Since the wall hangings are much smaller than the map, we had to trim down what we wanted to show. We decided on North America and Europe, since the space we had for the wall art would let us position them roughly where they would be on a globe. We cut the map half way down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, each took a side to start folding around the wall hangings. This was fairly straightforward for the first two opposite sides, but since we didn’t trim down the map to the exact size of the wall hangings initially, we had to do some creative folding to get the other two sides to fold over. We trimmed off the excess parts of the map poster, leaving just enough to fold around to the back of the wall hanging. We pulled each side taut and used packing tape to hold it in place. We took our finished products and hung them in our bedroom where we already have a black and gray motif, so the silver won’t clash.

Finished map wall art

Gizmo wanted to help us hang them. He’s a good helper.

Gizmo helping to model our new wall art

While we were working, we talked about all the places we still want to travel. All of these dates centered around travel have really not helped our case of wanderlust. For now, we will just have to settle for looking at our new map wall art.

Hyrule Warriors – Round 2

Because we were unable to play multiplayer Hyrule Warriors for our last date, we decided to try again tonight.

We have each played single player for a few maps since we tried it for date night last time. After the initial foray defending the castle, you venture out trying to find the cause of the monsters. The story quickly picks up and the maps get more diverse, with different styles of missions and a broader range of characters from across different Zelda games. We have discovered that there is a decent amount of farming involved to gather the materials required to power up the characters, which means we’ve spent a bunch of time replaying the same few maps trying to unlock everything. Running the maps with a single player usually takes us 30-40 minutes, so progress is somewhat slow, but we’ve leveled up a couple of the characters pretty nicely.

Throughout the story, the main characters change, which means that character has to be played on that map. Unfortunately, we had only been playing a couple of the characters while we were farming, so we had a few that were strong and the rest were severely underleveled. That was seriously impeding our forward progress through the story, but we made an extremely fortuitous discovery: the second player is allowed to play as any unlocked character. So now, instead of losing with weak characters who are trying to put out fires all across the map as things go wrong, we can split up the objectives and let one player do damage control while the other makes progress on objectives.

We had a lot of trouble when we first started with the second character. Since we had both played single player, we had both used the Wii U Gamepad, so we were used to the control scheme from that. The second player has to use the Wii U Pro controller, the Wii controller with the nunchuck, or a second Wii U Gamepad. Of those, we only had the Wii controller with nunchuck. It took us a while of playing with the controls (plus a quick internet search) to figure out that main attack with the controller is performed by actually swinging the controller. That was comical at first because I was flailing around, but it got old pretty quickly. With this style of game, you are trying to perform a series of combo attacks to wipe out wave after wave of enemies. Swinging the controller a specific number of times to initiate the combos was tricky at first, then tiring for my wrist. With two players using one strong and one weak character, it took us about 25 minutes to clear each map. We did three maps and my arm was pretty tired at the end. We had a few minutes in between maps while we were spending some of the new materials for upgrades, and some downtime in the maps themselves for cut scenes, but it was still a lot of controller waving.

Single player was a lot of fun, but multiplayer Hyrule Warriors was so much better. Now that we’ve gotten to play together, we definitely recommend it as a good date night. The maps don’t take as long with two players, so the minimum time required is about a half hour, but with so many maps and replaying the maps with different characters to farm upgrades, you can play pretty much as long as you like, or at least until your arm gets tired.

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Zombie Fortress Planning

Every month, we look forward to receiving our Loot Crate. A friend from EverQuest told us all of the things she got from one of the crates, so we checked it out and have been hooked ever since. For those not familiar, Loot Crate is a monthly subscription service that sends a box of themed, geeky goodies to your house. They announce the theme each month, but the contents are always a surprise.

We have gotten some really fun things from them. They frequently send geeky T-shirts, Funko Pop! figures, and other geek paraphernalia. A few of my favorites have been: a Doc Brown from Back to the Future Pop! figure; a T-shirt of Optimus Prime in the style of Tron; a Galaxy Quest National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA) patch; and a White/Green Ranger from Power Rangers T-shirt. Amanda really liked the Star Wars: The Force Awakens socks; the Doctor Who sonic spork; and a knit Pikachu hat with Pokeballs on tassels.

They also have a very active community. Each month as part of the crate and on their site, they feature fan-sumbitted pictures of people with random previous Loot Crate merchandise. They also run contests for various prizes, which is what piqued our interest this month. This month’s theme is DEAD! It’s almost Valentine’s Day and nothing says “love” quite like the undead. Or something like that. Anyway, the contest they are running this month is to submit a design for your ultimate zombie hideout. That sounded like a fun date night to us.

For this thought experiment, we decided that we had unlimited funds. Go big or go home. The first thing we needed was location, location, location. If you’re going to be stuck in one place, hiding from zombies, unable to leave because the undead want to eat your brains, what’s the best place you could think of to be stuck? We debated living in the mountains for an easily defensible position with a good view. We debated the plains for ease of travel in case we were going to get overrun. But, we decided that our location would be on our own private tropical island with a tall hill/mountain in the center with a fresh-water lake somewhere on the hillside. Does it exist? Maybe, maybe not. But with unlimited funds, we could make it exist.

Next up, we need a really strong home base. Our home base will sit near the top of the mountain. Since we’re on a tropical island, we assume we’re going to be getting the occasional tropical storm. The house needs to withstand the winds, not flood from the rains, and keep us safe in the process. If it can withstand a tropical storm, it should be able to withstand the undead. Since we’re going big, our walls will be two parts. For the inner layer, we will use thick reinforced concrete, treated to be water resistant. For the outer layer, we will use thick granite blocks, both to improve the look of the exterior as well as to improve our defense. Let’s see a zombie claw his way through a slab of granite. We are going to have a slightly trapezoidal house, with the top slightly out further than the base to resist climbing. That should be a really good foundation for our house.

Near the house will be our main garden. Our growing season should be fairly long, so keeping ourselves in food shouldn’t be too much of an issue. We will also raise chickens to have eggs. We will keep a seed bank stocked up with multiple years of replant seeds, plus save seeds from the harvest year to year.

On to external security. Since we have the tropical island, we want to be able to use the beaches, so we’ll build our external security wall a little ways inland from the edge of the beach. This will extend 5-10 feet into the ground and at least 15 feet above it. This will be designed like a castle wall with a parapet to give us a walkway across the top to survey the perimeter, as well as defend it. Just below the parapet, we will run razor wire along the entire outer perimeter. There will be a few gates to allow us to get in and out of the outer wall at set distances, and these will all be heavily reinforced. We will then build a few sets of thick chain-link fences all the way around the island to give us a few fallback points, with the fence nearest the house being electrified.

Electricity. Power. We need that. Being in the tropics means lots of sun, so solar power is an obvious solution. We will have a main and a backup battery bank to store the energy we don’t immediately use. We will also have a few small wind turbines to borrow some energy from the breeze. As a last resort, as part of the house, we will put a couple of exercise bike generators to give us exercise and charge the batteries. Yeah, it’s not much power, but some is better than none. We’ll use the highest efficiency appliances, electronics, and lighting that are available to reduce our power needs. We will also need that for the communications gear that we will have.

What good zombie plan doesn’t include a massively fortified bunker? We know ours does. Underground, built into the mountain, but connected to the house through a nicely concealed trap door will be our last-resort bunker. This is where we will keep our backup food and water stores, our backup battery bank, two backup copies of all necessary equipment, and a spare comfortable living area, just in case. With all of the other fortifications, we should never need this, but better safe than sorry.

Finally, since we’ll be stuck indoors sometimes, we need an amazing entertainment room. We’ll stock it with every movie, TV show, and book every made. We’ll have a giant projector to watch movies on a big screen, and have comfy chairs to watch from. We’ll also stock it with a huge selection of tabletop games and puzzles to keep ourselves entertained.

Wow, that’s a pretty solid start. Oh, to only have unlimited funds. This date night was a lot of fun because it kept us talking and bouncing ideas off each other for as long as we decided to continue.

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Thomas Kinkade Disney Puzzle 1

Tonight’s Tabletop Tuesday is the return of Puzzle Mania. We had a lot of fun doing the Legend of Zelda Puzzle last month, so we decided to make it a regular thing. We’re not puzzle addicts. We swear.

Amanda’s brother loves puzzles, so for Christmas, we bought him four reasonably difficult puzzles and gave them to him mixed up in a single box. This sounds cruel and unusual, but he really loves puzzles. He spent around 16 hours straight trying to complete them before giving up and finally going to bed. Anyway, this lead to us realize that our puzzle addiction will get expensive. After researching some, Amanda found that you can buy multipacks of puzzles, sometimes getting four puzzles for the price of one, as was the case for the puzzle we are doing tonight.

We started the first of a four-pack of Thomas Kinkade Disney-themed puzzles, Lady and the Tramp, based on the painting of the same name. After completing the Zelda puzzle, we sat down and evaluated how we could do puzzles better in the future. We started by rearranging our initial setup to allow us easier access to all of the pieces. For this puzzle in particular, we used our TV as a giant visual aid for the design. Since these are Thomas Kinkade puzzles, very high resolution copies of the original image can be found online. That let us see the tiny details of the puzzle much more clearly. More importantly, this meant that we didn’t have to pass the cardboard box back and forth because we could both see at the same time.

The puzzle was 500 pieces, same as the Zelda puzzle, but this one was more difficult because it was smaller, measuring 18×24″. We spent about 3 hours working on it, but only got maybe half way done.

Lady and the Tramp puzzle

To not let our puzzle addiction get out of control, we have resolved to only do a single puzzle every month. We also struck a deal with our friends to trade puzzles when we finish them. They have a truly insidious Doctor Who puzzle of Van Gogh’s exploding TARDIS. We are both looking forward to it, and are terrified of it a the same time. We spent about 2 hours at their house one evening trying to help them out and got practically nowhere. Brutal.

As an interesting note, we came across an article on CBS News from a couple years ago while searching for puzzles. According to the study referenced in the article, solving puzzles, along with reading and other activities that engage your brain, helps prevent the plaque in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s. So not only are we having a fun date night together, but we’re also exercising our brain to be healthier, so we can remember these dates nights for longer. Two dates and a lifetime of memories in one!

CBS News article about puzzles helping the brain
Buy Thomas Kinkade Disney 4-in-1 puzzle from Amazon

Groundhog Day

Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties because it’s coooold out there today!

A great part of being together long term is establishing and sharing traditions together. One of my long-time traditions, which is now one of our traditions, is watching the movie Groundhog Day every year on Groundhog Day. This year we made a small exception and watched it the day before for Monday Movie Madness.

This tradition started for me back in high school. Some friends of mine were big fans of the movie and threw a party every year to celebrate Groundhog Day. They would order sausage pizza (ground hog, get it?) and watch the movie, reciting so many of the famous lines right along with the movie. It was a great time. I’ve since moved away, but I have kept up the yearly tradition of watching the movie, introducing people to it along the way. Now, Amanda and I watch it every year.

Groundhog Day is the story of Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) being stuck in Punxsutawney, PA repeating the same day over and over. He starts out not wanting to even go to the Groundhog Day celebration, thinking that covering the groundhog is beneath him, but he is forced to go for his job. He stays the night of February 1st in a nice bed and breakfast. The following morning, he wakes up to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” on the radio and a couple of morning radio show hosts talking about how cold it is. Phil goes about his day, providing coverage of Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow. then trying to get out of the city as fast as possible. However, a blizzard traps him in Punxsutawney, so he has to stay another day. When he wakes up the next morning, instead of being February 3rd, it’s Groundhog Day again. He is confused at first, thinking it is a bad case of deja vu, but as the day repeats more and more times, he gradually starts to accept it and make the most of his situation. Hilarity ensues as he decides he’s immortal and can’t suffer any consequences.

It’s a great movie that’s a lot of fun to watch. Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliot all provide really fun characters to the story. We definitely recommend watching this movie. More importantly, we recommend starting your own traditions.

As an added bonus this year, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so according to the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, an early Spring is coming!

Buy Groundhog Day on Amazon

A month of dating…

Wow. We have completed an entire month of date nights. We’re now 1/12 of the way to our goal of a whole year of dates. We’ve had a lot of fun along the way and we hope you’ve had fun reading along, and have gotten a few ideas for date nights of your own. It’s been a fairly cold month, so we had lots of indoor activities. We’re already looking forward to Spring so we can get outside more often, but we have plenty of interesting indoor activities left to do.

As a preview for February, we have a couple small crafting projects, one or two construction projects, Taste of China on Chinese New Year for our second cultural experience, a concert, and many more activities lined up. Stay tuned. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!

Grease Live

One of the coolest new things on TV is the major networks showing huge, live productions of musicals. Tonight, Fox put on Grease Live.

I think this is the most fun production we’ve watched so far. There was a lot of good meta humor. Mario Lopez hosted the show, and in the production, he was Vince Fontaine, host of National Band Stand. Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the original movie, and Barry Pearl, who played Doody in the original movie, were both part of the cast. In this production, Didi Conn played the waitress that gave Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy advice before she decides to return to high school. Carly asks “How is waitressing?” and Didi responds “You’re too young to know about that.” Previous Frenchy, now playing a waitress, told new Frenchy that she shouldn’t know about being a waitress yet. Super meta. They also did a lot of shots at the end of scenes of the actors racing across the 20 acres of sets.

The camera work was really fantastic. The car race, in particular, really stuck out for us. The cars were stationary for the shot, but thanks to come clever lighting and good camera work, it appeared like the cars were moving down a stretch of road. Beyond that, the cameras had to move to capture all sorts of interesting angles throughout the performance. It was really well done.

During the play, Amanda was quoting all of the famous lines to me right before they would happen. I complimented her, and said I definitely couldn’t do that. She asked why not and I admitted to never having seen the movie. Amanda could not let that stand, so after Grease Live, we watched Grease the movie, which happens to be in our DVD collection. Yeah, that makes it a Grease marathon. It was a lot of Grease, but it was interesting to see the differences between the production and the movie.

All I can say after a full night of Grease is: Go Grease Lightning!

Buy Grease (the movie) from Amazon