Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kids and the Kinect

We've had our Kinect for the xbox 360 for about 6 months and have been through the wringer with this sucker. It's neat. Absolutely! Pain in the buttocks? Mmhm. I'm gonna break this down into sections...

Gaming Issues
While the Kinect is a groovy idea, sometimes the idea and the reality don't quite jive. Before you shell our your heard earned schekels take the time and read some reviews. I lurves me some Raving Rabbids, oh yes I do. The main reviewed complaint about the Kinect game with those bwah happy little critters is that the games are super short and you spend more time getting to the game than playing the game. Which makes it a no-dice for me and thanks for helping a sister out, reviewers!

Tech Problems
My man is basketball tall and my daughter only reaches his waist. The kinect will snap to him every time when they're trying to play together. Doesn't matter what I do - and believe me, the plenty I tried was WAY above and beyond your average Wiley Coyote measures. - it's just like that. When my daughter plays with friends who are of similar height, we have no problems with multiplayer games. She does have some problems with the Kinect "hearing" her, but that seems to be with one game so far. She LOVES bossing the Netflix around using the Kinect voice commands.

You MUST have good lighting to make the kinect work properly and try not to Goth out or Chameleon yourself with the background color. We had to hang our Kinect really high so that it could see my man from Head to Feets.We bought a Zoom attachment to see if that fixed our spacing issues and nope it didn't. I can see where it would, it just didn't do the trick for us.

My kid is too engrossed with the screen to worry about such boring things as where her feet happen to be at the time. She'd get mad that the game wasn't working because she'd wandered out of the camera "sweet spot".  I bought a rubber bottom bathrug and throw that down on the floor when she's going to play. If she's on the rug, she's in The Zone. It gives her a tactile reminder of where she should be to best play the games. It's not as effective as I'd hoped, but she knows where to return to when problems start happening in the gameplay.

Nickels and Dimes
This is pretty much my mantra for anything... I want to get it for 50% off list retail and 30% or less is my supergoal. I take a look at what Gamestop is charging, then I go take a peek at their used selection. (Generally perusing the reviews as I pass by) Then I wander over to Ebay and Amazon to see what used are going for on those  planets.  Can it be found within my price parameters or should I wait 3 months or try the pawn shop? Ebay will not only show you what current bids are for items, you can also see what they have been selling for during the last month, so you have a better idea of their usual target price.

Can I buy it as a download or just a disc? Download codes are WAY cheaper than buying the disc, usually. We got Fruit Ninja Kinect download card for free by asking the clerk at GameStop about it. (Pure luck) I picked up another game or two from Ebay for $5 per code. The Xbox Game Site wanted $10, $25 or $30 bucks for these games. They also had some games recently for $1 to download. Not all games have codes, sometimes you get lucky.

How long ago was the game released? If it was released less than 6 months ago, the only way you might get it for less than 80% of list is to get lucky in a pawn shop. Unless it sucks, then you'll find em scattered for bargain prices. 

Games that Rock for Kids - Mostly
Kinect Adventures -
This one isn't a bad starter for the system. It teaches the kids how to move and how to interact with the Kinect properly.

Kinect Star Wars - 
If you like candy, you'll dig this. It's not meant to be anything more than it is - a fun and odd romp through different SW games and environments. Not too easy for the little kids. I'd wait till 8 or so to let em give it a whack.

Kinect Party -
This is a game that has no rules or scores. It's great for the little ones. It really shows off the capabilities of the Kinect itself. Our problem with it is that the Kinect can't "hear" my daughter, so we're always having to yell at the system to change the games for her. She loves it and will wear herself out playing with these little games. 

Kinect Carnival - 
Harder than it looks and not worth much money, to be honest. There are very limited games within the Carnival and it doesn't look like it is a game that has long time play options. I'd say if you really wanna try it, go ahead but I wouldn't spend more than $4 on it, if that.

The Gunstringer - 
Not for little kids. It's a bit graphic about some things - but the gameplay is smooth and it's a fun character to play. It's built for adults and only involves using your arms - no jumping or dodging or any of that action.

Kinect Fruit Ninja - 
If your kid keeps jacking your tablet to play Fruit Ninja, this will get em outta your hair for hours.

Kinect Mini Ninja - 
Decent little game. Monk is digging being a ninja. It's not for the eensy tykes, but it is pretty cool to watch em make choices and analyze different areas of the screen.

Kinect FreeFall Racers - 
A flying race game where you get to be a flying squirrel. Fun! My kid isn't so into the race games, but Daddy seems to dig this one. :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Creamy Mostly Veg soup

Tonight, I dug through the veg in the fridge and came up with a pile of stuff. It was getting cold, so my genetic code was screaming "Soup Time, Woman!" And I just went with it...too chilly to argue, anyhow.

It go like this, here it go:

1 cup diced celery  (leaves and all)
1 head cauliflower
1 med-large yellow squash
1.5 broccoli crowns
1 can evaporated milk
2/3 bar Cream cheese
1 box Chicken stock
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1.5 tsp Adobo Crillolo
.5 tsp White Pepper
.5 tsp Onion Powder
1/2c Italian Blend Shredded cheese (mozzarella, asiago and provologne mix)

Put the Chicken Broth and Cream of Mushroom soup in a pot. Bring it to a gentle boil while whisking. Add diced and chunked veg. All the veg now belong to the Soup. Let it simmer until the veggies are super tenderized. Turn off the pot and hit it with an immersion blender. Blend until smooth. Add pepper, onion powder and Adobo. Stir the pot. Add the cream cheese in slivers and chunks and the evaporated milk, too. Stir until the cream cheese has become one with the soup rather than floating about in odd lumps. Add the Italian blend cheese and mix that in until it disappears. Add more salt, pepper or onion powder until the taste grooves you. Serve and get down, babycakes!

I told my kid that I'd used "herbs and spices" to make all the little flecks she was seeing in the soup.
(Yeah, Dude, I'll lie straight in a kid's face about vegetable content in what they're eating and not even feel guilty. Not for a second.) She ate  everything in her bowl and enjoyed it!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Induction Cooktop Insane Easy Caramel

With the holidays rolling around, people are FB posting all their favorite sweet recipes. My cooking buddy was excited about her cousin Bobby's crock pot caramel recipe. She tried it with great result. There were many variables that made no logical sense to me. Things I've been told one must never ever do, unless you're TRYING to make somebody's day a little less bright. After a quick search of internet recipes to see what the common points and not so common variations are, I learned this:

Don't make yo shit harder than it needs to be. Science can be simple.

Hold your questions till the end, kids.

It goes like this, here it go:

Set the temp on your induction cooktop to 195.  Put an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot and fill the pot until you have covered the can with at least a 1/2 inch of water. Put the lid on and set the cooktop for 6 1/2 hours. Once the cooking cycle is complete, let the can sit in the covered water bath for another hour and a half. Transfer unopened can to fridge until you're ready to do something with your caramel.

Seriously, that's it. When the caramelish stuff has chilled, it will have a thick texture and lovely colour. The texture is not quite as stiff as the cellophane wrapped caramel candies and the colour is just a bit darker than those. It's not a chewy stringy substance, it's more spreadable like a thick Nutella. 

Questions and concerns:

1. This isn't really true caramel, it's dulce de leche. My unrefined hippy tastebuds can't tell a difference. It's yummy. I swear.
2. Quite a few blogs say that you MUST use Eagle brand. All I had in the cabinet was Great Value and it turned out just fine.
3. The caramel is quite thick once it's cooled. Feel free to add stuff when you use it... butter for a more caramel-y flavoured caramel. Salt for a salted caramel. Vanilla... you get the picture. Don't be skerred, it's just minor tweaks to make it groove for you.
4. Yes, Beavis, take the label off the can before you cook it.
5.  If your can seeps condensed milk into the pot, you're boned - start over with a new not-jacked-out can.
6.  No, the can will not explode (when you cook it at 195 degrees) and leave your kitchen a sticky horror. I was worried myself. We even talked about cooking it outside in case of splosion. Nope. Green lights all the way, man.
7. If your stuff turns out lumpy, you probably cooked it at too high a temperature. Since we can set the temp with an induction cooktop, that's not a problem.
8. If you MUST see what's going on in the can during the cooking process, use ball jars with the lid and all that.
9. This is NOT shelf stable, it must be refrigerated. It's milk.
10. You may need to thin it down with milk or cream to make it more easily pourable when warmed. Play around with it to get the texture you want.
11. Keep an eye on it while it cooks. The water must cover the can at all times.

Enjoy, y'all!

Side note: I am not responsible for the dimples on your behind once you get addicted to this super easy caramel. Heh!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sock Monster freedom! Hallelujer, I say!

I've been the Sock Monster's bitch since I was 15. It only got worse as I aged and started accumulating humans. Bipedal life forms of any age in my vicinity develop severe Sock Monster Syndrome. Dunno why. That's like contemplating the color blue - it's an IS. Finding pairs of mated socks is darned near impossible. I do find single socks under beds, in between couch cushions, on dodgy ledges and occasionally in the wrong drawers. I gave up on matching Luna's cute little patterned socks by the time she was 3. There are only so many hours of the day I can spend digging under furniture. Ask, beg, threaten all with no discernible change in where the socks end up. I have a grown human who will wear a single pair of socks until they have so many holes he can't wear them or a clean pair appears in his drawer. All without a single request to have socks laundered.

When I had 5 kids and two mates, I was writing letters in sharpie on socks, buying different styles and colors and even laying paws on some sock clips that hold socks together in the laundry. Nope. Still the sock monster's bitch. Go in any room and open the sock drawer, you'd find 3+ unmatched socks, at least one pair of  someone else's socks and a handful of socks that should have been thrown out two sock purchases ago... and if you're lucky one pair of matched socks of the correct size and style.

Then I bought my Sweetness a pair o these:

Vibram Fivefinger Toe Shoes

I am free of the Sock Monster at last. That assclown can starve. No more socks! Well... on rare occasion. My daughter is begging for a pair of shoes like Daddy's. If I can get her hooked as well.. oh YES!!! *giggling maniacally*  I live My life in a pair of Birkenstocks but neither Man nor Child have hippie feet.  Shame, but that's the way of it.

Damn skippy, Skippy.

May not be the perfect plan, but the break will be nice!