Re-Creating Ultimate Dance Party ’97 on Spotify

Today, I was prompted to create a playlist based on Ultimate Dance Party 1997. It’s the album my mom would have on in the car. Then, my sister and I would put on while traveling for whatever reason. Little brother and I just laugh and reminisce about what we call “Mom’s Car Songs”. It’s just silly stuff that reminds me of good times with my family :)

https://open.spotify.com/user/mewmonster/playlist/3T3Ir4saXF5LGmNgKN17AB

Most of the songs are remixes of the originals, but luckily, Spotify had most of them. Some may not be the right remix so if you find a version closer to what was on ye olde Ultimate Dance Party 97 album, please let me know!

Also, you’re welcome ;)

Snow Lake Trail

Snow Lake Trail

Last weekend, Justin, Dixie and I hiked the Snow Lake Trail in hopes of making it to Gem Lake. We didn’t make it to Gem Lake, for reasons below, but this hike was still awesome!

Growing up on the central coast of California, I don’t know what seasons are. The idea of hiking in the snow on a warm day (forecasted at 75 degrees) sounded like a really odd, but fascinating thing to me. Not to mention the promise of a gorgeous lake to picnic at. This was my top choice from the ideas that J made.

Snow Lake covered in snow
Snow Lake covered in snow

The beginning was the steepest, but it quickly leveled of and led into a very gradual incline the rest of the way. I’m not a huge fan of hills, but they’re usually pretty inevitable here and end up being totally worth it. The gradual incline was quite welcome and posed no discomfort for me! Even after the switchbacks started (just under 2mi in) the incline wasn’t bad at all.

The terrain itself was the challenging part..

There were snow chunks scattered throughout the whole trail, and some were much larger than others. It was definitely slippery, especially coming down hill. You kind of had to anticipate sliding down, which I thought was pretty fun! I only ended up with one butt slide, but a couple where I was able to anchor myself on the slope next to me to prevent a full crash n burn. I don’t think I did too bad, though I feel like I’ve got pretty good balance.

Justin and Dixie, snow on the trail
Justin and Dixie

There were a handful of places where the snow runoff crossed the trail and we had to stepping stone through them to avoid total foot submersion. Nothing crazy though. Still, totally glad for my waterproof hiking shoes! One of them, however, was pretty big and if you missed, you’d probably end up knee-deep in the cold water. I liked the water parts a lot, too. Something new to do, and the water was so clear and pretty, I just wanted to play in it! I world probably take that back if I tried to though.. It was probably freezing!

There were A LOT of rocks. The trail was really rocky. According to my step tracker, I must’ve taken many tiny steps because I ended up with way more steps per mile than I normally do… By a lot! I’m sure challenged my ankle integrity, and, unfortunately, had to keep my eyes on the ground in front of me.

Alpental trees and snow
The Alpental side

When I did look up, the view of the mountains opposite the one we were traversing was stunning! They were covered in snow and trees like something out of a ski or travel brochure! At one point, on the side of the one we were hiking, you could see four or five areas with water trickling down the huge rock cliff face.

Me holding a small snowman
Little snowman!!

There were also a few slope areas where you could trudge up and play in the snow a bit. I definitely got a kick out of those and even made a mini snowman.

At the summit, before the trail normally leads down to Snow Lake, there were slightly flatter areas you could play in the snow. It was still hilly so you couldn’t do too much, but Dixie and I tried to run around anyway. She did better than I did, but we both loved it.

From this point, the rest of the trail down was covered in snow, making it difficult to find the trail at all, let alone head down to the lake itself. It was super pretty anyway, even though it was frozen and covered in snow. I would have loved to make the trek, but safety first! Maybe if we had hiking poles. I’ve never used them, but I think I understand their purpose after this trail!

Melissa and Justin
Slightly blurry us!

This was definitely a moderate hike, and the things that made it challenging also made it fun for me! I’d like to make it to the lake sometime as well as continue on to Gem Lake. It was one of the most varied trails I’ve hiked and really beautiful everywhere. If only my DSLR wasn’t so bulky, I’d have loved to have it with me!

A California Girl On A Short Drive In The Midwest

The first leg of this trip began with a 12:50a redeye flight from SeaTac to Chicago O’Hare.

The airport at 10:30pm was the emptiest I’ve seen an airport. The security line was short, the terminals were peacefully quiet and empty and even Starbucks was closed.

I think the weirdest thing was brushing my teeth in the airport bathroom and having strangers coming in and out. It’s one of those things I’ve never really thought of. I have zero problem doing so around people I know, but strangers seeing me brush my teeth? Weird. Not uncomfortable, really, just weird.

Everything seems slower at night when it’s quiet. Boarding felt slower, the waiting to taxi and take off felt much longer, but it really wasn’t.

Us on the plane
Plane faces

I had taken a 2hr nap after work and before making final preparations, and the sleepy was starting to kick back in. Perfect!
I was a tad worried when a little one was very clearly upset on the plane, but she had calmed down before takeoff. I don’t have children (yet..?) but I’m pretty sympathetic.. I felt bad for the parents who were probably getting all kinds of angry looks from travelers hoping to get some sleep on a 1am flight in which passengers lose two hours.
Foregoing the neck pillow purchasing, getting into a comfortable position that wasn’t going to destroy me was quite difficult. Luckily, this plane’s seats had those head wing thingies that you can position outward to lean on. They were very helpful, and I didn’t need any additional cushion. It was still uncomfortable, and sleep was difficult, but I got a bit. So yay :)
Landing at almost 7am on a weekday at O’Hare did not lend well to my hopes of seeing the actual city of Chicago. Our destination today is in Indiana so heading towards Chicago was not the best of ideas. That’s okay though; I was so sleepy anyway!
We grabbed something quick to eat and began the drive. A car nap stop was necessary, because safety. After seeing signs for a candy factory, a candy shop stop was also necessary.

Albanese Candy Factory sign
Albanese Candy Factory

Definitely necessary. From Albanese Confectionery, I picked up only a tiny bag of dark chocolate almonds, pretzel balls and amaretto pecans. And a bag of gummi bears. That tiny bag really should have been a medium. It’s taken so much willpower to not devour it’s delicious contents over the course of like five miles. A stop there on the way back out miiiiight just be a trip requirement.

So Indiana is flat. At least the part that I’ve just ridden through. It’s very green, which I love! I have this thing, however, likely due to growing up with the Santa Cruz Mountains or other tree-covered hills as a constant background nearly everywhere I looked.

I never noticed it until I traveled across the country. If I can’t see big level changes, the landscape automatically feels boring to me. No matter how gorgeous the immediate area is. It’s a silly thing, and I have to tell myself that it doesn’t make a place any less beautiful. Maybe it’s too much sky and not enough everything else? I dunno; It’s just a quirk of mine, I suppose.
Overall landscape aside, I’m awed by how much open space and land there is between each of the cute little houses!! It’s so cozy, adorable and refreshing to see after living in and around larger cities. AND I WANT ONE! OR ALL OF THEM!
I’ve always wanted a house that’s cute and mine. It doesn’t need to be huge at all. I figure I’ll be able to fill it with everything that makes it into a true home, regardless of size :) A girl can dream… And hopefully not be disappointed later in life, hah.

We’ve almost reached our first real destination now :)

Medium

The silence of the blank canvas is overwhelming. Any clank or clatter, a welcome distraction from my mind that tries so hard to sing the notes yet no sound comes out.

But what is the picture? I feel the rhythm, but as soon as I reach for it, it ceases. The color fades to a dull whiteness.

Out of reach. There are no words. There is no sound. There is no color, no lines.

Just the emptiness of my soul longing to reach and find something. Anything.

Butter/Shortbread Cookie Variations

This is like the Lvl 2 to my post about 3-Ingredient Butter Cookies or Shortbread Cookies. Obviously, these variations increase the number of ingredients, but who’s counting.

Try one, try all, be inspired to create your own! GO COOKIE CRAZY!!!!!! Okay.. Maybe not. Please be safe in the kitchen.

Sprinkles

Because duh. Sprinkles.

  1. Add sprinkles!!!!!
  2. Bake as normal

Chocolate Chip Buttons

Just a little extra sweet and a lot of extra cute! You could also use M&Ms or make other patterns with the chips.

  1. Make slightly smaller round cookies
  2. Arrange four chocolate chips like the holes on a button
  3. Keep the baking time on the lower end of the recommended range

Apple Butter Thumbprints

You can probably use other types of “butters” instead of apple butter, but the time I tried these, they came out pretty awesome. If you haven’t tried apple butter, it’s kind of like more spreadable applesauce. YUM. (Thanks @rabbd for this one <3)

  1. Using the back of a spoon or your thumb, make a small impression in the center of the cookie. Be careful not to press all the way through!
  2. Fill the impression with apple butter (or whatever else you can think of)
  3. Bake as normal

Heath Bar Cookies

*Heart eyes smiley face*

  1. Pick up a bag of crushed Heath bar (usually found by the chocolate chips in the baking section of the grocery store)
  2. Top each cookie with about 1 tsp of the mix
  3. Spread it out and lightly press it in with the back of a spoon
  4. Bake as normal

Alternatively, mix the Heath bar pieces directly in the dough.
NOTE that the baking time will be reduced by a few minutes!! Keep a close eye on them. Heath bar pieces heat up faster and, thus, help cook the dough faster

Hershey Kiss Cookies

If you’re feeling adventurous, try experimenting with the non-traditional Kisses.

  1. Similar to the hand-pressed method (found on the original cookie recipe post), roll each bit of dough into a 1″ ball
  2. Use your hand or something flat and stiff to flatten the ball to be about twice the width of the bottom of the Hershey Kiss
  3. Press a Hershey Kiss into the center
  4. These will be a little narrower and a ltitle thicker so adjust the baking time accordingly. Keep an eye on them!
  5. The thickness supports and helps the Hershey Kiss stay in the cookie

3-Ingredient Butter Cookies or Shortbread Cookies

Lately, I’ve been on a shortbread & butter cookie kick. They’re so simple and versatile! They’re not overly sweet, and you can top them with pretty much whatever you want!

These cookies are great for rolling and cookie cutters, roll-n-slice, or even just pressing them with your hand (my main method, because I’m impatient and just want to eat cookies!)

The recipes for both are pretty much the same and are easy to scale to accommodate how many cookies you need. I live alone and don’t have friends who come over so I tend to half the batch with ease.

This basic recipe can give rise to so many variants..Let your tastebuds take over your imagination! See my favorite shortbread or butter cookie variants here! Give them a try and let me know what you think :)

The difference between the two is the type of sugar used.

Choose Cookie Type and Consistency

Chewier butter cookie – Use GRANULATED sugar
Crumblier, buttery shortbread cookie – Use POWDERED/CONFECTIONER’S sugar

Ingredients

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup sugar of choice (chosen above)
2 cups flour

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (Optional, but recommended)
1/2 tsp salt (Optional, but recommended)

Making the Dough

  1. To begin, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract and salt
  4. Mix in the flour. I find that it’s easier to mix in the flour by the 1/4 cup or so
  5. Pack and knead the mixture with your hands or use something like a smooth, sturdy cup to really smash it together to form dough

*NOTE* Roll the dough into a tube shape now if you plan to use the roll-n-slice method below!

Chill the dough for about 30min if you have the time. This step isn’t necessary, but it helps stiffen the dough and bring a little more flavor.

Shape the Cookies

Lightly grease a cookie sheet or cover it with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets (my best friend)

Here, you have a few options.

Cookie Cutters

  1. Flour a flat surface and rolling pin
  2. Take a clump of dough about the size of your fist
  3. Roll it out on your floured surface, sprinkling flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is about 1/4″ high
  4. Tetris your cookie cutters to your heart’s desire!
  5. Use a spatula to carefully transfer your cut cookie shapes to the pan
  6. Repeat with the excess and remaining dough

Roll – N – Slice

This option works best combined with the refrigeration.

  1. Using all of the dough, use your hands to roll it into a thick tube-like thing so that the diameter is the size you want your cookies to be. About 2″ in diameter is a good size.
  2. Place onto a cutting board or plate and cover
  3. Refrigerate for about 30min
  4. Cut 1/4″ slices from the tube and place onto the pan

Hand Pressed

I think this is the easiest method.. It also works with a flat-bottom glass, but it tends to stick more than by hand.

  1. Take a small bit of dough and roll it into a 1″ ball with your hands
  2. Place it on the pan and flatten it with your palm until it’s about 1/4″ tall
  3. Make sure that the height is even across the whole cookie
  4. Repeat until the pan is full!

Bake

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 min or until the outsides begin to darken

Let the cookies cool and set before attempting to eat.

EAT!!!

Let cool and enjoy with milk, tea, hot chocolate, or whatever you want!

Don’t forget to share :) Because sharing is caring!

Being a Cookie Brigadier at PAX Prime

[This post is so late. PAX Prime happened like two months ago, I wrote this piece over one month ago. Better late than never, right? I’ll post all of the recipes I used some day, too!]

After my first PAX Prime, I was hooked. My second PAX Prime, I had the surprising opportunity to compete as an Omeganaut. This third PAX of mine, I volunteered as a Brigadier for the Cookie Brigade.

The Cookie Brigade is a volunteer-run organization that distributes cookies to fellow convention and event attendees, for free. Any donations collected are donated to the Child’s Play Charity to help bring toys and games to a network of children’s hospitals.

Convention + cookies + charity. Not even a question, I SUPPORT ALL OF THIS!

My baking extravaganza consisted of the following:

  • Classic chewy chocolate chip
  • Star Wars gingerbread
  • Vegan peanut butter
  • Peanut butter chocolate chip
  • Brownie bites (non-cookie)

It took about two days to get everything done.

The first day, I made the dough only for the gingerbread cookies, and managed to get through the entire double batch of chocolate chip!

I also made the brownie bites, start to finish, except bagging. For these, I kind of cheated. I used a Duncan-Heinz brownie mix and a well-greased mini muffin tin.

I’m super grateful that @rabbd came by to help and make me real food to eat for dinner. Thank yoooou!!

On the second day, most of my time was spent rolling and cutting the Star Wars gingerbread cookie dough! Last Christmas, I picked up the Star Wars gingerbread cookie cutters from ThinkGeek for @rabbd. They hadn’t gotten any use yet, and I figured this was as good a time as any! Luckily, he let me borrow them :)

Second-to-lastly, I made a double batch of the vegan peanut butter cookies. Un-veganizing half of it, I split the dough in half and added chocolate chips to one of the batches. These batches were much smaller and it was nice to have them over quickly.

The last step, individual bagging, was probably the most daunting, even though I completed it in about 40 minutes.

Phew!!

I did get to help distribute cookies at the convention as well, but my time this PAX ended up being way more booked up than I had originally thought. Though I didn’t end up distributing as much as I would have liked, it was still a blast! The Cookie Brigade raised over $20k over all 4 days!

Thank you to all who supported the Child’s Play Charity and I hope you all enjoyed your sweet treats!

I Helped Make A Game!! (Seattle Game Jam)

For the past few years, I’ve toyed with the idea of making games. I love games and I love making things.

Not only are there a zillion avenues to begin learning how to make games, which is intimidating in itself, it’s a huge undertaking when you do pick one.

In addition… Although it’s not uncommon, I have this bad habit of not starting things out of fear that I won’t finish or keep up with them. Game development is one of them.

I’ve always wanted to do a game jam, but somehow always found out about them too late and am unable to attend.

This year was different, and I found out about PlayFab‘s Seattle Game Jam with weeks to spare! I didn’t have a full time job yet, and it was on a weekend anyway. The reservations were free, too. I nervously contacted the event coordinator, asking if it was newbie-friendly. The response I received was very positive and encouraging, and that made me feel better. I made sure to thank Tom for that when I figured out who he was :) 

Over the weekend, our team made this game, called Gravefighters. A 2D, top-down pseudo-tower defense with 3D animations and all custom music and sounds!

Here’s my general conclusion about participating in my first game jam, and below is the day-by-day breakdown of my experience.

Overall Thoughts

I know I was with a really talented and accepting team. Even though I know next to nothing about how the building of a game actually works, am not an artist, I felt welcome. THANK YOU TEAM!!

I wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted to be able to.. The other teammates were definitely more busy than me, most of the time. For this, I felt so helpless.

At the same time, I do know that my contributions were valued and that it’s a great feeling to be a part of something bigger, even if it was a much smaller contribution than others. It’s also in the nature of the roles and timing.

Simply being around every aspect of the development was totally worth coming for! I’ve learned a lot about the project management of a game, how the teams and timing work together. It was a completely invaluable experience!

It’s re-sparked interest and furthered motivation in the field, even as a hobby. I’m excited to pursue more development aspects and do this again some time!

THANK YOU TEAM!!!

I was so impressed with our game and all of the other teams during presentations. The results of hard work, creativity and each team’s take on the theme was great to see. So many possibilities had come to life!

Though we didn’t win, the two teams that did were more than deserving!! Read about them here on PlayFab’s blog post.

Day-by-Day

Day 1: Pitches, team formation and planning

The theme was “It’s Alive”. I was only able to come up with a small, open-ended concept, but with no idea how to do anything behind it. I did choose to pitch it, and it was received well, but not enough to make the main cutoff. Which was TOTALLY OKAY!! because there was no way I could lead a team when I had never done anything like this before. 

I chose to check out one of the other pitches that I found really funny and that sounded like it could actually be done in two days: Grave keeper by day, necromancer by night.

At night, you resurrect your buried bodies to defend your graveyard from rival graveyards’ undead to keep your graveyard the nicest. Silly, right?! 

Though I have no experience, I was accepted to the team. It had grown quickly to 10 of us. I offered to help with sounds, organization and UI design. 

Narrowing down the concept to a two-day project was difficult. We all had really awesome ideas! But we needed to make sure that the scope wasn’t so farfetched and the gameplay concepts were sound.

With a fairly solid lead, we parted for the night, preparing for the grind the next day.

Day 2: Get a move on!

Everyone knew their role and they quickly got to work. Since we had another person on UI/project management, I took the lead on sound effects and made a mini studio out of a conference room table, USB mic and beanbag. 

For never doing them for reals before, I think they came out pretty well! I’ve cut and done basic mixing/editing for fun before.

Using Adobe Audition, I was able to record various noises, add audio effects, mix and edit. The engineers were able to initially implement most of them by mid-day. 

I had help and inspiration from our youngest teammate, the son of another teammate, to use a tablet to work with music. Using MAGIX Music Maker Jam on my Android tablet, I was able to put together some loops to use as one of the background music loops.

I must say that that app is way too much fun. Especially the pack called “Bro Step Vol. 2.” That generated a lot of laughs! 

The artists were working hard to make things really pretty, and the engineers got things to actually work. 

It was so awesome to see the progress throughout the day!

Day 3: Crunch time and Judgement Day

All of the sounds, music and UI screens were completed, so I didn’t have too much to do since I don’t know Unity. 

A couple of us collaborated on story, introduction and instructional copy, and I was able to help edit one of the 2D art pieces! I added a highlight..YAY I’M USEFUL!! #IAmAnArtist (HAH. No I’m not.)

We all got a chance to playtest and point out major bugs and the occasional spelling error. Seeing everything in action was fantastic! 

Every little bit by each person made it silly, fun and actually functional. Priceless!

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue and That One Paper I Wrote

Today I started Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.

Back in 2009, I took a Middle Ages humanities class and we got to choose our own topics for our final paper. The topic I chose was the Vikings.

In one of the discovered audio clips early in the game, a man recounts his experience on as Viking on a raid at Lindisfarne. One of my main examples of how the Vikings helped to shape the period was that raid at Lindisfarne.

Now ain’t that funny!

Actually, the man’s experience was not funny at all. It was quite sad.

Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream

Last week, I learned first hand why “pumpkin everything” is a thing. When you open up a can to use a little for one dish, in my case, it was pumpkin pancakes, you have a bunch left over… And you have to use it in -something- right??

To go with those pancakes, I tried to make a pumpkin spice whipped cream.. I succeeded. Greatest fall thing ever.

So far, I’ve had it on a chai latte, on hot chocolate, on pancakes, in ginger ale and with ice cream. I’m sure there’s plenty more where that came from. If you make this, tell me what you have it with!

On to the good stuff…

Total time: 8 min

Stuff

  • Medium mixing bowl
    Electric mixer

OR:

  • 16oz jar with lid

Ingredients

1 c Heavy whipping cream
1-1/2 tbps Canned pumpkin
1 tbsp Powdered sugar
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground cloves
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Use an electric mixer on its Whip setting (or med-high if you only have numbers) and beat until stiff peaks form.
    This means that your mixer’s wake doesn’t flatten back down right away like it does at the beginning. Be careful not to over-whip! It starts separating, and it just gets weird.

Done! Enjoy on other delicious things!

PRO TIP: If you half the recipe, you can make it by shaking it all up in a 16oz jar!

  1. Combine all ingredients into a 16oz jar (or larger). It must be bigger to accommodate the air that needs to get all mixed in.
  2. Thoroughly squish and mix the pumpkin in.
  3. SHAKE IT LIKE YOU REALLY, REALLY MEAN IT!!! It can take a some good strength to keep up the vigorous shaking for a while and can help if you have another person to help trade off.
  4. Open the jar and check the consistency every minute or so. It will eventually get there, but since you can’t see it well due to all the movement, it’s easy to over whip.. So be careful!