Tag Archives: Reviews

Best Family Dice Games

I love games and the great thing about dice games is that they tend to be very portable, easy to learn and fast to play.  Some on this list take five minutes or less to play and learn.  All get the Lisa Sharp seal of approval for cost, playability and fun.  Some are even educational.

Zombie Dice is one of the best games of all time.  It’s compact.  Easy to learn, easy to play, fun for anyone who can count to 13.  I do carry it in my purse and we do play it at any opportunity.

Sequence Dice is deceptively educational. The manufacturer says 8 and up, but we played with our first grader. It is a great way to teach basic math and have fun as a family.

Rory’s Story Cubes is another fun, highly portable game. Keep them in your purse for entertaining even the youngest children while waiting for appointments. Simply roll the cubes and let the images inspire you and/ or your children to create stories. Warning: can get very silly!

Phase 10 Dice Game is another game that fits in a purse or backpack. Much like the card game, Phase 10 Dice requires players to complete phases to advance. Very fun, very portable game.

Yahtzee is a classic. Much like Kismet, another favorite dice game of mine, Yahtzee is both fun and educational. helping kids recognize sequences, pairs, add, and multiply single digit numbers.

Bunco is a wildly popular party game. You might not realize it can be played with as few as two players because it is so much better with a larger group. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Last, but not least, Pass the Pigs is a portable, easy to learn and score game for the whole family. Another dice game easily fitting in a purse or backpack, this game is suitable for any number of players of any age. Expect some good-natured disagreements about the position of the pigs while playing this game.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but represents some of my favorite Dice-based games.  Dice games are fun because they tend to be fast and easy to learn, play and enjoy.  Think about throwing one in your purse or briefcase to brighten up any day and make waiting less dull.

Make It Monday – The World’s Worst Week Edition

Let’s forget about last week, shall we?  But I do strive to create weekly and I did manage to make a couple of things.  I did not manage, however, to snap photos because I didn’t find my creations all that exciting.  What is exciting is HOW I created them.  I used this:

Oh yeah!  I got a serger.  Who knew what I was missing?  I certainly did not.  But in order to try to match the Lovely Sarah’s crafting productivity, when she got one, I did too.  Then I told Hubby it was all her fault 😉  I don’t know what came over me.

However, I finally felt well Sunday and got to play with my new toy.  It is wonderful.  For those of you who don’t know what a serger does, it sews overlock stitches – look  inside the clothes you have on now and there’s most likely overlock stitching putting them together.  Overlock is definitely in your knit clothes.   The finished product is clean and professional looking because the serger also has knives which trim your seams as you go along.  I LOVE THIS!  Also, no pins.  Not pinning things together saves lots of time.

So what I got created was a polar fleece scarf:  with wrong side out, serge the tube.  Turn out the right side, top stitch with your regular machine down both sides and above where the fringe will be on the ends.  Cut the fringe.  Done.  10 minutes.

I also created more hot packs for the boys.  Cut a fabric square (I love flannel for this) roughly twice the size you’d like your pack to be, fold right sides together, serge two sides, fill with rice.  Sew the top shut with your sewing machine.  Roughly ten minutes each.

I serged around a two yard piece of polar fleece to make a lightweight blanket for the Khan.

Last, I made  a pillow case (aka the easiest thing in the world).  To make a pillow case, keep in mind these dimensions:

Full Sized Pillow: 21×30 inches

Queen Sized Pillow:  21 x 34 inches

King Sized Pillow:  21×40 inches

So when you cut the fabric, you have to allow for seam allowances and a hem on the end.  Using a full sized pillowcase as an example, it would be roughly 43 inches long with the width based on your desired hem length. Pillow cases bought in the store usually have a three or 4 inch hem which would mean your fabric piece would  be 34″ long give or take your desired seam allowance.

Yesterday, I made the pillow case by folding the fabric right sides together and serging the open long side and one short side of the rectangle.  I then finished the open edge of the rectangle with the serger (not sewing it shut, obviously, but serging around the edge of the fabric to prevent it from raveling.  Then turned the hem, pressed it and finished the pillow case using a decorative stitch on my sewing machine.    They turned out quite nicely.  Again, ten minutes.  15 tops.

What have you been up to?

Friday Fun: Great Board Games for your Family

Here’s a big secret:  I own probably 100 board and card games.  I love ’em.  Sometimes I need to rent some friends to play with me (so if you know of a “friend rental service….”), but I love ’em.  Here in the midwest, winters are long and can get dull.  Here are some ideas for games to pull out of the closet for a nice family game night:

Dominion:  I believe serious gamers call this a “Deck Building” game.  You use the cards in your hand to buy other cards that are either money, victory points or action cards.  It is a very simple game, suitable for kids around eight and up, to learn; but it does require critical thinking skills and a good bit of strategy.  It may be my favorite game in the world because it sets up quickly and plays quickly as well.  Games can go long, but 30-45 minutes is typical.  This game gets a five pizza score from me.

Zombie Dice:  This is a fabulous, fabulous game.  The pieces consist of 13 dice and a can small enough to fit in your purse or pocket. It can easily be played while waiting for an appointment.  The object is to get Brains, Brains! (duh) and avoid the shotgun blast.  Players roll 3 dice at a time until they have three shotgun blasts or choose to stop.   The first to 13 brains wins.  Things to love about this game:  it takes no time to set up, can be taught in under two minutes and is a complete blast to play. Another 5 Pizza Score for me.

Bananagrams: This is an easy word game suitable for up to 8 players.  Players simply draw tiles to create words in a similar fashion to Scrabble, but each tile scores one point making it much more straightforward and easier for younger players.  Again the game is very compact (packaged in a bag only a little bigger than a banana) making it great for travel.  It is a very fast- paced game so it makes a great another great time passer while at appointments, etc and to toss in the camper.  Since word games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’ll cut it back to a 4.5 pizza score.

Kismet:  This is a dice game similar to Yahtzee, but happens to be the one I grew up with.  I remember many, many hours of Kismet with my grandmother while I was growing up.  Dice games like this are a great way to teach younger kids basic math and reasoning skills.  The youngest kids can be taught to count, add and multiply with this game.  5 pizza boxes for pure entertainment and educational value.

Clue The Classic Edition:  This is an oldie and a goodie.  In fact, while not my favorite, it is my kids’ favorite game and anything that brings them together without a big, black screen is great in my book.  Fun, easy to learn, requires a good deal of critical thinking to play means it gets another 5 pizza box score from me.

For those of you wishing to branch out, Battlestar Galactica is a fantastic game for older kids and adults.  Each player assumes a role from the TV series (good or bad) and the forces of good collaborate to defeat the forces of evil.  This game probably appeals more to Sci-Fi nerds (which I am not, but I love a challenge and this game is!) and is suitable for older kids (10-12+) and adults.  I’ll score it at Four Pizza Boxes.  I could make it 3 because it’s spendy, but it’s totally worth it.

King of Tokyo may be the greatest game you’ve never, ever heard of.  The object of the game is to destroy your opponent in the manner of Godzilla!  Players roll dice, do damage, earn energy to buy cards that enhance their skills and hopefully, sometimes, heal themselves.  It is Tokyo vs. Not Tokyo in classic fashion for kids 8+.  Remember I said that I love Dominion.  This game may be a close second and closing fast.  Why?  I have boys.  Boys love monsters, robots and battles.  This game has all of those things plus is taught in under five minutes and plays in well under an hour.  5 pizza boxes for King of Tokyo as well.

Do you agree?  Disagree?  What games would you put on this list?  What’s your favorite?


Friday Fun: XBox 360 vs. Wii

I have an entire household of video game junkies.   We don’t all like the same game genres – I tend to be more oldskool with Legend of Zelda and Tetris Attack/ Tetris Party while Curly likes shooting zombies and fantasy games, The Khan likes Lego Batman… You get the idea. We jumped on the Wii and Wii Fit bandwagon early.  When Microsoft introduced the Kinect feature for XBox 360, I was intrigued.  So, like I usually do, I found a reason to get one.   Which is our preference?

Let’s start with the Wii.  The Wii has been around since late 2007.  At its inception, it was revolutionary for the interactive nature of the controllers.  You get to bowl in Wii Bowling, you can run around (literally) in some of the games.  I loved that it helped get the kids and grownups off the couch.  We have spent many happy hours playing our Wii.  Adding the Wii Fit and related games increased our family’s enjoyment.  The boys like the skiing, snowboarding, hula hoop and other active games.  I also like that our game cube games will work in the Wii and that for a few dollars, old school games like Metroid Prime and Super Mario World are downloadable.  Before Blu-ray, we streamed Netflix on the Wii as well.

Enter the XBox 360.  For years, I did not see the value of an XBox.  The games were 100% sedentary, very few games available for younger children and very few games I would allow the older kids to play.  Fast forward to last year and the introduction of the Kinect.  The Kinect is designed for interactive play with something akin to a webcam, but better.  The player’s movements are actually tracked by the Kinect device.  Your dance moves, your running and jumping, all of it.  You’re in the game which is fun to play and to watch.  It is also quite simple for younger players to master.

Highlights of the Wii:

Up to four players can play making it great for larger groups.

Interactive controllers including mats for dance and adventure games and the Wii Fit board.

Lots and lots of games targeted at younger players including educational games (I have been known to use the UDraw tablet to get the Khan to write his spelling words).

Proprietary game characters including Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong.

Classic games available for download.

Option to play some games online if you wish.

Drawbacks of the Wii:

For many of the active games – Zumba, Dance Party, etc. all players really have to do is shake the wiimote. This kind of defeats the purpose and makes the game significantly less fun.

Most serious gamers I know that play more complex games like FIFA, Call of Duty, Mass Effect do not like Wii controllers to play them on.

Multiple controllers required for a variety of games.  We have the UDraw, the Wii Fit Board, our old game cube controllers, classic controllers, the steering wheel for Mario Kart and the Active Life Explorer Mat along with several WiiMotes with and without Motion Plus.  Don’t get me started on Rock Band.

Highlights of XBox

Kinect device provides much better interaction between players and games.  You have to dance in dance games.  You have to run and jump if the game calls for it.

Netflix and Hulu are streamable on the XBox.  You  can also watch DVDs on the XBox.

Serious gamers prefer the XBox controller and graphics to those of the Wii.

XBox Live connects you to gamers worldwide including family and friends far away (or up the street, I guess).

Kinect games open up options for younger players that involve actual play rather than sedentary video game play.  Carnival Games and Wipeout are a couple that younger kids really like.

Drawbacks of XBox

Games are expensive.  That seems to be the trend, though.  New games are now around $60.  I remember when $40 was a lot.

Not a lot of traditional game offerings for younger players.  Nintendo seems to have this wrapped up.

So which do we prefer?  

An informal poll in the Sharp house, points to the Xbox as the favorite.  The Emperor highlights the Kinect options opening up a wide variety of games, better graphics and XBox Live.  I do love the  Wii, personally, but that is because of the variety of games we’ve acquired over the years.

In practice, we’re playing a roughly equal amount of both.  Mainly because of the variety of Wii games is larger than XBox at our home and more people can play Wii at once.  XBox, however, is a better choice if you’re playing games to get fit.  And comparatively, the Kinect is just more fun.

Wii is best for:  

Families with young children (age 4+).

Casual Game Players.

People who like Party Games:  Game Shows, Board Games, etc.

Families / Gamers who like to play in larger groups – up to 4 supported by Wii.

Gamers who appreciate the classic games available for download to the Wii.  Note:  If you don’t like Mario and Zelda, this might affect our relationship.

XBox is best for:

Families with slightly older children (age 6-7+) with Kinect.

People seriously intending to use a game console to get fit.

Serious gamers playing Role Playing Games and First Person Shooters.


Also consider which console your far away friends have.  If playing with them is a goal, you need the same console they own.  None of the big 3 are compatible with each other.


Disclosure:  I was not compensated in any way for this ifpost (I wish someone would pay me for my opinion!).   This is an honest comparison of products I own.

20 Minute Challenge Update

This week, I have been working on organizing paper after realizing (to my sheer horror) that I forgot to pay a bill on the 15th.  Grr…

So I have been putting our financial house in order with Mint.com.  For those of you unfamiliar with this free webservice, it is owned by Intuit, the company that owns Turbo Tax (my filing software for the last… oh forever, but there are other great free options if you need them – just ask) and Quicken.  I am a slightly disgruntled former Quicken user because Quicken went away when Intuit bought Mint.  But, Mint works.  But it’s not Quicken It works just fine.  It even works with my Po-dunk little bank and brings all our accounts under one roof.  Student Loans included.  Setting all that up was my 20 minutes this morning.  By twenty minutes, I mean an hour because I had forgotten all my logins and had to call to get them reset.  Fun.  Times.  (Question:  How do you track fifty different logins and passwords?  I try to keep them mostly the same but it’s just not always possible.  Leave me a tip in the comments?  PLEASE?)

Features of Mint include income and expense tracking, automatic updating of accounts when you log in and, of course, budgeting and goal-setting and tracking features.  I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll get an e-mail when you exceed your budget.  That being said, round up for your loan payments when you enter the budgeted amounts or Mint will round down and every single month you’ll be over budget.  It’s kind of annoying, but the work around is simple.  I just explained it.

Consolidating all our accounts in one place makes it easier to get a snapshot of our current situation.  Good thing.  I set up a goal for an emergency fund, a travel fund and our plan to pay cash for a house.  It even has a Debt Snowball Feature!  Look under Goals and select consolidate loans and/or consolidate credit cards as appropriate.  Thankfully, we don’t use credit cards so we don’t have that to worry about.  Just student loans.  Lots and lots of student loans.

So as it sits right now, I have organized our money so that DH and I can sit down and have a little chat about where we are, where we want to go and what we’re willing to do to get there.  Do you do that?  How often?  Are you on track?  We’re moving the right way, but I’d like to be moving a little faster.  I feel really strange having done this cleanup.  Light in some ways, heavy in others.  Honest here?  Every time I think about my student loans, I feel a little nauseated.  All that money and for what?  Now, to claroify, I don’t regret my education but I sure wish I wouldn’t have had to take on all that debt to finance it – especially the masters which I haven’t exactly leveraged since I got it.  I love learning, but dayum that cost a lot of money.

Is your financial house in order?  Did you ever have an awakening about your money?  How’d it go?  I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

One more question:  What’s a reasonable grocery budget for a family of six?  I am thinking about trying to keep it under my hubby’s BAS.  Am I nuts?