Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Today Brett is guest posting about our favorite board game in the world!

A few years ago, when C was a baby, I had the following dream. I was in a youth hostel in Vancouver B.C. watching a young Canadian woman with massive dreadlocks putting away dishes in a cramped kitchenette. I watched her for quite a while as the cups and plates kept popping back out at her from the overloaded cupboard.

Out of the blue, a young man with a shaven head and Northern European accent asked me, "Do you want to play The Princess Shell?" As I turned to face the man, he said, "It is the best game in the world."

I was startled and intrigued. "Uh, OK," I replied. At this, the man reached up to pull a large solid-wood game board off of a high bookshelf. With dramatic flair, he blew all the dust off the board before setting it before us on a low coffee table.

"These small tiles are called Secrets," he explained. "They are blown around the board by an Ever Present Wind. This one is the blind dog, this one is the liar's mask, and this one is called grandfather's axe...."

Unfortunately, at this point in the dream, my brain decided I'd had enough intrigue and pulled the plug. Even though it was 2:00 AM, I was too excited to fall back to sleep. With the dream fresh in my mind, I went into our office (now the children's bedroom) and started making notes. I knew I wanted to make The Princess Shell into a real board game, but I had no idea where to start. After I made a few sketches and notes I forced myself to go back to bed.

Over the last four years, I have worked on my game in fits and starts. Thanks to massive amounts of help from my family and friends, it has evolved into a very original and fun board game with clear, easy-to-learn rules. I named my game SHELL (the "Princess" part of the title was abandoned early on) and it is a game of strategy, memory and luck. I'm very happy with the game and ready for it to reach a larger audience.

If you are interested in following SHELL, please like it on facebook. If you have any questions, would like to order your very own handmade SHELL board game, or if you have connections or advice regarding the board game and/or computer/app industries (we are considering making it into an app) please email me at blackdragontea AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Day

We had a lovely, laid-back Thanksgiving Day. It's long been Brett's and my favorite holiday: food, family, gratitude--what could be better?

The promise of a feast wasn't as exciting for our (ahem) non-foodie four-year-old, so we decided to sweeten the deal with an activity that everyone could get behind: making "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers. (I briefly entertained the idea of baking homemade gingerbread for this purpose, but that was quickly shelved.)

This picture pretty much sums up D's approach:

(In summary: Spread icing on graham cracker. Eat. Nibble on candies. Repeat.)

C, on the other hand, was more serious about the task (though she had her fair share of goodies as well).

Later, C was responsible for making the centerpiece. We found a single daisy on our morning walk around the neighborhood, and D found a few choice rocks, which inspired C's design. Personally, I found it lovely (it reminds me of a beautiful Mary Oliver poem, which I thought I might read before we ate, but C, of course, rejected the idea).

At dinner, when each of us shared what we are thankful for, Brett and I expressed the usual grown-up thankfulness for our wonderful family, our sweet children, our good health, our warm home. C, old enough this year to fully participate in the ritual, came up with the following list of things for which she is thankful: Thanksgiving, blankets, heaters, doorknobs, and the roof of our house.

Then yesterday, she asked me, "Can we still be thankful for things today?"--a question that I loved. After assuring her that yes, we can--and should!--be thankful everyday, she said, "Okay, I'm thankful for earth, and sky, and... doorknobs," giggling.

Oh, we are fortunate indeed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This morning, I am thankful to be alone in a quiet house with a snoozy cat, a roasting pumpkin, and the 100,000 words of text that make up the first draft of my novel. I finished the first draft a week ago and only managed to wait two days before beginning the rewrite. I had thought that once I finished the first draft I'd finally be able to rest... but there is still much work to be done!

Today, Brett is working in C's classroom and D is staying with a friend, and so I work, adjusting plot and dialogue and words until this massive unwieldy thing becomes something worth reading!

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Meet Snowbox

For the past few months, our 10-year-old sedan has been on borrowed time, failing bit by bit. Reluctantly, we finally came to the decision that it was time to go car shopping.

On the afternoon of Election Day, after 4 hours, 2 red balloons, and about 50 almonds, we ended up as proud owners of a Scion xB. Though we both didn't initially love its boxy style, after the test drive, we knew it was a good fit for our family. It's nice to have a little more room without having a massive car, and I now find its quirky looks positively endearing.

We tried to decide what to name it, and C came up with the winning suggestion. So, I present to you, the latest addition to our clan: Snowbox!