Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

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HomeBrew Dad


a blog about making all sorts of things while raising a large family

Review: Small World, a Board Game from Days of Wonder

Playing Small World
Playing Small World around our dining room table


Nearly two years ago, Noah got a board game for Christmas that looked like it could be a lot of fun - and also looked like it could be pretty confusing. That latter part meant that Donna and I kept saying "we need to play that game soon"... but soon kept never happening.

Yeah, you may have heard a similar story before. Shame on us!

This time around, the game in question was Small World, by Days of Wonder (who you may recognize as the publisher of the incredibly popular "Ticket to Ride" games). In retrospect, we should have cracked this thing open a long time ago.

Small World, by Days of Wonder
Image courtesy of Amazon

 

Small World is a conquest type game for ages eight and up. The game is designed for two to five players, and a typical game is probably going to last from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half. Our first play through was a little slow, but that had more to do with us figuring things out than anything else; I expect that future iterations will be quicker.

The basic idea is that you take control of one of fourteen fantasy races (humans, elves, trolls, dwarves, and so on) that have one of twenty special powers. Both the races and special powers are shuffled, then combined for the current game - and are limited to six choices at any given time - so no two games will set up exactly the same way.

Unlike the typical strategy games where you might build armies or whatnot, you start with an allotment of your people when you first choose them - and unless there are...

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Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Reviewing Cash Back Shopping Apps

Three hundred dollars of actual cash back from purchases I was already making, anyway. That is where I stand today with Ibotta, a little money saving app that has really changed how I approach grocery shopping.

On Facebook, I've been sharing my excitement of late regarding various little money saving apps and such, and it occurs to me that while I'll certainly keep sending out little bumps to Facebook now and then... I really ought to take the time to make a real blog post about my success with them - and how to take advantage of them.

As always, I need to give credit where it is due - if not for my wife, Donna, I'd have never discovered this topic in the first place. And I should confess that she tried to get me interested in these things several times before I finally stopped procrastinating and installed Ibotta back in February. I decided to use it as a fun way to do a little extra saving for our Disney World trip next year, but I am really surprised at just how quickly some of this stuff can add up... and man, am I kicking myself for not listening to her sooner!

About a month ago, Donna sent me an invitation to a Disney World savings group on Facebook, and they turned me on to some other apps (which again, full disclosure, she had mentioned some of to me already). I got...

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Tags for this post: Budgeting

Installing a Pegboard Nerf Wall to Bring Order to Our House

It may come as a shock to you, but in my house, space comes at a premium. We are absolutely not one of those minimalist families that severely caps the number of toys that their kids may own. The kids love that, but it can cause obvious issues.

With three boys of the ideal age range for them, we happen to own a stunning amount and variety of Nerf guns. While this provides a lot of fun for them (and the neighborhood kids), the fact is, Nerf guns take up a TON of space; we had filled a toy box and a couple of storage buckets, and still had them scattered around the house.

After my wife saw some Nerf pegboard organizer projects online, we decided that we needed to tackle this ourselves.

Originally, we had looked at converting one end of the playroom in the basement to a Nerf wall. However, it occurred to my wife that we have a pretty wide set of stairs leading down to the basement, and that this space is utterly unused - with little potential for anything "useful". If we used the stairwell, we would basically be creating space from nothing.

As it turns out, this is one of the easiest home improvement projects that you might choose to undertake. My supply list was super simple.

  • Four 4' x 4' sheets of pegboard from Lowes
  • 2" drywall screws
  • 5/16" washers
  • 1" x 2" furring strips
  • Various pegs and...
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Tags for this post: DIY, Home Improvement

Canker Sores... How to Prevent and Treat These Nasty Things

Canker sores - also known as mouth ulcers - suck.

There is no polite way to phrase that. These horrible sores pop up in your mouth - most often on your gums, inside of your lips, and tongue - and cause days of unending pain. To make matters worse, lots of people (like myself) seldom get one such sore; they tend to come in twos and threes and fives.

To clarify - this post is NOT about cold sores (the type that show up on the outside of your lip), but about canker sores that form inside of your mouth. Also, please note that I am not a medical professional, do not play one on TV, and am speaking simply from personal experience. Keep that in mind as you consider my words.

I've seen all sorts of suggestions for why these sores pop up, but one thing that pretty much every source agrees on is this - there is no actual cure for them.

However, there are ways to both treat and help prevent getting canker sores. I have tried so many methods over the years, but have finally found some pretty reliable approaches. I've tried various medications, home remedies of all sorts (yes, a match head pressed into the wound hurts incredibly bad, but does little to improve it), ointments... you name it. I won't claim that I have any magical secrets that will work for everyone, but I can say that...

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Tags for this post: Health

Baseball Teaches Life Lessons

Youth baseball. Cheering, screaming, and blind umpires that obviously have it out for your team. Snack duty, fighting a losing battle to get red ballpark dirt out of those pants, and practice, practice, practice. The pride of knowing that is your child who just made that play, the agony of sharing their mistakes and losses.

 

Noah running for home


For the past sixteen years, I have been involved in coaching Dixie Youth baseball in some capacity, from leagues ranging from tee ball to teenagers and back again. As my seventeenth such season comes to a close, it felt apropos to dive into my motivations behind donating my time and effort again and again.

Don't get me wrong. Like virtually every such parent, I do this to be involved in my kids' lives - I have now had four boys play the game. It doesn't hurt that I love the sport of baseball, and that I enjoy teaching fundamentals and skills. I enjoy being around kids and working with them (more or less a necessary trait in someone with as large of a family as I have). But more than X's and O's, more than the love of the game, more than just any excuse to spend time with them, I also happen to strongly believe that baseball is a great teacher of life lessons.

Disclaimer: I am well aware that most of the points that I make about baseball...

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Tags for this post: Parenting

Teaching My Sons to Be Real Men

Silas the pirate
Why can't life stay this simple?



A week or so ago, I was driving my seven year old son, Silas, to baseball. We were talking about this and that, as usual, when he mentioned to me that he had found something he liked, but didn't know how I would feel about it. I reassured him that I was sure that I would be fine with it, so he explained to me that it was a new game he had installed on his tablet... where the point was taking care of little "cute" animals. Feeding them, bathing them, playing with them, giving them different toys or looks, and so on.

My first reaction was to laugh - not at him, but at the idea that I would have a problem with that. After all, I *am* the guy who blogs about sewing burp cloths, baby blankets, and sleeping bags for dolls. I'm the grown man that ranks getting his photo taken with Friar Tuck at Disney World as a true "magical moment" of his life. Had he forgotten who he was dealing with?

But as we talked, it became clear that he was worried that liking something like this would be too "girly", that it wasn't "tough enough", that it would be received as a fault in his character. Realizing that made me a little sad.

This is a kid who will sacrifice his body to lay out to stop a...

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Tags for this post: Parenting

Corn Dogs and Capri Suns, or, Emotions Following a Traumatic Birth

I want to admit that I have been really struggling of late. It may be shallow or foolish for me to feel this way, given how good Donna and Kalani are doing... but mentally and emotionally, it has been really tough on me.

We had these months of worry of whether they would even survive or not. Listening to the doctors say again and again about how her condition was "life threatening", and us looking at the mortality rates for moms with placenta accreta. All of the side effects that could come from a surgery that would remove her uterus and part of her bladder - pain, diminished quality of life, forced menopause, and on and on. Donna making me promise this or that in case she didn't survive... up to and including her demanding that I promise to perform an emergency c section in the event that she had a serious bleed (as it had been spelled out to us that she would almost certainly not survive long enough for us to get her to the hospital). There are youtube videos, she told me, instructing me that I had to hurry, that there would be nothing I could do for her, but that I could not let the baby die. I was to take my pocket knife, cut down from the belly button, only cut through the thick white layer so as to not hurt the baby, pull the baby out, dry it, wrap in a new towel...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

How to Sew Baby Burp Cloths

Babies spit up. This is a fact of life as inevitable as death and taxes. Obviously, most of us would prefer that the freshly regurgitated stomach contents of our precious little ones to NOT go directly onto our clothing, hence the creation of the burp cloth.

While you can of course use a tee shirt, towel, or receiving blanket for the job, it's always nice to have a tool specifically designed for a given task, and burp cloths are no exception to that rule. Naturally, there are many places that you can purchase attractive burp cloths, but you can make them yourself for less than two dollars apiece with even the most novice level sewing skills. Since baby number nine will be here in less than a month, I have started making some of these to prepare for her; read on to see how it works.

The supplies you need
The needed supplies are very simple.

All you need, supply wise, is a plain white cloth diaper and some scrap fabric. Cloth diapers come in packs of ten for just over a dollar each. I used fat quarters of cotton fabric for my burp cloths; these cost a dollar or less, and can be found at any craft or fabric store; these came from the fabric department of my local Wal Mart. With that said, feel free to raid your scrap bag or scrap drawer, as any piece that...

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Tags for this post: Sewing

Review: Cat-tastrophe!, a Game from Imagination Generation

This past Christmas, Wynter (my four year old) had several board games on her Christmas list. All told, I think that she made some good choices; I'll eventually get to all of them.

Today, however, we are going to focus on Cat-tastrophe!, a game by Imagination Generation.

As for the basics - this is a game for two to four players; the recommended ages on the box are five and up. With that said, my girls (ages three and four) had zero problems understanding or playing the game, and they both enjoyed it a lot - as did my seven year old and eleven year old sons.

Elowyn plays for keeps
Elowyn (age three) plays for keeps.

The concept is very simple. A kitty cat is stuck at the top of a tree, and it's your job to get her down. The "tree" consists of a stack of little colored wooden dowels painted to resemble tree branches and leaves. Each player takes turns using a thinner dowel to push their chosen piece out of the pile. If the pile crashes and the kitty falls to the ground, you lose.

You can do a more advanced version of the game, as well, that tallies points as you go... but the base game is a simple variation on Jenga, and it works.

The craftsmanship for the game is excellent. All of the pieces are solid wood,... Read More
Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Holiday Beards and Self Esteem

I wear a beard. For most of the year, I keep it very short, but a couple of years ago, Donna made the mistake of showing me some online photos of guys decorating their beards with ornaments for Christmas. Now, I absolutely love the Christmas season; I love decorating, I love getting into the holiday spirit... and truth be told, I am certainly the biggest kid in our house. Much to my wife's surprise (and truth be told, dismay), I grew my beard out, bought some tiny ornaments, and hung them in and off of my glasses. It was a hit - I had people telling me how much they loved it, even stopping to take selfies with me at the mall on Black Friday. I even took them with us on our trip to Disney World, and when we attended the Christmas Party there, I wore them. That night, I had three different cast members in the parade stop and point me out, and got a ton positive feedback from people there. On our way back to the hotel, Donna looked at me and observed that it was over, that I was going to do this every year, wasn't I?

The answer was a resounding "of course!".

ornaments in beard
Who wouldn't want to look this festively awesome?

 

The thing is, Donna hates it when my beard is long, so I get up on December 26th and trim it back down...

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Tags for this post: Family Life
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