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Square Up

I never know what our favorite game of the season will be--(see earlier Qwirkle post on our tradition of giving one great game every Christmas). I got the idea to give Blokus to my daughter this year because of my partner JC's rave review of it on this blog. And it's already risen to the position of most favorite classic Christmas game. My family was the first to leave the homestead after the Christmas holiday and my sister's family remained at my parents' house and they searched several different stores to find their own Blokus (since we brought ours home)--proving what a hit it was. The other game though that came through this year was this little game my mother gave my daughter. It's called Square Up and it's a colored version of those little sliding numbers games I always used to play when I was younger. Remember the scrambled numbers with the one empty slot? And you had to use your thumbs to move them back into the right position? And there was always that terrible moment where you had to undo a perfectly good row to help another row of numbers come into place? Well if you loved that you'll love Square Up. It comes with two large boards with removable colored tile--(this just makes them super-easy to slide around, removing them is not part of the play)--but the fun part is the little Boggle-style shakers with the nine squares in them. The brilliant part is that the plastic lids are fused on so you'll never lose the little crucial squares. You shake the Boggle-style shaker, then play alone or compete with another player to slide the tiles around to match the order of the colors in the shaker. The part that makes it easy-ish is that you're only working to match your middle nine. We particularly enjoy slamming down the see-through plastic lid to announce that we've finished first. And of course we've alreayd discovered that even if you're completely lost it drives your opponent crazy to just move tiles around quickly and noisily--because it makes them think that you're cruising through it effortlessly (even if the purple you need is all the way on the other side of the board). This is a great game for two people and a nice palette cleanser after the more brain-tiring Blokus game. It's been a good year for games in our family.




Every year I've tried to give one great game to my family for Christmas. A favorite that comes to mind was a great (possibly discontinued?) game called Picture, Picture-where people stare at the same large image (cluttered candy shops, rural fishing scenes, etc.) and are challenged to find one thing beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Of course we are huge game players and someone always manages to push the limits of what's acceptable and then we'd end up in knock-down-drag-out fights and challenges (v=virgin seem to be pushing it, but you can't imagine the arguments that would ensue!). I used to give the games to my parents--and then they'd become 'house games' that would be pulled out whenever we'd all be together. Now that I have kids, I try to give one great game to them every year (my middle child being the typical recipient since she craves the most together time and board games always ensure that). Two or three Christmases ago my big game discovery was Qwirkle. A beautiful game with wooden tiles and symbols--that you align like a picture version of Scrabble--each row has to contain the same color in different shapes or the same shapes in different colors. Of course it didn't take us long to figure out a way to bend the rows to maximize points--but we all know the trick so no one has a distinct advantage. The game became so popular that my mother recently tracked it down to add to her collection of house games, so that even though the original version lives with us in Brooklyn, it'll always be handy when we go visit them. The newer version comes with a cloth bag to keep the tiles in--turning it into a travel game of sorts? It's a true family favorite.



American Apparel Interlock High Waist Skirt

I remember an ad for a shoe when I was growing up--the jingle went 'looks like a pump, feels like a sneaker.' I don't remember which shoe was being advertised, because I didn't need anything to 'look like a pump' in those days. Now that I'm teaching at a fancy Upper East Side school, however, I need everything to look kind of fancy and yet if there isn't that 'feels like a sneaker' quality to an item of clothing it won't work for me. That's where the American Apparel interlock high-waist skirt comes in. Everything from American Apparel feels soft and comfortable, but this particular item is classic enough to fly at work. A long A-line skirt--with a high waist that conveniently covers all my trusty Spanx undergarments--it comes in lots colors, and some even have fun contrasting stitching and/or differently colored waistbands. I have asphalt, brown (with a pink waist band), navy blue, and black (with pink stitches). And every time I walk by an American Apparel store I duck in to see if another color might enhance my wardrobe. The cotton is thick and structured, a step nicer than sweatshirt material. I've had my brown and pink one for several years now and it's holding up beautifully. These skirts are so comfortable I wear them on days off as well.