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The Art of Cooking

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Recipes paper the tiled countertop, ingredients having been banished to the kitchen table hours ago. “Best Ever Vegan Quinoa Chili,” “Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili,” “One Pot Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.” I had already dissected each prescription several times, yet I choose to examine them once more because I have convinced myself that I must know—I must know the exact recipe before I begin. Never mind the fact that I had already discounted each for one reason or another. Nonetheless, I sift through the wrinkled pages one last time, hoping for my light bulb moment, but my fingers simply cannot find that dangling chain in the darkness.

Growing weary, I finally succumb to the lack of certainty and begin. Setting the recipes aside and restoring the ingredients to their rightful place, I carefully pare and dice the sweet potatoes, skillfully mince a few cloves of garlic—in my food processor, and quickly chop a single onion before it can render me blind. Into my four-quart pot,…

GMing for Fun and Profit

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Sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, you just might not be able to play in a game. There can be any number of reasons for this, but there is one solution that is guaranteed to solve the problem. Start your own game as the GM. This is much easier than it sounds, however it is a lot more time consuming.

First things first, what does it mean to be a GM? Well, being a GM consists of three parts: being a player, being a storyteller, and being a referee. While TRPGs are a collaborative effort, the GM is the driving force behind the game, as well as the person who keeps things running smoothly. The GM plays the game alongside the players, but being the storyteller, must switch between adversarial and sympathetic roles as needed. As the storyteller, the GM must come up with the overall plot as well as the encounters that will challenge the group - with all the prep work that implies. As the referee, the GM should know the rules of the …

TrashedArt at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch – Part 2

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April marks the 11th Annual TrashedArt Contest at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch - Remake, Reuse and Renew the items you would recycle or throw in the trash into something unique and beautiful and rethink the usefulness of garbage. This year is our first virtual contest - the artwork is displayed from April 29 through May 15 on the Mercer County Library System website where everyone can vote for their favorite. For more information, please visit the TrashedArt page.
For our second series of interviews of former TrashedArt winners, the library has spoken with Michele Ben-Asher and Connie Cruser.

Hello Ms. Ben-Asher. Thank you for speaking with us today about your TrashedArt experiences. The library and many of our patrons are very excited about the contest, and we are thrilled to have you back to participate. How did you come to learn about TrashedArt?

I first saw TrashedArt when I went to the Lawrence Library to teach a Literacy class. Since then, I have participated in TrashedAr…

Etiquette and Advice

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This, week we'll go over some etiquette and advice. I don't think I need to go into basic etiquette, it's just common sense - don't do anything you wouldn't do at a friend’s house and don't be a jerk (or “That Guy” as the community says). I'll be giving you a few bits of etiquette specific to gaming and some of the more important advice.
Etiquette: Rule Disputes - Inevitably it will happen that a rule is either forgotten, or perhaps the wording is vague - regardless, play has come to a halt while the ruling is resolved. If the rule in question specifically pertains to your character or is one that will come up often, have it open in a new tab, or bookmarked in the PDF or actual rule book. This will save a lot of time for everyone. However, as can be the case with vague wording, it will require additional research. In this case, the GM will likely make a judgment call to get the game flowing again. Wh…

Wildlife in Your Backyard, More Than Meets the Eye

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Do you ever wonder about the secret lives of the animals that live in your backyard? Rabbits, squirrels, foxes, and chipmunks all live in our neighborhoods, yet most of us know very little about them. Like almost everyone else who lives in the suburbs, my backyard is frequently visited by squirrels. I naturally became curious about them and found 11 Bushy-Tailed Facts About Eastern Gray Squirrels which explains some interesting aspects of their behavior, how long they live (up to 12 years in the wild), how they communicate (like wagging their tails), how they make nests, etc.
In addition to squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks have been long-time visitors to my backyard. I will usually see rabbits only at dawn and dusk. Chipmunks seem to pop up at all times of day, but they don't stay visible long. I try to be very still while watching, for at even the slightest movement they will bolt back to their holes. All about the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit and 10 Things You Don't Know about …

Exercise While At Home With Us

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Finding the time and different ways to get exercise is never easy.

Finding time and different ways to exercise during COVID-19 is another challenge all together.

While time may or may not be as much of an issue as it had been for some people, finding different ways to get exercise has become much tougher. The gyms are closed, the pools are closed, and most parks are closed. In addition, we’re all practicing social distancing, so getting together for a game of basketball in the driveway or at the local playground is out of the question.

The top forms of exercise I’ve partaken in and noticed others around the neighborhood doing during these past few weeks of being sheltered in place have been walking and running. Depending on where you live and what access you have available to walking and running routes, these two forms of exercise can get old pretty fast.

One positive note is that, in all this walking, we’ve seen so many families outside together - walking, bike riding and playing in …

The Heart of the Matter

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Now to the main event, finding a group. This can seem like a difficult and daunting task but, thanks to the internet, is easier than ever to accomplish. Gamers have taken to social media like fish to water and no matter the locale, it is possible to find a game.

Now while sites like Facebook and Meetup do have active communities of gamers, a number of dedicated sites exist that handle the needs of the community somewhat better. In general, I would first look to the website of a games publisher, as they will almost always have forums and it will be easier to find groups related to a specific game. Oddly enough, Dungeons and Dragons does not have a forum, they have locators for Adventures leagues, but for non-league games dndbeyond is your best bet. In addition to having active communities, both Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds have programs to set up and play games. Moving on from the more official and officially associated sources - a…

Solo Board Games

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A few years back I wrote a blog post about a subgenre of tabletop games known as cooperative board games. As the name implies, these are games where players work together to succeed, instead of competing against one another. The challenge and randomness comes from each game’s rules and mechanics, where things like drawing cards from a deck or rolling dice create competition between the players and the game.

At that time, I was just getting into tabletop and board games and was especially new to the idea of co-op games. Since then, I have discovered another exciting subgenre of board games: the solo game.

Solo gaming, sometimes referred to as solitaire play, is simply playing a game by yourself. This may seem common when you think about PC or video games or even some outdoor activities like golf. However, for many, board games conjure up images of friends and family, gathered around a table and enjoying each other's company. This is probably due to the fact that many mainstream b…

There’s A Book for That…

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A variety of topics flew through my mind when writing this blog post, but I settled on one that I felt could be interesting and helpful to kids during the unprecedented time we find ourselves in. In this post, I will explore a handful of middle grade books that take us away from the uncertainty of our current situation and bring us into new or different places, worlds, or times.

With our reality being turned upside-down, seemingly overnight, I felt overwhelmed almost instantly. My routine and all senses of “normal” had basically vanished. I no longer was going to work or seeing friends and my kids were not going to school or participating in any of their activities. I always turn to a book to sort out my feelings or learn how to handle new experiences. I want to connect with a character who knows what I am going through or who can provide me with a way to escape my current reality and let me see the world through his/her eyes.

I know that adults have been dealing with a lot of new chal…

Tabletop Role Playing Games

Week 2: The Games We Play
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Now let's take a moment to talk a little more in depth about the actual games. There are myriad games out there, each with their own system. But, many are run using the same system and right now we'll discuss the three most popular types.
The d20 System: Arguably the most used. This system is simple - roll a twenty-sided die, and add all relevant modifiers. If the number is the same as or beats a static challenge number, then you succeed at the task. If you are doing an action which is directly opposed, say trying to knock an opponent prone, than both sides roll and whomever has the higher number wins.
Percentile System: Abilities and skills are all based on a number from 0% – 100%. The higher the number, the easier the skill is to use. Using two ten-sided dice, you roll and try to get equal to or under your skill or attribute number. The system uses a degrees-of-success mechanic wherein the inc…