Holiday Traditions

I grew up never really considering my family as having any holiday traditions. I just thought everything we did was pretty normal across the board for other families, at least Christian or Italian families.  (I never really embraced my British side until I got married and lost my Italian surname.)

Later, in my teens, we did start some traditions. On Labor Day and Memorial Day, we would play some sort of calm outdoor sport. Badminton, bocce ball, croquet; that sort of stuff.

Bocce ball. Credit: thedayofgames.com
Bocce ball. Credit: thedayofgames.com

However, now that I’ve been out of my parents’ house, and married for several years, I’ve discovered that everything we did was our holiday traditions.

Christmas Eve, Dad would dress up as Santa (we always knew it was him, and he knew it) and give us one present to open, and later he would read about the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke. When I was a kid, we’d all wake up the next morning and tear into all our presents. Mum took most of the pictures. After everything was opened Dad assembled the toys that needed it, and would likely realise he forgot to buy batteries.

Starting around the time my sister was born, we’d trek to Oklahoma to share Christmas with my maternal granddad. We joined him for every Christmas, Independence Day (his favourite American holiday), and starting with his 70th, his birthday, until he passed away in 2004.

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The first Christmas not going to visit Gampa felt weird. It was our only real Christmas tradition, in my eyes, and we’d have to figure out what to do now. It didn’t take long. As Bro and I got older, the presents we wanted got more expensive, so we didn’t have as many as our still young sister. We soon started going one at a time opening our presents.

Oh yeah, and before opening presents, we’d sing a few carols (all Christ-based, of course) and pray, thanking God for our provisions and the ability to celebrate Christmas with gifts.

Long story short (I know — too late), our current traditions (with Hubby’s family) are definitely blatant, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone takes turns playing Black Ops zombies on Christmas Eve as we await midnight.  That’s when we open presents, one at a time.  After presents, we stay up late (anywhere from 2-4 am) playing Apples to Apples, and maybe more zombies.

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Everyone’s favourite zombie map in Black Ops 2

What made me think of this topic is that this year will be different again. It’s the first Christmas without my father-in-law, as he passed away in May. It was already decided long before he died, but we’re all going to Dallas to spend Christmas at my brother-in-law’s house instead of Tulsa. While most things will remain the same, especially zombies, we’ve all also agreed that no one needs presents. Everyone’s getting them, of course, from at least one person, but we’re not making it a big deal.

This year, I’ve decided to celebrate my birthday on Christmas Day.  The only reason for this is that I want to celebrate it with the family, and that’s the only day we’re all guaranteed to be there.  I have ordered an epic cake :).  I think it’s epic, anyway, but not as epic as the one I almost ordered — a spherical cake that looks like Mars.  I was never fully set on that, so I changed it to something simpler that I know I will love, and so will others.  At least the gamers will.

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My Parents Are Married, Thank You

Having finished pretty much everything I can do in Skyrim and still have fun (including all of the add-ons), I finally, legitimately started a new character. (Any other time I’d started anew was because I just didn’t have my saved game for one reason or another — left my thumb drive at home, played at a friend’s house on a different console, etc.)

This time, my immediate plan was to be a Nord and marry Onmund from the College of Winterhold. When it came time to customise my character, I chose to be an Imperial. Why I made that change, I really have no idea. Many times since then, I’ve thought “Why in the world did I choose Imperial over Nord?”

During the Dark Brotherhood mission to “fix” a wedding problem between an Imperial and a Nord (really, the only reason I joined the Dark Brotherhood this time was to get the wedding outfit from this mission), one of the Nords in attendance called me an “Imperial b******.” I just walked away and said, “My parents are married, thank you!” (Though now that I’m writing about it, I think it’s coming back to me… It probably had something to do with the Thalmor/Stormcloak war, and since I wanted to side with the Empire this time I figured it would be easier for an Imperial to do so.)

Anyway, when I joined the College and soon met Onmund (as he’s an initiate at the same time), I started to reconsider him.  After being married to an Orc with my main character, Onmund just doesn’t seem like “my” type anymore.

After a few more hours of play, I finally found all the fire salts I needed for Balimund.  I was wearing my Amulet of Mara and we ended up engaged.  I was a little excited and immediately set out to get the wedding dress.

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Having my wedding outfit, I spoke with Maramal about setting up the wedding, then waited until the next morning for the guests and Balimund to arrive.  When he did, I froze.  Not the good sort of froze like being nervous about marrying or being overwhelmed by his good looks.  No, it was the bad sort of froze.  I’ve never been a fan of mustaches.  I say “grow it all or shave it all.”  (The “rules” for that aren’t strict; a goatee is perfectly fine — even a disconnected goatee, depending on the rest of his look.)  But the mustache on Balimund’s face…  It’s the worst kind.  It looks exactly like the mustache one of my uncles had all the way into the late 90’s, along with his mullet.  I have no idea why I hadn’t noticed it before Balimund and I got engaged!

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Actual shot from my game.

Call me shallow, but it traumatised me a bit and I called off the wedding.

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Actual shot from my game.

I would have felt worse about it, but I figured I might as well find out what would happen if I called off a wedding.  Maramal got mad and told me to leave, having betrayed the sanctity of marriage, or something like that.  Balimund was upset as well, of course.  But it seems like I’ll have no trouble being able to marry someone else.

So, my search continues.

Xbox One Revealed!

This entry will replace my usual Friday post for this week.  I’ll push that one ahead for next Friday.


I watched earlier today as Microsoft unveiled their third-generation Xbox — Xbox One.  While the name for the new console sounds cleaner, I think it seems too much like a reset.  I’m sure the name will grow on me, especially with how amazing this piece of technology is.

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The shape — again, not quite fond of it.  While the upgraded Xbox 360 was further curved and made sleek and shiny, the Xbox One is very boxy — the overall shape reminds me of the NES.  However, I am a fan of how clean it looks.  There are no buttons on the front; all you see is the nicely decorated slit for the disc drive and a black-and-white Xbox logo.  It also has sort of a checkerboard look with half-matte and half-gloss.

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The new Kinect is brilliant.  There are so many upgrades to this puppy!  It can now sense every movement: facial expressions, wrist twists, even your heartbeat!  Trouble with having enough lighting, or is there a lamp right in your face?  That’s no longer a problem.  The room can be bright or in total darkness and it’ll still see you perfectly!

Gaming with or without the Kinect will become a completely new experience with Xbox One.  The graphics are intense, the Kinect will bring new meaning to sports gaming, and with a constant internet connection you never have to wait for game updates to download before you play.  It’s always annoyed me that when I go to play a game I first have to download an update that takes forever.  Not anymore.  Live updates!

This isn’t just a gaming console upgrade; it’s a complete replacement of all of the boxes taking up space in your living room, minus the stereo system.  You can have your television service connected directly through Xbox One — it even has its own guide!

The voice commands and even movement options are fantastic.  There’s no longer a need for remotes, not even to turn it on.  “Xbox, on.”  Oh, hello, my Xbox is on and I’m already signed in.  No loading time!  “Xbox, movie.”  Star Trek resumes.  “Xbox, music.”  Maybe two seconds later, Deadmau5 comes through the speakers.  “Xbox, TV.”  Suddenly, you’re watching TV.

No.  Loading.  Time.

Snapping makes multitasking simple with Xbox One.  “Snap Internet Explorer.”  Watching sports?  Now you can see a live update of your fantasy team on your TV as you watch the game!  You can also Skype at the same time as watching television.  Movie night with your long-distance friends?  No problem!  Watching sports with fellow fantasy sports friends?  Again, not a problem!

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It seems so far that this console will not be backwards compatible (able to play Xbox and Xbox 360 games), but no official news from Microsoft yet.

The price has yet to be announced, and the release date is labeled “later this year.”  I fully expect to see Xbox One available for sale in the USA by, if not before, Black Friday.

More details about Xbox One will be released when E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) happens in three weeks.


A few sources for more information:

http://reviews.cnet.com/microsoft-xbox-one/

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/05/xbox-one/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/may/21/xbox-720-microsoft-reveal-console-live-blog

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/05/21/microsoft-reveals-xbox-one-entertainment-console/

The Beauty of a Lost Civilisation

Anyone who is a fan of The Elder Scrolls video game series must know who I’m talking about.  Also known as Dwarves (though not actually shorter than the average person), these are the Dwemer (meaning “Deep Elves” or “People of the Deep”).  They’re only mentioned in Oblivion, and I haven’t played Morrowind where they first appeared, but the remnants of their society are abundant in Skyrim.

I just noticed that the round towers look similar to the tip of the Doctor’s old sonic screwdriver!

We got this game as soon as it came out, but I never paid much attention to the Dwemer until recently.  I finally started to notice how beautiful are their architecture and technology.  Though I hardly ever trod there, Markarth has become one of my favourite cities because it was established in beautiful Dwemer ruins.  Though my house in The Pale is where I call home, I’m grateful to have Vlindrel Hall.  Markarth is also where I found my husband, Moth.  (I’ve considered moving the family there, but Moth insists that the kids are doing wonderfully living off the land and they’ll be great warriors someday because of it.)

A display in the Dwemer Museum in Markarth.

I don’t know what I like so much about it.  Is it that it’s like steampunk?  Is it the gorgeous contrast of a gold-coloured metal against gray stone?  (I would call it gold, but gold ingots are separate from Dwarven metal ingots; and the Dwarven ingots are slightly more orange.)  Is it the fact that they were so technologically advanced compared to the rest of Tamriel, and even though they’re long gone no one else has caught up yet?  Is it the mystery of a long-forgotten (though not really forgotten) race?  Yeah.  Probably all of that.

Though I don’t remember where it’s located, this puzzle is the most beautiful piece of Dwemer technology I’ve come across in the whole game.

One thing I have learned about their disappearance is that they didn’t really die off.  All but one vanished into thin air simultaneously — sort of like the Ancients of Stargate.  The man that didn’t was granted eternal life, but was plagued with constant pain from the Corpus disease (the disease itself is a whole long story).

Last time I played, as I roamed Mzulft again (if I remember the location correctly), I thought that I could unofficially live there.  I noticed others had — bedding and tents in a few places.  Seems I’m not the only one who finds Dwemer ruins beautiful enough to live in — and beautiful enough to deal with the little shocking spiders and other such protectors of the ruins.  (Little buggers.  I prefer melee to ranged, but darn it, it hurts when they explode with electricity!)

The most beautiful views are among the ruins WAY underground.

Oh, Dwemer…  When the Doctor takes me away in the TARDIS, the first time/place I want to go is one of your cities when it was bustling with life!  You gorgeous people, you!

We Are Family

As you may have concluded from my last post, I had my Skyrim character marry the Orc Moth gro-Bagol again.  I didn’t just go right out and do it, though.  I still searched for the Nordic options Onmund and Erik.  However, I couldn’t find either of them.  Not finding Onmund was understandable because the College of Winterhold is a big place.  However, Erik wasn’t at the small inn in the tiny town of Rorikstead.  I went back many times and searched all over the town as well as the inn, but he was nowhere to be seen.  I finally assumed that he was probably killed by a dragon, or something, earlier in the game and went to find Moth in Understone Keep in Markarth.

Not *my* wedding, but an image I googled.

This time, I went to Radiant Raiment in Solitude to look for something more suitable to wear for the wedding.  The best thing I found was college robes, but with a circlet I actually really liked it as a medieval-type wedding dress.  (And I preferred the way it looked on me to fine clothes or anything else.)

College robes and the jade and sapphire circlet worn at the wedding.

I was done, for now.  I wasn’t quite ready to choose a second child to adopt, because I always want to be sure I make the right choice.  I was on my way to a dock, going through Windhelm, when I was stopped by Sofie, a girl selling flowers.  I asked about her parents and she said that her mother had died and her father was a Stormcloak soldier who hadn’t come home.  So, I bought some of her flowers and asked if I could adopt her.  She was so excited.  I gladly did so and she went to pack her things and said she’d meet me at our house.  I happily skipped off to finish my current quest, knowing that it was probably the best impromptu decision I’d made in the game.

Sofie, selling flowers in Windhelm.

Finally, my happy family is complete.  There’s me; my husband, Moth; my daughters, Dorthe and Sofie; and Dorthe’s little fox.  Not to mention my housecarls, the followers I’ve had (currently Kharjo the Khajiit), my bard (which, I wish a housecarl would actually hire a male bard because the female bards always sing out of tune!), and my outside animals.

Me on my horse with Kharjo looking on.
(Left to right:) Sofie and Dorthe

Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures I, personally, took.  I play on the xbox, so there’s no way to get actual screenshots.

Wood Elves Marry, Too…

I can’t believe that Skyrim has only been out for about ten-and-a-half months!  It seems like much longer.  Though I did take a break from it for a short while, the release of the add-ons has got me playing it a whole lot more again.  Hearthfire is the best 400MP ($4.99) I’ve ever spent!

I’ve known about the possibility of marriage in the game since it came out.  Though I did decide early on that I hoped to have my character marry a bard, I was never interested in it enough to pursue the goal of marriage until recently.  I mean, my daughter should have a father, right?

So, my decision to explore this part of the game was sparked in my quest with the Stormcloaks, after the battle in Whiterun when Jarl Ulfric was talking with Jarl Balgruuf.  I happened to notice Ralof there and thought he could be a good man for my character (probably what sparked the dream I had a few posts ago).  I figured that since he plays a big role in the game, he wouldn’t be “available,” and I was right.  (Though there is a mod that will allow you to marry NPCs that you normally can’t, but I didn’t feel like doing all that.  Ralof isn’t THAT worth it :oP.)

Ralof

I did start the quest, and kept my Amulet of Mara equipped while I did other quests in case I came across a possible good mate for my character, the Wood Elf, Amaryllis.  I got tired of that, and finally looked up all males in the game that are “marry-able.”  I’d already known about Argis, because he’s my housecarl in Markarth and expressed interest in me.  Even though he’s a bit freaky-looking, I kept him as a possibility because he’s a Nord with shoulder-length hair and a goatee.

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Argis the Bulwark

I also have really been wanting to become a Blood-Kin to the Orc people, because I’m so gosh darn curious as to what goes on in their strongholds.  I thought about the possibility of marrying an Orc to hopefully make that a piece of cake.  I did end up trying that, marrying Moth gro-Bagol, a blacksmith in Understone Keep. I wore my Arch Mage’s Robe for the ceremony and decided that we’d live in the home I built in The Pale, where Dorthe is anyway.  I was a Wood Elf married to an Orc with a Nord for a daughter, haha.  And a pet fox.  Can’t forget that pet fox.

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Moth gro-Bagol

After Moth made me Blood-Kin and I went to an Orc Stronghold, I realised that I had already mostly completed a quest to become Blood-Kin — I just had to talk to the guy to finish it off.  So, I loaded my saved game before Moth and Amaryllis got engaged and completed that quest again so I could be an Orc Blood-Kin and still get a Nordic husband.

I’m still considering to which Nord out of my three picks I would like Amaryllis to marry, but am now actually starting to miss Moth.  Hey, I’d already married the guy and had grown a bit attached to him in the few minutes that we were actually wed.

After finding this picture of Erik the Slayer (much different from previous one I’d seen), I think he’s my Nord choice, but I’ll still show you the third option I’d had for Amaryllis — Onmund, from the College of Winterhold.

Erik the Slayer
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Onmund

Though Erik is a great choice (buff Nord with a goatee and shoulder-length RED HAIR), I’m now torn between him and Moth.  For an Orc, Moth was very loving to Amaryllis whenever he spoke to her, which is what really brings this dilemma.  Call me girly if you will, but it’s almost like choosing between a guy you’ve dated who was really good to you and a guy that looks good and you know is really nice.  (His personality description says he “has a cheerful disposition, often commenting on stories of adventure while living in the house of your choice after marriage.”)  Whoa.  When you put it that way, I think that decides it…

I think I’m going to go find “the one who got away.”  Haha.

Fandom Dreams

I woke up normally today and made Hubby his lunch before he left for work. After reading in bed for about 45 minutes, I was in a curl-up-in-a-ball mood. Naturally, I fell back asleep doing so completely under the covers. I woke up again at 11.30 (about four hours later), but not before having one of the best dreams I’ve had in a long time. It involved the video game Skyrim, the TV show Eureka, a bit of Thor, and of course real life.

I wasn’t actually *me* for most of the dream; just the real life and parade parts.


It started with me playing Skyrim, but I was my character instead of actually me playing. I came across an awesome half-sunken building (I don’t remember what the inside looked like, but the outside seemed Dwemer) in a huge pond that was waist deep. (This ended up being my house.) There was a male Nord character there with shoulder-length hair and a braid and when I spoke with him he mentioned my Amulet of Mara and I thought, “Finally! Someone who seems worthy to marry my character!” So they got married, and I had her tell him she wanted to be a mother, so they took care of that in the pond; this part was all completely hidden and more implied, like The Sims or even Fable without the noises. (What was weird was you needed four people to be able to get pregnant, but I just completely ignored those random characters that showed up.)

In the next part, I (still my Skyrim character) was in a Suburban-type vehicle with Allison, Fargo, and two other people (I think Henry and a mix of Carter and some old guy) from Eureka, and Allison and I were both very pregnant. We’d just stopped at a gas station and everyone got out while the driver (Carter) got the vehicle situated at the pump (big vehicle pulling a large trailer and pushing a small car). When he was finally done, I went to the pump since there were a lot of large surrounding objects, because for some reason part of me wanted to hide my pregnancy. Henry was closest to me and some kind of short conversation occurred, then my pregnancy came up and he asked what happened. It came out then. Apparently, I (still my Skyrim character) had had a boyfriend in Eureka and when he went missing (the word used in my dream, but he had died) I ran away to Skyrim and it was the next day that I’d found a husband there.

Another part of the dream, sadly forgotten, happened here that involving some guy being after me for some reason, I think involving the baby. I want to say the way he looked physically was most like a Dark Elf, but I’m not sure that he was a Skyrim character.

In the next part, still pregnant, I was at the top of a short cliff (about 50 feet or so), and a battle was going on below involving Nords. There was a lot of brush and trees at the bottom of the cliff and one dead, but hearty, branch lead up to the top. Suddenly, I saw my Nord husband climbing up, seemingly wounded but maybe just needing rescue. He could almost make it to the top, but he stopped and reached up his hand; the expression on his face was like he was going to die if he didn’t make it to the top. I reached back, when suddenly Thor was next to me, also reaching back and shouting, “Father!!” (It’s so funny thinking about that part because it’s like a cheesy movie where a guy is in agony because he can’t save his dad from drowning in an obviously shallow pool of water. It also wasn’t Odin; he just happened to be Thor’s dad.) Then, my thought was, “OMG, I married a king?!”

Next, it was fairly dark outside and a parade was going on. I (finally actually starting to be real me; it was like a short morphing process at this point) was just coming up to it and saw a couple advertising floats (I remember the giant inflatable Lowe’s logo). Then, I was part of the crowd, but we were moving and couldn’t even see the parade (or maybe I just didn’t care) and it seemed more like we were inside a blimp-like float. Hubby and I were sitting, talking to Fargo and someone else in front of us, there was a camera guy standing to my left, and Joe* (main sound man at our church back home) was walking around overseeing things. (Hmm… So maybe I was in the control room instead of the crowd.) In the conversation, something came up where we said we weren’t having kids. Not long afterwards, Hubby referred to Mark* and Steph* (our favourite couple friends) as something like “the keepers of our children” and Fargo was all confused and said, “I thought you guys didn’t want kids.” We laughed and I explained who Mark* and Steph* were and that we call their girls our kids. He didn’t get it, and you could tell by the goofy expression on his face.

*Real life names have been changed for protection purposes.


Sadly, that was the end of my awesome dream. If you didn’t think it was awesome, that doesn’t matter to me; I frickin’ loved it! Any dream that involves a lot of Skyrim… plus a Marvel character andthe TV programme I’m into at the moment… is alright with me!

Oh, and needless to say, but I’m going to anyway, I was really in the mood to play Skyrim today, which I did for maybe five hours. I didn’t find a suitable spouse for my character, but I bought land for a second build-able house and my daughter (Dorthe) brought home a pet fox. And I also defeated the Imperials… you know, in my spare time… ;o)

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This is not actually my character — just a picture I googled.