Two murder mystery games to try out at your Halloween party

By Sherry Dryja

With Halloween around the corner, many of you may be looking for an excuse to throw a costume party. Why not add a layer of hilarity by making it a murder mystery party too? For tips on hosting a murder mystery party, check out my article about FreeForm Games.

Murder Mystery party guests dressed as flappers for a FreeForms Game

Murder Mystery parties can bring out the flapper in everyone–even the dog! (Excuse the red-eye!)

If you’re looking for a game more centered around a dinner table, but which gets your guests in costume and character, try Daggerville games. Although I have not tested these games myself, they do look like fun and they appear to be fairly easy to organize.

Also, if you’re a blogger, and you’re interested in doing a review for Daggerville, email Martin at info@daggerville.com.

___________________________________________________

Sherry Dryja is a life-long seeker and experimenter, a bit of a nomad, and a taster of life. She is the editor and a senior contributor for this blog, Jet Planes and Coffee. She also writes the cooking blog, Kitchen Dilettanteand has contributed articles to the magazine and website of Beer Connoisseur.

Lake Havasu City converts desert dust to tourist gold

Upon first arriving in Lake Havasu City, it seemed like any other dusty desert town in Arizona, in need of a good hose-down and a fresh coat of paint. The town was incorporated in the early 70s and it looked like it hadn’t been touched since.

But first impressions are often wrong and this one definitely was. Just below that dusty surface is a whole treasure of experiences to be had.

For starters, there’s the London Bridge. You read that correctly. Lake Havasu City is the proud owner of the original London Bridge. It was brought brick by brick from London to Lake Havasu by Robert P. McCulloch, a chainsaw magnate and the town’s founder, to act as a draw for tourism–and it worked! There are boat tours, walking tours, and Segway tours, all based around the bridge as a focal point.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu Arizona

The London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

We were there to walk the 5K in the annual London Bridge Half-Marathon and 5K. The race trail took us over the bridge twice and we got to see other parts of town as well.

London Bridge Half Marathon and 5K

Team Dryja ready to walk the London Bridge 5K!

The lake is what really brings people to the area, though. It is a big boating community, so you can bring your own, rent one, or take a tour on one. We were told by several locals that Lake Havasu is the second-most visited place in Arizona, thanks to the lake. The Grand Canyon is the first, of course. But for the lake, the bridge probably wouldn’t be there either. It is a reservoir lake, made up of water from the Colorado River which is contained by the Parker Dam.

Since the water is why people visit the area, most of the activities revolve around it, but boating isn’t the only way to experience it. There are hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, and ultralight aircraft tours. Hikers can explore the surrounding hills. Gamblers can check out the casinos. Campers can roll out their tents and sleeping bags in one of the campsites dotting the lake. If you like lighthouses, take a tour that points out the many replicas of North American lighthouses around the lake. There’s lots to do.

Lake Havasu lighthouses

Lake Havasu is dotted by replicas of lighthouses that can be found in their original forms in other parts of the world.

Did you know that this town of just over 50,000 people is also home to three pretty spectacular breweries? One of our favorite things to do while in Lake Havasu City was the brewery tour we took through Arizona Brewery Tours. Mike Moreno, Regional Salesman for Northern Arizona at College Street Brewerhouse and Pub was our tour guide. He made us feel like VIPs as we rolled from brewery to brewery in our private SUV. Mudshark, Barley Brothers, and College Street all made us feel like honored guests as the owners and brewmasters shared their stories, served tastings of their current offerings, and showed us where the magic happens.

Beer tastings at Mudshark Brewery

Just six of the 14 tastings Scott Stocking at Mudshark served.

Scott Stocking with tour group at Mudshark Brewery

Scott Stocking with our little tour group at Mudshark Brewery.

Tour group with brewmaster of Barley Brothers.

The tour group with Keith, Barley Brother’s brewmaster. We think he looked like George Carlin.

Colby Hansen, head brewer at College Street Brewery with tour group

The tour would be incomplete without a bearded brewmaster and Colby Hansen at College Street Brewery fit the bill to a tee!

Table of beer tastings at College Street Brewery.

Our table of tastings at College Street! We were the talk of the restaurant.

Mike Moreno gave a tour of Lake Havasu City breweries.

The tour would not have been as enjoyable if our guide had been anyone other than Mike Moreno. Thanks, Mike!

Let this be a lesson. Don’t let the “vintage” look of a place fool you, especially this place. Lake Havasu City is a first-class charmer. Whether you’re there for the gorgeous lake, the London Bridge Half Marathon and 5K, the busy brewery scene, or any of the other activities around town, this is a place worth visiting more than once.

Mary Oliver’s “At the River Clarion”

I am not a poetry scholar. All I know is what I like and I like Mary Oliver’s poetry. She has a way of talking about the world around us with reverence. She has a way of beholding the sacredness of nature, of all things. She has a way of articulating my own beliefs and experiences.

Below is her poem At the River Clarion from her collection of poems in the book Evidence.

At the River Clarion

1.

I don’t know how God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck the stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river: I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.

I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, and ambition.

2.

If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck.
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke.
Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.
Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing, if you would pause to hear it.
And how are you so certain anyway that it doesn’t sing?

If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.

He’s van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell.
He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons.
He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of the grass, the genius, the politician, the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?

Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and
each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.
I don’t know how you get to suspect such an idea.
I only know that the river kept singing.
It wasn’t a persuasion, it was all the river’s own constant joy
which was better by far than a lecture, which was comfortable, exciting, unforgettable.

3.

Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.

4.

There was someone I loved who grew old and ill.
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do

except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.

5.

My dog Luke lies in a grave in the forest, she is given back.
But the river Clarion still flows
from wherever it comes from
to where it has been told to go.
I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn’t much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves.

6.

Along its shores were, may I say, very intense cardinal flowers.
And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them, for heaven’s sakes–
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books, ideas, doubts, hesitations.

7.

And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice
singing.

___________________________

For more information about Mary Oliver, visit her Facebook page.

Second generation Santa carries on the spirit of Christmas for Memphis families

Originally posted on The Great Experimenters:

It is the morning of the 2011 Grand Opening of the Enchanted Forest to benefit the LeBonheur Children’s Hospital at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Even with ear protection, the sound of the helicopter blades beat against Kennison Kyle’s chest like a timpani. He is more than 100 feet off the ground. He looks over the crowd below, his brown eyes scanning for three familiar faces. There are almost 1000 people looking up. All are waiting for the helicopter to land.

Even from that distance, he makes eye contact with his mother. He has the sensation that she is sitting right in front of him, looking right back at him. Then he sees his sister and aunt standing next to his mom. Tears well up in his eyes and threaten to spill out onto his beard and red coat. He knew his family was going to be there…

View original 1,467 more words

Bribes, lies, and cocktails: How to host a murder mystery party

SR Dryja:

I have tons of great memories from these parties, which is not unlike the memories I make when I travel. Happy Halloween, everybody! I hope it’s safe and fun for all of you!

Originally posted on The Great Experimenters:

Long, long ago, I hosted a disastrous costume party. Instead of an action-packed night of hilarity, it turned out to be a group of eight almost-strangers sitting quietly in my living room as if we weren’t dressed as witches and werewolves. Someone yawned and everyone went home early. As I stood in my empty hall and let the weight of disappointment that comes with failure settle over me, I swore to myself that next time would be different.

Sigh.

Different is just what I did the following year, and for four years after. Freeform Games, a company that specializes in interactive murder mystery games, has enough variety in their themes to last a lifetime. Starting with Victorian-era Egypt and traipsing through the centuries and back, my guests and I made life-lasting memories playing these games. The five years I hosted these parties were lessons in creativity, organization, and bliss-filled fun.

View original 2,022 more words

A beautiful day for a picnic

AZ RESCUE, an organization I wrote about a couple of times recently, hosted their annual Adopter’s Picnic and Reunion yesterday. Hubby and I went because we are Adopter’s of the feisty and sweet King Lukas.

Thanks to Jennifer Berry and all the volunteers for hosting such a great day! It was a grand time reuniting with Lukas’s foster parents, and watching The Big L strut his stuff in his kingly robes.

Below are photos from the day:

This is what a face looks like surrounded by love.

Happiness is reuniting with people who loved you back to life.

A parade of dogs marched the land in their best costumes. The tiny “skeleton” in the foreground recently survived a major surgery and is doing great, thanks to the love and care of her foster-mom-cum-forever-mom.

Proud, strutting puppies!

King Lukas surveys the land in all his costumed glory.

King Lukas carries his ruby tipped scepter, which can also be used as a squeaky toy when he gets bored.

The king was proudest at seeing his fellow brothers and sisters in rescue–all happy, all with shiny coats and fully bellies, all at home and surrounded by love with people who care what happens to them.

When the costume parade was complete, we all sat together in the shade on a gorgeous day.

King Lukas was surrounded by his loving families — the family that brought him back to life and the family that has committed to be there for him for the rest of it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Family photo! Is it me, or does Lukas appear to be giggling?

Dog Hymn

by Janice Bressler

God made Adam, then Eve
for obvious reasons

and hoped they would love, honor, comfort each other

Seeing it would likely not last forever,
given Adam’s appetite for conquest,
and Eve’s hunger to converse,
God made Dog.

God gave Dog
the ability to love without speech
and delight in chasing things
without the need to catch or accumulate.

God gave Dog too
a fiercely loyal heart,
a quiet respect for human tears,
and an inclination to sleep curled up
at the foot of the bed.

We all know,
of course,
that Adam and Eve
betrayed God,
deceived each other,
and so were banished from the Garden.

But remember, and give thanks:
because God is compassionate,
he sent Dog with them.

Published in the September/October issue of The Bark Magazine.

The Botany of Brews, and the witches and warlocks who make them

SR Dryja:

October is known worldwide for being all about beer. I’m not a big chugger, so I celebrate by taking brewery tours and botany classes.

Originally posted on The Great Experimenters:

October is the month of beer festivals. Inspired by the season, my Beer Experimenter husband, Mike, has declared October the Month of Beer. Although I’m no beer aficionado  I am an experimenter, so I have been tagging along to learn with him.

Learning about the botany of beer (and much more)

Our first stop on this frothy tour was a class at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix called Brewing and Botany. It was taught by award-winning home brewer, Danny Foley. This class helped our knowledge of beer to expand from novice to true hobbyist. We learned the underpinnings for the variety of beers–why stouts have a coffee-like flavor, why IPAs are so bitter (it all has to do with the sweetness or roast of malts and the bitterness of citrusy hops). We learned a bit about the history of beer and how the different varieties got their starts (different…

View original 907 more words

Perfection found in the love of a rescue dog

SR Dryja:

Perfection comes in all shapes and sizes. For me it comes in the form of a rescue dog.

Originally posted on The Great Experimenters:

I am learning that mutual love is the most healing kind of love.

Perfection in this case comes clad in fur and dotted with a sweet brown nose and two sparkly brown eyes.

My spiritual director once caught me in the act of putting myself down for something, some inadequacy, some imperfection I had started digging at to get rid of. She asked me to imagine a baby bird sitting in a nest in my hands. She asked me to look at that baby bird and tell her what I saw.

“A baby bird,” was my response, but it wasn’t the answer to the question she was really asking.

“Is the bird imperfect?” she asked. “Is there something wrong with it?”

“No,” I replied. “Of course there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a baby bird.”

“Then how come a baby bird can be born so perfectly the way it should…

View original 979 more words

Have dog, will travel: 10 items to pack when traveling with Rover

Our first road trip with the new furry family member is scheduled for next week! We’re headed back to San Diego, which is about six hours from Phoenix by car. This will be a way to see if Pup can handle longer trips next summer.

So far, he seems amenable to riding in the car.

Doggie is fastened and ready to go!

It’s been a while since we’ve traveled with a four-legged friend, and it took some time to compile a packing list. I figured I can’t be the only one trying to remember everything a dog needs when he travels, so I am sharing my list of 10 items to pack when traveling with your dog:

1. Seatbelt clip

One end of this seatbelt clicks into a regular seatbelt lock. The other end clips into the ring on Fido’s harness. It gives him some freedom of movement in the car, but not enough that he goes flying off the seat should you need to hit the brakes quickly.

Nylon car Safe-T-Belt clips into standard car seatbelt locks and onto your dog’s harness.

2. Microchip

This little rice-sized microchip carries your contact information should your pet become lost. Almost all vets, shelters, and pounds in the United States have a microchip scanner, so if a good samaritan takes your pet to one of these locations, or if the city pound picks her up, all they have to do is scan her back to find out how to contact you.

The microchip is injected in between your dog’s shoulder blades at a vet’s office. The cost varies per veterinarian, but it averages about $45 per pet. Home Again charges an annual fee of $18 to maintain membership, but having the peace of mind is worth it.

In the video below, Betty White provides some helpful information about microchipping your pet.

3. Leash and Harness

This is probably obvious, but it’s an important one for keeping Trixie safe whenever she is outside of the car, hotel, or vacation rental. Even well-trained dogs that normally walk off-leash can become overstimulated by new surroundings, so it’s a good idea to leash them up when traveling. Our particular dog is hard of hearing, so he can never go outside of a fenced yard without a leash.

A harness is a good option for most dogs because it doesn’t press against the trachea and cause them to choke.

4. Poopy bags

As a citizen of the world that lives with other citizens of the world, it only makes sense to carry poopy bags wherever you take your dog. No one likes looking at or potentially stepping in dog waste. Plus, because it is used by flies and other small creatures as a place to raise a family, as it breaks down and gets absorbed into puddles, ponds, and lakes, it can be a source of giardia, a nasty parasite that can take its toll on human and canine stomachs, should it be ingested during swim breaks or lapped up by a thirsty pup.

Our favorite doggie bags are the BioBags Dog Waste Bags. They decompose rapidly in the landfill. At the very least, we all have access to plastic bags from the grocery store. Those can also be used to clean up after your dog.

BioBags for Pet Waste.

5. Water bottle with built-in bowl

The Water Rover is a convenient way to carry water for your pooch when you’re out and about. The lid has a built-in bowl. When you pop the stopper and lean the bottle over, water pours into the bowl for your dog. When you’re ready to get back on the road, just tilt the bottle upright to let the water wash back into the bottle. Press the stopper back in place and you’re ready to go! It is also dishwasher safe!

Water Rover water bottle comes in a variety of sizes and colors.

6. Kibble + Treats

Pack up an airtight container of kibble to last the trip so you don’t have to race around to find a pet food store and your dog doesn’t have to get used to a new brand of kibble, should his brand be unavailable. It’s a good idea to throw in a measured scoop as well so, even if you’re overeating on vacation, Max can keep his sporty canine physique.

Favorite treats, especially those made by local barkeries, are helpful for those times when he needs extra motivation to get back in the car, or just as an additional treat while you enjoy your own lunch on the road.

Our favorite barkeries are Furbabies and Happy Tails. Furbabies Delectable Delights are available through their online store or in select Whole Foods. Happy Tails also has an online store, or if you’re local to Phoenix, they are at the Gilbert Farmers Market every Saturday morning.

7. Paper towels + beach towel or blanket

Paper towels come in handy to clean up muddy paws, drippy jaws, and anything else that needs mopping up.

According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a traveler should never leave home without a towel and that goes double for traveling with your dog. It can be used as a blanket. It can be folded and used as a bed or pillow. And, of course, it can be used to towel off a dog that has just come from romping in the lake, ocean, or pool.

8. Favorite toys

Having familiar things around, especially favorite toys, may cut down on a dog’s anxiety while traveling. It will also give him something to chew on, squeak, and destroy when he becomes restless from sitting in the car too long.

Playing with a familiar toy can ease anxiety for a dog.

9. Crate and/or Doggie bed

Whether your dog’s favorite spot is inside her crate or curled up in her special bed, don’t forget to bring it along on trips. It will help all of you rest easier during the trip and cut down on stress-related issues that might arise from your dog’s nervousness at being in a new place.

10. Scheduled stops along the way

Of course, you’ll need to include some stops along the way for potty breaks and to stretch the legs.

Look out world! Here we come!

Can you think of anything I’ve forgotten? How do you travel with your pooch?

Worldwide Recess Day is here!

Today is the big day: Worldwide Recess Day! What are you doing to get your 10-minutes of recess?

KEEN footwear is encouraging everyone to get out and play for at least 10 minutes today. Take a picture of your fun, upload it to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #TAKE10, and you could win a pair of KEEN shoes!

Here are five ideas for a fun day of recess.

1. Walk the dog!

If you don’t have a dog, volunteer at a rescue organization and walk some dogs who need it most. Better yet, adopt one of those dogs if you have the love and time to give a sweet pooch. You’ll receive far more from a rescued dog than you can ever give.

Don’t forget water and poopy bags to make sure your friend is well-hydrated and a good doggie citizen.

2. Invite a friend to coffee, and then walk there together.

Or, if you’re in Austin, Texas, walk to Gordough’s for a giant, made-to-order donut, then see if either you or your friend can finish one together.

You don’t feel so guilty about eating at Gordough’s if you walk there.

3. Play tourist for a day in your own town.

Put on some shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and sandals with black socks, and go check out the sights! Don’t forget your camera!

If you’re in San Diego, Washington, DC or Stratford, Ontario, take a walking tour. You can also Segway around the hot spots of San Diego if you opt to go with Another Side of San Diego Tours.

One of the many memorable moments we had during a walking tour of La Jolla, California with Bridgette of Another Side of San Diego tours.

4. Do a photo scavenger hunt with friends.

See who can find all the public art in your town first. If you’re in Chicago, you may need a whole weekend for this!

Agora in Chicago.

5, Make today a day of courage by doing something you’ve never done before.

Bonus points if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, such as riding in a hot air balloon or learning what it takes to be a dolphin trainer.

One of the most memorable days of my life was spent in a wet suit–and I’m afraid of the ocean!

Those are some of my ideas. Now, how are you going to play?

For more inspiration, check out KEEN’s Postano page.