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.

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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

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…

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

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!

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.

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.

The…

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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

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.

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…

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