Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Murder and Sardines

Trying to find something to do with older kids is always a challenge....it is much easier to entertain a group of preschoolers, or toddlers than it is to entertain sullen teenager or eye-rolling pre-teen. Food is one thing you can count on to bring your kids (and sometimes their friends) to the house. Another thing we have recently found is a big hit is...parlor games. We were introduced by our neighbors and friends Renee and Calvert. Since we moved to our neighborhood, they have been like surrogate grandparents to our kids and great friends to us. They are retired, but I mean only from work- they are some of the most fun and active people we know, and Renee is the game queen. She loves board games and every chance we get we play together. We usually tend toward games that border on hilarity or have the potential for double entendres that kids miss but break up the adults - Pictionary, Mad Gab, Apples to Apples (one of our new favorites), and Cranium are a few of our favorites (Renee once screamed out "Johnny Appleseed's nuts!" in response to a drawing I did in a round of Pictionary we played on vacation two years ago, a line we have never let her forget!) We have popcorn or cheese and crackers, dip and pita chips, or if we are at Renee's on her big screened porch we have something like lemon bars, or some other delicious baked good. But here the food is a more of a complement to the activity, not the star - it only provides the fuel for the peals of laughter and straining of the brain trying to win.

While board games can be a family occasion, what Renee and Calvert introduced us to was parlor games like Charades. My kids' favorites are Murder and Sardines (two different games, not one). In Murder, you shuffle the Ace, King and Jack and enough number cards equal to the number of players, and have each player select a card and not show it to anyone. The Ace is the murderer, the King is the investigator, and the Jack is the back-up investigator (in case the investigator is murdered). The rest are the potential victims. Once the draw is complete, you turn out all the lights and wander around a pre-agreed area (at our house it's the downstairs) and the murderer looks for an opportunity to select and kill a victim (by putting his hands gently around the neck of the "victim"(for younger or shorter people you can squeeze an arm to convey the crime!). The "victim" then counts to ten silently then screams and falls to the ground wherever they are and the lights are turned on and the person who drew the King begins the investigation (unless he/she was the one murdered, in which case the back up investigator takes over). The investigator can ask only yes or no questions, and everyone except the murderer must answer honestly. When the investigator thinks he knows who the murderer he/she can make a guess and he/she gets three guesses, and once the investigator starts guessing he can't ask anymore questions. My kids love this game ( and they love having their parents or siblings as victims!)

The other game that Renee taught us, we learned when they invited us to stay a night when they were at the beach in Nags Head. I had a migraine that night but Renee had talked so much about this game I had to try. It was called sardines. In this game, one person is chosen to be the hider. The area you are playing in should be darkand the rest of the players should count to 50 and let the hider find a hiding place. At the end of the count, the rest of the players start searching for the "sardine". The person who finds them joins them in their hiding place and one by one the players join the other "sardines" until the last person finds them. This game is hilarious and once you get two or three people crammed into a closet or shower, you cannot keep from laughing. Even though I had a wicked headache, I could not help but enjoy it. Just something about grownups playing this version of hide and seek is just too much. Try it sometime - you won't be sorry.

Parlor games and game night lend themselves to either a dessert and coffee venue or finger foods that can be grabbed in between rounds or turns. Some of our favorites are veggies and dip, hummus and pita chips, assorted cookies and/or brownies and flavored coffees. So invite your neighbors, some friends or your kids friends, pull out your card table (we often during the winter put a round table in front of the fireplace and play board games there on winter evenings) and close the doors on your entertainment center - you're in for an evening you won't forget and it is playing with food at its best!

Play with Beans Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans (or other white beans) rinsed and drained

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2-4 cloves garlic mashed

1-2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste) or peanut butter if you prefer

1/4-1/3 cup good olive oil

Toasted pita chips ( I like to make my own from pitas that I get at the bread outlet store)

Mix beans, garlic, lemon juice, tahini in a food processor and blend. Then add the olive oil by tablespoons until the dip is a smooth consistency. Add salt to taste or a dash of tabasco , and serve with chips at room temperature.

Easy Mexican Dip

8 oz cream or neufchatel cheese, softened

1 cup of your favorite salsa

1 cup guacamole or 1 chopped avocado

2 cups shredded cheddar or mexican blend cheese

Sliced black olives

Sour cream

Corn or tortilla chips

Spread softened cheese in a thin layer in a 9-inch pie plate or equivalent. Spread salsa on top of cheese, then place a layer of chopped avocado or guacamole, and top with grated cheese. Spinkle top with olives, and dollops of sour cream if desired and serve with corn or tortilla chips.

Cream Cheese with Pepper Jelly

Place softened cream cheese on a plate and slice in two lenghtwise to create two layers. Spread red or green hot pepper jelly between layers ond on top generously. Serve with water crackers. Note: This a great appetizer when you don't know whether you want something sweet or savory.


s'kat said...

It sounds like you have a fun take on the game market!

Oh, and the cream cheese/hot pepper jelly combo: love it!

Karen said...

I have an eye-roller, too. We discovered WhooNu by Cranium, and we all just love it. It's a great game for cocktail-sipping grownups to play, too!

Also, we've rediscovered the Dictionary game - finding obscure words in the dictionary and everyone gets to make up a definition.

Deborah Dowd said...

S'kat- I could eat a whole 8 ouncs by myself!

Karen- Thanks for the tip- we have played Cranium before but haven't gotten WhooNu, and I love the idea of the dictionary game. I think our neighbors would love that!