Fresh Strawberries

Just had to write this post so I could show off a few of the beautiful berries we’ve been picking from our strawberry patch!

Berries

We’ve been picking — and enjoying — dozens of these strawberries every day. We’re definitely having our best crop of berries ever!

I do enjoy gardening, and I’m glad it’s a skill that my sims can learn, too. Not every family in my game has a garden, but many do. Some of my sims are actually quite passionate about the fruits and flowers and vegetables. I even have sims who make a living from their gardening abilities.

Strawberries in the game are, unfortunately, an uncommon fruit — which means that they’re a little more difficult to find. You can’t purchase seeds in starter packs, so if you want fresh berries, you’ll have to go out looking for them. According to Carl’s Guide to Gardening, you should be able to find strawberries growing in Willow Springs on the “Garden Essence” lot.

Gardening was first introduced to The Sims with the Unleashed expansion pack, and it’s been part of each game since. Personally, I think the gardening skill in Sims 4 is the best it’s ever been. And just as in real life, gardening skills and cooking skills can go hand in hand.

Your sims can use fresh strawberries to make lots of delicious dishes:

  • Strawberry pancakes
  • French toast with strawberries
  • Strawberry cobbler
  • Strawberry and yogurt parfait
  • Strawberry cheesecake
  • Monte Christo sandwiches with strawberries
  • Strawberry baked Alaska

I make many of these dishes in my kitchen, and with fresh fruit, they are delicious!

If your sims haven’t been having fun in the garden, why not get started today? My one frustration is that children can’t learn gardening skills, but the rest of the family can enjoy the activity and gain health and happiness benefits from eating the fresh produce.

And don’t forget about the new Dine Out Game Pack which will be released on June 7. Happy eating!

Dine Out

The Medieval Mistake

Ok, so I’ve been on a medieval-themed kick lately. It started when I found Esmeralda’s medieval music mods. That was all I needed to get myself off on a 14th or 15th century tangent. Actually, to be precise, the medieval period — sometimes called the Middle Ages — is considered to begin in the 5th century AD and extend through the 15th century.

I love medieval music, as you’ve probably already noticed, and like many other history lovers, I’m fascinated by the art, architecture, fashion, and politics of those long-ago times. It’s understandable that fans of The Sims franchise would clamor for medieval-themed content, and consequently logical that game producer Electronic Arts would attempt to capitalize on the idea. It probably could have been a real money-maker for them…had they listened to what the players wanted.

SMInstead, as EA has done so often in recent years, they told us what we wanted. Or, at least, that is, what they thought we wanted. The result was The Sims Medieval. Was I excited when they announced it? Oh, yes, of course. Although I had never added medieval elements to my existing game, I would have gladly plunked down the money for a chance to have a separate “Middle Age” world. Yes, EA, I would have bought this new game and enjoyed it had you stayed with what “simming” is meant to be. But, no, you had to step in and take away the elements that we love our sims.

Earlier today I looked at the “features” included with The Sims Medieval, and there, in black and white, I saw it. The medieval mistake. The reason why the game did not succeed was clearly spelled out.

The Sims Medieval is an epic new game from the makers of The Sims. It combines the life simulation of The Sims, takes it to a dramatic new setting, and adds features that change the way you play.

Did you catch those last five words? EA was going to change the way we play. But…why, EA, why? We simmers loved playing our game in our way. We had asked for a medieval concept for The Sims — not for a half-baked role-playing game designed to look like The Sims.

Limited CAS, children who aged to adults only if a parent died, an emphasis on achievements and quests, and an ultimate “win or lose” status took this game far afield from what “The Sims” has always been. And like a slap in the face to players, EA tried to sell us this game and tell us how much we were going to like it.

The game’s senior producer promoted the game as being “more dangerous for Sims” and listed an intriguing number of interesting possibilities: plague, peasant revolts, wildlife, poisons, duels, and more. But then, we learned that — unlike any other sim game — The Sims Medieval had a definite beginning and an ending. Players would be “scored” on their game performance.

What? Keeping score in a life simulator? Oh, wait! The Sims Medieval isn’t a life simulator. That’s not how we’re supposed to be playing our game now according to EA, and they should know, right? Seriously, we’re just the players. We obviously don’t know what we want.

The game was first released in March, 2011, and one expansion pack — Pirates and Nobles — was later produced. Today, The Sims Medieval is available as a download from Origin as Electronic Arts has discontinued the DVD version. It can, however, still be purchased through third-party sellers. You’ll find it listed at Amazon. There are problems, though, running it on operating systems other than Vista or the no-longer-supported Windows XP. Work-arounds for the problems do exist.

Some players praised the game when it came out, but others soon lost interest in it. A reviewer at Amazon said it had “very little play value,” and explained:

If you’re the type who likes to check off tasks one by one, you might like the questing aspects. There is no creativity involved here. The quests are a series of tasks like “Go to the town marketplace and get water from the well.” Very boring to actually play. I would have liked to back-burner the quests to do a little free play, but you are punished for that with a severe drop in mood. You are also punished if you skip your daily chores. Seriously, chores! Others have addressed the lack of ability to actually build your town. Talk about no outlet for creativity or imagination.

Creativity and imagination are the foundations upon which “The Sims” was built. Creativity and imagination are the hallmarks of the typical sims player. These are the essential elements that EA took away from the game. In doing so, they turned a great concept into a huge disappointment — for the fans and for them as well. The Sims Medieval never became the big money-maker they’d expected but simply turned into one more big mistake.

 

 

 

Amish Baked Oatmeal

One of the “quick meals” our sims can make — if they have a microwave — is oatmeal. I’ve always liked oatmeal and had it often when I was growing up. Of course, it was cooked the “old-fashioned way” on the stove. I’d add a bit of sugar, pour on cold milk, and enjoy the delicious hot and cold tastes mingling together in my mouth.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned another way to make oatmeal. Once I found this recipe for “baked oatmeal” it became an instant hit on my top recipes list. It’s almost like having a delicious, gigantic oatmeal cookie for breakfast, and would anybody turn down an oatmeal cookie? Not me, that’s for sure.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have. It’s not as quick as the “convenient” oatmeal packets for the microwave, but it’s still very easy to make — and it’s much, much, much more tasty.

Ingredients for Amish Baked OatmealABOTOH

  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Warm milk
  • Fresh fruit and/or brown sugar, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Combine first eight ingredients and mix well. Spread mix evenly in a lightly-greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Edges should be golden brown. Remove from oven and spoon into individual bowls. Add milk. Top cereal with fruit and/or brown sugar, if you wish. I’ve also added raisins before baking, but I prefer it without. Sometimes I’ll add chopped nuts, too.

Recipe serves 6.

This dish is a perfect addition to a Sunday morning breakfast or brunch. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Stepping Back in Time

I do enjoy medieval music, so I love sharing it with others. Since I’ve been finding Esmeralda’s mods for medieval-themed instruments, I couldn’t resist stepping back in time today with a few more tunes to enjoy.

Here, for your listening pleasure is one full hour of medieval instrumental music and a look at medieval life.

A Husband of Her Own

ProposalFiona Patterson was about to give up on Benjamin Brooks. He’s always late! They were supposed to meet for a romantic night in the park, and he didn’t show up. She got tired of waiting and went home, and then he showed up at the park.

He finally came on home, and before she had a chance to yell at him, she found out why he was late. He’d stopped at the jewelers to pick up the engagement ring he’d ordered.

An engagement ring!

Yes, he proposed, and Fiona didn’t want to wait. They hurried off to find a judge and got married right away. After all, they’ve been living together so it wasn’t anything to make a big deal over. Fiona was tired of listening to her mother go on and on about how sinful it was.

Is Fiona happy now? No, not really. Well, yes, she loves Benjamin, but he’s still always late. He’s late to work. He’s late getting home. He’s late getting up. He’s not making much money either, but neither is she. They’re broke. Bills are coming due again soon, and Fiona’s a bit concerned. Things will get better, of course.

And what of Jonathan? She hasn’t seen him since he broke off their relationship. He told her then that he really loved his wife and wanted to make her happy. Well, Fiona told him a thing or two! And now, Jonathan, guess what! She doesn’t need you anymore. She’s got a husband, and by the way, he’s much better at keeping her satisfied that you ever were.

So there, Jonathan!

 

 

More Medieval Music

MTS_Esmeralda-1621346-Miserableoutdoorconcert2I recently shared Esmeralda’s “medieval lutes” for Sims 4, and she’s continuing her creations of more instruments for our musicians to enjoy. Today I’m happy to share her “Vielle”, a medieval violin. You can bet that Jonathan Evans is eager to get his hands on one of these finely-crafted beauties.

The Vielle can be downloaded from Mod the Sims, and you’ll find complete installation instructions there.

To complete your musical orchestra, you might also want to check out Esmeralda’s Medieval Piano, also available at Mod the Sims.

Enjoy making music with these fun creations.

 

 

Busy as a Bee

BeesRemember the bees in Sims 2 Bon Voyage? Of course, bees have been around since the advent of Makin’ Magic in the original series. In Sims 3, players with the Supernatural expansion pack could become beekeepers, and in Sims 4 we have bees as part of the insect collections.

But this isn’t really a post about bees or beekeeping. It’s a post about cliches and the importance of avoiding them in storytelling.

A cliche is an over-used expression or idea. Many of the similes we use have become clichés.

  • Busy as a bee
  • Pretty as a picture postcard
  • Blue as the sky
  • Sweet as cotton candy
  • Hot as fire

We could go on and on with that little list. A cliché can be a handy little thing when we’re communicating and need a quick and easy way to convey a thought. Cliches have become over-used precisely because they’re convenient.

In storytelling, though, it’s best to forego convenience in favor of originality. Don’t be in a hurry when you’re sharing your sims’ stories. Take a little time and choose words and phrases that catch your readers’ attention.

One way of avoiding clichés is by writing more description, showing the reader instead of telling. Instead of saying Susan was as busy as a bee, take a little time, add a few more words, and show how busy she actually is.

Susan pushed the ledger aside and groaned. With one look at her desk, she knew she’d never get the reports finished on time. In addition to auditing the books, she still had to review expense accounts, look at the credit card expenditures, and approve the invoices marked for payment. How had she fallen so far behind?

Doesn’t that give you a better understanding of Susan’s predicament than simply saying she’s busy as a bee?

The same principle can be applied to the other clichés on the list. Don’t tell the reader that a scene is as pretty as a picture postcard. Instead, show what makes the scene so beautiful and breath-taking.

Don’t simply say something is as blue as the sky. Describe the hue and how it makes the character feel. Remember, too, your characters have five senses, so don’t rely on one-dimensional clichés.

A light blue blanket covered the bed. Susan reached out and touched it, loving its softness. As she gently ran a fingertip along the edge, she thought of spring days, delicate flowers blooming, and birds singing their songs. She would like it here, she knew. Even though life would be different now, she would have this room, this bed, and this well-worn blue blanket to comfort her.

Another thing to avoid, however, is going too far in looking for original expressions. You don’t want to end up with a ridiculous simile like this jewel:

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes
just before it throws up.

I found that one at Painful Similes and Metaphors, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to jump quick like a fox, hop like a bunny, and flit like a butterfly over to that website to read the rest of them. You should, too. They’re hilarious!

 

And the Winner Is…

Today’s the day, folks! The day I hand out the first ever “Edgar Evans Award for Community Service“.

Award

And the winner of this prestigious award is Liev Capra, created by Simmer RosemaryMarie for her Sim Blog Noble Doubt. Be sure to stop by, read her stories, and congratulate her for Liev’s “community service” award.

Liev Capra with Memphis Noble - Photo courtesy of RosemaryMarie
Liev Capra with Memphis Noble – Photo courtesy of RosemaryMarie
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I am extremely honored to be receiving something as important as the Edgar Evans Community Service award. I am earnestly grateful for the recognition I have received because I am very sure that every other nominee for this award was as adept, if not more so, of winning this award.

I have faced many challenges on my way to this moment, both personally and professionally. But each one of them has only built up my character; making me the person I am today. Winning this award would not have been possible without the encouragement I have received from my family, colleagues and community all for whom I have the deepest respect, and from whom I have received the strength to challenge myself.
I sincerely thank Jonathan Chronicles for inspiring me to reach a stage where I can proudly hold up this award as a symbol of my accomplishment. Thank you!

Herbal Sun Tea

2016-05-23Now that school is out and sumer is icumen in, it’s time to relax, sit outside on the porch, and enjoy more of nature’s goodness. Our sims can now develop herbalism skills, and so can we. A great-tasting tea can be made with fresh herbs, and we don’t even have to have a “Tea Magic Personal Brewer”.

Over the weekend, we visited a nearby botanical garden, and while strolling through the harvest garden area, we were delighted to stop for a cup of “Spearmint Sun Tea”. Delicious! Very cool and refreshing.

Since we have an abundance of mint growing in the herb garden, I plan to make a lot of naturally-brewed herbal tea this season.

Here are the basic directions:

  • Pick a few handfuls of your favorite herbs
  • Carefully wash away any dirt or bugs
  • Place in a large jar and fill with water
  • Seal the jar and set in sunlight for 4-6 hours
  • When steeped (the water will be darker), strain out herbs.
  • Sweeten with sugar or honey, if desired.

You’ll want to use a lot of mint — there are many different varieties — and other great additions are “lemony” herbs such as lemon balm, lemon verbena, or lemongrass, stevia (a naturally sweet-tasting herb) and chamomile (known for its relaxing properties).

You can also add bags of your favorite pre-made herbal teas, using about 8 bags for a gallon of water.

Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys includes a delicious recipe using handfuls of applemint, peppermint, lemon balm, and bee balm leaves and flowers. You might also want to check out these recipes from Frontier Co-Op: Herbs on Ice.

A few additional tips:

  • If the tea is too strong just dilute with more water
  • Be sure to use clean jars and utensils — glass jars are best — to avoid any risk of bacteria
  • Add flavorful spices such as cinnamon, ginger, or cloves
  • Taste before adding sweeteners
  • Add your herbal concoctions to other drinks, such as punch or lemonade
  • Experiment with different flavors

Enjoy!

 

 

I Murdered Chester Gieke

I shudder at the thought of law enforcement ever impounding my computer. What a field day they’d have with my search history. Of course, they’d have fun, too, reading posts on the Forum as we simmers casually discuss the most efficient ways of getting rid of our sims or the cruelties to which we’ve subjected our darlings.

In my own defense, I’ve never been one to deliberately kill off any of my sims. I think I’ve only done that once — way back in the original game — and only under very extenuating circumstances. Yes, I felt awful afterward.

The deaths in my game have always been natural or accidental. But then, there’s the story of Chester Gieke and his untimely demise. It was murder.

ChesterLet me tell you the sad story of Chester Gieke.

Chester was a “pre-made” in Sims 2. I didn’t normally play pre-made sims, but at the time I put him into my game, I was needing a “house-sitter.” A kind elder lady, Lucille Menne, had been elected governor and I was preparing to move her into the governor’s mansion. I didn’t want to lose her lovely house and all its furnishings, though, so I grabbed Chester Gieke from the “sim bin” and let him live in the house until Miss Menne’s term as governor ended. I had no intentions of ever playing Chester.

But then one day as I was playing a young university student, Chester came strolling down the street. This girl was definitely looking for love, and when Chester stopped to chat, they quickly realized they were a perfect pair. They had so much in common. Their taste in music, their favorite foods, their aspirations for the future…oh,  yes, Chester and nerdy Clarissa were meant for each other. They fell in love, got engaged, and planned to marry as soon as she graduated.

But then one day she tried to call Chester.

He was gone.

What? Where was he? I spent at least an hour — if not more — desperately searching for Chester. He was no longer living in Miss Menne’s house. She’d lost the most recent election and had returned home. Chester was supposed to be living back in the “sim bin” — the Sims 2 version of “household management.”

The bin was quite confusing, at least for players like me who had several different neighborhoods in the game. It was possible to remove a sim from the bin in one neighborhood, yet find the sim still “in the bin” in other neighborhoods. Soon after Miss Menne returned home, I went on a bin-cleaning binge and somehow in the process, I killed Chester Gieke. I didn’t mean to do it. Really, I didn’t.

I tried searching for another copy of Chester in another neighborhood bin. Alas, he was nowhere to be found. His girlfriend was devastated. They’d been so happy together. They were about to get married and begin their future. How could fate be so unkind?

Of course, it made for a terrific story, and to this day, no one in Bloomington — the neighborhood in which they lived — knows who killed Chester Gieke. His death remains one of those unsolved mysteries that haunts detectives to this day.

So, perhaps the time has come for me to stand up and make my confession. Yes, I murdered Chester Gieke, and I can no longer live with the guilt. I’m sorry, Clarissa. I didn’t mean to do it. Please, forgive me. May the Sim-gods have mercy on my soul.