No Trouble At All

Trouble board gameRemember the old board game Trouble with the “pop-o-matic” die-rolling bubble in the middle?

Dede bought Liam this game for his birthday back in April and we’ve been playing a couple or three times per week as time permits, and Dede is not busy with online games.

Initially of course, he moved his pegs (painfully) slowly around the board, stopping at every hole and often losing count. It was all new to him, so his plays were random and not goal-oriented. Honestly, it was a bit of a chore to get through a game.

But now…

Now, he jumps his pegs in increments around the board rather than 1 hole at a time. He’s always looking ahead to what his next optimal dice roll should be to land on another player’s peg, and putting some genuine critical thought into which piece is the best to move depending on each roll of the die. And of course, he’s talking trash to intimidate the other players along the way!

Sure, we’ve always been big believers in playing analog (not electronic) games and encouraging tactile activities, so ok, maybe this is nothing truly miraculous and shouldn’t come as such a great surprise to me, but it’s just such an unexpected thrill when you actually see firsthand how much this has boosted his math and decision-making skills. You can practically see synapses forming, his dexterity improving, and of course, the big confidence boost he gets when he wins.

All that, from playing a simple little board game. Genius!

There may not necessarily be anything wrong with digital games—Liam sure loves to play Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on the iPad—but I believe huddling around the table, playing a physical board game has to potential to be so much more enriching. It’s a shared experience with all sorts of social, practical, and cognitive lessons lurking just out of sight. It’s fascinating to watch as your child develops new skills and masters new concepts. And it’s just fun!

This makes me nostalgic for the days when all of us cousins would play board games at Pampaw or Uncle Truett’s during holidays. And it reminds me of Rich schooling me on Monopoly.

So, now it’s your turn… Are there board games that you’d recommend for those with young children? What were some of your all-time favorite board games?

Mango Mania

Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea how terrific the mango is. No, not that Mango.

I mean this mango:

Mango [mang-goh]: the oblong, fleshy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae (a member of the cashew family).

Right, the tropical, edible fruit!

However, I would never have bought, known how to prepare, or learned what I might use them for if I hadn’t discovered Erin’s Homemade Coconut Mango popsicles recipe on her $5 Dinners blog a couple of years ago. Once I tried ’em, mango popsicles immediately became one of our Summertime staples! Liam loves these cold treats during the often triple-digit Texas Summer days. And I feel great about being able to get more fresh foods into our diets, especially at a time of the year when we’re outside more and doing less from-scratch cooking. Mangoes are tangy without being overly-sweet, have a better than average shelf life for a fresh fruit, and are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and the powerful antioxidant beta carotene.

Mango Ice CreamBut I’ve been remiss and hadn’t even bothered to make these this Summer until I stumbled across Holly Baker’s Mango Ice Cream last week, realized how much we’ve missed ’em, and got inspired all over again. I also liked the idea of using our neglected electric ice cream maker, so I sorta combined the best parts of both of those recipes, doubled the ingredient amounts, and added about a half cup more heavy cream to make it freeze smoother. Really, you can tinker & adjust any which way you like and still come up with something that’s awesome, but I think the banana & coconut milk makes the tropical flavor soar!

Note: Mangoes are incredibly slippery devils! Cutting out the oblong seed in the middle with a knife can be quite a hazardous affair so even as much as I’m usually opposed to unitasker tools in the kitchen, I highly recommend something like the OXO Good Grips Mango Splitter for making that task easy. Once you’ve used the splitter to remove the seed, there’s still the trick of how to get all of the fruit out of the halves and here’s a crazy-simple & fast “inside out” technique for doing just that:


By the way, if you get a little carried away at the grocery store with those 3 / $1 mangoes, you can also use a leftover spare to whip up a very easy marinade for chicken. Mush up some very ripe mango with a little pineapple juice, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, some sea salt, a splash of lime, sprig of cilantro a squirt of honey or agave syrup and a quarter cup or so of olive oil. Let your chicken marinade in that mixture for an hour or so and you’ll have a tangy, spicy but still subtle flavor. Again, this is just the sort of recipe that lends itself to endless individual interpretation—go crazy!