Kyle's Birthday 2023

June 10, 2023 3:10 pm

My birthday started out fairly mundane. Get up, eat breakfast, head into my closet to work. I didn't, however, have to make lunches for the girls--it being the first day of summer break.

Breaking for lunch I did my usual Ring Fit exercising. The previous day I completed the story mode for the 3rd time, "Master Mode." At the end of the 3rd completion you get the special clothing that makes you gold and gives you Ring's head.

With Ring Fit I've completed over 102 hours of exercising. That time is actual time exerting your muscles and doesn't include warm up or cool down stretching. In that time I've burned somewhere around 26,000 calories and ran the equivalent of ~156 miles.

After the 3rd time through, the game doesn't have any built-in continuation. So I'll have to figure out something to do to keep me engaged and still exercising. I've thought about wiping my save data and starting over....but I worked so hard to get here!

Once I was done with work I opened presents!

It's "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom!!!"

Dinner was at the First Street Ale House and then back home to start playing "TLoZ:TotK" for a bit while letting dinner settle. And then it was time for The Cake.

After cake I completed the first scenario in the "Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game" while waiting to take Heather to swim class.

Corinne's 8th Birthday

March 19, 2023 3:19 pm

Sometime last year Heather had asked if she could help with the next birthday adventure. So as Corinne's was coming up I asked if she still wanted to help. She was very excited to plan an entire adventure for Corinne.

Heather was sick the final weekend before Corinne's birthday, so Jess and I ended up assisting with final prep work. But, in general, the entire thing was Heather's design with some consulting from me to smooth out rough spots and clarify tasks.

It all revolved around a story book which Heather wrote and assembled. The book provided the narrative and character interactions and Corinne was instructed to turn to specific pages during the adventure to continue the story.

The overall theme was a My Little Pony adventure. She helped each of the ponies with some task which provided her with clues to the encoded message Pinkie Pie found where Corinne's presents were supposed to be. Once all the clues were collected it became clear that Queen Chrysalis had ordered the presents taken. With the assembled ponies and the collected elements of harmony she was able to defeat Queen Chrysalis and recover her presents.

Reading the introduction in the story book:

Baking a cake with Pinkie Pie revealing the first 2 clues to the coded message:

Helping Fluttershy rescue stranded animals revealed the number 13 which was the next page in the adventure:

Apple Jack needed her baskets, but couldn't remember how to disable the anti-pranking alarm system. Corinne needed to retrieve them without touching the streamers and found a note with more clues.

Rarity couldn't remember the combination to her lock where she kept her notebook and Corinne needed to sew the pattern which Rarity created as a back up. Once sewn, the pattern marked the numbers 3-1-7-8.

She also needed to clear the clouds that Rainbow Dash forgot to take care of, which recovered another clue and Twilight Sparkle knew a book with helpful information in it (not shown).

Queen Chrysalis was confronted at her hive (in the backyard) and the presents were recovered from the bench.

Then it was time to open presents! At the moment she is all about Squishmallows and reading.

We went to dinner at her choice of restaurant, which was Taco Bell. And after dinner, cake!

Jess whipped up the crochet crown for her to wear to school since she didn't have anything super green to wear and wanted something.

Heather's Birthday 2022

October 30, 2022 11:52 am

Heather's birthday adventure this year was Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild themed. A non-linear quest to find and restore a lost artifact to the Temple of Time. It was a blast.

The adventure began when she arrived home from school to receive a package and letter at the front step.

The letter was from Princess Zelda asking Heather to help her and Link find an ancient artifact that was lost during the Calamity. The artifact had been removed from the Temple of Time to protect it from Ganon, but the records of where it had been taken were destroyed. Purah was able to extract four images from the Sheikah Slate related to the artifact and Heather needed to travel to those locations and recover the memory related to that location. The artifact was protected by several measures ensuring that it could only be recovered when all the people of Hyrule were living in peace and cooperation. She included a map of Hyrule to help her find her way.

And, because it's dangerous to go alone, Zelda included a sword.

She then adventured around Hyrule fighting enemies, searching for clues, greeting friends, and have a grand old time. She met Hestu in Hyrule Field who asked her to find his last five missing Korok Seeds. She attempted the Zippy Zip Speed Test obstacle course, but needed to be a little faster. She traveled to Zora's Domain and got a free sample of Hasty Elixir which gave her enough zip to complete the obstacle course in time and win the bow and quiver. The jar of elixir is just water with food coloring, but the samples from the sake pitcher were blue Gatorade.

To support the adventure I threw together a simple website which had a timer on it. For the Zippy Zip Speed Test I ran the timer at normal speed and I added a check box that would make it run at 1/3 speed when she drank the Hasty Elixir.

The website also had a few sound effects on it so, for example, when she found a Korok I played the "Ya-ha-ha!" sound. When she obtained a key item I played the "Doo-doo-doo-doo!" sound.

Since this was a non-linear adventure Heather did a fair bit of wandering about exploring before getting down to business and searching for the memory locations. She had to find the Hateno Tech Lab, Mellifluous Falls in Zora's Domain, Death Mountain, and the Gate of Time.

At the Gate of Time entrance to the Lost Woods she learned that the artifact was hidden somewhere in the Lost Woods and the gate was locked with ancient Sheikah Technology. She would need a code to open it.

At the Hateno Tech Lab she recovered a memory indicating the the Sheikah marked the true path through the Lost Woods so that only the Blue Flame would reveal it. It included an encoded phrase indicating where a source of the Blue Flame was kept. Inside the Lab was a decoder ring, but only heat like Lava could reveal the information necessary to decode the location. She needed to heat the paper in Death Mountain (the volcano was located in the family room, but I didn't put the toaster oven in there for safety reasons). Once toasted, the paper revealed that the decoder ring needed to be aligned as 11 = H. With that Heather was able to learn that the Blue Flame (UV flashlight) was kept in a Rito's Roost.

At Mellifluous Falls in Zora's Domain she recovered a memory that the code to unlock the Gate of Time in the Lost Woods was hidden deep in Gerudo Desert using a Royal Zoran secret communication technique that allows them to pass messages using water. Upon finding the Hero's Symbol in the desert Heather needed to apply water and re-assemble the 4-digit code.

21, 17, 73 get condensed down to the 4-digit code to unlock the Gate of Time: 2173.

The final memory came from Death Mountain. The Goron Sages held the knowledge that the artifact was locked in a chest. The Sheikah hid the key somewhere in Kakariko Village, but only the Hero's Power of Magnesis could retrieve it. A scroll kept in the volcano itself held the location of the Magnesis power, but would only reveal its secret if taken to the Gerudo Ice House and frozen.

After letting the scroll chill for a while (in a cooler filled with ice) Heather learned that she would need to search the sandiest part of the Gerudo Desert (a.k.a the sandbox) to find Magnesis. With the power recovered, she could return to Kakariko Village and use her new power to lift the key out of the Sheikah Monument.

Along the way she found the five Koroks: a stone circle in Hyrule Field, a set of offering bowls in Akkala Highlands, a suspicious rock in Faron Woods, a rock in a tree near Hateno Tech Lab, and three balloons in Kakariko Village she needed to shoot after obtaining the bow and quiver from the Zippy Zip Speed Test. Upon returning those to Hestu she received his prize: a shield!

Now she was ready to dare enter the Lost Woods and retrieve the artifact. After entering the code to the Gate of Time she found herself in a spooky land of darkness and confusion. The Lost Woods were filled with a dense fog and lit only by eerie jack-o-lanterns floating in the sky. Obstacles abounded and a path of arrows on the floor would only lead you in circles--unless you had the Blue Flame which revealed the true path (written in UV-fluorescent marker). I took a picture later after the fog had cleared so you can see what it was like.

Heather successfully navigated the Lost Woods, while Corinne followed the false path and got stuck in a corner. She recovered the chest and we took it back to Zora's Domain to open. Inside she found the Ocarina of Time and needed to play the opening to "The Song of Time" to unlock the Temple of Time and return the ocarina to its altar. In reward she collected her presents that were kept under the altar.

With the artifact recovered and restored to the temple, and presents in hand, it was time to rest from the adventure and open gifts.

By then pizza was ready to pick up for dinner and after pizza, cake! Heather asked for a cheesecake cut into a square to be Minecrafty. Jess frosted it with whipped-cream frosting.

And then it was time to head off to "Trunk or Treat" at school. Which was crazy crowded, but the girls had fun.

Jess' Birthday 2022

September 22, 2022 6:34 pm

Jess got to enjoy her first birthday adventure this year. Trying to squeeze an adventure in to the evening while still leaving time to have dinner and eat cake is tough but we got it done.

The adventure started by reading a slightly modified version of "Let's go for a Drive" by Mo Willems:

Elephant and Piggy collected Jess, the family, and a cake. But when Piggy went to get the presents they had gone missing! Jess had to find Sherlock Holmes to investigate.

She found Sherlock lounging on the book shelf next to Hercule Poirot. Sherlock was called away on urgent business but directed Jess to a person of interest, but she'd need to collect a few clues to identify the right one from the lineup (of characters from Dinosaur Tea Party).

She visited the friendly moose (a carving we bought in Canada), the glowing jellyfish (a glass sculpture we got at an aquarium that glows in the dark), the grey dragon (a figurine on a shelf in our room), she who fell through the looking glass (Alice as found in "Through the Looking Glass"), and he whose house has legs ("Howl's Moving Castle"). Using the clues they provided she was able to identify the person of interest, Lloyd, and question him regarding his knowledge of the missing presents (by using the identifying features on his character sheet to determine the code for a lock on a mini chest).

Lloyd admitted to being present at the time, but swore he was only trying to get a taste of the cake in the fridge. He tried to follow the suspect but couldn't keep up. However, he ran across "a frog that fancies himself a prince" who might know more.

In the frog's mouth was a cryptex dropped by the suspect. The frog said he didn't know what it is, but she should visit Madame Roo, a psychic, who could probably help.

Corinne helped by presenting the cryptex to Madame Roo while Jess read the clue. Madame Roo was able to divine an image out of the mind of the suspect, but it was confused and difficult to make sense of. Jess would need to piece it together to find the password to open the cryptex (by completing a small puzzle with an "I Spy" style image of a jumble of stuff from Corinne's room. In the image were Scrabble tiles which could be used to spell "FAIRY").

Inside the cryptex was a secret message sent from one of Heather's stuffed animals to one of Corinne's stuffed animals instructing them to wait until the coast was clear and grab the purloined presents from under the chair in the living room.

So the presents had been found and could now be opened.

The girls picked out novelty socks from a store at the mall. Cats in boxes and a tuxedo cat running for president:

She also unwrapped an invitation to tea for two at a tea house in the next town over. And after tea, a special showing of "Howl's Moving Castle" at the theater (which very conveniently lined up with her birthday, I found out about it and bought tickets months ago)

Then it was off to dinner at First Street Ale House before returning home for cake. I made my signature caramel-cheesecake on a blondie crust with a layer of salted caramel on top.

And by then it was past the girls' bedtime and the day was over.

2022 Trip: Part 3 - Erin's 40th Birthday Adventure

July 2, 2022 12:09 pm

I stumbled upon r/ConstructedAdventures on Reddit a few months ago and I was excited to find an entire community of people who enjoy building treasure hunts. The main person behind the subreddit actually makes a living professionally building and running personalized treasure hunts / adventures for people.

I've been building small treasure hunts for the girls' birthdays, but I became inspired to try something grander using some of the techniques discussed in that group.

It just so happened that, after Mollie's wedding, Erin and I would both be back home during our birthdays for the first time probably since high school and this year was Erin's 40th birthday. So I thought it would be fun to build a birthday adventure for Erin which would take her around our hometown. So I spent the intervening months planning, designing, building, testing, and redesigning a nostalgia tour for her and her children to revisit her childhood and let her tell her kids why the places on the adventure mattered.

It all began with a slideshow. When visiting Mom & Dad a slideshow of our childhood is always a hit with the grandchildren. At the end of the slideshow I inserted 3 custom-made slides1:

Background is a still from a home video of Erin stuck in a hamper.

It was fun seeing a room full of people watching the slides process what they were seeing and realize something unusual was afoot. And then they were off to find the items. To the attic to find the chest and to the chimney cleanout in the basement to find the key for the lock2,3:

Inside the chest were a map of the town and three small chests, each locked4. One with a letter-combination lock, one with a number-combination lock, and one with a key lock.

After toasting the recipe and chilling the map the path to the public library was revealed5,6:

In the library a worn copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone contained a bookmark, which led to Anne of Green Gables with a bookmark leading to Watership Down with a bookmark leading to To Kill a Mockingbird. A final bookmark in To Kill a Mockingbird instructed her to look under the shelf and find a UV flashlight7.

When played over the bookmarks the flashlight revealed a message: "Report-card dinners and post-concert treats. Search the railings for that which you seek." And on the map it revealed a path leading from the library to the now-closed Friendly's restaurant at which our family regularly celebrated events.

Three clues were taped to the railings around the building (labeled "x of 3," so they would know how many to find)8. One was an Ottendorf Cipher for future use. The second was a QR code of a URL which took her to a website I made with 5 songs to be played. These were songs which I believed were known to Erin and were popular during her high-school years.

She needed to identify the artist and title of each song and fill in the answer sheet (the third clue) to reveal her next destination9: "WWI Memorial Green Plaque"10

The WWI Memorial Green was the location where the marching band would meet for the town's annual Memorial Day parade before it moved to the WWII Memorial Green up the street.

She was directed to the plaque and here used the Ottendorf cipher to reveal the combination to one of her locked chests (the combination was "BAND").

Inside the chest was her next clue:

At one point an old train car on an abandoned set of tracks was turned into an ice-cream shop and Erin worked there. Now she needed to return to those tracks and find the fake rock which was apparently rather convincing tucked under a small plant11.

Inside the fake rock was the key to the second small chest. Inside that chest was the next clue:

Included with the clue was some cash to buy lunch at the Cromwell Diner. The only place in town open 24/7 where you might grab a late night meal while hanging out with friends. Also included was the cipher for the last chest that could only be solved by using the Cromwell Diner menu.

In the final chest was the next clue which led to an ice cream shop we both worked at which was known at the time as "Johnny Cool Ice Cream," but is now known as "Scoops and Sprinkles." Some cash for ice cream was also provided as well as a clue sheet requiring the menu board to solve12.

The menu board clue revealed the word "SANDBOX" which was a classic treasure-hunt location in our yard for the treasure hunts Mom made for some of our birthdays when we were kids.

The final event was hidden in the sandbox in a Zip-Loc bag (with the edge exposed so that it didn't turn into a massive excavation project). This bag contained the final clue and some maps of the house. On the maps several Xs had been marked, but only some of them actually contained presents. The red herrings could be eliminated by applying a flame causing them to disappear13:

Once the false marks had been removed all that was left was to collect the presents!

The Secrets

  1. I designed the slides myself using GIMP. And ordered them printed and mounted from Slides From Digital.
  2. Larger chest from Amazon.
  3. Antiquey lock from Amazon.
  4. The chests inside were small, unfinished wood chests from which I removed the useless little clasps and screwed in bent eye-screws that would allow a lock to be attached. Not very polished looking, but functional.
  5. The heat-revealed writing is lemon juice, my own preparation: 1 tablespoon heated in the microwave for 90 seconds at 20% power, which makes it a little less runny and causes the writing to reveal faster when toasted. Written using a #0 brush using a light table.
  6. The cold-revealed writing is a Frixion pen, first made to disappear by heating it up (see below).
  7. UV flashlight from Amazon.
  8. I really, really wanted this location to reveal just a QR code by pouring water out onto the concrete using a hydrophobic spray. But I couldn't get a stencil to give me a sharp enough result and I had to abandon the idea due to time constraints.
    I tried a cardboard stencil (cut with an Xacto knife) but it immediately began to warp when the spray hit it, so it didn't stay flat even with tape.
    Then I tried an acrylic sheet (drilled and cut with a coping saw). but it was too brittle and thick and I couldn't get clean enough cuts and the spray couldn't effectively settle into the holes. A thin, non-brittle plastic sheet might work though.
  9. With more time I would have fancied up the webpage a little more, but I burned all my extra time on the stencils.
    1. Chumbawamba - Tubthumping
    2. Dexter Freebish - Leaving Town
    3. Dixie Chicks - Goodbye Earl
    4. Bare Naked Ladies - One Week
    5. Semisonic - Closing Time
  10. I intended to pre-fill space 20 with a 'q' since I had no Qs in the song titles, but I apparently forgot. The group, however, was smart enough to figure out the missing letter.
  11. Fake rock from Amazon.
  12. I made a last minute font and styling change to this clue sheet and didn't review it enough times and messed up two of the letters. But she figured it out all the same. The image here has been corrected.
  13. Ink that disappears is accomplished via the Frixion pens previously mentioned. When heated they become invisible.