Corinne's 9th Birthday

March 25, 2024 12:10 pm

For Corinne's birthday this year I designed a Minecraft adventure. She's been big into Minecraft this year. Since her birthday was on a Sunday we had lots of time for the adventure. Jess took the girls to lunch at Panera while I set everything up.

I was actively involved with the adventure as it happened and I asked Jess to take video, so I don't have any pictures during the event, but you can watch the whole thing if you like (55 min):

When she arrived home from lunch she was welcomed to Minecraft and given an inventory bag and a map. She was told that Blockville was being threatened by an Ender Dragon because someone stole the dragon's End Crystal. She needed to follow an old legend about a lost end crystal, recover the End Crystal, and return it to the Ender Dragon to save the village.

Her first stop was to see Shelly the Shepherd in the meadow. All of her llamas got loose and needed Corinne's help to gather wood, build fences, create a pen, and then bring all the llamas back.

Once the llamas were corralled Shelly was able to tell Corinne some information about the lost End Crystal and referred her to Farmer Peregrine on the Farm.

Peregrine wanted to help, but there was a wild pig loose in his crops. He needed Corinne to mine some stone, build a trap, and trap the pig.

With the pig trapped, Peregrine was able to dig through some old family documents for some information about the crystal. He suggested Corinne visit Annie the Archaeologist who has been studying ancient relics and runes.

Annie found a locked chest and determined that the combination was related to the coordinates of a nearby statue. Corinne needed to measure the coordinates from the origin indicated on her map. In the chest was the last piece of information she needed about the End Crystal. She now had all 3 coordinates for the crystal and just needed to find the location.

In her closet she found the lost End Crystal and then activated the portal to The End. Inside was the ferocious Ender Dragon.

With an acceptable substitute for the stolen End Crystal having been returned, the village rejoiced, showered Corinne in gifts, and threw a party in her honor.

Along the way she crafted a sword/pickaxe and some diamond armor. Here she is with her new friend, the Ender Dragon:

I designed and built the llamas, pig, Ender Dragon, armor, and End Crystal. They're all made from cardboard and hot glue. The dragon includes an aluminum skeleton of 1/8"-thick flat bar running from head to tail and wing to wing. Jess painted the llamas, pig, and dragon. Some concept art of the process:

Celebrating after the adventure with presents!

If you couldn't tell by the gift selection, she's really into Minecraft right now.

The rest of the family was recovering from sickness, so we stayed home for dinner (for which Corinne chose Taco Bell). Then it was time for cake!

The following weekend Corinne had a birthday party--the first we've hosted since the pandemic. She invited a few close friends and they made name tag headbands (so your name shows up over your head, like in Minecraft), assembled Lego kits, decorated cupcakes, and painted on canvases to take home. She had a blast.

Heather's Birthday 2023

October 29, 2023 10:35 am

Heather had a recurring fever starting Friday afternoon through Saturday so we had to modify our birthday plans. Laser Tag and dinner out will have to be rescheduled but she was able to enjoy her Stardew Valley Birthday Adventure on Saturday afternoon.

October has been jam packed this year with something going on every weekend. Lambtown and a birthday party the first weekend, the eclipse the second weekend, Mom & Dad & Will (Erin was supposed to come too, but needed to stay to tend to children injured in a car accident) visiting for the Lab Open House on the third weekend, and Heather's birthday on the fourth weekend.

So the Birthday Adventure I designed this year was a little less involved, but since Heather was sick that ended up working well. It was Stardew Valley themed this time and started with her receiving a letter like the character in the game does. The letter invited her out to the garage to plant some Moonflower seeds.

After completing her planting it was suggested she return inside to check out the community center and see if she could help fix it up. In the game the community center has been abandoned and you have to donate specific items in bundles to help restore it and when you do magical creatures called junimos fix things and give you rewards.

So Heather worked on completing 4 bundles: The Birthday Bundle, The Fall Bundle, The Family Bundle, and the Random Bundle.

The Birthday Bundle: 12 candles, 3 bows, 1 drawing of a cake
The Fall Bundle: 100 fallen leaves, 1 mug of hot apple cider, 1 pumpkin
The Family Bundle: 4 books (1 that each family member likes), 1 song played on the cello, 10 cat hairs
The Random Bundle: Write and recite a haiku about a narwhal, 4 dice showing unique numbers which sum to 12, 5 dragons

As she collected the indicated items she would unlock the room behind each bundle which contained a junimo and a piece of a code puzzle.

With all the bundles completed she was able to decode the Junimo Code and unlock the Ancient Junimo Cryptex (the code was "GEODE").

Inside the cryptex was a thank you letter from the junimos and a map of the house with the location of hidden geodes marked.

By the time she had found all the geodes she was getting a bit tired, so the length seems to have worked out well.

After completing her adventure she opened presents.

Then she went back to resting on the couch. Dinner was her choice, Stuff Stacks, and after dinner was cake: chocolate cake, vanilla cream filling, white frosting with sprinkles on top.

We opted to cut a slice off and put the candles in it since she was actively sick.

Despite being sick she had a good day.

This year, she and Liam have been attending Mathcounts with me and started alternating that with the 3-D Printing Club which meets at the same time each week. She likes dragons, reading (especially the Wings of Fire series at the moment--it's about dragons), Pokemon, playing the cello (started this school year), Minecraft, Stardew Valley, and attended her first drop-off school dance.

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.