Inside a mystery box

Image sourced from Lacy Lane

Image sourced from Lacy Lane

Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.  – Nina Dobrev

You can be childlike without being childish. A child always wants to have fun. Ask yourself, ‘Am I having fun?’ – Christopher Meloni

Life is more fun if you play games.  – Roald Dahl

As a child I was fascinated by mystery boxes.  Being presented with a number of unobtrusive boxes and being tasked with choosing one to reveal either a welcome bounty or a dud souvenir was excruciatingly enticing . I delighted in the weighing up of possibilities and the anticipation –  would there be ultimate enjoyment or a momentary disappointment from having made the wrong decision?  Recently the tables were turned slightly. I was not choosing a box for a reward but rather I was put inside a mystery box and the ultimate reward came from escape.

My analogy is weak, I agree, so let me tell you a little about one of the most exhilarating  fun experience I have had in a very long time.

It all began with a shake down.  Phones and other electronic devices were confiscated and locked away.  A hood was placed over my head. I don’t go in much for blindfolds and I certainly don’t like hessian bags over my head but in the spirit of adventure and fun I played along.  We were led to our chamber and once our captor departed and locked us within we removed our bags to find we were in the dark bowels of the Butcher’s Burrow.  We had 50 minutes to escape our fate and I had no idea how to begin. There were limited tools at our disposal and those that seemed to exist were sealed away with combination locks. Time was of the essence and the two of us had to work together to escape.  Our first objective was to find light.

I would love to describe in detail the steps we took to escape and the challenges we faced but that would spoil the fun should you attempt this yourself. The Exitus escape rooms are an exciting addition to the adult fun arena.  The room we visited is part of the entertainment at Strike Bowling in the city of Brisbane but they are popping up almost everywhere.  Each room has a theme where minimal clues are given and teams must use their wits and combined brain power to solve the puzzles confronting them. The goal is to escape before the nominated time is up.  You can ask for clues – using the iPad that is supplied or the mobile phone that links directly to the administrator.  Beware – there are time penalties for clues.

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Before entering, I was a little apprehensive.  The thought of being locked in an unfamiliar room for close to an hour, sent my heart a flutter.  What if I felt claustrophobic and too confined, what if I  needed to get out?  Those thoughts soon passed and then a sheen of sweat broke out as I wondered if I would know what to do. Would I be able to solve the puzzles?  What if I needed maths? I need not have worried.  Precautions are in place in case of panic – the mobile phone allows for an instant exit should you need it and the puzzles, well, while they initially  seemed unsolvable, once an instinctual need to ‘escape’ kicked in the fuzziness of my mind was miraculously unlocked and I forged ahead.  Good news too – no maths needed.

My adult son and I worked exceptionally well as a team.  He had been in an escape room before and had some sense of what was required so with a little guidance we set about our task with the pressure and weight of a ticking clock as a constant motivator. We each had our moments of clarity and success and often times it was our combined collaboration that saw the different clues uncovered and puzzles solved.  Teams of up to six can enter the rooms.  I would have found that a little difficult; coping with too many personalities and noise may have rendered me incapable of clear throughout but it may also add to the fun for many.

We escaped, triumphant.  In our last three minutes, holding our final clue we were stumped.  We tossed around ideas, tried various options but relented and asked for a clue.  We weighed the alternative – time penalty or eviction without resolution.  We chose to finish the puzzle.  Surprisingly we were on the right path and probably would have gotten to the end point unaided but that ticking clock forced our hand.

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If you want to experience the difference between fun and enjoyment but don’t want to jump out of planes, travel too far from home or spend a fortune; try escape rooms – they are loads of fun and worth every cent. The warm after glow will provide you with plenty of lasting enjoyment once the thrill of the moment has passed.

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A bundle of little things I’m loving right now

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Life is a great bundle of little things.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to accomplish something big, that we fail to notice the little things that give life its magic.    Author unknown

There are times I find myself consumed by certain things in life. I look forward to them passionately, I think about them often and I enjoy indulging in them regularly.  Currently I’m having a love affair with logic puzzles, matcha tea, podcasts, commuting by bus and riceless nori rolls, oh, and House of Cards (but everyone loves that TV series, right?).  It’s a pretty eclectic and quirky mix, I admit, but I’m enthralled all the same.

Podcasts – Conversations with Richard Fidlercover170x170
I had to go on a road trip, solo, recently. I don’t enjoy listening to music as I often can’t settle on one style or artist for long.  I prefer to listen to audio books; the ‘voice’ feels like company. Realising my departure date was upon me and I was sans audio book I sent a desperate message to a friend and asked if she had anything. Disappointment set in when she replied with a no. She did however have a CD of radio conversations that she listens to on long trips.  I hadn’t heard of them before but I was open to giving it a go.

Oh. My. Goodness!!!! I was hooked from the first interview. Richard Fidler, a presenter for the ABC radio, hosts hour-long conversations with a wide range of local and international guests. His guests speak on a range of topics such as, but not limited to; science, art, history, crime, business, entertainment, politics and health. While some celebrities are interviewed often guests are ordinary people with exceptional stories. Richard is a remarkable host. He is compassionate and passionate, he is inquisitive and knowledgable, he is warm, and funny and very generous.

My friend’s CD of 27 interviews lasted me my trip and back and then several weeks more. Having played my last interview the car fell into silence and zipping about the city wasn’t as interesting as it has been the previous few weeks.  I had laughed, I’d cried, I was outraged, sobered and elated by the stories. I immersed myself into the life of another, an hour at a time. I felt an emptiness without this ‘contact’ to the world outside my little sphere. I am now subscribing to the podcast and I’ll create my own playlist of conversations to entertain, inform and intrigue me.

Matcha tea                                                                 My Christmas morning Matcha

Several years ago I saw an advertisement for this bright green, powdered tea and became curious. It was difficult to source but eventually I found an online company and had some delivered.  I can’t recall if my love affair began at first sight or if it was a slow burning passion that eventually ignited. Now, of course I’m head over heels with matcha. It’s my go to early morning pick me up – if I need it – and it’s a nice mid morning alternative to my regular green tea or chai. It’s extraordinarily versatile. I’ve created rocket fuel matcha, I drink it plain or with added almond or coconut milk, I’ve added it to my brain boosting keto balls and various other baked delights. I am smitten by the flavour, taste and the lovely gentle energy enhancing properties of matcha.

I have purchased matcha at a couple of coffee shops (not everyone stocks it) but they are waaaayyyy too sweet. I drink mine unsweetened. I’ve spotted matcha shakes, full of ice-cream which is no good for my lactose free belly but I did discover a nice matcha frappe – just ice, almond milk and tea. It was divine in our hot and humid Australian summer. I imagine matcha is an acquired taste (it’s kind of earthy which is why so many people add sweeteners, I guess)  but I encourage you to be adventurous and try it.

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I love a good puzzle. I am a jigsaw puzzle and crossword fan from way back. The problem with jigsaws is they are not easily portable.  Crosswords and jigsaws were usually left for holiday indulgences until I discovered mini puzzle books. Being introduced to Sudoku a while back I have worked my way through several books – carrying them and code cracker mini books with me when I fly for work. I also have several in my draw at work for lunch breaks. A few seasons ago I branched out and purchased a book of logic puzzles to take on a beach holiday.  My brain hurt horribly. Initially, I couldn’t work out how to do them. The simple ones were a breeze but I got stuck on the more complex puzzles. Not one to easily give up when faced with a puzzle challenge, I grappled for days trying to ‘crack the code’ so to speak. Just as my beloved was shaking his head and encouraging me to ‘give it away’, to ‘relax’, the penny dropped and I finally ‘got it’.

Now I try to complete a logic puzzle every day before leaving for work. I’ve recently purchased a  different publication, it’s much harder than those I’m used to, and I don’t always crack it before leaving the house. So weekends are a joy for me. Over a matcha tea, or two, I smash out two or three logic puzzles before I get moving. They say it’s good to work your brain to ward off Alzheimer’s and other brain degenerative diseases. I hope they’re right. I worry at times I’m doing more damage than good because I can literally feel my brain working. Some days the puzzle is so tricky my head hurts, I feel a fog descend and I get dizzy. (Doesn’t sound like much fun does it?) Understandably, the harder they are to solve the more satisfaction I feel. I’m a cheap date, I know!

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Okay. I don’t LOVE commuting. It’s not as convenient as having a car to zip around in BUT it does have massive advantages apart from being kinder on the environment and saving a packet on car parking. Since I began commuting to work this year I have read, so many books I’ve lost count. I look forward to jumping on that bus, settling down and diving into my book.

I’ve been an avid reader since childhood, it’s like magic to me. My favourite shops are bookshops and the hardware store. I remember traveling some years ago and finishing my fifth book. We were in non-english speaking countries and I was weeks without a book and began to crave language and words I could understand. I felt a physical need to clutch a book in my hands and drink in the story within.  As luck would have it we stumbled across a secondhand store in Nimes, France. There was a single box of English novels on a trolley out the front. I poured over and revelled in the luxury of those books before making my selection. So, to have free time to read, in a busy schedule, is a pure indulgence. Hence my current love of commuting.

Riceless nori rolls

I have been craving nori. Yep, weird stuff I know (nori and matcha, what a combination). Nori contains vitamins C and A, magnesium and potassium. Clearly my body is looking to fill a gap in the minerals department. Sushi rolls leave me feeling dissatisfied on a whole range of levels. I prefer to eat my nori rolls without rice. It’s fun to make your own fillings: smashed avocado, tahini, mashed roast pumpkin, smoked salmon, cucumber, carrot, salad greens, roasted eggplant and egg are a few of my favourites. The choices and combinations are endless. Cut into bite sized pieces these make an easy snack or a hearty lunch. So simple, so versatile, so yummy and healthy too!

Do you find there are times when you are all or nothing with certain things? What’s caught your fancy lately?