Thursday, December 27, 2012

5 simple games to spice up your holiday get togethers

Last Christmas, I was in the southern-Spanish countryside of a tiny village, volunteering in exchange for food and accommodation via HelpX on the property of Cuesta Viñas.

Myself roaming the gorgeous hills in the countryside of Válor, Granada, Spain
Myself roaming the gorgeous hills in the countryside of Válor, Granada, Spain

My Christmas day began with a jump into the pool to retrieve a balloon with my name on it: our first "Christmas game" that day.   Here are the other games we played at various times throughout the rest of the holiday, most requiring minimal household materials:

#1 Knife Drop

All you'll need for endless laughter and fun is some string, two knives, and two empty wine bottles.

Tie a piece of string to one of the knives, then tie the other end of that string around the waist of a player so that the knife hangs down their back side - over their rear.  Tie it so that the knife doesn't hang so low, since longer hanging strings are too easy.

Do the same with the other knife and string, and tie it to player #2: the opponent.  Both players race against each other to try to get their knife in the bottle first.  This requires some squatting, and is really fun to watch.

Here's a clip so you can see how Knife Drop works:

#2 Wine Bottle Walk

Using those same two wine bottles, you can play another game, which I have named "Wine bottle walk".  Mark a starting line on the floor.  We used the edge of a rug as our starting line.  Your feet must stay behind this line.  Put your hands on the bottles and walk forwards as far as you can.  Someone else should throw a coin or some sort of marker to whatever point you reach (if it's farther than the others), but it only counts if you can get back to the start line without falling.  The person to go the farthest wins.

I think after the first round of people, we all got a second chance to beat the record.  It's a lot harder than it looks!

Here's a video of Wine Bottle Walk in action:

#3 Box Bite

For this next game, all you'll need is a cardboard box.  Thinner cardboard that's easier to rip is preferable.

In the first round, everyone must bend down - without touching hands or knees to the floor - and pick up an edge of the box with their teeth.  After everyone does so, someone cuts off (or rips off) an inch from the top of the box, and thus begins round two.  As the box gets shorter and shorter, it gets harder to pick it up with your mouth.

Here's a clip of Box Bite being played on Christmas 2011:

#4 Abs Neck of Steel

Warning: Play at your own risk!  This game may cause injury (or pain) to your neck.  Most of us who tried it later wished that we hadn't! 

You'll need: two chairs and a small stool (or light piece of short furniture).

Rest your head (neck up) on one chair, put your feet on the other, and rest your rear on the short stool or end table.  When you're ready to begin, remove the stool/small furniture from underneath your tush and pass it around your waist, counting the number of times you pass it around.  

Whoever gets the highest number wins!  Many people were only getting a few before they stopped.  I think I made it to 13 or something and people were impressed.  But then this guy blew us all out of the competition:

#5 Wheelbarrow Race

This wasn't exactly the safest game to play, but our hosts had set up a wheelbarrow race after breakfast that morning.  We were put into teams of two, and two teams raced against each other at a time.

Wheelbarrow race starting line
Wheelbarrow race starting line

There was a short ramp each team had to wheel over, and then a brick at the halfway point that each team had to push around before changing directions and running back to the finish line (aka start line).

Wheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races

To make this safer, you could always do a wheelbarrow race without the physical wheelbarrow.  You know, where one person grabs the ankles of the other person, who walks on the ground with his or her hands.  Here's come clip art to illustrate:

Human wheelbarrow race
Human wheelbarrow race
Image Source

All of these games that I played last Christmas provided hours of entertainment!  They're so simple and require such few materials; I was surprised that I had never played most of them before.

Have you played any of these games before?  Are you going to try some at your next big get-together?  What games are always a hit at your parties?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inside Out in Madrid: Las manolas y los manolos de Cascorro

At the end of November I blogged about a public art display I had seen in September in Madrid, but hadn't known what it was.

Readers Mary and Kris commented (thank you!) and left me this link.  That site is all in Spanish, so I'll translate and summarize a bit:

The art project was called "Las manolas y los Manolos de Cascorro," and it strove to showcase the diverse community of Cascorro, the neighborhood/plaza in which the project was displayed.  This in turn was to represent the diverse community that is society.  They took pictures of 76 people that had been walking down the street in that area, and with the help and support of the neighbors that offered their balconies for the project, put the portraits on display.

Las manolas y los manolos de Cascorro
Photo Source: El País
The cultural association "La mitocondria" collaborated with the Italian photographer Antonio Arcaro and the neighbors of the area, in order to make this art project a success.

This was actually an Inside Out project, inspired by street artist JR's TED talk that he gave last year when he was named winner of TED Prize 2011:

If you don't want to watch, the top banner of the Inside Out website provides the gist of what it's about: "A global art project transforming messages of personal identity into works of art.  1. Upload a poster  2. Receive a poster  3. Paste it for the world to see  Participate Now".  And here's what the website's "About" section reads:
"I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we'll turn the world...INSIDE OUT." – JR
INSIDE OUT is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually."
If anyone's interested in reading the article that appeared in El País about the project in Madrid, it can be found here.

I had actually seen this TED Talk in 2011 when the prize was awarded to JR, so I was really excited to find out that this art project was a part of his Inside Out challenge.  That's one of the great things about living in a European capitol city.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oliva: Day 3, A year ago today

[This post is a part of a forgotten series about Oliva, Spain.  Post one can be found here.  Post two is here.]

A year ago today was a Saturday, and I was in Oliva - a small pueblo just south of Valencia along the Mediterranean coast.  My old roommate Gregorio's parents live there, and this was the first time that I went to their house.

We had arrived in Oliva that Thursday evening, and at the end of the day on Friday I asked Gregorio, "How old is your father?"
Gregorio did some calculating, then answered, "Well tomorrow he'll be...[I don't remember what age he said!]"
"Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean tomorrow?"
"His birthday's tomorrow," Gregorio said.
"What?  But nobody's said anything about it.  Are you pulling my leg?"
He laughed and said, "Yeah, it's tomorrow.  Really"

I didn't know whether I should believe him or not, as he's always pulling practical jokes on me.

Saturday morning when I woke up, his parents had already left for "la casa de arriba" (the upper house, which is their house up in the hills, away from the coast/town.  We would be having lunch there, I was told.  I was excited to finally see this casa de arriba because that's where Gregorio's parents' dogs live.  That's also where Gregorio gets all his fruit from; whenever he'd return to Madrid from his parents' house, he would always bring back crates and crates full of huge Valencian lemons and oranges.

View from the balcony
Oliva, Spain

Fruit tree at the casa de arriba
Oliva, Spain

We went inside the house and saw Gregorio's father watching television in the living room.  Gregorio didn't say "happy birthday" (well, feliz cumpleaños) to him or anything, so I didn't say anything either.  Because it had probably been a joke to try and get me to make a fool of myself.

After checking out the rest of the house and yard, and after I'd soaked up the amazing view of the coast and surrounding forested hills, Gregorio found his mother.  She was outside cooking this for lunch:

Oliva, Spain
Paella.  Homemade, authentic paella.  Made by a Spanish mother on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.  Wow.

The chef and I, and the paella
Oliva, Spain
She was nearly done by the time we had arrived, so we soon carried it up to the dining room.

As we were sitting down, Gregorio's dad went to wash up his hands or something.  Then Gregorio said to his mother, "Let's have this champagne for dad's birthday."
His mom whispered back, "It's today?!"
"Yes, December 10," he said.
*gasp*  "Es verdad!" (you're right!), she said.

I probably gasped myself.  I couldn't believe that nobody had said anything yet about his birthday, and wondered if he had forgotten himself, or if he was waiting for someone to say something.

So when Gregorio's father sat down at the table to eat, Gregorio said something along the lines of, "Let's have this champagne for your birthday, dad.  Happy birthday."  His dad grinned.

Later I asked Gregorio's mother if there was anything they normally did to celebrate birthdays.  "Oh no, we [she and her husband] don't celebrate them," she told me.  "They're just like any other day."

So that explains it.  I'll never forget December 10, 2011: the first day I ate homemade paella in Spain, and Gregorio's father's "forgotten" birthday.

¡Feliz cumpleaños Eulalio!