Family Game Night

Once upon a time, my job was to help create educational materials for both children and parents (and "community stakeholders"). Part of that research-based work was encouraging families to spend time together, particularly having a regular family dinner time. It's supposed to be very healthy for family relationships!

Now that I have a family of my own, we try to sit down together for dinner as often as we can. On top of that, in the past year we've also started a regular Family Game Night. Every Friday after dinner we play something--sometimes two of us, sometimes three, sometimes all four. It's something to look forward to all week!

I cleaned out a closet shelf above our puzzles & activity books to create a games shelf.

One of our newest games purchased on a special trip to FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue. This is Chutes & Ladders, the My Little Pony edition. Besides the usual chutes and ladders, there are also rainbows that can lead you even higher up if you're lucky.

I adore this vintage game, it's a cooperative one with Eat-Locally-Think-Globally values called Back to the Farm. We got our first edition back in the 80s so it's part of my own childhood. I took it to college and lost it to basement apartment flooding, but my mother got me a replacement (yay! Thank you!). Now my kids love it!

Guess Who? is for two people (or two teams). You each pick a secret item and then answer yes/no questions about its characteristics. You flip down the doors to eliminate possibilities until you figure out the other person's choice. We also found it's easy to make your own cards that fit into the holders.

Another favorite from my own childhood: Boggle. Our eight-year-old is now sophisticated enough to get into finding words. We use the iPad as our timer since our set only has the cubes/shaker. That's my photobombing beer there.

Trouble is a new one for me, but seems similar to Parcheesi. I like the satisfying gesture and sound of pressing the bubble in the middle to roll the die.

Junior Monopoly is great! It goes MUCH faster than regular Monopoly, but has the same features of amassing cash and real estate. I think it's just as satisfying as the adult version.

This was a Christmas gift (Thanks, Uncle J and Aunt G!), and we love it already! It's called Wildcraft! and it's another cooperative game. The premise is you travel up the mountain path to collect huckleberries (the blue chips in the center), and you encounter problems and harvest herbs to solve those problems as you go. Besides learning some basic herbalism, there is a lot about helping others and even tracking the motion of the sun throughout your journey!


This one is Feed the Kitty, a seemingly simple game of dice where one's luck can change in a moment. You never know who is going to come out on top—particularly with four players!

We have other favorites too, including Zingo (like Bingo but with images that emerge from a "shoe" and you try to grab them before others do), Blind Spell (you are given a word and blindfolded, then handed letters that make up that word plus a few extra; you have to spell the word by feel and identify the extras before the timer rings) and Busytown: Eye Found It (Richard Scarry!!!! Goldbug!!! Awesomeness!!!).

What games do you love? Do you play anything regularly?

Brattleboro, Vermont with Prof. Kitty

Peter Havens

What is up in Brattleboro, Vermont? We call it the "one and only," because there is no other place called Brattleboro anywhere in the world. If you are planning a visit to this sweet spot in Vermont, or if you LIVE here, or even if you're checking it out with no clear plans to visit, I hope this list is useful.

A disclaimer: There are many, many other things that people love to do in Brattleboro, Vermont. This is just my personal list... a mere taste of the town's charms.

Everyone's Books (Local indie bookstore that also has cards and bumper stickers)
Brattleboro Books (Browse-for-hours used books)
Mystery on Main Street (mystery and more, esp. Gorey)
Baskets (a trove of paperbacks in Harmony parking lot)

TJ Buckley's (the best place in town looks like a diner but is high-end nirvana within. Cash only please)
Peter Havens (superior dining and heavenly cocktails)
Whetstone Station (brew-pub with 2 floors of river views)
Duo (new Main Street spot is super-popular and super-sleek)
Hazel (whether pulled pork or pizza, this is the place)
Twin Flames Taqueria (sit down for burritos, tacos and more; salsa bar in the back)


Amy's Bakery (soup, sandwiches, coffee with a river & NH mountain view)
The Marina (fries, clams, lobster mac & cheese, and West River overlook--try for sunset!)
Top of the Hill Grill (a summertime favorite, be prepared for a line and 'cue)
Chelsea Royal Diner (your typical excellent diner, with creamee stand in summertime)
Panda North  (Our beloved Chinese restaurant does it well)
Yalla Vermont (falafel-packed pitas bursting with flavor)
Superfresh Organic Cafe (the famous hippie spirit lives on in this vegan/gluten-free hotspot)
Tito's Tacos (food truck parked on Putney Road—a local favorite; order ahead online!)

Panda North

Specialty Foods:
Grafton Cheese (Cheese & great gifts, plus a petting zoo for families)
Windham Wines (next to North End Butcher, our local wine experts--ask about tastings)
Adam's Seafood (need fresh seafood or shellfish? come here first!)

Arkham (purposely a dive bar, off Harmony Parking lot)
Kipling's (come here for your Guinness and great juke box--cash only)
Mocha Joe's (locally roasted coffee, be prepared for a wee line)

The Brattleboro Food Coop (straddling the line between local and trendy... overpriced or just awesome?)
West Brattleboro Farmer's Market (from May to October, everyone comes here on Saturdays)
Winter Farmer's Market (from November-April, find farm/local-made delights downtown at the River Garden on Main Street, every Saturday)
Lilac Ridge Farm (turn off Rte 9 onto Greenleaf for a lovely small farmstand... owners were in the movie Food Inc.)
Dutton's Berry Farm (kind of our permanent Farm Stand--myriad produce plus jams, sun-dried tomatoes and much more)

Farmer's Market summer haul

Hiking/Outdoors--Google for more information/maps!
West River Trail
Mount Wantastiquet (actually in New Hampshire, hike up the mountain that looms over town from the east. Trailhead accessible off Rte 119 in Hinsdale, NH)
Vermont Canoe Touring Center (rentals) (open May-October)
Cortland Hill Orchard (September holds a BOUNTY of delicious Cortlands)
Scott Farm Orchard (diverse heirloom orchard where "Cider House Rules" was filmed)

West River Trail

History & Art:
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (our very own super-cool museum)
Estey Organ Museum (did you know Brattleboro is significant in organ history?)
Gallery Walk (if you're here the first Friday of the month, check out our galleries!)

Cotton Mill Hill installation

Latchis Theatre (the one & only movie house in town)
Hooker Dunham Theater (check out the musical acts coming this way!)
New England Youth Theater (sells out quickly: highly acclaimed young performers)
Brattleboro Music Center (many magnificent performances and series)
Vermont Jazz Center (world class jazz venue & school--shows usually on Saturdays)
Stone Church dances: Ballroom/Latin, African, Contra

Strolling of the Heifers (another one & only for our adorable town)
Northern Roots (Celtic, fiddle, more!)
Literary Festival (once Saul Bellow spoke to an over-capacity crowd... what could be next?)
Film Festival
Women's Film Festival
Winter Carnival
Brattleboro-West Arts Studio Tour
Cotton Mill Hill Open Studio & Sale
Touch a Truck (hospital fund-raiser and horn-free... your little ones may LOVE this one)
Baconfest (check latest Facebook...)
Brattleboro Brewers Festival (how could you go wrong?)

Please try walking down Main Street, Elliot Street, and Flat Street in downtown Brattleboro for LOTS of shopping choices.

at a Main Street antique shop

Maple 5K (late September)
Walk Run & Roll (early September)
Bill Powers Memorial 4-mile Firecracker
Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 3-mile

Brattleboro Retreat Petting Farm
Kid's Playce
Crowell Lot Park playground
Living Memorial Park playground
Brooks Memorial Library kid's room (10-2 on Saturdays)
Avenue Grocery or Chelsea Royal Diner for creamees

Fun times at Kids Playce

Turkey Sausage Bean Soup

Simple, warming, and thick. This hearty soup is great for a weekend afternoon when there's a little extra time for chopping and simmering.

  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1 large pat butter
  • onion, chopped
  • 3 turkey sausage, sweet Italian
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 box chicken broth (32 ounces)
  • 3 small potatoes, cubed
  • 1 can great northern beans (15 ounces)

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil and melt butter. Toss in onions and stir.
  2. Sauté onions until glassy and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Squeeze sausage out of casings and stir around, breaking up chunks with your spoon.
  4. When sausage chunks are cooked on all sides, add carrots and celery.

  5. Continue to sauté, stir, and break up sausage chunks until everything is sweaty. (About 2 more minutes.)
  6. Stir in crushed garlic.
  7. Pour in chicken broth, and add potatoes and beans.

  9. Cook for about 30 minutes... The goal is to make sure the potatoes are soft.
  10. To thicken the soup, use a potato masher to squish everything around for about 30 seconds.