Happy Freak Week!

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It’s my favorite time of year for a lot of reasons, but one of the coolest (and tastiest) is Coney Island Brewery’s 3rd annual Freak Week. The brewery creates some strange and unusual concoctions in small exclusive to this event, and then tours them around with city with some tap takeovers. So not only do I get to try weird new beers, but I’m motivated to check out new neighborhoods and bars! Last night I went back to my old neighborhood and had a great time at Five Mile Stone – a spot I never would have found if not for Freak Week.

Freak Week is anchored by the annual release of Freaktoberfest, one of my favorite fall beers up there with Brooklyn’s Post Road Ale, Southern Tier’s Pumking and Abita’s Pecan Ale. What sets Freaktoberfest apart for me is the espresso flavor. It takes the pumpkin to a darker place that reminds me of moonless October nights, wind whipping the last few leaves off the trees and a sense or anticipation for the unknown.

This year’s exclusive beers are:

* Super Freak – 9.1%
Brewed with pumpkin, lemon peel, nutmeg and allspice, this beer offers a citrusy twist on traditional fall flavors

I had this one last year and it never disappoints. However, the two truly new beers kept in line with CIB’s seemingly cereal-themed year. In spring, they launched a Cinnamon Toast Kolsch with a fun brunch party. For Freak Week, we get two childhood throwbacks.

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* Blueberry Boo-Liner – 5.5%
Kettle-soured Berliner Weisse brewed with marshmallow creme and lactose and aged on blueberry puree

In a close decision, this one is my favorite. I’ve been really into sours this year so the mild blueberry pucker makes it really enjoyable. Blueberry has never been a flavor I enjoyed, but it’s not overwhelming in this beer and has more of a general dark berry flavor.

* Count Flocula – 5.5%
Kölsch brewed with marshmallow creme and lactose and aged on Cocoa Nibs

Chocolatey beers are usually stouts or novelty. This light, crisp kolsch nailed the perfect aftertaste of Cocoa Krispies milk – sweet, slightly stale, and soft. It was nice not be hit over the head with the chocolate flavor.

Fun times. Freaky beers. Fall vibes.

What’s your favorite fall beer?

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider might be the best game of the year. I preordered it after Day 1 of E3, and since it arrived Friday afternoon I haven’t been able to put it down. My PS4 has seen more action in the last 5 days than it has all year.

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Lara is more real than she’s ever been. She’s always been a badass to me, but watching her struggle with her physical limitations and express real emotion, I couldn’t be more impressed. In this game, she’s grappling with her accountability and guilt after taking a dagger that triggers a Mayan apocalypse. Those feelings seem to be a driving force in every side quest she undertakes to aid and preserve South American indigenous cultures. She pushes through her discomfort and fears, which is more than I can say. I’ve had to take breaks because I’ve been too scared to go on for a bit! Also, the way she expresses her frustration and sheer wonder makes me feel like she’s an extension of the player.

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My usual play style tends to be run-in-guns-blazing, but that’s not working for me here. Shadow of the Tomb Raider almost forces me to be strategic. In one particularly challenging scene, Lara needs to get by eight Trinity associates. Running in when there were even half left still killed me and over. But I stayed patient, practiced new tactics and picked them off one by one as soon as they wandered out of each others sight lines. Between BRUTAL stealth kills and tossing flammable objects to distract enemies, I was able to corral the remaining few into ideal position for annihilation.

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Overall, it’s been way more exciting to camo myself in mud and sneak up behind enemies to silently slit their throats and drag them into the brush. Or hide on a tree branch, shoot them with a roped arrow and string them up in the tree. Or tread water near the edge of a dock until the target gets close, pop out of the water and drag him under to slash or drown him.

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The horror level in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is much higher than I anticipated. It took me 2 nights of playing to get through the tomb with these horrifying ancient zombie(?) creatures led by the queen pictured above. That photo STILL gives me anxiety. It was dark. They were fast. The sounds they made were a blood curdling mix between a hiss and a scream. At one point, one pops out to attack me and I screamed in real life. By the end, I was shaking but I felt so satisfied that I completed it.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I was traumatized.

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I don’t play a lot of games like Far Cry or Uncharted, or actually ANY games where you kill human enemies, so the level of violence in this game was actually pretty shocking at first. But it’s so insane that I kind of love it. At one point, I dragged three enemies – one by one – into the brush with me after silently slitting their throats so no one could help them. The (probably) hundreds of deaths I put Lara through are so graphic they feel personal and the things that happen to her almost balance the horrific things she does to her enemies.

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I don’t want to go too deep and spoil the absolute pleasure of this game for anyone. There’s enough surprise, wonder and adventure for anyone to enjoy this game, whether you’re a Tomb Raider fan or not. GET IT!

How much do you love Lara Croft and/or Tomb Raider? Drop your favorite Tomb Raider moments in the comments.

 

Sunday Stats

*Since my family first got an NES, I’ve had a controller in my hands. Exploring new worlds, meeting new characters and experiencing stories… in some ways, I’ve just connected better with the world through games. However, it’s also very important to me to be present in my life, to improve myself, to go out and MEET the people I’ve connected with online and to expand my knowledge. I spend hours in games; how do I level myself up?

In this weekly series, I’ll chronicle how I’ve improved my “stats” with completely arbitrary scoring.*

-2 Intelligence – How did I make myself a little smarter? What did I learn?
I had a pretty lazy week getting over a cold. There wasn’t a lot of motivation to seek out anything new other than OJ and broth.

+2 Charisma – How was I less awkward or more beautiful?
My eyeliner was ON POINT all week. Loving this Kat Von D tattoo eyeliner so much!

+1 Strength – New workouts, breakthroughs, challenges.
I closed all my rings but didn’t get to the gym as much as I needed.

+1 Defense – Where did I consciously avoid or deflect negative energy?
I indulged in an age old relaxation technique I haven’t practiced since grad school. It felt really nice to have some focus back and worries melted away.

– 1 Luck– Something good that happened this week.
This is probably the first week I’ve had negative luck. Wedding bullshit has begun with people backing out of commitments I already contracted, therefore costing me money and putting me in the tough position of replacing them. Cool.

+5 Wealth – How did I save towards my goals?
Booked another new Rover client! This year has seen that little side hustle REALLY take off!

How did YOU level up this week?

Which Octopath to Travel – Olberic

We’ve come to the end of our travels. You can find my thoughts on all the characters with the Octopath Traveler tag in my search bar. This week, we’re getting to know our final character.

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Olberic is your typical soldier/knight with a classic RPG story. He’s strong and easy to play as if you’re somehow new to RPGs. OR if you want to relive the nostalgia of early Final Fantasy games without too much of a struggle.

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Like H’aanit, Olberic can fight people for no reason. His Challenge path action is handy for removing NPC from doorways and completing the odd side quest requiring a swift beating. Olberic values honor above all, which is why he’s on a quest to bring an old colleague, Erhardt, to justice for treason against their King.

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I quite like how polite and noble Olberic is. He seems the most reasonable and level headed of all the characters. At any moment he could turn this whole caravan around if the others are acting up. Total dad vibes. Predictably, he’s strong and has some incredibly useful moves – like a slash that deals broadsword damage to all enemies at once.

Choose Olberic if:
dads do it for you
you want to play, but don’t want to work for it
you’re all about that noble life
in your dreams, you’re a valiant knight
 

🍁The Maple🍁 A Fall Tarot Spread

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I’ve been wanting to design some new spreads for some time now. With the weather finally turning from oppressive heat and blazing sun to the cool, grey days I love about the Northeast, I was inspired to create a spread for Fall.

I call it the Maple Spread because it loosely resembles a maple leaf, especially with my brown, woody Binding of Isaac deck. I chose this deck because I’ve been playing the game a lot lately so I’m feeling really connected to the energy.

The grounding card represents the overall energy of the season. What’s the theme of this Fall? The “spire” cards each focus on an individual month, telling you where to direct that overarching energy. I gave this new spread a shot and I’m very pleased with how well it worked. The grounding card feeds into each month incredibly well.

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The Reveal! At first glance, the grounding card is the only major arcana presence. Strong foundation. And the Empress! Then I see half of my pulls are fours, which represent security and stability. I think of those words and heavy wool socks, steaming tea, and mountains of blankets and snuggles all come to mind. But let’s dig into the spread.

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Overall Fall Energy
The Empress
I love this card! She is the feminine energy of creation, and nurturing self and others. This season is all about embracing the sensual – activate all of your senses to create beauty in your life. Make a winter garden in a jar. Indulge in pumpkin spice, ginger and clove. Bake a pie for your neighbors or coworkers. Surround yourself with what inspires you to MAKE what you love.

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September Focus
Six of Hearts (Cups)
Tap into your childhood to inspire new projects and works of passion. Let nostalgia carry you to familiar places. It’s not about living in the past, but rather borrowing aspects from days gone to blend into new fabrics, poems, recipes, spells, songs…

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October Focus
Four of Pennies (Pentacles)
In October, transition from nostalgia to tradition. What can you resurrect from the past to create new traditions, or update sacred ones? Tradition is one of the greatest methods of building a sense of stability. Remember that you can’t control the chaos, but relying on rituals and the Fall traditions you create will alleviate the worry.

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November Focus
Four of Keys (Swords)
This is actually the perfect November card as it places the emphasis on creating calm heading into the often stressful traditional holiday season. Build mental strength through meditation. Revamp your morning ritual. Go to your happy place – mentally and in real life as often as you can. Take a bubble bath every night. Do whatever it takes to move your mind into a calm atmosphere where you feel protected. Rest and replenish your energy.

Give the Maple Spread a try and let me know what YOUR fall focuses are.

Sunday Stats

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*Since my family first got an NES, I’ve had a controller in my hands. Exploring new worlds, meeting new characters and experiencing stories… in some ways, I’ve just connected better with the world through games. However, it’s also very important to me to be present in my life, to improve myself, to go out and MEET the people I’ve connected with online and to expand my knowledge. I spend hours in games; how do I level myself up?

In this weekly series, I’ll chronicle how I’ve improved my “stats” with completely arbitrary scoring.*

+2 Intelligence – How did I make myself a little smarter? What did I learn?
Since I’m planning a wedding in New Orleans, the baker asked me if I was going to do cake pulls. Cake pulls? So I learned all about this Victorian era tradition (that is somehow limited to the NOLA area) of having little charms on ribbons placed inside the wedding cake for special lady guests. Each charm has its own meaning or fortune. How adorable is that? As one obsessed with rituals and bestowing meaning/intention upon every aspect of what I do, naturally I will be doing this! Except I’m putting my own little personal twist on it. Ugh. I can’t wait to say and show you everything, but I want to keep it all a surprise as much as I can.

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Cake pull example

+2 Charisma – How was I less awkward or more beautiful?
I went to Sephora for some new eyeliner and scents. As I was standing in the checkout line, I noticed a sampler pack of the EXACT items I was holding. So not only did I find the most perfect new eyeliner, but I get to try out the new scents I was after for $37 LESS than buying them all separately!

-2 Strength – New workouts, breakthroughs, challenges.
I had a hard time getting back into my routine after the holiday weekend 😳 but I’m ready to kick it into high gear this week.

+1 Defense – Where did I consciously avoid or deflect negative energy?
My tarot practice had taken a backseat over the last month or so but I’ve started up a new Saturday ritual to keep me learning and getting stronger.

+3 Luck – Something good that happened this week.
We scored our wedding bands at an incredible deal! More than half off my diamond band! 💍

-2 Wealth – How did I save towards my goals?
All these little details are really adding up. I’m still under my budget for the wedding, but it’s creeping up fast. And I booked an engagement photographer. WORTH IT, but I’m starting to feel a bit queasy when I look at my credit card statement.

How did YOU level up this week?

Which Octopath to Travel – Tressa

We’re almost at the end of our journey through the 8 protagonists of Octopath Traveler! Let’s walk with my penultimate character.

Tressa

Tressa is a merchant from the bustling seaport town of Rippletide. Despite exotic ships and goods pouring through her home and her parents’ shop, she hasn’t gained an ounce of culture. As she journeys out into the world to test her limited skills and fill the pages of her travel journal, she remains naive and irritatingly optimistic.

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I’m just going to say it: Tressa is really annoying. She has a high-pitched, whiny voice and I’m pretty sure she’s 12 years old. She’s not particularly strong in battle, but her wind abilities come in handy from time to time. Sometimes when you enter another area of the map, she will find a few thousand coins, but that’s the biggest perk she offers. Her Purchase action is a more ethical version of Therion’s Steal ability, but rarely as lucrative.

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Choose Tressa if you:
live for a bargain
have never traveled outside of your hometown
enjoy shopping
crave adventure in the great wide somewhere more than you can tell

Which character will YOU choose?